JulNoWriMo Novel 2011
Prologue: The First Assault
Orgwell Phelth gripped his sword in tight apprehension. Even those orcs who did not belong to any tribe, knew no fear, and Orgwell wasn't a tribe less orc to say the least. He was a sergeant in the Grand Army of the Gazuk Tribe. Gazuk was one of the few words that anyone remembered or could find any records of in Old Orcish. Gazuk meant 'one who brings death'. Orgwell had killed many times before, but he found himself feeling a slight bit of fear. He had never felt this before, and he only knew of it from teachings. The teachings he had learned of how their enemies worked. How the felt, how they thought, anything that the orcs could do to fight back at being oppressed from the Surface.
Orcs had once roamed the Surface, with no one ever attempting to eradicate them. They had evolved to the point where they were on the verge of building great cities, one's which would have been impossible for the still evolving humans to conquer. Humans though, were more intelligent by far, and they had crushed the small cities the orcs had established, and pushed them through to the mountains, afraid for hundreds of years to go any further.
Then came the dwarves, and when the two races signed The Orc Expedition Treaty, they agreed to support each other, at least when it came to the matter of killing orcs, or even driving them to the Undersurface. Orcs were all dwarves number one hated enemy, even the Grey Dwarves, who almost all other dwarves had second on that list. They also had no fear of the caves the orcs holed themselves up in, and so slowly they were being pushed to the Undersurface.
The Gazuk Orcs had had enough, and they had secretly planned an attack. Only few orcs knew about it, The High Council, and the squad who was sent out on the mission. That happened to be Orgwell's squad of eleven men. The mission was fairly risky, and not in their usual style. They were supposed to quietly invade the human barracks in the middle of the night, and kill as many men as they could. They were only to back out at the last possible moment, as dictated by Orgwell himself.
There was a lot for him to fear, he realized. He not only had to survive in enemy territory where was outnumbered ten to one, but he also had to make the right decision at the right time. Every one of his men would also be debriefed, and since they were mostly veterans, all it would take was one shred of doubt in one of his men's debriefing, and he could take some serious heat. Serious heat was not something you wanted to be standing in the way of if you were an orc.
He had good men, and he had a damn good sword. On the last raid he had been involved with, he had killed a good many humans, and one had been wielding a rather pretty looking sword. Orcs culture was not as barbaric as humans thought, as any possession you picked up from the corpses or residences of your enemies, was yours to keep. The only exception to this was things The High Council deemed important, like human history records or anything that could help them evolve their technology.
Orgwell had taken the sword to a shaman, who had immediately showed interest in the weapon, immediately offering the orc fifty gold coins for the weapon. Humans did not realize that it was only the tribe less orcs who did not trade with currency, merely goods. Nearly every single tribe had a form of currency, the most standard one among The Great Tribes, was gold, silver, copper, and occasionally platinum, which very few orcs ever obtained. A platinum was a thousand gold coins, something most orcs would never own in their lifetimes.
He had denied the offer, wanting the security of a good weapon on the battlefield over the money. Sure he could of bought himself a nice weapon and maybe have some left over for some new armor replacements, but even with all fifty of the coins, he could not buy something of this quality. Something felt different about this weapon, he couldn't place what, but he could feel it. The shaman immediately enlightened him on the weapon. The first surprise was that it was made by a dwarven sword smith, but Orgwell had taken the sword from a dead human, so naturally he had assumed it was a human weapon. The second surprise, and the thing he had noticed different about it, was that there was magic embued into the sword.
The sword was of average size, not a short sword, but not a longsword either. Orgwell was informed by the shaman that the sword was made of mithril, a fact proved by the blue color and the hardness of the metal. The shaman told Orgwell that while he felt an aura of magic pulsing strongly from the sword, he could not tell him what kind of magic it was, and how it was activated. He could only tell the Sergeant that it was dwarven magic, and that it seemed powerful.
Seven of his eleven men were veterans, not old enough to be retired, but young enough to still be useful on the battlefield. They were still damn good at killing, and that was all that mattered. One of his men was a mid ranked soldier, who had a great tactical mind, and had saved his old squad a countless number of times before he had been transferred into Orgwell's squad. He had been transferred because the Sergeant of his former squad had been unwilling to listen to the new ideas he had been sprouting out because he had been young at the time, and didn't want some young recruit undermining his authority and rising quicker than him. Orgwell was the perfect Sergeant for the orc to be commanded under, as he would listen to all of his squads ideas, before making his own decision.
The last three of his men were all young newer recruits, who had showed remarkable and advanced progress on the battlefield. One was a tactician, but could use a hammer as good as some of the veterans. One had an remarkable talent for stealthily getting into places the squad needed to be in, and eliminating some of the front guards, without any alarm being rose. The last was the youngest, just barely reached the age of manhood, but he had what many truly believed was blessing, the truest aim of any orc they had ever know. Whether it was a crossbow, throwing weapons, a bow, or even a primary weapon like a sword or shield, the young orc had all the makings to being the greatest marksman of all orcs. He was already being compared to Yusiku, an orc of many centuries ago, one no one knew whether he was alive or not. Yusiku was considered the greatest marksman of all orcs, whether dead or alive, and that meant it was a great honor that the young orc was being compared to this man.
Even though none of these soldiers needed a speech from their Sergeant before going into battle, it was something Orgwell stuck to every single time they went into a fight. He couldn't shake the orc tradition, even though it was becoming more and more common for squads to just make sure they were ready, and wade into battle. Orgwell hadn't slept comfortably the night before, searching for the right words to inspire his soldiers, before they went into what seemed almost like a losing battle. He hadn't really figured out what he was going to say, but it wasn't the first time he had inspired his men by going with his emotions and saying what came to his mind.
"Men, I'm sure I could say nothing and you would all understand the importance of this mission. For far to long now humans have been driving us back into the mountains, and even back down to the Undersurface," he started, some of his men shuddering at the last word. As far as orcs were concerned, life was better on the Surface. Few wanted to ever go back, as it was much harder to survive in the darkness. While sentient life on the Surface was relatively old, the Undersurface had been established for much longer, possibly thousands of years. Order down there was long since established and it made it difficult to survive, especially if you were just coming into the Undersurface, unestablished. Orcs were free on the Surface for the most part, but it wasn't uncommon at all to see orcs as slaves to dark elves on the Undersurface.
"We are one of the elite squads of The Grand Army of the Gazuk Tribe. I command some of the brightest men, in both young recruits and veterans. Our prowess in the field of battle is almost unheard of, but that is not the reason we were sent on this mission. On the advice of The High Council, and the General of The Grand Army of the Gazuk Tribe, we are not wading into the battle and swinging away... at least not at first. We are trying a new approach, one which requires more stealth, which is not the typical orc style. This is why we were picked. We are not only one of the best when it comes to combat, but we have some of the best tactical thinkers and unorthodox fighters in the entire Grand Army! I have complete confidence in you, my soldiers. It is an honor to be picked for such a mission, if only to be rewarded by seeing the looks on the humans' faces when we walk right in there without them noticing. It's about time for them to realize that orcs are more intelligent, and that we should not be underestimated! My brothers and sisters, let us bathe in the blood of humans tonight! Let our weapons slice them so finely that we will eat their meat in stews for months! Let them know no mercy, let them fear the Gazuk Tribe!" he exclaimed his deep, powerful voice stirring the emotions of his fellow soldiers. Crys of "Gazuk!" and "Orgwell!" were vocalized by his men, and he knew that they could delay no longer.
Orgwell held up a hand, indicating that he wanted full silence from now on, unless it was necessary to make noise, or if things didn't go as planned. He did a quick scan to make sure those who weren't going to be in the front line during the beginning of the raid on the human camp were in position. Lazrik, the young promising marksman, was hidden fairly well in the lower part of the mountain they were starting the attack out of. The humans in their arrogance had set up a small camp directly near the foothills of the mountain, which meant that Lazrik could shoot down from the mountains and not be seen. Orgwell grinned, he loved it when he could use the human's foolishness against them.
The only other orc not taking part in the main objective of the squad was Narj, the young assassin. It was his goal to help Lazrik take out one of the only two perimeter guards, before slipping off to find and recover whatever he deemed useful from the human camp. In essence the attack on the camp created the perfect diversion for him to sneak in unnoticed and acquire important documents, which now that Orgwell thought about it, was almost more important than killing a few humans.
His hand was still in the air, and all his troops were waiting for the moment he let it down, which meant that they would begin their mission. The lowering of his green, shovel like hand came soon, and Narj made his way slowly down the mountain. The two humans were walking around the perimeter in a circle, each going a different way, so that they eventually met up, right in front of the entrance to the camp. Scouts sent out earlier in the week had informed them of this, and so they really were relying on the scouts accuracy right now. If the beginning of their plan did not go completely smoothly, then Sergeant Orgwell would have no choice but to retreat before they had even began.
Narj disappeared from sight, his natural stealth enhanced by a piece of magic jewelery, what kind Orgwell did not know. The orc would not tell him what piece allowed him to disappear so well, and Orgwell didn't blame him. Some orcs would do anything to get their hands on a piece of jewelery with that sort of magic on it, most likely for mischievous purposes. All that was left now was for the two humans to meet at the front entrance, something that would not take long at all if Orgwell had things figured out.
Turns out their scouts had been right and as the two guards brushed by each other, having nothing to say, Narj appeared from thin air and slit the guards throat with the dagger he held in his left hand. His right hand was also occupied, a short sword going through the back and out the chest. The second Lazrik saw the other orc appear he had loosed a poisoned crossbow bolt into the neck of the other guard, who dropped clutching his neck. The poison was constricting his airways, and the guard was no recruit. Realizing he had only seconds before his oxygen supply was depleted, the guard grabbed his sword from his waist, and with a lot of effort, turned towards Narj who was vulnerable, with his back facing him.
The guard however hadn't seen or heard Orgwell's silent approach and when the orc had thought it would no longer matter whether he was heard or not he picked up speed. The poisoned human was so focused on Narj that he had no idea what had hit him when he was tackled to the ground, his helmeted head slamming into the ground. Orgwell positioned himself atop the man and having no time to draw his sword, he made do with his fist. He slammed his large fists repeatedly into the human's face, until it was apparent that he was dead.
The orc Sergeant got his footing back and did a quick scan of the camp. It seemed as if no one had heard the unexpected fight that the guard had put up. Even if anyone had come out to relieve themselves, the moon was but a sliver in the endless dark abyss that was the night sky, and they would most likely not have been seen. Two torches lit up the entrance, but it was easy enough to stick to the shadows, especially once they entered the camp itself. Narj went his separate way, hiding behind a stack of crates behind the officers' quarters.
The rest of them stopped just at the outside of the soldiers' sleeping quarters and Orgwell whispered in his lowest possible voice, "When I raise my hand, we go in there and we kill everyone. I will call the retreat when necessary." Seeing the acknowledgment on the faces of his men, he readied his sword in his left hand and raised his right. The orcs normally would of shouted their war cries and sung songs to The Order Of Orcen, or gods as human preferred to call them. This was a silent mission though, so two by two they slipped through the opening flap in the tent and let themselves into the sleeping quarters.
All the soldiers were fast asleep on their cots, and had Orgwell Phelth not known what humans were like, he may of felt a bit of shame and regret. He knew what humans were like though, and so he did not falter in the slightest when his sword came down, slicing through the neck of one soldier. All around him his orcs began to do the same, each in their own manner. They would of got away with killing every last human, but unfortunately one human woke up due to his bodies need to empty his bladder. No quicker than Narj had reappeared earlier did the human set off the alarm and at the same time grabbed his sword and flew at Orgwell.
The man was groggy, still shaking off the cobwebs of sleep and so the orc was able to parry the first attack easy. The second cut came diagonally down from the left, and Orgwell parried this one too. This time however, he lashed out with his right fish, delivering a particularly solid punch to the stomach of the human soldier. The human doubled over immediately, the Sergeant's punch clearly having enough power to knock the wind out of the man. Orgwell ran the man through the heart and without missing a heartbeat, he withdrew it, not even stopping to wipe the blood off. There was no time for that and besides, he was just going to dirty it again anyways.
Over the sounds of the battle he heard the sound of a crossbow go off a total of three times. A camp this size usually had six officers, and Orgwell suspected that he would only find three joining the battle. This was an added bonus he hadn't even planned on. He would have to give the kid a compliment for his unorthodox style. He hadn't even told his Sergeant that he wasn't going with the rest of the group, but in hindsight it made sense. Inside a sleeping quarters Lazrik's advantage of range would be nullified, making him useless with ranged weapons. At least outside, Lazrik had managed to possibly kill three human officers, while spotting for Narj. He had a damn good team.
Orgwell didn't have time to think much beyond that as another human focused it's attention on him. He saw that the human had a two handed sword, human make by the looks of it, and quickly bent to the floor to retrieve a shield from a fallen human soldier. Gripping the slightly too small shield in his right hand, and the sword of dwarven make in his left, he made his move. He moved in, swinging his sword in what seemed like a wild and aggressive thrust. The human slapped the sword away with his two handed sword, and Orgwell used the momentum to bring the shield up and into the chest of the human, knocking him back.
The human recovered quickly though and jumped on the assault. He swung his weapon in wild arcs, enough to keep the other humans away from his huge sword and by the same leave, away from Orgwell. The sword bashed the orcs shield once, and then again. He was rewarded with a dent in the metal with the second block, but still held on to the shield, out of habit. The man was starting to tire, and now was Orgwell's chance to capitalize. The next overhand swing came in from the human and instead of blocking it, the Sergeant sidestepped it, leaving him in near perfect position to slide his sword through the human's chest.
He had no time to admire his kill, as another three humans closed in on him. Orgwell pulled the sword from the dead human with such force that blood gushed from the wound, covering him. He kept the momentum and turned on one human so fast, he couldn't stop the orc's sword from slicing into his neck. The human dropped to the ground and the other two took the opportunity to go on the attack. One was wielding a short sword and a shield, while the other clearly preferred offense to defense, wielding tow medium sized, but deadly looking axes. They were in tight quarters between the cots, and so the two humans couldn't really work the numbers to their advantage. Orgwell hopped back over one cot, and turned the one behind him to the side, making it so that they could only come over the cot to get him.
The one with the axes did, jumping over the cot so that he was standing directly in front of Orgwell. His axes were a flurry in front of the orc Sergeant, but luckily for him he had kept a hold of the shield he had grabbed earlier. The tight quarters allowed for very little maneuvering room, and so all the ax attacks were in one place. Sparks flew between them as the axes scraped the shield, but not doing anything other than superficial damage. The attacks started to come slower and slower, as the human was tiring out quickly.
This caused the human his awareness, as he came in a bit too wide with one ax. He parried the slower ax with his sword and blocked the other with his still functioning shield. Then more quickly than the man could have predicted, Orgwell kicked the man in the gut with one of his iron boots. The man doubled over in pain, loosing his grip on his weapons as well. The orc grinned sadistically, before two quick slices of his sword that ended the life of the human guard.
Safe for a few moments behind the cot, Orgwell surveyed the fight. A quick count allowed him to see that all his men were still alive, but some were being overworked quickly at this point. He had also noticed three officers who had joined the fight for the human side, and realized that he needed to call the retreat soon. Hoping that the other two orcs who had gone to find the information had succeeded, he yelled the retreat command in Orcish, struggling to be heard over the sounds of the battle raging all around them. More and more humans were starting to make their way over to Orgwell, and he realized that he wasn't going to be able to get out the way he had come in. Thinking quickly, he sliced through the thick canvas of the tent wildly, making a hole in the fabric large enough for him to escape from.
They all knew they were supposed to meet back up in the mountains, and Orgwell hoped that the humans would not follow them up there. He doubted they would as they had taken a high number of casualties. From his quick survey he estimated that they had killed between thirty and fifty humans. He hoped that would be satisfactory to The Council, more so he hoped that Narj had found something worthwhile. That was assuming he had even lived, as he had not seen the orc since this whole thing had started. He had faith in the orc though, and wasn't particularly worried. Worst came to worst, Narj would have disappeared from sight and made his way to somewhere safe.
His feet pounded the dry soil beneath them, making his way to the designated spot in the mountain, a small, very shallow cave. This cave did not connect to the series of tunnels and caves that ran along the entirety of the mountain. Orgwell usually had the orcs meet somewhere besides the tunnels before they returned home, in order to figure out what he was going to report to his superiors. He wanted to make sure that every orc had survived the mission, and that they had obtained something worthwhile. If they had just gone in there to kill a few dozen humans only, that would not be so useful. That would piss them off, and they would establish a much stronger outpost there within days, so he prayed to the orc gods that Narj had at least managed to grab something useful out of the Officer's Tent before he had given the sign to retreat.
His men made it back to the caves, in pairs of two and sometimes three. Each time Orgwell stepped forward, ensuring that it was orcs who were entering the cave. If any human had of entered, they wouldn't even have been alive long enough to know it. Orcs were very territorial, and he was no exception. After having all his men accounted for, some pretty badly wounded, others merely out of breath, he had them all retreat to a cavern just off of the main one. If they were being followed, which he sorely doubted, they would at least have some forewarning. Sound traveled heavily in these caves, both a blessing and a curse simultaneously.
Injured orcs were laying across the floor, only four of them in total. Two suffering only minor cut wounds, while one had a sprained or broken ankle. Another however, had been stabbed in the leg, and three orcs were working on patching up the wound. That was another benefit his squad had. All of his members had chosen to take extra first aid training, and so even if his team doctor was down, he had a bunch of competent orcs to cover for him.
Orgwell checked on each of his men, giving them praise and support, as they had all earned it. He saved Narj for last, as he still had unfinished business with him. "Narj, what is the status of your retrieval mission?" the Sergeant asked. "There wasn't a lot in there boss, I really had to go searching. I think I may have found something of importance though. I can't read much human, but it was tucked away, folded inside a book. It has a commander's seal on it, here, look," the orc assassin replied handing Orgwell a folded up piece of paper.
The first thing he did was verify the seal. It was indeed a letter from some human Commander named Markus Blackmoore. He hadn't heard the name before, but that wasn't unusual. They didn't see a lot of letters sent right from the Commanders, which was one of the highest rankings in the human army. He flipped the piece of paper over, so he could read the message written on it.
Dear Sergeant Sillas
I am pleased to inform you that your unit has been chosen to lead the exploratory mission into the nearby caves, where we have positive orc sightings. Your job will be to explore these caves, killing or capturing any orcs you come into contact with. Once you believe you have a bearings on the surroundings, you will retreat out of the caves, unless it is safe to maintain them. Only stay if you are sure you will be able to hold them. Then contact me, I expect a full report sent to me as soon as possible.
You will be given eleven other squads to work with. While they will still be under the commands of their Sergeants, you will be promoted to Sergeant General for this mission, under the authority of High Commander Lochrae. Do remember that if you fail to impress, he has the power to demote you back to Sergeant at any time.
Remember to send a full debriefing report immediately after you have assessed the situation.
Orgwell Phelth couldn't believe what he had just read! He had assumed that this was another pointless mission, that the humans had just set up a scouting camp. An exploratory mission though? He had never heard of humans sending in squads and squads of men to kill orcs. Usually they sent a few highly skilled mages to deal with orcs, and those orcs ended up retreating to the cruel and unforgiving life that was the Undersurface.
He knew what he had to do now, and he wasn't looking forward to it at all. The news was not going to be taken well back home, and he knew that this success would only mean trouble for him. They would berate him, telling him that his squad should have killed more men, should have found out more, as if it were that easy. In return, they would punish him and his squad by sending them out on another suicide mission, probably right out into the heart of human territory.
This however, he did look forward too.