This is the final part of chapter 6. Look out soon for the last chapter
of book 1: The Fall of Prince Oden, and following that book 2: The Iron

- --

Morning came slowly to the lower reaches of the mountain known as the
Promontory. Here, hidden in the shadow of other peaks in
Baruk-Azhik morning fogs often covered the land in a thick, swirling
mist, making it a most uncomfortable place to live. Baruk-Azhik
was a Dwarven nation however so none lived above the surface and its
population did not have to endure the adverse conditions. One
Dwarf however was on the mountain this morning, lying half buried in the
cold snow, near the only trail that led south from
Baruk-Azhik toward the Iron Hills. He did not move however, lying
deathly still on the rock covered slope of the Promontory.

As the mists cleared and the sun began to shine down on the fresh snow
that had fallen the night before a small group of travelers
came into view, picking their way along a barely visible trail. They had
come out onto the mountain from a hidden cave lower down
the slope several hours before and since then had been slowly trudging
along, attempting to find the way onto the trail to the
warmer southern hills. They were Dwarves similar to the one who lay in
the snow, just a short distance in front of them, but their
clothing was tattered and the weapons of poorer quality. They walked
with a shuffle, and seemed to have little concern as to where
they were stepped. Several carried large packs that seemed to hold all
their belongings, or at least those that they could gather on
short notice from where ever they came from. Others however carried
nothing at all, except their weapons and the clothes they

One of the Dwarves suddenly noticed the outline of a body lying in the
snow ahead of him and with a shout to his fellows ran
forward, his boots kicking up the snow as he rushed to see who or what
the body was. Stubby fingers shoveling at the snow he had
already clear much of it away by the time the other travelers arrived.
With the other Dwarves assisting he soon had the snow
cleared away and the injured Dwarf was lain out on a thick fur so the
traveler's priest could examine him.

The injured Dwarf looked very lucky to be alive, especially after having
spent an a day, or maybe more lying in the snow. Most
noticeable of his injuries was a large gash in his forehead, which
although it was no longer bleeding looked very nasty indeed. The
snow beneath the Dwarf was also stained black by blood that had leaked
from wounds on his shoulder, and a large graze that had
torn chunks of flesh off his leg. All of these injuries were made worse
by the fact that the blood had frozen over the wound,
meaning that he was suffering from frostbite or worse. The cold however
seemed to have maintain the Dwarf's life by slowing his
hearts and preventing even more of his lifeblood from spilling onto the

The priest of Moradin pushed his way forward, through a pack of Dwarven
warriors that had gathered around the fallen Dwarves
and knelt down in the snow to do his best to save the wounded Dwarf.
First he had the warriors start a fire, something that was not
an easy task in the snow covered landscape that they currently found
themselves on. They managed to start one wish some dried
paper and wood from one of their pack, and it began blazing away

With the fire going the priest then ordered them to melt some snow in a
pot and boil up some water. When that was done he wet a
rag in the hot water and proceeded to wipe the crystallised blood away
from the injured Dwarf's wounds. With the wounds cleaned
he pulled out his holy symbol and called on Moradin, god of the Dwarfs,
to healed the wounds of the fallen warrior. The god must
have been listening that day for the wounds began to close and the
injured warrior's breathing began to quicken as warmth
returned to him.

Pleased with his efforts the priest ordered the warriors to throw away
the water he had used to clean the wounds with, get another
pot and heat up some more snow to make into a broth to feed the injured
Dwarf once he recovered. Dwarves were not usually great
consumers of soups and similar dishes, but this Dwarf had possibly spent
several days lying in a pile of freezing snow and the priest
knew that what he needed now was something warm to return his system to
normal. The wounds may have been healed but the
injured warrior would need his strength back if he was to continue to
live, and the priest had not spells for renewing lost strength.

With a moan the injured warrior moved slightly, his eyelids fluttering
as his body struggled to regain consciousness and return to
the world of the living. With leaden slowness his opened his eyes,
before quickly shutting them again as the morning sunlight, that
was just peeking over the horizon shone straight into his eyes. Then he
gathered his strength and pushed himself into a sitting
position, before opening his eyes once more to look out over the
Khurinlach. The clear waters of the lake shone brightly this early in
the morning, and the sunlight glinted of a tiny boat that pushed its
ways slowly across the lake toward the traders caves on the
northern shore. For a moment the Dwarf almost forgot where he was,
enjoying the morning for its beauty and forgetting his own
pains and injuries. A voice nearby broke his concentration though and he
turned his head to face the speaker.

"How are you feeling," the priest was asking. "Do you hurt anywhere? I
still have a little healing power left today and may be able
to aid you some more if you need it."

The injured warrior smiled and said, "I hurt everywhere, but considering
what I have been through that is nothing. If I am still alive
now then I will survive."

"Good," the priest said with an answering smile. "You had me worried
when I first saw you, I was sure we would not be able to save
you. Fortunately you seem to be a tough old warrior and I managed to
patch up the worst of the cuts and scrapes, but there may still
be wounds I can't see."

The injured Dwarf felt a pain in his chest as he talked, 'probably a
broken rib or two,' he thought. There did not seem anything
major though and after a quick examination he got to his feet, despite
the protests of the priest.

"You should rest, that was quite a battering you took. You do not want
to kill yourself do you?"

"I will be fine," the warrior replied, flexing his body and testing the
extent of his injuries. As far as he could tell the priest had
done a very good job and most of the bad wounds have been sealed,
including the gash the Chimaera had given him as she had
pushed him off the cliff. Looking up and behind him Wulfram Wainier saw
the massive shape of the peak he had tumbled from. He
paled slightly and gave a quick prayer to his god as he wondered exactly
how he had managed to survive such a fall.

"You seem alright," the priest said, interrupting the Thane's thoughts.
"Are you sure that you do not want me to check you over
though, you do not want to collapse again from your wounds."

"I did not collapse," Wulfram said firmly. "I was pushed down the
mountain, and ended up here."

"Pushed down the mountain," asked one of travelers in amazement. "Where

The Thane raised his armed and pointed. Far up the peak a dark shape
could been seen outlined against the blue sky, the Chimaera's
tower. "Up there," he said. "My companions and I were ambushed by the
Chimaera and she pushed me over the side of the peak after
slaughtering all my soldiers."

The Dwarves gathered around the priest and the Thane looked in
admiration at the old warrior who had managed to fight the
Chimaera and live. Stories of her rampages had reached their ears, even
in their homeland, far to the north of Baruk-Azhik. Anyone
who had managed to fight her and survive was someone to be respected and
the soldiers looked on Wulfram in a new light and
gathered around to listen to his tale of the battle.

The Thane gave them a short recount of how he and his men had gone to
investigate the Chimaera's tower and then had been
surprised by her and most of them killed before they could even respond.
As he spoke though a small knot of worry began to work
its way into the back of his mind. He looked around a the gathered
soldiers and noted their armour and clothing, and seeing nothing
familiar became even more worried.

All Dwarves of Baruk-Azhik wore a small metal or cloth patch on their
clothes that showed their allegiance, either to a guild or to
one of the Thanes. These warriors had none, although the priest wore a
ragged cloth patch showing him to be a member of the
temple of Moradin on his right shoulder. The others though were dressed
most strangely and the Thane thought perhaps he had run
into a group of bandits, although he had never heard of Dwarven bandits
before. It was then he noticed their weapons, and
recognised their make.

The Thane had in his younger days been a skilled weaponsmith and had
over time grown familiar with the works of most of the
Dwarven and Human smiths in the region. These warriors carried axes and
sword of a make he recognised as the work of a
Mur-Kilad smith. He reached about for his own mighty warhammer, but
found it missing, most likely lost as he fell down the mountain
side. He began to draw back, sure that he would be killed by what he
thought was a band of invading warriors, loyal to the Gorgon.
The priest, noting the Thanes movements, spoke quickly to reassure him
about the true nature of the travelers.

"Do not worry good Dwarf. There is now a truce between our two nations.
Overthane Graybeard agreed to it two days ago, you
would not have heard out here though."

"A truce," the Thane asked, his mind reeling in confusion at the very
thought. His confusion was well founded, as for more than a
thousand years the two Dwarven nations had been bitter enemies.
Baruk-Azhik hated Mur-Kilad for siding with the Gorgon, and
Mur-Kilad blamed Baruk-Azhik's policy of cutting themselves off from all
external contact following the battle of Deismaar as the
reason for their fall into the Gorgon's influence. Tension between the
two realms had been heated ever since and the though of
reconciliation between the two was almost unbelievable to the Thane, who
had grown up to stories of the evil Dwarves of Mur-Kilad.
Confused he stuttered, "What ha..happened."

"Ruarch Rockhammer had managed to convince many in Mur-Kilad to break
away from the Gorgon's influence and they sided with
the Iron Hills in the recent war. I was leading this party south to join
up with the High Priest in Mhowe when I heard the news. It
seems that we will soon be allies with Mur-Kilad against the Gorgon."

"But the Gorgon, won't he slaughter everyone in Mur-Kilad if he
discovers they have betrayed him," queried Wulfram, still more than
a little confused by the whole thing.

"Yes, that is why those in Mur-Kilad who follow Moradin and side with
Baruk-Azhik and the Iron Hills will be allowed safe passage
south to a new home in the mountains and hills south of here. I am
leading this advance party to look for a location for a new home
for the Dwarves of Mur-Kilad."

"But you could not have known about this when you left. Mur-Kilad is a
long way from the Iron Hills, three weeks travel at least."

The priest looked faintly embarrassed. "We left Mur-Kilad before we knew
the outcome of the talks. Ruarch has been planning this
for nearly thirty years now, something that the Overthane was not too
happy to learn. In fact it was very close for a while there as
many thought the Overthane was going to prevent the treaty from being
signed, but the three other Thanes who were there backed
the idea, and were able to get him to agree."

"Sounds like I should get back home then," Wulfram said. "The Overthane
will likely call on me to keep an eye on things from this

"Why would he call you," the priest asked, eyeing the bedraggled and
still injured old warrior.

"Because I am Thane Wulfram Wainier," the Thane said with a slight

The priest looked flustered at not recognising the old Dwarven warrior,
who was known throughout Baruk-Azhik. "I apologise my
lord, I did not recognise you under all that blood."

"That is ok, I was out here in disguise anyway. Now how about some of
that delicious smelling soup I can see over there."

One of the Mur-Kilad warriors passed the Thane a bowl of steaming soup
and a chunk of thick bread, both of which the Thane took
gratefully. He then sat down on a rock to speak to the former enemies
who were now to be his new allies. There was much to be
discussed if Mur-Kilad and Baruk-Azhik Dwarves were to live side by side
once more.

The Coeranys capital of Ruorven sat basking in an unusual warm winters
day. After several days of typical cold winter weather the
clouds had cleared and Avani had blessed the entire region with a
uncharacteristically warm day. In a land that is usually under the
cover of clouds the day had bought out many of the locals and as it was
also market day the streets of the capital were filled with
citizens, traders, and visitors, all eager to enjoy the warmth.

One such visitor was having the time of her life in the shops of
Ruorven. Already Danita had replaced her old, tattered and worn
gown with a new dress of thick purple velvet, that matched her eyes
perfectly. With a new pair of fashionable, calf-high, boots on
her feet as well she had been transformed from looking like a dirty
beggar to a lovely young woman. Her hair had been washed and
trimmed and set into a popular Anuirean style and her skin gleamed,
looking clean and healthy.

Danita's once large pouch of gold was growing thinner as the day went
by, but she was now well dressed, clean, and back the way
she wanted to be. She giggled to herself as she observed several men in
the crowd looking at her in interest, pleased that others
noted her beauty again. With a new lightness to her step she headed off
towards her final destinations for the afternoon, the first
a shop where she would purchase items for spellcasting. Once she had
possessed a vast collection of such items, but now she lacked
even the most basic items.

Many who watched her as she passed however were more interested in
Danita for the almost tangible aura of power that surrounded
her, marking her as one of the blooded. A noble scion of Coeranys, Aeric
Dournil, seeing the young woman immediately took a close
interest as she skipped down the street, intrigued as to who she might
be. She appeared to be a scion of great strength, likely the
daughter of one of the great bloodlines. He had not been informed of any
visiting nobles though, so was interested to know exactly
who this woman might be. Motioning to his bodyguards he set of in

He was very surprised to see her enter the shop of Maeric the Alchemist,
an old magician who dwelt in Ruorven and sold both
potions and components for magical spells. Most of his potions usually
proved to have little effect, but he was popular with the
peasants as a source of healing ointments and other items. 'Perhaps she
is after a love potion to entrap a noble suitor,' Aeric thought
with a smile as he stood in the shadows of a nearby ally watching the
shop carefully.

Danita was not inside long though, emerging shortly after she entered
with a large bag that she had Maeric prepare while she
shopped. The old magician had remembered her from her last visit to
Ruorven, nearly forty years ago when he had been only a mere
apprentice and, in fear of his life, had put together what she had
wanted and charged her only the cost price of the items. Danita
laughed to herself at the thought of how powerful her reputation had
become over the years. Heading back to the market to pick up
other packages she had arranged for earlier that day she walked straight
past the noble soldier watching from a nearby ally.

Aeric watched her pass, carrying the bag of spell components over one
shoulder. His eyes narrowed in suspicion as he thought about
her actions. As he was one of the higher ranking nobles in the kingdom
he was privy to much of the intelligence from the Coeranys
spies in other nations. One of the stories that came to mind immediately
was that the court mage of Osoerde, known as the Swamp
Mage was a woman. It was said that she never showed her face to anyone,
even her apprentices.

As the gears in Aeric's mind turned he came to the decision that Danita
was in fact the Swamp Mage, probably in league with Maeric
the Alchemist in a plot by Osoerde to overthrow the rule of Coeranys'
beloved Duchess. Loyal, if none too bright, Aeric came to the
decision to arrest her. With a quick word to his band of ruffians he set
off after Danita, determined to learn who else was in
league with her, his mind already on the possibility of marrying the
eligible duchess after she learned of his skill and bravery.

Unaware that she was being followed Danita continued on her way,
stopping twice more. The first time was to pick up several pairs
of boots and shoes that a local cobbler had been preparing for her, and
the second stop to collect several large packages filled
with clothing from a local dressmaker. Then laden down with her
purchases she headed out of the city, wanting to be far from
Ruorven before changing into the Chimaera for the flight home. She knew
it would not do for her to change into her beast form here
in the city, as it would only lead to trouble. Besides she wanted to
come back here again and buy more things for her home. Her bed
still needed new blankets and she had seen a very nice collection of
rugs in the stall of a Khinasi merchant.

She was taking a short cut through an ally when suddenly several dark
figures stepped out in front of her, blocking her passage.
Glancing quickly back behind her she noticed that more figures had moved
to block that way as well. Then her attention was drawn
back to the way she had been travelling when a voice rang out.

"Surrender foul wizard, or I Aeric Dournil will run you through. You
have broken the laws of Coeranys and now your life is

Danita looked at the speaker in amusement, eyeing his feathered cap, the
puffy white sleeves of his tunic, and his Brecht rapier.
She lowered her packages to the ground, appearing to comply with the
soldiers orders. She was however preparing a spell, eager to
try out her refound magical abilities, especially after spending so much
gold on components today. When she straightened up after
putting the packages down she had in her hand a small packet to fine

The noble and his bodyguards moved in closer, not noticing her hands
moving quickly as she whispered the word of a spell.
Completing the incantation she tossed the sand in front of her mouth and
blew softly into the air, completing the spells. The sand
glowed with a golden light and with the her hands she directed it to
drift across her attackers, where they were unable to stop from
breathing it in. Aeric Dournil suddenly found himself unable to keep his
eyes open. He tried to lift his rapier to strike down the
wizard but instead dropped to the ground fast asleep.

Danita laughed as the sight the soldiers made as they fell then turning
around she picked up her packages and continued on her way,
stepping over the fallen men. By the time they awoke she would be out of
Ruorven and well on her way back to her tower. Aeric and
his men however would give the followers of Eloéle a good laugh as they
robbed the fallen noble blind and left him lying naked in
the alleyway, his purse, weapons, and clothing used to feed a lucky
group of thieves.

Baruk One-Eye rode his horse into the main camp of the Gorgon in western
Osternord. All around him the army was gathering for the
main assault, after the two days of fierce fighting that had swept
through the province. His masters standard now flew from the
ruins of several towns, and hundreds of human slaves were now been
dragged north into Kiergard to work in the slave farms that
supplied the Gorgon's lands with much of their food. Many human
civilians had fled south, but Baruk worried little about them, for
soon the Gorgon would control the entire kingdom and they would have
nowhere to flee too.

Hundred of Goblins had died in the battles over the past week or so, but
over a thousand human warriors had also been slaughtered.
Baruk knew that this war was mainly about removing the population
pressures that had built up in the Goblin warrens of the Gorgon's
Crown, but he had begun to think that perhaps victory over Rohrmarch was
not too much to hope for. He had personally led the
battle against the ruins of Osternord Castle and victory there had been
achieved quite easily. Most of the other provinces were not
so well protected and would fall quickly. Already troops had been
dispatched toward Edel province and now he was to march of the
capital of northern Rohrmarch, the fortified city of Oden.

Named after the prince who ruled northern Rohrmarch, it was a heavily
fortified town, with both walls and a large citadel that rose
from the towns centre. The battle to claim it would be bloody, but Baruk
had no doubts that they would succeed. That thought on his
mind he dismounted and enter the large command tent to meet with his
master and plan for the battles to come.

- --
Ian Hoskins

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