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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6. Chapter Five: The Great Council

Fjolin was having a rather merry time drinking and feasting on boar and venison, with a conspicuously untouched plate of salad lying to the side of him. The atmosphere was cheerful and the remainder of the Dwarves were all drunk, however on the strict orders of Zharon our hero had stinted on the drink, merely sipping pensively from his tankard. The other dwarves started a song which for the benefit of slightly gentler ears I shall not put here, Fjolin was sat lounging slightly against the wall his feet stamping alongside the others to provide a steady beat.

However just as he was about to launch into the song himself Zharon came striding into the hall throwing the doors open, for a second the song paused, his stern gaze withering the merriment before he waved his hand towards them, gesturing for them to continue. So they did their lusty and boisterous songs reaching the rafters.

Zharon walked up to Fjolin beaming from behind his beard and clapping him upon the back led him from the room his arm draped almost possessively around his shoulders. Upon leaving the feasting hall deep into the heart of the mountain. Zharon led our hero towards the throne room at a slow walking pace appearing to be savouring the surroundings of silver plants and symbols that were upon the walls. They pressed on in silence, their feet consuming the distance quickly however as they neared their destination Zharon stopped and pulling Fjolin into a tight embrace, he spoke gruffly his voice choked with emotion

“You did well today lad, you did well." He paused for a moment before continuing his voice almost a whisper. “It has been an honour to be your acting father; you have always made me proud”. Again he paused before almost whispering “Always”.

At this Fjolin’s heart swelled with pride and he almost wept for joy, seeing this however Zharon said sternly

“No tears lad, you have to go before our king and many others before the night is out”.

Puzzled by this Fjolin allowed himself to be led gently down the few remaining winding passages to the throne room, however they did not follow the usual route and instead took him down a few extra corridors that twisted and turned so quickly, Fjolin knew had he come here alone he would have been lost as soon as he had entered. After a few minutes more of trudging down these winding and unfamiliar hallways he reached a door emblazoned with the diving Falcon of Ziemach made up of thousands of diamonds, which glinted and sparkled in the light.

Zharon pushed the door which swung inwards without a noise and stepping through Fjolin saw that he had been led into throne room from the back and pulling him along Zharon quickly strode towards the great table that had been erected in the centre of the floor, upon reaching the kings right hand Zharon sat as befitted his rank as commander but also as general of Ziemach’s army under the king.

Pulling him down Zharon also sat him next to the king and whispered in his ear

“The king has demanded your presence at the high table; you truly impressed him with your performance earlier.”

He said, with a tinge of admiration and pride weaving its way subtly into his voice. The king himself was dressed in full ceremonial armour gilded gold plate with a beautiful etching of the falcon hovering over a mountain on his cuirass. The most noticeable thing about him however was the golden falcon that stood carved on his helm, its wings spread and its still eyes watching you wherever you went. It truly was awe inspiring.  Now Fjolin was most confused to be sat in the hall decked in all its wondrous splendour and just as he was about to enquire of Zharon the purpose of this meeting, the great double doors of solid oak began to open, the mechanisms creaking as they did. There was then a drum roll and fanfare and a herald announced to the hall very loudly and in true dwarvish fashion

“Behold Zormat the mighty, son of Zormak, ruler of Zietul our brother city to the north.”

In to the hall strode a mighty dwarf with a massive and somewhat bushy beard, in a suit of incredibly well crafted silver armour with the lion of his house and city being displayed proudly upon his chest and a jewel encrusted belt about his waist. Behind him walked three of his retinue also with large although tamer beards dressed in much the same armour lacking however the opulent belts.  Upon their helms lay an ornately carved golden lion lying along the middle of the helmet. There was a moment of silence after the announcement as those in the hall drank in the appearance of their guests. Dwuli stood and, flinging his arms open, boomed out a welcome to his guests before embracing Zormat like a brother and slapping him upon the shoulder before guiding him to his seat and returning to his throne, cloak billowing behind him.  

The fanfare sounded again and again the heralds voice sounded echoing around the room

“Zarian the brave, king of Zeratul, and leader of the white tigers who stole victory from the Orcs at the battle of High Pass with a daring charge that shattered the enemy.”

This time a cheer went up from the veterans in the hall and applause was raised like the swell of stormy sea, receding just as quietly as the waters slipping from the sands. This king and his retinue were dressed in armour as white as snow their cuirass bearing upon it the insignia of a howling wolf in grey. They wore helms shaped like the head of a wolf and had trailing white cloaks trimmed in silver, they were as majestic as the previous king, perhaps more so due to the simple, understated beauty of their armour. 

This time Dwuli did not have time to do any more than rise before he was almost bowled over by Zarian in a fierce and rather boisterous hug before taking a seat opposite Zormat and glared icily down his nose at him. Fjolin guessed that there must have been a falling out and smirked slightly, silently laughing at their foolishness.

Again the heralds voice preceded by a fanfare sounded throughout the hall, causing heads to turn for they were not expecting the other hold to be here as  of yet. Conversation froze on all lips as it was announced that

“Tourin the destroyer, lord of the Black Ranges, ruler of eyries and commander of the black armies”.

Him and his retinue, as you might expect, were clad in armour of the purest jet black so deep that if you looked too long it felt as if you were drowning. They wore a silver boars head upon their breast and their helms had boar’s tusks protruding from the sides. As they strode silently down the hall, the king if all dwarves Dwuli the vanquisher stood and clapping him on the shoulder gestured to the single remaining set of seats at the great feasting table. Once they were all seated the King stood and began to speak, his voice mellifluous as he began to weave a picture of his plans before them.

“As you all know” he began, “I have gathered you here today to discuss the increasingly large and frequent Orcish raids into our Lands, they have struck hard and fast, burning villages across the entire of Zietun, in each of your holds”.

He lowered his voice which had been steadily getting faster and louder throughout his speech,

“It must be stopped before the death count grows too high and the Orcs no longer fear us. We have beaten them before and we can beat them again”.

He finished his voice so thunderous that it filled even the cavernous room completely. There was a silence that followed his words deep and considerate. Fjolin sat overawed and captivated by the kings words that wormed there way into your mind, leaving ideas planted there.  The best was yet to come; the king began to speak again, pointing to a great map which servants had placed upon the table.

“With this in mind my trusted advisors and I have devised a plan which will strike hard and fast to the heart of Orc territory, to reclaim Voan our ancient capital, driving the Orcs back beyond the seas from whence they came".

For our hero this speech filled his imagination with images of great battles and lost cities and vast bodies of water beyond the edges of the known world. The dwarves were sat deep in thought, some puffing on their pipes, others fidgeting and stroking their beards. The silence began to stretch on, lengthening with the shadows as the braziers hanging from pillars began to burn low. Finally after really quite a long and uncomfortable silence (as dwarves are wont to take when thinking). Zarian piped up saying boldly.

“Sounds like a worthy venture, when do we begin?”.

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