Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Massacre at Coradra Gap

Slaver ran down the fangs of Ur Alak Nabog and wetted the matted fur at the mouth of the young orc warrior. He listened raptly as the chieftain’s voice grew to a frenzy describing the feast of dwarf flesh the tribe would soon be relishing. As the bonfire crackled with each word of the glorious chief, Ur fantasized about the tender kid meat he would get if he made a mark for himself in the upcoming slaughter. Calling it a battle was an abuse of the word.

Their great chieftain, Narak dana Belvanog, Destroyer of forests, Smasher of chests, Eater of Brains had already told them what the Shaman had foreseen in the bones of the raven and the entrails of the pig for many days. Each day was the same. A few centogs of dwarf miners were all that guarded a host of dwarven kids and shes and rich treasures beneath a poor fortress. The dwarves were stupid to be there and easy pickings. The destiny of the tens of centogs worth of orcs was to massacre the dwarfs, eat the she-dwarfs and the kid-dwarfs in a great celebration as the power of the tribe of the Brain Eater continued to grow.

Ur longed to serve closer to the mighty chieftain that he too might have a taste of the brains of the conquered, like the lieutenants of the great Brain Eater. Dwarf brain straight from the skull was said to be like a gritty bread, like the dried ale from yesterday’s mug. Ur stood little chance of making a great name for himself in this massacre, though. His centog was to be near the back, catching any dwarfs that tried to escape their way. Shes work, really.

Thinking about shes made the young orc breathe deeply. A she-orc, Miraka, had caught his scent at home, and he had caught hers. He wondered if he could wrap stewed dwarf arms under his armor and take them back to her. How she would breathe deeply for him then! Yes, that is what he would do. But only if the meat held up better than the puny dwarfs would fare against the coming orc onslaught.

A crack in the fire turned him back to the speech of the Brain Eater. The shadows of the Gloomwood forest ran thick as the light wrapped the huge orc chieftan, “We are an Army of orcs against two centogs of dwarfs. We march at first light to take what is ours. Eat little tonight. For soon, we will be feasting on the marrow of miners and the flesh of their shes and kids!” All of the warriors roared in approval, slapping their spears against their shields. “Brain Eater, Brain Eater!” they chanted in unison. The Chief reveled in the chant.

That night, as the embers faded, Ur stood guard. He was proud to have been selected to be a sentry near his Centogak’s tent, not so far from the Chief and the shaman. The still night boded a good, clear morning for killing. In the quiet, he could hear the loud breathing of the hoard, the baying of the great dogs, the snoring of the giants that served Belvanog. He stared at his claws and wondered if dwarf fingers crunched when you bit them like a snail, or were just chewy like a slug? His fightmate Bu said that the best part was the calf of a she with a side of pickled Umber hulk. He was so hungry, he almost bit his own finger. Then, he heard a gravely, quiet voice. It could be the snoring giants. No, it was an orc speaking. An old orc. The voice was coming from the Shaman’s tent.

“Narak, the entrails have changed I tell you. Look. See here. These many blood curves are dragons. Half a centog of dragons. The pig does not lie. The seeing has become not the same as on the other nights.”

The snarling response of the Chief was unmistakable, especially at the closer distance that Ur had crept. “Old one, you have smoked too much hashog tonight. Your sight is clouded. For weeks, the coming victory has been clear to you. It will be recorded in the scrolls forever you said. The Massacre at Coradra Gap. Why should it change now?”

The Shaman’s voice did not cower like Ur expected. It was a deep voice, one that spoke with conviction knowing a truth, “I wiped your bottom when you were a squealing babe, Narak dana Belvanog. Do not presume to tell me when I have smoked too much. I know what the signs are saying. This break here in the raven wing bone speaks of two wielders of magic, but one is uncontrolled, wild, and one is focused. Both are powerful. And, these hard lumps where the bone should be soft, they mean a dwarf with axe and shield and the will, strength and knowledge to wield them well. This is no dwarf miner but a battle-hardened son of stone. This curve in the wing bone is another dragon, but strange, it was broken and then healed. And, see to the pig here. This charring from my flames in the porcine brain down to the foot – a great power from the mind to the hand and feet. See how the chars fan out. This great power is an elf,“ he sucked in, “that flies and kills.”

Ur heard the Shaman draw his breath deeply. “And look here. The loop in the gut pipe. The large green blood curve pooled there. That is a green dragon.”

Belvanog chuckled through his ale. “Next you will be telling me that the gods themselves will arrive with this bi-centog of dragons to save the hides of our dwarven feast.”

His eyes rose as Ur heard a mug shatter. The Shaman’s voice rose. If it got any louder, the next sentry would hear it too. “You fool. Here, in the heart, not the gods but one of their Chosen, yes, another blood curve – the Chosen of a dragon god. I cannot tell which. It matters not. This comes against you, too. Be not a fool. The signs do not lie. Your victory is no longer assured. Something has changed in all that I can see. Beyond the Gloomwood, there be much more than weak dwarves. Call off the attack. There will be easier prey another day.”

What followed came quickly. A muffled grunt. A thud. Silence. Ur hid behind a tree as he peered to see the Chief leaving the tent. His claws holding a torch glistened wet. A pool of blood soon ran out below the tent flap. A shudder ran through the young orc warrior. He would not sleep well when his duty ended later that night.

As the light slowly rose behind them, ten centogs of the orc army gathered, Ur stood straight and tall, proud to be part of such a hoard. He looked to his right, his left, behind, in front, and saw the press of orc warriors. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.” Again he counted to eight. And again and again and again, until his head hurt. Yes, a centog is many orcs, and we have many centogs against the puny two of the dwarves. Dwarf toes roasted at the end of a knife over a fire made a good afterfeast snack his fightmate Bu had told him. The slaver ran thickly in his mouth just thinking about it. He looked to his left at Bu, then to all the others nearby. They all were hungry. This should be quick.

The arrayed hoard rallied to the swelling chant of their Chief. “Brain Eater, Brain Eater” a thousand orcs cried out in unison. It was a fearsome sound. It swelled their hearts with bloodlust.

Ur surveyed the ground ahead. Off in the distance, as he was up a small slope, he could see the ruined fortress that was the goal. Loaded with dwarf shes and kids to eat and treasure to make them rich. His centog was heading around a small hill to the right of the main hoard. Just over the hill was a river. Another centog would go over the hill and be part of a high ground attack on any foolish resistance. Ur’s centog formed the “rear guard”, such that it was in a slaughter like this. Ur saw the Chief and his three giants going up a hill to the left. Surely some great tactic was planned from there by the Destroyer of Forests and Smasher of chests. The many, many orcs of the hoard were before him. They advanced.

A soft, steady, cold rain began to fall. No matter. Orcs care not for the weather. They marched on. Far ahead to his left, Ur saw something that made his heart pause. In the distance, many young-sized dragons rising up from the ground. More than his squad of Eight. More than two squads. He counted quickly. Not quite 6 squads of dragons. Maybe seven. Maybe eight. What comes next? Who cares. It was many. These dragons had small humanoids on their backs. He could see through the raining mist and through the dragons. They were not real. But the dwarfs, some she-people, and a he-people were flying on them. And then, he saw other he-person that was flying in nothing but people furs. Thin they are, too. It was just as the Shaman had spoken. Ur sucked his breath in. He watched what he never expected.

The dwarves on the dragons had crossbows and rained down bolts on the centogs. One of the shes had a staff. The stafflight burned like some darkstar from a scare telling for kids. Brilliant brightness flew from the dagger of the other she and jumped from warrior to warrior in a few heart beats. These wild lights dropped many without spear or cudgel. The staffed she landed on the ground in the middle of centog. Ur could no longer see her. There was a sound like a fighter makes when hit hard in the gut. A dark force exploded out from where the she landed. An entire centog was gone and the staffed she remained, her robes swirling around her.

More bolts rain down from the dwarfs and the he covered in scale armor riding on their dragons. The battle is not going well, thought the young orc.

The flying elf lands in the middle of a centog of orcs. Many squads in a centog. The elf will die quickly, Ur thinks. A few heartbeats. A few more. Ur shudders. The entire centog is down on the ground, and the elf in his robes is still standing. The centogs of orcs behind know nothing else but to continue on. The elf has nothing but a small throwing star that glints in the sun. With his hands and his feet, and a flick of the star, in more heartbeats, another centog is down. Too many for Ur to count. In the confusion, Ur hears an order roared. “To the fortress. Get the feast food and the treasure!” Many centogs of orcs move quickly to follow the order passed throughout the hoard.

Ur turns his head to see that the Chief and his giants wait at the top of their hill. A centog has ascended the hill to his right and found some dwarfs there. Ah, some real slaughter now, he thinks to himself. Don’t chop off the good eating.

Most of the flying dragons bearing dwarfs start heading to the fortress also. Oh, the little bugs have run out of stingers, Ur thinks to himself. Maybe the Shaman was wrong. And, I have seen no green dragon or any sign of a Chosen or a real dwarf warrior. Yes, the rout is on.

Well, no. A cloud of gas appears centered on the staff she. A half of centog falls. Bright lights flare there. The remainder stand no more.

Ur has gotten closer to the fortress. He sees one little dragon that has the sturdiest looking dwarf that Ur has ever heard tell of. This one gives chase to the centogs heading for the dwarf feast food. Ur cannot see what happens to him. Could this be the dwarven warrior that the Shaman foretold? The many dwarf dragons land closer to the fortress. What are they doing? Do they think they can hold off the many centogs coming toward them. Could the dwarf warrior be trying to get the dwarf feast for himself. Why else would he get so close to the she-dwarfs and kids so soon to be slaughtered and eaten? Ur is puzzled.

Then, he hears a sound like an army of drums beating at once. Coming down the river. Ur can see the ripples of a giant green snake in the sky. Then he can see the wings that beat the mighty drums reflecting the morning sun. “Jadracogfrack!*” he thinks to himself. The ancient dragon clears the hill next to the river. Neither the orcs nor the dwarfs survive its blast.

As the elements of the battle come more and more to resemble the Shaman’s last telling, Ur begins to feel fear for the first time in his life. The smell from the remains of the orcs and dwarfs that fell before the ancient green dragon sting his eyes. Tears form. He looks to his fightmate next to him. He can no longer keep the secret. “Fightmate Bu, this is all coming to pass as the Shaman told to the Chief last night. This is no easy feast fight. We will fail and fall.” Blindingly fast, Bu turns on Ur, smashing his brains. “Coward,” the orc savage snarled. Ur would never smell Miraka again.

  • translated from orcish: Green dragon, oh shit.

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