User:Green Knight/The Chronicles of the Dragon

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This article is Fan Fiction
The contents herein are entirely player made and in no way represent official Birthright lore or history.
The characters and events listed are of an independent nature and are applied for roleplaying purposes only.

[top]The Goblin

A man has his needs, army or not, and this evening called for some solitude. Never being one to share his pleasures, no matter how minor, Moergan stalked purposefully towards the sentry lines. I really detest being cooped up with all manner of low-life commoners. Perhaps I should just leave this damn army behind? No, I swore the Oath of Service, no matter how unfairly it was forced upon me. Damn my twisted sense of honor; it will get me killed some day.
?I have orders to fetch the captain some clean water, he did not fancy the stuff we drew from the well?. The words came unbidden to his lips; growing in a noble household had taught him to use lies whenever necessary. That was a truly lame excuse. The rapier wit of the Shaemes is another of my failings. Shrugging, the duty corporal let him through with a wave. Lucky they are only commoners; they know it not, but the Blood commands them still.
As he ventured into the woods the noises and smells of the camp slowly faded away. A thick canopy of leaves shielded him from the last rays of the setting sun, already low on the western horizon. The chilling breeze that had been with them since marching from Caer Ravar stilled into nothingness under that dark green canopy. A cool silence, broken only by his own soft footsteps and the faint rustling of leaves, surrounded him as he walked deeper into the shadowy forest. Quiet and gloomy these northern woods. Very much like the people that dwell here. Back home the hunting preserves teem with life, birds and small game and deer are always plentiful. It seems that even animals shun this cold and dreary land.
The mighty oaks and redbarks were spaced quite evenly, about ten yards separating each tree. Very few other plants seemed to thrive in their shadow. The ground was covered with a thick carpet of moss and short, soft grasses and a variety of fallen redbark leaves. The ground was gently rolling, but not so much as to make walking neither arduous nor keeping direction difficult. Small streams and ponds were in abundance though. Moergan saw small, silvery fish in several of the larger ones. The rolling ground, the trees and the deep shadows made it difficult to accurately see anything more than a stone?s throw away. In darkness delve the creatures of Evil. In shadows hide the enemies of Light. The Book of Laws had a fitting verse for the situation, as it always did.
Moergan suddenly realized that he had gone much further away from the camp than he had intended to, perhaps half a mile or more. It was getting darker by the minute. How long have I been away? Half a glass at least, maybe more. Woodcraft indeed, gawking at trees and fish and getting all religious instead of paying attention. I must have been reported lost by now or will be very soon. The sergeant is going to be furious. Not that Moergan really cared or felt at all intimidated by the man. Only the oath he gave on serving at the best of his abilities really meant something. That had been given to a true Noble, a man of the Blood. Getting caught at insubordination and dereliction was clearly not in line with that oath. If I get lost in the dark and they have to search for me, it will be jack duty for a year. The elf-loving bastard would like that, thrashing one of better blood than he. Better head back, and quickly before this becomes a disciplinary matter unworthy of one Noble born. He was about to turn back when he suddenly heard a splashing noise followed by a low gurgle. The sound of water on water. The sound of a man drawing water and drinking.
His hand closed around the familiar shape of the sword hilt. He drew it slowly, lest sound betray his presence. There was someone close by. Perhaps a sentry. No, not so far from camp. One of the Baron?s woodsmen then. He almost called out, but suddenly thought better of it. Why would they camp away from security of the main force? They surely knew it was there. Making camp was not silent work. If the Baron?s woodsmen were half as skilled as they boasted they could not have failed to notice an entire company making camp in the vicinity. Someone else, brigands or poachers perhaps. He moved toward the sound. The moss carpet made moving silently quite easy. He heard another splash and gurgle. The sound was surprisingly close, coming from the far side of a huge royal oak. He moved slowly now, breathing lightly and taking care not to make any noise.
The creature was small, about the size and build of a skinny boy in his mid teens. The nose was small with upturned nostrils, the ears elongated, a slanted forehead and the eyes large and without whites. It wore loose fitting trousers made from some kind of rough, brownish fibers and a studded, sleeveless leather jerkin that had seen considerable use. Instead of boots it had animal hides wrapped and laced around its feet. The creature carried a short stabbing sword tucked in a leather waistband. The blade looked cheap and crude compared to the weapons Moergan was used to. A sturdy spear leaned on a fifty foot oak, not one handspan away from it?s owner. It too looked crude, but very functional. The creature was standing beside a small pond, drawing and drinking water from wooden cup.

It?s not human. A goblin. Surely it is a goblin. By Haelyn, what is it doing here? There are not supposed to be any goblins on this side of the river. Sera?s curse on that fool sergeant. While Moergan had never actually seen a goblin before, he knew of them by hearsay. Every boy in Anuire did. Goblins figured widely in the ballads and sagas as servants of evil. They had been Azrai?s creatures from the start. The Book of Laws clearly stated that they were evil by blood even before the War Against Shadow. Every half-wit Anuirean knew that they were enemies of the land and must be killed or driven of lest they corrupt it by their mere presence.
But goblins of legend were much larger and more menacing. Not small and puny like this one, but fierce and brutal warriors. Besides, goblins were supposed to have the senses of wild beasts. It should have detected him long ago if the stories were to be trusted. A trap maybe.
The cup struck him squarely in the chest. He was thrown off balance by the sudden impact. He had barely regained his balance before the goblin came at him, growling. The first spear thrust slipped past his shaky guard and hit the left side of his belly. The glancing blow was mostly tuned by his brigandine jerkin, but still hurt quite a bit. The next two thrusts went a lot better, and he managed to meet the spearhead firmly and turn it aside. There are two basic methods for defeating an opponent armed with a spear or polearm. You either attack his weapon just short of the head until it snaps, effectively leaving you opponent unarmed, or you move aggressively forward to get inside his weapon?s reach. You must never just stand ground, as his superior reach will allow him to repeatedly attack you without exposing himself. The words of the armsmaster suddenly rang clearly in his head.
The goblin got ready for another attack, but this time Moergan was ready, deftly slipping forward while meeting the spearhead with his own blade, and forcing it up down and to the side. Then he was suddenly past the creature?s guard. It howled in surprise, and then quickly swung with the butt of his spear. Moergan had not expected this much ingenuity from a goblin; a spear was intended for thrusting not for clubbing. The spear hit the side of his head and he felt pain and nausea paralyze his body. Never, ever remove your helmet, however tired you are. It is the single most vulnerable area on your body. Even a glancing blow can leave you stunned and open to a follow-up attack. No, the armsmaster wasn?t going to be pleased. Moergan fought to remain standing, fought to keep his balance, fought to keep conscious.
The goblin growled again, a low throaty sound much like a dog?s snarl. It dropped the spear and snatched it?s sword from the belt. Moergan?s limbs felt like lead, he could only watch as the goblin grabbed his jerkin and made ready to drive his blade through and end the fight. Cuiraécen, give me strength. He somehow managed to strike out with his left fist. It connected with a satisfying crunch. The goblin let go and his thrust went wild. Moergan swung his own weapon at the goblin, the spell of dizziness all but gone. Steel blades rang together again and again. And it is when you face the creatures of Evil that you shall truly know the might of our Lord. For He is ever with you and He extends His blessings to men of true courage in their hour of need. All praise to Haelyn. Hail.
The goblin was not the most accomplished swordsman Moergan had fought. It did not seem to adhere to any known drill, at least not one which Moergan was familiar with. It just kept up a steady barrage of swift slashes and sudden thrusts. Only his superior reach allowed him to keep the dancing blade away. He made a few attacks of his own but the goblin had no problem dodging his wild swings. I, Moergan Shaeme, Noble born, am having my ass kicked by this pathetic excuse of a warrior. I will be the laughing stock of the family when words of my defeat reach them. It became very clear to him that he was not winning this fight. Moergan felt no fear only a cold realization that he was probably going to die here at the hands of this unworthy creature. He was already panting from the effort and keeping the goblin at bay was getting more difficult. Perhaps the old armsmaster was right, he was in poor shape. The fight had lasted only a few minutes and already he was heaving for air. Back on his father?s estate he could outrun and outfight every boy of equal age. But then again, the north was nothing like home. Breathe. Breathe you idiot. If you are going down let it be by the blade not from fainting.
It was blind luck that saved him. The goblin?s sword had looked to be in poor condition to start with, made more from iron than steel. Repeated blows form his heavy blade must have weakened the metal. By rights it should have gone straight through his armor, gutted him good and that would have been the end of it. Instead the brittle steel snapped clean off just inches above the guard. The thrust still held enough power to drive the point between the metal scales of his amour. But instead of piercing his bowels the tip twisted and embedded itself in the fleshy part of his hip. It hurt like hell but he managed a backswing of sorts. The blow hit the goblin in the shoulder area. It did not bite as deep as he would have liked, but the goblin screamed and its shortsword fell from limp fingers. He tried for a follow up to the head, but his left leg gave away and he nearly fell. If it tries to run it will get away, there is naught to do about that.
But the goblin did not run, instead it snatched Moergan?s dagger from his belt using its good hand. Still off balance and unable to follow up his attack, Moergan stumbled backwards. The goblin came at him snarling. It must have realized that it was outmatched; a dagger is not a weapon to fight swords with. Yet it did not lack in determination. It came in low, but this time Moergan stuck to the drill. Thrust-parry-slash. The blade caught the goblin across the jaw. This time the blade bit deep, shearing flesh and crushing bone. The goblin went limp and sagged to the ground. With one deft slash he cut its throat to make sure it remained down.
?All praise to Haelyn. Hail. ? His shout echoed through the woods. I better get back and warn the others, there are probably other goblins nearby. He suddenly felt very dizzy, swayed and almost fell. He felt weary to the bone; his entire body throbbed with the pain of his wounds. Cuiraécen did indeed offer me strength and now it is withdrawn. It was common knowledge among warriors that the God of Battle gave men strength to fight on when they were weary. After the fighting stilled this strength was withdrawn, leaving the recipient weak and shivering.
I must rest for a while. And have a drink of water if the goblin did not pollute the pond. Moergan walked past the cooling corpse and over to the pond. As he bent down to drink, his legs gave away and he fell forward into the water. The cold water revived him and he scrambled out. ?Kriesha take the cold ? he muttered. It had gotten quite dark while he was fighting, but not so dark that he could not see the now red waters of the pool. My blood. I must have taken more damage than I realized. He bent to examine his thigh. The goblin?s sword point was still embedded in his flesh. That was good, or so said the field surgeon. As long as the point stayed put he would not loose too much blood. I better get back. Just rest for a little while longer.
?Khaiarên, Khaiarên ?. People shouting. Why are they shouting. Is the Baron lost in the woods? ?Khaiarên, Khaiarên ? The voices were getting closer. Men with torches and drawn swords. Probably after the goblins. That is what we need, more goblin hunters.
?Over `ere, I?ve found `im? a voice called out. Wilfred, my friend. The people were closing in on him. This goblin is already dead, you better look for his friends though. Moergan tried to speak but the words did not reach his lips.
?You are hurt my friend, let me have a look?. Wilfred bent down to examine him. ?Hey sarge, Moergan?s hurt and bad? Wilfred called to the man next to him. ?Hurt himself has he? Serves him well for deserting on us. Hey Moergan, I?ll see you hang for this. Get him on his feet, we?re moving out?. Deserting? Not me, I went to kill me some goblins. ?Aye sarge, will do? answered traitor Wilfred. Did they not realize what had happened here. Could they not see the goblin? ?This might hurt a bit Moergan, I?m goanna pull out the blade and then close the wound. Keep still or you?ll hurt yourself even more?. He steeled himself, but as soon as Wilfred touched the wound he could do nothing but scream and twitch. His leg was on fire, could they not see that? Fools all of them. The goblins were going to burn them all. ?Stannis, Erik hold him down while I remove it, will you. Garred, run to the sarge and tell him that Moergan didn?t hurt himself, that creature did?. Good man Wilfred, a man of the Blood even if Bastard born. ?Now, let?s get this over with shall we?? Strong hands griped him and held him down. Then there was fire and pain until the darkness claimed him.

[top]The Ambush

Armies usually do a lot of marching. The commanders said this was necessary because the men had to know how to march long and hard in case they were called out on campaign. Moergan wasn?t too sure about that ? marching might very well just be a way for keeping the men occupied in lieu of having anything important to do during peacetime. Soldiers with free time always caused trouble ? or so the sergeant claimed ? so keeping the occupied was probably a good idea. Moergan wasn?t too keen on marching, not because it was tiring, but because it was so mind-numbingly boring. Though to be absolutely fair there was a lot of stuff that bored Moergan ? keeping his kit in order, drilling in formation, digging trenches, standing guard?in fact when he thought about it there were relatively few things that were enjoyable about soldiering.
Killing people was not particularly enjoyable either, not that he had killed that many people in his lifetime, but he had dispatched a few. Some of the veterans certainly had taken a liking to it, but Moergan just though it was another chore. He didn?t really loath it, it was just that it too was boring. Not all killings were boring, executing those deserters hadn?t been too bad and it had actually felt quite good to gut those guild brutes ? but that had been personal. It seemed as though the army could even take away the fun of a good killing.
Looting a conquered city sounded all right, there would be looting and raping to go around to even the lowest-ranking recruits. Yet that wasn?t something that happened very often, at least not in Boeruine. If you got to go with Baron Khaiâren to fight for the Archduke in Taeghas you might get some action, but that wasn?t likely to happen until next year. And given Moergan?s luck they might as well end up guarding Talinie against the goblins ? there was bound to be very little in the way of loot there, and absolutely no raping. Which probably wasn?t such a bad thing for Moergan, since he didn?t quite know if he was actually too keen on raping. Not that he didn?t like women, or a little rough play, but the older veterans seemed a bit too casual when it came to the fairer sex.
The moment of inner contemplating was gone as quickly as it came, and Moergan found himself marching third in line again. Feet moving to a steady rhythm along the narrow road, the company strung out before and after him. Mind-numbingly boring indeed. Moergan tried to let his mind drift away again, but he just couldn?t manage to let go. Instead he found himself thinking of the goblin that had almost killed him out there in the woods. He thought there might be more, and had tried saying so, but nobody would listen to him. Yet that hadn?t helped stave off the growing sense of paranoia that he was developing.
The first volley of arrows cut down all but three of the men in the first rank, and half of those in the second ? they fell slowly and wordlessly, everything was moving so slowly and all sound seemed to have left the world ? fifteen men cut down with one fell blow. Long arrows with black fletching. Long arrows with narrow heads made to penetrate armor and flesh. Long arrows lovingly crafted by goblins and meant to be shot at the men of Anuire.
Then sound seemed to return to the world, and with it a cacophony of screams, shouts and the wild howling of goblins. In the wake of the arrows came the goblin infantry ? not the puny common goblins, but big hobgoblins clad in ringmail and armed with shields and brutal axes. In the lead of each of the two wedges that now bored into the Anuirean column were brutish beasts wielding massive morning-stars; the feared bugbear elites that sometimes made up part of goblin warbands.
One wedge completely shattered the Anuriean column and managed to split Moergan, Wilfred and a score of other soldiers from the main body. The second wedge did not meet with such success, both bugbears leading it cut down by the Master-Sergeant before they could even fell a single man. With that the charge was halted and a chaotic melee ensued. But by then Moergan was fighting for his dear life ? a big body of hobgoblin now separated him from the main force, and there was still the matter of the goblin archers.
?To stay is to die. I have to get in among the hobgoblins or the next volley will get the rest of us.? Spinning around he caught Wilfred by the arm and propelled him around and towards the hobgoblin ranks. The other soldiers, bereft of leadership and completely surprised, simply followed his example more from lack of understanding the situation than anything else ? the few who didn?t were promptly slaughtered by the next volley of black arrows.
Moergan could recall the fighting in minute detail for the rest of his life. Every single goblin face, every blow struck and axe parried. He remembered the acrid smell of their dark blood and the screams of his dying comrades. It seemed that the battle had lasted for an eternity and that everything had moved in slow motion, soldiers moving like insects trapped in sticky sap. But despite the clarity of the memories, he couldn?t quite explain to himself how he had survived that day. How he had plunged into the hobgoblin ranks to avoid getting an arrow in his back, how he had cut his way to the heart of their lines and back to the main body of Anuirean soldiers. How he had managed to make a path that allowed five other of his battle-brothers to escape the deadly trap. Perhaps he had berserker's blood in his veins or perhaps Cuiraécen had once again favored him. It didn?t really matter. What mattered was that when people started dying, he had acted, and acted in the only way that held only the slightest glimmer of hope. He had risked all, and he had won. And the gods be damned if he hadn?t liked it ? to dance with death and live, that was something.
But once through the goblin lines and rejoined with the rest of the unit, the situation was much improved. They were still outnumbered, but their training, discipline and equipment were starting to make a difference. With their shield-wall making the goblin?s missile fire more or less ineffective, they pulled back the way they had come, matching the hobgoblin infantry blow for blow, and giving more wounds than they received. Yet that was no consolation, for in doing so they were forced to abandon their own dead and wounded, for they could not fight and carry their comrade at the same time. And whatever else goblins are, they do eat the flesh of their fallen enemies and they do kill wounded prisoners that cannot walk (and sometimes they just kill everyone).
It was not until several years later, when he finally grasped the finer points of Warcraft, that he truly understood what had happened that day. The within his veins truly did flow the blood of the old god of war Anduiras, and that it was only the first step on a long road that would make him one of Anuire?s finest strategists and battlefield generals?

[top]The Village

The snow was falling more thickly now, blanketing everything in with a thick layer of white powder. It had been bitterly colds for weeks and weeks, but now that the snow finally started falling, it actually got warmer. Something that Moergan found completely illogical, everyone knew snow was cold, so it should be getting even colder, not less. Which in turn meant it fitted well in with the rest of this illogical place. In fact, the longer he stayed in Boeruine, the less he found it resembled what he thought of as the ?real? Anuire. Well, travel does broaden the mind he through, but there is nothing even remotely beautiful about it.
Back on his father?s estate? well, technically Lord Jaison Shaeme was not his father anymore, not since he defied him and ran away ? winter was not really cold, not like northern winters were cold. It was a bit on the chilly side perhaps, and quite moist, but there were rarely freezing temperatures, and snowfall was almost unheard of. Back south, snow was something novel that children played with; up here it was an enemy that could kill the unawares. Indeed, there were many things here in Boeruine that could kill you ? the cold was one such thing, goblin marauders from the Five Peaks another.
Twice now goblins had almost killed him. The first time was just plain stupid, but that hadn?t made it any less dangerous. Had not Wilfred found him when he did ? and used the power of his bastard?s bloodline to staunch the flow of blood from his severed artery ? he would have died then. Wilfred might be a bastard from some low-down lineage, but he had proven himself both useful and loyal that day. Moergan would not forget that. That event had been a defining moment, for as his life drained away into the mossy ground of one of Boeruine?s vast forests, he?d realized that he would die there, alone and forgotten.
When he woke up and found out he had cheated death, he realized for the first time how fragile was the body, which housed his immortal soul. And much as the priests preached that the afterlife was a better place than this ? at least for the pious ? he just didn?t fell ready to face the Allfather just yet. He?d thrown himself back into training with singular focus and self-discipline quite unlike his normal self. Perhaps, in mastering the art of war could he delay his own inevitable death for a few years?
The second time was also stupid ? in hindsight, almost dying always seemed an act pf stupidity ? but that time it hadn?t been Moergan?s own fault. He?d always know that the goblin scout he?d met hadn?t been just a random straggler; yet he was but a private in the Baron?s service, and no one had been inclined to listen. By the Shadow, to be fair, why should they have listened? They had found no other goblins in the vicinity, and the woodsmen hadn?t found anything either.
But he, Moergan Shaeme, had known. It was like an ache in his head, a pressure that told him that this was important, that this was part of something greater. Part of something dangerous. He suspected that it was his Blood trying to tell him something; but if his status as a scion was to be kept a secret, he couldn?t well say that. And apart from his secret bloodline, there weren?t too many good things to say about him. He knew his immediate superiors regarded him as both lazy and a troublemaker ? quite a feat really, since most of the not-so-exceptional soldiers ended up labelled as either, not both. His newfound dedication to soldiering hadn?t helped too much; it seemed that once you had been labelled scum, you stayed scum.
Which meant none had listened; and the goblins? appearance on this side of the river in force had taken the company by surprise. It had taken everyone by surprise, not just the company, but it had been they who were on patrol duty, and thus they had paid the price. Only yesterday they had been a full company, over a hundred men. Now less than half of those were still alive. Most of those were fortunately relatively healthy ? those who had suffered serious injury had been left to die as they fled. It was disgraceful, and Moergan loathed the captain for ordering the breakout and for ordering the wounded to be abandoned.
He knew the reasons, and he couldn?t fault the captain, not really, for he had had no choice. If they had stayed to fight or tried to carry their wounded with them, they would have been overwhelmed. But even if the decision was right from a military point of view, didn?t mean that it didn?t feel very wrong to Moergan. When you fought, you either won or you died. Running away didn?t figure into it; not when the goblin had almost killed him and not when they were ambushed, had he considered fleeing.
Behind him the Lieutenant barked out an order, and the assembled company turned their attention to the Captain. Moergan shrugged, then turned from the open door, closed it behind the last man to enter, then found a place to stand at the back of the crowd.
?Listen up men. We have to send word to the Baron. The goblins have us penned in here, and if I?m not much mistaken, they aim at cutting all communications between Rivien and Dhalaese. They must have come over the Ansen River recently ? rarely does the river freeze over this early and this far down the valley ? and surprised the Baron?s woodsmen. Which means that the Baron is probably unaware that something is amiss ? unaware that the eastern part of his domain is about to be razed to the ground. Granted, his magician might have scried something, but I?m not going to risk lives and property on such a fickle craft.
Which means that it will be up to us to bring word. I intend to send two small parties independently of each other ? that should maximise our chances. I need healthy, motivated soldiers, preferably with knowledge of woodcraft and previous experience with goblins. Any volunteers??
A couple of hands rose, but not nearly many enough. The Lieutenant suddenly laughed out loud, and then spoke quickly and forcefully. ?Don?t be shy people. It?s not as any of those left behind are going to survive either. We?ll just stay here and make sure the main goblin force keeps looking at us, not for you. Indeed, maybe if you get lucky YOU might even survive. Come on now, don?t disappoint the captain.?
Moergan found himself shaking his head ? this sounded all too much like running away while you comrades stayed to fight. ?Moergan, you and Wilfred are skilled at woodcraft, aren?t you? I see no reason why you do not volunteer, unless it?s because you don?t have the guts. Come now, step up to the challenge; and if nothing else comes of it, you can do some wandering in the woods.? The sergeant?s words were mocking, and he was rewarded by a bout of nervous laughter from the tense soldiers.
So, the sergeant had clearly not forgotten about the affair with the goblin. Nor had he the grace to ignore the old woodcraft bluff. Moergan had always felt that the tale had felt too good in the telling, and that that particular lie would come back to haunt him. He wasn?t afraid, whatever the sergeant might think, but he would loose too much face if he admitted to knowing next to nothing about woodcraft. Lying was acceptable, but getting caught at it was not.
?Well of course sergeant, I am indeed most qualified for the task, and could not ask for any better companion than Wilfred. We both know this are well now, and our extensive outdoors experience will serve us well. As for courage, you?ll find that I have more than enough to go around; only I thought that staying to die gloriously would require more courage than skulking through the woods.?
The sergeant started to speak, but the Captain cut him of. ?Then it is settled. Moergan and Wilfred will go with Aeron and corporal Markus. Hallgeir, Joaen, Terried, and sergeant Waer will make up the second team. Lieutenant, you will??
The Captain?s words drifted away as Moeran leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.


The snow had been falling steadily all day. There was little in the way of wind, so visibility wasn?t all that bad. That was both a boon and a curse, because increased visibility would both mean a higher chance of detection, while at the same time making orienteering all that much easier. The temperature wasn?t too bad either; as long as you kept moving the air felt fresh and clean, not cold.
They were making good speed, despite the fact that the snow was quite deep, a testament to the ingenuity of the people of Boeruine. An unaided man would have sunk deep into the snow with every step, slowing him and draining his strength. Yet with a pair of snowshoes strapped to his boots, he could keep up a brisk pace and sustain it through a long march. They were easy to use too; after a few hours of marching you learned to place your feet so that you didn?t trip. Moergan wouldn?t trust the snowshoes in a fight, but they were fine for marching.
They had kept well away from the main road, going through the dense woods between the road and the river. The other group of messengers had headed away from the river, on the opposite side of the road, where the woods were more open. That might make that route the more dangerous one, yet it also had the advantage of being more difficult for the goblins to cover ? the other group could take a near infinite number of different routes, while there were only so much room between the road and the river. They had left shortly after midnight, hoping that the snow and the dark would cover them. It had worked well, and they hadn?t been challenged when they slipped away. That had probably been the riskiest part ? and they hadn?t seen a single goblin since they left.
Moergan was actually starting to think they might actually get through the goblin pickets without being detected. However, Sarimie being a cursed sow, their luck finally ran out. They had run out of forest ? as you get closer to Ravar it narrows down to a small strip along the river ? and had been forced to move out into open farmlands. Well, perhaps not open like good farmland in Diemed, for the land rolled and there were scattered stands of trees, small woods, boulders, and stone fences. All four were on the move, crossing a large open area, when the snow suddenly stopped falling. With the first rays of the rising sun penetrating the cloud cover, you could suddenly see clearly for half a mile or more. Aeron was up front, with Moergan right behind. Wilfred and corporal Markus were hanging back fifty paces, covering them with their bows.
The first flight of arrows were badly aimed, either the goblins were simply bad shooters or they were as surprised as Moergan. Still, there were at least half a dozen of them loosed, and the range wasn?t that great; they almost had to hit something. Two arrows hit Aeron, one in the left shoulder and another one in the chest. Both were slowed sufficiently by his armor that they didn?t penetrate deeply, but retained just enough punch to pierce flesh. Moergan head him grunt in pain and surprise, then he snarled a curse and started looking for his assailants ? he obviously hadn?t spotted the goblins yet.
The situation was very difficult; they couldn?t go back and they couldn?t stay. If they ran they would be shot dead long before they could reach cover, and with only two bows between them their return fire would be too weak. There was only one option left to them. ?For Haelyn. Charge.? Moergan dashed straight towards the goblin archers, right past Aeron, who thankfully realized what his plan was and charged straight after him.
Only 50 feet separated Moergan from the goblins when his charge began, but it seemed to take forever. After the first volley of goblin arrows came another, this time more focused and aimed solely at Moergan. They simply couldn?t miss at that range, and without a shield, Moergan felt terribly exposed ? yet speed was all he had, and he kept racing forward. Most of the arrows zipped past him ? the goblins? aim must be off because of his sudden reckless spurt ? but one glanced of his helmet and another punched into his right thigh. ?I cannot falter now. Cuiraècen, give me strength.? A brief prayer muttered, and the pain suddenly seemed bearable ? and a passage from the Book of Laws came to mind: ?The Gods provide for the righteous in their struggle against the wicked.? Moergan kept moving forward as he pulled the arrow free ? it hadn?t caught in the flesh ? and felt fresh blood start flowing down his leg. While the surgeon would surely frown at removing in such a fashion, it was impeding him too much to let it be.
He could see the goblins clearly now, all six of them, with cover behind a boulder and a fallen tree and excellent concealment offered by cunningly placed branches and twigs ? an excellent defensive position, commanding a very good field of fire. ?If I ever hear someone saying that goblins are mindless beasts, I?m going to break his neck. Evil, stinking heathens yes, but not stupid. Wilfred and the corporal had finally gotten their bows ready and were returning fire ? a couple of arrows passed overhead, and one of them hit a goblin archer in the eye. He fell soundlessly backwards and out of view. ?Lucky shot. Must have been Wilfred. Five.? Moergan jumped the boulder where the fallen goblin had been taking cover. Despite the snow and the snowshoes he managed to land on top of the rock, and with a vicious two-handed swing he split the skull of the next goblin. ?Four. And they shall now that to face my wrath is to face death. So sayeth Haelyn onto the Goblins.?
The remaining four archers didn?t seem to realize their line had been broken, for instead of turning to meet the new danger they simply kept firing. Four arrows raced from four bows, and three of them hit Aeron in the chest. For a moment Moergan thought that he?d made it, but after five more steps his legs gave out and he fell into the snow. Another couple of arrows came in the opposite direction, but neither got lucky this time. ?Just keep the archers occupied, and we?ll get out of this one alive. Or some of us will anyway.? Slipping out of his snowshoes, for there was less snow between the trees, Moergan dropped down from the boulder and went up behind the falling tree. Sword extended like a makeshift spear, he picked up the pace and simply ran the first goblin through before he ever saw him coming. ?Three down, three to go.?
The closest goblin now realized the danger they were in ? he threw down his bow, whipped out a crude short-sword and charged. The other two goblins kept firing at Moergan?s companions, and from their sudden cheer they must have hit something. Moergan met the goblins sword with his heavier blade and turned it aside. Then, using the combined momentum of two men charging each other, he slammed his body into the smaller goblin, knocking the creature backwards and off its feet. Moergan kept his balance, and before the goblin could rise he had put his sword through its heart. ?Two.?
By now the last two goblins had gotten their bearings and were turning to face him, but unlike their dead kinsman they weren?t dropping their bows. Having lost all his forward momentum when he crashed into his goblin assailant, Moergan had no way of reaching them in time. With determination born out of desperation, Moergan whipped his broadsword back over his head and hurled it at one of the goblins with all of his might. ?Sarimie grant me luck.? The sword didn?t behave as planned, and instead of hitting the goblin point first in the chest, it hit the other one between the eyes hilt first. The goblin dropped like a rock. ?One.?
Having a sword thrown at him must have startled him, for the last goblins aim was off. Instead of a killing shot, his arrow only took Moergan in the right shoulder. At this range, even a goblin bow had sufficient power to punch right through armor and deep into flesh. The pain was intense ? Moergan suddenly found himself lying in the snow, his sword useless in limp fingers. The goblin archer stood close by ? but well out of sword reach ? carefully aiming his bow. ?Well, I suppose both my strength and luck finally ran out. So it was to be a goblin after all. Well, I killed me a dozen first. Haelyn should be pleased when he greets me in heaven.?
A bow sang, and the goblin archer toppled forward with a longbow arrow sticking out the back of his neck. Ten feet behind him, at the top of the fallen tree the goblins had used for cover, stood Wilfred with bow in hand. He leapt down and landed lightly on his feet. Drawing his dagger he quickly cut each goblin?s throat, making sure they were dead and would stay dead. Then he turned to Moergan with a grin, his white teeth in stark contrast to his dark complexion. ?Ye? stay still me? lord, while I get this ?rrow out. We?ll have you up ?n running in no time.? Wilfred swiftly and deftly removed the arrow ? his hours working as an assistant for the surgeon had clearly not been wasted ? then went to work on the wound itself. He simply placed his right hand on the wound and closed his eyes in concentration. Immediately Moergan could feel the flow of power from Wilfred?s hand to his own shoulder. Twice before he?d been healed through the power of Wilfred?s blood ? and as always he was left feeling pure and calm. ?Three times now you have saved my life friend. I will not forget?.
?Aeron was dead before he hit the ground, but the corporal is still alive. He got hit in the ankle and the bone broke real bad. Don?t know if I can help ?im. We may have to leave ?im? Moergan slowly got to his feet with Wilfred?s help. He was just starting to say his thanks out loud, when the baying of wolves broke the silence. ?Worg riders. Now we are really in trouble.?

[top]Worg Riders

Most Anuireans have never seen any wolves, but they have heard of them. Wolves figure prominently in any half-decent tale about the Shadow and its servants; and there are many of those. To the commoners wolves appear to be evil servants of the Shadow, often but not always, allied with goblins. Wolves are cunning and cruel. Wolves like to feast on the flesh of men (especially small children) and livestock (maybe a bit of truth in that). Wolves can grow to the size of a pony. Wolves have red eyes that glow in the dark.
Fanciful, yet so very untrue. Any woodsman or scout worth his bow can tell you that wolves are mere animals. Predators; yes. Cunning; undoubtedly. Dangerous; if hungry or threatened. But wolves don?t get much bigger than large dogs, and they are not smarter or more cruel than any other animal. Besides, anyone who has seen a wolf knows that their eyes are yellow rather than red.
But worgs?that?s another beast altogether. Scholars and sages ? those learned men who like to claim that they know more about everything than their fellow Anuireans ? claim to know a thing or two about the origins and nature of worgs. Worgs are not wolves, or maybe they were once, but got changed somewhere along the way. Most likely they were normal wolves, but were infused with an evil intelligence by Azrai and given to his servants the goblins, to act as mounts and sentries.
Worgs do grow to the size of ponies, and they do have eyes that glow red when they are enraged ? which is most of the time. Worgs are also much more intelligent that any normal animal; they may not be as smart as a human, but they aren?t that far behind. And last, but not least, worgs love the taste of human flesh.
All those things and more flashed through Moergan?s mind in an instant ? stories heard in childhood, lessons beaten into him by the household teacher, midnight tales told by youngsters eager to prove themselves brave, tall tales overheard in cheap taverns ? and that was enough for the worg to close the distance between them.
Wilfred?s first arrow hit the wolfrider ? ?Why do we think of them as wolfriders? They should be called worgriders? ? in the left eye and lifted him clear of the worg?s back. The worg didn?t even seem to notice and went straight for Moergan?s throat. Moergan wasn?t going to have any of that, and shifted slightly to the left and brought up his guard. He managed to deflect most of the impact on his newly acquired shield, but such was the force of the impact between man and worg that he was almost knocked of his feet. He made a shallow cut against the worg?s head, but it dodged the blow deftly. Then the beast shifted forward and came in low, locking its jaws on the shields lower rim when Moergan blocked its attempt to chew his leg off. Moergan started to twist to get a good overhead swing on the exposed worg, when he suddenly realized he?d been outwitted. The worg had deliberately gone for the shield, and now it pulled with all its four-legged might. Moergan went face-first into the snow, shinning his knee on a hidden rock in the process. ?By Kriesha?s twisted teats. I?m being undone by a damned animal.?
Once again Wilfred proved invaluable as his second arrow made the worg release its grip to avoid being hit by the deadly missile. The worg didn?t quite make it, but somehow that wasn?t so reassuring as the arrow now protruding from its flank just seemed to annoy even more rather than make it back down. Moergan quickly regained his feet and made ready to attack the worg again when he saw the second worg ? this one apparently riderless. ?Looks like the Winter Witch is giving me a hard time earning her favors.?
The new one kept its distance when Wilfred shifted his aim and loosed two arrows after it in rapid succession. Moergan couldn?t see if either arrow had hit, but he decided to trust his companion to keep the newcomer away, and turned his attention back to the wounded beast that was circling him and growling like mad. Moergan made a couple of quick thrust and a shallow swing, but the best keep moving and circling ? almost like a man with a sword would have done. Once it almost managed to repeat the shield-tripping trick, only this time by going for Moergan?s cloak. Luckily the fastening pin snapped, and Moergan rewarded the word with a sound shield-bash to the head. Quickly shifting right Moergan moved in for the killing stroke?
Wilfred?s shouted warning came too late, and a goblin arrow hit Moergan right between the shoulders, but at an odd angle that somehow made the brigandine armor turn the arrowhead more or less entirely. Had it struck at a more direct angle, it would have gone through and wrecked his spine. Now it merely hurt like hell. Moegan spun around, scanning for this new assailant, but seeing only the lone worg loping forward between the trees, keeping the distance open. ?Why would a worg keep the distance open? It wouldn?t?unless it somehow had acquired the ability to shoot arrows. You tricky little Shadowspawn.? Moergan kept scanning while keeping the wounded worg at bay with slow circular movements of his sword.
Understanding came to him suddenly ? the wounded worg wasn?t even trying to get him, only distracting him so that its companion could finish him of. ?So worgs don?t like risking their lives any more that the next goblin. That knowledge could come in handy. They are also obviously smart enough to cooperate, perhaps even speak with each other in some way.?
Another arrow came flying, but this time it was Moergan?s turn to be clever. He?d kept the other worg in his peripheral vision ? he knew he had good peripheral vision ? and lo and behold, a goblin worgrider had suddenly materialized on the riderless beast?s back. With the arrow loosed, the rider was already sliding down the worg?s flank and out of sight. ?If Eloèle is a tricky bitch, then her mother was surely a goblin.? But Moergan was already moving, shifting quickly to his right and making himself a juicy target for the wounded worg.
Moergan?s gambit paid off immediately, as the bloodthirsty nature of the worg overrode its sense of caution and cooperation. The beast came rushing in low, aiming to hamstring Moergan, but found only air as Moergan threw himself sideways at the last moment. All the worg got for its effort was a goblin arrow meant for Moergan in the neck, and that was the end of it. ?Now, where did the other one go???

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