Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Here's the latest, chapter 5.

Chapter 5 – Headed Home

Keladkha filled Shen on the details of the encounter with the wood elves, with Shen voicing some misgivings over transporting elven royalty through a land which hadn't seen the species for lifetimes. After leaving the inn, the group made their way over to the local militia headquarters. They left Arynn at the gate, in case any overzealous officer got too close of a look at her. Once inside, they reasoned with the commanding officer to allow them three horses for the journey back to the capital. Gathering what little belongings they had, they mounted the horses and took off at a swift pace down the road.

As night began to fall over the area, they decided to make camp in a dry riverbed alongside the road. With the heavy shrubbery along the banks, someone would have to be nearly on top of them to see the light from the campfire. The mood was considerably lighter than the previous few nights, with an answer to the source of the plague in hand and being on the road home to see relatives and loved ones once more.

They took turns being on watch for the night, with Keladkha taking the first and Arynn having the last. The night was calm and quiet with little to no movement in the shrubbery surrounding the campsite. Though as the first morning rays began peeking over the western horizon, there were loud rustling sounds from further down the creek. Arynn, being on watch, stood up to try and get a better look at the creatures.

“ORCS!” she suddenly yelled, as five black mammoth beasts popped out of the bushes not far from camp.

Never having heard of anything called an 'orc,' Keladkha and Shen groggily arose from their slumbers, trying to figure out what was going on. Before his vision had even cleared, he saw a black blur rushing towards him. He felt a massive pair of hands wrapping around his torso and lifting him into the air. He was stuck looking face-to-face with what had to be the most terrible thing he had ever seen.

The creature eyed him angrily, then opened his tremendous jaws and let out a screeching howl. The breath was putrid and Keladkha became covered with bits of the thing's saliva. In obvious anger, the creature began shaking him violently. Unsure how long he would be able to retain consciousness, Keladkha shut his eyes tight and tried not to lose the previous night's dinner.

Just when he thought it would never end, he heard the sound of a thump as something hit the creature. Opening his eyes, he saw the shaft of an arrow sticking out from the shoulder of the creature. He then fell as the creature let go to the pull the arrow out. Landing in a heap on the muddy ground, he could only watch as Shen sprinted over, great sword in hand, and cut out the legs of the creature. The orc fell over, howling in agony and unable to stand up again.

It was at that point that Arynn noticed five more orcs standing above them on the river bank. Apparently, the commotion from the battle had gained the attention of another scouting group. She quickly pulled another arrow from her quiver and drew the bowstring, letting the arrow fly. It hit the creature directly between its oily black eyes and felling the beast immediately.

While this was going on, Keladkha had managed to crawl back to his bedroll and retrieve his sword. He had just stood up and faced the first downed orc when he saw one leap at him from atop the river bank. Sticking his sword out in from him and bracing for impact, he could do nothing as he watched the beast streak towards him. The sword made the first contact, plunging straight through the stomach. The now deadweight threw Keladkha off balance, knocking him over with the orc coming down on top of him. He could feel the warm, sticky ichor spewing from the fresh wound, coating his armor and body.

Shen watched this happened but was unable to help as he had two orcs bearing down on him. He dodged under the wild swing of the first, stabbing it in the back as he passed. The second orc managed to make contact, but the dull blade failed to pierce armor, only managing to know Shen to the ground. The beast dropped his blade and piled onto of the downed warrior. Floundering in the heavy plate mail, he was unable to properly defend himself. The creature ripped at all areas of exposed flesh, leaving a bloody mess on Shen's face and forearms. The creature was preparing to finish him off, when the it suddenly stopped. Surprised, Shen watched as the dark crimson, almost black, liquid poured out of its mouth. Arynn had managed to place two quick, consecutive arrows in its back. The creatures death throes caused it to topple off of Shen, allowing him to stand up.

He quickly ran over and heaved the dead creature off of Keladkha, who was now badly winded. The remaining five orcs had taken up positions on either side of the dry creek bed. Armed with crossbows, they were wildly raining bolts down on the area. Arynn was able to fell another of the beasts before she took two bolts in the arm, leaving her unable to draw the bow. Out of the fight, it was up to Shen and Keladkha to finish off the beasts.

They clamored up the bank of the side opposite of the road, where two of the original scouting party had gone up to get a good angle of fire. Once on top, Shen barreled down on the nearest orc, using his remaining strength to topple the gigantic creature. He pulled himself up from the stunned creature to plunge his sword deep into the throat. Keladkha also managed to get the other beast unaware, launching a series of attacks that the orc could only manage to parry the blows with the crossbow. With his last remaining strength, he swung the sword over his head and brought in down through a now broken crossbow, landing the blow square in the chest of the beast. His last willpower used, he fell to his knees unable to even lift the giant sword. Bolts rained down around Shen and him, neither able to do anything about it.

Just as the last hope was giving way, they heard shouts from the direction of the road. Five soldiers broke into view through the shrubs, the local militia patrols had heard the sound of battle and shown up to investigate. Stunned by the size of the foes, they froze for a second. Enough time for one of the orcs to react by picking up the nearest soldier and biting his head clear off. This jarred the rest into the fight. By the time the last ogre had fallen, another soldier had been decapitated and another seriously wounded.

Keladkha, Shen, and Arynn had used the distraction to sneak further down the river bed, not wanting to answer the questions that were sure to come. As they continue limping into the growing daylight, they realized the horses had been scared off by the battle and were nowhere to be seen. Dismayed, they continued walking until they thought they were a safe distance away.

Keladkha, having suffered the least in physical wounds, went about tending to the others injuries. Arynn was very pale in color, much of her right side stained by the blood from the arrows. Keladkha placed one hand on her shoulder to steady her, and quickly yanked the arrows out. She let out a yelp of pain as each one left the arm, but not loud enough to alert the militia to their position. He pulled out one of the poultices from his pack that was damaged in the fight and wrapped her wounded arm with it.

Shen was the worst off of the group. Being mauled by the ogre left him with deep gashes across his cheeks and forehead. The blood was already beginning to harden, his eyes only half open. With a torn rag and some water from a flask, Keladkha began to gently clean away the blood. He was pretty sure the marks would mar his face permanently but they needed to bandaged immediately to ward off infection. He gently applied the poultices to the wounds and followed the same procedures for the arms. He then slowly removed Shen's armor to allow him to rest easier. There were scratches all over the breastplate and everything was covered in copious amounts of blood.

Shen fell asleep shortly thereafter, snoring loudly, leaving Keladkha and Arynn to discuss what had happened. “What were those things?” he asked.

“Orcs. Denizens of the Shade, wardens of the afterlife,” she replied glumly.

“But how did they get here? They can't just decide to come here, can they?”

“No. They have to be summoned by some of the darkest magic possible. Very few are able to do this anymore, not since the days before humans walked these lands have orcs been here. The last time took the armies of all nations of elves to send them back through their dark portals.”

“But what are they doing here now?”

“Someone has brought them here. For what foul purpose, I have no idea. Only time will tell. The situation grows worse to have them wandering the lands freely. We should rest for only a short time longer before moving on.”

“Shen won't be well enough to travel for at least a day. His wounds are very serious and we will have to wait for him. You don't look that well yourself either.”

“That is your decision to make, so if you say we wait, we will.”

With this downtime, they each went their own separate ways. Arynn went to a secluded area to meditate on all that happened. It was the elven method for trying to make sense of significant events and often lead to good plans of action. Keladkha, meanwhile, had stripped off his armor and went to clean it along with Shen's. The orcish blood had solidified onto the surface of the metal, requiring heavy scrubbing to even make headway against it. The menial labor allowed him a chance to reflect on everything that happened up to this point.

The plague, orcs, and the prophecy were all bad signs. The world had become such a different place in the last couple of months that he was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. So many times in the past couple of days he had thought over the words of the prophecy, unable to make sense of any of it. All he could tell was that if it were to come true, the days ahead would be worse than the ones they were currently suffering through. Many lives would be in danger and he would have a role to play, one that he was not looking forward to finding out about.

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