The Grief of Ziemach

War is brewing, the fates of four great kingdoms teeter on the edge of destruction. Zeitun the majestic mountain fortresses of the Dwarves, Lithae the beautiful forest home of the Elves, Morok the home of the once mighty Horse lords, and Bracocia the home of the Orcs and a terrible, slumbering evil. The fragile peace seems destined to fail, for the past few years Orcs have been raiding the borders of Zietun burning and pillaging.
There is perhaps one who can stave of this mighty evil, in the most unexpected of places. Fjolin a young dwarvish warrior is about to be thrown on a deadly adventure through barren wastelands, towering cities and dangerous plots

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19. Chapter Eighteen: The Final Battle

Fjolin awoke several hours later lying in his room in Ziemach, his mind was reeling from the shock questions passing through his mind in a flurry. How had he got here? What was going on? Sitting up he saw an empty room, the wardrobe hanging slightly open. His armour sitting on the stand in the corner, there was a small tray in the corner with a water jug and some food. Walking across the room he reached the food and picking up a bread roll from the plate, he devoured it hungrily before moving on to the remaining meat and apples. He sat savouring it for a brief moment before a sharp knock on the door brought him back to reality.

Fjolin reached for the door handle but before he could open it, a dwarf of his company burst through and began to talk. The words tumbling from his mouth in a torrent.

“Sir, the Orcs are here sir”

He stopped breathlessly before tugging at Fjolins arm hurriedly, shaking him off Fjolin looked at him sternly causing him to subside into silence. Without speaking he reached for his armour and donning it he picked up his weapons from the rack strapping the sword belt to his waist and a dagger to his thigh. Then picking up his shield he rushed quickly along the corridor towards the viewing tower. Taking steps two at a time he arrived out of breath and red faced.

Grimly Zarian pointed out, on to the plains before city gates and it was there that Fjolin saw for the first time the true extent of the army. It was sprawled in an untidy camp in front of the city. Tents of hide and animal bone with crude wooden palisades being constructed around them in order to protect them from arrows and the weather alike, behind this crude war machines were being brought up and set in entrenched positions behind them. Many crude Trebuchets were there with hacked wooden counterweights and beams held together by crude skin and some kind of sticky material. The sling looked like it had been made from some poor being’s hide.

It was not these crude machines that worried the dwarves however, it was the fine siege weapons or finely carved oak and bronze plating. Counterweights perfectly weighed out and carefully fitted to the machine. The wood seasoned in dry storage for years to harden before being slicked in resin to waterproof and strengthen it against the elements. These dwarvish constructions stood out proud against the crude attempts at replicas that the Orcs had, Powerful weapons capable of breaking any city wall and causing untold destruction. Ballistae were there as well sitting behind log barricades near the walls preparing to rain death down upon the cities defenders.

In the centre of the army there was a pavilion upon raised ground with a few rows of large tents surrounding it. Outside of this pavilion stood the ash demon in all of its dark splendour, wings folded back and fangs showing as it paced restlessly waiting for the attack. Next to him was a man that Fjolin had never seen before, dressed all in black, his eyes glowed red even over all this distance, glaring and cold. Chilling him to the bone, he shivered involuntarily before turning in toward Zarian and Zurton, Zarian smiled and gestured for him to come over from the towers parapet to the stairs.

“Scary bugger isn’t he lad.” Zarian said laughing. ‘Well he can be as scary as he likes out there, so long as he doesn’t get inside. These walls should keep him out, after all, this is the strongest fortress ever built.’

Filled with a fresh hope Fjolin followed Zarian down the stairs, towards the great council chambers of the kings.  It was a more solemn occasion than the last time he had been in there, for there were no fanfares or splendid drapery or banners upon the walls of the cavernous room. It was so sad for Fjolin as he looked towards the chair in which Dwuli had sat and the statues of the dead kings seemed to know it too, their faces seemed more sad than stern to him this time. Sitting down at the table next to Zarian Fjolin asked a simple question.

“How long do we have sir?” He said to Zarian calmly his face stern..

“They could attack at anytime laddie.” He responded sounding stern and almost as stony as the mountain itself, his face fixed as a blank canvas, giving nothing away.

“With respect then sir, should I not be with my men on the walls.” Fjolin asked his eyes and tone searching.

 “You should lad but I have another duty for you first.” Replied Zarian tiredly.

“Sir.” He responded smartly, before awaiting a response.

“I want you to address the people lad, they still know nothing of what happened in the wastes and they deserve to know. I also need you to give them my instructions as to where to go now because with a battle close at hand we need to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice”

“Yes sir.” Turning on his heels he strode out of the room quickly towards the balcony above the courtyard. When he reached it he heard the great horn being sounded, its notes reaching all in the city and the inevitable stampede that would follow it as everyone wanted to reach the Plaza to hear what was being said. Standing on the balcony he waited for all below to arrive, they swarmed like wasps into the plaza, a great horde of dwarves.  When they had all arrived he waited for a moment then clearing his throat he bellowed

“Silence.” He paused for a moment waiting for the hush to settle and when it had he cleared his throat again and began to speak in a loud booming voice that bounced around the enclosed space and echoed slightly.

 “My friends, I speak to you know with grave news that you shall not wish to hear. I am eternally sorry to have to bring you all the knowledge that all the survivors of the campaign have already returned. The rest lay dead upon the wastelands of Bracocia, slaughtered by the Orcs as they swarmed over our camp at dawn.” He waited for a moment and registered the shock and disbelief on the faces of those below him.  “I see not all of you believe me but it is true, my few comrades and I that returned are the only survivors. The king is dead slain in glorious combat by Laguti the lord of all Orcs under Zoan. Now the threat is at our doorstep, outside these very walls. Thousands upon thousands of them and therefore we will be evacuating you to Zeratul via the hidden deep roads beneath the city. In this endeavour we request and require you co-operation. We are now a state under martial law, obey your orders and you shall be fine. Good morning.”

Turning away from the dwarves below him he strode in to the city, towards the walls and his men to ready his defences.

A few hours later he was still at it, arranging the static defences, the positioning of the ballistae and the archers upon the wall, overseeing the lines of dwarves hauling rocks to the wall to hurl down upon the enemy and stacks of straw next to pots of oil to burn those who tried to scale the wall. The enemy was still waiting. Probably for nightfall, Orcs are fond of the night for fighting it helps them as the sun burns their eyes and makes their skin itchy with spots and small burn wounds. They despise it and hiss curses at it, in fact it takes a lot to make them enter it. The power of the demon must be great to encompass so many Orcs constantly.

Preparations readied they waited on the walls looking down to the enemy below, Fjolin left the walls for a moment to join Zarian who had taken control of the defence of the entrance tunnel. What amazed Fjolin was how all the beautiful carvings were just a cunning device to cover up more intricate defences, for behind the carving lay pipes that would flood burning oil or magma straight from the furnaces into the tunnel. And many narrow slits cunningly carved into the rocks to look like folds in the picture from which to fire arrows and ballistae bolts into the packed ranks of foes below.

It was in other words a well oiled killing machine capable of dealing out masses of death and destruction to any besiegers. Seeing Zarian was busy talking strategy Fjolin stood for a moment running his fingers along the haft of a crossbow, examining it between his fingers as he waited. Upon seeing him Zarian hurried over to talk his face filled with concern.

“Listen carefully lad, I don’t have much time. There are to be no heroics you hear. If the city is falling then we shall retreat and form a rear guard for the citizens that are running you understand?” He paused for a moment looking searchingly at Fjolin until Fjolin inclined his head and responded

“It will be so”                                   

With that Zarian pulled him into a tight hug before saying.

“Now go and give them hell, Zurton will be with you holding a nearby section of the wall. If the evacuation is called stick with him and his men as you fall back to aid him as best you can.” Zarian turned his back and walked swiftly away down the corridor, for a second Fjolin stared after him before rushing back to his section of wall to aid in the defence.

Standing on the wall he waited, and waited. Minutes stretched into hours until at last just as the sun began to fade behind the mountain the horns and drums sounded. Their fell notes Echoing eerily, bouncing off and round the mountains sides with a deafening cacophony. The swarm of Orcs began to charge forward rushing towards the city as the trebuchets and ballistae began to fire raining a storm of death upon the city as in the centre of the army at their great pavilion a strange bubble of red light sprang up and crackled with sparks of fire that sprung up here and there.

Fjolin gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, it had begun.

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