“The Lone Wolf”- Chapter 5 (An Excerpt)

The Orcs have arrived!  What will happen? Will Remence and his village be victorious or will the orcs?

Chapter 5 – “Victory!”

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 Remence? 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 sarcastically. “They come on in full force. They don’t test defenses, young 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 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.

Jarden placed his hand on Grok’s arm 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 there is no such thing as a scouting party when it comes to the orcs. So, it is fifty, young Remence, 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, and the village defenders heard the pounding of heavy-laden feet stomping the ground in unison, an unusual sound for orcs.

Remence looked out among his people as he finished checking the stress of his bow string for the umpteenth time. He saw Grok, standing tall amongst his warriors, who were lined up at the edge of the village proper. At that moment, he realized age was not a factor when it came to a fight. Grok was nearly sixty winters, but he held his axe with the strength of man who had only seen thirty. There was complete silence around, as if no one was even breathing. He could see that Grok strained to hear the enemies’ approach.

With the ear of a warrior who had seen countless battles, Grok picked up on the rhythm of the orc’s march and roared, “One hundred and fifty paces. Archers!”

Remence and 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 council 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.

His mind latched onto the dream he had the day he returned to his village after escaping from the orc encampment. A surge of uneasiness came over Remence. His emotions became jumbled. He felt guilt and anger at being forced to kill the orc and at the fact that he would be forced to kill more of them. Why had that orc in my dream suddenly looked like Gromken? If I hadn’t woken up, would I have still killed it? Are orcs like Gromken? Could I be killing someone who could be a comrade? 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?

“One hundred and twenty paces! Light!” Grok shouted.

The other archers had already lit their arrows and taken aim when Remence stirred from his musings. 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, or other humans. It didn’t matter. If someone, or something, wanted to bring harm to him and his people, then he need not to think. He should act. 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.

Remence saw Grok’s arm came down as he shouted, “Loose!”

Off flew nearly a score of flaming arrows. Only one was held back: Remence’s.

Remence knew that the other archers were shooting blindly. He had waited, wanting to use that sliver of light as the flaming arrows arced into the night sky to pick a target.

Throwing any remaining doubt to the ground, he measured his distance, his full concentration directed at scoring a hit. With bowstring pulled tautly, he aimed toward the outer flank of the orc line, and his arrow took flight.

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 the pitch ignited, and the flames licked at the sky, Remence’s lone arrow came careening down. It struck an orc, the flaming arrow protruding from its chest as it fell face first into a line of pitch, causing the pitch, and the dead orc, to catch ablaze.

 

***

 

Grok knew his archers were shooting blind. His purpose was to set the field ablaze, not to score kills. He wanted to nullify the orcs’ superior numbers, stealing from them the advantage of attacking from multiple sides. He also believed with the fields full of fire and smoke that the beasts would give up their cause. But the orcs didn’t waver.

The orc commander barked at them in their guttural tongue, and the creatures tightened their formation, drawing in, creating a shield-to-shield phalanx, six abreast. The pounding of their methodical, synchronized in-step tread grew louder and louder as they marched down the road toward the village.

“If it is a fight they want, it is a fight they shall have!” Grok spat. He turned to Kael with a look of consternation and said, “You have our bowmen. Set them to work. We shall see if these curs want to continue after they have to walk through a shower of arrows. I’m going to the front to meet any pig face beast that is too stubborn to tuck tail and run.”

Kael replied, “May the luck of Clovina be with you.”

“May the four-leafed goddess shade you with luck as well,” answered Grok, and he gave Kael a nod. He turned and commanded his men to follow as he led them toward the front of the village.

Kael swung around to face the archers and commanded, “Second volley!”

Each archer drew an arrow from his quiver, nocked it, adjusted his angle, and let loose. The arrows soared over the phalanx shield wall, felling an orc or two.

The orc commander began shouting, “Baj skut lavor! Baj skut lavor!” The orc troops immediately adjusted their formation, never losing their timing as they continued forward in their lockstep march.

Grok heard the command and, being versed in the orcish tongue, mouthed, “Make a shield shell? A turtle?”

He stopped, and with him, the men behind him.

The orc commander could be heard in his piggish language commanding, “Sulmus ora.” Then the orcs emerged from the now billowing smoke coming from the fire in the fields, moving twice as fast as they had before. Their protective shield wall remained uncompromised, even with their increased pace.

Grok’s mouth dropped open as he watched a shield wall careen toward them. In addition, the second phalanx had placing 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 that. It was not the normal haphazard, lack of discipline, fighting style that orcs engaged in. These orcs were uniform and controlled.

Kael, seeing this as well, yelled, “Fifty paces! Loose at will!”

The bowmen changed the angle of their weapons, to get a more leveled shot at the armored juggernaut. The humming of bowstrings began. Arrow after arrow bounced off the turtle-like formation as if it were water flowing against rocks. All the while, the orc marauders gained ground.

“Follow me!” commanded Grok, and he ran his twenty warriors to the front of the village. The men drew swords and axes as they went. Arrows from their comrades whizzed over their heads as they reached the front, forming their own phalanx. They began banging their weapons against their shields as they chanted in unison.

The creatures were close enough now that the men could see the heavy armor their enemies wore. The hue of the orcs’ dark green skin was barely noticeable through the scalemail, helmets, and metal shields they bore. The orcs fanned out, making their phalanx longer than the human defenders’ line.

 

***

 

Kael saw that their arrows proved to be ineffective against the orc’s shield wall. In addition, he recognized the orcs, with their superior numbers, were now drawing out their line and would easily outflank Grok.

“We need to split our archers,” yelled Kael to his men. “If we can get to higher ground, we might be able control their flanks. They will be exposed. We can keep them from outmaneuvering Grok.

“Remence, you, Dax, Wildon, Hemanatiles, and Forgan to the roofs on the right flank.” Kael cried out to the rest of his men, “Grammel, Hunndan, Jarmel, Blex, and Dolban. You five take to the roofs on the left flank.” 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.”

Kael turned to address the rest of his men. “Come! We must help our brothers!” He discarded his bow and removed steel 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.

 

***

 

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 of Dacturn, 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 reality. 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 defenses and nearly breaking the line. But Kael and his men had made the difference. 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 and his will to win, as the village warriors pushed back against the onslaught.

This was a battle-hardened group, and most of the men were strong and experienced. But the orcs were well organized, well equipped, and had a determination the defenders had never encountered before. Metal on metal, the grunts of fighters as they hacked away at one another, and the cries of the wounded could be heard throughout their home. Grok and his axe worked furiously to attack and parry as he continued shouting orders, his voice rising above the din.

 

***

 

Remence and the bowmen, once in position, rained down arrows on the right and left flanks of the orcs. The initial surprise had done some damage. A few orcs fell, and it caused the flanks to squeeze together, keeping them from enveloping the villagers.

What Kael had not anticipated was that the orcs would provide a counter measure. The flanks began to fill the middle of their line, and with the added weight and numbers, they pushed hard against the center of the human forces. Their focus shifted to attacking the center of Grok’s line in order to cause it to break.

Remence gritted his teeth. It wouldn’t take long for the center of the line to give, even with the aid of his father and the ten warriors. His men would be hard pressed to get off a clean shot now that the orcs on the flanks had joined the center. And even if the archers could get a clear shot, it would take precise aim to find the gaps in the orcs’ heavy-laden armor. Remence realized that by fixing one problem, they had created an entirely new one, one that his father hadn’t considered.

Taking command, he ordered as he pointed with his bow toward Grok and the others, “Everyone down! Keep the center from folding! And don’t let them gain the flanks!” His voice so full of confidence that the others did not question his behest.

Will Grok, Kael, and the village warriors be able to hold the line? Look for Excerpt #2 to find out what happens.  Let me know what you think by visiting my website at johndpepeauthor.com, emailing me at johndpepeauthor@gmail.com, or by simply posting a comment here at godamonggeeks316.com.  Pre-order ebook ($0.99/Free on Kindle Unlimited) on Amazon now! Hurry the price of the ebook will go up to $2.99 by June 15.  Paperback also available June 15th for $14.99.

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