The Adventures of General Slade
By: Grant Snaith
This story was originally submitted to Mythic!
What purpose in life did a flame have? It flickered intensely in the tranquil midnight breeze. It was rather like life, at times the blaze burned on brightly; at others it barely remained ablaze. Slade Dragonchest stared intently into the flame, his brimstone-like eyes highlighted by the moonlight. He had remained in deep reflection for hours gone now. His mind twisted by betrayal and treachery. How had he fallen from a respectable general in one of the Empire's finest legions to a groveling renegade who was forced to craft camp out by Lake Elanore?
It had been his lieutenant's fault, he knew it had. He had always been one of a certain tainted free will. It was as they marched out to besiege the beastman encampment that lingered along the Shore of Shadow Lake that it had happened. Slade's legion had been assigned to Ostland, a dim, vast forest land of the Empire. Rumor had it that remnants of chaos had been left behind from previous invasions in its lengthy history. The morale of Slade's men was dropping dramatically. Beforehand, they had been plunged into a daring battle with hordes upon hordes of orcs and had lost many fellow comrades. The legion had all been exceptionally close to one another, almost like brothers.
As they had trudged from town to town, trying to locate these hidden pockets of chaos, Slade had sensed a hint of rebellion brewing amongst his fellow brothers in arms. Yet he had not said a word, he did not wish to quicken the process. Now he found himself alone, awaiting the one loyal friend he could trust, Ivandale.
"General, I acquired the equipment you ordered sir." A tall elf murmured in a low voice as he stepped from the brush and bowed elegantly before Slade.
"Rise Ivandale, I am no general anymore." Slade responded as he rose from his seat and paced over to the heavy wooden crate that had been placed upon the floor.
"The torches were easy to find sir but the Squig oil was hard to come by." A moment of silence passed by as Slade rummaged through the crate, delighted by his findings.
"Sir? If you don't mind me enquiring, what is all of this for?" Slade peered up upon Ivandale's puzzled face.
"I may not be a general of the Empire anymore but I remain as loyal as ever Ivan, I'm going to complete what I was sent here for". Ivandale stumbled in shock against a twisted manipulated oak tree.
"Are you insane?! You heard the report, that encampment contains over 200 beastmen within its bulwark and you plan on us two ransacking it alone?" A cunning grin set across Slade's face as he stood too and placed a firm grip upon Ivandale's shoulder.
"Well that's the plan my old friend, now are you with me or should I begin trekking there myself?" The elf eyed the man's facial features, judging whether this man was still of mental stability.
"I had guessed you were scheming ever since you refused to abandon Ostland however I had not seen this one coming. I am with you brother." The two chuckled and embraced in a bonding hug. They broke apart and stared out across the water. It shone like witch fire in the moonlight. The water was so silent that for a moment the two felt a blessed touch fall upon them as they shut their eyes and took in a deep breathe of the lake air.
The moment passed quickly and they gathered their belongings and began their trek to the other side of the lake. The sod was wet with the first morning dew as they first set eyes upon their goal. A jet of smoke erupted from the central fire of which 5 maybe 6 large tents jutted out like needles around. Numerous other tents lined the outer camp, but there was no sign of any patrols, no banter from the creatures of any kind. They were still about 20 yards from the camp but they could smell the disgusting, lingering stench of burning Tuskgor fat and beastial orgor. Many chaos beast tribes were known for using the bio chemicals produced from Minotaur sweat glands and the saliva from lesser barking toads to create potent toxins. These toxins were lethal, perhaps more so than the arrow tips they were anointed upon. When struck by this toxin it would gently seep into the bloodstream and coarse its way around its victim's body, it was a slow process but the result was that the body burnt from the inside.
Slade took note of this and crawled his way up the embankment slowly. A conflict with this larger tribe would be fatal. The bestial orgor did not only warn Slade that the arrows were a danger to this mission, but also that beastmen were not the only foul things congregating in this sacred ground. What struck Slade most of all was the location of this camp. He would have expected a camp of chaos beasts left from previous invasions to be closer to the source of chaos to the north, however this camp was much more southwards, close to many towns and cities.
If it was anything else, Slade would have assumed they were preparing to invade but these were but simple-minded beastmen. They did not attack save something entered their territory or if they were driven by some over more intellectual threat. However there was little time for pondering such thoughts. He had been set this task by the Empire and his job was not to ask but to act. Ivandale came to his feet besides him and surveyed the surrounding encampment.
"There are two ungors to the south east corner of the encampment and another near to the fire, but he appears to be a sleepy drunkard." Slade also rose to his feet to perceive the potential battlefield.
"Think Hawkclaw can hit those two ungors before they reach the second large tent?" Slade questioned as he reached his arm out towards the patrol.
"Of course" Ivandale slung a immaculate crystal white bow from his back. The corners were embellished with golden tips from the finest dwarven smiths. Elven script writing was elegantly carved into the wood work that read Hawkclaw, blessed of the high born. Ivandale gently brought his bow to and readied his aim; he rested his head against his arm peering down the shaft of the arrow. Then, he shut his eyes too and shut out all noise. One at a time he depicted different sounds, their meaning amongst the overgrown vegetation of Ostland till he found the two filthy ungors. He could hear their mouth fluids splattering across the ground like a drum as they chattered amongst one another. Then, as swift as a fox the arrow flew like a hawk and struck the left ungor in the heart. He leaped into alertness and peered into the dark shadows in a panic before taking fleet towards the second tent.
Ivandale kept his eyes shut and had already loaded his next arrow of justice. With a gentle twang the arrow struck homebound into the ungors right temple. The two beasts rested peacefully upon the ground, not a noise had been heard and the other tents remained none the wiser. Ivandale swung the bow back over his shoulder and gently opened his eyes, shielding them with his hand, preventing himself from being blinded by the angel-like sun that had began to rise. Slade had known Ivandale's bow skill was comparable to no one else's but he was left startled by how effortlessly he had dispatched the two ungors. The two proceeded towards the camp, the stench got stronger by the stride. The heavy wooden crates' burden was being shared by the two crusaders. They reached the foot of the tents and quietly placed the crate down beside it.
Slade nodded to Ivandale and the two set to work. Slade took the keg of Squig Oil and began to spread it out evenly across the tents, soaking it in the flammable liquid. He made sure as to surround the edge of the tent as well. He didn't want to take any chances; he wanted this wretched enemy of the Empire to be nothing more than vile ashes amongst the soil. Ivandale gently removed his two daggers from his leather pelt waistband and crouched down besides the drunkard creature. It was sprawled out across a makeshift seat made from the mutilated oak trees of the surrounding forest. Firmly in its hand was a skin of cheap wine, upon it was a bloodied hand print. Ivandale realized this beast had most likely pried the ale from an unfortunate man's hand. He peered to the beasts left and saw a severed hand and was able to answer his assumption.
The elf held his breathe so as not to choke and splutter over the wretched stench of the beast's blood and bile as he drove the Elven dagger across its flea ridden neck. He looked over his shoulder to avoid the sight but he could hear the slop of his meal slipping from his gullet and out across his chest. Ivandale stood back to his feet and wiped his blade on his tunic before placing it back into the pelt. Slade had been hastily lining the tents with the oil and had reached the last tent. This tent stood much taller than the other tents. Slade had come to the assumption that this was the chieftain's tent. He knew that most primitive tribes felt bigger was better and was reserved for the chieftain. Taking note of this he took extra care to layer more oil upon this tent. Ivandale took up one two of the torches in his hand and lit them from the large fire in the centre of the camp. As he did so he realized that hanging above the fire were several dwarves who had probably wandered along the lakeside in a drunken state and had been jumped by the beasts. Slade grasped one of the torches and looked into the eyes of Ivandale. He saw a raw anger at the indecent treating of his allies as he turned his head to face Slade.
Slade nodded in agreement and the two yet again set to work. Slade grit his teeth and clenched his fist around the torch as he roared in defiance and thrust the torch into the oil-soaked cloth tent. Squig oil was notoriously flammable and as expected the flame was fierce as it engulfed the tent in seconds, it made short work of those within it as they squealed and flapped in the flames. The blaze then found its way down across the ground and trailed on towards the next tent. Ivandale felt warmth of justice fill his heart as he realized the two comrades had succeeded in their mission. The elf reared his arm back, ready to light the oil. Suddenly a huge furry paw slammed through the front of the tent door. It sent Ivandale sprawling across the floor. The sheer impact of the fist on his face was enough to dislodge the elf's jaw. Ivandale's jaw dragged across the floor and for a pain splintering moment the elf thought he had lost it on the rough ground. He grinded to a shuddering halt on one of the crudely built seats near the camp fire. Ivandale attempted to heave himself to his feet knowing that he would be dead in second if he remained down but the sudden stomach strain sent a concoction of blood and bile sprawling out of the shattered mouth. Slade turned on his heal to an almighty crash. He saw his friend sprawled like a cowering dog across the floor, squirming in his own body fluids. Not far from Ivandale stood the reason...
To be continued