Barely a day later the Gorgon's armies had finished their march through
the forests of Osternord, leaving a long trail of destruction
behind them. At last though the army had left the trees and now found
themselves on a road winding east through the trees.
Rohrmarch soldiers had ambushed the forward units twice in the past day,
but both times had been driven off by Goblin wolf-riders
stationed near the front of the army. Now at the end of the second day
since they had entered Rohrmarch the army had finally
reach the outskirts of Osternord town.

Baruk sat on his horse, looking out of the dark, barren fields as all
around him were Goblin soldiers readying themselves for the
first attack. In the distance he could see the buildings that made up
the town, and in a few places there were glints of light as the
dying sunlight struck the weapons of the town defenders. Baruk was
pleased so far with the war, and now that the Gorgon had gone
to ready the main army to ready for the strike on the northern Capital
of Oden he was left to destroy this smaller town. His soldiers
had already rampaged through some of the smaller northern villages,
killing or driving off those who they found there. Now though
he had been given a real battle, one that he could prove his leadership
to both his master and his troops.

The sun soon dropped below the horizon, Avani's journey over for another
day. Activity in the Goblin army however only increased
as all around Baruk the Goblin soldier readied their weapons for war.
The battle would be fought this night, when the Baruk and his
troops had a great advantage over the Humans with their night vision and
superior night fighting skills. The Humans, used to fighting
in the daytime, would be at a great disadvantage. Seeing his soldiers
were now as ready as they would ever be Baruk pulled out the
battle horn and gave it one long, sharp, blow, the signal for the

All around him then came the sounds of movement as the Goblin army
rushed across the barren farmland towards the enemy town. In
the distance Baruk could see the Humans light large fires so they could
see. He knew however that the fires would make little
difference, and that his troops would win this battle. He mounted his
war-horse and he rode off after the hordes of Goblin

By the time Baruk reached the town the battle was already well under
way. Archers on both sides filled the skies with dark shafts
and Baruk raised his shield above his head to ward off any stray arrows.
The Humans had barricaded the entrances into the town,
but already those barricades had been broken and the Goblin warriors now
fought the Humans in the streets of the town itself.

Baruk guided his horse through one of the broken barricades, wincing
slightly as an arrow thudded into his shield, the arrow head
pushing its way through the wooden shield and scratching his arm. He
spared a glance at the arrowhead to satisfy himself that it
wasn't poisoned before reaching over and breaking the shaft in half, the
heavy arrowhead falling onto the ground. Baruk's horse,
trained well in the ways of war, stood quietly in the middle of the
battlefield as Baruk glanced around for the archers. He spotted
them on the balcony of a nearby inn and spurred his horse off in that

Drawing his sword he smashed it down onto the helmet of a Human soldier
engaged in a nearby fight and his horse leapt over the
falling body into the street behind, away from the main battle. Baruk
jumped down from the saddle and dived towards a nearby
doorway as the archers fired again. A shrill cry came from his horse and
he turned, seeing the faithful animal falling to the ground,
two shafts sticking out of its neck. While the archers were reaching for
new arrows he leapt across the road to the entrance of the
nearby inn, where he was at once attacked by more Humans.

The Humans he was facing now were not true soldiers, and in fact he
wondered if any had ever held a weapon before. He easily
swept aside the spear in the first soldier's hand with his shield and
drove his sword into the chest of another attacker. The Humans
pulled back now, aware that they faced a superior warrior. He smiled at
their caution, but did not slow his attack, instead pulling
his weapon from the chest of the now dead opponent and raising the now
bloody weapon for another strike. There were now only
four Humans left, and from what he could see most were armed only with
common farmers implements, including hoes and similar
items. Baruk laughed as he moved forward to finish the battle.

Two minutes later the farmers were dead and his way to the roof was
clear. Baruk stepped over the bodies of the farmers and
started up the stairs to the upper levels. Flickering torches lined the
wall, barely even lighting the hallway he now walked down.
Outside the inn the sounds of fighting had moved off and as he was
listening to this Baruk heard footsteps from the far end of the
Hallway. He quickly pulled open a nearby door and stepped into the room,
leaving the door slightly open so he could watch who

It was the archers that he had spotted earlier on the roof of the inn.
Obviously they were now retreating thinking that the building
would soon be overrun. He smiled again as he stepped out of the room a
dagger in each hand. Two quick flicks of his hands and two
of the archers fell, his daggers buried in their backs. The third archer
spun around and with one look at the heavily armed Orog
General fled towards the stairs. He didn't make it though as Baruk's
Goblin troops had reached the inn and met the unfortunate
archer of the stairs.

After retrieving his daggers Baruk strode back down the hallway to the
stairs, and stood watching in amusement as his soldiers tore
the archer's body to pieces. He quickly tired of the scene though
realising that he still had a war to fight, there would be time later
for some fun. Motioning to the Goblin to follow him he left the inn and
went back outside into the streets of Osternord. The Goblins,
despite their surprise at finding their General in the heat of the
battle fell in behind him, leaving the now dead archer lying dead at
the base of the stairs.

Outside the battle was nearly over. Baruk looked around and noticed that
several building were now alight, and as far as he could
see no Humans remained alive. The battle for the town seemed to be over
completed after less that five minutes. Baruk spied one of
his lieutenants near a burning shop on the other side of the road and
quickly crossed to learn the latest on the fight.

"We have driven them back on all fronts General," the Goblin Captain
replied to Baruk's query. "We think there may be a few left in
the ruins of the castle above, but the town seems to be ours."

"Good," Baruk said loudly, to keep his voice above the roar of the
flames. "Send more troops to investigate the ruins, but don't push
forward there yet. Make sure the town is cleared out first, we don't
want the enemy falling on us from behind. I will meet you and
the other Captains outside the castle. We will attack then."

"Yes Lord Baruk," the Goblin said with a bow, running off to join his

Baruk looked up at the ruined castle above and noticed the large number
of Human troops gathered on the walls. He turned to one
of the Goblins soldiers who had come with him from the inn and said,
"You, go get the priests. I have a task for them."

"Yes General," the Goblin said with a salute, running toward the town

Baruk looked again at the castle and after sending out some more orders,
using the other Goblins from the inn as runners, headed
for the ruined barricades at the entrance. He realised that the castle,
despite the main keep being destroyed, would still stand firm
against his troops for now. He needed an advantage, which meant that the
battle would have to be postponed for the day. There was
no use in risking the entire army in a foolish assault on the castle
when other methods could be used at much less cost.

In the town behind him the sound of horns announced the Goblin
withdrawal, and with the Human defenders of the main town now
destroyed the Goblins retreated, away from the archers stationed in the
castle ruins. Behind them they left a burning town,
scattered with the corpses of hundreds of Human defenders, and a smaller
number of Goblin warriors.

The fires that had been lit by the Goblin troops burned through much of
the next day, but the Orog general did not push home the
attack, preferring instead to wait until his priests were ready. From
the walls of the ruined castle Branm Osternord and Lord
Wilhiem could see the enemy moving about on the outskirts of the town.
The smoke from the fires filled the air above the hill where
the castle was built and had covered everyone with a sooty residue.

The surviving Osternord troops and citizens were all now gathered within
the still standing walls of the castle and despite the
destruction of the town spirits were still high. So far no-one had seen
any Goblin artillery units, and without artillery then an
assault would have little chance against the castle's wall. The Lords
were certain that the Orog General that they had seen earlier
leading the attack would have knowledge of siege weapons and given time
could construct battering rams, ladders and other siege
engines. The castle still had defences against these though and with the
gates closed there was no way into the courtyard. Branm
knew that if they could hold off the attacker for a couple more days
then it was likely that help would come from the other province
of Rohrmarch.

Branm had yet to see any Goblin activity in the trees though, so held
out hope that Osternord could yet be saved. Also the scouts
seemed to have underestimated the size of Kiergard army, and so far no
sign had been seen of the enemies Awnshegh leader. The
young lord Osternord was however worried about the current activity on
the far side of the fields around the town. It had begun
shortly after dawn broke and had continued through much of the day. At
first he thought that the smoke he saw was a cooking fire,
but now he was not so sure, especially after one of the soldiers had
pointed out Goblins dragging away corpses, both Human and
Goblin and carrying them off toward the fires in the distance.

Things had grown even more worrying around midday when a dark pall
seemed to come down on the town and the surrounding area.
The smoke had grown thicker over the city and the day even darker. A
cold chill had swept across the ruined town and despite the
warmth from his armour and the fires in the town Branm had felt the
cold. The town graveyard had taken on a shadowy feel and evil
seemed to radiate from it, where before it had always looked calm and
peaceful. Looking around Branm had noted that he was not
the only one effected this way as he had seen battle hardened veterans
huddling in their cloaks to ward of the cold and spend the
time to make gestures to their gods. Then the chanting had begun.

At first it had been nothing more than a quiet whisper on the breeze,
but soon the volume rose and the sounds of the chants of the
Goblin priests could be heard across the whole battle field. Worse still
were the cries of the few prisoners taken as they were
sacrificed to whatever dark god the Goblin followed. The chanting and
sacrifices went on for much of the afternoon and the air
around the town, already filled with smoke and ash carried with it now
the smell of fresh blood, and something else that Branm
couldn't yet identify. Then abruptly the chanting stopped and the fields
were quiet once more.

The battlefield was still darkened by thick smoke, and now that the sun
was close to setting once more the defenders could see that
it would be a very dark night indeed. There was no sign of light from
the far side of the fields where the Goblins had gathered. No
fires burned there anymore and the darkness that was quickly falling
across the land had blocked any sight of the attackers
gathering their forces together for the final assault.

One of the soldiers on the west wall was first to spot the advance,
seeing faint movement through the smoke. At once the archers
dragged up their heavy longbows and drew out their first arrows. Their
sergeants urged them to wait and save their shafts as
supplies were low. The Lords standing atop the gatehouse and the
soldiers gathered along the wall held their breath and waited for
the attack to come.

Then with barely a sound they were on them. Unlike the previous attack
this time the enemies made little sound. No battle cries
broke the silence and only the clink of armour and weapon as well as the
sounds of footsteps betrayed the position of the enemy
soldiers. Osternord's archers readied their bows and when the enemy
units where within range fired. A volley of arrows flung itself
across the small gap between the wall and the enemy army and without a
sound nearly a third of the enemy soldiers fell to the

Branm watched in satisfaction as the enemy fell down in waves, nearly a
hundred dead in the first volley. Then another cold chill
pricked at him and he watched in horror as the enemies he though dead
climbed back to their feet and again marched towards the
castle wall. He knew at once what was wrong. The Goblin priests had
turned the dead from yesterdays battle into zombies and
skeletons. His own dead soldiers were being used against him.

The undead shuffled slowly up to the main gate and began battering it
with their swords, axes and even bare hands. The efforts of
the Osternord archers seemed to be having little effect. Occasionally
one zombie would be knocked down, but its place was taken
by more and more of the undead creatures. Burning oil seemed to have
little effect either. It destroyed a few zombies, but others
were just stripped of their flesh with little actual effect. Branm knew
they would soon be through the gate so he ordered every
spare soldier to the main gate, along with all the priests he could
spare. Below where he now stood he could see large splinters of
wood falling to the ground, splinters from the huge gates that he had
hoped would protect them. Despite their size and thickness
they would not stand much longer as he had depended on an attack by
troops that could be killed, not undead.

Inside the courtyard a stream of soldiers and townsfolk were carrying
large stones from the fallen keep to make a barricade
behind the gate, while others poked long spears though the holes that
had already appeared in the wooden gate to try and slow the
undead army down. This continued for several minutes until the left gate
finally gave way collapsing on top of a group of attacking
undead, crushing many and trapping others. The tactics over the past ten
minutes of battle had cut the number of the invaders by
more than half, but still nearby a hundred remained to rush through the

The defenders behind the gate jumped over the wall and sought what
little protection was afforded by the low stone structure that
had quickly been built behind the gate. It prove little obstacle to the
zombies and skeletons however as they just leapt over the wall
as the soldiers had done. However once there the priests of Kirche were
ready and with the might of their god behind them they
dismissed many of the undead attackers from existence. Many of the dead
forms crumbling to the ground, or in one case burning up
under the holy might of the High Priest., Father Dane. Other undead fled
from the five priests, turning and running back the way
they had just come. Some however made it past the priests and the battle

With their heavy swords and now fighting a much reduced enemy the
Osternord defenders were having much better luck now.
Sword sliced easily through dead flesh and arms and heads fell to the
ground, followed soon after by the rest of the undead
bodies. It took less that a minute to finish off the attackers, the
defenders had no time to rest though as with the sound of
numerous battle horns and ferocious war cries the main Goblin army
charged the ruined gates.

Holding thick wooden shield above their heads the Goblins had made it
past the archers, although some of their number now lay
dead outside. Most of the attackers made it safely though and now as
many as a thousand enemy soldiers were pouring thought the
gate and into the castle grounds. The defenders at the gate where the
first to fall, the few hundred there no match for the Goblin
hordes. From the ruined town beyond more and more Goblins poured out of
burned out building, ready to rush up the hillside to the

Branm Osternord knew that he was going to die now, without a miracle of
some kind. The castle was breached and there was no
where to flee now, even if he had wish to do so. He gripped his weapon
firmly and strode down the stairs of the gatehouse to do
battle with the attackers. The first enemy he came across was a lone
Goblin who had just found the stairs leading up to the roof.
The Goblin died in a single thrust, Branm's sword taking him in the
throat. Pausing only to push the Goblin from his blade Branm
walked out of the gatehouse and into the melee in the courtyard.

The battle within the castle was not going well for the defenders.
Initially they had numbered around three hundred as well as the
many townsfolk who had remained behind to defend their homes. This
number was now cut by at least half and there were well over
a thousand Goblin soldiers fighting inside the castle, some had even
made it onto the walls and were fighting a running battles with
the archers and other defenders who had remained there. With the archers
occupied the enemy general had ordered the use of
ladders and grabbling hooks and even more Goblins were now climbing over
the walls and into the fight.

Branm was spotted almost immediately by the Goblins pouring through the
entrance and in he found himself being pushed back inside
the gatehouse by three Goblins with more gathering behind them, the
hunger for battle evident on their twisted faces. Branm killed
the first attacker by driving his sword aside and kicking him backwards
onto the waiting weapons of the other Goblins. That move
left him a little open to attack though and he had to jump backwards to
avoid the eager slashes of Goblin swords. With his right foot
on the first step of the stairs he smashed his heavy blade through the
defences of another attacker slashing his throat. The Goblin
fell, blood gushing from his wound. The Goblin soldier's death did not
slow the advance though and Branm found himself pushed
further and further up the stairs by a gathering horde of enemies.

He soon lost track of the time he had been fighting, and even the number
of Goblins he had killed. His armour and weapon was now
smeared with blood, and he had come close to dropping his sword twice
after the hilt, slick with the spilt blood of his enemies had
nearly slipped from his grasp. The battle had taken on an almost
automatic feel to it as the young lord thrust, sliced, and slashed
with his heavy longsword. So far he had been lucky and none of the
Goblin had gained a hit on him, but he knew that would not last.
Behind him he could feel the breeze from outside and knew he must be
close to the roof, but dared not risk a look least his
defences fail. Then with one last step he was out of the gatehouse and
onto the roof where hopefully the rest of his bodyguard
would be waiting.

As Branm took another step back though he suddenly felt a sharp pain in
his back and could only look in stunned surprise as a sword
burst out of his chest with a fountain of his own lifeblood. Branm felt
a strange pulling sensation in his heart and watched in horror
as sparks of energy played across the blade protruding from his chest as
his bloodline was stolen from him. He turned his head and
as his eyes slowly closed he saw the face of an Orog General, a
surprised as he was at his death.

Baruk One-Eye wiped his bloody weapon on the dead robes of the enemy
leader, still feeling the after effects of the act of
bloodtheft. He felt stronger now, that much was certain, although the
giddy feeling of elation and immense strength after his blade
had struck the lord had soon passed. He surveyed the continuing battle
below and saw at once that it would not last much longer.
Already most of the Humans in the courtyard were dead, with only a few
pockets of resistance remain on the walls, and in the
devastated ruins of the old keep where one old soldier had gathered a
small force around him and was holding out against any

Baruk was unconcerned though, for he knew that the battle would soon be
over, a victory gained with the deaths of surprisingly few
of his own troops. Certainly there were some loses, that was to be
expected, but it looked as though he had lost maybe as few as
five hundred of his own troops, compared to nearly a thousand enemies.
He quickly dismissed the fact that half of the enemies were
simple townsfolk and still considering his great victory headed for the

Suddenly however a flash came from his left side and an old Human
warrior lurched out of the darkness striking Baruk's shoulder
with a thin rapier. Baruk leapt back, struggling to draw his own weapon,
but the Human still came on, his rapier following the Orog.
Baruk suddenly stopped and reaching out gabbed the light weapon in his
gloved hand and with a display of strength bent it
backwards toward the old man while drawing his dagger in his other hand.
While the Human was still struggling to pull his captured
weapon free Baruk drove his sharp dagger into the old mans chest,
leaving it there as the now dead enemy fell to the ground, his
rapier falling from now dead fingers.

Baruk roughly pulled his dagger from the dead mans chest and cleaned it
on the rich robes of his fallen enemy. Obviously this old
warrior had been someone important, judging by the rich red cloth of his
robes and the fine gold thread that ran through it. Who he
had been was unimportant now though. Baruk quickly searched the body and
finding nothing more interesting than a few reports on
troops numbers in Osternord in a scroll case, left the dead Lord for his

Outside the battle was drawing to a close with those Humans still alive
fleeing the castle, either by climbing down the walls on ropes
or attempting to break out through the main gate. Baruk watched amused
for he knew few would make it. Most would be killed by
the Goblin cavalry that roamed the woods and fields outside the castle,
the rest either bought down by the wolves and monsters of
the forest or picked off by undead left over from the initial battle.
Around him cries of victory arose from his troops as they
realised that the battle was over, if not the war. It had taken only two
hours from start to finish.

- --
Ian Hoskins

ICQ: 2938300