Here is the next chapter of the birthright story, spread over several
parts so the list can handle it ok (hopefully). You can see an archive
of earlier chapters at the following site.

- --

The scout rolled to the side, the arrows from the Goblin archers
striking the tree he had been standing beside just a moment earlier.
Risking a quick look back behind him he found the motivation to run even
faster than before. To the scout it appeared as though half
the Gorgon's army was on his trail and he could see even more goblins
appearing out of the woods, all seeking his blood. The scout
could only hope that he remembered the path through the forest well
enough to outrun them, as he knew that he could not stay and
fight his way out of this one.

The rest of his regiment had tried that when the Goblins had first
appeared, pouring over the hills from Kiergard and their bodies
now lay scattered across the blood-soaked land far behind him. The scout
and three of his companions had been chosen to travel
back to the provincial capital and carry the news of the invasion. The
Goblins had caught up with them though and now of the four
only one remained, and the Goblin archers were doing their best to kill
him as well.

He ducked suddenly as another arrow flew past his head, making a
whirring noise as it past. The scout had lost his one bow when he
used it to knock down an attacker nearly an hour ago, he was out of
arrows now anyway and his only choice was to run and try to
get away from the hordes and his heel.

Suddenly he noticed a possibly escape route. Ahead the forest drew thick
as the trees crowded together and their limbs grew low
and leafy. He had been here before and knew of a secret game trail
through the woods. The Goblins would likely find it, but if he
could make it there before they could catch him he might just be able to
escape, if he was very lucky. The scout reached into his
reserves of energy and stretching out his legs sprinted through the
light woods as fast as he could, straight towards the forest

Reaching his goal alive he dived into the forest, running along a barely
visible goat track, ever mindful of what was behind him. The
scout knew that should he be captured then no-one would be able to warn
the people of Osternord about the coming attack and all
would be lost. This thought spurred him on, and he ran even faster,
twisting his way in and out of the forest of tall, dark tree
trunks. Despite the fact that they had been just behind him he did not
see the Goblins again and soon found himself on a major track
heading for Osternord. Despite losing his pursuers he did not slow his
pace, running as fast as he could to warn his lord of the
coming invasion.

He ran now though with a spring in his step, secure in the knowledge
that he had managed to outwit the mighty Gorgon himself, for
his regiment leader had spotted the fearsome form of the Awnshegh
shortly before the battle had begun. His thought grew grim
though at what it would mean for Rohrmarch if the Gorgon was to lead an
army into Osternord. With those dark thought on his mind
he ran down the leafy trail toward the nearest village.

Behind him things were not going well for the leader of the Goblin unit
that had allowed him to escape. The unfortunate Goblin had
been forced to report his failure to Baruk One-Eye, the Orog general in
charge of the invasion. He know knelt on the ground in
front of the furious general awaiting his punishment.

The Goblin leader screamed as the General's sword burst through his
chest to find his heart, ending his existence, and spilling his
green blood across the dry ground. The scream died in the his throat and
the Goblin's body slipped from Baruk's sword and fell
limply to the ground, nothing more than a dead shell now. The Gorgon
nodded in agreement at the death and waiting quietly, allowing
nearby soldiers to drag the corpse of the back of the column, where it
would likely be used for the tonight's meal for some of the
army. Baruk wiped the blade of his sword on the dry grass to remove the
bloodstains from the valuable metal and again mounted his

"They will know we are coming now Lord," he said softly. "They may have
time to ready a defence."

"Perhaps," the Gorgon replied. "But I doubt much can be done in the
short amount of time left before our arrival. The entire army
will be inside Rohrmarch before the day is out, and two days latter we
will be ready to assault Rohrgaard province."

"Yes my Lord, though I was thinking more of the town of Osternord. We
know there is a small army there, it may be best to assault
that town before going on to Oden city."

"Indeed it would be Baruk, which is why I will be sending five units
with you to take care of the town before we continue with the
main invasion. You can take some of the priests as well, but you had
best leave now as I want that town gone, and when I mean gone
I mean nothing left that can be used by the enemy. Bring all the food
you take back here to feed the army, and destroy everything
else. I want nothing left of Osternord when you are finished."

"Yes my lord, I shall set out at once and before another day falls over
Osternord it shall be nothing but ash."

"Good, I will await you return in eastern Osternord, I assume you
remember the maps I showed you."

"Of course."

"Then go, I will await word of your success."

With that final word the Gorgon flicked the reins of his horse, Black
Thunder, and rode off towards the main column. Baruk stood
for a while longer and watched the trees to the south where his
remaining scouts were pushing their way through the forest,
searching for the last of the Rohrmarch soldiers who had escaped the
recent battle. Sheathing his sword he turned and strode back
toward the gathering host, already thinking of about the battles to
come, and those that had already past.

The Gorgon's army had come on the first of the Rohrmarch scouts two days
ago, shortly after they entered the southern part of
Coullibaird province. Baruk had been with the Goblin scouts at the head
of the column when one of the priests who were travelling
with the army spotted the enemy scout. The two days that followed had
been days of constant battle as the scouts had hunted down
the enemy, until late last night when they had come across the main
enemy camp. Despite their small numbers the scouts had put up a
good fight and many Goblin live had been lost.

It was not until later that they realised that some of the enemy had
fled before the battle. The tracks in the mud south of the
Rohrmarch compound had shown the tracks of four enemy soldiers. Baruk
and his forward troops had set off in pursuit and despite
their lack of knowledge of the region had caught up with the four scouts
shortly before daybreak.

Since then a long running battle had been fought as his men attempted to
cut down the survivors. Three had already fallen to the
archers and the last was in sight when the now dead leader of the Goblin
unit had missed his shot. Baruk knew that the scout had
been smart and run into toward the sun, which was just rising over the
horizon causing the archers to be blinded and miss the shot.
He had been so angry at the failure though that he had killed the leader
of the unit, wanting to someone to blame for the escape of
the remaining enemy.

Baruk glared back at the now dark forest with a snarl. He hated trees,
really hated them. The reminded him too much of Elves,
another of his pet hates. Elves had killed his father during the last
war with Tuarhievel as well as many of the rest of his family.
Rohrmarch was a land founded in ancient Elven forest, and although no
Elves lived there now it still had a strange feel about it.
Even from where he now was, just inside the woodlands, he could still
feel the ancient Elven taint to the trees. He wished he was
back in his mountainous home, far from his war.

He soon discarded these thoughts though as he was the General in charge
of the army, and this campaign would prove to be his best
chance of proving to the few who still doubted him just how good he was
at leading an army. If he was successful here then he
would rise in power among those who followed the Gorgon, perhaps even
growing more favoured that Kiras Earthcore, the Gorgon's
current lieutenant.

Branm Osternord rose early that morning to look over the last reports he
had received from the northern scouts. Things certainly did
not look good, as if the words of the man who had just crawled into
Osternord were to be believed then the entire army of the
Gorgon was just crossing the border into the province. Branm looked
across the room to where the scout lay, his wounds being
tended by the priests of Kirche. Certainly the man had tried his best,
nearly killing himself in his efforts to get the reports to
Osternord, but Branm could only wish that the news he had bought had not
been so grim.

Lord Wilhiem, the old Osternord Chamberlain, was sitting by his young
master's side looking through the maps. He shook his head,
his bushy white beard swinging from side to side as he did so. He also
knew that things were bad, if the scouts report was to
believed. He glanced over at recovering scout, and saw that the priests
had finished their work. Wilhiem saw that the scout would
likely recover, but probably not in time for the battle that was to
come. He turned back to his lord and spoke for the first time in
the past half hour.

"My Lord, do you have the latest troop reports," he asked.

"Yes," Branm responded, handing over a pile or parchment. "They don't
look good though, Prince Alder took most of the troops with
him when he went to fight at the battle for Friedlund last month. We are
only left with the militia, and a couple of units of the town
garrison, barely five hundred men all up."

"Hmmm, not good at all, we will have to bring all of them back to the
town at once. The castle wall still stands and it can protect the
army for a while, although it will be little protection if these reports
are correct."

"I agree Wilhiem, send out the recall order at once. And send any
pigeons we have left to the Prince with reports on the attack. We
need additional troops at once."

"Yes my Lord, I have already prepared the necessary messages. They will
be sent out within the next hour or so."

"Good, now we can only sit tight and hope that these reports are wrong."

The young lord and his loyal servant then stood and watch the busy
preparation going on all around them. Both knew that the
possibility of victory, or even survival was slim. Had the castle
remained intact then it might have been possible to withstand the
coming attack, but without its defences then they would likely be
overwhelmed if the Gorgon turned his gaze in their direction. Still
both stood firm, ready to die to defend their nation.

Far from the coming battle in Rohrmarch the Chimaera winged her way
through the early morning skies. She had flown for half a
day and almost all of the next night, but had found no sign of the Dwarf
who had fallen, his body now lost to the cold, dark waters
of the Khurinlach far below the peak where her tower stood. Despite the
fact that his body was lost the Chimaera was still
unsatisfied. Certainly none would now know that she was still alive, but
she had lost the opportunity to add his skeleton to the
growing collection beneath her tower.

In recent years she had made a habit of collecting the skeletons of all
who dared to oppose her, more as trophies than for any other
purpose. Of all of those who had challenged her only the powerful
Awnshegh known as the Flayer of Minds had successfully fought
her and survived. She still hungered for a rematch, but knew that she
was not powerful enough for that yet. She did not wish to
allow the Dwarf also to escape her grasp, even in death but eventually
had been forced to call off the search.

Her wounds and hunger had driven her to return from her hunt, no longer
strong enough to keep herself aloft in the powerful winds
that were beginning to again lash the Promontory. Now she painfully
ascended the stairs, one leg dragging limply behind her. The
door to her bedroom still stood open, left that way from when she had
torn out of the room earlier to drive out the invaders. Nearing
the room the Chimaera could still smell the earthy taint of Dwarven
blood in the room beyond. She snarled in displeasure when she
noticed the blood splattered throughout the room, and the remains of the
Dwarven priest lying torn and bloody in the centre of the

Moving across the room the Chimaera grasped the dead Dwarf's body in her
powerful claws and dragged it across the floor, leaving
a trail of dark blood smeared across the already stained and dirty
floor. Once Merner's body was clear of the room she twisted her
neck and with a mighty heave hurled his corpse down the stairs to the
ground floor. Then after that was taken care of the Chimaera
returned to the bedroom and curled up on the floor, still feeling the
wounds that the Dwarves had given her. As she lay there the
body of the Chimaera slowly drifted away and that of the half-elf Danita
returned as she let her body return to its natural form.

Once more herself Danita opened her eyes and looked around the darkened
room, fatigue plainly visible on her blood-stained face.
Outside the sun was rising to the east, its light creeping around the
now torn edges of the black curtain that covered the window.
With a long sigh Danita pulled herself to her feet, wincing slightly at
the sharp pain from her wounded legs. The gash from the
heavy crossbow bolt had almost already healed and troubled her little,
but her other leg where the bone had been shattered by the
Dwarven chief's hammer would cause her pain for some days, until her
healing abilities restore her body to full health.

With a painful limp she staggered across to the window and tried to open
the curtain. Before she could do so though her leg
collapsed beneath her and she tumbled to the ground, grasping wildly as
she fell. Her head struck the cold stone floor and she gave
a gasp of pain and slowly slipped into unconsciousness.

When she woke again the sun high in the sky and she found herself lying
on the floor bathed in light, the dark curtain now lying
heaped on the floor near her. She felt sick, and still tired, but at
least the pain in her broken leg seemed to have subsided. Reaching
up Danita grabbed the window sill and pulled herself up into a sitting
position, nearly exhausting herself with the effort that took.
She rested her back up against the warm stone behind her and through
half closed eyes surveyed the room.

The first thing she saw was the backpack of the dead Dwarven priest. It
was lying in a pool of the priests blood in the centre of the
room, the top flap partially open and a large earthenware pot sitting on
the floor next to it. Danita thought back to the previous day
and remembered how the Dwarf had used the contents of the pot to heal
her then. She quickly drew on her reserves of strength and
shuffled across the floor the reach the jar of ointment, and pulled out
its wooden cork. Inside was a pale white ointment which
Danita spread across her wounded legs, watching in pleasure as the
wounds healed and closed.

After lying back against the bed for a while as the wounds closed Danita
pulled the backpack across to her and began rifling
through its contents. Tossing aside clothing and holy implements she had
soon looked through the entire pack, but had yet to find
what she was looking for. Then she spotted in on the far side of the
room and crawled over to reach the half-eaten loaf of Dwarven
bread. With her prize in her grasp she tore its wrapping off and quickly
ate the remainder of the loaf, still marveling at the sweet
honey and raisins that filled the dark bread. Then, her hunger satisfied
for now she crawled back to the bed and climbed onto the
blood soaked blankets and soon after fell asleep, this time to rest.

- --
Ian Hoskins

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