Part 9: Miracles
Cleaver couldn’t believe his ears when he heard the news. But there was no denying it; as he rode into the enemy camp, dawn’s first light shining in the east, he was forced to realize the unthinkable had happened: The elves had surrendered.
When the messengers first told him the wonderful news, Cleaver was sure it was a trick. But there were the elves, their heads bowed, their weapons thrown in a heap at the edge of the palisade. Almost as surprising, there were humans among the elven army. Vile mercenaries, Cleaver was sure; sell-swords who would betray their own people for a few gold pieces. Their weapons were confiscated as well.
By now, Cleaver’s officers were in complete control of the camp, counting off the newly captured prisoners and “confiscating” some of the enemy’s weapons for their own use. The only thing left for Cleaver to do, it seemed, was to speak with the enemy general; he was waiting outside his tent.
And there he was; Arkantos of Ethree L'Bala, General of the East, the Sword of Boleta. He had some other names too, that Cleaver preferred: the Madman, the Bloodstained Rider, and the Scourge of Rollingplain. Flanking the great general were two grand masters, dismounted now, their expressions hidden by the hoods of their green cloaks they now drew across their faces; a warden, dressed in her gray cloak, stood in the shadows. And standing nearby was a human woman, clad in shining silver armor, a nervous look on her face.
As Cleaver approached, swaggering up the grassy hill with his bodyguards, Arkantos wished he had a sword to ram through the arrogant human’s stomach.
But the elf didn’t say that. “Well met, General,” he said to Cleaver instead, “I have heard of your great deeds before, and I am grateful to finally meet you.”
Cleaver was not expecting such politeness from this
elf. “Well, um, thank you. It is good to meet you too.” he said huskily.
Arkantos’s eyes strayed a moment on the sword Cleaver wore. Its golden sheath crafted in the shape of leaves seemed oddly familiar to the elf lord. But he had little time to ponder such trivialities; the warden whispered in his ear, and Arkantos knew it was time.
Cleaver was about to speak, perhaps to brag about his victory. But at that moment, horns sounded off in the distance.
Arkantos’s miracle had arrived.
* * * * * * * * *
But then another sound drowned out the horns: five-hundred orcs screaming their battle cries, and one louder than all the rest.
“WAAAAGGGHHH!!!” screamed Gromgorgan as he lead the charging warg riders over the ridge. He could see the vast human army below him, clustered about the valley, just finishing their breakfasts of eggs and bacon. As the humans realized what was happening, they grabbed their weapons, hastily pulled on their armor; but it was too late. The orcs were already butchering them by the hundreds.
Gromgorgan impaled the first crossbowman with his javelin; the others fled at the sight of the bloodthirsty warrior. The pikemen he decapitated with his jagged broadsword, and his warg mauled several of the engineers clustering around the trebuchets. Then Gromgorgan spotted another human, clad in fine clothes, fleeing into the valley. Gromgorgan had his warg leap off a flat rock jutting from the hillside, and he landed right in front of the terrified noble. The human slowly drew his sword.
“Back! Stay back!” Karamot yelled in a cracking voice at the orc, “I’m warning you--ahhh!”
The warg pounced.
“Wait!” a clear voice called out.
Gromgorgan reigned in his beast, turned about. There was that elf runt Daerior, dressed in his mud stained green silks, riding a brown horse. “He is a leader. Arkantos will want him as a prisoner.”
Gromgorgan shrugged, and rode down into the valley. There was no shortage of humans to kill.
Karamot staggered slowly to his feet, shaking the warg hair off his tunic.
Daerior should have been watching his prisoner, but he had to glance out over the carnage in the valley. A moment later, the elf felt a knife against his throat.
“Don’t move,” Karamot said, the tremor of his voice betraying his nervousness, “I’ll kill you, I swear-”
The next thing Daerior heard was a mangled scream, as the dagger left his throat. Turning around, he saw Karamot lying in a pool of blood with an orc spear stabbed through his chest. Behind him was Gromgorgan, his warg lapping at the noble’s crimson blood.
“Thanks,” the elf said gratefully.
The orc grunted, and rode back into battle.
And after a last, rueful glance at the corpse of the human he had tried to save, Daerior did as well.