Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rynyalla - The Marches of Winter

Rynyalla - The Marches of Winter

A short story I wrote.


Four orcs knelt in benediction. Given the race’s propensity for bloodshed, it is something of a marvel that these four brutes would hold themselves in abject submission for so long. Minutes ticked long before a vast assemblage, more than a few thousand orc brothers and sisters who crowded before the raised platform.

It was a wintery cold morning over the plains of Arreth. Brightly coloured tents and tipis were arrayed in a massive conflagration for this auspicious occasion. Metal bristled among the ranks of the horde, but spirits were high. They’d feasted through the night, tapped too many orcish ale kegs, danced and sang until the sun rose over the ice...and brought no more warmth. Now the mood was serious and sombre. Though there were pockets of whispered conversation and shifting, most of the assembled orcs were content to stand and wait in the snow.

The four Shamans murmured their prayers, in a loose square they had been bent for the better part of an hour. Finally the lead Shamaness, garbed in elabourate wooden beadwork and covered from head to toe in intricate tattoos rose and bellowed. A second time. Her voice was a kind of rough sandpaper, rasping and sharp. A third time. At this the congregation answered her with a bellow of their own. Indecipherable it was a roar across the snow, heard for leagues away. Animals scattered, birds took wing, even the ice seemed to part for a moment. Then they stamped, just once. Snow scattered into the air, a fine icy mist as the ground shook. The platform swayed ever so slightly, cascades of frost fell from trees.

Tarruk en-Grimak emerged. From his command tent behind the platform, two personal guards with wicked spears parted the curtains of his tent, and the Orc Warlord stepped out. en-Grimak stood another head and a half taller than any orc, at 35 stone he outweighed some ogres even. He cut a barbarous sight, adorned in wyrvenn leathers dyed a bloody red from all of his slain foes, his chest was armored in Basilisk scales that had jutting sharp edges, and a rip-tattered cloak of scarlet he had removed from an Elvish general. A true Orcish sword was worn at his hip, a razor-keen blade with a savage hookback on the back side. Orc tale-weavers called it Orenmir, after an Elvish story of a blade that cut through fate.

Tarruk en-Grimak climbed the platform slowly, his every step watched in a kind of spellboundness by his horde. Orcs, notoriously treacherous, had no jealousy when they observed him, but were as ever in shock and awe of their Warlord. He took his place without word in the center of the Shamans, drew Orenmir and drove it several inches deep into the platform.

His two personal guards then rose the platform as well, between them, a human captive from the fighting days before. But no ordinary human this, it was the Mage-King Adelbrand, of the Nation-State of Rioun. He was not ill treated, perhaps a bit disheveled after the battle prior. His crown of silver still sat on his head, clad in a brass ringmail. His arms were bound and his feet shackled, he moved slowly but regally. They made him kneel on the platform before the Shamaness. He spoke not a word, but had an air of nobility to him that left none in doubt. He was prepared, so he thought, of what was to come.

The Shamaness bellowed again, which was answered by the horde. en-Grimak stepped forward, and with an almost elegant savagery grabbed Adelbrand’s head between his mailed fists and twisted once. The snapping was echoed by the stamping of the horde, as en-Grimak then did something which would be written about again, and again.

His mailed fist smashed into the head of the late-king, grabbing his right eye and pulling. The eye came away with little resistance, of no use to its former owner anymore anyway. Then en-Grimak took a proffed ritual dagger from the Shaman behind him, and delicately skewered his own right eye on it. Silence filled the snow swept plains. He didn’t grimace or show any pain, instead with an almost casual flick, he severed his own right eye on the tip of the dagger.

And then he swallowed both eyes. His own and the humans.

The orcs held themselves shock still.

The Shamans ceased their chanting, instead staring wild-eyed at their Warlord.

Where it had come from, no one would be able to say. A straight answer would never come. Instead, there was simply a moment when there were only the seven standing on the platform, with the still-cooling body of the human King between them, and then there was also another.

It was an orc, but unlike any other orc they’d ever seen. Twelve feet tall, with a mottled red skin that seemed to ignite the very air. His one eye seemed to pierce them all, as he surveyed the masses. Then there was a tremendous roar, far more than could have been produced by that horde. It was heard on the wind a hundred leagues to the south in Bastion. It shook the wild Ever-trees of the north. It smashed against the walls of the Barrier to the West. And it sent up a ferocious tidal surge across the Arenchanas to the East.

It was every war cry, every roar of battle, every din of victory and cheer rolled into one. It was deafening, and terrible.

Then he was gone, and in his place crouched Tarruk en-Grimak. The Warlord’s skin had gone from his traditional green-brown mixture to a shade of burning bloody red. And in his fleetingly empty socket, burned an ember of Vermillion.

When he rose, the Shamans abased themselves, as did the arrayed horde, as did the animals and seemingly even the sun and the sky were cowed.

Thus began the Marches of Winter.

-As written in “An Ongoing History of the World” by Hobgoblin Lorekeeper Borchol.