An Orc for All Seasons

The Lord Cleaver is a position of immense power in Slothjemia, and is the person who registers and monitors mercenary and paramilitary organizations. Mercenaries have always been a thriving profession in Slothjemia, selling their services to other states, creating a thriving economy on the one thing that Slothjemians do well; fighting. The office of the Lord Cleaver also controls the reserve armies of Slothjemia, which are basically huge mercenary forces that the Empress can field in defense of her allies abroad when she doesn’t want to commit her own soldiers. Members of the reserves are therefore often more battle tested than many in the standing military, having fought in foreign conflicts on behalf of other nations.

 

Chapter 6

 

Jandle was occupied the rest of the day making sure that Grundoon’s armor was polished and prepared. There was a large pile of stuff in the middle of the general’s room that the kobold had gone through to select what might be needed for a military campaign. Wasn’t much to take. Other than his weapons and armor, all the orc wanted was his uniform and food. Jandle had to go through everything to find the uniform in the worst possible shape. No sense getting a perfectly good one all chopped and bloodied up.

Meanwhile Grundoon had a long meeting with his senior staff. It was the first time in a long while that they had all been crammed into his office at the same time. He had them find places to sit, and if they couldn’t find a seat they took turns pacing about those that were seated.

“Alright, you all heard the Lord High Marshal.” Grundoon leaned back into his chair and clasped his hands across his barrel chest. “We are under orders to maintain our garrison, and to engage in patrol activity to support the local nobility and defend the grafdom.” He looked carefully at his staff. “Any thoughts as to how we can get into this war? I am nearing the end of my career as a warrior, and would like one last shot at battlefield glory. I suspect everyone in Vorkelburg feels restless for war, but none more than I.”

Colonel Yazkoor said “There is always the chance that Romillia will attack down this way.” He then shrugged. “Not a good chance though. They could not hold any territory this far away from their own lands.” The rest of the officers murmured in agreement.

Colonel Rachtenbort next spoke up jokingly with “My troops are ready to ride and keep watch, General. Your lands will be closely monitored.” There was a ripple of laughter from everyone. All of them knew that the baron’s lands were entirely visible from right here in Vorkelburg.

After the snickering died down Colonel Grimstag raised her hand. The general nodded at her to speak. And old custom that few in the military paid much mind to, that the female officers should show deference when in mixed company. Sarla was old-fashioned that way. She said “You are the lord upon whose lands this garrison is stationed. What are your concerns?” She smiled and tilted her head ever so slightly. Grundoon knew that the clever lady had picked up on the same loophole that he had noticed in the orders from the Lord High Marshal.

“My concerns,” he said almost hesitatingly, “are that the patrols go far enough out in the district to detect enemy troop movements.” He grinned. “Way out there. Maybe an extended patrol of several days.” The other officers realized what their lord was up to and smiled. “Could be a couple of weeks.”

They had a good long laugh. As the commandant Grundoon had no authority to take troops off on a wild adventure outside of their military district, and that was restricted to the Grafdom of New Vilhelmia. “Does anyone know where our Graf is these days?” Grundoon asked, looking at each of his executive officers.

Major Temlar raised his hand, and said, “Yes, my lord. He is at his estate in Wesslern. His gout has been flaring, and according to the gossip in Borostat, he is under a doctor’s orders to stay in bed.”

“Finally, a break in our luck.” Grundoon muttered. The rest of the officers agreed that this was a fortuitous turn of events, and for a few minutes they chatted happily about the Graf being out of sight, until Grundoon interrupted them.

“Count Rachtenbort, do you have any property near the Romillian border?” asked Grundoon. The general had no holdings outside of the little valley below Vorkelburg, so he could not make the request for himself. That was beyond unreasonable. Something that farcical would get everyone in trouble with the high command.

“My family does have a hunting lodge and a small parcel of timberland just east of Jaggerholmschloss.” The half-orc knew along what lines the general was hinting at. “If you were so kind as to request a military patrol on my behalf, I would be most appreciative.” The other officers laughed.

“Alright my good count. I’ll dig out some of my official barony letterhead stationery and send off a letter to the commanding officer in my district immediately.” The general shuffled some papers around on his desk. “Ah yes, here we go. As the commandant of this garrison I have received Baron von Vorkel’s request and see here that it is in fact all properly prepared and so forth.” He looked back at his staff. “So let’s get that patrol together.”

In the celebratory mood that followed the rest of the discussion Grundoon wasn’t sure who first asked, “Who is staying here?” A very good question to be sure. Grundoon had been thinking about that very issue for hours. The officers threw out a few suggestions, such as a lottery or coin toss, either for commanders of whole units or as individual soldiers. After hearing them debate their ideas for a while Grundoon realized that none of them wanted to stay. The chance to see actual combat, and on the field against a real army and not rogue raiders that too often ran too fast from battle, this was too much to miss out on. Grundoon decided he had no other option but to make an unpleasant choice.

“Colonel Grimstag will be in charge of the citadel while we go on our patrol.” Grundoon’s suddenness startled the officers and their discussion came to an abrupt halt.

The first to speak was Sarla herself. “Well piffle.” She looked around at her fellow officers. “You clods had better do well in this.”

Grundoon continued before any other debates were raised. “The second in command of the garrison will be Major Temlar. We can’t take the bombards with us anyway, so you and your soldiers will remain here and keep watch for Romillian skycruisers. The big guns on the tops of the towers can elevate to make themselves an effective deterrent, so make sure those weapons are loaded and ready to fire with whatever powder you can scrounge together.”

Temlar had pretty much given up on being able to join the patrol because of his damn immobile guns and he just gave a half-hearted salute to the general. “Yes sir. If those flying dwarves come down this way at all we will give them quite a welcome.” He sighed. It would have been good to get into a scrap.

Grundoon dug around in the papers on his desk. “It looks like around fifteen percent or so of our garrison is female. I want all of them here.” The other officers were shocked and all began raising objections. Grundoon impatiently waved them down. “I said they are staying HERE!” he yelled. Silence.

He sat back in his chair again, holding some of the late Major Hossler’s report. “Here. We have women in every branch. Axes, pikes, crossbows, cavalry, every branch. We need a diverse cadre to pull off this deception.” The staff officers all looked at the general intently. “This castle is being watched. At all times we must assume that the liches of the Diosian Lodge are keeping track of what happens here. They may not be actively scrying our movements but they can easily have some undead minion perched in a tree across the river watching to see what we do. We must not let anyone know that things here are any different than at any other time. The garrison must appear to be fully staffed. There must be mounted patrols on the road to Borostat. We have to have troops on the ramparts. There must be reveille every morning and signs of life throughout.” Grundoon paused. “And if any fighting does happen, I know of no better warriors than the women of the 6th Army defending their hearth.”

There was a murmur of reluctant agreement among the officers. They knew that this was the best way. They could not very well just all up and leave, locking the door behind them. There were also the many children to be considered. The garrison was more than just the men and women under arms in the citadel. There were families here. And they had to be safeguarded.

Grundoon put the papers down and took a long, and disturbingly serious look at his senior officers. “If we are going to make this work we have to be extra careful, above and beyond our normal call of duty. All of this…” he waved his hands over the papers, “paperwork. All of it is only good for when things go wrong. We can do a song and dance to justify why we did what we did.” He paused. “It is important that things not go wrong. We have to get our army all the way across the coreland without hassle. And for that I am open to suggestions.”

General Blackcowl was the first to speak. “Because the banners of the 6th Army cannot be anywhere other than here, in this district, without specific orders to deploy from higher up the ladder.”

“Exactly.” Said Grundoon. “We go to battle, but our banners can’t be seen on the roads.”

The officers thought about this for several minutes. Finally, it was Colonel Oosterbrig, the goblin, who very excitedly exclaimed “I’ve got it! I know how we can do this!” The other officers turned their attention to him immediately and encouraged him to speak up.

Oosterbrig tried to remain calm as he spoke, his already high-pitched voice sounding almost comical. “Volunteer militia. That’s the key! Volunteer militia!”

Everyone exclaimed delight with this notion. It did actually solve most of the problems with getting an army from one place to another when it isn’t supposed to be moving about at all outside of its district. The 6th Army would, while on patrol, have to become somebody else. For the next half hour or more the officers brainstormed ideas and shared ways to disguise a clearly professional force as run-of-the-mill citizens armed to the teeth and looking to defend their nation. Armor would have to be less than perfectly clean, and uniforms packed away to be worn only if actual battle was engaged. They would need new banners but they had to look home-made and with all different unit numbers. The fact that this volunteer militia was huge, easily ten times larger than any similar force in Slothjemia was going to be a problem. Grundoon and his officers agreed not to dwell on that issue. If anyone asked they would defer to Grundoon.

And so, the staff officers ended their meeting and set about getting their units ready for this adventure. Everything had to be made ready, and quickly. Grundoon hadn’t told anyone but he suspected that the aerial assault on Summit Village was just the beginning. Romillia was going to have to invade through one of the passes into Slothjemia to secure their prize as part of Romillia. While the troops of the 6th Army began making new banners and practiced pretending not to be real soldiers, Grundoon stood alone in his office and stared at the big map on his wall. Right above the faerie fire encircled town of Summit Village was another important feature. The small but strategic pass called Garvin’s Gap. About five days march away. They had no time to lose.

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