This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Sir Alec Neuvall reined in his horse outside of the limits of the village of Greywall. He could see the river Ishkar off beyond the small town, and he could also see the smoke rising from it. He turned to his aide and called for a spy glass, muttering to himself. “Thrice-damned orcs. I’m getting to old for this business.” His aide, a smallish farm boy from one of the western marches, answered with a “What was that, Sir?” Alec scowled. “Never mind, boy. Where are the scouts? Have any of them reported back yet? I won’t have us marching into an orc horde blind.” The boy’s voice cracked as he answered. “None of them have come back yet, sir. It’s only been two hours or so.” Alec looked at him. The boy’s green as grass. These are the best replacements we can get? I’d be better off conscripting local levies. Gods know we have enough men laying about the city with nothing else to do. He tapped the pommel of his saddle impatiently. He never had been good at waiting, and so he turned around, watching as his guardsmen rode up behind him. He only hoped that the two hundred men-at-arms he’d managed to scrounge up would be enough. The reports he’d gotten made the orcs to be over a thousand in number. Worse, the message he’d received said that they came from several different clans. All in all, a damned peculiar situation. Orcs never crossed the Ishkar in those kind of numbers. Numbers that big begged for him to call out the garrison and mow them down —just as he was about to do. Besides which, it was unheard of for orc clans to co-operate. One
or two might send picked warriors together on a raid once a year, but the warriors of five or six —or more —clans to invade the Empire? Something was up, and it bothered him. His sergeant-at-arms pulled his horse up alongside. The man had served with Alec for fifteen years, always refusing promotions, and even after all the campaigns and battles they had been through, still hadn’t told Alec his name. Known to the men as “Old Baldy,” he couldn’t read or write, signig his name with an X. Alec simply called him “Sarge.” “Whadd’ya think, Sarge?” Alec handed the older man the spyglass. He harrumphed and took the spyglass from the knight. He peered across the plain, and murmured as he did, “Looks like they’re here in the numbers we were told about. Gods’ piss! I haven’t seen this many orcs, well…. ever, to be honest. But I don’t see any mounts.” “I don’t either, Sarge. That’s what worries me. It would take weeks to move this many men on foot. If so, how come we never got any word? None of the cross-river patrols got word back? None? This is damned peculiar.” Alec took the spy glass back from his lieutenant. “Blast! Where are those scouts!” He hollered for a runner. “Go find Sir Kinnith. Find out if he’s seen any of his scouts. And be quick! Got it?” The page nodded, then took off toward the back of the column. Alec stroked the shoulder of his charger. Horses had always had a calming affect on him; going through the motions of caring for his horse took his mind off the problems at hand. He climbed down off the animal and began to examine the saddle, making sure none of its straps or harnesses were chafing the horse. He was just checking the last of the straps when Sir Kinnith and his
page rode up. The other knight called out a greeting and climbed down off his horse. “Hail, Kinnith! What news have you?” “Good news, my lord. My best tracker has just returned. He reports that the orcs, while great in number, are all on foot, save for a few officers. Currently they are surrounding the village walls, laying siege, and are spread out. He also reports that they have out but few scouts and flankers, and we should easily be able to take them with a good charge. The vermin are ready to be swept before us!” Alec grunted, glad that Greywall did at least have a wooden palisade around it. “Seems too easy. A thousand green backs, no wargs, no scouts? It seems like something is amiss. Screams it, in fact. You’re sure your scout got it right, Kinnith?” Kinnith looked at Alec with his eyebrow raised. “My Lord, he is my best scout. He wouldn’t get it wrong.” Old Baldy scuffled his boots together as he spoke. “He’s not questioning what your man saw, Kinnith. He’s questioning whether your man saw the truth, or the truth the green backs wanted him to see. You do have to admit that not even greenbacks are this foolish.” “Rabble! Nothing but rabble!” Kinnith scoffed. “ Why do you two seem so surprised that the greenbacks would be more interested in conquest and pillage than minding business? They know we rarely amass formations of this size, so they must feel safe in their numbers.” A silence ensued as the other two pondered the younger knight’s words. Alec wished he had more knights here, but he had few enough to go around, and had to rely on menat-arms —trained and armored, granted, but not lifetime
professionals like Kinnith and himself. “What do you think, Sarge?” The sunlight glinted off his bald pate as the older man shrugged. “Kinnith’s probably right. Even if something is up, the greenbacks have no scouts or mounts. We should be able to withdraw. And Alec… we need to do something. Greywall has almost five hundred souls within its walls —not counting all the refugees. But you’re in command. I’ll back your call, and so will Kinnith, right?” The other knight appeared as if he wanted to say something, but bit it down and simply nodded. Alec looked down. “Agreed, Sarge. I think you’re probably right, Kinnith. The gods be with us if you’re wrong.” He turned to the trio of pages standing a few feet away. “Tell the squadron commanders to assemble their men and mount up. We ride to break the siege in thirty minutes.” *** Alec swiveled in his saddle to survey the mounted men assembled behind him. All of them had long spears or lances held ready; their armor gleamed in the sunlight. The sun was still high in the sky, but it had already started to pass behind them. They would have the sun at their back. His troops had assembled in a solid wedge formation, sitting in a “V” shape with himself as the point of the V, so that they would slam into the orcs much as an arrow into a body. They had orders to charge toward what looked to be a command area. He marched his horse back and forth at the point of the wedge several times, and then reined the animal in. He cupped his hands together. He hated making speeches like this. “Men of Averim! The greenbacks have
given us a tasty target! They mill around the village, so eager for plunder that they make no preparations. They will be easy prey! And when we’re done, the men —and women!—of Greywall will be happy to show us their thanks!” A ragged cheer broke through the ranks; he was more than happy to let his men interpret his statement however they wished. “Be careful, be steadfast, and be brave. Never forget that we are men of Averim.” He thrust his sword high into the air. “FOR THE EMPIRE!” His men echoed his call, and he turned his horse toward the village. Not one of my better speeches, but adequate. He pointed his sword toward the village, starting his horse forward. They picked up speed slowly, building power to their charge as they did, becoming an irresistible force. Soon his men began to spread out, still maintaining their wedge. The plains flashed by quickly, and soon the orcs were only a few hundred feet away. Finally the orcs at the encampment noticed that they were coming. He could see them grabbing for weapons, hurriedly pulling on helmets, but their preparations had been too lax, and they were clearly ill-prepared for a mustered response. He shouted out an “Urrah!” and his men took up the call. The orcs didn’t even try to resist, but threw down their weapons and ran. Then the men charged into the enemy camp, and Alec took his heavy spear and shoved it into the backside of an orc footman as he rode by the creature. The orc went down with a squeal, and Alec drew his sword as he drove on toward the river. The other orcs knew they were in trouble now, and some of them started to fight back, but Alec’s men were already among the greenbacks. He saw a few trying to unlimber bows, and others grabbing frantically for axes or other
hand weapons, but it was too little, too late. He signalled to Kinnith, who took half of the men and reined them left, sweeping toward the river, while the other hundred wheeled right and followed him the other way. Very few of the orcs were stopping to even try and fight, he noticed. Good. “Form on me! Loose formation!” They no longer needed the wedge as the orcs had no line to breach, but they had plenty of orcs to run down. His men formed up quickly, and he was grateful for their haste as he saw one of his guardsmen fall from his saddle with an arrow in his heart. Cursing as he saw his man fall, he realized that the men were formed up again. A second charge risked exhausting already tired mounts, but… Alec twirled his sword over his head and shouted, “Make ready! CHARGE!” The horses charged across the ground again, and the orcs, who were attempting to rally, broke yet again. His horse was now excited as well, and the giant destrier was a weapon as deadly as his sword, crushing several of the greenbacks beneath its hooves. Alec shouted with glee, hacking one orc with his blade, then spinning in the saddle and slicing off the head of another. He saw the dust rising as Kinnith’s charge wrapped around the village toward him, and soon after that the river came into sight. He smacked another orc on the head with the flat of his sword, and the orc went down in a sodden heap and was quickly trampled. Alec reined in his horse as he drew near to Kinnith, and a bugler pulled up beside him. The other knight was laughing as he reigned in alongside Alec. He grabbed the horn from his man and shouted out “They flee, m’lord! It’s just as I said! Greenback rabble, nothing more! We should pursue them to the river
and finish them!” Alec nodded, seeing the river not more than a few hundred yards away, and watched with grim satisfaction as his men finished off the fleeing orcs. Some had jumped into the river and were attempting to swim across, but he knew that few of the orcs would escape. He turned back to Kinnith. “Call the rally. We’ll rest the mounts a minute, and then have back at them. Make sure to let a few escape, and tomorrow we’ll pursue them back to their clan holds. Let’s chase those greenback bastards back to their lair and end this threat once and for all!” He reached over and clapped Kinnith on the back. “You were right. They are just stupid orcs. Orcs with sharp weapons who need to be put down, but thank the good gods, they’re still just stupid orcs!”
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.