tagSci-Fi & FantasyOrc Dominion: Triumph Ch. 05

Orc Dominion: Triumph Ch. 05

byOrcDominion©

Author's Note: The next few chapters might be slightly delayed due to the holiday season. I'll try to have them out on time though. Also, thanks to Davie Jones for all the editing!

*****

"Come on Your Highness, we're almost there." Melora implored Garrett as they skirted along the edge of the mountains. The putative clutched the elfin woman's hand tightly as he clung nervously to the cliff face. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but here, and the only reason they had gotten him this far was thanks to Melora.

For some reason Garrett responded well to her, and was only all too eager to do as she asked. Jeanette has him well trained, Drauken mused, he's eager to respond to anything a woman tells him to do. Which worked well enough for Drauken: he didn't want to have to spend the entire trip making sure that Garett wasn't making a run for it.

They had been traveling along the side of the Lyskean Mountains ever since they crossed over into Heste. Belkor's army was camped in the Duchy of Braden, and he had his scouts out patrolling everywhere. If they were going to make it past them and through the lines to reach Amelie's army, they were going to have to take these less travelled paths.

The wind howled, and Drauken pressed himself firmly against the side of the mountain. While the drop had enough of a slope that he probably wouldn't die if he fell, he'd still likely break a leg, lose weeks if not months of travel time, and run a much higher chance of being discovered by Hesten scouts.

It was much too late in the year to be trying to make this crossing, which was why Belkor didn't have it guarded. Between the wind and the ice, an army would find it impossible to travel along. They just needed to hug the mountain until they crossed the Warne River and then it should be clear all the way to Dromstadt and Amelie. Then he could get a better handle on what the ultimate intentions were of his allies, and try to steer them in a direction they could all live with.

Thankfully, after they passed the next bend the ledge opened up into a much wider slope, allowing them to move three abreast. He turned and gave Melora a toothy smile, "You said you were looking forward to getting out of the city. Is it everything you wanted?"

"The smell is better, and so is the view." She answered, returning his smile.

She was right about both. The view overlooking Heste was spectacular, if only it wasn't so cold. It would have been idyllic in the early summer. "I'm glad at least one of us is enjoying it anyway. I thought the Elfin quarter wasn't so bad these days, though."

Melora shrugged. "It is getting better to be sure, but it isn't like the merchant's quarter."

Drauken didn't say anything for a moment, as he didn't want to say the wrong thing. He liked his assistant, but was still aware of the gulf that separated them socially. Things were better for them now than in the first days of their migration from the Elfish Isles, but they hadn't caught up yet. "Well, at least you've managed to move up into the merchant's quarter. In time I'm sure more of your people will."

"How did you come to work for the Guilds, Ms Melora?" Garrett asked suddenly.

"My father is a junior mason," she replied, surprised at his interest. "since he couldn't teach me his trade, he had me educated and used his connections to find a position for me."

"Your father is a human?" Garrett asked in surprise.

"Yes. The offspring of elfs and humans appear entirely elfish, just like the offspring of orcs and humans appear as orcs. That's what's driving the expansion of the elfish quarter; the mixing of human and elf blood mixed with ours has led to the largest population boom in elfish history."

"Shh," Drauken interrupted, "quiet, do you hear that?"

All was still for a moment, but then laughter broke through the howling wind. The three travelers crouched down and crept forward to the next bend in the path. Two soldiers were seated around a fire not too far away.

"Are those Belkor's men? What are they doing here?" Drauken asked.

"They wear the livery of the Duchy of Braden," Melora replied. "He probably remembered his mother's history with these mountains."

"His mother?" Drauken racked his brain trying to remember who the Duke of Braden's mother was. "The Duchess of Haverset, right? Susannah? The Queen's friend?"

"That's right, Master." Melora smiled at him. "During the Second Hesten War, she was rescued from captivity by Zentaran partisans and lived in these mountains for a time. She must have passed on the experience to her son, who knew the danger they posed and sent soldiers to guard them."

"How assiduous of her." Can't anything be easy? Now I'm going to have to deal with these soldiers.

"What are we going to do?" Garrett asked.

"Alright, alright. I'll go forward; they'll be less suspicious of an orc. Hopefully I can get the drop on them, and take them out before they know what's happened."

"Are you sure?" Melora asked, a worried expression on her face. "There's two of them, Master, and you're a merchant, not a soldier."

"I know, but it will have to be enough. We can't go back and we can't go around them we have to go through them." Drauken impulsively leaned forward and kissed the elf woman on the lips. "It will be alright, trust me." He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt.

The orc took a deep breath, wrapped his cloak tightly around himself, and then stepped around the bend and began approaching the orcs. "Good day my friends, do you mind if I share your fire?"

The soldiers jumped to their feet and grabbed their spears. "Halt and state your business!"

Drauken continued to walk forward with his arms up. "I'm on business for the Queen, heading north passed the river. I just want to share your fire for a moment while I eat."

"What business? Where're your orders?"

"Right here." Drauken reached into his cloak and wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword. When he got close enough to the soldiers he drew it out and with a quick, vicious strike slashed it through the neck of the nearest one.

He spun around and chopped it at the second one, but the soldier jumped back out of the way. Before he could close the distance and press the attack, the other soldier brought his spear up to keep him at bay. Damn! Drauken did not want to get dragged into a fight, not when the soldier had armor and he didn't. He jabbed forward with his the sword again, but the soldier easily parried it and countered with a thrust of his own.

The tip of the blade shot past his face, narrowly missing him as he jerked to the side. As the soldier yanked it back, he swung it inward and cut the side of Drauken's face with the blade. The merchant grunted in pain and swung his sword again, but couldn't get inside of the soldier's guard.

They circled each other, feinting and jabbing: Drauken trying to close in while the soldier tried to keep him at bay. Drauken's arms began to tire; he just wasn't used to the exertion needed for sustained combat. As his sword started to dip, the soldier pressed the advantage and began to attack more persistently.

Rather than going for a decisive killing blow, the soldier went for quick, shallow jabs and cuts, poking and slicing all over Drauken's body. The merchant moved back, trying to create space and stay out of range, but the soldier stayed on him. As the spear darted forward for a deep thrust, Drauken brought his sword up to chop at the soldier's head as he spun away. Unfortunately, his untrained feet got tangled and he fell to the ground. It's not supposed to be like this! "Don't!" he cried impotently as the soldier prepared to impale him with the spear.

To his surprise, the soldier paused. A moment later the orc lurched forward and stumbled as Melora pulled a spear out of his back. She quickly stabbed him again, right in the back of the skull. Blood burst from his mouth as the soldier collapsed onto the ground. Drauken watched in disbelief as blood seeped down his back from underneath the armor.

"Master!" Melora cried as she threw down the spear and rushed to his side. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, just a few scratches. I'll live," He exhaled sharply, "Thanks to you." Melora beamed a bright smile at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He held her close a moment, before releasing her slender body. "Not too close, I don't want to ruin your dress. Though you've at least earned a new one when we get back to Ruar. Go and get Garrett, let's warm ourselves by the fire a moment and eat, but then we have to get going."

"Yes Master, Drauken." Melora hesitated another moment, and then gave him another kiss. "Go get yourself warm. Let me take care of everything!"

****

The warmth of the tent washed over Henry as the guard pulled back the flap and he stepped inside. It felt good to get out of the cold. Winter was setting in, and though they hadn't had the first snow fall yet, it was only a matter of time. Phillipe and the Catabrian, Black Pete, rose to greet him as he entered.

"Welcome, Your Highness. I trust the inspection of the siege works went well?" Phillippe asked.

"Well enough. The siege towers are almost finished, as are the catapults. Your engineers are doing fine work." Henry was satisfied with their progress. They would be able to storm the city in a week, or at most, a fortnight. If they wanted to, that is. For now, Henry was content to besiege the city.

"Good! As soon as they're finished we should take the damn city and be done with it!" Black Pete exclaimed.

"Patience, my friend. If the weather worsens, then we'll assault Dromstadt and secure better winter quarters for the army. For now, let them weaken with hunger. Time is our ally, not theirs."

"I agree." Phillipe added. "The hungrier they get, the more desperate they'll become. They'll start launching more sorties, to try and break through our lines or destroy our supplies."

"Well, I hope they do! All this sitting around is getting boring! I want to fight and kill these damn orcs!"

"You'll get your chance." Henry assured him. "Your people fought well in your quest for justice and vengeance on the orcs. Now, here you are, before the very gates of Dromstadt." Henry paused for a moment. That wasn't the right thing to say. "Our people have long been enemies, but those days are over. The orcs are the enemies of all men, as they showed you. We're together in this fight, and the alliance between our people will last even after this war is over."

Black Pete didn't say anything for a long time. Finally, he pulled a flask out and took a long drink before nodding his head in agreement. "Aye, for my part, aye. I've seen enough violence to last the rest of my life, and the lives of my children. When the orcs are finished I intend to put away my sword."

"I'll drink to that!" Phillipe said as he lifted a mug. "To peace, security, and eternal friendship!"

"Here here!" Henry agreed.

"Your Highness!" Daniels called out as he entered the tent. He held the flap open for an exquisitely dressed dark haired woman. "Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present Sylvia Ousten, Queen of Heste and Duchess of Swetford."

Sylvia smiled at Henry as she took off her wolf pelt cloak and handed it to Daniels. "Husband! How good it is to see you again. It's been too long." Sylvia crossed the tent and clasped Henry's hands.

Henry smiled and leaned down to kiss her on the lips. "Sylvia! Welcome! This is a surprise. I hadn't expected to see you here!"

"Yes, well, I had little choice in the matter. The Queen's Shadows were all over Swetford. Half the Lords who might have been loyalists are dead, or imprisoned." Sylvia sighed.

"That's unfortunate." Henry said evenly. "How did you escape?"

"They expected me to go either west into Heste, or south in Ruar. Instead I went southwest into Crovoth. I still have some friends there, and they got me onto a ship which brought me here." Sylvia looked over to Black Pete and Phillippe. "Forgive me for interrupting, gentlemen."

"Not at all, Your Highness, it is a pleasure to meet you. The King has told us so much about you. I am Sir Phillipe Renard, Commander of the Thestan forces." Phillipe bowed, and then gestured to the Catabrian. "This is Black Pete, Commander of the Catabrian Tribes."

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am." Black Pete said gruffly.

"I'm absolutely charmed." Sylvia smiled at them both before turning back to Henry. "Crovoth is still on board, as are Fullorm and Testin. They stand ready as soon as Queen Amelie's contact in Ruar gives the words."

Henry frowned at that. "They weren't amenable to taking the signal from us? I dislike having to rely on the Queen's contact." Henry looked to Philippe. "No offense intended, Sir, I would just prefer to have more control over it and not have to rely on a Zentaran."

"You'll be doing that in any event, Your Highness. The Zentarans want a Zentaran leader, to present a more unified front in our alliance. You can't blame them for that." Philippe replied.

The deep warning cry of the camp horns interrupted them. It blasted out three times, and outside the tent the whole camp went into a flurry of activity. "Three blasts, that means they're sortieing from the city. It looks like you'll get your chance sooner than expected, Black Pete. To your men, to arms!"

Henry gave Sylvia another kiss before taking his sword from Daniels and rushing out of the tent. All but the four soldiers guarding his tent were streaming towards the castle. "Daniels, go and get the rest of the guards and send them along as soon as you can!" Then he turned towards the guards. "You two stay here and guard the Queen, you two, follow me!"

Once Daniels nodded his understanding and ran off, Henry watched the throng heading towards the castle with the two guards. Black Pete and Phillipe ran off to either flank to lead their own men. Finally, he turned towards his guards. "They have to know anyone leaving from the main gate will be cut down. It has to be a diversion! They'll be heading for either the siege towers or the supplies." He hesitated a moment longer. "The supplies. This way!"

They began running horizontally through the crowd as they made their way to the supply wagons. It was difficult at first, but once his guards started shouting "Make way for the King!" the crowds started to part for them.

When they reached the supply wagon the soldiers watching it were being hard pressed by a party of sopping wet orc soldiers. They must have snuck out of the castle and swam through the moat to hit the wagons by surprise. Fortunately, the orcs had left their armor behind when taking their swim.

"For Heste! For humans!"

"Death to the orcs!"

"Death to the pigs!"

Their cries ran out as they charged to join the fight. The nearest orc turned at the sound, and shouted a warning to his comrades. He then turned back and lunged to meet Henry. When the King raised his sword, the orc parried it and continued moving, bowling him over and sending them both to the ground.

Henry released his sword and reached up to grab the orc by the tusk. He yanked down on his head as he slammed his mailed fist across the orc's jaw. He felt the orc's lower teeth give way, but he slammed him across the jaw again for good measure. As the orc grunted in pain he pulled on the orc's head and rolled him off.

The orc tried to raise his sword, but Henry threw his weight down on the orc's arm and pinned it down. The orc swung his other hand around and slammed it into Henry's back where his armor had ridden up in the tussle. Henry groaned in pain as the massive fist smashed his kidney.

The King wrapped his fingers around the orc's neck and squeezed, then lifted his head up and smashed it into the ground. He managed to slam it into the ground again before the orc grabbed onto Henry's arms.

The orc's grey biceps bulged as he squeezed and tried to rip the King's arms off his neck. Henry felt his grip buckle, but he continued to squeeze with everything he had until he saw the orc's eyes bulge outward. As the battle raged around him, Henry knew that he didn't have time to choke the orc out to ensure he was dead.

As soon as the orc appeared to lose consciousness Henry quickly grabbed the dagger from his belt and shoved it up beneath the orc's jaw and into his head. The blade sunk home with a slick, squelching 'thunk.' He twisted the knife and then yanked it free and jump to his feet. Henry was just in time, as an orc had been charging towards him in order to save his comrade.

The charging orc raised his axe, forcing Henry to dive out of the way to avoid the blow. There was no way he was going to meet an orc with a war axe armed only with a dagger! The orc slammed his axe into the dead orc, splattering blood in a wide arc. Henry dove for his sword as the orc rounded on him, but before he could raise his blade to defend himself, a bloodied sword point burst through the orc's stomach.

The orc staggered forward, and then fell to the ground to reveal one of Henry's guards, panting for breath. "Try to save some for us, Your Highness, it is our job after all."

Henry grinned and jumped to his feet again, sword in hand this time. "Heh, I suppose I have to remember that I'm a King with an army now, not an exiled pirate prince." Henry laughed darted forward into the fight again, this time keeping in formation with his guards. More soldiers were coming up behind them as well, and soon they had the remaining orcs completely surrounded..

The orcs began to fight with even greater desperation as it was only a matter of time before they were all cut down. Two of them pressed close together and attacked the guard standing beside Henry. The King shifted focus, attacking one of them to relieve the pressure when suddenly both ducked for a third orc, who swung a great sword over their heads, decapitating the guard. The blade followed through, aimed directly at Henry. The King's eyes widened in shock as he instinctively leaned forward. He slammed into the orc warrior to his right, spinning him towards the blade. The great sword sunk into the orc's face, the force of the impact snapping the warrior's neck.

Henry lost his balance and pivoted, and in doing so slashed his sword, severing the spine of the orc with the great sword. He caught himself and regained his balance, and then raised his sword and drove it down into the back of the orc who ducked, puncturing his lung and killing him. As the other warrior stood up, Henry drew his dagger and slammed it into his eye.

A stillness fell on the battlefield, and then his men gave a great cheer for their King's prowess. Well, what they thought was his prowess instead of a mixture of blind luck and instinct. Instead of disabusing them, he let them go on cheering. It gives them confidence, and it never hurts for a King to be seen as superhuman. After the last orcs were dead, Henry led his guards over to the gates of the city, but the orcs making the diversionary attack had already fallen.

He found Phillipe and Black Pete, who both made it through the battle. Black Pete in particular seemed in better spirits.

"Well, that was a bracing good time." Henry laughed. "Did you get your fill, Black Pete?"

"Aye, a nice way to break up the dullness of a siege. I was almost disappointed there were so few!"

"I'm happy to kill them a score at a time." Phillipe said. "The more we whittle their numbers now, the less we'll have to worry about when we take the city. If they want to send out raiding parties to get slaughtered by our superior numbers, I encourage them to!"

"As long as they all die in the end!" Black Pete spat bitterly.

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