An Orc for All Seasons

The only race that goblinoids cannot interbreed with are elves. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t get up to frisky shenanigans; only that they are unable to reproduce via such activities. This exclusion does not apply to half-elves, of course, and it also does not apply to half-goblinoids. The list of interbreeding combinations found in Slothjemia is always growing, and to those that live in surrounding nations, this is both horrifying and abominable.

 

Chapter 21

 

Storg found some tools in the Romillian freight, and Kurt was able to salvage some of his own tools from the ruins of his shop that had been destroyed by the Romillian artillery. Although everyone was tired, the dwarves and the blacksmith with the queasy stomach began to cut Prince Holburt out from the floor of the juggernaut, where he lay trapped and covered in a blanket. The pounding of hammers and metal chisels drowned out his raspy breathing.

Meanwhile, Grundoon had found that his men had set up a luxurious place for him to sleep. The tent was huge, and of exquisite quality. It must have been Holburt’s own, and the men had set up a comfortable bed, and laid out food on a table in the tent. Grundoon had eaten some, but he was too tired to do much more. He collapsed on his bed, armor and all, and fell into a peaceful slumber. Jandle unrolled some blankets at the foot of his master’s bed, and also fell fast asleep. Far off, it seemed, they could have heard the ringing hammers of the workmen busy inside the juggernaut.

The skies continued to clear, as the previous morning’s storm made its way to the south. Wispy clouds did little to cover the stars, or hide the waning moon. The torches and lanterns in the valley were hardly needed, as the celestial lights did much to brighten the gap. The soldiers took their turns at manning the defenses, and were able to get a good amount of sleep, considering all they had been through. At no point in the night was there any sign of trouble from down the road to the east.

Just before dawn, the 6th Army sounded reveille and the camp stirred to life. The cavalry began the dirty job of stomping the dead Romillians into the fields around Garvin’s Gap. The vast majority of the 6th Army was poised at the defensive line, and those not assigned to that duty were busy with their assigned chores. Grundoon woke up with his muscles stiffened, and sore from having slept in his armor. Jandle brought him a warm beer, and the orc sipped on it. He didn’t feel like opening his eyes. Without the delightful heavy cloud cover, the rising sun was already too bright. As thick as the tent was, the sun was still difficult for the goblinoid to bear.

“Where is the paper that elf woman signed?” he asked Jandle. The kobold pointed to the table with last night’s meal still on it. There next to the plate of roast meat was the paper. Grundoon sighed. “Give me a hand with getting out of this monkey suit, will you?”

Jandle set about getting his lord out of his banded mail armor. It was an easy task, and was quickly accomplished. The armor would need a good cleaning, but it had not suffered very much damage in the battle. Grundoon then moved to the table, and sat in the chair his men had provided last night. “Get my uniform, Jandle. I have to write up this deal, now that I have it signed.” The two men chuckled, and Jandle hurried off to fetch his master’s personal luggage.

Grundoon took his pen out of Jandle’s satchel next to the bed and began to write. He had thought about it almost from the moment he had seen the destruction of Garvin’s Gap. Very carefully he put his finest calligraphy to use. For an orc, his handwriting was exquisite. And while it would not pass for that of a trained scribe or person of higher learning, it was still remarkable. He had always taken pride in his penmanship, but had gone to great lengths to hide his artistic writing from his men. They understood courage and battle lust, and had little tolerance for more peaceable pursuits. Grundoon had always looked at calligraphy as a sort of poetry all in itself. Even the drabbest legal document could be made enormously pleasing to the eye. And so, he set to make artwork from the blank page with Warleeza’s signature at the bottom.

He was very happy with the result. As he placed the pen back in its case, and then back into Jandle’s satchel he took another drink of the warm beer. He tore off some meat, and chewed contentedly on it while he waited for his squire to return. He listened to his men outside. They were busy with straightening up the camp, and further securing their defenses.

The 6th Army had brought up the captured Romillian artillery, and filled the valley opening to the east road with the cannon. Behind these guns, fully loaded and ready for action, were the long spears and shields of the Slothjemian forces. They were not trained artillerists, but they knew enough how to load the cannon for one shot. And while they couldn’t keep the guns firing, they surely could fire one big blast to wipe out any force coming down the road towards the gap. The urds had returned from the ancient crumbling watchtower that the Romillians had bombarded and ruined just in case there was a garrison there, to report no unusual activity up on the peak of the mountain overlooking the valley. The only sign of Romillians were their captured tents, and the heads on pikes and impaled bodies placed on both sides of the road leading east to the enemy homeland.

Jandle returned with his lordship’s bags, and prepared the general’s uniform. He laid out the tunic carefully. He pulled out the smooth wooden case containing Grundoon’s medals and awards. He looked at his master quizzically. Grundoon looked at him, smiled and nodded. Jandle opened the case, and carefully, almost reverently, began to pin the medals to the grey field uniform. When he finished he placed the knighthood medal on its’ ribbon next to the tunic. Grundoon stood, and put on his tunic. While he adjusted the knighthood around his neck, Jandle took a rag and shined up the baron’s boots.

The guard outside poked his head in to the tent. “Milord, that drow woman is here to see you, sir.” Grundoon looked up, and motioned for him to clean up the clutter. Jandle closed the medal case, and straightened the bed. Everything was swept aside quickly, and the tent room put in quick order. Grundoon motioned to the guard. He stepped out of the tent, and Grundoon could hear him speaking to the visitor outside.

Warleeza stepped in, her lithe feminine form wrapped in fur-lined black cloth robe with an intricate silver web design, as would be expected from the drow. “General, may I speak to you? Privately?” She shot a glance at Jandle. The kobold looked at Grundoon. The general nodded at him.

Jandle quickly left the tent, but squinted at the woman as he did so. He would not be far away, should his master require him.

The general motioned for her to have a seat on the other chair. He never did stand to greet her, as a man would a lady. Grundoon didn’t have it in him today to pretend to care what this woman thought of him. He made an attempt at a smile, but then decided to take a drink instead.

Warleeza sat down and it was obvious to Grundoon that he was acutely uncomfortable with her. She smiled at him. “I have never been yelled at by a man before. Especially in public.”

“No doubt. If the men here are anything like your blacksmith, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were terrified of you.” Grundoon took another drink, and then tore another piece of meat off and chewed on it.

Warleeza laughed. “Oh, don’t pay any mind to Kurt. He is an innocent.” She fixed her gaze on the orc. “He was not born to violence, as you and I were.

“I was not born to violence, lady. I was born to war. Violence is just part of it. The greater part, is victory.” Grundoon stared at her. He realized that she was trying to be seductive. He also knew that he hated it. “What do you want? I have an army to tend, and a number of irons in the fire that have to be monitored.”

“What do you intend to do with my signature?” The woman leaned forward, and crossed her arms across her knees. “I think you should tell me what it is that I signed.”

The baron took the paper off the table. “This is a document declaring that I am half owner of your inn and tavern. I don’t know the name of it, so I called it the Avenging Urd.” He looked at Warleeza. “If you choose to change the name that’s up to you. But the sign out front will have a black urd on it, and say very clearly ‘The Avenging Urd.’ But call it whatever you like.”

The elf frowned, and then smiled. “But it was ‘The Black Elf.’ That is the name everyone knew it as.” She tried her best to be disarming.

“And now it isn’t.” Said Grundoon, chewing on the cold roasted meat from last night. “Change is all around us, lady. And we always have to do something we hate as a result.” He burped. “I, for one, hate having to take back money I have given to somebody, just because they want to be a stubborn cow. I do like chopping up the people that argue with me, but taking back money is just so thuggish.” He sipped his warm beer. “So, let’s agree that the tavern and inn have a new name, before I have you stomped into the field out there and then I can build whatever I want and call it ‘The Avenging Urd.’ How about that?”

The drow elf sat up straight and eyed the orc. She wasn’t very sure if he was being serious or not. Then she remembered his outburst the afternoon before, and decided he was serious. She quickly changed her tone. “That is a fine name, baron. An excellent name.” She smiled sweetly. Grundoon grunted and ate some more.

“Then what else would you like your inn to have?” She asked.

The orc just shrugged. “I don’t care. Do whatever you like. It is your money, now; do as you wish. I am certain that however it turns out ‘The Avenging Urd’ will be a smashing success.” He took another sip of beer, and cleared his throat. “Out front there at the crossroads will be a monument to the battle here. That is my gift to the good folks of Garvin’s Gap.”

Warleeza cocked her head and looked at the general. “Monument? Because of your victory here, I suppose.” She had a difficult time figuring out what this man was thinking. She had never had this problem before. She had always been able to read men like pamphlets.

“No.” Said Grundoon. “Because of our loss here.” He looked at her. “Good men and women died here, because of one man’s desire to make a big name for himself. He lost an army. The good folks that died defending Slothjemia were worth more than anything he lost or would have gained. The monument is to them.” Grundoon looked down at the ground. “I have to find a metal sculptor to do the job. Until then we are going to build a rock pile there. And that is where we will set Prince Holburt for the time being.

Warleeza laughed wickedly. “And that’s why you want him cut out of that thing.” She laughed again. She looked at Grundoon and her eyes half closed with a smirk. “Have you ever been with a dark elf, General?” the drow elven woman purred.

“No.” replied Grundoon. He took a long drink of ale.

“Then you have no idea what a delight you have waiting for you.” She said.

Grundoon looked at her for a moment. He took another drink of warm beer, finishing what was in his tankard. He wiped his mouth off on his sleeve. He looked her in the eyes. “Have you ever seen the ocean?”

“No.” replied the elf, seductively smiling. “Have you?”

Grundoon shook his head. “No.” He leaned back in his chair. “I have not seen the ocean, or any sea. I was born and raised in the swamp. That is where I feel the most at home. I feel as though I belong there. I have seen the mountains, the forests, the little valleys hidden away. I have seen the vast plains to the north and south. I have even seen the great rivers of this land. But, I have never seen the ocean. And yet here I am, wealthy, powerful, a man of renown, who commands men to kill and be killed. I want for nothing.” He looked at the drow elven woman, and leaned forward. He put his elbows on the table, and clasped his hands together under his chin. “There is nothing I could gain by seeing the ocean.”

The drow elf’s mood changed. She realized that he would never succumb to her feminine wiles. She smiled coldly and stood up.

Grundoon continued. “That isn’t to say that the sea is not a beautiful thing to behold. But, it just isn’t for me.” He turned his attention back to his empty tankard. “JANDLE!” he yelled. “MORE BEER!”

Jandle came running in as the woman left the tent. She turned and said somewhat coldly, “Good day, General. Congratulations on your victories.” And then she was gone.

Jandle collected the general’s tankard and headed out to get more of the warm beer for his master. Grundoon tore off another hunk of meat from the plate in front of him and chewed on it thoughtfully. His mind went over the battle, and the current order of things in Garvin’s Gap. He thought about when reinforcements were going to arrive, and who it might be. Now that the 6th Army had nailed down this valley, Grundoon began to ponder the consequences of having left his garrison. He had been able to bluff his way past the Red Guard, but they had been focused on assaulting Summit Village. Anyone arriving now would have nothing to focus on, except the 6th Army holding a defensive position over five days’ journey away from where they should be.

Returning with the beer for his boss, Jandle handed him the tankard and sat down on the end of the bed. Grundoon finished off the beer in one long guzzle, and slammed the tankard back onto the table. “Well let’s have a look at today, Jandle.” With that he rose from his chair, grabbed his trusty axe, and marched into the morning light.

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