© 2000-2001 Imminent Storm of TWZ
It was early evening by the time Daniel and Kizna arrived at the North Gate Guard Office. Daniel Helped Kizna dismount off of Nikki and handed her over to the medical officer on duty. As she was being taken to have her injuries attended too, Daniel walked Nikki back to her stable. After handing care of the bird over to Trisa he headed straight for his Commanding Officer's office.
Lieutenant Commander Vidyen Dronell was sitting almost exactly as he had been earlier in the morning when Daniel first received his assignment; he was reading written reports from today's patrols.
"Ah, Lieutenant Ayden, you're late getting back from your patrol."
Daniel didn't exactly have a very social relationship with Lt. Commander Dronell, it was purely professional. But that was to be expected since Vidyen Dronell had only been transferred to this post two months ago. Even so, Daniel could tell something had him worried. Then he saw the clock on the wall, it was nearing 6:00pm, usually the Commander would go home around 5:00 and leave one of his orderlies to handle things at the office. Something was up.
"I apologize sir, but I ran into some trouble, orc trouble to be specific. I was investigating some shouting off the road and ran into a pack of orcs, four warriors and one berserker, attempting to abduct a young woman. I successfully eliminated the orcs and brought the woman back for medical attention. We had to walk the entire distance."
"Well, you're not alone," Vyden Dronell said as he tossed the reports onto his desk. "Four other patrolmen assigned to the northern areas reported fighting or at least seeing orcs. We also had a messenger from the Crimson Dragon clans fly in not more than an hour ago. He said that a small group of orcs had been spotted near the western shore to the north. We also got a messenger from the northern Ruby Clan, he said that a small orc band had harassed some miners around Zordin, he also said that the orcs had been 'dealt with.'"
The Lieutenant Commander paused to let the ramifications of that sink in. Daniel stood there silently as he continued. "Major Wythal, chief of the Civil Guard, sent a request to Prime Minister Denson that he authorize an emergency mobilization of the armed forces. It's unfortunate that Regent Harghath is in Thais. That damn sluggard Denson probably won't do anything until morning."
Dronell stood up, walked over to a pitcher of steaming liquid sitting on a stand on the left side of the office, picked up a nearby cup and poured the liquid in. From the pungent smell Daniel could tell it was Tolc, a drink acquired from the Dwarves. It was served hot and tasted to Daniel like what a kick in the face might if it were a flavor. But it had a reputation for keeping you awake, even if you hadn't slept for days. Dronell sat back down, nursing the cup of Tolc. Daniel nearly cringed with each sip; he couldn't imagine anyone standing the stuff.
"Just before you got back I received word from Major Wythal that emergency measures were going in effect for the Civil Guard; doubled patrols, all volunteer reserves called up and a curfew imposed for the civilian population. Since you have already been involved in combat today you are ordered to get some sleep, report back first thing in the morning. For the rest of us, this is going to be a long night."
Daniel walked back to his house worried but too tired to think too much about it. Back in his house he took off his armor, laid down on the bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
He was running through a dense forest. Something was chasing him; he could hear its breath and feel the ground shake as it walked. Running, running, running.
It suddenly darkened into night; the wind kicked up and began to howl in the trees.
Then he found himself at the edge of an enormous cliff, hundreds of feet high. He turned and faced back the way he had been running. The thing chasing him grew louder and the shaking of the ground grew worse. He reached for his sword and, it wasn't there!
A great shadow formed in the trees, the ground stopped shaking, but the breathing was louder than ever. Then he saw what looked like two eyes, red and glowing within the shadow. An intense fear gripped him and without thinking he stepped back. As he began to fall from the cliff, off in the distance he heard the sound of a horn, an urgent call. He screamed.
Daniel snapped awake, at first unsure of where he was. He then heard the horn again, much closer and louder. It was the emergency 'To Arms' call for the Civil Guard. Completely forgetting the dream, he immediately jumped out of bed. It was barely light outside and Daniel had a little trouble seeing what he was doing as he rushed to put his armor on. In ten minutes he was suited up, had eaten, and was out the door running towards the Guard offices.
There was a crowd in front of the Civil Guard office building, including four Small Green Dragons. Amongst the humans was Lt. Commander Dronell wearing light cavalry armor almost identical to Daniel's, except that Dronell was wearing shoulder guards with the single chevron1 of his rank painted in yellow on it. Daniel wasn't wearing his own shoulder guards because they had been damaged a week ago.
Next to Dronell stood a taller man in full heavy infantry plate armor. On his shoulder guards was painted two chevrons, a full Major. It had to be Major Antonias Wythal, Chief of the Civil Guard. As Daniel approached the entrance to the Building, Dronell motioned for him to come over. "Lieutenant Ayden, exactly who we wanted to see. Please join me and the Major inside."
"Yes, sir" was Daniel's reply.
Once the three of them were in Dronell's office Daniel saw a large box on the desk. Dronell spoke first, "We finally got your officer's guards back from the blacksmith, just after you left."
What the hell? Daniel thought, Why is this so important that Major Wythal is here, and aren't there more urgent things going on? When they opened the box, and Daniel saw three yellow bars painted on them, he understood.
Now Major Wythal spoke, "due to your actions yesterday as well as your exemplary record over the last six months, we've decided that you're up for promotion. Congratulations, Captain Daniel Ayden."
"That also means," Dronell said, "that you will be given command of a small squad and your first assignment is already waiting. Follow me." All three of them exited the office and entered a small conference room. There were already three people in the room, and Daniel knew all of them.
Vincent Duran, a twenty-four year old Lieutenant, was originally from Thais but moved to Edron after the war. Vincent's armor was similar to Daniel's but he wore plate steel gauntlets and heavy steel plates tied to the outsides of his lower and upper arms. He also wore chain mail leg armor in addition to the greaves protecting the shins. It was a heavier setup but was necessary because he liked to use a large, body-length, broadsword that was too slow to parry a faster opponent's attacks. Vince was very skilled but at times his brash and impatient fighting manner cost him.
Sarah Fletchet, a twenty-two year old lieutenant, was from Dreton originally. Her family moved to Edron soon after the war broke out. Sarah is a skilled archer and as such goes very light on the armor. She was wearing Steel plate reinforced Heavy Leather Cavalry boots. But otherwise for protection she wore just a hard leather chest piece, dyed black, over a cloth shirt, steel armored elbow guards, her officer's shoulder guards, and archer's gloves. A two year Edron Archery Competition winner, Daniel knew of none better with a bow.
And the third was Kizna Dean, the mage he rescued the previous day. She was wearing different clothes from before, and some armor as well. She wore a standard light breastplate designed for females, under which was a close fitting red shirt that at her waist opened up in front but continued down to knee length on the sides and back, she also had a matching pair of close fitting red pants that ran the entire length of her legs. On her hands were leather gloves, with a hard leather guard that ran up the forearm. Lastly was a wide black leather belt upon which was hung two short swords in sheaths, one at each side.
"Ms. Dean is here because she offered to help. We have no mages in the Guard and the Prime Minister still hasn't ordered the military, including the local mage guild, into action. The mages of Thais are known for being highly trained in not only magic, but in more conventional combat as well. Given the current situation, we were happy to accept her assistance," said Dronell before Daniel could even ask what she was doing here. Kizna bowed slightly at the acknowledgement.
"But," Daniel objected, "your injuries..."
"Are fine now," Kizna said, finishing the sentence, "one of the benefits of being a mage, techniques for accelerated healing."
"Oh, right, of course. So, you know how to use those?" Daniel asked in reference to her two short swords.
"Oh come on," she said as she smoothly drew the swords and readied them in a fluid motion that was obviously well practiced. The swords were about 2 feet long from tip to pommel and were obviously finely crafted. She returned them to their sheaths just as smoothly as she had drawn them. "Just because I'm a mage doesn't mean I can't handle a weapon."
"So where did you..," Daniel began to say but again Kizna answered before he could finish asking the question.
"I've been in town for a couple of weeks now. I have some relatives in the city and I have been staying with them. I picked my equipment up from them."
"Oh," was all Daniel could say in reply.
"So, you're a Captain now, eh?" Vince said walking up to him and slapping the new shoulder plates, "two promotions in six months, that's gotta be some kind of record. I guess you are going to be our Kazulum now." Vince got a good laugh from that one, Kazulum is Dwarvish for "leader" but literally translates to "big head" in human speech. Now he turned to Dronell, "so Commander, what do you want us to do?"
Dronell grabbed a large roll of paper that was sitting in a corner of the room and spread it out on the large table in the center of the room. On the paper was a map of Edron and most of the land to the north of the city. On the map were two dots of red, north of the city but very close.
Major Wythal started talking first. "As you can guess these dots represent where our scouts have reported groups of orcs within the last few hours. This one,” Major Wythal pointed to the dot located on the Zordin road, "is a large force of orcs moving south along the road. The other one is a smaller group located in the forest to the east of the road that has remained stationary all night. The dragons have informed us that they will cover all land from the half-way point on the Zordin road north to the sea. We have everything south of that. So these two groups are all ours to deal with."
Lt.Commander Dronell took over. "This group moving south is the biggest threat. Unless they have siege weapons or mages our walls will keep them out of the city itself for a while. However, I won't let them just tear up the countryside at will. Also, Zordin supplies us with valuable trade goods and we need to keep the necessary coal fuel for the new steam powered industries flowing, we cannot leave Zordin cut off from the city for long. We are mustering all the Guardsmen we can for an attack against the larger force that is moving south. However, we cannot ignore the smaller group even if it is not moving right now.
"What we need you to do is find this smaller stationary group, observe it, and if in your judgment it seems prudent, attack it."
"What we are afraid of," Major Wythal interjected, "is that this smaller group is an ambush party waiting for us to move out. It is a tactic that orcs have been known to use in the past."
"Are there any questions?" Dronell asked.
Daniel spoke, "yeah, how long are we to observe before reporting back, and if we attack, is there any possibility of getting reinforcements?"
Dronell replied, "You are to observe until relieved by replacements, you will then return here and report. If you feel that these orcs are an immediate threat to us, and decide to attack, you are on your own. Otherwise, if there is any change, send one of you back to report. Anything else?" There was a long silence.
"Alright then. We will come with you to the gate."
That was the longest walk from the Guard offices to the north gate that Daniel could remember. It wasn't that the distance had changed; it was the weight of responsibility he now carried. At the gate Wythal informed them of all last minute information and set them off. As the great doors of the North Gate closed behind him, Daniel couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more going on than could be seen.
It didn't take them long to find the orc camp. After an hour of trudging through the forest all they had to do was follow the smell. Daniel, Vince, and Kizna were now were laying flat atop a small cliff that bordered a wide ravine where a small group of a dozen or so orcs had camped. Sarah had gone off to do some scouting.
The ravine was deep in the northern forest and small trees grew along the streambed at its bottom. Along the sides of the ravine were steep rocky cliffs atop of which was light underbrush and large maple, oak, and birch trees.
The ravine ran in a rough east to west direction. The small party of humans was perfectly hidden from sight as they looked down upon the Orc camp.
"I see why they chose this spot," Vince said in a low whisper, "Limited access from only two sides and an availability of fresh water from the stream at the bottom of the ravine."
A few minutes later Sarah returned. "There are two guard sentries, grunts, one at each end of the camp. The rest are all grunts and warriors, no berserkers or mages that I could tell. But this is odd. By the looks of the tents and the debris around about, it looks like these Orcs have been here far longer than just a day or two."
Daniel contemplated this while the others sat in silence. Several minutes passed by.
"So Kazulum what do you want to do?" Vince whispered at length, breaking a slight smile.
"If you keep calling me that," Daniel whispered back smiling as well, "I'll get you reassigned to permanent watchtower duty."
"Ok, ok, yes sir."
Daniel motioned for everyone to gather close together. Staying in a whisper he said to them "we are going to observe for a little while more." He checked the time piece in his pocket. "The major attack is launching in about an hour according to Wythal. We will wait until then to see if anything happens."
They didn't have to wait that long. Twenty minutes later an Orc came running into the camp and headed to the large tent at the center of the camp.
Five minutes later the entire camp was a flurry of activity. "Looks like they are preparing for a battle," said Vince as he looked down into the ravine. Sure enough they all could see the Orcs suiting up in armor and hear the ring of steel blades being drawn from their sheaths. Soon the Orcs began to gather at the west side of their camp.
Daniel turned to the others and said, "alright, time to move."
They headed west along the cliff and soon found a place where the cliff wall gave way to a steep but passable slope. The slope was covered in loose gravel and had only a few small bushes growing on it so they stayed higher up in the thicker growth and waited. Soon they heard a horn blast back to the east in the direction of the camp. Minutes later the sound of heavy running bodies could be heard and the Orcs could be seen running down the ravine to the east, heading west. They were in file, two abreast, and lead by an Orc of much larger stature than the others. This one also wore heavy plate armor and green sash emblazoned with a black crest shaped like the head of some monstrous beast.
Daniel and Vince drew their swords, Sarah readied her bow and fitted an arrow to the string, Kizna focused her mind and energy.
Daniel made eye contact with the others and when the time seemed right, all he did was nod his head and they all charged down the slope towards the column of Orcs.
The front of the column was just even with them and now the great orc at the head stopped the charge, then turned and stood between the column and the charging humans. The other orcs all reached for their weapons and prepared to charge as well but a signal from the leader held them back.
Daniel and the others were half running, half sliding down the slope. Sarah launched the first attack. She stopped herself on a boulder and fired an arrow straight at the leader's head. This is when Daniel got his first indication that things were terribly wrong. The arrow flew straight and swift until about half way to the target, then suddenly veered in a wild twisting arch harmlessly over the heads of the orcs as if some invisible hand had batted it away like an insect. She tried a second arrow and the same happened. At about the same time, Kizna slowed down and raised her right arm, faced her palm towards the same leader orc, and unleashed a burst of burning white energy. The burst covered the distance in less than a second but it too veered off course. The burst of energy impacted the hill behind the orc column throwing up large cloud of dust and plant debris.
All of this took place in the span of seconds and far too quickly for Daniel and Vince to alter their attack. They hit flatter ground and ran towards the orc leader and got about twenty feet from him. Then Daniel felt as if he had hit a wall. He didn't feel a physical impact, but could no longer move forward. Then slowly and irresistibly, some monstrous force threw him back onto the ground.
The orc leader hadn't moved a muscle. Now he turned his head and made eye contact with Kizna. Daniel heard her scream and turned to look at her. She had dropped to her knees and was holding her head with both hands.
"NO!" She screamed. "Get out! Get out!" Her face was contorted as if from some great struggle. She let go of her head, raised her right arm again and grabbed hold of her right wrist with her left hand. She then fired blast after blast of energy at the orc, all of which failed to find their target, veering wildly in random directions. After about nine or ten shot shots she let her arms fall and just stared, eyes so wide you could see white round her entire irises, her mouth twitched. Then suddenly her face relaxed and she stood up.
The orc leader smiled revealing two rows of sharp teeth. "How fortunate this is, exactly the one we were looking for," the orc said in the human language. This caused the collective jaws of the four humans to drop. The orc continued speaking, "I apologize for the ... forcefulness ... of my actions, but you left me no choice. Allow me to introduce myself. I am called Krall, and I have been searching for you, Kizna Dean."
"Me?" Kizna said weakly, "why?'
"Because I was asked to find you, by the elves of Ab'Dendriel. But that is a very, very long story, and I have no time to explain. Just know that neither I nor any orc under my command was involved in your,” there was a pause, “incident yesterday. That would be the work of the orcs attacking your city. They are my enemy as they are yours. I go now to attack them. But you, Kizna, I am instructed to tell to go to Ab'Dendriel."
"To Ab'Dendriel? Why?"
"I was not told why, just to find you and deliver that message to you. All will be explained there. I was also told to give you this as an assurance of my truthfulness." The orc Krall reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out something gold. He then threw it to Kizna.
When see looked at it her eyes went wide again. "How? Where did you get this?"
"An elf named Falnan gave it to me and told me that you would know it. He asks for you to come to the elf city. We have no more time, I must go." With that he yelled towards the orcs under his command "Kar ack! Galuth Farich!" The orc column then followed him as he ran off to the west disappearing into the trees.
Vincent was the only one to speak for a long time, all he said was , "what the hell?"
1 - A Chevron is a shape that looks like an inverted 'V', also referred to as a 'Delta'. While the Edron Civil Guard is not a section of the military and acts as a policing force, it borrows its rank structure and terminology from the Tohinian Military. Rank insignia are painted onto armored shoulder guards that are strapped to the upper arm. The Shoulder Guards are painted black then the insignia itself is painted on in yellow.