It was possible that the servants of Eyyo would attempt to kill me while the soldiers were fending off the orcs. I had Sir Janet assigned to protect me during the battle and give me any advice that I needed.
The next day was the calm before the storm. You could see the orcs gathering just outside arrow range. We had no idea how long they would wait. They would wait until all the orcs had arrived and them pour upon us like a flood. There was no knowing how long that would take and the tension was thick as mud. We needed to be alert for when the orcs attacked.
The day dragged on and the watchers changed shifts. The night was even worse. The orcs had built giant bonfires and were making a loud cacophony of noise which they might call music. It just hurt my eardrums. There were long silent pauses in the sound which always caused the guards to be edgy in fear of an attack and then they relaxed again when the music started up again.
I finally retired to my tent to sleep. They would wake me up when I was needed.
I don’t know how long it was before I was woken up. Sir Nathan was shaking me awake. “My Lord, they are coming.” All I did was nod and pull myself out of bed. My father had left me some sturdy plate armor which I hardly ever used. He was much more of a soldier then I was.
I had Sir Nathan help me don the armor. “How long until their main force attacks.”
Nathan had a grim look at his face, “They are already attacking. They attacked us in the middle of one of their songs. One of the scouts barely alerted us in time. We barely got the soldiers to the wall before they hit it. The main force it having it rough and we need to be ready if case they try to cross the river.”
I stopped in surprise, “The orcs pulled a surprise attack? What isn’t something they normally do is it?”
“No sir, not they I have heard of.”
“Do you think…” I paused not wanting to voice my concern.
“That there is somebody pulling the strings behind the orc invasion?” Sir Nathan finished for me. “The men have been whispering rumors about something similar. Everything the orcs have been doing is unusual. If there is somebody I don’t know who is could be.” He shook his head. “That is the only reason I can’t convince myself somebody is manipulating them. Who would want them to assault the kingdom. I can’t think of anybody.”
I nodded, “You’re right. Maybe they just have a clever warleader.” I was lying. Having talked with the Slayer I knew who must be manipulating them.
Having donned my armor I strapped my sword on and left the tent with Sir Nathan. He then left to deal with organizing the troop while Sir Janet move up to guard me. “It will be a long night.” I commented.
“Long nights are better then short ones. It is short if we get ambushed by orcs and are murdered.” Said Sir Janet. She looked to be in foul mood not that I could blame her. She was generally in a foul mood before a fight, a proper and healthy attitude. I felt more terrified then anything else but I seemed to be getting used to that feeling so I was able to avoid letting it show.
“That’s true. It is hard to get worse then dying.”
“If anything could cause worse then dying it is these foul monsters. I’d rather die at there blade then get captured by them. I’ve heard horror stories about that they do to people they capture.”
I shuttered at the though. “Me too, things nightmares are caused by. It is better not to think about.” Sir Janet nodded.
It was still dark. Probably very early in the morning before the sun rose. To calm myself I reached into my pocket to slip on my signet ring. Since the Slayer had started talking with me I hadn’t had those unpleasant visions. How talking with her changed the future such that they wouldn’t happen or was the Slayer preventing them from appearing anymore. I didn’t know.
Now however I felt comforted by the ring. Even if the Slayer didn’t talk with me I knew she was there. The danger of Zillk’s power still made me frightened but at moments like this I would feel more frightened to be without it. Strange how things change so quickly.
“What do you think the chances are that the orcs will attack us here?” I asked Sir Janet.
“At least fifty percent.”
“That low? I thought you were going to say something larger.”
“There is the other flank. The other fifty percent is that they will attack that bank. It is less likely that they would split there forces and attack both flanks but it is possible. Orcs aren’t generally known for their clever combat maneuvers and I would normally expect them to attack both flanks but this time…”
“They seem more organized.” I said, “Yes, so they will likely sent a large force across the river one at least one of the flanks. I want all our soldiers to assume that is going to be our flank.” I paused, I didn’t want to explain my reason for thinking that. Instead I said, “It is better to be on alert then dead.”
She nodded and called several soldiers to give orders too. Likely similar orders had already been passed along but warning like this would not be told enough. It was too easy to be distracting in the dark while waiting for an enemy to attack you, especially if you didn’t know for certain that the enemy really was going to attack you.
I knew, although secretly I hoped that I was wrong, that it would be our side that was attacked. The orc attack wouldn’t have been completely engineered to kill me but if Eyyo really was trying to kill me he certainly would pass up a perfectly good opportunity to do it.
I walked with Sir Janet down toward the river where most of the soldiers were gathered. If I was going to give Eyyo a target it was going to be while surrounded by soldiers. I could see the lights and could hear the sounds of battle from the main force. They would hold, they had to hold.
There was one other noble, Lord Slinder, assigned to this flank with me. The two of us combined only had a small force but it should be sufficient to repel anything that the orcs could send across the river at us. That hope was tenuous.
The results of my hopes were interesting. It wasn’t orcs that came across the river, at least not at first. It was something that they had dragged out of the mountain. Some long reptile larger then a horse. We never saw it coming. It swam through the water almost invisibly. When it emurged it was to the death screams of one of the soldiers. The men fell back before the monster.
Only when Sir Nathan rallied them did they mount an offense against the monster. It was a bloody struggle. Swords were useless against it unless you got the blades under one of the scales. That was difficult because it thrashed around madness snapping at anyone who tried to get close to it.
I feared that the monster would be unstoppable when Sir Janet left my side to fight the monster. I never thought to stop her, to tell her to continue to protect me. The soldiers needed her and I needed her to help them. She drew her sword and charged the thing catching its teeth on her blade.
She held the monster then just long enough for the solder to rush it and it howled in agony. Even in its death throes it managed to kill my soldiers and it continues to fight even after it had suffered fatal injuries. Only after it no longer had enough blood to keep moving did the thing stop fighting and die.
That was when the orcs came out of the river. They had been using the distraction of the monster to move a large host of orcs across the river basically unnoticed because of the battle. It was a larger group then expected. Before the monster attack we may have had more soldier but certainly not now. We had lost at least a dozen soldiers to the reptile and now the orcs outnumbered us.
Still it was not hopeless. Many of the soldiers were well trained. Sir Nathan and Sir Janet had kept my forces well trained despite my unfamiliarity with combat. I am very thankful for both of them. The battle between them felt like it lasted for hours even though I logically knew that it couldn’t have been that long.
Just as the battle began to turn our way I felt somebody approaching me from behind. I spun and began drawing my sword before I realize that it was Lord Slinder, the other noble who was guarding this flank. His soldiers were currently fighting alongside my own against the orcs.
I relaxed and pushed my sword back into the sheathe. Lord Slinder looked like he had more combat training then I had and looked far more comfortable with the sword at his waist then I did.
“It seems that we are going to hold them off.” I said in a friendly voice. I had never really talked with Lord Slinder before outside of official meetings or court business. He lived on the other side of the kingdom and tended to spend time with a more serious crowd then I did.
“Yes it does. I can’t say that I expected that reptilian monster however.” His was a flat voice without too much inflection. A voice that you could easily get bored listening to. He walked closer to me and stood next to me and watched the battle unfold with him.
“A lot of good men were lost fighting that thing. What do you think it might have been?”
“Some strange creature from beyond the mountains certainly. Who knows what might be dwell where men dare not tread.” Said Lord Slinder. I thought that almost sounded poetic which was weird coming from his dull voice. “Now I had better join them. The soldiers will need the boost in moral. However somebody still needs to watch the battle and inform them if the line shifts in the enemies favor. I recommend you stay here to watch the battle.”
I nodded. I likely wouldn’t be a help down there anyway. Lord Slinder walked down the hill toward the edge of the river and joined the forces fighting. I remained where I stood near the command tent. It way empty but the sun was beginning to rise. I could see it at the horizon and the light would be a boon against the orcs. We would certainly have the battle won by morning. Whether there would be enough orcs to mount a second assault tomorrow was unknown but we could take each day as they came.
During the battle however I neglected something very important. I had forgotten that Eyyo, the Cloaked Betrayer was after my life. If I hadn’t been wearing my signet ring then I certainly would have died then. However I was wearing it and it was the Slayer who warned me. “Behind you!” She screamed at me through the ring.
I spun around and behind me, coming out of the forest, was a dozen orcs armed to the teeth. Where they had come from I didn’t know. Maybe they had cross the river even farther down and have quietly traveled this far. They were all watching me, not caring about the battle down the slope. I was certain that there were here to kill me.