Part 3: The Stranger
“Elves! Elves for sale!”
The gravely voice of the slave trader rang out through the early morning, as a crowd of bedraggled peasants gathered around the platform.
Next to the slave trader, four elves stood upon the wooden platform, their hands bound. Two wore dignified expressions that did little to hide their fear. Another, wearing heavy, mud stained robes that might once have green, glanced side to side nervously, anxious to escape from the sea of unwashed humans. The last wore a grim expression, and glared at each and every one of the humans, one at a time. All bore several injuries, whether they were bruises, cuts, or broken bones; and all knew that there was no escape.
Once upon a time, slavery such as this was perfectly legal; until the grandfather of the current King Erian IV led a massive crusade on all those who bartered in human life. Since then, the slave trade had become nearly extinct.
But the law says nothing of selling elves
At another time, their may have been objections to this nonetheless. While elves might not be as awe-inspiring in Denwall as they are to the people of Darseen, someone
probably would have spoken up to stop this injustice.
Except that in the last year, elven armies led by Arkantos had ravaged the countryside of Rollingplain, killing thousands of soldiers and civilians. The inhabitants of Denwall had no love for the elves now.
“How much am I bid for these? They’re strong and healthy; set ‘em to work in the mines, and they won’t disappoint you!” The trader acted confident, but he knew that with this crowd, he wouldn’t get much; not one of these peasants could afford a clean shirt, let alone slaves.
But an offer he got. An old, bearded man hunched upon a walking stick, clad in a gray traveling robe, called out to the trader. “I’ll take the dark haired one!” he said in a rasping voice.
The trader studied the old man closely, and was not impressed; he looked like the poorest of them all. “What will you pay?”
The old man walked forward, letting the trader see his bright blue eyes. “Will seventy gold suffice?”
Shocked, the trader nodded dumbly. “Seventy? Well, erm, yes; that will do nicely.”
The old man drew a leather bag from his belt, and threw to the slave trader, who counted its contents greedily. “Alright. He’s yours.” Another trader untied the elf, and pushed him off the platform into the mud below. A chorus of laughter and cheering rose up from the crowd.
The old man helped the elf to his feet, and led him off into an alley, away from the jeering peasants.
“Thank you, sir,” said the elf, happy to at least be away from those slavers; he hoped he could escape from someone as weak as this ancient, white-haired human.
“You’re perfectly welcome, Daerior,” the old man rasped with a small smile.
Daerior knew immediately that as bad as those slave traders were, this old man was far, far worse.
There was no warning; the orcs struck quickly and brutally, which was just what Thagûrz wanted.
Though the human army was much larger, they were tired; the joy of their victory was stale, and they had lost many men. When they camped alongside a narrow, but deep, river, Thagûrz knew the time had come.
He had sent the laborers and the cargo, along with a few loyal soldiers, farther into Thikken Dal, to meet up with the ship that was waiting for them. Meanwhile, he moved northward in pursuit of the murderous humans, along with eighty warg riders.
They took up their positions in the hills overlooking the enemy camp. The armored humans were sweating in the midday heat, as the harsh light of the Rollingplain sun glared off their weapons. They would be easy prey, as long as the humans didn’t realize the truth: that their attackers were less than a third of the Terian army.
Charging down the hill, wargs howling, orcs yelling fearsome battle cries…it was amazing that every last human didn’t flee right then and there.
As it was, only about half tried to flee. The other half was divided somewhat evenly into two groups: those who stood and fought and those who stood and peed themselves.
The impact of the charging wargs sent the defenders flying; before the humans could reorient themselves, they were impaled by the viscous spears of the orcs.
The battle was over quickly; Thagûrz made sure that no one was left to see another sunrise.
He had no idea that by doing this, he had just furthered the plans of a certain old, gray cloaked man.