Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gragdorgar Skullzsplitterz

Gragdorgar Skullzsplitterz lay prone attempting to get as close to the rocky mountainside as his fat lumpy body would allow.  Never before in all his years as the night watchman of the great mountain pass had anything remotely interesting happened to him. But even in his dimwitted, yet fully functional mind he somehow strangely knew that this night would prove to be different. As the breath left his body warming the frigid night air, indicated by the white clouds forming at his lips, it left him with a cold and uneasy feeling. He no longer wanted something interesting to happen. He longed for the nights where boredom was his only companion.

He had first heard it several minutes earlier as he was preparing to dine on some fresh rabbit he had caught scant an hour earlier. He sat on his pack around his small campfire in solitude watching the yellow and white flames dance around removing the darkness from the mountain sky as he did every night. As he turned his attention to placing his freshly skinned morsel on a spit he heard the soft sound of a drum somewhere off in the distance. Momentarily startled, he stopped preparing his feast and closed his eyes and intently listened. Though faint, he heard the unmistakable sound of drumbeats in rapid repetition coming from the south, near the entrance to the mountain pass. After the fifth or sixth beat of the drum Gragdorgar concluded that this was no Orc drum. He knew that all Orc drums were made in similar fashion from the same general materials and as such all had the same tonal qualities. The sound entering his pointy ears just didn’t sound right for an Orc drum. It was definitely a drum, but it made a very different kind of sound, one he’d not heard in all of his days. With every further beat an uneasy feeling grew over him.

Amazingly, as Gragdorgar sat before the fire totally concentrating on listening for the sound of the drums a second revelation came to him. Not only was this not the sound of an Orc drum, but there was something about the tempo as well. It was definitely not the sound of a drum being beat by a musician in celebration; the pace was far too quick and uniform. The methodical repetition of the consistently paced beats meant only one thing; it was the sound of an army on the march. This last thought hit Gragdorgar like the heavy blunt axe of a Black Orc on the head. If it wasn’t an Orc drum, and it was an army on the move; then what army was it? More importantly were they friend or foe?

Motivated by these new questions Gragdorgar moved as quickly as a tusk gor chasing its’ prey and stomped out his small campfire with the rough bottoms of his feet. The instant pain from the fire on his scaly green soles was short-lived and quickly replaced by the satisfaction of having any indication of his existence put out. With the fire out his attention swiftly switched back to the sound of the drum. His worst fears came to fruition, as the faint sound of the drum grew subtly louder. In addition echoes from the drum reinforced Gragdorgar’s initial theory that it was coming from the south end of the pass. This made it clear to Gragdorgar that the army was heading North through the pass heading to the Old World, toward the land of the Border Princes. As he stood on the eastern slopes of the pass this knowledge did nothing to warm his blood and began to fill him with a greater sense of dread.

With the speed of a giant feeling of self-survival washed over him and he immediately began searching for a place to hide. If the mystery army were passing through the mountains, it would be best if he went undiscovered. He found a nice flat ledge not fifteen meters away from his campsite. He laid as flat as he could peaking over the small rocks before his face. What he wouldn’t have given to be a stone troll at that moment. Gragdorgar laid there in complete silence with his red eyes steadily affixed to the south of the pass. Still nothing came into view, but the drum grew increasingly louder and louder. A recurring and fleeting question began to flow through his head again. What army would be marching North through the Bad Lands? But before any answers could be reasoned with his primitive intellect his nagging fear was replaced with terror as at the end of his range of visibility the army came into view.

At first not much could be seen of the army other than it was marching in Gragdorgar’s direction up the pass. As Gragdorgar laid there shivering, more from the terror than from the elements, he debated in his mind whether seeing the army was more terrible the just the sound of the drum alone. He eagerly agreed with himself that seeing the army was by far the worse of the two evils. As he examined his horizon to the south it dawned on him that the army was marching at night under the moonlight, yet carried no torches. What type of army marches under the banner of night he thought silently? As the army approached the sound of the drum became one instrument of a mighty band. The sound of foot and hoof trampling broken earth in perfect unison accompanied the drum in an orchestral movement of an army on the move.  As he watched the army get steadily closer, he hearkened back to his quieter days with the clan. In all of his years living within the shadows of the Dragon back mountains he had never seen a non-Orc army anywhere in the badlands, much less one so close to his home. Now the army was close enough that he could just make out some basic forms. The head of the army was below him now and he squinted his eyes hoping to make his eyes see just a bit better in the darkness. Even in the darkness with just a semblance of moonlight casting down from a cloudy sky there was the unmistakable silhouette of chariots, and lots of them. More than Gragdorgar had ever seen in all of his battle experience combined. The riders were roughly man sized and were scantly adorned in armor as indicated by the lack of reflections bouncing off of them from the moonlight. Each carried a large shield and a spear as their armament. These were no Orcs.

As the chariots continued to pass just under his nose Gragdorgar saw something that both intrigued him and deepened his frightened state further in equal proportions. The chariots were led by skeleton horses and crewed by skeleton warriors. This was no army of man or elf; this was an army of the undead. As a young Orc he had met the armies of the vampire counts many a time on the field of battle, though he could not recall a single instance in which chariots were employed in their service.  As this contradiction stewed in his head a unit presented itself. Following directly behind the chariots was a large unit of skeleton warriors on foot. They were covered in blue heavy armor and carried enormous blades. Among their front rank stood a character of such unbelievable beauty that Gragdorgar knew immediately that this was someone of great importance, possibly a countess. Furthering support of this hunch that this was no ordinary skeleton Gragdorgar noticed that she was covered from head to toe in shiny ornate golden armor that glowed from within. This was no vampire countess; this was a tomb queen. Gragdorgar smirked to himself, thinking he was so clever that he was able to solve this simple puzzle. This was an undead army from the far south, from the land of the dead, from the land of Khemri.

Re-startled by his newest discovery Gragdorgar found the view atop the passing army to be simultaneously inspiring and horrific. He realized that he had to get word out to the rest of the other clans immediately. It would take the combined strength and effort of all the Orcs to refuse such a mighty force. As the end of the army began to travel through the pass under his nose he began to plot the best way to spread the word to the other Orcs. In silence with barley even the sounds of his breathe he planned his travels. He decided to wait for the army to get a safe distance away before stirring, to avoid being discovered.

After what seemed to be eternity and the army train was nearly out of sight Gragdorgar felt a sense of reprieve wash over him.  He stood up on his massive legs and stretched his mighty muscular arms outward and upward into the sky. He took a deep breath and exhaled a sigh of relief. As the nervousness washed away from him he felt a single stabbing pain in his back. But this time it was more than an emotion. It was true physical pain of the worst magnitude. He dropped to his knees and clutched around his torso desperately trying to determine what had bitten him. His hands probed the areas of his back that he could reach and located the shaft of an arrow with his fingers protruding from the small of his back. Gragdorgar began to cry
as much from the realization that he had been shot as from the physical pain of his wound. He continued to whimper at the thought of dieing as his body went limp. The poison instantly took over his flesh causing his extremities to go ice cold. He slumped forward from his knees onto his stomach landing on the very ledge from which he had hid not one minute ago. In his final resting spot his head was turned northward down the pass. As his eyesight failed the last image Gragdorgar would see would be the foot of a skeleton archer in front of his face.

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