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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17. Chapter Sixteen: Home Isn't What They Thought

Fjolin marched at the head of the survivors with Zarian to his left and Tourin to his right. They were marching in silence, it was necessary. They had been overtaken by the Orcs, they were somewhere in front or to the side of them and noise could kill them. It had been yesterday night that they had been overtaken. The noise had woken the dwarves as they camped in the ruined supply outpost, a huge rabble that had passed by, a seemingly never ending horde. Looking out from a small window slit Fjolins heart had fallen drastically, before he had been glad to survive, but having witnessed his enemy he now knew the true extent of what they were facing. It was not only that but something that he thought he had witnessed in the midst of his enemy, a demon of some sort that has not been seen for so long that its existence had passed beyond the knowledge and histories of Dwarves, perhaps a new demon raised by  some foul sorcery he had not known. A clammy fear had gripped his heart tearing the courage from it and he now marched in solemn silence contemplating what he had seen.

 The demon he had seen was an Ash Demon, until this point unseen in this part of the world. It had been freed from far underneath the city of Voan, I say freed for it had previously been trapped locked inside a magical sphere by some race more powerful than even the elves. The sphere had been in a gigantic underground chamber suspended by great chains of blue energy above a darkly stained altar in the midst of a bone strewn ruin. The altar was a huge affair stained with what could only have been vast quantities of blood soaked deep into the stone, from the corners jutted dragons heads, creatures that had also passed beyond all living memory once they went in to hiding. The Orcs had freed the demon and within days it had extended its control over all of them bringing the foul inhabitants of Voan under his rule. The demon never slept, filled with thoughts of bringing down those who had imprisoned him and a murderous revenge.

 Back however to our hero for that is another story for another time.

Fjolins eyelids were dropping as his column stumbled onwards, they had not slept in days and were wishing that they could just be back at Ziemach with food and soft beds behind the monumental city walls. It was at about the time that they crossed the border that Fjolin went to the back of the column to check on his men. Talking to his second he was interrupted by the sound of raised voices at the front of the column, straining his ears he tried desperately to make out was being said unable too he ran back towards Zarian and reached him in time to see Tourin sweeping off his torn cloak billowing like a shadow behind him in the early morning sun.

 “What was that about?” Fjolin asked questioningly his eyes querying Zarian searchingly.

Zarian’s reply was quiet. “He believes us to be doomed if we go to Ziemach, he will not come. The coward has run for his own city in Black Reaches and good riddance to the bastard.”

“Oh.” Fjolin replied shocked before turning and snapping out orders to the remaining troops to continue marching. Turning to Zarian he asked.

“Are we really doomed.” He lowered his voice drastically to ensure that no one heard him but Zarian shook his head.

“I don’t know lad, if we make it to Ziemach maybe we can hold but after the massacre it’s possible that we don’t.  Either way me and my surviving men will fight with you until the city cannot be held any longer if we fail then we shall flee with you and survivors to Zeratul my city. But I swear to you, lad, no matter what happens we will fight with you and should the city fall, we will one day take it back.

 The march continued in this way for a while but it was clear the men’s morale was beginning to break under the strain. Men were starting to stumble into each other and small scuffles were breaking out between the men as they tired, patience running thin. Several times Zarian had to go back to a man and have stern words to ensure the column did not dissolve into undisciplined brawling. The only group that was not bothered by the loss of Tourin’s men were the white lions, Zarian’s bodyguard, this group marched on with steadfast and stoic faces, showing no signs of worry and fear behind chiselled, stony expressions.

 As dawn began to creep over the horizon silently, as suns pale rays were beginning to glint on the patches of silver armour that were not stained with blood and gore, the great city of Ziemach rose before them some seven to ten leagues away. But this beacon of hope was overshadowed by the massive swathe of destruction that lay between them and it, smoking ruins dotted the landscape and in some areas fires raged unchecked in the meadows, leaving scorched earth in its wake.

 Marching through a small village Fjolin baulked at the stench of death that rose from the corpses lying sprawled and broken. One corpse had fallen in the path of the party; its eyes merely empty sockets. The rats scurried off of it in to the ruin leave holes in the flesh and parted hanging flesh. A silent signal from Zarian was all it took for two of his white lions too pick up the corpse and laid it down gently upon the ground at the side of the road before bowing to it and rejoining the column.

 Fjolin himself was having a tough time and as he walked through the still smoking rubble his mind flashed back in terror to the time that his own parents were killed. He could almost smell the stench of the wolf that the Orc had been riding on, the acrid smoke of the burning building. His ears filled with the echoes of screams and crashes as the buildings splintered and fell all around. He felt sick and turning retched on the ground to the side of the road tears streaming from his eyes as he stumbled away he felt Zarian’s arms around him and broke down sobbing.

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