Happy Halloween dear readers! This month I’ve been participating in #Orctober, writing short, or not so short pieces, on the topics shared by the talented artist Claudio Pozas on the promotion below that he shared on his Facebook Page.
I’ve NT been posting daily, instead catching up in multi-day posts through the month, and I had turned those into two previous posts (here and here). Here is the final post collecting my entries corresponding to days 13 to 31. I collected all the social media posts and compiled them into thris one blog post. It is quiet read… I hope some of you enjoy it. Here we go!
#Orctober day 13: Orc’s Pet
Happy Friday the 13th folks! Today’s topic should have been slasher film orc… alas! I blame Claudio Pozas for this oversight. Just kidding. Let’s write about today’s topic.
“Do you like the taste? Yes, it is spicy! That’s tharkan in orcish. I guess you’d call is seasoning or spices. It’s a mix of wild peppers from the south, Tellis root, and a fungus that grows on rotting meat. Don’t look at me like that. It is strong because orcs would use it to season and eat almost any type of meat. I’ll tell you how I learned to prepare it some other times. Let me now tell you about the folly of Mecrog and how it cost the orcs their first defeat in the Second Orc Wars.”
The River Hunters tribe was one of the many that joined the War Chanter. They hunted the many rivers that snaked south down from the Frozen Peaks. They knew the land like no other tribe and were instrumental in the orc armies making it south undetected. Renowned swimmers and apt at building sleek fast canoes, they were pivotal in taking the holdings of the Merchant League in the Lakelands of Tharsus, that relied on dams, moats and rivers for protection. Mecrog Finetongue was the adopted son Hurrak the River Hunter’s chieftain. He had been given the honor of taking Hurrak’s daughter as a mate and often represented his tribe to the gathering of chiefs.
Mecrog’s original tribe lived deep in the Frozen Peaks and had been attacked by human trappers encroaching on their land. The warriors were killed and the women and children take as slaves to carry the pelts back to the trading posts in Sunfrost Bay. While most died doing the harrowing trip, Mecrog was sold to a traveling carnival that toured the southern lands. In his youth he merely served as a carrier and porter, but as he grew, the owner turned him into one of the carnival acts, the savage man eating orc from the north!
Mecrog would growl and howl, eat raw meat, and scare the people of the civilized south, many who had not seen orcs in three generations. Mecrog embraced the role, but despite playing the savage, he learned much during his years in the south. He had a good ear for languages and eventually spoke and understood many of the languages of the southlands. He also fell in love with the carnival owner’s niece, herself part of the show. The human girl had malformed legs and could not stand properly, instead crawling on her hands and feet, billed as the crab girl in the carnival.
Despite her appearance the girl was smart and loved by her uncle. She had been schooled by tutors, sand beautifully, and had a gift with animals, training the colorful southern birds her uncle kept as part of the show. She taught Mecrog letters and mathematics, how to pay the lute, and despite her uncle’s misgivings, she and Mecrog began to share her wagon when the carnival was on the road.
The girl did not survive her pregnancy. She died during childbirth, the baby stillborn. Mecrog escaped the carnival that night, sure that he would be killed by her uncle. He used his mastery of languages and his natural intelligence to get work as a guide and scout with expeditions travelling north, eventually returning to the Frozen Peaks. Working as a guide for just such an expedition he met with the River Hunters and after helping the orcs kill the humans that had hired him, he joined the tribe. He soon proved his usefulness, intercepting and deciphering messages sent up and down the rivers, arranging deals with guides willing to lead expeditions into ambushes by the orcs and more. And so, Mecrog became the adapted son of Hurrak, chief of the River Hunters.
After the victory at Tharsus, both the War Chanter and his War Master trusted Mecrog with command of Hilesabia, the southernmost of the Merchant League cities located where the Hiles and Crex Rivers met, tasked with guarding the orc armies’ rear flank from any incursions from the humans of the Grey Valley.
The Grey Leaf Forest and the Grey Valley marked the easternmost border of Gersania, The Grey Valley earned its moniker because the canopy of the trees in the forest was so thick that the sun rarely reached the floor, it was a cool land of greys and greens. Their lord was last of the lords of Gersania to swear fealty to the king. The Baron of Greyleaf ruled over a fiercely independent people. Their forested land was sparsely populated but its inhabitants were renowned as hunters, loggers and soldiers. Unsurprisingly, because of the isolation and independence of its inhabitants, when the Fey Court of the Elves and their courtiers crossed the threshold from the realm of dreams into the world of mortals, one of the Moon Pools of the Twelve Elven Princesses sprang forth in the Grey Valley.
Remember that as this time the elves were still unknown to most mortals, a tale of mythical beings told in some wild story. Certain scholars had investigated the tales and some luckless explorers narrated how they met a fey in deep in a wooded glen, only to awaken days later outside the forest. The Skywatchers of Volfberg in Rustvan had observed and documented the disappearance of the constellation of the Twelve Princesses from the sky, but despite all these, most mortals knew nothing of the elves or the fey hiding among them.
When the Baron of Greyleaf sent envoys to Hilesabia to parley with Mecrog, any other orc chief would have sent the envoys’ bodies back to their liege torn to pieces, but Mecrog did differently. Confident after his recent victories, and convinced he could deal with any human noble, he granted the Baron and his entourage audience. Baron Julian Greyleaf arrived with his four knight protectors and a beautiful woman he introduced as his seer. Mecrog was smitten by the beautiful human woman, he saw in her eyes those of the dead lover of his youth. Unbeknownst to him or any of the orc there this seer was an Elven Dream Speaker, shrouded in the magic of fey spirits. These spirits sensed Mecrog’s secret wishes and subtly enticed him with their magic. Julian Greyleaf assured Mecrog he would not attack Hilesabia, asking for the orcs to spare the Grey Valley from their furry. Mecrog provided assurances and toasted to bonds of friendship with the Baron, to the surprise and dismay of the River Hunters present.
When Baron Greyleaf was about to leave, his seer brought forth a gift for the orc leader. She gave Mecrog a colorful singing bird in a silver cage. She bid the orc to take care of the bird for it would sing the sweetest notes to him every night. Once the humans were gone the River Hunters wanted to eat the bird, but Mecrog stopped them and took his new pet to his chambers.
See, orcs have no pets. They do keep animals in their camps. But these animals have a purpose. They are a source of food, beast of burden, or of war. Keeping an animal as a companion or as a useless adornment such as a caged bird, was foreign to the orcs. That Mecrog would keep the bird was madness to the orcs under his command. Already he had left his tents and taken the Merchant Lord’s House in the city, he listened to the human’s pleas, and ruled over them not like an orc would, but how a human might. He stopped the warriors from taking any man or woman from the streets of or pillaging inside the city after its surrender. Keeping this bird was the last straw. Some orcs abandoned the city and joined other bands, others openly disobeyed his orders. Mecrog punished the unruly harshly and hid the desertions from his reports to his chieftain and the War Master. He hurriedly took care of his duties, only to return to his chambers and listen to the bird sing while he played the lute.
The Elven Dream Speaker had summoned a deceitful fey spirit into the magical cage that allowed it to appear to mortals and to twist their mid by fulfilling their wishes. Mecrog’s command fell apart around him and he barely left the room where the bird every night turned into his lost lover in his dreams. He turned away his mate, his most trusted warriors, and the night of the next new moon, the army of Baron Greyleaf and his elven allies attacked the forces holding Hilesabia and freed the city from the orcs. Greyleaf’s troops and his elven allies would go on to free two other settlements of the Merchant League and attack the orc armies from the rear just as the King of Gersania launched his second attack against the invaders.
It is said Mecrog’s last loyal warriors broke into his chambers to tell him of the orc’s defeat by Baron Greyleaf, only to find him straddled by a half-woman, half-bird creature, plucking out his eyes while he smiled and played the lute. The orc warriors in their fury attacked the creature that once again became a bird and tried to return to the cage. The orcs smashed the cage and the bird instead flew into the lute. Unable to pull it out or to break the accursed instruments, an orc runner tasked with delivering the news of the battle to their chieftain was given the lute to take with him. The Knight of the Grey Valley cut him down on the shores of the Hiles River where the current took away his body along with the lute.
“Regardless of what they say about orcs, there is wisdom in their sayings, True it is mostly about combat and killing, but wisdom nonetheless. Mecrog’s story gives us this gem, ‘Beware a gift in a cage, it is often not what it is seems, and who the prisoner is depends on which side of the bars you stand.’ Now go rest. We pack camp at first light.”
And that’s all for Friday… I don’t think I’ll be able to write over the weekend. See you all Monday!
#Orctober days 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18! Orc Warboar, Orc Paladin, Ogre, Goblin and Wereboar
I started writing a post Monday… and then life happened! So here we are Wednesday to catch up with the last five prompts in Claudio Pozas’ list. Let’s get this going.
“What do you all want? That’s what he’s told you? I am no sage! I am merely a traveler whose heard a few stories. Sure, you can all listen. Pass the stew. Where was I? Yes, you are right. Baron Greyleaf had just handed the orc armies their first defeat in the Second Orc Wars.”
The forces of the Grey Valley under the command of Baron Julian Greyleaf and his elven allies had liberated Hilesabia. His cavalry would advance quickly through the Lakelands of Tharsus, liberating other holdings of the Merchant League, obliterating the orc forces on the way, and reaching the orc rear flank undetected. Powerful elven magic ensorcelled the soldiers, making them undetectable through fey illusion. Some of the orcs defeated where dominated by elven skin changers who took over their bodies and used the orcs for distraction and misdirection.
Meanwhile, the orc armies of Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter advanced from Tharsus and invaded Bacaren. It’s wooded hills and pastoral villages all that stood between the orcs and Gersania. The villages had been abandoned, the fields razed to keep the orcs from scavenging anything, and a defense line established at the heavily fortified city of Murecin. Site of the Cathedral of Saint Veciana the Pure, Murecin was located where the River Celpur exits the Mount Mikeren and becomes navigable connecting Bacaren with Irdell in Eastern Gersania. With defenses in the nearby hills, the reinforced defenses of Murecin, and support from the Monastery in Mount Mikeren, the King of Gersania was assured by his War Council that the orcs would be stopped at Murecin.
The King sent his nobles and their soldiers to defend the front, but with almost half his troops lost under the command of General Umeion at the Battles of Virsia, his armies were bolstered by southern mercenaries and an Imperial Host sent from the Roumian Empire. These troops were commanded by a very peculiar Host Marshall, a devout warrior of Teron the Crafter, Father of the Great Founders, Gillevan the Fierce, nicknamed the Fury of The Father and the Savage Marshall. Gillevan had accumulated uncounted victories, and earned accolades from the Emperor himself. Gillevan was loved by his men, feared by his enemies This Paladin of Teron was a military genius, a hero of the empire, and an orc.
Like Secher, Gillevan was a southern orc, but unlike the former, this famous military commander was groomed from birth to be a leader of men. Raised by the Host Marshall of the Undan Expeditionary Forces, Gillevan was born to orc slaves sent with the Host to build fortifications and support the establishment of a Roumian colony in Undan. When the natives poisoned the wells of the camp, and storms destroyed their ships, Marshall Nicerios found himself without three quarters of his men, no way to leave Undan, and surrounded by enemies. When things seemed most desperate, the orcs picked up the weapons of fallen soldiers and joined the fight. These orcs turned the tide and the Roumians held the settlement against relentless attacks until ships arrived to take them across the sea. The Marshall gave the surviving orcs their freedom, some continued to serve as irregulars under his command, and Nicerios sent the baby a dead orc slave home to be raised among his children.
Gillevan would have easily become a servant in any other house in the Roumian Empire, except in the Marshall’s household; his wife was a devout follower of Teron the Crafter and strove to fulfill her husband’s wishes. She named the orc baby in honor of the founder of the Order of Teron’s Hammers and Roumian hero, Gillevir, and raised the young orc as one of her own. Gillevan had the best tutors and teachers. He learned to fight, and lead, to control his temper, how to act in polite company. From his adopted mother he learned the litanies and the sacrifices to please the Great Father. Unlike Secher who had to fight for every scrap he got, Gillevan was raised to be an example of the civilizing effect of Roumian culture, a champion of the Roumian Empire, a leader of men. With so many victories, Host Marshall Gillevan was put in command of the forces at Murecin by the Gersania War Council; much to the dismay and jealousy of Gersania nobles and commanders.
War Master Secher One Eye knew that Murecin would be a challenge for the orcs. The hills and trails favored the orc pack tactics, but the humans had prepared well, bolstered their defenses, and the geography of the land would force the brunt of their forces down a bottleneck and into the plains north of the city, straight into the gathered forces defending Gersania. His scouts reported that Host Marshall Gillevan had taken command of the field and that his troop formed the main line of defense. Secher knew Roumian military tactics, unlike the nobles in Gersania, so enamored by their cavalry, to the commanders of the Roumian Empire, infantry was king. Roumian formations and tactics gave them an upper hand against almost every enemy.
Orc scouts also learned that Gillevan had garrisoned his archers and Gersanian troops at the Monastery in Mount Mikeren. His archers could decimate enemy forces from the mountain, raining death upon them, and the Gersanian troops would block any retreat. Secher formulated his attack plan with War Chanter Yrigtren.
First, he called upon one of the ogres that had joined the orc armies. Ogres were once the commanders of the Giants’ armies during the Great War of Heaven and Earth, leading orc foot soldiers against the armies of the gods. Ogres had been cursed for their role in the war and were a shadow of their former selves, their lot sometimes even worse than the orcs. Some ruled over orc tribes by force, other ogre clans collaborated with orc tribes for the benefit of both. Gruken the Mountain was the leader of one such clan. He was taller even than even the already massive ogre warriors in his clan, it was said that his father was a giant. Gruken’s tribe tended to orc armies warboars. These massive and savage creatures were unruly and dangerous, prone to throw ridders, and attack allies and enemies alike, unless controlled by a hard taskmaster and an experienced rider. Gruken’s clan raised the most savage warboars, and Gruken himself could walk into their pens and no creature would dare attack him. Gruken was key to Secher’s plan. The second of the plan part would be more difficult. Secher met in secret with Melgron chieftain of the Shadow Runners and had him once again contact the goblins of the underworld. The myriad tunnels of the Dwarven Kingdoms extended across the lands, often hidden or forgotten, and Secher was counting on Melgron to get Secher’s Fangs into an advantageous position with the goblin’s help.
The leaves had started to turn red and the chills of autumn were felt in Bacaren when the orc armies advanced upon Murecin. Host Marshall Gillevan held the field with Gersanian troops to his rear and flanks. The orc descended from every hill in countless numbers, harassing the Gersanian flanks but stopping short of a full attack. Gillevan advanced his troops and they engaged in a defensive stance, ready to stop the sea of orcs. Then the grunts and howls turned into savage squeals!
From the orc ranks thousands of warboars spilled out into the battlefield. Wearing crude leather barding protecting their backs, and with no ridders to lead them, these savage creatures ran out of the orc armies without attacking any orc and rushed the Roumian Host. Gillevan’s lookouts reported this to the Marshall’s dismay. How were the orcs controlling these creatures? The lookouts reported that the warboars were led and controlled by unnaturally large warboars. There was no time to change plans. Gillevan ordered Gersanian cavalry to meet the warboars, but those who rode out were cut down. Others simply did not take the field when faced with such ferocity. The warboar host crashed upon the Roumian line. At first, they held the line, but soon the largest warboars were upon them! These creatures changed shape before the soldiers, becoming a half-boar, half-ogre creatures of destruction, the largest of them single handedly breaking the line and scattering the Roumian front. Gruken’s clan of wereboars cut a swath across the enemy.
Gillevan ordered his men to hold, but Gruken’s tribes-folk were unharmed by normal weapons. The wereboars and warboars were cutting down his men, many had broken formation and some division of the host where retreating. The orc armies charged and the orc Host Marshall in charge of the human armies ordered the Gersanian troops into battle. They were cut down by archers from the slopes of Mount Mikeren. Secher’s Fangs had attacked and taken the Monastery under the cover of night after reaching it through an old and forgotten dwarven tunnel with the aid of goblins. They killed the monastery’s defenders and the troops stationed there, and took their position in the Mikeren slopes. The Gersanian and the Roumian fell to their arrows, commanders lost control of troops, the human armies descended into chaos and the orcs overtook them. Host Marshall Gillevan refused to abandon the field and was ripped to pieces by Gruken, who brought the head of the fallen Gillevan to the War Chanter.
The forces of Baron Julian Greyleaf attacked the orc rear during the battle, killing many orcs, but even bolstered by elven troops and magic, their numbers were too small to turn the tide of battle. The Baron and his allies instead pulled back and fled west to Hirinia. The elven realms in this land date back to this time. The reckoning of the orcs and Baron Greyleaf was yet to come.
Some human nobles retreated into Murecin but their reprieve was short lived. The War Chanter had made a pact with the goblin clan that aided them, and the goblins had invaded Murecin through the city’s ancient sewers that connected to dwarven tunnels. The goblins ran rampant across the city and the humans surrendered to War Chanter Yrigtren three days later hoping he would save them from the twisted and cruel goblins. Sadly, the War Chanter had given the goblins the city, hills and mountain nearby, along with all the humans there, for the goblins to do as they pleased.
The human armies had fallen, the way to Gersania laid undefended before the orc armies. There would be token defense of the kingdom. Foolish young nobles throwing away their lives for some foolish sense of honor or glory. Nearby kingdoms protected their borders, many Gersanians fled before the advancing orc army. By winter the palace of the King of Gersania burned, Yrigtren declared before the assembled tribes that the tribe lands of the orc tribes extended from the Frozen Peaks to Gersania. But the second year of the Second Orc Wars would bring many challenges and great suffering to the orc armies and their leaders.
By this time Nissegra could no longer hide her pregnancy and along with Putterg traveled back to Murecin. During their attack on the Monastery in Mount Mikeren they had met a goblin witch named Ziraider who somehow knew Nissegra was with child, and prophesized this orc would bring great suffering to the orc armies. Dismayed by the prophesy Nissegra and Putterg travelled back to her and asked the goblin witch how to stop her vision of woe from coming true. Ziraider told them that the only way to do this was for them to give her the child to raise away from the orcs. Reluctant but desperate the two half-breed orcs spent winter among the screams and depravities of cursed Murecin until Nissegra gave birth. They handed the whelp over to Ziraider and returned to their posts to prepare for the spring campaign. These pair of broken hearted lovers did what they thought best to protect their people and Secher, despite of their betrayal of the trust he had placed on them, but they were unfamiliar with the traditions of goblins and their traitorous mischievous ways.
“This has gone on for too long. We all need to rest for tomorrow we venture past those hills into northern territories. We must be ready for the dangers there. I’ll continue the story when we make camp again.”
#Orctober days 19 to 24: Orc Chariot, Orcish Sword, Axe, Lute, Orc Swashbuckler, and Orc Martial Artist
These massive catch ups are becoming habitual. Real life is picking up and getting busier, despite all the recovery left to do post Hurricane María. Still I am committed to finishing this, even if it is in blocks of six now! Allow me to continue hitting the thematic prompts Claudio Pozas shared in his #Orctober promotion. Here we go!
“Fret not little one! We may be prisoners but there is no need to cry. Go tell your father to calm down. Our captors value strength, he should clean his tears and remain strong. Your mother is with the Great Founders now…
He’ll get us all killed. If the girl cannot get him to be quiet someone needs to give him some wine. Don’t look at me like that! I know you hid away some. You do know that we are in this predicament because of the aftermath of the Second Orc War I’ve been telling you about. Let me tell you how?”
By the spring of 231 AC the orc armies in the invaded human kingdoms were ready for battle. Winter had not been peaceful, while most humans had fled to neighboring kingdoms, some had remained to protect their land. These humans banded together into resistance groups, harassing the orc patrols, attacking their supply lines, and confronting the invaders in any way they could.
Some humans cooperated, trying to find a way to survive in the bedlam. In the major towns and cities some tried to appease the orcs and cooperate with them, helping them manage the cities, others embraced the new masters, allowing their darker instincts to flourish in this time of chaos. The Chain of Whispers criminal society took over the Merchant League and attempted to open trade with the civilized kingdoms, but to no avail. The monarchs and leaders of these lands distrusted anyone coming out of occupied Gersania, or as the orcs called it the Orc Tribelands.
The other sovereign kingdoms around the occupied lands prepared for war. The Hirinian Theocracy called upon the faithful to gather and arms against the orcs. The elven allies of Baron Greyleaf putting themselves at the disposal of the Church. At that time the elves were considered saviors by the theocracy, not heretics. The Elven Heresies, the Inquisition of the Fey and the fall of the Issinian Holy Council was still years away. The Rustvan Chief of Chiefs, the Cazan, summoned all his chieftains to Rustvangar and summoned the Great Horde to defend their homeland. The Rustvan horsemen answered their liege’s call. Smaller holdings likewise prepared for war.
The Irgenian Empire was in disarray. For generations the emperors had ruled over a crumbling empire. Their armies were still mighty and numerous, but around them, their former subjects had established new kingdoms and flouted their independence. The emperors had squandered their military might in far-away Sasseren, Hindiran and Feshar. The loss of the Imperial Host sent to aid Gersania caused a panic among the populace. The Assembly of the People with the help of the Guard Imperator removed an old feeble emperor from power and crowned his teenage grandson Hixerios Emperor of the Irgenian Empire. The new emperor, under the watchful eye of the Council and following the advice of the High Assembly, composed mostly of nobles and former soldiers, sent the two Imperial Host in Irgenia north and dispatched orders to the other seven Host Marshalls in lands beyond the empire to bring their troops home.
All monarch where weary of the mass of undead orcs nor seen in combat since the Battle of Death Garden. They had crossed the steppes of the Grass Sea of Rustvan to the west of the Orc Tribelands and entered the dreaded Mountains of Thunderwyrm. Human survivors, escaping the orc conquest, told horrifying stories of the dead left in the field of battle, orc and human alike, rising at night and marching west towards the Mountains of Thunderwyrm. The Rustvan riders that patrolled the area spoke in hushed tones of the moans and cries of the dead echoing through the mountain’s canyons.
Secher One Eye, War Master to Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter, master of the Orc Tribelands, knew that the worst was still ahead. The humans were still afraid but where they to unite in purpose, their combined might would break the orc armies stretched across the conquered lands. The success and effectiveness of Baron Greyleaf and his mysterious elf allies worried him. The Wyrm Burned tribe had captured the city of Tamrel early in the campaign and their chief had become enamored with the Tamrel chariots built in the tradition of ancient Irgenia. He had learned from collaborators the art of chariot making and combat. One driver, two archers, a lightning fast advance against enemy frontlines. The chariots of Tamrel had once been feared by the clans in this region when the Irgenian conquered the Gersanian province. Kergell Fire Scarred, chief of the Wyrm Burned brought his warboar pulled chariots to the gathering of tribes that previous winter and impressed the War Chanter.
While Secher was leading Secher’s Fangs and other orc tribes to raze the Grey Valley, sending the heads of every woman and child to Hirinian, Kergell Fire Scarred persuaded War Chanter Yrigtren to allow his tribe to lead the attack against Rustvan, sure that his chariots would break the horsemen of the west. With his orc restless after the winter, Yrigtren approved the attack and Kergell Fire Scarred led his tribes and their allies into the Grass Sea.
The imposing orc bellowed from his massive chariot pulled by three warboars. Kergell led the charge into enemy lands, his chest bare and bearing the traditional burn scars he and all his warriors inflicted upon their chests in honor of their great leader that defeated the terrifying fire wyrm Xycherillas Et’baren in ages past. He wielded the great axe Xyboras, the dark blade fashioned from one of the fire wyrm’s fang.
The Wyrm Burned rode against the gathered Great Host of Rustvan, the Grass Sea crushed under the steel covered wheels of their chariots, and the horsemen fled at every turn, refusing to face the orc army. Furious Kergell pressed on, following the Rustvan beyond the reach of his supply lines.
The Rustvan finally decided to stand and fight near Velgastovor. They formed a line to defend the city, and Kergell’s Wyrn Burned charged the humans. Their chariots fell into the dry river beds left dry long ago by the dams at Velgastovor, and hidden under the tall grass. The wagon wheels destroyed, their charge stopped, the warboars trapped and tied down to the chariots attacked the charioteers. The orcs that survived this initial blunder were cut down by the Rustvan riders. The great axe Xyboras taken as a trophy and delivered to the Rustvan Chief of Chiefs, the Cazan.
This great defeat showed the other human kingdoms that the orcs were not unstoppable. By the time Secher had rejoined the War Chanter the orc armies were facing attacks from three fronts, Rustvan, Irgenia and Hirinia. The orc chiefs were desperate and questioning the War Chanter’s wisdom and power openly. Despite the setbacks the War Chanter remained focused and sure of his deity’s blessing for this great campaign. He told Secher he had dreamt of Kurgen Bloodbathed’s sword, Demon Tongue, an ancient blade forged of dark metal by giant blacksmiths during the First Orc Wars against the dwarves, and passed down through the clans until his ancestor wielded it. Yrigtren was convinced that once he recovered the sword, the tide of battle would turn in their favor. Never one to put much faith in the designs of gods, Secher however knew his master well enough to know that the quest to find this sword was important. He ordered his lieutenants to find the sword and threw himself into developing a strategy to stop the humans from gaining more ground.
Nissegra was tasked with finding out what had become of Demon Tongue. She scoured the libraries of the sages of Gersania and learned that supposedly the sword was taken by the dwarves after the war and given to a warrior from Firez, a captain of sea raiders from beyond the Sunfrost Bay who returned home and became lord of that far away land of dark rivers and cold mountains. According to many travelers, Demon Tongue was still in he hands of his descendants, but Firez was now a land overrun by trolls and under the shadow of fey spirits, their once mighty warriors a shadow of their former glory. Secher arranged for Nissegra to travel to Firez in the ship of Captain Ulgan the Walrus. Ulgan was a former pirate turned merchant, a former slave liberated by a pirate captain who allowed the southern orc to join his crew. Ulgan earned his sobriquet because of his prominent tusks. In his youth he was a fierce warrior, leading boarding actions by swinging from one ship to another, lightly armored, rapier in one hand, hook on another. Ulgan the Walrus was the scourge of the Southern Seas and beyond.
He became a captain, led a fleet, accepted a pardon by an Irgenian Emperor, and became a merchant. Despite now resembling a walrus not only because of his tusks, but of his girth, Ulgan was still powerful and surprisingly nimble. He knew Secher from his days as a mercenary, and for a hefty sum agreed to take Nissegra to Firez. They left from Whaler’s Bay in the Gersanian capital to find Demon Tongue.
As spring approached summer, despite human victories, the orc armies held the conquered lands. Fearing a prolonged war of attrition and after various years of drought in the south, the Irgenian Emperor summoned the other human rulers. The High Assembly had come up with a plan and presented it to Emperor Hixerios. A plan to end the war through treachery and deceit.
The human armies pulled back and sued for peace, they sent an old dwarf diplomat to the camp of War Chanter Yrigtren to arrange a treaty. Secher told the War Chanter this was a ruse, but advised he listened to him to learn what they propose and bid for time. Secher had an inkling of what they may yet to, and left the camp to confirm his suspicions. He left Putterg in charge of protecting the War Chanter.
The peace mission from Irgenia had negotiated a meeting in the orc’s main camp, a gathering where no one would bring any weapon. The half-breed mistrusted the humans, and tasked the Furious Fists with protecting the War Chanter and the great orc chiefs. The Fist were renowned for the prowess in unarmed combat and would be able to defend the War Chanter even in a gathering where no weapons were allowed. Berkinell of House O’lendar, Son of Hurriss, Descendant of Burdis, Judge of the People of Herrthon Hall was an old pompous dwarf. He arrived with his entourage in the great camp outside the former Gersanian capital escorted by a dwarf honor guard and emissaries from all the human kingdoms. They surrendered their weapons and entered the War Chanter’s great tent.
There before War Chanter Yrigtren and the gathered chiefs, he proclaimed the human’s desire for peace, and recited the poems and histories of the ancient Orc War, inviting the orcs to agree to peace. The orcs grew restless with the formalities, and Yrigtren pushed for the dwarf to speak plainly. Berkinell asked for one more concession. He had composed a song to honor the great orc chiefs and asked to play it to the gathered orcs. Reluctantly Yrigtren agreed. The dwarf asked a young woman to accompany him and play the lute. None of the gathered recognized the lute. The same one Mecrog had played and upon which an elven summoned spirit had hidden and now was bound to it. Baron Greyleaf’s elven allies had found the lute in river and had sent it to be used against the orcs. As Berkinell sang their praises, an Elven Dream Speaker, magically disguised as the lute playing girl, summoned the spirt of the lute.
The orc chiefs were enthralled by the song, reliving their greatest victories, relishing the death of their enemies at their own hands. Putterg instead saw visions of his child, how it grew up with Nissegra and him. He cried, but knew this was not right. The human blood in Putterg allowed him to fight the spirit’s influence. When he returned to his senses he saw the carnage around him. The chiefs under the spirit’s spell were killing each other. Putterg picked up his bow, shot and hit the lute playing girl. The ensorcelled elf stopped playing for a moment, but it was enough.
The orc chiefs were confounded, the gathering in disarray, one chief had killed another and in the confusion a brawl broke out. The Furious Fist with their deadly strikes and grapples kept Yrigtren safe. The Fists also cut down the human emissaries and the Elven Dream Speaker. The War Chanter ordered the dwarf captured and he crushed Mecrog’s lute with his arm forged of fire metal. Still the damage was done!
The surviving chiefs fled the gathering, the tribes of murdered chiefs sought revenge against those that had killed their leaders. The orc tribes fought each other before the War Chanter could stop them. The great camp near the Gersanian capital fell, the orc armies were in disarray. Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter, had to flee and the alliance of human kingdoms retook the old Gersanian capital.
“Since that time orcs learned never to trust humans, dwarf or elf alike. Which brings us to or current predicament. When they found the elven dream elixir in the caravan our fate was sealed. No parley or ransom would allow us to escape. Let’s see what their commander does in the morning. We better rest and gather our strength.”
#Orctober days 25 to 31: Orc Deity, Orc Falconer, Orc Ally: Demon or Devil, Zombie Orc, Skeletal Orc, Orc King, Vampire Orc
And here we are… trying to take this into the final stretch. The last seven days have been incredibly busy. In Puerto Rico, 41 days after the hurricane, we are still in the midst of recovery. I haven’t had power at home all this time, and writing these at night has become harder and harder. Still I am committed to finish this, and I’m actually trying to hit all the 31 topics in Claudio Pozas’ promotion for #Orctober before October ends! Again, a big thanks to him for motivating me to do this. It has really helped this past month. Now, on to the final part of the story.
The ragtag band prisoners, mostly caravan hands, merchants, drivers, passengers and a few remaining guards, were dragged in chains down into the crepuscular cold of the underworld. The stone passageway was well worn, and the crude paintings on the walls, along with the blood splatter everywhere confirmed the weary traveler’s worst fear. The orphan girl clung to his leg, making it even harder to walk with his wound. The smell of death and decay confirmed it. They orc commander hand brought the prisoners to his master.
The orcs barked orders, the storyteller bowed his head and the others followed suit as they entered the chamber. After the caravan master’s death, he had become the one they looked up to for comfort and leadership. Slim chance of that!
The cavern was too cold, even this far north. It was not an abandoned, ancient, dwarven stronghold. This was older, far more dangerous and foul. Frost covered the stalactites and stalagmites. An eerie blueish glow from the depths of the chamber, opposite to where they had come in, added to the sense of foreboding. Corpses were still chained to the natural columns that supported the ceiling. No not corpses, they stirred and snapped at the humans, pulling on their chains with the strength of the hungry undead.
They were made to stand before a throne set upon a foul altar dedicated to a dark orc god and their otherworldly allies. There, covered in furs and leathers that almost hid him completely, sat the orc king. The white-blue glow behind the altar casting him in shadows, only his red glowing eyes visible. He did not stir, and the orc commander barked his accusations. The storyteller interrupted him loudly and firmly, the orc nearly flew at him in rage, but a stir from the throne froze everyone in place. With a tremulous voice and in a heavily accented orcish, the storyteller spoke.
“Oh, mighty Orc King! We, throw ourselves at your mercy. We knew not that we had wandered into the Tribe Lands. This was a trading caravan north. We were lost in the storm. None of us here knew the caravan master was transporting the elven poison.” Growls and hisses filled the cavern. “We beseech you, please find mercy, and do not punish the foolish for following the fool. I know the history of the Tribe Lands and know about its past, and future glories. Here let me tell you…”
With the fall of the War Chanter’s main camp, and the orc chieftains fighting each other due to the trickery of humans, dwarves and elves, Yrigtren fled through the underworld guided by the Shadow Runners tribe, under the protection of the Furious Fists, and the watchful eye of Putterg. While above the alliance of the human kingdoms retook the conquered Tribe Lands, the elven skin changers took control of the bodies of orc warriors and shamans, tricking various tribes into imbuing the intoxicating and addictive elven dream elixir, turning more and more orcs into the thralls of the elven Dream Speakers. Secher One Eye rallied the tribes north of the Lakelands of Tharsus, keeping the tribes and chiefs united, culling elven influence from the orcs.
Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter, dragged a prisoner through the leagues of underground tunnels. Berkinell, the old dwarven emissary sent by the humans, screamed thought the gag on his mouth. He was writhing and convulsing, and often had to be dragged until he was bloody and raw. His muffled mad screams about the darkness and haunting fears brought countless giggling goblins to the nearby tunnels to scream at him.
Every time they attempted to return to the surface Putterg would advise against it. The tribes were embroiled in fratricidal battle, or the humans were on the march. Putterg insisted that they should regroup in Tharsus, that Secher had planned for this eventuality. Still Yrigtren raged. How could Yrigbum, the Screaming God of the Unforgiving Snow, had abandoned him? He was obsessed that only when he had Kurgen Bloodbathed’s sword, Demon Tongue, would the tide of battle turn in his favor.
During one of their rests in the underworld the orcs finally noticed the dwarf was quiet. After weeks of miserable screaming, open wounds, losing nails and hair, the orcs removed the sack covering Berkinell head, untied his hands. The dwarf had changed, his skin had blistered, boiled and regrown putrid greenish yellow. His new nails were black and hard as stone, his beard and hair gone, in their place coarse dark hair in tufts. The nose had grown even bigger, bulbous. The eyes were no longer those of a dwarf, Berkinell had become a goblin. Putterg was fascinated and repulsed. That is why he fought so hard when he was dragged underground, why dwarves had abandoned the underworld, and why goblins had suddenly appeared when many dwarves had disappeared. What god had cursed the dwarves to become goblins? Putterg realized just how much he did not understand of the world, and there would be much more to learn before the Second Orc War was over.
Secher’s plan worked. Despite the human’s advance and the problems caused by the elves, the orcs held the Tribe Lands north of Tharsus. Still he knew that without the War Chanter the tribes would not stay together much longer. He sent his scouts looking for his liege, trying to find his escape route from the underworld. If Putterg had followed orders, that is where they should be.
The human alliance was just as weary of advancing further north. They knew the orcs had reinforcements in the form of an army of the dead hidden in the Mountains of Thunderwyrm. Merkigra Whisperer of the Dead sat there in command of a sea of undead, only to be unleashed against them at the orc’s command. Unbeknownst to them Secher had sent orders seven times to Merkigra to join the fight. The shaman of the Death Speakers had sent back all emissaries with a single message, ‘The shaman will come to her, and then she will join the fight.” Secher grew tired of her games and feared that, despite these short-term victories, the war would be lost because of her.
Secher knew full well that bringing together the shaman of Gernellian Lady of the Dead, Mistress of the Undead with the War Chanter of Yrigbum, the Screaming God of the Unforgiving Snow was risky. Yrigbum was an orc god, furious and fickle, but Gernellian had followers beyond the orcs. Death cultists, mortals seeking to stave off the inevitable sleep of death, made sacrifices and performed dark rituals to her across lands. When the calming music of Sister Quiren failed to lull the dead into their sleep, these cultists turned from the faith of the Great Founders and prayed to the same goddess as the orcs. These competing gods would not allow their faithful to work together for long. So, Secher had sent Merkigra to Thunderwyrm earlier in the campaign.
The Mountains of Thunderwyrm were the domain of Theravol, the Great Thunder. The last of the mighty dragons of ancient times. After the War of Heaven and Earth the dragons of the distant east had flown from beyond the tundra with their riders behind them. The dwarves had fought the dragons, and their victory cost the dwarves their power. Dragons were broken, and they retreated, holding on only to their conquests in the Sea or Drar. Those in the west claimed vast tracts of wilderness as their holdings, and then fought amongst themselves for supremacy. The Great Thunder was the last of these ancient dragons. A dozen powerful wyrms had challenged him. Their battles had ripped apart the sky. None returned. Secher believed that Merkigra could animate the corpses of the fallen dragons and place them under her command as to bolster the orc armies. She had gone into the mountains, Secher knew not if she had achieved her mission, but she now refused to allow her army of the dead to rejoin the war.
In the underworld Yrigtren grew frustrated. At every turn tunnels were blocked or collapsed. Escape into the surface world and returning to the tribes proved impossible. He raged against his fate and his god. He wandered away from his protectors and a goblin witch visited Yrigtren that night. She confirmed his fears that his god had abandoned him. She told him that only Gernellian Lady of the Dead would guide him out of the underworld. She brought him a sacrifice that to please the goddess, one that would seal his conversion and dedication to the dark mistress. He performed the ritual, killed the sacrifice, drinking its blood, and renounced Yrigbum, becoming a devotee of Gernellian. He returned to Putterg and the others with a twisted goblin lamp and his renewed faith. He told them the goddess spoke through the lamp and she would guide their travels.
Autumn raged with early winter storms coming down from the Frozen Peaks and Secher knew hostilities would end early this year. Celebrations began not long after among the tribes, Yrigtren had emerged from the underworld in the Tribe Lands and now traveled to the front to lead his army. Secher One Eye travelled to meet him and was surprised to see his master’s conversion, but the southern orc had little interest in the ways of gods. All he cared for was victory in the mortal world.
From the Mountains of Thunderwyrm, Merkigra Whisperer of the Dead unleashed the army of the dead upon the humans, she rode the corpse of Theravol the Great Thunder, whom she had slain and turned into a vassal of Gernellian, and twelve great skeletal dragons flew behind her over the undead horde. The War Chanter had come to her mistress now she rode to him!
The orcs and the undead overran the human kingdoms of the west. In Hirinia the elves refused to face the undead and withdrew to the forests. Baron Greyleaf faced the orc and the undead alone. For being one of the fiercest humans to face the War Chanter’s armies he was cursed by being turned into an undead thrall of the goddess, and made to fight with the orc armies. The Grey Riders became a fearful undead cavalry by the end of the war. Rustvan fell and smaller kingdoms could not stand against the advancing orc armies.
With the humans in full retreat faced with an ever-growing army of the dead, Secher wanted the tribes to march to the front and finish the conquest of the last standing human kingdom in the west, the Irgenian Empire. But the War Chanter refused. He sent the orc tribes north to protect the Tribe Lands and marched the armies of the dead into Irgenia.
The empire had stopped all would be invaders before. They had lost lands in the past because they had not exerted their power, or had grown complacent, forgetting their frontiers and subjects until they became new kingdoms. They had seen their empire shrink because of ennui, not by conquest. The Imperial Hosts from oversea had returned. The empire was ready to defend itself against any invader, living or dead. War machines and mighty war beasts lined the fields ready to face the undead dragons.
The Irgenian Empire had been built upon the back of slaves. At first other westerners, then foreigners, and eventually the orcs. They had proven the sturdiest of all slaves. Tireless, strong, they were brutally exploited everywhere. Perhaps not as common as during the heyday of the empire, but orc slaves could be found across the empire, gladiators, laborers, servants. The young emperor’s falconer was an orc skilled at handling these birds, a tradition passed on for generation of orc serving the emperors. South Irgenia was the hiding place of uncounted southern orcs living in the wilds.
As winter set in, the orc Tribe Lands extended across the west. The War Chanter had amassed the armies of undead on the Irgenian border. While Secher and his second Putterg made plans for the orcs directly protecting the War Chanter in the upcoming last battle, Nissegra arrived in camp. Putterg was overjoyed to see his fellow commander of Secher’s Fangs, and secret lover, return from her mission. But his joy was short lived when he realized that, even if she looked the same, Nissegra had not returned. They escorted her to see the War Chanter, and there a voice that was not Nissegra’s told how the one called Nissegra had travelled to Firez to find Demon Tongue, and almost died at the hands of demon worshiping Firezians, until she had called upon Demon Tongue’s mercy. The sword’s demonic spirit had answered her supplication. It freed her spirit from mortal suffering, and took her body to bring back the sword that would undo the west.
Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter of the gathered orc tribes, commander of an army of the dead, held Demon Tongue in hand. Flanked by Merkigra on one side, and the demon possessed Nissegra on the other, he marched his armies into Irgenia. At first the Imperial Hosts held the battlefields, but a trusted orc falconer poisoned the emperor and the gathered nobles in the imperial palace, slaves revolted, and the orcs of the south rode against the armies of the empire. Encircled by enemies the Irgenian Imperial Hosts broke. The empire descended into fire and suffering.
The ancient cities of Irgenia fell. The orc skeletons of long dead warriors marched side by side with the recently risen corpse of southern orc turned into zombies. The dreadful moans and the relentless march of the dead crushing the Irgenian Empire into oblivion. Secher reveled in the fall of the land that almost broke him, too distracted by the celebration to notice Putterg’s suffering at seeing the one he loved turned into nothing more than a demon’s puppet. The demon possessing Nissegra knew of Putterg’s suffering and often teased him that he could drink her blood and become a servant of Gernellian Lady of the Dead as well. He refused each and every time.
Yrigtren One Arm entered the imperial hall in the crumbling capital of the Irgenian Empire. There, before his undead servants, before former rulers turned prisoners brought from this and all other conquered lands, before the gathered chieftains of the orc tribes, he declared himself King of the Orcs, Master of the Living and the Dead, the Scourge of the West; and vowed to conquer the entire world for Gernellian!
While the orcs celebrated in the ruins of an ancient empire, demon possessed Nissegra took Putterg to the War Chanter’s tent. There she told him a story he already knew. How a broken Yrigtren had left camp one night in the underworld only to return a changed orc, with renewed purpose, in possession of the lamp that allowed them to escape the maze of the underworld, and return to the tribes. What Putterg did not know was the name of the goblin witch, Ziraider, the same one that had taken Putterg and Nissegra’s baby. Or the sacrifice that the War Chanter had performed to consecrate himself to Gernellian. As she opened the lamp, floating inside the oil, Putterg saw from whence the voice that guided them came. Possessed by some demonic force, just like Nissegra, the severed head of the baby he had seen but once, looked back at him through demonic eyes, and laughed.
Putterg was broken, he could no longer refuse, and drank the tainted blood from Nissegra’s body. He could not stop, he drank until there was naught left of her. He felt the power of the demon course through him, feeding off the ancient taint in his orc blood. The severed head of his dead child teased at him, asking what he would do with such power.
Yrigtren was lost in revelry, those humans that still survived cowering from the orcs’ savage celebrations. When Putterg approached the War Chanter with surprising speed. Yrigtren instructively knew his former soldier meant him ill, and struck at him with Demon Tongue. But Putterg was unharmed! The half-breed orc took the sword from his master’s one hand, and ripped out the other arm of fire metal with which Yrigtren tried to strike him.
Secher ran to them, but was too late. Putterg was upon the War Chanter. He hungrily bit his neck and fed on his blood, satiating for now his unnatural hunger for blood. The orcs were stunned, the demon spirit in the sword enticed him to kill everything that lived and truly remake the world into Gernellian’s vision.
But Putterg’s half-breed nature resisted, his human side allowed him to keep the demon’s influence at bay. He fought back and with a mighty strike broke the sword upon the hall’s floor. He renounced the goddess and sent the orcs scattering to the four corners of the world. Merkigra, betrayed and swearing revenge, took her dragons to Firez, and left behind a rotting, unmoving horde of the dead. Secher helped Putterg and some orc chiefs return north, and the remaining tribes have held onto the orc Tribe Lands north of Tharsus since the end of the Second Orc War.
Humans rebuilt, but the Irgenian Empire was no more. The history of the world and its kingdoms was forever altered by the Second Orc War.
Secher died but his leadership strengthened orc society and their military. But the scars of the war, the elven magic, the ancient taint, meant that the orcs have regressed into old customs and wild savagery in the centuries after the war. Putterg withdrew from the world, his tainted body unable to resist the sun. The orc commanders still recognize his rule over them, calling him the eternal chief, living for the day he will stir from his rest and lead them to new glories. They still bring blood sacrifices to his secret lair as tokens of respect, to appease the lust for blood of this ancient orc vampire.
“And so, we stand at your mercy Putterg the Blood Drinker… Orc commander raid their neighbors in your name. Orc shamans made blood sacrifices in your name, and call upon your blessings. It is said that the demonic power you keep in check seeps beyond this cavern and gives power to those that act on your name. Putterg the Blood Drinker is indeed the youngest of the powers worshipped by the orcs of the Tribe Lands.
I implore you, do not let this innocent child die. I will take care of her and make sure she arrives safely to her mother. I will tell the story of your mercy and warn all that would hear me of your power. So, shall you once more return to lead the orcs when the mortal realm is plunged into night and the orcs rule the world once more.
Allow us to survive and take instead these lot as sacrifice, for they surely will satiate your hunger.”
The storyteller carried the girl and covered her ears, so she would not hear the creams in the cavern behind them. He would survive to tell this story as well.
If you want to read all the entries in a single document I’ve collected them into a single Google document. This has been fun… Hope some of you have enjoyed this tale. See you next year.