Titan in the Playground
Join Date: Jun 2006
Re: [Nexus] Stories etc
Rise of the Prophet, Part 3
The word that a new force had entered the war over the Northern Provices of the Empire did not reach everyone's ears immediately. The goblins covered their tracks well, but eventually, the trail of burned towns, ruined mines and slaughtered population became impossible to miss for anyone not struck with blindness. However, many were surprised to find out just who had done all this...
In the war room in the central tower of the keep in Czartoria, the capital of the Northern Province, the High Warlord Mrzeciszek stared at a large map of the provinces. It wasn't really precise - back in those days, the art of cartography was not very developed. But it did the job and currently, an entire nothern region of the province was covered in small black cubes to represent a new thread that had emerged from the mountains. Quite a lot villages, forts and one city had to be wiped off the map.
"So let me make one thing clear," the Warlord said slowly to the trembling messenger. "Are you telling me that the army that rampaged across our frontier, burning everything to the ground is composed of... goblins?"
"Y-yes, sir," the messenger stuttered.
"If you're trying to fool me, I assure you that the consequences-"
"No, lord! It is true! I spoke to people who escaped from the horde!" The messenger boy insisted, desperately. The tone of his voice finally convinced Mrzeciszek of the truth of his claims.
"Fine. You can leave." After the messenger had hurried away with great relief, Mrzeciszek turned back to the other officers present in the room, who had been listening to the exchange with growing astonishment.
"By the gods..." Mrzeciszek began. "Of all the things I expected to happen, an all-out attack by the goblins was not one of them."
"How bad could it be?" Asked General Radowid. He never did have much imagination. "They're just goblins. A large enough contingent should mop them up without much trouble."
"A large contingent which we cannot spare, General," Mrzeciszek said irritably. "Have you forgotten we're fending off the natives, dwarves and orcs on seveal different fronts?"
"Well..." Radowid said uncertainly. "How much damage can they do? We should focus on the larger threats, like the growing mobilization of the dwarven holds."
"More damage than we thought, General," said another general, a young and brash man by the name of Dymitr, as he entered the War Room. He had been fighting on the frontier, which is why he was late to the meeting... and also why he seemed to know more than the other generals. "By reports, the goblin horde has sacked several cities, including New Oakhome. It was taken after a week of siege by the means of an attack from underground, it would appear."
Mrzeciszek rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Underground? This isn't a tactic I've ever heard of..."
"Indeed, High Commander. It seems that as the bulk of the horde approached, small parties went ahead of them and began secretly digging tunnels under the cover of the night. When the horde reached the city, they could finish the tunnels and send in raiding parties and giant beetles through there, which entered the city, spreading chaos and opening the gates. The city fell quickly and few inhabitants managed to flee.
"Great gods!" Radowid exclaimed. "One suspects such underhanded treachery from the goblins, but on such scale..."
"According to the scattered reports, the goblins march under the banners of a crimson eye and are led by a great prophet." Dymitr was a bright commander who understood the value of good information. If only he had ascended to command earlier... "It seems he is as clever as he is charismatic, and he turned his pitiful kinsmen into a vicious, bloodthirsty horde that will use any advantage it can get."
"How many of them are there?" Mrzeciszek asked gloomily.
"Difficult to say. All goblins wear thick black robes... to block out the soon, we suspect. Since they all look the same even without them... well. They also move mostly during the night and stay underground a great deal."
The High Commander sighed, looking at the map.
"Trying to guard our frontier against those little pests will stretch our forces even thinner. But if they are not kept in check, they will rampage through our countryside, killing our people and denying us our supply lines."
A grim silence fell in the war room. The situation had looked bleak before. Now, the chance of the Northern Provinces surviving seemed to grow slimmer still. Deep down, each and every one of the generals believed the Empire of Mankind to be invincible and the barbarians and non-humans to be unable to harm it. Suddenly, there was a cough. All heads turned to Świętomert, an old general who was kept around mostly out of respect for his old exploits and famous victories. Now, he spent most of his time sleeping and praying, but he had occasional flashes of inspiration...
"These are the end times, you realize," he said in a weak voice, looking at the rest of the generals. "The brief rule of Man is coming to an end. Soon we will be overwhelmed by the savages and non-humans, and the appearance of the goblins, those spawns of darkness, will quicken it. The Empire will crumble and we will return to the dark age where men trembled, sensing the monsters who stalked the night. We were like the sparrow flying through the banquet hall... a brief flash of light in the unending night. In time, the blessings of the gods will help our decendants light that fire again. Maybe they will prove themselves worthy of banishing the night forever."
The old General fell silent, and so did his colleagues. Most of the time, they had dismissed his rambling as inconsequential... but now, with enemies at the gates and even their lowly slaves rising up against their natural masters, they seemed to ring far too true.
A somewhat similar discussion was taking place in a large dwarven military camp set up by the joined forces of three dwarven Towers and, of course, many transient dwarves who had stopped their pilgrimage between the Towers to join the war. By that time, the combined dwarven forces had encroached deep into the Imperial territory, reclaiming many of their ancestral lands as well as gaining some ground. However, they had been bogged down by the retreating human forces and citizen militias into a nasty war, where they had to fend off not only regular troops but also impromptu guerillas.
A young dwarf was running through the woods towards the camp. The guards let him in and he headed towards the centre of the encampment, where three important-looking dwarves - Armsmasters of the three Towers making up the army - were waiting around a table.
Report, said Ulrika Kizmet, the Armsmaster of the Hergismin Tower, to which the scout belonged. The dwarf stood to attention and said:
"The goblins have set up a warcamp to the northeast. They're occupying a large cave complex and dug themselves into the mountain slope. They're constructing war machines and launching attacks on the humans in the lowlands."
The Armsmistress nodded and waved the scout away before turning to the other three commanders.
"So it is true. Those little bald rats went to war. I never thought I'd see it happen. This puts us in a difficult situation. The goblins were a nuisance when they were just bands of scavengers. A goblin army might actually pose a threat to our towers and roads," she said coldly.
"And what do you suggest we do about it?" Asked Bertold Benkenstein, the Armsmaster of the Ingobrev Tower, a grim one-eyed veteran of many battles. Unlike the other two Armsmasters, his Tower was located in the lower mountains, which gave him a different perspective. "We can't afford to fight them now. It's just what those blasted humans would want."
"The war will be over at some point," pointed out Ribald Mutterbreg, another Armsmaster. "And once the Imperials have been driven to the lowlands, what will the new goblin army do? Turn against us, that's what. Once they get it in their heads they can actually fight us..." He trailed off, leaving the rest to his compatriots' imagination.
"This is true... but I don't think we have much in terms of a choice." Ulrika sighed. "I know it sounds like a blasphemy, but we need those little runts. Their presence will keep a lot of the human forces tied up. Not to mention they seem to enjoy massacring their civilians and pillaging everything they can get their hands on."
Bertold shook his head.
"What is the world coming to... we're afraid of goblins! I mean, they've always been a pain in the arse, stealing and raiding... but now there's an army. Our only hope is that they turn on each other after the humans are defeated, he said mournfully.
Unlikely, Ulrika said coolly.
Snow crunched under the boots of several regiments of orcish warriors marching uphill. Dressed in an assortment of furs and hides and carrying spears, axes and bows, the orcs walked in silence. They were led by Beldak Munteg, an unlucky orc chieftain selected by the others for the thankless task of showing the goblins their place. Oh well. At least it would be easy. Show them some proper force and they'd cower and do what the orcs wanted. They knew that the goblin "prophet" had set up a forward camp on a small plateau in the lower mountains. Most of his forces had not yet arrived in the area, so it was the perfect moment to pay him a visit and tell him what was expected of him.
Once the small orcish force climbed the slope, they had a good view of the plateau. It was surrounded with mountains and woods, and the goblin camp was located in the middle - lots of holes dug into the earth and covered with canvas and hides, with a ditch and a wall around it. This was a somewhat surprising level of organization, but nothing to be worried about. It didn't look like anything a band of hardened orc fighters couldn't handle. They marched resolutely towards the camp, shouting all the while. The only answer from the camp was silence. The orcs approached the wall - no sentries on top of it. When Beldak banged on the gate, there was no answer. Was the camp empty? And that was when the trap was sprung.
It began with the large section of the wall collapsing - on top of the front rows of the orcs. The warriors standing in front were buried under a huge pile of rocks, ice and soil. Beldak himself was crushed by the massive gate. Before the orcs could form ranks again or try to dig their comrades from under the remains of the wall, they were hit with a hail of arrows, poisoned darts and javelins from behind it. The orcs standing outside the range of the collapsing wall started dropping, dead or wounded, as they were hit by the missiles. It didn't deter the ones in the back rows, obviously - orcs don't run unless the battle is hopeless. They roared in unison and raised their weapons to charge the sneaky little runts hiding behind the ruins of the wall... but then it turned out the goblins were behind them as well. A tightly packed formation of little soldiers wrapped in thick black robes were running towards them from the way they'd come from - obviously they must have hidden... somehow - flanked by two squadrons of wolf-riders speeding towards the battlefield from the woods. That the orcs had fallen victims to a carefully prepared ambush. Their expressions grim, the orcs gripped their weapons tightly. They knew what had to be done.
What followed was a nasty, brutal and one-sided fight. The orcs had been taken by surprise and their ranks thinned considerably by the collapsing wall and initial volley of missiles, but they were still orcish warriors, fighting with determination and determined acceptance of death. The goblins, on their part, were none too eager to throw themselves under the orcs' weapons, so after surrounding them they kept their distance and commenced continous hit-and-run attacks, using the superior reach of their long spears, their superior agility and their fierce wolves. They fired several futher volleys of arrows, but the fight soon became too tightly packed for ranged weapons.
A small group of orcs had been selected from among them. They were to try and punch through the goblin ranks and flee to bring the news back - the goblins were highly uncooperative and the plans to make them slaves and disposable troops probably had to be scrapped. The rest were to cover their escape and keep goblins busy. It amounted to suicide, obviously, but it was fine with the orcs if it meant serving their kin.
As orc and goblin bodies litteres the ground and the snow sucked up the blood, the smaller group of orcs managed to cut their way out and started running back the way they had come. Some goblins turned around to give chase or shoot them, but their attention was quickly occupied by the remaining warriors who attacked with redoubled effort. They were soon overrun and killed to the last orc.
Those orcs who escaped had to get through the icy tundra to the keep where the clan chiefs had assembled. They had bad news...
Several hours after the battle, Hultznim appeared on the field, riding his mighty wolf Scoundrel. As the goblins cheered and kneeled in front of their glorious leader, he smiled benevolently.
Good job, my children. You did everything as I had told you and the Lord Below smiled on us. I hope the orcs give their leaders a riveting tale.
He really was very glad. He hadn't expected the orcs to swallow the hook this way. Surely they must have realized that the goblin leader wouldn't stay in a small, isolated camp? And why hadn't they noticed that the bulk of the goblin horde had camped many miles from there? They must have underestimated the little folk even more than he had thought. But it wouldn't last. Soon, every other race in the North would know about it. They would never be tricked so easily again. But no need for the rank and file to know that...
Really sorry about the lack of comments. I'll post them later or edit them in here, depending on whether anyone posts after me.
My FFRP characters.
Avatar by Kid Kris. Sigatars by Gulaghar, Kid Kris, Zefir and billtodamax, respectively.
Last edited by Morty : 07-07-2012 at 06:51 PM.