Monday, 24 August 2009

Battle 2: The Ancient Forge

Miles to the east, Thane Redson Sharpaxe and Runesmith Krik Smoothstone were standing on a rise, having an argument. Below them sat Greyfort - an overly grand name for a small human outpost, barely more than a couple of granite towers nestled amongst the foothills. It housed a small garrison of Empire troops - evidenced by the small patrols they could see wandering around the paths leading to and from the fort.

"This changes nothing, Thane. We have our duty!" Runesmith Smoothstone stood immobile, arms folded, whilst Thane Sharpaxe paced back and forth. "You do intend to do your duty to your Hold and King?" Sharpaxe shot him a lethal glare, but remained silent. Smoothstone continued. "You know full well that the remains of a Stonebeard settlement sits under those hills."

"I know that. And I know that on top was supposed to be an Orc encampment!" Thane Sharpaxe stopped pacing and rounded on the Runesmith. "The humans are our allies! We don't just attack our allies! This changes things!"

"This changes nothing. The humans have laid claim to what is not theirs. We are here to take our property back - regardless of the thief." Smoothstone turned to regard the twin towers. "Anyway, I don't know what you are worried about. There cannot be more than two dozen men down there."

"The numbers do not bother me as well you know. I remember the oaths we have sworn to battle alongside the humans, not against them." Sharpaxe stepped in front of Smoothstone, blocking his view of the fort. "Or do THOSE oaths mean nothing to you?"

The Runesmith stared at the Thane until, eventually, Sharpaxe was forced to look away. "Do not push me, Thane. I know full well that the humans are our allies. This is a matter of priorities."

Sharpaxe looked back at that. "What do you mean?"

"The Stonebeard settlement contained the forge of Norik Smoothstone - a very knowledgeable Runelord who lived in these parts centuries ago. We believe there is much rare, perhaps lost, knowledge hidden there."

Thane Sharpaxe considered this new information. He knew that a treasure trove of runic knowledge would take precedence over this small human outpost. He also knew that although technically along to advise and oversea, Krik Smoothstone was older and more powerful than he was. A talented and proven Runesmith, he surely was not far from taking the mantle of Runelord himself - finding a cache of ancient knowledge could well be the last step he needed to make. Smoothstone was quite capable of sending Sharpaxe back with a retinue to collect the reinforcements and then ordering the assault himself and Sharpaxe's absence.

Drifting upwards from below, the sounds of shouting and metal hitting metal snapped Sharpaxe back to reality. Looking down, he saw a group of armoured men dragging a pair of dwarven scouts towards the towers. One was moving as if concussed. The other was clearly dead - his head bent at a strange angle and his left arm missing. As he watched, the bushes came alive as the rest of the scout units rose as one and pelted the men with crossbow bolts. As the soldiers fell and the dwarves recovered their comrades, a shout came from the walls of the tower.

"It seems" said the Runesmith, squinting at the scene down below "that your decision has been made for you."

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