Never fear-Arkantos and Valkyrie are back!
Part 5: Alliances
Valkyrie was in a bad mood.
The explanation for this was simple: Sunleader, the famed general for who Valkyrie was currently serving, had disappeared. Nothing fancy-he just wasn’t in his tent, and hadn’t been for at least a week, though his guards tried to keep this fact as secret as possible.
But what made Valkyrie the maddest was the timing: Sunleader had the nerve to vanish just as important messengers were arriving. Very important messengers.
Arkantos himself, in fact, who claimed to come in peace to discuss terms of a ceasefire. And while Valkyrie was an expert fighter and leader, she had no
experience with diplomacy; not that any amount of experience would have helped much in dealing with the obnoxious elf.
Even though the predawn fog had not let lifted, he was waiting as Valkyrie walked out of her tent, leaning against a tree and smirking arrogantly in an obvious parody of an elven stereotype. Though at first his presence was shocking and alarming, by now (a full day later) it was simply tedious.
“Ah, so the mighty general awakens,” Arkantos said while still staring into the distance.
Valkyrie’s patience was low. “Look,” she said as she walked over to the elf-lord, “you came here to discuss a ceasefire, right? You’ve been here a day and you haven’t said a word about it. So get talking.”
Arkantos chuckled. “Alright, alright. Walk with me, will you? We elves think better while we move.”
Valkyrie doubted this, but did as the elf asked. They walked down the hill, through the fields surrounding the camp.
Arkantos soon resumed talking. “Do you know why I came to Rollingplain?” he said softly.
Valkyrie snorted disdainfully. “To kill as many humans as you could, I suppose.”
The elf laughed grimly. “Of course, you
would think that. But I am more than just an insane murderer, which I’m sure is news to you. No, I came to these lands for one reason-to make sure that no human would ever harm my forests again. And I sent you humans the only message you could understand-that of death and destruction.”
“But-no. We would never invade you…” Valkyrie could not finish her sentence, and from the look Arkantos gave her, she did not need to. Both knew that the human lords definitely would invade the elven lands, if it would give the nobles more power.
Valkyrie sighed. “What is it you want? Really?”
“I want our armies to fight together to defeat a powerful enemy that should be charging across this plain any day now,” Arkantos said nonchalantly.
Valkyrie stopped in her tracks. “Wait. You’re talking about an alliance
? With you?” Her voice carried the incredulity she felt.
Arkantos stopped as well, and nodded slowly, a grin on his face. “What? There’ve been stranger alliances, haven’t there? Just because we hate each other now doesn’t mean we always have to.”
“I don’t hate you-” the words were out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying. But Valkyrie knew it was true; now that she had met the evil general, she couldn’t bring herself to wish that he would fall over dead.
Arkantos sarcastic grin softened into a more sincere look. “You really don’t, do you?” he said softly. This seemed to amaze him, the idea that a human could move beyond such petty emotions as anger and hate.
After a moment of silence, Valkyrie spoke again. “Who is this enemy, anyway?”
A frown crossed Arkantos’s slender face. “You might want to sit down.”
A noise awoke the sleeping orc. A scratching on the metal grating that imprisoned him here, something walking above the deep pit.
A head appeared far above the prisoner, staring down into the muddy hole.
“Are you the one called Gromgorgan?” the head asked.
“Yes,” the prisoner answered in a tired voice.
“Are you down there because you killed another orc out of battle?”
“Are you down in pit because you defended your honor?”
The visitor dropped something through the grating, falling to the muck below. Gromgorgan scurried over it the object-a sturdy iron knife, of Terian make; obviously a token of battle.
“I took from body of tin-head chief,” the visitor said, “after I slew his whole warband.”
Gromgorgan was confused. “But…it is forbidden to fight with tin-heads.”
The visitor‘s voice rose to a near shout. “Says who? Your chieftains? They cower behind their walls like cowards. The tin-heads killed orc tribe, and now I get revenge for them! Will you help me?”
Gromgorgan did not bother considering his response. “If you will free me from the spawn of maggots who call themselves chiefs, I will follow to glory and death! What is your command?”
“First, I free you. Then we invade Rollingplain.”
The strange orc disappeared before Gromgorgan could express his astonishment.