Andoran's Way Part One
By: Christopher James Underwood
This story was originally submitted to Mythic!
A cold and cruel wind blew across the mountain-side. Snow mingled with ash settled in heavy drifts against the rocks. Broken implements of war lay strewn amongst the naked thickets. Smoke billowed above a hill-crest and settled over the dwindling sunlight like a leaden shroud. Here and there corpses had been piled to freeze and thaw and rot as the late winter nights gave way to early spring mornings. In the distance the lonely notes of a solitary horn could be heard rising over the frigid silence.
Andoran snorted, his throat filled with soot-smeared air. It was no chaos horn that sounded. Had someone survived the attack? If so, it was unwise of them to make their presence known with an enemy host so close by. He drew his dagger and sprinted up the hill, bounding over the shredded carcasses of his kin as he went. He reached the top of the rise, jumped and half-rolled, half-skidded down the otherside to land concealed in the shadow of an over-turned wagon. Peering around the edge of the cart he did not see what he expected to see.
He hoped that he would find a few bedraggled survivors picking through the rubble of their homes, but instead he found three hulking orcs hunting through the ruins for trophies. Orcs? He'd been shadowing a northman army, what were orcs doing there? He didn't have time to answer that.
He had moments to act before they caught his scent. Placing his dagger on the ground he lifted the crossbow off his back and notched it against the upturned bottom. Locking a bolt into place, he aimed straight at the forehead of the nearest greenskin and loosed.
The beast instantly slumped dead, its companions snarling in the monsterous slurrings they called words and blinked around wildly, searching for the source of the bolt. Another razor-tipped spike whistled through the air and lodged itself into the throat of a second orc. It sank gurgling to its knees, black blood boiling down its chest before it toppled onto its front soaking the snow covered cobbles in frothing ichor. The last orc bellowed with rage and flared its nostrils hungrily as finally it scented Andoran. It unscheathed a massive scimitar, scraped the floor with its feet as it prepared to charge and then hurtled full tilt at the cart where Andoran was hiding.
Andoran could hear the orc rushing towards him, and smell it too, its stench growing heavier with each lumbering footstep. He thought he could make out one or two of its words but any sense the creature made was quickly lost amongst its unconquerable roars of hatred. He heard the low paddock fence on the other side of the cart being splintered as the orc smashed through it as it were nothing but a collection of fallen twigs.
In the instant that the orc hacked into the cart with one almighty swing of its blade, Andoran leapt into the air above and over the orc, wedging his dagger in its upper spine as he descended behind the foul thing. The orc went limp in an instant and crumpled over into the splintered wreck of the cart.
There was nothing left. The northmen had laid waste to everything in their path. Andoran still had a long way to go, but judging by the arrival of the orcs, it was not far enough.