During our last chapter, the allies had victory over the dark men and drow from Izmira and their allies. The three races had gathered and combined their strength for their first victory. Now time is against them, they have nearly a month to ready themselves against a far worse onslaught. The Army of the orcs is far larger. We know that they are controlled by drow both fighter and mages. If our battle plan fails, the victory may be hard-won, but at a cost so high, it may be beyond the allies reach.
Word of our victory against Izmira and their allies quickly spreads, many who witness the destruction of the fleet returned to their homes amongst the three kingdoms. There is a great celebration at last a week.
Magical Hearts: Chapter 15
The Battle at Dead Man’s Pass
We have begun fortifying the passes. Dead man’s pass leads into a high Valley system named Dwarves Heart, and the source of the Camarillo River. Many openings to the dwarves’ underground kingdom within the valleys’ walls. Many of those entrants we close, and hide now. Once the orc Army has breached Dead Man’s Pass, we will be unable to stop them from attacking in mass. Their great numbers will assure the great destruction they will bring about on the allies. This army is far larger than any of the allies have faced in history. A careful search of our records shows the armies of the dark ones have been growing larger with each campaign, but this army is double what the allies faced with their last campaign.
These orcs are unlike all the orcs I have faced before; they stand a foot taller than the drow they serve. They seem stronger, and possess greater cunning. If we do not stop them at Dead Man’s pass, it will be all that we can do to survive.
I realize what my father was up against in their last campaign. The orcs arrival was unnoticed until they attacked the most eastern of our citadels along with the dwarf’s tunnels. The dark ones had effectively cut off the allies from each other. The dark ones divided their forces, the drow attacking the dwarves; the orcs moved west and attacked the human lands. As a result, we lost three dukedoms, their citadels and citizens, only father’s tactic and the high walls of New Cowan stopped their invasion of the human lands. With the lessons taught by history, we prepare for the new battle to come.
The dwarf artisans had taken on the task of creating numerous new jars needed. The dwarves produce the jars and chemicals, while humans and elves complete the making of the winged jars. A group of dwarves also manages the process, as each step they carefully record. Each step in the process carefully monitored, if only a single jar manufactured incorrectly, the nightmare of losing our mages and most likely, our campaign would result.
We use many of the wine jugs and we fill them with the explosives. We create two of the explosive wagons, and plan to leave them where their discovery will see them taken into the largest of the orcs’ encampments.
Where the orc encampment are, the worst of the winter storms will soon begin to subside, and by the first part of the third month of the year, spring will be there. However, the orcs will probably move long before that, the frozen earth allowing them to move quicker than the mud of spring.
For that reason, we have begun to prepare our battlefield. Against trees, rocks or even within thick bushes we concealed the explosive in the wine jars. We would drop other jars to set off the ones upon the ground. The Elfin Rangers have proven priceless at this task of hiding the jars. Carrying a backpack that holds a jar, they move silently among the Woodlands just north of dead man’s pass.
Even the fields are stealthily covered. They choose snowstorms to hide their tracks in the open. We use the carpets and the small mirrors, silently deploying the Rangers. The Rangers recall the carpet with their mirrors.
The passing days seem to bring more patrols, but the Rangers mission is nearly complete. We have had several narrow escapes, although Rangers know that they are not to give away our preparation or prematurely explode the jars. When the orcs are among the trees marching to the pass, we have several areas rigged the pushed them into the main killing field, within that field at least half the orcs will perish. Both from the explosives, we had hidden and what we would drop.
We have decided that the carpets must be so high above these fields that they will remain unseen, our lesson from the gate showed is that the more jars you explode the greater the explosion. One would think one jar equal to so much of an explosion; two jars would be twice as much. What we now believe to be true is two jars together are greater than twice what one is.
We will use twenty carpets each dropping up to five of the shark fins jars do in that first moment. With the jars placed upon the ground, hundreds of the explosions will cover the field. The resulting explosions possibly will slay half the dark ones we now face. The rest hopefully will break and run, possibly even killing each other in the confusion.
We hope even if we do not slay that many. That the vision of destruction that they will witness. The fear and deafness from the explosion’s noise the orcs will suffer. All those factors may make the rest run, only the ones in the very rear unaffected.
The pass itself has a problem, one we may use to our advantage. The mountains have a great deal of snow on them. The noise from that explosion will cause an avalanche. Their advance guard should just be entering the pass and the avalanche will bury them. If not we will quickly send down jars to limit the number, or begin the avalanche. Then our carpets will bring our fighters to hold the narrowest part of the pass.
We have added two catapults to the enchanted fortress. We have not yet set it on Dead Man’s Camp but all is ready for that. Once the avalanche occurs, or we trigger it, the placement will be a simple matter.
We watched their encampments with the map, each day they show a little more activity. We decide it is time for the wagons. The rumors about Dartmoor agitate their ranks. Dartmoor was the name of the ruins that held the gate. Using spells to spy upon their ranks, we learn many of them fear that an angry God now seeks their death. Even some of the drow speak of that. They believe no mortal having power that vast.
Our plan is a simple deception. We will ensure a drow is commanding the patrol, we watch as each patrol leaves when one is as we wish moving in the general direction we would like. We will use freshly cooked venison as the bait for the wagon, it will look as an unwary merchantman has killed a deer and started roasting it over a fire. The breeze should ensure that the drow and orcs catch the scent. Having noticed the orcs approach the merchants ran, we allowed one of the patrols to find the camp as the meat cooks. I hope that they will bring it back to their encampment.
If the wagon works, as we believe, none from the first encampment will survive to spread the word. We should be able to repeat the trap with the second wagon.
Other than the jars, there is no magic on the wagon. We altered the wine jars enchantment slightly. Once you open the lid it is the same as breaking the jar, those lids held securely, you may have to break the jar to remove it. Either way, as soon as a lid removed or jar breaks boom.
If drow mages detect the magic, it will only be on the jars. If they removed the few jars that hold the explosives, we will drop a few shark fin jars from a great height. Once the jars begin the fall we will move away at the carpets top speed.
We made the wagon so the only hold equal to twenty of the jars that should take care of any encampment, and possibly a little more. What we wish to do is to promote the angry God rumor. Fear can be a very effective weapon.
With four Rangers help, Gabriel, Isabel and I placed the first wagon. Where we make the fire, the breeze should bring the smell of the roasting meat into one of the camps we wish to destroy. It should take some time. We are nearly two miles away from their eastern edge. A trail runs to a coastal city that lays and ruin. Even if they send some of their group that way, it would only divide their forces making their defeat easier for us.
As the four Rangers return, there is a patrol five minutes behind them. We begin by running into the night, back down the trail we supposedly came from. After a mile, we unfurl the carpet and lift into the air. High in the air and not visible from the ground the drow and orcs search for us once they have lost our trail. We slowly drift south, back to Dwarves Heart.
We are high in the air, and use a scribing mirror to watch what occurs around the wagon. The patrol returns, the meat is still raw just beginning to cook as the orcs tear into it. The drow looks on and discuss, until boredom makes and check the wagon. He opens one of the wine jugs. We used a very good wine for our trap hoping that the drow would take it back to his superiors. The wagon, actually pull cart that we have constructed does not require horses to move it. After the orcs have fed themselves, the drow begins to kick them back to their feet. He orders one to bring the cart as they return to their encampment.
The open wine jug the drow drinks from was enough to get the orcs attention. The drow keeps them from it until they have reached the camp, as he goes to fetch his superiors. The orcs began to open more jars, and more orcs gather around quickly.
The last of the true wine jars taken by the orcs the drow return with shouts of orders. One of the orcs grabs one of the rigged jars, unable to pull the lid open easily he uses a rock to crack the top.
We stop using the mirror just in time. We watch as the angry red fireball decimates the camp, and then begins to rise in the air. It takes seconds before we feel the shockwave, the noise comes a moment later. Sounds orcs screams heard from many of the camps. They are terrified witnessing the event. We were shook from the explosion and we are more than ten miles away. When all was quiet again, as we continue moving I say, “Perhaps we used too many of the jars. We should check tomorrow to find out what damage we did.”
Gabriel says, “We should use the map. I imagine the drow and their mages will be looking at the scorch mark where the camp was most of the morning.”
The elfin Rangers are silent as we look onto the area where the encampment had been, now that the fireball has faded, other fires burn, not the ones the orcs have set, more like tents or provisions burn ignited by the fireball from the explosion.
With a deep breath I say, “Once we have no more need of it I think we are going to have to seal that formula. It is a power too great.”
Gabriel realizes what I mean. “True, if it was in the hands of our enemy. I wonder even the dwarves’ strongholds would be safe from it.”
Isabel with a deep breath says, “I doubt they would be, or the trees of the elves, or the citadels of the humans. It is a power we should hide away as soon as we can.”
Now far out of range from the drow, I open a teleport spell and we arrive at the Palace of Aphrodite. The sun still shines here although low in the sky. The Rangers take their leave. They are staying in the nearby trees. Isabel Gabriel and I walk up to the sixth floor. We are met by a grim faced King Sky, Father has the same expression and so does Granite.
We look at the map, the entire encampment was gone, the encampments nearby have fires were tents torn from their place, collapsed by the shockwave. Over a thousand orcs must be dead, none moves near the center of the explosion.
I repeat myself and say, “As soon as this battle is over we should seal the formula for the jars. It is too great of a power.” The three Kings nod their head yes.
I say, “We must ensure that all of the jars are destroyed once we finished with them. Even the ones we do not use in battle must be destroyed.” Again the three Kings nod their head yes. With that, we decide, the formula needs sealed away, only unsealed in times of great need. We hope that no time will come when the need is so great again.
When Isabel and I turn, the Goddess is there, we immediately go to our knee and she smiles at us as she says, “You have shown wisdom. Many would not wish to give up such power. Once you have no more need of it, I will seal it away for you. All the jars not consumed in your battle I will remove for you. Even those who have knowledge of the formula will forget.”
Isabel and I say, “Thank you Goddess.” She smiles and fades away.
Sparrow, Justin and Selena from across the room begin to chuckle. Sparrow says, “Six right?”
The head priestess is of Aphrodite rush into the room and they ask in unison, “Was the goddess here?”
Father in his voice that sounds of authority says, “Yes, she came to give us word that wants the jars are no longer needed, all will forget how they were created. All that we have not used will disappear. She said we were wise to decide to hide the formula away. I think her for doing it for us. I know secrets like that are hard to keep. I truly think it would take the power of a God to do so.”
Jewel smiles and says, “Isabel kiss your husband for me this time. You showing wisdom was another of the prophecies, which you fulfilled. The three Kings of the races have chosen wisdom, led by the chosen having done so you will receive a blessing. Enjoy your evening sires.”
Granite grumbles, “Time to go eat. Me stomach thanks me throat cut.”
Isabel gives me a warm passionate kiss, before she giggles and says, “Granite is right it is time to go eat.”
Everyone in the room, all thirty-one of us walked down to the dining area. Rebecca meets us there, Isabel and her hug warmly, before I too get a hug from my youngest sister in law. Michael and Juliet are there with Little Patrick and the twins. My father scoops Little Patrick up into his arms. Isabel and I take one of the twins each. I have Ines, and Rebecca is there looking into the face of the baby. Rebecca remarks, “She has such beautiful green eyes.”
With a smile I say, “It must be from the elf blood we share.”
Rebecca’s eyes widened with excitement and she asked, “What do you mean share?”
I say to Rebecca, “At least once in the last thousand years, our ancestor was a full blood elf. Isabel Firemoon Cowan, the Queen to Cowan the Wise.”
Rebecca ask, “That means?”
Chuckling I say, “You were born Royal young Duchess. The founder of the clan was Morgan youngest son to the first high King, and your father like yourself is a direct descendent.”
Rebecca ask, “That still does not explain, what that means, are we related?”
With a chuckle I say, “Yes, I am your brother-in-law and a very distant cousin. That means you can be a Duchess and no one has the right to say you cannot. It means you were born to serve the people of your Duchy young one. It has its responsibilities, and its privileges.”
Rebecca says, “Duchess Rebecca Morgan, I never really thought about it. But do I really have to serve everyone?”
I say, “Your service is different than a footman, or housekeeper, you will have to look out for the betterment of those given to your charge. You are to protect them, help them when they need, and ensure they have the opportunity to prosper. This is not an easy thing Rebecca. Some will prosper while others struggle. Try to make sure those who struggle do not do so needlessly.”
Rebecca asks, “Do I really have to be a Duchess?”
Isabel pulls Rebecca’s chin gently to face her and she says, “Rebecca, I have to be the Queen one day. You will have to worry about a Duchy. I will have to worry about them all. I know how you feel sister. I worry that I do not have the ability to do so much.”
I give Isabel a smile as I say, “You have me my love, and we have our friends. The Dukes and Duchess and the court, all these people help us rule. We need only to ensure it done for the best of our people.”
Father chuckles as he pulls Isabel and me to his shoulders. In a bright voice he says, “I have time yet to help you learn. You have my friends and yours too. King Sky and Granite both are wise and should be alive longer than I should. You probably will have the goddess if the need be great enough. They will be many you can call upon, if counsel you need. Remember this first, use the counsel of your own heart, if your heart objects it should not be that difficult of a decision.”
Smiling I say, “That advice had been handed down through the generations of our line. Cowan the wise said the very same thing to Patrick his firstborn. His mother wrote in the tome, she said Cowan sometimes amazed her with his wisdom.”
Father chuckles again and says, “My father took credit for it. Tell me son, did King Cowan also pass on, a wise man listens to all advice, but chooses which he follows.”
Isabel chuckles and says, “That was Isabel that passed along that advice. It was something her father told her.”
Father chuckling says, “What, my father claim credit for that too. Just wait until I see him again.”
Looking my father in the face I say, “I hope you remember that for a long time, because I would not wish it be soon.”
Father smiles and says, “I have two granddaughters to love and to get to know.”
Isabel smiles before she says, “I believe you will have the time to know them well, and my other two children Julius and I shall have.” Father chuckles but says nothing, perhaps he has learned to accept statements like this from us. Many we have made have come true.
Next three days sees the completion of our preparations, the area before Dead Man’s Pass has jars placed nearly every thirty feet, further back there is more jars, sometimes two or up to three placed in clusters. There is more cover further away from Dead Man’s Pass we will set the explosions off at the edge of the tree line. There is a large open field just outside of Dead Man’s Pass, we will allow for the first of their ranks to enter. Then from carpets, we will drop jars so their explosions cover the field continuing into the woods where our jars wait to continue their destruction.
We decided to use every carpet we have, nearly every jar we will drop. We will win our victory swiftly or reduce the number so greatly that our victory assured. The jars arranged so, if one discovered and tripped, most will explode. We will harass the advanced patrols. Our archers make sure that the not looking for jars, but find their death from the sky. Our archers will protect our jars. They keep the dark ones patrols from prematurely setting off our trap. It would not do for a thirsty orc to open a jar, setting off the entire trap, killing only hundreds instead of the hundreds of thousands we desperately need to vanquish.
With fewer and fewer of their patrols returning, and the great explosion they suffered the drow seem to be more determined to move and move quickly. The last few days have helped us greatly, a light snow had fallen each day, continuing all day long and leaving a new few inches upon the ground. With our preparations made I worry that the new snow may buffer the jars keeping some from exploding.
The day after the snow stops. The next morning the skies clear, with a bright red band of clouds to the east. This seems to be the sign, the drow were waiting for. The temperatures begin to warm and the snow began to melt during the night. They still should be enough snow to hide the jars we placed on the ground. By the morning when the orcs begin their marched to Dead Man’s Pass, and at that time, the jars still hidden, with maybe an inch or so snow still clinging to them.
They quickly break camp, and begin their march south. There still more than ten miles away from Dead Man’s Pass. Their ranks are rather broad as they proceed south. Perhaps, they expect a battle before reaching the pass. However, this broader front serves us well. The wider the columns as they exit field the more likely we will kill a greater number. The natural topography of the land will force them into a tighter group as they exit the woods.
King Sky is watching the map. He alerts us as soon as he is sure the March of the dark ones has begun. We have twenty carpets ready, each holding open the crate filled with the shark fin jars. Because of the precautions, we took each crate only holds fifty jars, but should be far more than enough for our purposes today.
Granite gives the speech today, he will ride again on our carpet and tossed jars, and he and Chisel are beginning to love that. However, they would never admit to that. Granite begins his speech, “We have one victory together. Today we have another to win, together. Together we will win!”
The crowd and our warriors shouts, “TOGETHER, TOGETHER, TOGETHER VICTORY!”
Sparrow, Justin, Selena, Isabel, and I all open teleport spells the entire carpets fly through four deep. Another group of archers’ carpets departs using our teleport spells, we have sixty carpets, and forty carry the archers. We exit high above the ground of Dead Man’s Pass. We exit so high that were actually looking down upon the peaks of the two mountains separated by the pass. The first of the orcs have barely entered into our killing zone. Because of their wide column, many forced to walk around trees or rocks sometimes within inches of the jars that remain unnoticed.
The orc armies organized into vast groups, marching nearly shoulder to shoulder. The groups of orcs number nearly two hundred thousand individuals, ten groups to all together marching a wide formation heading south.
We wait in the cold air. We can easily see the groups of the dark ones as they make their progress farther south. The ground seems to change from a pristine white, to a muddy slush as they move. Their advance guard has barely made it into the open field. Our archers have orders only to fire upon the ones that notice a jar and only if they make a move to get the jar.
Their second group now is within the prepared area. Each step they take brings more and more into the killing zone. Each of their steps brings us closer to our victory. Their advance scout is now within the very edge of the pass, and they look nervously at the overhanging snow. They are moving silently compared to what they normally do. They are normally a noisy bunch and heard from miles away.
Finally, the third group is beginning to enter the killing zone. A half-hour passes and the first group barely reaching halfway through the thick wood. By the time they reach the meadow, possibly the seventh will be fully within the killing zone. That will mean nearly all their forces will vanish in moments.
With no clear enemies visible, the dark ones army continues marching south. The eighth group of the orc Army has reached the edge of the forest, the front group has just emerged from the trees. Now is the moment for us to strike. We spread out our carpets and from very high. We began dropping the jars. Moments after they begin the fall, they whistle as they began to dissent. We drop two sets of ten in each. Just to make sure that we set off the jars upon the ground.
The orcs hear the screaming sound coming from the sky. Even before the first jar hits, their screams heard. They begin to turn and run, anyway but south. The drow are doing all they can to control their ranks, but they too look nervously towards the sky and the noise. When the first jar hits and explodes there is a rippling as the rest began hitting the ground and exploding, the way we dropped the jars the first explosion was a little further away than the last. When the second set strikes, they strike at the very edge of the trees and the shock wave from the first seems to carry them deeper. The hidden jars begin to explode, and now the edge of the tree line disappear in an angry red flame. The flame seems to run deeper into the woods quicker than it rises, the shockwave seems to magnify as each jar explodes. Now trees are seen ripped from the ground and thrown to the north by the shockwave.
The wave seems to take on a life of its own, orcs thrown to the north, their weapons, their armor, and their bodies all becoming projectiles striking and killing others as the shockwave carries them. Each jar that explode only seems to strengthen the shockwave as it travels north. Almost no effect of it is traveling south.
We watch the horrific events we a set in motion. The orcs now have little time other than to stop and stare at their own death as it approaches faster and faster. Some of the drow throw themselves into ditches or other low places hoping to survive somehow.
It seemed like an eternity, as the ripple of explosions travels northward, as the shockwave growing in intensity until it reaches the edge of our killing field. At this point, the shockwave continues on, nothing can truly stand in its way. Orc or drow, tree or rock, all become projectiles carried forward by the shockwave.
As quickly as it started, it is over. This morning possibly slightly more than two million dark ones begin their onslaught only to have it end in one massive wall of flame. It is minutes before the survivors get to their shaky feet. Most after taking just a second to get their bearings began to run north. Very few of their mages survive, even fewer of the orcs. There is a pocket here or there that were in a gully or ditch. Out of the two million possibly two hundred thousand survive now.
I am not sure if they have lost their taste for battle and destruction but I certainly have no appetite for it.
Where once a forest stood, the land is pockmarked and smoking, twisted tree trunks thrown about the landscape, some burn. The sickening smell of blood reaches us even at our height.
Although no great shockwave headed south, the vibrations from the explosions shook the earth so much that the avalanche occurred. The advanced scout some five hundred strong met their end in snow and ice.
The archers finished a few not yet dead from the field. Those who have run we do not pursue, because we hope they have truly given up the fight. We now have no quarrel with them, but we will stand ready in case they have not given up the fight.
The next day we set the keep on dead man’s camp. A few new boulders needed removed they had been carried down by the avalanche. Both elf and dwarf sent patrols checking all other passes to see if the survivors attempt the move south by another way.
The river blocks their escape north, and they began to set up an encampment some distance from the river’s southern bank. For some reason I believe their drow commander has survived. They begin to organize quickly. The few orcs left begin patrols some scouting as far as the battlefield. From the dead they take weapons, armor or anything they find of use.
After the first day of this, I decided to deny them any more weapons. Before their patrols can return, on a large carpet Isabel and me along with Sparrow, Brooke, Eldeone, Gabriel, Ben and Ruth, Justin and Selena, and my four other regular comrades fly over the battlefield gathering the metal into a large ball. As I gather the metal from weapon and armor alike, Isabel, Sparrow, Brooke, Justin and Selena pull out the items of worth before they too become part of the ball.
We have to take three trips to gather all of the items, the items are worth have filled up two crates. At the end of the day we divide the spoils, estimating the value of everything and delivering gold to all those who participated in the battle. The Elven Rangers show shock at receiving a large purse for their efforts.
I grant the huge balls of metal to the dwarfs to use. I think Chisel has visions of pipes something he explained to me several times apparently we made them for the Palace of Aphrodite. I am sure there is more than enough metal to accommodate him and many others.
In a week, the first of the incursions from the survivors takes place. Granite and I are at the pass, when word comes to us that a group of two hundred orcs led by four drow is crossing the battlefield and headed south. During the last week, no party larger than fifty left their encampment, and that was only to hunt. They normally pick an area and use most of the party to scare the game towards those who would kill whatever come their way.
We had hoped they were just waiting until the water from the river lowered enough for their crossing. It seems they are gathering their strength to attempt to fulfill their mission. Perhaps they believe that no one watches them now, that their movements go undetected.
Taking up our ax, we moved to the snowy floor of the pass. In the narrow of the pass, we wait. Sparrow, Brooke, Justin and Selena are on a carpet high above the pass. With the curves and turns within the pass, we cannot truly see their approach. Our watchers warn the scouting party are coming around the last turn and for us to be ready.
Joyfully Granite says, “Hundred gold pieces wager on who takes the most.” He was a little disappointed after the battle not have a chance to tangle with any of the dark ones that day. He and Chisel did throw the jars, but they think that is an easy task.
Matching his joyful attitude chuckling I accept. “Okay, but Gabriel counts, and we give them the opportunity to surrender first.”
Granite scoffs, “As if they ever have in the past.”
In a serious tone I say, “That is not truly for them, but us. If they do not surrender, there is no wrongdoing and our fight with them.”
Granite chuckles and says, “You know they will not, they see only the two of us and think us easy.”
Now with a chuckle I say, “I did not say I expected them to surrender. I said we will give them the opportunity, before we kill them.”
Just around the next turn behind us is Ben and Eldeone, they are our support as we arranged. They obviously overhear our conversation, despite themselves, they chuckle along with us, and that makes an eerie sound in the pass as it echoes.
The drow are at the head of the column, once they see us standing ready they stop for a moment. Speaking in elfish, I offer to take their surrender. They react, as I believed they would, they charge with the orcs at their back.
The first drow dies within seconds of coming into range of my ax. It looked as if I slipped and his sword passed harmlessly above my head. My ax appear to fly wildly struck the drow on the side of his neck severing it. One of the drow lost his footing in the soft snow while the two remaining backed away. They had yet to decide if I had been clumsy and very lucky or skillful and very deadly.
The three remaining drow order the orcs back from me as evil looking smiles cross their faces. The surprise look I gave them had convinced them I was clumsy. Arrogance and prejudice worked against them, as the next drow attacks me lazily. He stepped in with a lunge directed straight towards my heart. Again it to look like I slipped in the snow sending myself spinning.
The drow’s thrust was overaggressive and put him well within range of my ax. The end of my spin brought the ax in contact with the drow just below his rib cage, the incredibly sharp ax slipped through armor, muscle and bone as it cleave the drow in half.
I wore the same surprise look that had convinced the drow earlier, again an overaggressive attack that I spun away from and my ax took the third drow’s head. Now anger worked against the last drow, he attacked nearly blindly and died as my ax splitting from waste just above his right hip to neck.
I smiled at the stunned orcs that had backed shyly away. I needed to taunt them to come in range, unlike the drow they saw through my act. As Granite and I fight upon the familiar ground, against enemy we knew too well, we separated driving the now frightened orcs back and forth between us until all the orcs lay dead at our feet. The orcs are even faster to fall, but it takes nearly half an hour before the last.
Which leads into a debate, Granite insist that orcs count equally to the drow, whereas I say the drow should count as two orcs. Granite and taking a hundred and two orcs, I took the four drow, and ninety-eight orcs.
Granite scoffs saying, “You would say that with those four drow charging you like fools.”
I say in a gruff voice, “I could not help it if they wished to end their lives on my ax.”
Father and King Sky suggest, “Perhaps, you two should just continue to keep count until the end of the battle. We are sure that you will have more opportunities.”
With a smile, I say, “Only if we decide to bet who takes the most orcs and who takes the most drow.”
Granite even chuckles as he says, “That be a bet, Pup even though you got all the drow today. Tomorrow I get to offer to take their surrender.”
Ben and Eldeone suggest, “The next group should go to us, we would bet who takes the most if you allow us into your wager.”
Granite chuckles and says, “I guess we could watch tomorrow, you two made it sound like fun.”
Father and King Sky chuckle along with us, although it may have sounded like we were angry and quarrelsome. We did it as family, no real anger or bad feelings for each other. In truth Granite, love the fact that I acted like a dwarf with him. I was just copying him, because I been around Granite long enough to know how he acts. Dwarfs seldom if ever hug, they preferred to argue or quarrel with each other that is how they show their affection. Because if they did not like you, they would not quarrel, they would just simply beat the daylights out of you.
Granite did not say it aloud, but his face displayed what he thought. He said it a few times, and for me to copy his demeanor brought it to his mind. Before he has said, “Pup, I am going to make a dwarf of you yet.”
With our battle today, things like that seems to make us closer. To tell the truth I would stand beside Granite on any field, on any day. Today I had not use my magic once, but if the need be I would use it to protect Granite before myself.
Isabel watched the battle from atop a carpet, she was nervous but once I dispatch the four drow easily, she relaxed. Having her watch helped me. I can react to threats quicker. Her watching actually help me defeat the drow quickly. By the end of the battle, both Granite and I were covered completely in blood of the orcs. Isabel, using her magic melted snow, and drenched the two of us in lukewarm water. It washed most of the blood away. Isabel still made me take two more baths upon our return to the Palace of Aphrodite.
Isabel sniffs couple of times, before she determines I am clean and allows me to take Carissa as we leave for dinner. Both our daughter seem to love to cuddle against my chest. Perhaps they just love the warmth, or the sound of my heartbeat. Both of our girls seem to do better in our arms than any others. They are calmer, and sleep easier when Isabel or I hold them.
Walking down to the dining area, we met the three high priestesses. Dawn, the dwarf high priestess asks, “How did the battle go today?”
Isabel giggles and says, “They did not get a scratch on either one of them. Perhaps, I will just show the images of their last fight to the next group before they ask for their surrender.”
Jewel ask, “Julius did you use your magic today?”
Isabel answers before I can, “Not even to clean the blood off of himself.”
Jewel ask, “You only use half your strength to defeat the dark ones, why?”
I say, “To make the count fair, Granite and I wagered. It would be unfair to Granite, if I use my magic to move ahead in the count. There was no real need, even the drow they sent today were not very good.”
Isabel is almost pale faced as she says, “To me they seem very good. I was very worried for you.”
I give my wife and friends a reassuring smile and say, “I only feigned my skill a little. That was to give the others too much confidence. They each thought the blow that took the previous one a lucky strike.”
Ben chuckles as he and Ruth join us. Ben says, “When Eldeone and I finally decided to look around the corner. There you were, one drow already dead at your feet, and the others dancing away. If ever I face you with an ax in your hand, I will simply drop my sword and surrender, even if I had five hundred at my back.”
Eldeone chuckles and he says, “Until today I felt the ax was a brutish weapon. Granite and you wield them with such skill. I see the grace in such a weapon now. Granite moves his ax with the quickness of one who sure the path it will take. He has won the fight, before his opponent ever has the opportunity to begin it.”
With a chuckle I say, “If you ever had stood against him in the practice ring, you would definitely know that. I can still feel the lumps he gave me three years ago. As for what Ben said, I definitely suggest that if you ever stand against Granite, do that. I truly love him as a comrade and even as my father even though I have another.”
Dawn, the dwarf high priestess asks, “You do not feel him less than you because of his race?”
The question surprises me, and I answer without thought, “No, Granite is a great person, no matter what his race would be. If he had the same personality in the body of a human, or an elf I would believe him to be a great person. He is no worse for being a dwarf or better. His personality makes him who he is, King Granite Strong-arm.”
Jewel ask, “You see no difference in the different races.”
I answer, “Other than the way their bodies are built, and that gives them some natural skills. No. Each person, their actions make them who they are, more than their heritage. One’s race is after all an accident of birth, I do not believe anyone gets to choose, what race he or she are born within. Perhaps, that is random or chosen by the gods. I truly do not know or care.”
Dawn, the human high priestess, ask “Do you feel the same way about one station, whether born Royal or common?”
I look to Ben before I answer, “I have known people who were born Royal who never acted their station. I have known people born of lower station, who acted nobler. If it was in my power and one day it shall be I would award their actions over their birth.”
Eldeone chuckles and slaps Ben on the back before he says, “If he does not, I will. You show more nobility than many in my father’s court, my friend. Perhaps, that would shake them out of their holier than thou attitude.”
Ben looking between the two of us says, “Both you call me friend, and would give me something I do not wish. I would prefer to be your friend and protector. I would not mind to be a part of your court, but not as a noble. It is more aggravation than it is worth.”
Eldeone and myself chuckle, as Isabel nods her head yes. In a moment, the three priestesses join us in our laughter. I look at Eldeone and suggest, “Perhaps, we can make Ben and Ruth a knight, to both courts.”
Eldeone looks at Ben’s wide eyes and says, “Yes, I think that would be enough to get the attention of my courtiers and yours.”
Looking at Eldeone I suggest, “We should do the same for Gabriel and Bill. There mounted archers, could easily hold the pass, or even prevent the dark ones access to it.” The archers they trained were from all three races, however dwarves prefer crossbows, and they have at least four carpets dedicated to the dwarfs and their crossbows.
The next day the dark one sent two groups, they were separated by more than an hour. Eldeone and Ben took the first group, their number were equal to ours. Eldeone took the drow, after him offering to take their surrender.
Bill and Gabriel, along with the mounted archers took the last group that day. Ben and Eldeone were still in the pass, with a mound of dead bodies in front of them. That last group paused for only a moment, but that was long enough for the archers to begin their rain of death. Ben and Eldeone had taken nearly an hour to dispatch the two hundred and four dark ones. Bill and Gabriel with their archers took only seconds. Their death came very quickly. The dark ones did not even look up until hit by an arrow or bolt.
The next group was about five hundred strong and they came at night. In the dark, they tripped over the freezing dead from the previous three groups. After the battles, our mages lifted their bodies and dropped them along their path nearly five miles away. I did not want them right on the edge of the pass, fear and anger that near us would give them strength. At a distance, it would play against them, their fear and anger burning through what strength they have, then when they needed that strength it was not theirs to call upon.
The larger group we met with carpets and jars, we rain down death upon them. First, we dropping the jars from the carpet high above, then by arrow and bolt. There few mages cast fireballs, in every direction but up. Our archers found them first, their spells giving away their location. Like the last group, their death came quickly although I believe it not total, perhaps one or two managed to run away in the dark.
It was two more days before another group of dark ones attempted to scout southward. This time only ten drow, in the dark of the night, low clouds and rain filled the sky, and the night seemed to grow cold. Perhaps the rain would turn to snow by early morning. The rain already mixed with some ice.
What we first believe was a small group of scouts turned out to be the entire remainder of the Army of dark ones. In the darkness of that night, they felt more at home than during the light of the day. We knew this soon would occur. We left messages calling for their surrender. The messages ordered them to pronounce their compliance by placing a flag on each corner of their encampment along with their weapons. Instead, they decided to try one more time to make it through the pass.
Elves and humans have greater difficulty at seeing at night than dwarves. We divided some of the dwarf archers to our other carpets, with magical bolts that created light once they struck their target. Once the dwarves found and hit a target with those bolts, our other archers could then see the targets. The first thing they did sweep across the ranks of dark ones. Firing into the ranks, as they moved quickly to the rear of the dark ones ranks. The twenty carpets with jars begin dropping them on the front ranks still lit up.
The screaming of the jars began the orcs to scream. Chaos and jars exploded across the battlefield. When the jars exploded, they created a bright flash. From high above, we watch the carnage in those instances of light. The dark ones’ Army scattered in fear and panic. Some ran even into the pass to meet the dwarves. Others ran north blocked by the river, tried to cross the swollen river and met their fate in the current. Others ran west or east along the edge of the mountains.
In the morning, we had found that we killed more than half of all that remained. Their army were scattered, with no more than fifty in some of the larger groups. Those groups have begun to fight among themselves. Drow attacked by orcs or orcs by drow the chaos of the night before ruled them still.
Rangers are already coming forth volunteering to hunt down the remainders of the Army of dark ones. Our troops have not seen much of a fight. Then again, we had no injuries, no wounded or dead. A few complaints of back strain from those who through jars, they did so vigorously they over exerted themselves.
We watch as a group of drow approach some orcs. First, we believe the drow were going to kill all the orcs, but once the orcs surrounded by the drow and the orcs surrendered. The drow begins to march them back to their encampment.
That is when we knew that we found the last of the drow leadership. We knew we had to deal with those drow, sooner or later they would gather enough orcs and their own people to be dangerous again. I remember hearing a tale told of a hundred drow how they got into the dark and abandoned tunnels of the dwarves. It took the dwarves nearly ten years to free their home from the invaders.
I would not have our outlying communities to be constantly in danger from these dark ones. Their raids would probably only be for food and weapons. I doubt they would leave anyone alive, and with no survivors to tell who or what did the damage, they may believe that we would begin to suspect each other. In that, they wish for some measure of victory, and they may hope the next crusade of their people be more effective.
We watch as they march the orcs, some miles away to a hidden cavern the drow march the orcs up a streambed to hide their tracks. It is obvious the drow have realized they face a far more powerful opponent than they are. The drow change their tactics, they now intend to fight with stealth, attack unseen when we are not ready. Again, they have underestimated us. They believe themselves hidden from us. That with our victory we would soon forget those who still would do us harm.
We did not use the last cart we created. Perhaps that was not a coincidence, that powerful of an explosion in the confined space of a cave would surely collapse it, burying our troubles forever in the tomb that the collapsing cave would create.
Takes us a few days to ready our plan, first we find a location for the cart the drow would believe to be accidental. Second, is a matter of timing the cart placed there unnoticed. Third, we want the amount of the drow and orcs within the cave to make it worth doing. We want their leadership there certainly, but the majority of the orcs alive should be within the cavern too. Each day the drow gather more, only small hunting parties leave. They take game when they can or gather others.
The drow and orcs are not so quick to attack each other as time has passed. Perhaps, what led to their fighting was their inability to hear each other after the last explosions. Unable to understand each other fear ruled over reason.
We set our Rangers out to hunt some of the smaller parties, mostly the drow and only a few minor injuries have occurred. We had rescue carpets ready with blessed couples, healers and more troops to backup and retrieve our people. As a result, we have no deaths among our people. Even the most serious case was an arrow fired by a drow that hit one of our Rangers in the thigh.
As each day goes by, the cave watched as more drow and orcs occupied it. On the edge of where they bring their hunting parties, we leave the cart. It is prepared similar to the one before, although only three of the wine jars contain the explosives.
Like before, a campfire prepared with the deer hindquarter roasting over it. The rest of the deer is on the cart, we hope that they will bring it back. It works apparently the orders given to bring back all food for the hungry multitude now within the cavern.
Watching from our map, two orcs pull the cart the streambed is not so rough to make it impossible for them to pull. We watch as the orcs pulling the cart disappear into the cavern. Nearly half hour passes before the ground rumbles and collapses all the way back to the cave mouth, the land obscured by a large cloud of dust. The spring winds were calm that day, and the dust hung in the air for a very long time.
We send Rangers to the area to watch for parties that may be out hunting or gathering others. Even a few patrols of dwarves after the first few days, and we know how extensive the cave-in was, now a lake begins to form where the cave was. Steep walls hold the water as it slowly climbs. The stream that once flowed past the cave mouth now flows into the lake.
The water at the bottom is dark and stinks of death. We name the lake, Black Lake I hope it will not take a few decades before the water in it is good for fish. Were it sets is beyond the lands of the allies but I think we will move our northern borders to the southern edge of the River.
We went to the ruins of Dartmoor. We dug out the gate. It was damaged severely, but the magic in it was very strong still. I had placed in a crystal the memory of our first battle against the dark ones. How the wall of fire look from my vantage point, how it moved north taking the dark ones with it. How at the end it appeared as nothing left alive on the field.
My father, King Patrick of the humans in his clear commanding voice speaks at the end of the memory. He orders them not to come here again. King Sky high King of the elves gives the same order. Then Granite Strong-Arm King of the dwarves gives the order is well. The three Kings say together, “Venture never again on our lands, lest we are forced to come to yours. Together we have faced your army, which is now dead and buried. Give us no more reason to destroy more of your people.”
We activated the gate and tossed the crystal through. The crystal carries a spell that will force the finder to bring it to the current ruler of the dark ones. When the ruler watches the memory, they will know the truth of what happened to their army. If he ever considers bringing another army through the gate, that memory will haunt them, the spell generates a false memory in the dark ones who sees their cities destroyed by fire, hears the whistles from the jars as they fall upon them. Those memories and images cease once he decides to leave us in peace. The spell in the crystal will force the ruler to share it with their heirs.
I have taken all the stone away from the gate. I reform it into a huge thick dome around the gate. In the center of the dome, there is just enough room for a few dozen people to stand shoulder to shoulder. On the walls, the images of their defeat are always around whoever stands within the dome. There is no physical door, or way for air to enter or leave.
I know magic can create an opening through the stone, so I had enchanted the dome that it would resist magic cast upon it. That any spell cast upon it, would reflect upon its caster, for instance as a mage tried to break it apart, he would find his own bones being shattered.
Of course, there is two ways out of the dome or into it, the spell of teleportation and the gate itself. Since none of their mages of ever been here before, I hope that they would not be able to leave the dome. Just in case, we place an alarm spell upon the stones of the floor, a bell will ring in the map room until silenced by one of the kings or high priestess.
On the floor we place, what we have found that had belonged to the dark ones ruler, a crown made from some black metal, with black diamonds. An enchantment much like the crystal now placed in one of the diamonds, whatever dark one would wear the crown cursed with the memory of their defeat. That curse will cause it to be seen their upcoming defeat at the hands of the allies. In their ears, they hear the cheers of our people, “Together, Together, Together!” Whoever finds the crown, forced to return it to their ruler by the curse. The curse will only be active when and if that ruler decides to again attack our people. Once that ruler changes their mind, the curse releases them until they again decide to attack our people.
We have our own dark influences to deal with now. The three races, with their kings, Isabel and I all pray for the invaders from off our world leave us in peace. Given time, we will come to grips with those who remain here.
Our Rangers and dwarves patrols take half the year to eliminate all remaining dark ones fully. During that time, we have constructed two new citadels, with a large keep, and plenty of room for the future growth to each. One we built on the Eastern ruins, one just north of Black Lake.
The Citadel by the lake we call Victoria because it is the place of our final victory against the Army of dark ones. All three races build and share homes there. Victoria quickly becomes a center of trade with the dwarves. Victoria built around a hill and a new wide tunnel dug from the dwarfs’ home to a gate in the side of that hill. A grand market constructed in the tunnel near its opening. Carpets carry goods to and from the humans and elves to trade at the market in Victoria.
Together the three races live, work, and play in peace.
This was Isabel’s and my beginning, we become a family, a royal family with its responsibilities. In addition we were the chosen of the goddess, and the three races began to see us as belonging to them. Isabel and I traveled more during our last two years than anyone has before.
We finally did create a magical carpet with a small house, well house is not quite correct. It is really a small temple to the goddess with apartments for us and our children. However that would be the beginning of the next story.