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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15. Chapter Fourteen: Of New Beginnings

It took two dwarves to restrain him, such was his grief that left alone he would have tried to take on the Orcish army singlehanded to reclaim Zharon’s body. He struggled against them, cursing them, trying desperately to get free as his world, so freshly rebuilt from the time his parents had been killed, crumbled around him. Zharon was gone, his mentor, friend and even father,  left dead upon the hard earth with no chance of a burial, feed for the carrion. Despite his strength and position his men would not let him go and pinned him to the ground, trapping him. Soon though, his rage turned more to tears which fell thick and fast, tumbling down his cheeks leaving small glistening droplets in his beard, utterly wrung out and exhausted he passed out on the ground, held there by the dwarves.

 Picking him up the dwarves arranged a sort of makeshift stretcher from two poles and a length of cloth from the wagon they had been escorting. Then grabbing what supplies they needed and that they could salvage, refilling food packs and quivers, arrows and small pouches of quarrels they began to march in the general direction of Ziemach. The trek was long and hard across the barren wasteland that was this part of Bracocia. There was less water now and because of this they had to ration it carefully. Tempers on the march began to run high as fatigue and dehydration began to take their toll on an already exhausted group of men.

 Before long however there was a disturbance they could hear. Shouting, the clashing of swords, the screams of dying Dwarves and Orcs, placing Fjolin down on the ground they ran over to investigate where the noise was coming from. Reaching the top of a small hillock the saw and abandoned fort, crumbling and ruined. There was a great battle taking place within about two hundred dwarves stood battling a battalion of Orcs their back pressed against the fortress walls as they fought bitterly on, giving no quarter and receiving none.  Upon seeing this they ran back to where Fjolin lay and splashed his face with a little water, reviving him.

 Leaping to his feet he spluttered angrily, surveying his surroundings, unsure of where he was or what was going on. Whirling round he looked from one member of his company to the other, his eyes darting furtively like he had something to hide. After a moment he spoke sternly.

“Where are we? What on earth is all this bloody noise?”

“On the way home sir, there’s a conflict between some of our forces and the Orcs on the other side of that rise sir. Awaiting your permission to engage and assist sir!” Was the quick, formal reply from his second.

“Well what are we waiting for, let’s go kill some Orc.” Then snatching up his weapons Fjolin sprinted up and over the hillock, his men in close pursuit.

 Charging over the hill, the dwarven patrol smashed into the back of the Orcs, cutting down many in their confusion. The fight had been easy for a moment but that did not last. Some Orcs had turned and began to battle back, defending their comrades from the attack. It was bitter and bloody with many men, Orcs and dwarves dying. It was close in the end with but a handful of warriors left for either side. Zarian the white lion, proved again his title with many feats of bravery and skill in defending the position that the dwarves had occupied, many Orcs falling that day to his mighty great axe. Tourin too was there, menacing in his black armour, fighting off the Orcs that surrounded him with his fell bodyguard.

 It was them that Fjolin reached first, him and his men bursting through the surround like water through a dam.  Grouping with them they fought off the Orcish onslaught and turned to assist Zarian. By the time that they reached him however Zarian executed the last of the Orcs and stood there surveying the carnage. But two score of dwarves were left and the rest lay either slain or dying slowly amongst the fallen, food for the dogs and carrion, there was nothing the dwarves could do about that however. A burial would take too long; they had to flee now, before Orcs came to finish the job.

 Night fell swiftly over Bracocia; the moon gleaming silver was partially obscured by grey clouds, casting dark shadows upon the broken, scorched ground. The men were exhausted and the little water they had was fast dwindling, there was not enough of anything. Food was almost gone, but a few scraps remained and they were still far from home. The pace was quick though, it would take mounted Orcs to hunt and find them now. The Orcs were out there, they all knew that as they marched in foreboding silence. A silence broken only by the slight sloshing of the water in its half empty skin and the hard thud that was the sound of their marching.

 They marched in fear now, led by Tourin and Zarian with Fjolin taking up role of second in command to these towering dwarvish heroes. They all stiffened and stopped when they heard the sound of a wolf howling in the night its howl sounding long and mournful. It was such a sad sound, one that would make you pity the beast instantly as if it were a starving child, clothed in torn rags before you. Fjolin himself wished that he could join the lament, Zharon was gone. He was gone and this time he would not be coming back. Internally he felt as though despair was trying to swallow him like the maw of a great and powerful void. He longed to give into it, to wrap himself in the darkness and hide from the pain. But he could not, he knew that now. He had to be strong for his company, for his friends. To lead them out of this mess, this shattering defeat to aid those at home.

 His heart almost stopped when he realised that it would have to be him that addressed the grieving masses of those who had lost friends and loved ones it the massacre that had been the battle for like as not neither Zarian or Tourin would stay and address them. Even if they did stay it would likely be left to him the highest ranking survivor of the Ziemach contingent to address them in their grief and sorrow.

They continued to march throughout the night making swift progress; the pace set was unrelenting even for the dwarves and Zarian would allow no respite. The night stretched on, the moon was now shining but faintly in the night sky as dawn began to rise over in the cloudy sky. They had marched far that night and were soon approaching one of the old supply outposts close to the border of Morok.  There they found some food and water and for the first time in days and were able to sate there hunger and thirst properly. It was no great fair but it was sufficient and for a short time the dwarves sat on stairs, resting their feet and legs on barrels and small stools as they awaited the order to move out.

 Fjolin sat there silently before being approached by Zarian who sat next to him a sad smile playing at his lips. His hard face seemed softer when he smiled and added a twinkle to his deep green eyes.

“Listen lad, he was a good dwarf and one to admire. I hope you can see that. He was my friend and a greater one to you I’m sure, in light of this I have an offer for you.” He said and Fjolin looked up in surprise. “I want you and your company, or what remains of it should you wish them to come. To fight alongside me and join me as a knight captain in my army, as a reward for your heroic service and your undoubted loyalty to your rulers.” His voice became softer now. “Also a favour to a good friend, I’m sure he would not want you to feel alone, come with me and fight with me as a trusted friend and ally.”

 So did the hero of High Pass speak and Fjolin was moved greatly by his offer. He considered it carefully as he thought about leaving Ziemach for a new home in Zeratul. He soon realised on reflection it would be too sad for him to go back to Ziemach and stay now, that the Memory of Zharon would haunt him there like a phantom. Zarian nudged him a little prompting him for a response. Lifting his head he looked right into Zarians eyes before a

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