Friday, January 15, 2016

Skard II

Skard let fly another arrow, one of two dozen raining down on the humans. He had watched with mixed feelings as the first wave rained down around the Giant. Skard still held a grudge against him for winning their fight, but he also respected him after returning his axe. Death by a hail of arrows was not what he deserved.
    The last he had seen of the Giant was him on his knees before the oncoming human army swarmed over him. A third volley of arrows fell upon them, picking off a couple with screams of pain being swallowed by the din of the charge. Most of the arrows were blocked by their shields. The Brogdah Clan didn't have too many archers and there were a lot more humans coming at them than they could shoot.
    It was too late now anyway. Dropping the bow where he stood, Skard kneeled down to pick up his axe. The leather grip felt good in his hands. It felt right. He added his voice to the guttural chanting of the front line.
    The humans were close now, they'd crash into their line in less than thirty seconds, but that was not the Orc way. The Brogdah Clan would not sit and cower behind a wall of their comrades. The Brogdah Clan would do what they did best.
    Skard tightened his grip on his axe and yelled, rushing toward the oncoming humans. What had once been more than one hundred shouting, raging, charging humans, prepared to kill a clan half their size, suddenly turned into a chaotic rabble of those with the passion for war, who fought, and those useless sacks of flesh who fell to the axes and swords of the Orcs.
    Skard reveled in the action of it. He swung his axe with both hands, removing limbs and lives. He had already killed at least three before he found himself facing an actual warrior. The human was well armored with a long blade covered in scarlet Orc blood.
    Who had he killed? How many had he wounded? Did it matter?
    No!
    Skard would show him what Orcs were made of. He would show everyone how to deal with that kind of human. Letting out a deep growl he leaped at his foe.
    Skard's axe lashed out in an arc, barely passing over the human's head as he ducked. The human swiped his blade over the back of Skard's leg. The metal biting through leather and flesh. Skard stumbled, crying out in pain, but did not dare fall to the ground.
    Though it hurt like hell, he kicked out with his wounded leg, knocking the human into the dirt. The axe came down with a spray of blood as it sunk into the human's chest. Not even his armor protected him from the force of that blow.
    Skard raised his tusks triumphantly and roared. All around him lay the human wounded, the dying and their dead. His brothers and sisters were victorious, their calls echoing his own success. The surviving humans fled toward the other half of their army, all the way across the field. The reinforcements should have joined the fight sooner if they hoped to win against the Orcs. It was too late now. Now they cowered behind their shields waiting for their defeated comrades to return.
    Sweat and blood dripped from Skard's chin, he hadn't noticed until now that the cut over his ear had reopened during the fight. He struggled through the mass of bodies underfoot, pain searing through his leg with every step. He saw more Orcs scattered among the dead than he had expected. His friend, Borkin, who he had known since they were little broods, lay among them. Jaw clenched shut, Skard moved on.
    Gwarr was a bloody sight to behold, but there were no wounds that Skard could see. Their elder was a rallying point and everyone was slowly making their way, looting the dead while they passed. Mexta stood next to him, a nasty cut spilling blood over half her face. Other than that and the evil eye she was giving Gwarr, she looked unharmed.
    The blaring of a war horn made Skard turn. He was surprised that the humans would want to resume the battle after having lost so many, but then realized that the noise didn't come from across the field to the east. It came from the north, still quite a bit away, but dust could be seen rising from trampled ground. The cavalry was coming and the humans who were defeated a moment ago shouted with renewed vigor.
    Without hesitation, Gwarr's roar signaled the attack. Their elder charged forward, the clan at his heels. Skard stumbled over the fallen, his wounded leg troubling him until the battle rage took hold of him, taking his pain, storing it for after the battle when it would return tenfold. The charging Orcs left the dead behind them, reaching the clear field, where only a few dead humans lay, having been killed by arrows. The Giant was surely face down in the grass here somewhere.
    The Brogdah Clan neared the human front line. Skard could see their faces. They were scared at the sight of the battle enraged Orcs, looking north toward their saviors. The cavalry wasn't there yet though, this was their chance to tear apart the demoralized troops before they arrived.
    Orcs screamed in pain and anger as they slammed into the human's shield wall. Spears jabbed at them, but the wooden and metal shields were not enough to stop the oncoming behemoths that were the Orcs. Skard's axe tore through a shield - breaking it into two halves - and cleaving into its owner.
    Again the humans outnumbered the Orcs, but they were terrified by their brute strength. Skard saw it in their eyes as he swung his axe with glee. Though the humans had more than twice their number they began to fall back. He respected the fact that they did not outright flee and was glad, for it meant that more remained to be slaughtered.
    Another human blocked his path, better than the others. He parried Skard's blows or dodged when he could. The young grunt wearied at being thwarted. He even tried to bait the human giving him an opening, but the coward would not take a risk. Fighting continued all around them, humans and Orcs shouting their pain and rage.
    As Skard took a breath before starting a new assault on his opponent, the blowing of the horn resounded, but much closer than before. Too close. To the north the cavalry crashed into the battle. Orcs had positioned themselves to stop the onslaught, but there were too many riders, breaking through their ranks and tearing them to pieces.
    A sudden motion drew him back to his foe, the human finally going on the offensive. Skard growled, knocking the sword aside, taking the shield to his face. Slightly dazed, his instincts took over, slipping his axe behind the human's legs, pulling them out from under him.
    Skard lifted his battleaxe to give the finishing blow to the human cowering under his shield, the gallop of a horse barely audible in his triumphant state. A sword slashed across his back, followed by the horse's shoulder and rider's knee.
    Skard stumbled, dropping his axe. Pain from his earlier leg wound shot upward, bringing him to his knees. The human he had been about to kill now stood over him, sword arm raised. Riders galloped past them, swarming over the battlefield. A riderless horse was the last thing Skard saw before it crashed into him.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Big John III

Big John was breathing hard, sweating and wishing for rest. Though now was not the time. The King's army was on the move. He heard the horn blowing and could hear the clatter of men marching, but he dared not turn around to see.
    Mexta stood dazed, a deep gash in her brow covered the right side of her face in blood, but he could not underestimate her. One wrong move and she would make him pay. His sword had fallen to the ground behind her and she was still holding on to her axe.
    Blinking away the blood, she took a step forward. She only had eyes for him, not aware of the Orcs around her scattering, readying for war. Their fight was forgotten for all, but her.
    Following her lead, Big John took a step back. With her step, Mexta's head drifted off to the side, making her stumble to his left. She caught herself with a growl, shaking her head back and forth.
    Big John knew what a mailed fist to the head could do. His left hand still ached, but it had been his only option after having lost his sword. He was still faced with the problem that he was unarmed and Mexta was, but at least she was no longer fresh to the fight.
    What was once a circular fighting pit had quickly turned into an open space as the Orcs started to build ranks to fight the oncoming army. Big John could see Gwarr out of the corner of his eye. The Orc Elder had drawn his great sword, shouting commands. Though he scanned the formations of his clan, he also kept an eye on Big John and Mexta.
    Big John mouthed the words "I will not die" for courage, his eyes darting toward his sword. Mexta's imbalance had moved her far enough away so that he could go for it. He had no time to hesitate, his movements brought Mexta to action. She swung her axe, bringing it down into the soft earth with a thud.
    Big John was not only strong, but also fast. In Mexta's rocked state he was quicker than her axe, diving under it to grasp his sword. Coming back up on to his feet with a roll, he placed the tip of his blade at Mexta's throat.
    She drew in a sharp breath. Her left eye, clear of blood, tried to focus on him, pupil swinging from left to right as if seeing two of him. Her hands, still wrapped around the haft of her axe, let go as her shoulders sagged in defeat.
    "Do it."
    Big John held the sword tight, putting pressure on Mexta's skin. Blood welled up and dripped from the edge of the blade. He eased off the pressure, flicking his gaze toward Gwarr.
    "I will not die here! Let me go and she lives."
    Gwarr turned his full attention toward them, grunting. "Leave the sword and go. Run!"
    Mexta hissed as the blade dropped to the ground, turning toward her leader. "You let him dishonor me like this?"
    Big John did not waste time by listening to more. This was his chance, the only chance he would get. Gwarr had allowed him to leave, the King's army was rushing toward the Orc ranks, everyone would have eyes for the battle, not for him.
    His heart pounded as he ran for the safety of the King's ranks. He heard men shout at the sight of him. They did not slow their charge, but they recognized him as their own. He would be able to let them pass and would be safe behind their lines. More than one hundred men would be between him and the Orcs.
    The weight of his armor burdened him. He didn't know how much longer he could run like this. Thankfully, he was getting closer and closer to the safety of the King's men. As soon as he was passed them he could slow down and remove the heavy chainmail and plate armor.
    The second half of the King's army still stood on the other side of the field, making a slower advance. They would surely be able to take him in before they joined the fray. He couldn't keep his mind from wandering as he ran, thinking about the strategy his kinsmen were using to engage. Having reinforcements was good, but most if not all of these men had never fought Orcs before. The more they outnumbered them the better, in his opinion.
    The thoughts worried him, wondering about the outcome of the battle. How safe would he be if the King's men were defeated. Would he just end up back in a fighting pit, surviving one day to the next by defeating anyone pitted against him or would they just kill him straight away.
    He told himself that he would not die. That he would make it out of here and would see Small John again. All these things going through his mind helped his body cope with the strain of running. He was almost at the oncoming line of King's men when he heard the familiar sound of bows twanging. The army slowed, shields being raised. Big John dared not look back, so all he saw was the face of one of the King's men. He was young and reminded him of Small John. Not as tall, but full of energy.
    Big John watched the young man's demeanor change from an angrily charging warrior to a worried, helpless onlooker. That's when the first arrows fell around him. Some arrows sank into wooden shields with a thunk, others buried themselves in the ground and two found Big John's back.