Titan in the Playground
Join Date: Jun 2006
Re: [Nexus] Stories etc
Here comes the next, penultimate part of Rise of the Prophet.
Rise of the Prophet, Part 4
A figure was trudging through the snow on the outskirts of an Imperial town of Yellow Water in an area the war hadn't reached yet. It was a young adult human, wrapped in furs to ward off the bitterly cold wind. If anyone knew what he was doing there, he would be imprisoned or put to death. But he was fine with the risk if it meant helping the goblin slaves. He was among the few humans of the Empire who saw the common practice of slavery as an affront to the gods and an unforgivable cruelty. But helping slaves escape was condemned as theft and so was helping them without their owner's consent. Now Bartosz was heading towards one of the spots he used to meet his contact among the slaves. The risks Dipsnig the goblin - his contact among the slaves, responsible for coordinating the escape plans and aid among them - was taking by slipping away to speak with him were even greater.
Once Bartosz got inside the small, abandoned barn on the very edge of the town, he immediately saw Dipsnig squatting on one of the rotten crates littering the place. The goblin was skinny and malnourished, with hair falling around his face in untidy streaks. He was dressed in mismatched, oversized clothing. As soon as the human entered, Dipsnig began to speak, in an agitated tone.
"Master Bartosz, you must flee! You and your whole family must flee! And your friends too! The Prophet is coming!"
"The Prophet?" Bartosz gasped. "You mean... the leader of the goblin army?" he asked, color draining from his face.
"Yes, yes," Dipsnig said, nodding eagerly. "The great goblin army is approaching. They want to free us slaves and..." He swallowed. "...and kill all humans."
"How do you know this?" Bartosz asked. His mouth was rapidly going dry. How... what could they do? The city was large, and there were many soldiers there, but the goblin horde had rolled over everything in its path thus far. They had no chance. Noone had any chance. They were doomed.
Dipsnig looked down at his feet. "We... we were contacted. A free goblin snuck past the human guards and delivered a message. We're going to be freed and our captors punished."
Bartosz was silent for a while. Eventually, he asked: "Even us?"
Dipsnig nodded glumly. "Yes. I tried to convince him, but I couldn't. All humans will die. Unless they flee. Please. You have to do it."
Bartosz sat down, leaning against the wall. He said nothing. After all he'd risked helping the slaves, he was going to run away from their kinsmen or die. Dipsnig looked down at his feet.
"I know you must think the goblin people ungrateful. After all you've done now you risk death at their hands. I'm sor-"
"Don't be," Bartosz interrupted, getting to his feet angrily. "You've seen as well as I have what my people have done to yours. It's always like this. One race does horrible things to another, then that other one retaliates, and more blood is spilled and more hatred is bred. And noone ever stops to think," he said, clenching his fists. "It's a vicious circle we can't get out of. The Empire stopped it for a while, but only by crushing everyone else underfoot. Now it's back." He put his hands against the wall and leaned on it again. "It's bigger than both of us. It's history. The merciless wheel of history doesn't care for little people. If the gods do exist, they must be having a hell of a laugh from all this."
Dipsnig sighed. He almost envied his kinsmen who hated all humans. But the human in front of him wasn't a human. He was his friend and he just happened to be a human. Why couldn't everyone just see it? "It's easier for us. When you're a goblin, you accept that you have no control over the world. Things just happen to us, yes? Always have. We live and we die on the whim of others. But the prophet... he leads the goblins to a world where we can finally decide for ourselves. This is why the others will follow him into the depths of Devouring Darkness. I just hope in that world, it is possible for humans and goblins to be friends.
Batrosz turned around and looked at the goblin. "Friends. Yes. Thank you for warning me. I'll take my family and we'll leave... if there's anywhere to run to. I hope we'll meet again, in this life or next."
He extended his hand to Dipsnig, who shook it. Then, without a word, he turned and left the barn. After a while, so did Dipsnig, sneaking away quietly. Bartosz and his family survived the rest of the war, and so did Dipsnig. But they never met again in life. One can only hope they met in the next world, if there indeed is any.
The town of Yellow Water had not been chosen at random. It lay at the border of the remaining Imperial territory, in between the three advancing armies - the native humans, the dwarves and the goblins. After sacking it, most of the goblin horde moved away, leaving only Hultznim, Trablig and their elite guard - a squadron of wolf-riders and a group of commandos - in the ruins. As the sun set, the goblins watched two parties move in, one from the northwest and the other from the east.
The group coming from the east was composed of humans. Some of them were riding strong northern horses while a larger part was made up of footmen - they all carried large shields, spears and axes. All of them were clad in thick furs, but some of the horsemen had much more elegant and rich clothing than others and all of them had broad swords strapped to their belts. The one riding in the front, in particular, wore a large hat brimmed with mink fur and a necklace of silver and gold. He was a large, wide-shouldered man with raven hair, a short beard and narrow, intelligent eyes. His name was Ilmarinen and he was the war-chief of the united Northener Clans opposing the Empire. The horsemen behind him were his best thanes and the footmen - his best warriors. He did not trust the people he was going to meet in the slightest.
The second group consisted of dwarves, but had a similar composition - some dwarves were riding on small, durable mountain horses and others were following them on foot, carrying heavy spears. The difference was that the leader of the dwarves - Ulrika Kizmet, a blonde-haired muscular woman dressed in mail - was surrounded by her mounted warriors instead of riding in the front. She would not take any chances while meeting the goblin prophet and the human chieftain.
The three groups met in the middle of the destroyed city. The three leaders sat down by a table put there by the goblins, after clearing the rubble off the city forum. They eyed one another warily, until Hultznim spoke.
"So, we meet eye-to-eye at last," he said somewhat sardonically. "We have much to discuss."
"It seems so," Ilmarinen said. "The Empire is finished here. It won't be a war much longer. Soon enough, it'll turn into cleanup."
"You're being overly optimistic," Ulrika said dryly. "Mopping up the remnants of the Imperial forces will take months. Maybe years. Especially if they manage to get a grip on things down in the south and send reinforcements."
Ilmarinen had no answer to that. However, Hultznim spoke up, casually and confidently. "That's true. Which is why we need to take Czartoria as quickly as possible."
The other two leaders looked at him. They didn't know what they had expected from the goblin prophet, but it hadn't been that. Unlike them, Hultznim was no warrior. He was a scrawny goblin dressed in simple, drab clothing that looked a little oversized. But there was shrewdness and a fire in those pale yellow eyes. Any hope they might have had about goblins just disbanding and ceasing to cause trouble after the was disappeared. As absurd as it sounded, they would have to deal with him - a goblin - as an equal. Still, this idea was risky. Czartoria was the capital of the Northern provices of the Empire, after all.
"Czartoria, you say. It wouldn't be easy, even now. The Imperials will defend it to their last breath. They still have troops there, located in towns and forts. Czartoria itself is very well-defended."
"Yes. Casualties will be high. But it's like you said - if we don't finish it now, we'll get bogged down by the remaining forces and Imperial citizens. We need to take Czartoria to cripple their leadership and break their spirit. Just like they had broken our spirits so long ago," Hultznim said with some malice. He was referring, of course, to the times past, when the legions from the Central Plains marched into the North, subjugating its inhabitants.
"I like the way this goblin thinks," Ilmarinen said with a cruel smile. "Taking Czartoria... we could put the head of the Emperor's useless brother on a pike! See what it does to his men. What better way to show them that the North is free now?"
"And if reinforcements do come from the south... they won't have anyone waiting for them here. The Imperial armies in the North will be in disarray," Ulrika said. The idea started to sound actually appealing. "Of course, it requires us to act in accord. Only our combined forces can take Czartoria quickly. And we'll need to leave some of our warriors behind to guard our back."
"Are we agreed, then? We'll order our armies to begin the march towards the capital?"
Ilmarinen and Ulrika nodded grimly, then extended their hands. Each of the leaders took the hand of both others and gripped it tightly. A tenuous alliance was made. None of them liked the other ones very much - goblins and dwarves in particular had little love for each other - but they were joined by a common purpose. None of them hated anyone at the time than the Empire. It was imperative that it is wiped off the map.
What the three leaders didn't know was that they had little to fear in terms of retaliation from the south. As they spoke, the three High Priestesses in the temple of Marzanna - the goddess of winter and death - in Czartoria recieved a vision. During their evening ritual, they all entered a trance and saw something that was happening - or had happened - far away.
They saw a blasted landscape of sand and rocks. The eastern fringes of the Empire, encroaching upon the Razoredge Desert. The land of the orcs. They saw ranks upon ranks of orcs - eastern orcs, smaller but bulkier than their northern kinsmen - marching east, in disarray. They had many wounded among them. Then the vision shifted and they saw ranks of humans. They were Imperial soldiers - mail-clad infantry carrying large shields adorned with a flaming fist - making camp over a battlefiend littered with corpses. They had won the day, it seemed, but it was a hollow victory. A thick cloud of despair was hanging above the army.
The vision focused then, showing what lay in the middle of the camp. Upon a stone slab there was a body, mangled beyond recognition by crude orcish axes, but wearing unmistakable armour - the gleaming, glorious armour of Bożydar II, the Emperor of Mankind. The last Emperor of Mankind. He was dead, slaughtered by orcs in a victorious but insignificant border skirmish. He had left no heir. His sister and her family had been poisoned years before. The only surviving member of the Imperial line was in Czartoria, in the north - Ziemowit, his brother. Sent there to get him out of the way.
When the priestesses told the news to Ziemowit and the High Command, they did not believe it at first - they did not want to believe. And the visions of the priests were not always accurate. Still, they knew that there was a good chance it was true. There had been no news from the south for a long while, which was unsettling even despite the raging war. The complete chaos that must have erupted after the Emperor's death would be an explanation.
Of course, the news did not leave the room in the Steward's palace. To tell the people their Emperor had died would have been a disaster. Let them think that their glorious god-given ruler was out there, fighting for them - as they die at the hands of the blood-thirsty hordes swiftly approaching the capital. It was the end, if a painfully prolonged one.
Whew. As previously, the comments will come later.
My FFRP characters.
Avatar by Kid Kris. Sigatars by Gulaghar, Kid Kris, Zefir and billtodamax, respectively.
Last edited by Morty : 07-26-2012 at 02:55 PM.