The night was cold, unusal for this part of the year, especially in the Red Canyons. Not just that it was cold, but it was silent, too silent. The silence soon broke in a sound of drums and an unusal song. The fires in the great camp burned brighter now, as the shamans began to dance, singing in the old tongue of the orcs, a language forgotten by even most of their own kin. The other orcs began chanting one word:
It echoed through the canyon. Every voice spoke the word, as the shamans danced faster and song in a faster rythm. The warriors began hitting the ground with the bottoms of their spears, shields, longaxes or warhammers, giving it a nearly melodic feel. The whole sight seemed more of a play, a musical event, at this time than something important, but the old scout knew better.
Moments ago they were all innert and silent, now this? He anticipated what was to happen next, it couldn`t be just a play, so many different banner, most clans together, it made little sense to him that they just came to fill their bloodlusting hearts with a bit of joy and fun. It wans`t what they do. And he was right. In a moment, another shaman, somewhat older and more decorated in feathers and cloth came, just like out of no where. All the singing, chanting and ryhtm faded away in silence. The looks of the orcs seemingly shifted on to the old shaman as he began to speak.
"Othra`marka nak..... Borgha zra Hors bah Orlab!" cryed out the priest in his old, weak voice
Another orc, this one quite large, dressed in armor scraps, leather and bones, went forth. Confusion again hit the Narvikian scout, but it seemed as tho his long wait upon the cliff above the camp was not for nothing. He chose to remain a few more moments to see what will happen next.
The big orc began to speak, tho, luckly for the scout, he spoke in the common tongue, being unable to speak the shaman`s language, just like more orcs.
"Brothers!" he shouted "Today, each one of us stands `ere united, orcs of clans Zortrab, Cassex, Orlab, Mofftus, Quithir, Nasgroth, Elx. Orcs of different colors, we ar` all `ere to join our forces and fight our true enemy! Ya all will fight together, and with me, as your leader, we`ll wipe out these `umans out of our lands! Who is with me!?"
The orcs shouted all at once "me". At first, Tyrant Savec was surprised by the fluent speach of the orc, but now terror took hold of him. He realised what this was. The clans came together and either chose an united leader, or got one by force. Be it as it is, they wouldn`t care that much. The one who he indentified as Borgha promised them to wipe out the humans of these parts, and that is enough for them. In war, orcs do not care about their politics, only about slaughter. Tho when peace comes, this great alliance will propably fall appart, as boredom will drive them to kill eachother based on the clan they belonged to. But, his people were the targed. Tyran was experienced with orcs, knows their strenght in battle, all of their clans united now would mean the death of thousands of humans. He had to act quickly. The scout ran accross the canyon and then climbed down at the same place where he climbed up. His horse was waiting, placed in a secure place and calmed by the Milk of Night to not make any sound. There was no time, he gave the horse a cube of crushed strailnil to bring vitality back into it, then they rode off at a great pace to the nearest hold.
The stronghold-town of Blatmorg was calm as the first glimpse of sun came on the horizont. The guards on duty were half asleep as Tyran Savec came galopping on the gates across the valley. A guard on the wall recgonised him and gave the sign to open the gate to the men below, greeting the scout with his hand and then falling back to his half-sleeping state. Tyran rushed with his horse and dismounted it infornt of the central keep. He was greeted by Harold Vorlingson, the officer in charge of the men of Blatmorg. Tyran`s pale and scared face shifted as his smiled. Does he ever sleep he thought to himself, as truly, the officer was always doing something, at least, when Tyran was there.
"What news to you bring?" spoke Harold as he stroked his gold-blond beard as he always does "Seeing as how you galloped in I am afraid you bear bad news."
"Indeed I do." Replied Tyran "Call the magistrate and the mage to the war room"
Harold did not waste anytime. The tall and muscluar man with golden hair and beared, forming like a lion`s mane around his head, was a man of duty and never hesitated in performing it. Soon, the four men met in the small room that they called "the war room". It was more of a mockery calling it that. It was a quite small and somewhat well lit room, located the tower, with a big table and a map upon it at the center. The map consistet of a detailed drawing of the area, each path, and all towns. In the middle was Blatmorg, in an open valley to which two paths lead, two possible paths for the enemy to attack. The room was always the place for the meetings of those four men. Tyran was waiting as Harold, magistrate Ibram Sles, and the only official mage there, Thorig Horbson, nicknamed "bluebird" due to his robes always being colered blue, just in different shades.
"What was that urgent Tyran that we had to wake up so early?" complained the magistrate
"Some of us are awake by now, keeping the hold safe" replied the officer
The Bluebird laughed at this saying "Now, now you two, let the Master Scout speak, I am sure he has something important to tell"
"Listen up, we have quite a problem ahead of us" spoke Tyran, looking at each of them "The orcs are uniting, they have a united leader, it will be a matter of time before they march in here with their army. I suggest three to five days, untill they plan their assault and get all men together, tho, a small vanguard party might hit us before that. We need help as soon as possible, or every hold near the canyons will be overrun."
"Oh my" said the magistrate "Well, we will just call upon the Narvikian Royal Army... oh wait, that is right, they ARE fighting those pointy eared bastards on the east"
Indeed, the Imirian Empire launched a somewhat desperate charge against the nations in the Crescent. Many Narvikian soldiers rushed there along with the Ravenians, the rest were kept in Narvik to hold peace and to be reserves in a worse-case scenario.
"What about the dwarves?" spoke Harold, looking at the map "They will send a force down our way in help to the Cerescent. Surly they would not mind coming here"
"Wait for the dwarves all you want, they won`t come before the the next fortnight" replied the mage "We need to call upon all forces we have in a close range, to come within the next one to two days"
"And what are those?" spoke the magistrate, with a tone of anger in his voice "Aside from the holds which would come under attack by this horde, there is only Cerbers that has more than 100 men to give to us without doubt"
"Not just them" the scout replied, taking his knife and stabbing it on the Strandir`s Rock, a village near Cerbers "The Third Ravenian Death Korps Division is near there, extreminating an ogre tribe which was hitting the region. There are around one hundred men in the divison, if we sent a bird there, they would answer our call. They have mages, equipment and experience what no one of our men near here have"
The other men nodded their heads
"Aye" said Harold "Bluebird, sent a message to Strandir`s Rock and Cerbers to come to our aid, and inform the other holds to be prepared"
Mage Thorig went away in the moment. The magistrate soon followed, going out to plan the logistics and possible evacuation. Tyran was looking out the window, the rising red sun throwing light at his dark blue eyes.
"Maker help us" he whispered
"Maker help those orcs when we slam their ugly faces with our axes, har!" roared Harold while laughing
Tyran turned to him and grined and they both left the war room.
The sun was nearly up over the steppes, but the rock above him made a large enough shade for him and his comrades. For the whole past night and day they have been slaughtering ogres near and in the caves. The air reeked of their corpses` foul stench, burning them didn`t help much to solve that problem. The five men were laying on the grass as the harsh voice shouted:
"Get up you maggots! The ogres have regrouped and are attacking us!"
The men got up, some just awoke, in shock, they were lost for a moment, all grabed their swords and helmets and got back up. They expected the ogres, but they got a far worse fiend. A figure dressed in black armor, the sun glencing off his bold and giving more detail to his expresion, one filled by anger and wrath. The light blue eyes of the discipline officer Lother Sanders pierced through the men, ever while fletching his teetch. The squad of newcommers was gripped by fear.
"Who told you to get a nap? You freshblood should be helping the rest. Most of those men burning corpses have earned their armor ten times more than you did!" the officer shouted
Erich, as squad leader stepped forth, removing his helm. A young face, not harmed, average in look, typical yellow eyes for a man of Ravenian Vale, his black hair looking somewhat brown under the sun.
"Sir, we were just relaxing after a hard day`s work, we were trying to accumilate strenght to work harder, we wanted to get up about just now, sir" he said
"Maker help you if I catch you "accumilating strenght" again" the officer said, in a stern, somewhat more silent voice than last time
Sanders left the scene. Erich looked back at his squad, all taking off their helms. He gave them a cold look, before they all bursted into laughter. They knew that the discipline officer was no man to joke about, but never the less, for them, new members of the Death Korps` 3rd Division, it was a funny sight, watching the officer in his constant, never ending sterness and seriousness.
"Ugh, guess the stick is deeper in his ass that last time" joked Otto
"Shhh, he might hear that and stick a stick in your ass, a pointy stick at that" replied Gregor
"Or even skin ya" added Willem
"Guys, the boss is giving us that look" said Theodor, his green eyes shifting to their squad leader
"That was a close one. We should just go back to work now" thus spoke their "boss".
They all listened to him. He wasn`t even older than they are, yet they had some amount of respect for him and trusted on his intelligence, for what were they to question a member of the house Kraner, a house known for his members, mostly the youngest sons or some cousins, to serve in the Korps, willingly giving up their titles, chance of marriage or even the chance to rest. They could not simply understand that, they were all lowborn. But even tho they did not understand his ways, nor household politics, they did know to follow and he knew to lead, what ever a nineteen-year-old knew about leading at least. They all took pace. Gregor, being the largest, helped the others carry wood to light more fires to burn the horrid creatures, not a drop of sweat on his clean-shawed face as he did so over and over again. Willem and Theodor, being brother, nearly imposible to separate were it not for Willem having longer hair, as they both had the same blue eyes, pointy noses and blone hair, worked together in dragging the last ogre corpses out of the caves. Otto, being the smallest of the squad, went on to help the other men take the ogre weapon and armor parts to the smith, to have them smelted and re-used or sold later. Erich had another thing on his mind, he went straight to the wounded to check on Horan Dimpsteel, who saved his life from an ogre, but took a heavy blow while doing so.
He got into the tent. Some men there took quite serious injouries, some lost an eye, some even their arm. He had pitty on those who lost a limb, as they were of no use from then on, they became Grey Cloths, an order of men dedicated to keep the few holds of the Korps itself in check, to keep their documents safe and clean, or even to write history themselves. Sadly, many choose suicide over this. Yet, there was his savior, joyful, shining like a stark on the dark night sky. He still had a bandage on the left side of his body, and a small scar now decorated his face and crossed his black mustache.
"Hah, there he is" said Horan while smiling "The boy who nearly got me killed"
"How is my great saviour today" asked Erich, while smiling back
"Excellent. Doc says that I will be back on my feet and full able quite soon, tho that filthy bastard did leave a mark" he touched the scar on his moustache "I loved it.... my moustache, it was my... sign, my self. People used to say: look at the handsome man with the long black hair and that lovable mustache. What will I be now?"
"Believe you me old man, no one ever called you handsome" said Erich
"Now, now lad, you are pushing your luck" he said with a serious look on his face, shifting back into a smile "Hah, boy, I like your atitude, you are much like your uncle. Did I tell you how we dueled because I "insuleted" him and then went together to cathc a drink at the local inn?"
"You told me last night, on the brink of death" replied the boy
"Ah right, say any news from your home? Heared your younger sister will get married to the heir apparent, that is a great honor" asked Horan
"Indeed, I will try not to get killed till the wedding" Erich said
"If the lord commander lets you go"
He felt sad, knowing that to be the truth. He is a sworn sword of the Death Korps now. His supperior had full controll of him, yet he hoped that his father would call upon the ties with the Emperor to let him see his family at least that time. But, the future of a soldier is unknown. They could sent him into a far off land, he could find himself on Imir next year, what then? He was confused. He slowly left the large tent, whispering "farewell"
"Farewell, lad" he heared behind himself as he left
He went to help the other. Time passed fast, the sun was up, it was nearly noon. Nearly all work has been done. Someone sumggled some ale from the town near here so they drank a bit to award themselves, ever while evading the sharp look of the discpiline officer. Erich`s look didn`t go to his mates, rather up, to the tent beneath the great standard of the Death Korps, the fifteen black skulls on a black field, each standing for one of the divisions. Next to it, the flag with three skulls and three swords piercing them, the flag of the 3rd Divison. It was the Lord Commander`s tent. He looked as the Lord Commander, Jorhan van Ippen, went out, at his side, as always, his aid, the dark elf Nasgol Vivernic, long black hair, shaved face, dark eyes, the typcial dark elf. For a moment he looked directly at the old, balding man, but then his gaze shifted to where the Lord Commander was looking. A ground of armored man, galloping to them, flying the banner of their liege lord, the man who holds these lands upon which they slaughter these vile monsters. The men came into their camp as the Commander and his men went down to greet them. Erich moved closer to see what was going on. He saw as one of the men gave a piece of paper to the commander, saying:
"You are ordered to ride out with us today to the Red Canyons, without delay"
The commander just nodded. He did not even looked shocked. Things like this are common for them. The order, since it was formed, went to one part of the continent to the other, ever while keeping their oath: "My life is the Emperor`s, I shall die in His service, take no wife, hold no land nor title, I shall cleanse myself by shielding the realms of man, protecting them from all vile creatures, by my name, I swear it, Maker be my witness ". These words are true, for be it in Ravenia, or as far as the Dwarven Tunnels, they go, continuing their endless march and combat. He understood that, now more than ever as the order fell to march again. Rest is rare, much rarer the sight of your home or family. But taking the oath meant that the Korps becomes your home, your brothers-in-arms became your family. He got his squad together, sattled the horses and went off. The division grouped up with a small army of local soldiers, led by their lord`s brother. The commander just spoke a few words with the man, and then they all marched off, with the bright sun shining at them over the golden, seemingly endless fields of Karkun.
It was just the break of dawn as the sound of wings woke him up. Snowbirds they call them, at times even whitecrows. The large, crowlike birds were used from the Dwarven Empire all the way to the most southern parts of Ravenia. Aside from looks, they were nothing like crows, smart creatures, able to travell large distances and deliver important messages. Every town or fortress has at least one, while there are said to be hundrets in larger towns. The bird was on the window of the tower, giving off a few noises
"I hear you, you damned bird" the man shouted
Gabrahan Stormwyk was a young mage, better at achemy than at practical magic, assigned to the fortress of Megreben. An old stone fortress in the canyons. Unlike Blatmorg, it was just a fortress, with the mining villages behind it, being not placed in the open, but on path opening up to a field. It would be on the first line of battle with the orcs if not for Kresen's Fork, a small fortress protecting the path infront of them and one of the paths leading to Blatmorg.
Gabrahan got up and went to the bird. The message it had was from Bluebird from Blatmorg. He read it quickly. The young mage was shocked. He dropped the latter, and got dressed and ran down the tower.