Jandle had laid out the orc’s armor earlier in the day, and Grundoon took off the finer, more delicate decorations of his uniform in order to put on the well-worn suit of banded mail. There were no words adequate for how much he appreciated this protective outfit. He had worn this armor for every battle, military exercise, and training event for the last forty years. It had been repaired countless times, and it was doubtful that any part of it remained that had been in the original suit. To say that it had served him well was an understatement of epic proportions.
He could put most of it on himself and had just gotten the leggings attached when Jandle returned to help him with the rest. Grundoon asked his squire, “Is Kreg in motion?” and the kobold just nodded his head. Jandle began to help his lord affix his sleeves and the all-important torso armor. Grundoon stood so that the kobold, standing on a chair, could reach his shoulders to make the final adjustments. The orc continued to talk. “Very well. We should be in place right about the time he finishes. Moak and Malek know their jobs, so this evening should go by quickly.”
Jandle didn’t say anything but slipped into his own studded leather armor and grabbed his short sword and buckler. He nodded up at Grundoon, who grabbed his beloved axe and began to head back towards the keep across the courtyard.
Just before they arrived at the front doors, one of the hired guards stepped out for a breath of fresh air. He saw the orc pulling the axe back across his body, but before this registered as a threat, Grundoon swung, and with horrific force sliced the man clean in half in a slightly diagonal slash. There was hardly a noise made as the two parts of the guard’s body fell to the ground. Jandle peered in through the open door and nodded to his lord indicating it was clear.
Stepping inside the keep, his axe dripping with blood, Grundoon looked at the handful of mercenaries in the reception hall. These fellows had not yet eaten their dinner, or even had a chance to get down to the kitchen. There were half a dozen of them, and they were visibly at ease and not anticipating any trouble. Only one of them even bothered to look at Grundoon as he came into the hall, and even so it wasn’t apparent that he noticed the blood on the axe blade. Grundoon adjusted his helmet with his left hand, and began his charge across the vast room, pulling the axe behind him to the right as he picked up speed. The fellow that had noticed him, shouted, and all of the guards in the room spun around in shock, fumbling for their weapons and trying in vain to prepare for this wholly unexpected attack.
Jandle was coming in low right behind Grundoon, and as the old orc ran with a crash into the guards, his squire was right there, stabbing upwards with his little sword. The narrow blade ran perfectly between pieces of armor and was long enough to do substantial damage with each thrust. From above, Grundoon’s axe fell like the thunder of a storm, cleaving through upraised arms and smashing through helmets, skulls, and everything else that blocked its path. Using his size and strength, as well as the element of total surprise, Grundoon threw the guards every which way as he swung his axe. He seemed totally oblivious to any fight they dared to put up, as if their weapons had no effect on him. He kicked at men that fell before him, and savagely swung the axe in wild arcs, sending blood all over the great hallway. The guards’ weapons were knocked all over as well, some imbedded in walls or furniture, while the screaming men flailed about in an attempt to thwart the onslaught. Every time one of them closed in to strike Grundoon, Jandle was there to parry the blow or outright slay the attacker by stabbing into their flank. It was a dance of murderous rage, and only two of the participants had studied their choreography.
Although the fight seemed to drag on for hours, it was over in just a few minutes. The guards, hacked into pieces and spread over a large area, had turned the floor into a pond of blood. Grundoon pushed his helmet back a little and fought to catch his breath. “Woo! That was some workout.” He wheezed. Jandle laughed and looked down the hall towards the kitchen. Kreg stepped out through the kitchen doorway and waved to the two bloodied warriors in the reception hall. “Good.” Said Grundoon. “Looks like Kreg was right on schedule.”
Just then Moak and his young cousin Malek came down the stairs. Their blades, too, were running with blood and gore. The elder of the two said, in his sinister way, “The servants that the dwarves brought along have been seen to, milord.” With a dark, evil laugh he and Malek took their places on either side of the Governor-General. Grundoon approached the dining room doors.
Grundoon paused, his gauntleted hand resting on the door handle. Moak looked at him, and in a quizzical voice that still retained his customary tone of sinister intent, asked “Having second thoughts, are we Governor?”
The old orc shook his head slowly but didn’t open the door. He didn’t look at the huntsman, either. He just closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Moak dropped his voice a bit and said “No sense letting a touch of moral ethics ruin a perfectly good atrocity, me lord. This is what we do. You swore an oath, back in that wretched battlefield, you swore this day would come. You can’t back out now. Our bloodlust is what defines us. Without it we are no better than elves; just humans with green skin and bad breath. You need to get this done. This happens, and you’re going to take the lead.”
Grundoon knew the cunning swamp orc was right. He had taken an oath. It was too late to consider the horrifying consequences of it now. The time to have given it proper thought was before he had made it. But he hadn’t. He hadn’t given it any real consideration at all.
The old orc tightened his grip on his axe. “Alright.” He growled. “Shut up, and let’s finish this. I have a lot to get done tomorrow.” With that, Grundoon pushed the great doors open, and hefted his axe over his shoulder, as though he were sizing up a sapling to be cleared from his field.
Moak followed him in to the dining hall, along with Jandle and Malek, and drawing his own sword, closed the door behind him, and with a wicked smile, slid the lock shut.
The savagery that followed took some time to fully play out. The dwarven guests had all succumbed to the diabolical seasonings that Lendler Giftmördun and his band of professional poisoners had cooked with. All of the meats had been heavily tainted with a toxin so strong that it would have killed a non-dwarf almost instantly. As it was, the children had slipped into comas and were unaware of what was happening. But the adults were all very much aware, fully conscious of what was going on, but physically unable to do so much as twitch an eyebrow. They heard the lengthy monologue that Grundoon had practiced in his head since the battle at Garvin’s Gap. They witnessed the horror unfolding before their unblinking eyes as his desire for revenge against the Velferin family was sated. Grundoon had chosen his cohorts very carefully, not only for their abilities, but for their discretion and loyalty. He had learned long ago, from no less a figure than his own father, that the key to success was to surround oneself with loyal and violent people. Nowhere in Slothjemia were there more accurate descriptions of the people Grundoon had helping him on this bloody, murderous occasion.
After they had finished their work, Giftmördun and his company of household servants were told to leave the castle. They could take all or some of the carriages the dwarves had brought, along with their baggage. This included a good amount of jewelry and valuable items, and Giftmördun’s pale cadre did not dilly-dally in rounding it all up. Quicker than the dwarves had unloaded their cargo, the creepy poisoners had it all loaded back on the carriages and were making their way out of the castle grounds.
Meanwhile, Jandle had pulled out the communication crystal, and had sent an urgent message to both the 2nd Army garrison in Brakoff and the Red Guard to call desperately for help. He spoke breathlessly that Castle Linkristle was under attack by a band of rebellious humans determined to kill the dwarves for accepting a financial deal with the Slothjemians. Jandle indicated that he feared the rogues had an even more sinister plan, before voluntarily severing the connection on his end of the conversation. He then placed the crystal back in his bag and went to fetch Grundoon’s horse.
Malek and Moak were busily working with a long spool of fuse, running the cord from inside the keep to the courtyard towards the gate. They fell short of the gate by a good amount, but there was still plenty of time to get clear when they set light to it. Kreg shouldered his halberd, and loped down the trail with his odd, lumbering gait, his mouth hanging open in a gruesome grin, with drool running down the side of his mouth. Moak knelt down, and with a bit of flint set a spark to the fuse. Malek shouted something and began to jog for the gate. His older cousin was right behind him. Grundoon swung up on his horse, and reached down to grab Jandle, who he then set down behind him before riding off out the gate and down the trail after Kreg.
They didn’t go far, just around a bend in the road that offered them some protection from the impending blast. Kreg was standing there laughing silently, his shoulders heaving but no sound coming from his mouth. Moak and his cousin leaned against the rocks of the mountain, and Grundoon did what he could to soothe the horse in anticipation of the explosion.
The power of the blast was startling to everyone, including the huntsmen that had spent months placing the charges in key points throughout the castle. Their preparation had paid off handsomely, for when they peered around the bend at where the castle had once stood, all that was left was the gatehouse. Every tower, the main keep, and almost every inch of the outer wall had collapsed. Dust filled the night sky, looking more like smoke than debris. There were bricks everywhere, shards of carved stone, splintered wood and pieces of iron reinforcement.
Moak stared wide-eyed at the annihilation. “Good Lord, sir. That went off with more of a bang than I thought possible!” He couldn’t contain his enjoyment and laughed out loud.
“Wow.” Said Jandle, a man who had seen many bombards fired and the carnage they could produce. “That was intense.” He looked up at Grundoon but couldn’t see the old orc’s face.
Grundoon turned to the others and said “This concludes this portion of the job, boys. Thank you for your help. Moak, if you and Malek want to help finish this once and for all, I have the names of six dwarves that need to be located. They couldn’t be here tonight, so we’ll have to deliver their portion of my settlement.”
The two jors snickered. Moak said “Yes, my lord. A pleasure to serve you and carry out your wishes.”
Grundoon smiled thinly. “For now, get moving before the cavalry arrives. I’ll let you know when to begin the final phase of this operation.” With that, the two huntsmen laughed, and scampered noiselessly down the path, off the trail, and vanished into the dark.
Grundoon addressed Kreg now. “Alright, noble beast. Let us go back and do what we can to weave a believable reason for all of this. I’ll do the talking.” He climbed down off of his horse, and handed the reins to Jandle, before walking back to the smoldering ruins of Castle Linkristle. Kreg and Jandle followed him, and together the three waited for help to arrive.