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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14. Chapter Thirteen: A Last Stand

There on the walls stood Tourin his black cloak billowing as his men fired their crossbows into the packed Orcs below, stalling them. The gates were shut or at least what bits of the gate had been repaired by the dwarves; behind it stood a phalanx of dwarfs, pikes bristling, and their eyes wide with fear. As the gates swung inwards Zarian, Zharon and all of the remaining dwarves rushed through the gate and into the ranks of dwarves there, sprinting into the central plaza collapsing onto the ground, their lungs heaving.

Tourin rushed down from the walls to Zarian and Zharon, checking them over for injuries.

 Upon seeing the gaping wound on Zharon’s arm he whistled slightly then chuckled.

“That’s a nasty one, it’s a wonder you can still fight.” He said, sadly he knew as well as any that the wound was infected and pumping too much blood for Zharon to survive.

“I know.” Zharon said bluntly, his face hardening in determination.

“It is with this in mind that I propose this.” He said sighing and pulling Tourin and Zharon closer conspiratorially.

 A few minutes later the huddle broke apart and the commanders emerged, their faces stony and determined giving away nothing. Standing in front of the assembled warriors Zharon stepped forward and began to speak.

“We are cut off, there is only one way to escape and should we take it the army of the Orcs shall hunt us in to the earth.” He said forcefully. “We have however come up with a plan to ensure the survival of half of the men assembled here, the other half shall take the pass, out of the back of the fort and make for home territory as fast as they possibly can. For they will require warning, you must by now all realise that the Orcs will not stop here, that when they have killed us they will sweep down upon Zietun to the gates of Ziemach itself!” He roared.

 The dwarves roared their defiance and it took a few moments for them to calm down enough for Zharon to continue. 

“Half of you will stay here with me to fight this onslaught to the death.” He shouted above the noise of giants roaring, Orcs shrieking and Wolves howling.  “Any volunteers?” He shouted above the noise and a good number of hardened veterans and some newer warriors desperate for glory and fame stepped forward their faces resolute.  “The rest of you run now.” He shouted before giving one last salute to the other commanders and his soldiers and striding of to the rampart to conduct the defence.

 Zharon stood on the walls his eyes darting from side to side as he assessed the force on the plain in front of him. The banner he was carrying flapped proudly even when muddied in the wind. He was however dismayed at what he saw, rank after rank of Orcs armed with spears and sword, clad in rusty armour and rags. Casting his eyes out further across the plain he saw what truly terrified him, the elite warriors of the Orcs clad in plate armour riding wolves. Their broken banners of skull and bone catching the sunlight, and the giants travelling behind them, with huge boulders and stones to hurl at the walls.

 They did not spend long waiting either, there were a few moments of silence and then a crash as the boulders were thrown by giants to thud into the walls, dust falling from the mortar as it cracked and crumbled. The already ruined gates shattered beneath the barrage of boulders, and as they were smashed back off of their hinges to fall at the feet of the dwarves. Then the Orcs charged, like a great waves only to break on the pikes of the dwarves as if against a cliff.  The fighting was bitter and lasted for many hours as the Orcs tried to break the defence. Arrows were rained down from the ramparts slaying great swathes of men with the explosions and causing many Orcs to fall.

 But alas it was not enough.  The dwarves were forced back step by step, the sheer press of the enemy driving them back.  Zharon himself stood proud, banner in hand as he fell back with the others slaying all who came against him. He could not last long however. The wound on his arm was leeching his strength draining him so that every stroke was a struggle. His breathing was ragged, exhausted the heat of the sun baking the wasteland making his armour heavy and his throat dry.

 He never made it to the fort, the Orcs swarmed in and surrounding the dwarves, cutting them off from it. The Orcs however did not attack, instead they waited there fangs revealed and snarling at the dwarves menacing them. This standoff continued for a few tense minutes they were all ready to fight and still no attack came. Until they heard the howling of the wolves and watched the ranks of Orcs and Goblins part way to allow the elites through. Leaping from their beasts they charged, in a moment they were among the dwarves. Hacking, slashing, cutting and thrusting at all who opposed them, that dwarves gave as good as they got and many fell for both sides.

 Soon there were but a few dwarves left, Laguti however barked and order his harsh, guttural language echoing around the enclosed space. The onslaught ended leaving but two men: standing Zharon and a young warrior, eyes wide with fear as Laguti jumped off of his beast and rolled into a fighting crouch. Dagger and sword at the ready, the young dwarf charged and much to Zharon’s detriment was dispatched competently before even landing a blow.

 Then the Orc turned his gaze to Zharon before laughing deeply and beginning to circle, his low chuckle unnerving Zharon slightly. Laguti darted in his sword flickering one way his dagger the other, Zharon blocked both. His happiness however was short lived as he felt a searing pain erupt in his back, felt the blood begin to flow. Turning he saw an elite with a bloodied spear standing over him triumphantly, he felt a harsh tug at his hair as his head was lifted up, to stare into Laguti’s grey snakelike eyes.

 Laguti then place his dagger at Zharon’s throat and began to saw away slowly taking its time, Zharon tried to scream in agony but he could not the blood welling in his throat drowning him. Zharon was filled with regret at the end his eyes tearing as he realised he would not be going back, that he had broken his promise to Fjolin. One last savage jerk and Zharon’s eyes clouded as his head was yanked off his shoulders and thrown far into the Orcish army, which roared its triumph beating weapons against the ground or their armour causing a mighty clamour.

As Fjolin watched.

 

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