An Orc for All Seasons; Chapter 28

New Vilhelmia is one of the largest grafdoms in Slothjemia; a vast, mostly mountainous, and heavily forested domain. There were only two cities of note there when Slothjemia seized control of it from the lich-lord Frenklar the Brazen, but now, towns and villages have grown all across the grafdom. In the larger valleys, such as the one Borostat sits in the middle of, agriculture flourishes, a stark contrast to how things were when the undead ruled.

Chapter 28

The men of the 6th Army awoke rested, and ready for the day. Some slept until a wake-up call was sounded all across the city, but many more were up and dressed before that. Officers who had been put in charge of their unit’s loot were meeting with the city merchants to discuss the amount of coins that the respective captured goods were worth. Kernschloss was a wealthy city, and the fact that the bulk of the Romillian treasure trove was dwarven-crafted weapons and armor did much to drive the prices upwards. All-in-all, the men who had trekked from Vorkelburg to Garvin’s Gap were finding that their adventure was indeed going to pay off handsomely.

While the final sums were being settled on, Grundoon and Jandle met with Hothror and the elders of the city in the center of the city plaza. The archduke had wanted to be on hand to bid the column farewell as they left the city and headed on to Borostat.

The dwarf lord held out his hand, and Grundoon clasped it firmly. “Thank you.” Said the orc. “The men that volunteered to fight with us, and marched with Storg, did a fine job. I am sure they will be an asset to Summit Village and be instrumental in the rebuilding of their defenses.”

The archduke nodded and smiled. “They told us via the communication crystal in Summit Village that they would be there for a couple of months. They also told us you were heading home. It seems as though your war with Romillia is over, baron.”

“My war isn’t over, I am just being sent home for the time being.” Grundoon made a disgruntled laugh. “There is still much to be done. My men did their part, and now it is up to others to continue the fight. I have promises still to fulfill, my brother.” The two men locked eyes. Hothror knew how it was to make an oath and then have circumstances change to make carrying it out almost impossible. And while he didn’t know precisely what Grundoon had sworn to do, he knew that the orc would not just simply let it go.

“If there is anything I or my family can do to assist you in your duty, just let me know.” Hothror released Grundoon’s hand and saluted the general. “By taking Storg and his militia with you to battle, you did much to clear our city of any hint of unpatriotic sentiment. I am indebted to you for that gesture.”

Grundoon returned his salute. “It wasn’t a gesture. They fought and fought well. They helped to secure our camp and served as an honor guard over a very important prisoner. Their valor is what spoke the loudest for your city, and your people.” Grundoon motioned for Jandle to go fetch his horse. “There is something you can do for me, though. I wish to commission a full-sized metal statue of an urd in flight. It needs to be made to look as though it is soaring over the remains of a dead Romillian field marshal, as part of the memorial we built in Garvin’s Gap. Let me know if there is anyone among your craftsmen willing to create such a thing.”

Hothror smiled broadly. “I have just the person in mind, brother. I’ll ask him and have him contact you in Vorkelburg.” The two men embraced, and with a wave they said good-bye.

The column began to assemble. Not being encumbered by as much baggage would make their next couple of days much easier. The dwarves and supply officers had settled on prices for the bulk of the Romillian loot. That included the enemy wagons. The only wagons going on with the column were the ones they had hired in Borostat. The enemy stores of gunpowder, still packed into their waterproof barrels, were loaded onto the Borostat wagons with the food and ale gifted by the people of Kernschloss. The wagons carrying the dead were draped in Slothjemian flags provided by the archduke.

Each of the soldiers had selected one or two items from the plunder for souvenirs, or to give as gifts to friends and family back home. It took a while for everyone to fall into line, but finally the time came for the men to begin their march homeward. Once again, all three cavalry divisions were in rotation. The main gates of the city were wide open, and with a loud blast from the advance cavalry bugles, the column began their day’s journey.

Just as the people of the city had turned out to welcome the army into town, they were now showing up to bid them farewell. Women and girls threw flowers, and the men clapped and cheered. Small children ran along, and laughingly sang the Slothjemian national anthem. Everyone was feeling good and enjoying the cool morning air. There were big fluffy clouds hanging in the sky, and the sun was in a much milder mood. The goblinoids were grateful for the cloud cover.

The first few hours passed quickly, and the men cheered themselves with songs as the column made its way through the heavily forested valley. At about the halfway point in the day, they came upon Waldenkamp Gorkosh, and took a break for a good meal and time to rest. The mercenaries guarding the lumbermen came out and bartered for Romillian trinkets. Lorgon came out to visit as well, and cheerfully greeted Grundoon and his officers.

“Ah! My dear friends!” Lorgon laughed boisterously. “And when did you all become the 6th Army?” He laughed again. “Going from militia, volunteers, and hired swords to becoming full-fledged respected members of the military in just a few days! That must have been some battle!” He continued laughing, and most everyone around started laughing too. Grundoon realized that he had, in fact, left his counterfeit banners and ragtag uniforms back in Garvin’s Gap. He couldn’t help but laugh too. He was going to have some explaining to do when he reached Borostat.

Grundoon said to Lorgon “We find this designation suits us better. It isn’t easy to walk away from army life.” Everyone laughed again. With a shrug, Grundoon shook Lorgon’s hand and Jandle handed the lumber boss a small bag of coins.

“What’s this for?” asked Lorgon, a quizzical look on his face.

“The blessing your priest gave my axe proved to be most effective.” Grundoon smiled. “My axe never cut better, and I just wanted to thank you properly.”

Lorgon laughed again. “My good general, you already paid for the blessing. Don’t you recall?”

Grundoon nodded his head. “Yes, I did. But that was for the blessing. This is payment for the victory.”

Lorgon tossed the little bag in the air and let it fall into his hand. “Feels like it was quite a victory! Good. I am pleased to have had a hand in it.” With that, the camp boss had his men bring water for the horses, and some grain. The soldiers that had been marching took advantage of the rest period and sat or laid down along the road in front of the camp. The tall trees and clouds made the entire day feel just about perfect. The troops that had been riding now did some walking to stretch their legs. It felt so good, that Grundoon decided to walk until the next break.

The soldiers finished their food and once again hit the road. Bidding a fond farewell to the lumbermen and their guards, the column headed towards Borostat. They passed through the gatehouse, and into the farmlands outside of the city. The gatehouse constabulary were glad to see the column but couldn’t hide their confusion. They, too, had noticed that these soldiers were wearing different uniforms, and carrying different banners than the soldiers that had come by here heading the other direction. But they were the same soldiers. Their confusion gave way to condolences, as the carts with the dead passed through the gate. They removed their helms and caps and bowed their heads. Whatever these troops were up to, they had lost good men along the way.

Heading across the rolling fields towards Borostat, the happy energy of the men turned to an almost giddy attitude. They were getting close to being home! They couldn’t contain themselves, and the column took to singing again. Grundoon smiled. He felt a relief that continued to grow as they drew closer and closer to Vorkelburg. There was a sense of peace that came along with setting eyes once again on Borostat. It wasn’t the greatest town in the world, but it was close to being home, and seeing it made him happy.

Grundoon and Jandle made their way on horseback to the front of the line. Finding Colonel Rachtenbort, the general rode up alongside, and told him to take a squad forward and head directly for the town. “Let them know we’re coming, colonel. We don’t want anyone surprised.” Then Grundoon and Jandle settled in with the advance cavalry, as Rachtenbort rode at a gallop with one of his squads to alert Borostat to the column’s arrival.

When the column made it to Borostat, the gates were wide open, and like Kernschloss, there were national flags everywhere. Red, white, and black bunting was everyplace. Long strips of likewise colored cloth hung down from the ramparts of the walls. The people of the town were dressed in their finest clothes, and the town band could be heard miles away. Grundoon grinned at the welcome being rolled out. Very different from the greeting they were given when first they came through on this adventure.

The sun was still an hour or so from setting, but all of Borostat was in party mode. The men wouldn’t be sleeping in the streets and alleys tonight. Just as they had in Kernschloss, the troops were being welcomed into the homes of the townsfolk. The horses were put up in every available stable and barn in town. The baggage carts were placed under armed guard in the central square and the judicial corps under Major Deckler would take turns guarding the wagons while everyone crowded into the taverns, pubs, and inns in Borostat to celebrate almost being home.

Grundoon was immediately concerned that the women in the town might find themselves in compromising circumstances. He told all officers to watch the men under their command and remind them of the penalties for a litany of offenses possible under even these welcoming conditions. The word went out like wildfire, and every soldier knew that tomorrow night they would be home. Then, and only then, would they be allowed to cut loose their inhibitions in the safety of Vorkelburg, and with their kinfolk and loved ones. They could drink and dance tonight, but the senior officers made it clear that is where they drew the line.

Poryt Hagilyn found Grundoon in one of the taverns shortly after night had fallen. Outside were hundreds of lanterns to illuminate the town, giving the place a festive glow. The mayor was sweating profusely, but this time due to excessive merriment, and not paranoia. “Lord General!” he shouted over the din of the tavern. “My very dear friend, Baron von Vorkel!” he jostled and made his way to where Grundoon was slouched on a bar stool. “I have heard from your cavalry commander of your great victory in the east. Such amazing news! And I have seen your brothers in arms struck down by the enemy.” The mayor lowered his head in a fleeting show of reverence. “My condolences, sir.”

Grundoon clapped his hand on the little man’s shoulder and squeezed as hard as he could for just a moment. “Your sympathy is most touching, Lord Mayor. Thank you.” Grundoon motioned for the bartender to come over and pointed at a bottle of strong spirits on the shelves behind the bar. “We’ll have that one, good sir. My friend the mayor is buying.”

Poryt laughed uneasily but nodded in agreement. He managed to push his way up to the bar and nudged a soldier to indicate he wished to share space on the barstool. The soldier looked at Grundoon, who just smirked, and gave a little nod. The soldier scooted over and let the fat little man have enough space to lean on the stool, too.

“Now be honest, mayor. Has there ever been a time when the taverns of Borostat were as filled with this many happy, joyful, paying customers?” Grundoon asked. He picked up the shot glass of milky green liquor and held it up.

Poryt picked up his shot glass as well and holding it up he asked the orc “Now be honest with me, general. Did you leave us without a garrison in this district, so you could run off and fight?”

Grundoon and the mayor both drank their shots. The general put his glass down to be refilled, and so did Poryt. “A fair question, Hagilyn. The answer is no. I left about twenty percent of the 6th Army guarding Vorkelburg and tending to whatever issues might arise.”

Poryt looked at the orc and looked thoughtful for a moment. “We have never had this many people spending their gold in town. A boost to our economy for certain.” The two men held up their shot glasses. The mayor said, “Perhaps you should patrol through here more often. And maybe with fewer troops. We’ll be out of alcohol by morning.”

The two men laughed and drank. As the night wore on, the soldiers and their host families gradually began to make their way towards sleep. The townsfolk left the lanterns on, and soon just a handful of militia were left awake along with the soldiers guarding the column’s carts and wagons. The sentries were wide awake, and all through the night all that any of them could think of, was that tomorrow they would be home.

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