This is the final chapter I will be posting from my book (at least for a time)
In our last chapter Remence was unable to convince the council that there was the might orc threat heading to their village. This is only confirmed by a vanguard of fifty orcs showing up on their doorstep. The battle ensues…
Falen stood from his chair after one of the villagers had finished whispering in his ear. He addressed the crowd in the meeting hall. “The scouts have returned. They say it is a force of fifty or so. Remence is correct; they are better armed and armored than orcs of the plains usually are,” Falen added, not wanting Remence to lose too much face.
“See young Brandt it isn’t five hundred, but fifty. I think we can handle fifty orcs, even if they are better equipped than usual,” Jarden said, directing his condescending remark at Remence, but speaking to the rest of the council.
Remence’s face showed his chagrin. He paused for the moment, his mind swirling. This must be a mistake. It must be an advance force. They are here to test our defenses. Remence blurted out, “It’s just a scouting party, a means to test the village’s defenses.”
“Orcs don’t scout,” said Grok. “They come on in full force. They don’t test defenses Remence. They attack, and they destroy. This is an attack, and fifty is the size of the force.” Grok’s tone had a finality to it.
“But it cannot be,” Remence insisted, a pleading in his tone. “There is a much larger force. The village is doomed if we stay.”
“We cannot pull up stakes and leave every time we are threatened. We have learned to survive, and in order to survive we fight. We fight to protect what we have carved out of this unforgiving land. We will not run!” Grok bellowed as he pounded his fists on the arms of his chair, with his uncompromising stance.
Jarden placed his hand on Grok to calm him. Once Grok’s brow softened Jarden addressed Remence but spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear.
“If we run, then the orcs, and all other creatures of the plains, will hear of our cowardice and we will always be running. That is not a life. We must stand and fend off these raiders. Grok knows better than all of us and he says that there is no such thing as a scouting party when it comes to the orcs. So, it is fifty, young Brandt. And no more. We can stop fifty orcs, well-armed or not.” Looking past Remence to the crowd he finished his thought. “Now, we need to prepare for a fight.”
The sun hadn’t even crested the horizon when the barely discernible sound of marching could be heard in the distance. After a few moments the sound grew in volume and the village defenders heard the pounding of heavy laden feet stomping the ground in unison; an unusual sound for orcs.
Grok, standing tall amongst his warriors, who were lined up at the edge of the village proper, strained to hear the enemies’ approach. With the ear of a warrior who had seen countless battles he picked up on the rhythm of the orc’s march and roared, “One hundred and fifty paces. Archers!”
The village archers stood behind a long, narrow trench filled with pitch. Each picked up a specially made arrow and nocked it. A young village boy used a torch to ignite the trench.
Remence hadn’t had much time to reflect on slaying the orc two days before. He had been focused on speaking to the counsel and preparing the defenses for the village. But his thoughts now fell on the kill he had made. That kill had been up close and personal.
Not like shooting an orc from here, he thought. And now he was preparing to kill more orcs. Were they like Gromken? Could I be killing someone who could be a comrade? What if Gromken had been taken in by these orcs, would he still not be Gromken? My friend. What if it were another group of humans? A rival tribe? Could I kill them?
Grok shouted, “One hundred and twenty paces! Light!”
The other archers had already begun to light their arrows and take aim when Remence stirred from his musings after hearing Grok’s commands. He knew these questions were for another time. He had a duty – and that duty was to protect his village from the invaders, whether it be orcs, goblins, other humans. It didn’t matter. If someone, or something, wanted to bring harm to him and his people then he should not think, he should act.
Yet, in the back of his mind, he knew he should not even have to contemplate such things, as his people should have fled.
Even if we stop this vanguard we will be decimated by the army that follows…our entire village…will be gone. Pushing those final thoughts away, Remence obediently ignited his arrow.
“One hundred paces! Take aim!” commanded Grok, and all bows went up, angling for the sky.
Grok’s arm came down as he shouted, “Loose!”
Off flew near a score of flaming arrows. Just one being held back: Remence’s.
As the flaming arrows arced into the night sky, Remence waited, wanting to use that sliver of light to pick a target. Remence took true aim, his full concentration on scoring a hit. With bowstring pulled taut, his aim at the outer flank of the orc line, he let his arrow take flight.
As the arrows plunged to the ground most hit nothing except the long lines of pitch that had drenched the soil. Most.
Off in the distance, as the fields in front of the village came alive with fire, and flames licked at the sky, Remence’s lone arrow came careening down. It struck an orc, the flaming arrow protruding from its chest. There was a soft, yet audible grunt from the orc as it was struck. Face first it fell into a line of pitch, causing the pitch, and the orc, to catch ablaze.
With the fields full of fire and smoke, Grok was sure the orcs would give up their cause. But the beasts refused to break ranks, and with guttural orders being shouted at them from their commander, they simply closed ranks and forming a shield-to-shield phalanx.
They had been prevented from stretching out along the fields, losing their advantage of attack from multiple sides, but still the orcs didn’t waver. They formed up in a tight knit group, six abreast, and began their march down the road that lead into the village. The pounding of their methodical, in step march, began to grow louder and louder.
“If it is a fight they want, it is a fight they shall have!” Grok spat, to no one in particular. Then turning to Kael, with a look of consternation. “Set our bowmen to work. We shall see if these curs want to continue after we rain arrows down upon them.”
Kael turned to his archers and commanded, “First volley!”
Each archer drew an arrow from his quiver, nocking it, adjusting his angle, and firing at their enemies. The arrows soared in over the phalanx shield wall, felling an orc or two. But the orcs quickly adjusted.
The orc commander began shouting, “Baj skut lavor! Baj skut lavor!” as his troops adjusted their formation. The orcs again, did not waver, continuing forward in lock-step.
Grok heard the command and being versed in the orcish tongue, mouthed, “Make a shield shell? A turtle?”
Grok’s mouth dropped open as he watched the orcs, who normally had a haphazard fighting style and lack of discipline, create a wall of shields above them with the remaining phalanxes. They had placed their shields over the heads of the first rank, and each subsequent rank placed their shields over the line in front of them, making what amounted to a turtle in its shell. Never in all his years had he seen a group of orcs behave like this. It was beginning to sink in that this group was not going to simply tuck tail and run. They were here for a fight.
The orc commander could be heard in his piggish language commanding, “Sulmus ora” and the orcs emerged from the now billowing smoke coming from fire in the fields, moving twice as fast as they had before. Thier protective shield wall remained uncompromised, even with their increased pace.
Kael yelled at the archers, “Fifty paces!”
The bowmen leveled their weapons at the armored juggernaut. Seeing the creatures up close for the first time they became aware of just how heavily armored they were; their dark green hue of their skin was barely noticeable through the scalemail, helmets, and metal shields they bore.
“Fire at will!” ordered Kael, and the humming of bowstrings began. Arrow after arrow bounced off the orc turtle-like formation like water breaking against rocks. All the while the orc marauders gained ground.
“Follow me!” commanded Grok, and he ran the other twenty warriors into place at the front of the village, the men drawing swords and axes as they went. Reaching the front, they formed their own phalanx and began banging their weapons against their shields as they chanted in unison.
The orcs began to fan out, making their phalanx longer than the human defenders’ line.
Remence immediately saw that their arrows proved to be all but ineffective against the orc’s shield wall. In addition, he recognized that the orcs, with their superior numbers, were now drawing out their line, and would easily out flank Grok.
“Father, we need to split our archers. If we can get to higher ground, we might be able to catch their flanks exposed and keep them from out maneuvering Grok.”
Kael had seen the same scenario unfolding. “Yes, I agree. You take Dax, Wildon, Hemanatiles, and Forgan to the roofs on the right flank.” Kael then cried out to the rest of his men, “Grammel, Hunndan, Jarmel, Blex, and Yangel. You five take to the roofs on the left flank,” as he pointed to the huts behind and to the left of him with his bow. “Me and the rest will move in to support Grok,” he said to his son.
Kael then turned to address the rest of his men. “Come! We must help our brothers!” He discarded his bow, and steel was removed from the sheath at his hip. “We are going to be hard pressed at the village front. Let us make haste!” The remaining archers replaced bows with swords and axes as they followed Kael into battle.
Remence and the remaining archers quickly found their place on the roof tops of the huts.
With the orc invaders only having thirty paces to go, Grok felt that tingling sensation down his spine, and his stomach tied in knots. He knew that the onslaught was about to begin.
Grok, to embolden his men, roared, “Form up and hold fast! Prepare to kill every…last…one of these defilers for attempting to enter our domain! Do not let this scum past our line. We are Vaasan, and we are unbeatable!”
Just then the orc commander shouted, “Choom!”
Grok cursed back in defiance, repeating the words back at them in the common tongue. “It is us who will ‘Destroy completely!’”
As soon as the orc rank hit twenty paces, they howled in glee and broke into a full charge, looking to plow through the line of men.
“Hold…your…positions!” Grok growled at the top of his lungs. But being a seasoned warrior, he could see that these orcs were going to break through his line. No amount of courage was going to stop them. He was simply outnumbered. Grok gritted his teeth, tucked his chin into his chest, and prepared to be overwhelmed.
But Kael and his ten fighters jumped into the fray, buttressing the line, and Grok’s hopes at the last second.
The orcs hit the defenders hard, bowing their defensive line and nearly breaking it. But Kael and his men had made the difference, allowing the defenders to maintain their organized defense. If they had broken through the fight would have degenerated into single combatants versus the orc juggernaut, giving the clear advantage to the orcs.
Grok let out a ferocious battle cry infusing his men with confidence, as the village warriors pushed back against the onslaught.
This was a battle-hardened group and most of their warriors were strong and experienced. But the orcs were well organized, well equipped, and had a determination that the defenders had never encountered before. The din of battle could be heard throughout the village; metal on metal, the grunts of fighters as they hacked away at one another, and the cries of the wounded. Grok and his axe worked furiously to attack and parry, as he continued shouting orders keeping his men in the fight with his courage.
Remence and the bowmen, once in position, began to rain down arrows on the right and left flanks of the orcs. The initial surprise had done some damage, killing an orc or two. His plan was proving successful, the orcs were being forced to abandon the flanks.
What Remence had not anticipated was that the orcs, with their superior numbers, would begin to push hard against the middle, focusing their attack on breaking the center of Grok’s line. Remence immediately saw it wouldn’t be long before the center would give, even with the aid of his father and the ten warriors.
He knew that his men couldn’t get a clear shot now that the orcs on the flanks had joined the center. Even if the archers could get a clean shot it would take precise aim to find the gaps in the orcs’ heavy-ladened armor. Remence realized that by fixing one problem he had created an entirely new one. It would be just a matter of time before the orcs broke through the human line. He only had one option left.
“Disembark! Disembark!” he ordered. “Keep the center from folding! And don’t let them gain the flanks!” he commanded, as he pointed with his bow toward Grok and the others.
Grok could feel the center losing ground. The archers had prevented the orcs from gaining his flanks but with all their forces now pushing in on the center, he knew it was going to fold. These orcs had proven to be too cunning and well equipped. He yelled, “Pull back! Pull back between the structures!”
Grok next command came in the Dwarven language. All the men in the village had been taught portions of the language at a young age to prevent orcs and goblins who understood the common tongue from being able to discern battle commands. Grok cried out, “Urmul” in dwarvish, meaning “worm-like.”
The center of the line slowly started to give into the demands of the orcs, bending like a worm. It was a feint. A tactic to give the orcs the illusion that the line was going to break, but instead the humans were subtly drawing the orc center into them.
Grok was giving them exactly what they wanted: more ground, and the orcs greedily took it. Thinking they were gaining ground with ever step forward, they continued to push forward, having no idea that they were being drawn into a trap. What was really transpiring was the edges of the human flanks were subtly engulfing the edges of the orc phalanx.
Even with their new-found discipline, the orcs were ignorant of complex battle tactics allowing Grok and his men to slowly make a U around the orcs.
By this time, Remence and the bowmen had alighted from the roof tops to join in the fray with sword, all except Remence. He had a different idea about how he might be most useful.
Remence figured a “Lone Wolf” would not be as conspicuous as a pack of ten, giving him an element of surprise, and knowing his skill with a bow far outweighed his skill with a sword he decided that he could do more damage from a far.
He began to slip from building to building, coming back to the front of the village, where he could engage from the rear of the exposed orc flank. He found himself at a hut at the very front of the village. He placed his back against it. He could feel the cold clay of the building penetrating his clothing. He felt his heart beginning to race as he thought about everything that could go wrong. He was out there alone. If anything went wrong, if those orcs turned on him, there would be no one to come to his rescue.
Remence closed his eyes, calmed his mind, and turned inward. His breathing and heart rate slowed. His fear and doubt washed away. He felt his nerves steady. As he slowly opened his eyes, he could hear the din of battle in the distance, but his hands no longer shook with fright. His vison had sharpened, and he felt an eagerness to join his brothers in battle.
Tymora be with me. Be with all of us, he prayed. He drew an arrow from the quiver on his back, nocked it, and peered around the edge of the building.
He could see that his fellow villagers were drawing the orcs into Urmul. Then he heard above the raging battle.
“Ug! Fug! Bruse! We need you!”
Grok had called on the Le brothers.
Three massive Half-Ogre brutes came barging out of the huts in front of Remence. The two largest, Ug and Fug leading the way, screaming at the top of their lungs as they charged through the top of the U with wild abandon.
So loud and impressive were the two Half-Ogres that several of the orcs stopped in the middle of fighting to see what it was that was rampaging toward them.
Remence looked on with a certain awe, as well. He watched as Ug reached the first orc in his path. The thing stood dumbfounded, engulfed in Ug’s nearly eight-foot shadow, transfixed by the size and enormity of its newest enemy. It put up no defense as Ug smashed its skull in with one, fell swoop of his mighty club.
The sight of the orc’s head being crushed woke the rest of the orcs from their stupor. As Fug engaged the orc in his path, it attempted to block the swing from his club. It was a futile attempt, as Fug had brought to bear, behind the swing of his club, all four hundred plus pounds of himself. The orc’s flimsy defense was easily knocked aside. There was a crunch that followed, as club struck bone, and the creature was knocked clean off its feet. It lay on the ground, five feet from Fug, unmoving.
Remence stepped out into the open, feet apart, eyes on his target. He brought his bow level with his eye, the arrow tip pointing right at the orc in his sights. He drew the string back, his hand touching his cheek. He released his breath slowly and with it the arrow on his bowstring. The arrow whizzed right past Ug. Remence had needled it right between him and his brother Fug. It plunged deep into the exposed shoulder of an orc that was charging them. Flesh and tendon ripped apart and the force of the arrow sent the orc spinning to the ground, its weapon torn from its grasp.
Remence’s eye gravitated from Ug and Fug to their triplet brother, Bruse, known in their clan as the “Runt” because he was nearly a foot smaller than his brothers, barely cresting seven feet. Bruse hadn’t simply waded into battle like his brothers, Remence noticed. He avoided engaging with easy targets, instead picking his way through the throng. Seeing Bruse’s behavior he sensed that Bruse had a plan, or at least a specific target.
Remence scanned the battlefield and saw a very large orc, wearing a red horsetail plume on his left spaulder. It stood head and shoulders above all around it. He saw the orc pointing, and shouting commands. And eventhough the orcs were trapped, and their fate seemed sealed, the huge orc continued to instill morale in his troops. The orc captain. Bruse is after the orc captain.
Pulling another arrow from the quiver on his back, he nocked it, his eye never leaving the battlefield. He searched the path that Bruse was taking and noticed two orcs break off from the fight with the men from his village. The orcs moved to block Bruse’s path. Remence’s bow came up in a flash and the arrow flew from it, so fast it would have appeared he hadn’t taken aim. A split second later he had another arrow on the string.
The first orc in line to blocked Bruse’s path took an arrow to its calf. The force of the arrow crippled its balance, knocking it to the ground. It howled in pain. The arrow had pierced all the way through; fletching on one side, tip on the other. The orc dropped its axe as it reached down to grip the wound with both hands, moaning and grunting loudly from the excruciating pain.
Remence’s second arrow hit the next orc but bounced harmless off its scale armor.
Remence sprinted forward making his way to the next hut in line, not only trying to keep step with Bruse so he did not lose range, but using the structures for cover in the barren landscape of his home.
Bruse met the second orc as it came at him with a spear thrust. He pivoted on his left foot swinging his right foot back parallel to his left, making his frame as small as possible. As the spear tip passed his mid-section he grabbed the shaft with his right hand and yanked on the spear forward and the orc off balance. He brought his left forearm into the spear, splintering the shaft in half, leaving the portion with the tip in his right hand. Bruse stepped forward and drove the broken spear tip through into its former wielder’s back, who was now half bent over from nearly being thrown face first into the ground. There was an awful crunching sound as the spear tip pierced mail and bone. The orc fell face down into the ground, lifeless.
With no other obstructions, Bruse’s attention was fully on the orc captain. He believed that he had caught him unaware. But even with the battle and confusion raging all around, with the ringing of steel and the dying screams of his comrades in his ear, the orc captain turned and face Bruse long before he got within striking distance. Seeing this, Bruse halted in his tracks. This one has good instincts, Bruse internalized.
Even though Bruse looked down at the orc, he still stood over six and a half feet tall. The captain was an imposing force in its freshly crafted scalemail armor. His massive frame was extremely muscular, and his scars from battle were numerous and noticeable on many parts of his body; the parts that were not covered by his coat of mail. He handled his great axe comfortably in one hand. He would have been an imposing force if Bruse had not been a Half-ogre.
Bruse, took measure of this creature. He knew it had seen many battles, both against his own kin as well as those not of his race. The fact that he had risen to the rank of captain spoke volumes about its fighting prowess. And what troubled Bruse even further was that this beast had the ability to keep his people fighting when the loss was inevitable.
But that was the orc way: strength, size, and toughness are what elevated one within that society, not intelligence, wisdom, and honor.
The orc captain in his broken common tongue laid out the challenge: “If defeat me, they belong you. Brute.” Pointing with his axe at his troops.
This one has fought my kind before. Probably for dominance, was Bruse’s introspection. “I’m not here to command. I’m here to kill. Your troops. And you.”
The orc captain just gave him a toothy smile and growled in orcish, “Mirdautas vras. Mabaj nar armauk.” Bruse grasped the basic meaning: “It’s a good day to kill for I have no enemies.” And he also got the concept: I have killed all who have opposed me, and I am happy to accept this challenge as I plan on killing you as well.
The orc captain laughed, “You not have weapon.”
“I don’t need one.”
“Quite a few of you kind fall to my axe,” he chided as he tapped his hand on the blade.
“And they have weapon. Foolish creature.” Pointing to himself with his thumb, “I Grond the Gargantuan. I not turn from fight. I not lose. Ever.”
“We all lose, sooner or later. Today you will meet your pig-faced god,” answered Bruse.
At that moment Bruse saw a subtle change in the orc captain’s face; he had been insulted. Bruse had hit a nerve and knew from that look that the time for talk had come to an end.
Grond the Gargantuan came at Bruse with a flurry of attacks. He was much quicker than his name, and size belied. But Bruse’s size also belied his swiftness, which helped save him from the onslaught; That, and his years of martial training. If he had lacked that discipline he surely would have been caught unaware, and possibly met his demise. But even with his ability in anticipate the attack he was still hard pressed and off balance, making it difficult for him to muster any type of counter attacks.
Remence’s next arrow was at the ready. He kept his focus on the orc captain, ready to let loose if felt he had a clear shot, the fear of hitting Bruse the only thing holding him at bay. That’s when he caught, out of the corner of his eye, an orc coming in from the side to strike at Bruse. Without thinking he tracked the orc, took aim, and let fly.
His aim was true, his arrow penetrated the orc’s exposed neck, dropping it mid stride. Remence, not even taking the time to digest the fact he had just killed the orc, nocked another arrow and readied his bow, to make sure that he could protect his friend Bruse from any further interference.
Bruse finally regained his footing after Grond’s first flurry. The two had found equal footing again.
Grond came at Bruse, swiping with the blade of his axe, looking to split Bruse open. But Bruse had slid back just enough to let the strike whisper by him, giving Grond the idea he nearly hit him. This emboldened Grond and he swung his great axe back to his right with even more vigor, again attempting to spill Bruse’s innards. Bruse was the quicker, shuffle stepping back just enough, lulling Grond into thinking he had regained the advantage; Bruse wating for his moment to counterstrike. Grond pressed his perceived advantage and stepped in deep making a power swing over his right shoulder. That’s when Bruse saw his opening.
As Grond stepped forward so did Bruse, and they met in the middle. Bruse brought his left hand up catching Grond’s attacking hand, making an upward block. With his swift reflexes he had honed through years of training he grabbed Grond’s right wrist with his blocking hand, yanking the orc captain’s arm down, as he struck Grond’s right elbow with his right forearm, hyper extending the arm and causing him to lose the grip on his axe. Then in one fluid motion turned his back to Grond, making hip to hip contact, and judo threw the giant orc over his shoulder. Grond the Gargantuan landed in the dirt with a huge grunt, all the air from his lungs being expelled.
Bruse knew he couldn’t give his deadly adversary any room to breathe. Dropping his right knee on top of the orc captain, along with all his considerable weight, he yanked up on Grond’s right arm to help keep control of him and made three consecutive right punches to the orc’s face, shattering his nose.
But Grond the Gargantuan was a veteran of many battles. Retrieving a dagger from his belt with his left hand he plunged it into Bruse’s right leg, causing Bruse to release his grip, forcing him to retreat. Bruse fell off Grond as he grabbed his wounded leg, and Grond rolled away from him to regain his feet.
Bruse and Grond stood up at nearly the same time. Grond wiped the blood from his broken nose as he and Bruse began circling each. They were like two lions locked in a fight for dominance. Both of their gazes unerring.
Bruse was limping from his wound, and he saw for a split second the orc captains eye contact drop, ever so slightly, to his leg. When it returned Bruse saw the look of recognition in Grond’s eyes: he saw a weakness in Bruse and he was going to capitalize on it.
Bruse began to limp a little more gingerly on his leg, slowing his movement even more, playing possum in an attempting to lure the massive orc closer to him. His agility had been hampered and he knew without it he would have difficulties beating the creature. He had felt his strength, and knew it matched his own. He needed to get close enough to the big orc so he could get inside the threat range of his dagger.
Grond had been willing to oblige. The massive captain made two thrusting attacks with his dagger at Bruse’s midsection, testing Bruse’s defenses and mobility. He mirrored that exact attack a second time, seeing if Bruse would react the same way. Bruse did – – on purpose. On the third attack, the first thrust was a feint, pretending to attack Bruse’s midsection. He retracted the dagger, dropped his level, and thrust at Bruse’s front leg, his wounded leg.
Bruse, not being as wounded as he made out answered the attack with a much quicker response than Grond thought possible. Pulling his right leg behind him, he shifted his weight to his left leg and brought his right knee into the lowered face of the orc. That blow brought Grond’s head up, and in line with a left hook to the jaw.
A barrage of blows followed. Bruse hit the giant orc with punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Grond the Gargantuan took them all, grunting many of them off, and he remained standing despite the onslaught. He was barely conscious, hands at his side, and a bloody mess. Bruse took a quick moment, drew within himself, centered his che, and then step forward and struck the huge orc square in the chest with an open palm strike.
Bone crunched under the weight of the blow, and part of Grond’s rib cage crush inward. With that final blow he was knocked to the floor. Grond the Gargantuan did not get up after that, he simply lay there in a bloody heap, having lost for the first time, in what was the last battle he would ever fight.
Bruse, exhausted and breathing heavily, slowly picked up the dagger that Grond had dropped. He stood over Grond, who was barely conscious, struggling for breath but aware enough that he made eye contact with Bruse.
“I told you…we all lose…sooner…or later. Tell…your pig faced god…Gruumsh…that Bruse Le…defeated you. And next time…send…a worthier…foe than Grond the Gargantuan.” And with that, he plunged the dagger into Grond’s chest, killing him.
With the Grond the Gargantuan beaten, the remaining orcs, shocked that their leader could suffer a defeat, and now without command, loss morale and fell into chaos, making them easy prey for the village warriors. Every last orc was slaughtered without remorse.
“See to the wounded and dead. Tonight, we shall feast as is our custom when we defeat our foes!” Grok cheered as he raised Bruse’s hand in victory. Everyone else cheered as well, except one, Remence, for he knew this was no time to celebrate. It was time to flee. For they had gotten but a very small taste of what was about to descend upon them.