Gaylon could not help smiling as he looked across the great room. He’d only owned the Inn of Hope for a year, after the previous owner had died mysteriously, and he had never seen it so crowded. They were drawn to the old knight like bugs to a candle. When he spoke, the room went quiet.
As for Valant, he looked around the room with a wicked grin. To him the tales were only yesterday not something lost to history. He could still remember each of the Knights of Day as they sat on their steeds, armor polished and shinning brightly in the morning sun. How he longed for those days when glory and honor meant everything.
“So, what happened to Draco?” Came the yelp of a small boy sitting at Valant’s feet. He looked down on the child and laughed.
“That’s why you’re here? To just hear about Draco. Oh no, there was much evil afoot that night”. The room fell into a solemn silence. Valant looked into the faces of young children who looked back with eyes as wide as saucers. Around the room similar looks appeared on older patrons. He had their attention and so it was time to begin. “They still had to get the Lady out of the fort…”
Valcor, Falon and Wallace didn’t even slow to watch the battle between their comrade and the troll. Instead, the three charged through the gates and into the hell that was the Orc’s home. Valcor could only look on in shocked silence. The grounds were littered with trash and bones. Human body parts were strung around the walls as if for decoration. The stench of rotting flesh flooded the air no matter where one turned. Rats and dogs ran from filthy pile to filthy pile. The knight could feel his stomach give a mighty heave, but he managed to hold it down.
The few Orcs that had remained behind were either old or sick. The knights didn’t stop as they cleaved through any that tried to stand in their way. Valcor could see the inside of the fort quite clearly and the thing that stood out most was the fact that they had encountered maybe a dozen creatures. All the rest were outside the gates fighting. Why were their no warriors inside?
The three knights moved towards the huts at the back of the encampment.
“We must find the hut. You heard what the scouts said, it’s somewhere towards the back of the fort. Go door to door until she’s found.”
Valcor could see Wallace scowl at the idea.” There must be twenty huts in here. By the time we find her we may well be surrounded.”
“We’re in an Orc fort. I think it’s safe to say we’re surrounded,” said Falon.
“Good point,” replied Wallace.
“There’s no time for this. Wallace takes the right, Falon the left. I’ll head towards the middle. Whatever happens, find the Lady.” Valcor spurred his steed onward without another word.
All the huts appeared the same as Valcor dove through one after another. Across the way he could glimpse Wallace or Falon as they went about their task. He knew she was here somewhere.
He was nearly to the largest hut when he drew up short. Ahead the dirty curtain drew back, and six creatures stepped out. Valcor called them creatures because he had no other name for them. Each had the strong muscular form of a warrior. Their skin was gray and highlighted the silver hair that hung down each one back.
The armor they wore was not something an orc would wear. It was well oiled leather that glinted in the torch light. An emblem of a dragon’s claw was displayed on each one. Orc’s armor was what they scavenged but Valcor could tell that these creatures armor had been made for them as it formed and contoured with their body.
No one advanced towards the knight, instead they formed a half circled around the curtained entrance. All had clawed hands resting on the hilts of their polished swords.
“Who are you,” was all Valcor could manage as he took in this new information.
“We are the Lord Orcs, the true race if you will,” came a reply from the hut.
With a flip of a curtain a creature stepped from the hut that had to be the Lord Orc’s leader. He was taller and bore broader shoulders. His hair was tied back in a braid that was laced with metal darts while his armor glittered with gold.
With a slight bow he turned towards Valcor, “and who, sir knight are you?”
“I am Valcor, first sword to the Knights of Day.”
The creature smiled and turned to the others with some hidden joke. “I have heard a lot about you knight, the Orcs call you the dark Storm. I must admit I’m disappointed. I expected your appearance to be much more formidable.”
“I am Sadar, the future king of all Orcs.” The creature moved with a certain ease that none of the other Orcs possessed. His steps were sure as he slowly approached the knight. “You are the one they call the Orc slayer. My people call you the dark storm.” The Orc drew a dagger from his belt and began toying with it unconsciously in his hand. “Why do you hunt us, Valcor, first sword to the knights of day?”
Valcor knew his time was running out. His only hope was the others were left unhampered while he was busy with this group. “I find you to be the most savage, vile creatures to walk this land.”
There was a low rumble from the back of the group, but Sadar’s attitude never changed. “We are savage?” Sadar asked as he turned to the others with a long thin smile. “You who hunt us down like dogs think we are savage? Who holds your leash knight?”
“What,” asked Valcor.
“You are here to save the Lady I assume. So, who sent you, The Royal Court? They call and like a good hunting dog you come baying,” said Sadar with a laugh. “It really is disgusting.”
Sadar’s laugh was pompous and arrogant. Valcor’s blood began to boil at the creature’s audacity. “I will kill every one of you,” he growled.
“Yes, I’m sure you would if allowed to, but your time is over, knight. The time of the Orcs has emerged, and you are found wanting.” Sadar slipped the dagger back into its sheath and turned to leave. “I had planned on killing you myself, but I can see you are not even worth the time or effort. Kill him,” he growled as he disappeared into the shadows.
The other Orcs seemed to come to life. Slow grins stretched across all their faces as they leveled sword and clubs towards the lonely knight. He tried to back away, but they managed to ring him on all sides. Everywhere he turned the Orcs stood ready.
Valcor swung the great battle axe in a long arch to push the Orcs away but the minute he stopped they began closing again. Knowing that this would probably be the end Valcor chose the largest of the group and charged.
The knight’s attack caught the Orcs off guard. They were apparently planning on tormenting him a bit before they moved in for the kill. Valcor robbed them of their moment of fun as his axe bit deep into the neck of the largest Orc. Chaos erupted as some of the group scrambled to get away while others charged in. Valcor spun to meet his next opponent with blood burning in his eyes. If he was meant to die in this god forsaken place, then he would take as many as he could with him.
The next attacker was quick, Valcor gave him that. His cutlass danced across Valcor’s breast plate causing sparks to light up the night. Valcor spun to his right and brought the pointed handle of his axe to bare into the orc’s chest. Two down, how many to go?
Two Orcs were left facing the blood covered night. Both looked young and unsure where their duty lied. With a deep guttural growl Valcor spun the axe wide cleaving an arch through the air. The pair were too young and not prepared. The Orc to Valcor’s left disappeared in a spray of blood as the axe bit deep into his shoulder. He crumpled to the ground without a sound.
It took only a moment after his comrade fell, then the second Orc was moving, as fast as possible, away from Valcor. He disappeared into the night with only a whimper for his lost friend.
“Where are you Orc King!” Roared the knight as he raised his axe over his head. “Your next to feed my blade!”
There was laughter from the darkness and the sound of horses. “Not tonight Dark Storm, but we will meet soon”. Suddenly an object came flying from the night and landed at Valcor’s feet. He looked down to see the head of the young cowardly Orc. “I don’t tolerate cowards. This night is yours.”
With that Valcor could make out the sound of retreating horses. The Orc King was gone.
In the middle of carnage and death stood a pale figure whose face was well hidden in the depths of his dark hood. A hand like that of a corpse clutched the red wood staff the speaker now leaned on.
“The knights of old have returned in the form of your companions. It is nothing to worry about.”
Falon slide down from his steed and stepped next to the figure. “Tagrass, how did you get in here?”
“I am a wizard, how do you think I came to be here,” answered the man.
Falon disliked and distrusted Tagrass for reasons he couldn’t quiet grasp. But for the moment he was the only ally that didn’t seem to be bent on killing every living being inside the fort.
“Have you seen any sign of the Lady”
Tagrass gave a dismissive wave with his hand. “She’s here somewhere. I would suggest you look boy”. Then he turned and disappeared into the night.
“Damn wizards,” growled Falon as he climbed back on his horse and moved deeper into the fort.
The monster seemed to be fairing about the same as Draco. Blood poured from the creatures wounded leg and it seemed to be having trouble staying balanced. It began to circle Draco once more, dragging the wounded leg behind it. A short dagger appeared in Draco’s left hand and with the skill of a back-alley knife fighter his blade blurred across the creatures outstretched arm as he danced to the side and avoided the attack.
The cuts were far from life threatening but the Troll screamed in pain as he tried to turn around and miss stepped while placing all his weight on the wounded leg. With a loud snap, broken bone tore through the monster’s skin and ribbons of blood shot into the air. Draco watched as the Troll crashed to the ground with an earth-shattering thud.
The beast now grabbed his torn leg and rolled back and forth in pain. Draco watched in silence for a moment before retrieving his mace. Hefting it in his left hand he circled the Troll, who was lost in blinding pain.
Low chanting could be heard escaping from Draco as he prepared his death strike. With a sudden flair of blue light erupting from his mace he swung with all his strength driving the weapon into the crown of the Trolls head. There was a startled cry from the Troll before it turned into a mumble curse and then silence. With a prayer of thanks to his gods, Draco tugged the weapon free from the now crushed skull and turned to find his horse that had fled during the short battle. “Damn horse,” he growled as he disappeared into the night.
Valcor spun his horse round and again headed towards the hut in the back. As he did, he saw Falon emerge from the very hut with the Lady Shanna in his arms. Falon flung her across the saddle of Draco’s horse as he rode up. Then he quickly mounted his own steed and the two shot across the open yard with Wallace close behind. Valcor dug his spurs in deep to catch up. They were nearly to the gate when arrows began to rain down on them. Valcor thought they might make it until one struck Wallace in the side spilling him from his mount.
Valcor rode to his friend who was struggling to stand. Sheathing his axe, he grabbed a blood slick hand and drug Wallace up behind him. Without a word the two rode toward the gate as more arrows struck the ground all around. They had just passed the gate when Valcor heard the sickening sound of an arrow meeting flesh and heard Wallace give a cry. He wanted to stop and check on his friend but knew he must flee. Following Draco, they rode off into the night towards the sounds of a bigger battle.
Valcor could just make out the shapes of Orcs moving in the night. Some reaching for him and his steed. Others running into the darkness. He and Draco kept riding till the figures they saw were no longer the foul Orcs but that of they’re comrades. “RETREAT! RETREAT! WE HAVE THE LADY!” Yelled Valcor as he rode. The men nearby picked up the cry and fell in behind. Those that still rode horses pausing only to lift the walking onto they’re steeds. The band of men raced through the woods
When the sounds of pursuit had finally faded Valcor ordered a stop to see who had made it out. As he slid from his worn mount, he looked at Wallace who was now being carried to the ground by some men. As he approached, he could see the pale of Wallace’s skin. Valcor knew his friend was lost. “He shall be honored’ said Valcor as he turned and walked toward Draco.
“Lord Valcor of the guild Knights of Day may I present Lady Shanna,” said Draco with as much fan fair as he could muster.
“My Lady,” said Valcor with a bow. “I hope you are unhurt.”
“I am now Lord. Your men are very brave to fight for me.” Said the Lady with a flushed face. Valcor could see her embarrassment as she looked around at the band of wounded and worn men. “There was too much killing for the price of one life.”
“My guild has sworn to protect those living near the Brit crossroads. The Orcs rode with a few miles of our guilds home thus challenging us with their arrogance. We have long fought their threat.” Valcor replied.
“Please tell your men and their families I am sorry and grieve with them Lord Valcor.”
Valcor tried to suppress the anger that was beginning to rise due to the woman’s words. “It was our honor bound duty to rescue you and return you to Lord Britain’s lands.” He said a little to curtly. “But now if you will excuse me, I must be tending to the men.” Valcor bowed again and turned to leave. Then he felt a stiff hand on his shoulder.
“I saw Wallace fall,” whispered Draco, “did he make it.”
“I’m afraid in body yes, but spirit no,” Valcor replied without turning.
“He will be honored” said Draco in a hushed tone.
Valcor did not look back but walked off to where Falon stood being bandaged.
“Not serious I hope,” said Valcor as he approached.
“A scratch by an arrow. Nothing to be concerned with.” Valcor allowed him to finish being bandaged before they spoke of the men.
“So how many did we lose.”
“Eighteen are dead or missing. We have twelve injured but most not seriously and there are about twenty of us ready to fight.” Valcor shook his head at hearing how many were lost. “It is possible many more will meet us in a few days. With no moon it is difficult not to become separated.”
Valcor knew the man was trying to lift some of his burden with hope. It did not go unappreciated, but he chose not to express that gratitude. “Gather the men. We will need to move in the next hour least those beast gain on us, if they still follow.”
“We are four days ride form the guild house and five from the Brit. Where do we go.”
“You and Draco return the Lady to the court with the guilds regards. I shall see the men home.” Valcor said as he turned to leave.
“What?” exclaimed Falon? “You should be the one to present the lady. It was you who lead the attack and with Falstaff away you are acting Guild Master. The court would expect you there.
“You are more rehearsed in the ways of the court. I believe you would make a better presence than I.” Valcor put up a hand as Falon again began to protest. “Tell the court that I am tending to my dead. I am honor bound to see them properly buried. If they require my appearance, then they may send for me after the day of mourning. But as always my guild brother come first.” And with that Valcor turned and walked away into the rising sun.
“Not the end, oh no, far from it,” whispered the old man. His eyes were lost somewhere in the past as he stared at the departing knight surrounded by sunlight. Everyone in the room sat on edge of their seats waiting with baited breath.
Suddenly Valant was brought back to the present with a heavy sigh. “You see, little did Valcor know that this was just his first steps with the Lady Shanna. Aye for the whole guild. The beginning of the end if it were. But to hear those stories,” he said rising, “you’ll be coming back.” Then the old knight began the slow trudge up the stairs to his room.
To be continued…