“The Lone Wolf” – Chapter 1 (Excerpt #2)

Here is the second half of chapter one.   Remence has decided to head down in to the den of a massive lion (so to speak) to gather information on the intentions of the orc host. He was confronted with footsteps, probably from a sentry, and they were moving closer.  What will Remence do? What will become of him.  Read further to find out the conclusion to:

Chapter 1-“The Discovery” 

The footsteps walked right past him, then receded. Remence let out his breath, as he watched the lone sentry move down the trail, unaware of his presence. Had I gotten up and ran, I would have been discovered for sure. That was a sobering thought. Thank you, Clovina, for showering your luck upon me. Once the orc sentry had moved far enough away, the tracker resumed his belly crawl to the berm.

After what seemed an eternity, he settled into his spot and deciphered whatever he could pick up from the orcs’ conversations. So much of it was brutish and foreign to him. He chastised himself for not paying closer attention to his elder’s teachings. Because he lacked mastery of the guttural language, it slowed down the process, and he knew it might well take all night to garner anything useful, if he were to garner anything at all. The real problem was that he only had so much time before the red rays of dawn would betray him. Hopefully, Clovina, the goddess of good fortune and nature, would not.

It was several hours before Clovina granted him the luck he had hoped for. Overlooking the canyon’s bottom was a cave with a large rock shelf that jutted out. Five ogres appeared upon the rock shelf, the smallest of them flanked by four larger ones. The shortest of the creatures carried no weapons, save a dagger sheathed at his belt. He wore ornate, colorful robes, and with what must have been a magically enhanced voice, he bellowed out an order for the crowd to cease its frenzied activities. The entire encampment of orcs stopped, turned, and listened intently.

Remence was confused. A magical ogre? Then he realized, from somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he had heard that some ogres had the power to wield magic. Oni, he believed they were called.

He managed to discern a portion of the tirade. The magical ogre spoke of the atrocities of the goodly races and how they had waged a war of extermination against ogres, orcs, and even the lowly goblin-kind. He spoke of uniting and exacting revenge, promising that their gods would shine down upon them if they were to take the fight to humans, dwarves, elves, and the like. Finishing, he swore that on the morrow, just after sunup, they would begin their march against the good races. They would retake the lands that belonged to them, the lands their ancestors had willed to them, and their first target in this conquest: The Ironwood Gate!

The crowd hung on every word. Transfixed. Mesmerized. Until the end, when the chants for blood went up, and the frenzy started all over again. Remence watched as the magical ogre and his brutes retired back into the cave.

My village is right in the beasts’ path. I must get back to warn my people. They are in harm’s way. I must flee, now! The urgency welled up within him, and he nearly forgot he was…  amongst orcs. He would be going nowhere with any swiftness if he wanted to avoid detection. So, he steeled his nerves and started his slow and circumspect retreat to the top of the ravine.

It was an arduous and uncomfortable crawl back up the rocky terrain. He had nearly reached what he thought would be safety when he heard the piggish, grunting language of the orc. Stopping his ascent, he listened and looked on with intent. He saw the outlines of what he assumed were two orc sentries at the apex of the ravine. Just my luck. I can get in, but I can’t get out. He hoped that the Four Clover goddess’s luck was still with him, praying that the sentries would move away, for dawn was fast approaching, and if the sun were to rise with him trapped in the orc encampment…

He let the consequences of that possibility evaporate from his thoughts.

He waited patiently, but to no avail. It appears that the goddess has abandoned me. He looked skyward. Or maybe you prefer to bestow bad luck on me. Or maybe you just aren’t there.

The two orcs had become engaged in what seemed to be some sort of deep, intellectual debate. He chuckled to himself. Orcs debating? Intellectually? Well, maybe not deep and intellectual, but they are arguing about something. The tracker listened and waited, as the debate escalated in intensity. It’s just a matter of time before this turns into a fight, and that will play to my advantage. I just have to wait for the inevitable, for the nature of the orc to take over. The one thing he had learned about the race of orcs was that they had a propensity for violence and volatility. When the blows begin, I’ll be able to make my escape.

But those propensities never played out. After several minutes, the two calmed, resumed their lax posture, and returned to their seemingly unconcerned vigilance. Remence knew enough about orcs, and if it had been any other two who had argued like that, it would have quickly deteriorated into a physical altercation, possibly with the death of one. There is something different about these orcs… more disciplined… more unified. The entire encampment was quickly quelled by that magical ogre. And now these two?

Pushing the thoughts aside, he knew he must discover a way out, as the precious mantle of night was fast fading. If his luck did not change, his cloak would be removed, then he would be meeting Clovina, not just praying to her. She is known as the goddess of good fortune, yet it seems that she declines to shower me with it. Oh, the whims of the gods. He let go of his contemplations and told himself he must focus on what was real. What was there in front of him. He knew he couldn’t wait for some goddess he had never seen nor heard to help him. He would have to rely on himself, and himself alone.

His first thought was to engage in a straight-out fight with these two, but the only weapon he carried of any true significance was his bow. He could see better in the dark than any man he knew, but even with this gift, the night would work to his disadvantage. His aim would be too unpredictable, making his shot inaccurate, and if he missed, and there was a good chance he might, he would alert them to his presence. Then it would be two against one. That was a proposition that meant almost certain death, as he only carried his hunting knife if the encounter fell to hand-to-hand combat. He cursed himself for not strapping on his sword before he left home.

He continued to work through the situation logically. Even if I could get the jump on one and strike a killing blow, I would still have a protracted fight with the other, which would probably bring the entire encampment down upon me.

Can I even kill? I kill animals, but orcs? Humanoids? He had never contemplated it. But now, being faced with the situation, he questioned it. Why? These orcs would slay me without compunction… The vile creatures! He had a small pang of guilt for the thought.

“Sorry my friend,” he whispered to the night, as if his friend Gromken were standing next to him. The guilt quickly passed as he knew that if Gromken had heard his thoughts, he would have taken no offense for he had no true kinship to the orcs.

Why am I reluctant to return that which would be given to me? Is it my friendship with Gromken? Maybe because I am human—because by killing, I might lose a portion of my humanity? He stirred from his rambling thoughts, knowing he could not merely sit and think; he had to act.

Then, it hit him.

Distraction! That is what I need.  I will use their relaxed guard and “intellectual conversation” to my advantage. If I lure them beyond where I am, lower on the trail, I can rush them and hopefully knock them over the edge, then make a run for it. He improvised at this point, moving into action.

Groping around in the dark, he found a couple of fist-size rocks, one for each hand. He then slid over the side of the dirt trail that headed to the level part of the ridge where the orcs were stationed, the place where he first made his way into the encampment. His plan was simple, but it was the best he could come up with considering the terrain, circumstances, and equipment he possessed.

“Clovina be with me,” he prayed. “I’m really going to need some of that good fortune now.”

Slipping over the lip and into darkness, he mustered his nerve and called out to the sentries in his limited orc tongue. The talking ceased, and the crunching of pebbles and the scraping of boots on hard dirt grew louder. It sounded as if it was the footsteps of both creatures approaching.  A lump grew in his throat. His hands moistened, and the thumping of his heart rang in his ears. He gulped the dry air.

The orcs moved past him but only by a handful of yards, stopping to discern where the call had come from. This was his chance, but he froze. Fear gripped him, and he remained as still as a statue, unable to will his extremities to move. He would be a dead statue if he did not act quickly. I mustn’t tarry. Strike now! Remence subconsciously gripped the rocks in his hands more tightly, the tension of the moment being forced into the stones.  Then, as before, a cool, soothing feeling washed into him. It started in his hands and flowed throughout the rest of his body. His instinct for survival took over, and his grip lessened. His heart rate calmed, his senses heightened, and his fear dissipated. Something primal had grabbed hold of his will, and he transformed immediately, becoming the hunter once again.

He slid back over the lip, silently, ghost-like, and stayed melded to the earth, as if he were part of it. He squeezed the stones in his hands tightly, this time aware of his actions, as if he wanted to crush them with his grip, eager to get at his adversaries. But he remained patient, waiting for his vision to adjust so he could make sure he did not miss his targets. A split second later, he jumped to his feet, hurling the stone in his right hand. Stepping forward with his right foot, he released the one in his left hand.

The hunter was as good with his right hand as he was with his left, and both stones found their marks. The orc farthest from him, the one hit by his first throw, took the worst of it as he was caught completely off guard. The blow struck him square in the face, shattering bone and sending him over the edge. As he heard his enemy tumble down the hillside, he said a brief blessing to his goddess.

But Clovina did not provide him the same amount of luck when it came to the other.

Although the stone hit its mark, the second orc had a moment to absorb the fact that something was amiss. The creature had wheeled at the last second, causing the rock to glance off its shoulder, doing little in the way of physical damage to the pig-faced thing.

The Lone Wolf did not hesitate. His knife flashed adroitly as he pounced on the remaining orc. The beast did not even have a chance to react before Remence plunged the blade into its lower chest, up and under the ribcage, as his father had taught him. The blade sunk into flesh and was only forced to stop because the cross guard hit bone and would go no further. The creature’s lungs forced an exhale of breath. It gasped for air, but instead found death. The precision of the blow prevented the orc from crying out in pain. The warmth of blood spilled down upon The Lone Wolf’s hand. His strike was true, felling the orc in one quick thrust.

The orc slumped forward onto him, and he eased it to the ground, so it made no sound. He yanked his knife from the orc’s flesh. It took a second before he realized what he had done. He was shaking, the adrenaline still coursing through his body. He stood there, staring at the corpse, unmoving. No rising and falling of its chest. It was dead, and he had killed it. A moment later, he came back to his senses, realizing where he was—in a nest of vipers. He reached down, and with his hands still trembling, he fumbled with the garments of the dead orc. He used them to wipe his knife and hand clean of blood. He slid his knife back into its place in his belt, scanned the area to make sure that no others had heard the brief scuffle, and scurried off.

As he descended the ridge, the first glimmer of the sun’s golden rays crested the horizon. Remence, The Lone Wolf, heard the encampment coming to life and knew he had barely escaped. The heightened drama of the situation had worn off, and exhaustion set in. He wanted nothing more than to eat a hot meal and feel the soothing comfort of his warm bed, but if he wanted to save his people, those weren’t going to be his options. The orcs would be on the march, probably within a couple of movements of the sun, excited to spill blood. They would be headed straight for The Ironwood Gate, and what lay in their path was dearer to him than food or rest. He picked up his pace and headed straight for home to warn his people.

 

 

Cover

 

That is the conclusion to Chapter 1.  Let me know what you think by visiting my website johndpepeauthor.com, emailing me at johndpepeauthor.com, or by simply commenting here at godamonggeeks316.com.

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