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A story written a few weeks ago, a bit of fun and a a slight exploration into the elf stuff. Oh and the dwarf - elf relations, I decided to have a wander over to that again. ^^
All C&C welcome
By King Ulrik Flamebeard
The relationship between dwarf and elf always was going to be tenuous, even more so when the elven race separated into two races â€“ Druchii and Asur. But when the Druchii led a raid upon a dwarven convoy did the relationship shatter and start a turn of events that caused the two greatest races to fight one another to almost extinction; something both have never really gotten over. The War of the Beard raged for nearly a thousand years both sides refused to give in and the battles were bloody, the climax of the war was the Battle of Three Towers at the elven city of Tor Alessi; it was here that the elven Phoenix King Caledor II was slain by the dwarven High King Gotrek Starbreaker. Gotrek took the Phoenix Crown as compensation for the loss of life and the insult his people has suffered, he then secreted himself inside the walls of the dwarven capital of Karaz-a-Karak. The new Phoenix King was forced to retire from the Old World with his race to defend from yet another Druchii raid under the Witch King, leaving the dwarfs the rulers of the Old World â€“ until the Time of Woe for the sturdy beings.
But not all elves followed their king's orders, many had become too entwined with the Old World and when the order came the refused to return and instead fled into the depth of the ancient forest known as Athel Loren. They abandoned the ways of the Asur and instead lived in harmony with the wood which was in fact alive, the denizens of the wood were spirits and ancient beings; many embraced the elves and enjoyed the improved protection they elves gave. Others were not quite so inclined to share and many became hateful towards the elves, who now bore the name Asrai, and shunned them. Problems hit the Asrai and their companions of the wood, including a betrayal of many of the woodland spirits leading into a bloody period of their time; and their first true dealings with humankind in the form of Bretonnians. Once again elven kind faced their once allies - now enemies â€“ in the form of dwarfs. In the Imperial year of 1350, a one Grungni Goldfinder led an expedition into the woods from the Grey Mountains; he was repulsed by the combined forces of elf and spirit before Grungni was finally slain. This battle is well recorded in the dwarven Dammaz Kron and by the elven mages, with many grudges being written in dwarven book that day. And all know dwarfs never forget grudges.
For the umpteenth time in the past hour Algrim Forkbeard glanced down at the receding mists of the Grey Mountains and wondered if their approach had been noticed. It wasn't as if a marching column of dwarfs was a thing that could easily be hidden or move swiftly and the march though the winter snow didn't help. But Algrim thanked the gods that the mountain mist gave good cover for his approach. Look forward down the mountain path again Algrim spied a dwarf running back up towards him, one of his scouts. As the ranger reached his lord Algrim waited a few minutes to allow the dwarf to get his breath back.
â€œGreetings Lord Algrim.â€? said his scout rather formerly.
â€œGreetings Ungrun. What word of the path head?â€? replied Algrim.
â€œIt looks good m'lord. We made it to the forest edge with no sign of the elgi, Skalf even managed to enter a few feet into it's edge without any danger. I think we will be undetected, m'lord.â€?
â€œGood, good. How much further is it to travel?â€? Algrim asked, behind him the column of dwarfs had stopped; many reaching for ale or pipes in the brief break they had.
â€œAbout three miles sire, a few hours travel at best.â€? answered his scout. Scratching his beard thoughtfully Algrim looked once more down into the mist, even now small patches opened within its dense form revealing the high, white snow capped tree tops of the wood known as Athel Loren.
â€œThen we will camp here tonight. On the morrow we shall march into the elgi home and right the wrongs done unto us.â€? he finally said with a firm belief stamped into his words. â€œYou and your rangers are to spread out along this road, I don't want any surprises tonight.â€? Nodding the scout quickly bowed and once again took off down the mountain path, from their hiding places two more rangers slipped out into the light and followed. T isn't right a dwarf liking above ground more than below Algrim thought with a shake of his head, then turning to the musician to his right he issued the order to break for camp to be passed quietly down the ranks. With once last look at the hidden wood he turned and marched his way back up the sloping path to choose the best place for his tent.
* * * *
Norreisa slowly walked through the trees that lay spread out in the sacred grove, her long thin fingers delicately trembled along the rough bark of the great wooden giants. Even with her eyes shut she could walk through the tangled mess of roots with ease and without fear of catching one of them, as well as her eyes being closed her breathing was deep and slow. It was as if she was sleep walking. Under the shut lids of her eyes a slight glow could be seen, Norreisa wasn't asleep but was communicating with her very surroundings â€“ the wood. She was a spellweaver of the Kel-Isha kindred and here in the sacred Glade of Woe she felt what the wood felt; each movement and each drop of snow, the time of years past, she knew where her kind were and where the spirits of the forest dwelt. She felt the great Oak of Ages where her lady and liege now slept through the winter, she could feel them inside its massive trunk and the guards outside. The sensations were as if they were her own, it was like she was the forest then suddenly something changed. Out on the borders of the wood near the Grey Mountains she felt something, something that didn't belong there. It was only for a fleeting moment and wasn't long enough to see what the being was but she felt something of a black cloud gathering and she began to concentrate on the area near to Pine Crags more.
If something was there she would find it.
* * * *
Before morning had truly broken the dwarf army was on the move, the lazy, pale smoke of their nights camp site drifted off into the cold winter wind. It took just over an hour but as the sloping pathway split one leading further down the Grey Mountains the other led to the eastern most entrance of Athel Loren and this is where Algrim Forkbeard now stood, glaring down at the large trees as if daring the inhabitants to appear. With a contemptuous snort Algrim began the walk down the slope towards Ungrun and his rangers waiting at the entrance of the wood, their crossbows raised and loaded. Beside Algrim was his army, over two hundred and fifty dwarfs; each one clad in heavy plated armour bearing a shield and either an axe or hammer. Knowing where he was going Algrim had ensued the use of any missile weapon other than that of the rangers, without clear flatlands he doubted they'd be worth it. Instead he had invested that money in armouring his clansmen, as well as the revered longbeards. These ancient warriors marched without word unless it was to complain about much more or stronger or greater something was back in their time, whilst he dared not voice it Algrim was slightly annoyed with the grumbling of these older beings â€“ but was happy to have their experience and axes with him. He himself was the single most heavily armoured dwarf present, plates of heavily engraved and worked gromril encompassed his sturdy form; runes of his peoples so called magic were etched into its surface making it more than capable of withstanding a blow from a troll. In his mail clad hands he held his family's heirloom the Axe of Dali, a weapon so old it hailed from the time when elf and dwarf traded in friendship but during the War of Vengeance it had earned the name of Elgi Drung â€“ or Elf Vanquisher â€“ and no elf who faced the dwarf wielding it had lived. A flash of a bright colour drew Algrim's eyes to the right and he had almost forgotten about the beings who wandered in a loose group away from the army, slayers. The dishonoured dwarfs had heard of his plans and joined in hopes of repaying debts or finding death, either way the dwarf lord was glad they were there â€“ it meant any large beast they encountered would have it's hands full. Then finally there was his bodyguard, a small detachment of hammerers; the best fighters of the dwarven race. Their stoic forms marched in perfect unison and even in their heavy armour they were more than a match for almost anything they should meet in the woods.
As the column reached the bottom of the slope Ungrun left his group of rangers and approached Algrim,
â€œGood day sire. There has been nothing yet, no sign or sound of anything alive has been heard all day.â€? he reported
â€œGood. Then lets not waste what little time we may have. Shall we?â€? With that Algrim gestured forward for Ungrun and his scouts to take point, the lightly armoured dwarfs moved quickly into the undergrowth and entered the woods; their almost silent movements were followed by the thumping of two hundred and fifty sturdy dwarven boots upon the twig covered floor. Upon entering under the arching branches it was as if they had entered an entirely new world, all round them was dark â€“ even the dwarven underground eyesight failed to penetrate the gloom very far but from what they could see they wasn't quite so sure they wanted too. All round them were trunks of trees that rose high into the darkened canopy, the circular wooden columns were bigger than many of the stone versions that supported the roof back home in their underground city. The branches of the oversized trees stretched over the floor and intertwined with one another so much it was impossible to tell which branch belonged to which tree, others drooped close to the floor like age had caught up with them. From the floor great roots burst from the snowy ground like a sea creature rising from the waves for air before they dove right back into the hardened earth, from places all around the great wooden giants the creatures of the forest froze at the new comers. Small animals froze in the process of digging their winter provisions up in fear of these new creatures coming to thieve their stash, others looked upon them from high above; beady red eyes glinted out of the darkness before vanishing but what unnerved the dwarfs the most was the sound. Or the lack there of. Not a single sound came from the forest, it was as if death held its home there, many quickly found themselves wondering the intelligence of the campaign.
Algrim felt the same as his men but he had sworn to wipe out the grudges in the Dammaz Kron or die trying, thinking fast he muttered about the dark and as if he had been slapped across the face his head stopped dead. Turning to the hammerers beside him;
â€œGet the lanterns out. That should help.â€? And maybe it'll help morale Algrim thought to himself. Moments later the order had been passed down the line and each regiment of dwarfs were bringing out lanterns of all shapes and sizes, some were closed boxes in which a candle was housed, some were little more then a candle sat atop of a flat sheet of metal but some were the rare and ancient glow globes. These gems were etched with runes that would give off a light, they were the same type of stones that lit the passage ways inside a dwarven city and it was rare to see any - let alone the amount Algrim's group had - outside a dwarven city. The darkness receded quickly leaving a large area of light encompassing the dwarven contingent so much for stealth thought Algrim as he decided they had enough light and once more took up the march, the rangers pushing on slightly in front but close enough to be seen by the closest dwarf. The dwarfs had entered Athel Loren.
* * * *
The trees felt a presence, the wood was ancient and sentient; even the small sprites that made their home within the bark of the great oaks and elms knew there was something there. Something that harmed them before, something that would harm them again. An enemy.
Norreisa's eyes shot open as she released herself from the spell and the wood, the thing she had spotted before turned out to be more than one; in fact it turned out to be several hundred. Panic gripped her as she quickly slipped between the roots of the trees and made towards the gathering of mages. Many turned with startled or puzzled looked written upon their faces as the young spellweaver entered the hall without ceremony.
â€œMy Lord Arhuan, there is a force that has entered the wood. They entered the eastern entrance at the Pine Crags. .â€? Norreisa breathed, more of the mages wore puzzled looks at her command. It was spellweaver Arhuan who approached her;
â€œAre you sure?â€? he asked, his voice as smooth and soft as a babbling brook.
â€œYes M'lord, the bearded ones have entered our realms once more. Nearly two hundred of them and they are heading towards the Kings Glade as we speak.â€? retorted Norreisa, her words drew gasps from many of the mages present; others snorted. One stood up from the back;
â€œAnd how do you know this?â€? he snorted in disbelief
â€œFrom the forest. I was communicating with it when I felt something, it was only briefly but it didn't belong. Then I took a closer look and discovered a war host had entered our realms. I don't believe they have gotten far but it's only a matter of time...â€? she said before her heckler interrupted her
â€œIf this is true then why have none of the spirits or waywatchers appeared to us? Why is it only you know?â€? he challenged. Norreisa was about to reply when Arhuan stepped in once more;
â€œNow Lusean, calm down.â€? then turning to Norreisa, â€œHe does have a point though, we have heard nothing of this. Would not the dryads have appeared?â€? As she opened her mouth to speak Arhuan raised his hand and stalled her , â€œBut we cannot ignore this. Lusean and myself will go and see if what you say is true, Oceion here will send a waywatcher to check with their own eyes. We shall not be caught unaware.â€? Norreisa nodded and watched as the mages split off to do their duty, with a sigh she sat down and prayed to Isha that the dwarfs would never find the Kings Glade.
* * * *
High above the ground a dark shadow moved along the branches, speed was at the essence but even as fast as it was it was nought but a blur among the blackness. Ythil swept quickly over the branches, so quickly in fact his feet barely graced the wood before they were onto the next. Ever since his old friend Oceion had told him of a threat to the forest no less than an hour ago did Ythil move swifter than a great eagle in flight as he sprinted across the trees of Loren, for anything to get this far into the woods undetected was near unheard of but with it being winter the forest was slow and weary. In this season it was up to the elven people to protect their home and the forest from such things but this was the first time for a long while that anything had gotten beyond a few hundred yards into the woodland. Deftly he leapt from his branch with nothing but a squeak of wood and caught a dangling vine mid flight , using his momentum he swung himself over the path way and onto the branches leading towards the Pine Crags; he was moving across the branches again before he had even landed silently among the animals there. He was but another shadow.
Ythil dropped to the forest floor as he reached the Pine Crags forest edge and it appeared the spellweaver was correct. They did have company. Expertly he ran his fingers over the floor, the footprints were dwarven; the heavy tread and short step was a give away and it appeared there was more than one. Well over ten score Ythil thought and heading towards the kings Glade as said. Standing erect he pursed his lips and gave three short sharp blasts, moments later a small grey bird drifted down from the treetops and landed upon the waywatchers out stretched hand. Raising the bird to his lips he softly began to whisper something into its ears then with a flick of his wrist and a single caw the bird was gone, Ythil watched for as long as possible then turned and began to follow the tracks of the dwarfs.
* * * *
Algrim muttered as he adjusted himself within his armour as best he could, despite it being the depths of winter the amount of armour he wore was stifling and the trees about him seemed to just swallow the cool air. For over an hour now they had wandered in near dark apart from the occasional flash of sunlight that spilled from a gap in the canopy, not that he minded the darkness but this wasn't like the cool caverns of the mountains. Not at all, this was a darkness that swallowed all and help things; things that hid and things that hadn't seen a creature other than an elf in centuries. It was these Algrim was wary of, more than once he had spotted a number of red eyes peering back out the darkness at him only for them to disappear whenever the light was shone that way. Around him his army marched in near silence, only the occasional chatter drifted forward before it was swallowed by the closed air; there was now noise but it was less animal like and sounded more like a voice. â€œGo back. You're not welcome here.â€? Algrim thought he could hear it say, and he wasn't alone for many of the dwarfs in the ranks had heard the same.
Just as he thought he was going mad Ungrun came jogging towards him, with a bow he met his lord;
â€œHail sire. A couple more hundred yards ahead of us is a glade. It's open to the skies and there's no trees. I've had a quick look and could see no danger, might I suggest we rest there for a moment m'lord?â€? offered Algrim's master scout. Nodding thoughtfully Algrim approved of Ungrun's forethought and agreed, within moments the formation was moving again. They entered the glade and Algrim saw that Ungrun's assessment was correct, there was no danger. Slowly the units began to break up and many moved into small groups, the noise of ale barrels being cracked open and the smell of pipes being lit assaulted his ears and nostrils; the smell and sound drew a smile to his worn face. Turning to his guard he nodded to them to join in, all but two immediately floated towards the ale and pipe weed. Algrim stood studying the patch of open ground they stood in. On all sides the thick trunks of the trees had formed a perfect circle, not a single tree stood within the glade, not even a sapling; this was something that concerned Algrim. Even above him the perfect circle of the canopy did little to alleviate the feeling that was beginning to muster in his breast, frowning he looked down at the floor and kicked the snow covering the ground. The rock hard earth jarred his foot earning itself a muttered curse from Algrim. The frozen ground was packed with leaves under the snow and thick bladed grass; nothing special. Maybe I am being a bit paranoid thought Algrim and with a little huff he turned and joined his fellow dwarfs near the fire they had somehow managed to light.
The noise of their drinking grew until they forgot where they were, the ale sloshed about in wooden tankards and great rings of thick grey smoke were puffed out as each dwarf tried to outdo the previous one. Algrim was half way through a tale involving his grandfather and a dragon when a moaning swept through the clearing upon the wind, instantly all froze as the noise rolled around them like thunder pealing across a stormy sky. Then as quickly as it came it went. A silence had now descended upon the dwarfs, occasionally punctuated by a cough here or there but it was utterly shattered by Ungrun.
â€œSire! Sire!â€? he bellowed, kicking up sods of snow as he rushed across the white covered floor.
â€œWhat? What is it Ungrun?â€? Algrim tried not to sound desperate but wasn't quite sure he managed it.
â€œIt's Morgrim sire.â€? Then at the questioning look upon his masters face he added, â€œHe's gone. Vanished.â€? Algrim was taken back by the news, he stood there staring stupefied at the ranger;
â€œShow me.â€? was all he could mutter before he followed the scout to the edge of the forest where Morgrim had been stationed. Lying there in the grass was a tankard, the alcoholic contents had stained the pure white ground a pale brown colour but of the owner there was no sign; only the dwarfs heavy prints marred the snow and there was no sign of blood. Algrim frowned as he surveyed the scene, his eyes scanned the floor looking for anything then he scanned the tree line. Turning to Ungrun;
â€œMake three search parties, you have an hour then we leave with or without him. The elgi will just pay more.â€? he said through gritted teeth, taking one last look at the trees he stormed back towards the mass of dwarfs barking orders. Behind him Ungrun began to form the search parties, three dwarfs in each â€“ one with a light, one with a crossbow and one with his weapon drawn; each was to stay within sight of the other parties at all times. With that the three groups ploughed back into the enclosing darkness of the forest.
As they entered the gloom once more the bright lights of their lanterns seemed to shrink, the pool of light barely enough to encompass the three dwarfs in each party. Their harsh voices called for their comrade only for the sound to be returned or swallowed by the wooden jungle, but no sign of the ranger or his capturer. For an hour they bellowed and moved as far as they dared into the thicket of the wood but their searches came up empty; finally with one sorrow filled look Ungrun scanned the track they had left some hours ago and stepped back into the glade.
High above the edge of the glade a shadow sat watching with keen eyes, his eyes danced from group of dwarf to group of dwarf; counting and calculating their numbers and strength. A noise beside him drew his gaze, a bound being with a face full of hair screamed uselessly into the gag across his mouth; anger blazed in his slate grey eyes.
â€œShush dwarf. You will die soon enough. But not before you have proven your worth.â€? uttered the shadow in a silky voice, then returning his gaze back to the glade he watched as they packed up and left; entering the Forest of Loren even deeper. Not for long he thought. As the last dwarf left the glade Ythil stood and looked at the captured dwarf; with a smile upon his lips he kicked him off the branch they he was perched upon.
* * * *
As the weight of the dwarf shot down one side Ythil quickly followed the dwarf's descent on a separate rope, he touched the ground just as the dwarf was halted in his free fall by the strong rope - the other end being securely tied at the top of the branch they had just left. With a smirk the elf cut the struggling, red faced short being down; Morgrim hit the ground with a hard thump followed by a moan and muffled curses. Ythil hefted Morgrim to his feet and with his bow he attempted to march the dwarf off but he was having non of it. As stubborn as his race could be the dwarf dug his feet into the ground and muttered into the gag;
â€œFineâ€? said Ythil moments before he brought his knee into contact with the dwarfs nose, breaking the already bulbous appendage even more and forcing the dwarf to the hardened floor. â€œWe'll just do it here.â€? the elf said again before reaching behind the dwarf's head and undoing the silken cloth barring his mouth. As he retreated the dwarf attempted to stand and grapple his capturer, Ythil merely stepped backwards and brought the hardened shaft of his bow up and into contact with Morgrim's lower jaw. The bearded being fell to the cold earth with a curse, spitting blood he half rose again before noticing the arrow aimed unwaveringly at his throat.
â€œWhat do you want with me elgi?â€? the dwarf spat
â€œWhy are you here? Why do you defile our lands?â€? questioned the elf. The dwarf wore a slightly puzzled look before barking out a harsh laugh,
â€œWhy are we here?!â€? He bellowed, â€œBecause your kind owes us! That's why! The War of Vengeance wasn't enough for your kind, the dwarven blood spilt by your kind was no way near compensated by that crown we took; nor did the attack you sprung upon us as we came here. There are grudges to be avenged upon your race and this place.â€? The dwarf's bass toned voice had grown louder and with passion as he uttered the reasons why they had come. Funny thing a dwarf mind, they get all passionate about slaying us and avenging grudges than they are about their own lives. Odd. Thought Ythil.
â€œYes, your people harbour grudges against mine don't you?â€? The dwarf captive nodded firmly. Ythil then slithered forwards until his face was mere inches from the dwarf's, gazing into those elven eyes Morgrim knew that these people would not give up without a fight; â€œAs old as your race is Dwarf,â€? Ythil hissed â€œthe forest is older. And it doesn't forget its grudges either.â€? The dwarf's eyes bulged. Ythil withdrew the knife blade from his captives throat, rising he wiped the bloody weapon on his cloak and with one last look upon the corpse he began his journey back to the mages council; the forest was in danger.
As the elf fled out out sight the dwarf body twitched, if someone was about to see they would have swore he still lived; that was until a root burst its way from his chest. All around the dwarf the floor and roots of the forest suddenly came to life, they snaked their way around the small figure â€“ entwining his corpse they slowly dragged him into the depths of the forest here he would supply nutrients for many years to come. The only sign of his being there was the patch of snow upon witch he had lain on and his bright red blood staining the virgin snow; it's trail leading into the undergrowth.
* * * *
The mages were in a state even before Oceion had broken the news of the dwarfs presence, he had received a bird and it's message was most disturbing. As he stood there in the entrance of the council chambers he watched as the magic users argued on what was the best course of action, and what they could do. It appears Arhuan and Lucian had found out what he had from the forest itself. From beside him the spellweaver Norreisa sighed;
â€œThey've been like this since Arhuan returned. Many want to attack now with what little forces we can, others want to use the wood to loose them within it. But they cannot decide. What did you find out?â€? she asked
â€œExactly the same as what you all know. I have a watcher following them but I expect he's on his way back now. Hopefully with something that will help.â€? the two mages stood in silence side by side as they watched their fellow Asrai argue and counter any plans that were brought up.
â€œIf only Lady Ariel and Lord Orion were awake.â€? sighed Norreisa again. â€œOr even if it wasn't winter, we could call upon the dryads and treekin.â€? she muttered.
â€œTreekin... Dryads...â€? Oceion whispered under his breath as an idea formed. â€œThey are slow this time of year, but not useless. If angered nothing will stop them. Or if something roused them.â€? Raising his voice he stepped further into to council chambers, he explained his plan. The idea drew gasps and mutterings from the group;
â€œWe cannot call upon more elves. The Kings Guard will not leave his place and we cannot expend too many guards from the dark area in fear of him breaking free again. But. There is more than just elves in this wood. Myself, Arhuan and Norreisa will try to wake one. The rest of you must stall the bearded ones. They cannot reach the Kings Glade.â€? a number of grunted agreements came from the mages and as one they broke; splitting into groups they disappeared to do their jobs. The remaining three elves nodded once and followed them.
* * * *
Ungrun frowned again as the track he was on seemed to twist and change each time he turned his back, a feeling that the forest didn't want them here slowly began to come over him. Once more he turned to watch the perfect ranks of dwarfs marching in unison, the sight was something to bring a tear to the eye of even the most stubborn dwarf. At the front strode Algrim in his splendid ancient armour, his axe lay casually upon his shoulder and he was deep in conference with the fellow dwarfs he walked alongside. Ungrun smiled at the sight of his commander and he knew this dwarf would strike many grudges from their Dammaz Kron; then turning back the the trail he frowned once more. The changes were subtle, a passageway when before there was none; a marker moved to the other side, many things but this time Ungrun swore the bend swung the other way and not to the right. Shrugging he led the army down the winding path, the same thing he had been doing for nearly a day he estimated â€“ or at least that's what it felt like. Before him his rangers communicated with one another using nothing but secret hand signals that no other knew and the group moved as one; slowly but surely they rounded the corner of the trail crossbows raised.
Again Ungrun found himself un at ease, the path they had just rounded onto felt different. Darker and more dense than the previous ones, it was like they were being watched and the ranger began to get an itch between his shoulders. Behind him it seemed that the same thing was felt by most the army, it was as if they were being told â€œthis place is not for youâ€? and the wood would prove it so. As the echoing sound of the hundreds of dwarven boots filled the air a very different sound followed, something that nudged at Ungrun's inner woodsman. The bird. A birds call came from the trees but this type of bird was only found lower down the mountain and only in the Spring. The implications of the call hit him like a warhammer but before the words could be screamed from his lips it was too late, the first sounds of the ambush was in place.
Scores of green and brown fletched arrowed punched through from either side of the path, their accuracy was deadly. Over a dozen of them found purchase in soft flesh of the throat, or neck. Some even managed to slip between the metal plating of the heavy dwarven armour piercing the soft under belly or ribs of the dwarven warriors, the dwarfs were thrown into disarray. But only for a moment, then through years of experience the call came;
â€œShields!â€? Algrim bellowed as he raised his own. Once more the sharp discipline of the dwarfs kicked in and as one they raised their shields, the ones in the middle put theirs above their heads whilst the others drew theirs up to the side, the block dwarven formations quickly resembled an armoured turtle; their formation was near impenetrable. Arrows embedded themselves in the thick wooden surfaces of the well made shields but some still slipped through the slight gaps, such was the marksman's aim. The only ones unprotected were the slayers and rangers; the orange haired dwarfs resided themselves to bellowing oaths at the trees in hopes of their attackers appearing, whilst rangers tried to dodge the hail of arrows that came their way â€“ most failed. In the brief glances he could steal Ungrun spied Skalf dead â€“ an arrow pierced his throat, Snorri too lay dead, an arrow protruded from his left eye socket; Balli and Ungrim had suffered similar fates only himself and Norri remained. As he quickly made his way towards the dwarven formations he was tripped and fell, a snaking root extruded from the undergrowth â€“ something Ungrun swore wasn't there a moment ago â€“ he quickly pushed himself from the floor; or at least tried to. Before he had even gotten to his knees he sank back down to the ground, over half a dozen arrows quivered from their position in his back; his last moments were filled with the sight and sound of pale skinned beings whooping with delight or excitement as they danced their way towards the dwarfs behind him. Then it went black and he saw no more.
The pale, scantly clad dancers flipped and twirled over the corpse of the ranger as they moved quickly to the immobile shapes of the dwarven formations. With whoops and screams they descended upon them, their twin weapons darting between was small gaps there were in the formations whilst others deftly landed on the upheld shields sprinting along them, thrusting their short bladed weapons between the gaps; occasionally their calls of delight and anger were joined by a grunt or scream as their weapons slipped past the heavy dwarven armour. A horn sounded from the forest and suddenly it stopped. Everything just stopped; the wardancers left and the arrows sang no more from the bushes â€“ they'd just left. It took the dwarfs a good while to decide this fact and when they did re-emerge their mood was foul. Out of the two hundred that entered over two scores now lay on the dirt track dead. Arrows sprouted from their bodies or cuts of deep crimson marked the passing of the elves blades. Algrim surveyed the dead and the wounded;
â€œMark the names of the dead, we leave them here. These elgi will pay.â€? his mood darkened even more so than his army's and it irked him that he couldn't bury them properly. It was Algrim who found Ungrun's corpse, turning to the remaining ranger he nodded and strode to the head of the column waiting for the dead to be presented. With an oath on his lips he listened to the prayers being spoken, then as one the dwarven war host was off on the march again; even more determined to succeed that before.
* * * *
The three elves approached the glade warily, even the elves trod carefully here. A wind scuttled its way through the dead tree branches, what little leaves remained upon the winter boughs fled under the onslaught and flashed across the open grassland in the air. As the elves reached the centre of the glade they stopped and looked about them, the enclosing trees were foreboding even stripped bare of their plumage; the wiry frames of the ancient boughs struck out at angles making a frighting scene. A creaking of the wind pushing on withered branches drew their gaze, the beating of their hearts echoed in their open mouths; as one the looked at one another. Then one stepped forward;
â€œWe seek the council of the revered Durthu. Lord Durthu? Please.â€? Arhuan shouted across the empty glade all the while looking around the tree edge for signs that his plea had been heard. Looking back to the two elven mages behind him he gave them an questioning gesture which in return he received two shrugs from his male and female companions. With a sigh he tried to call forth the ancient treeman once more. â€œLord Durthu, we beseech you. The forest needs you, we need you. A common enemy has entered the realms of the wood once more, their folly was not enough the last time that they return once more. We have not the forces to deal with them directly and they're heading towards the Kings Glade; they cannot reach the Oak of Ages. Please?! I beg you!â€? The spellweaver stopped his speech and listened but all he could hear was the rustling of the wind and the remaining leaves being scattered about the grounds. With a sigh he turned back to his companions; â€œWe cannot waste any more time trying to find him. Oceion, find as many waywatchers as possible and co-ordinate with them. I believe Scarloc can be found here abouts. Norreisa; return to the mages we will need you ability to change and confuse the paths the dwarfs walk..â€? He never finished the sentence as a bass sound like the winds combined roared through the wooded glade,
â€œDwarfs!!â€? it bellowed. The roar was followed by the sound akin to the uprooting of a tree and the quaking of the earth, then he appeared. The ancient treeman Durthu pondered into view, his form taller than the surrounding trees and wider than five elves stood side by side; branches sprang its form at odd angles making them seem like withered arms. The rough bark that formed the treeman's hide was different to others for this one had scars running along it â€“ long scars put there centuries ago; beside its wide body dangled two arms the size of a small tree their wooden fingers clenched so tightly into a fist that a clear liquid dripped between them. A entanglement of wiry leaves and vines crowded his lower jaw giving the impression of a beard, all throughout his body lights and small creatures buzzed and danced in a state of agitation. â€œDwarfs. Here?â€? the treeman boomed one more, the bushy brows that hid its eyes lowered give an impression of great impatience and anger. This time the female mage, Norreisa, stepped forward;
â€œYes, lord Durthu. They entered not long ago, so far they haven't attacked the wood but it is only time. As we speak a force engage them in hopes of slowing their advance and giving our defences time to prepare.â€?
â€œTime? They should have all be slaughtered the moment they set foot within these boughsâ€? the ancient being bellowed, before adding numerous words sounding like curses in an ancient language. â€œWhat of the King? Or are the elven people weak?â€? he sneered.
â€œThe King sleeps as it is Winter and we are not weak. But our forces are spread thin, most are in the dark area guarding the betrayer in this season. Others guard the King and Queen as they slumber, the rest are spread too thinly to assemble quickly.â€? said Oceion. â€œSo it with a heavy heart we have had to seek yourself, lord Durthu. We have not the forces to slay the intruders.â€? the treeman took this information with a blank face, then with a slow nod it spoke once more;
â€œYou shall have them. The sons of the mountains will defile these lands no more.â€? muttered the living oak. Throwing back his head Durthu let loose a bellow that shook the remaining leaves from the trees surrounding them, small lumps of snow were shaken out of their seats on the branches to the white floor below. The creaking of the forest died away and a fog of silence descended upon Loren. Slowly sound began to creep back, a cracking or creaking of the wood surrounding them was quickly followed by a hissing in which words could be apprehended upon the wind. A cruel smile formed on the wooden face of the ancient Durthu at the sounds; â€œLead and we shall follow.â€? he said in his deep, bass tone. Around him the wood came to life as the elves looked upon it, the forms of dryads became apparent. Loren was going to war.
* * * *
The dwarven column stopped suddenly as a booming cry washed over the forest, then within it's aftermath silence followed. No sound what so ever, the birds stopped, the wind washed away and the creatures within the forest froze. The dwarfs stood still and muttered to their neighbour about the sound and an overall foreboding overcame them, even Algrim seemed to cast worried glances into the bushes and trees around them. Gathering himself Algrim turned back and bellowed orders down the lines, since the ambush the discipline of the column had dropped even the ale failed to brighten their spirits; only the thought and warm comfort of vengeance kept them going. Once again as he looked back to the trail he swore it had changed, the path looked different; even his remaining Ranger looked lost. Muttering to himself Algrim got the line moving once more, in silence the dwarfs moved; no song; no joke and not even mutterings from the Longbeards could be heard from them. Since the ambush they had suffered three more times, the last being the worse and taking a toll of over the score of dwarven lives â€“ many being Longbeards. Things were not looking good.
Ahead the remaining dwarven scout had stopped, using hand signals he indicated there was a clearing up ahead. Good, a place for rest thought Algrim who nodded to show he understood. As they left the dark alleys of the wooden paths and into the sunlight Algrim suddenly became very un at ease; he felt an itch between his shoulders. Looking around at the dark tree line he frowned then suddenly he saw something. Or at least he thought he did but when he tried to focus on it again there was nothing but darkness. Around him the bedraggled dwarfs had already broken formation and began to set up camp fires and crack open the barrels of ale; relaxing Algrim put his paranoia down to fatigue and the heat. All he needed was an ale. He was the first to here the twang of arrows and the first to suffer, at the sound from the far side of the plain he spun towards it only to see dozens of arrows speeding across the flat land. And before he could yell a warning he was struck.
He dropped to the floor screaming a warning but was not fast enough, before his armoured form touched the snow covered forest floor an arrow had pierced his ancient rune armour through the arm. Grunting in pain and surprise at the arrow protruding from his forearm Algrim snapped the shaft off, leaving the head still in his arm. Looking around him he saw the dwarfs had quickly regained what order and disciple they could, their weapons and shields had been lain in a pile as they relaxed but now each dwarf scrambled among the pile for their equipment before lining themselves upon into the previous formations that had taken against such attacks. Algrim smiled grimly as he saw their efforts but that small pleasure was quickly dampened as he noticed his hammerer guard about him had been all but wiped out; only five dwarfs remained breathing. Muttering a curse Algrim grabbed a shield from a nearby hammerer and pushed himself up, within moments four arrows found their mark within its wooden surface he began to bellow curses at the elves and orders at the dwarfs as he strode towards his people. As the arrows whizzed past his face he began to marshal his remaining forces; he placed them all in a tight circle he and the last of the Hammerers stood in the centre. The thud of arrows impacting off off armour or embedding into shields filled the glade and for a long while it was a stalemate, Algrim found himself wishing that he had brought some ranged combat. Then a familiar whooping and shrill screams echoed out across the plain, form the dark tree line burst brightly coloured and pale skinned elves; many meandered their way towards their opponents in odd cartwheels or flips whilst others pirouetted time and time again. They closed before the last ten yards or so the wardancers broke into a flat run screaming in their elven language at the top of their lungs.
â€œBrace and hold!â€? bellowed Algrim as his dwarven defenders locked shields and prepared to weather this new attack. The elves hit the dwarven lines with more force than was apparent, their movements in combat were smooth and sleek, they dances their way passed attacks and into their opponents defence before sliding a blade across their throat or into soft guts before dancing onto the next. Others used their comrades or the solid dwarven shields as springboards and leapt up and over the dwarven shield wall attacking the dwarfs from two directions. Algrim nodded to each of the hammerers and they all moved to intercept these loose elves; Algrim approached the wall as one leapt over with both weapons held high it's shrill scream came to an abrupt end as Elgi Drung found it's mark in the torso of the near naked elf. The battle became a broiling mess as the elves movements were elusive and their attacks perfection whilst the dwarfs defended the best they could; the dwarven leader planted another elf to the floor with his axe and took the time to catch his breath. Looking about him he couldn't tell which side had the upper hand, as many dwarfs as there were elves littered the forest floor; then he looked once more at the tree line. It was moving. Or at least it appeared to be at first, then he realised it wasn't the actual trees but tree like creatures; the mythical creatures of Dryads now poured into the fray. Their wild treelike appearance gave the impression of a living forest, their high pitched screeching washed over the dwarfs like the waves upon the beach but the fear it carried was of no concern to the sons of Grimnir; they were as good as dead now anyway.
Again Algrim bellowed to brace as the tree beings crashed into the dwarven lines, as he watched and to his amazement they changed shape; their short sharp fingers seemed to melt and become long and thin like a whip. Others seems to become more robust, their entire forms seemed to creak with each movement and their blows became even more powerful â€“ knocking a fully armoured dwarf back with each blow. In return the dwarfs hacks and swung at them with axe and hammer but to little effect, instead it seemed to enrage them more and their screeching grew even more pronounced. Algrim then stepped into the battle, his enchanted axe did more damage. Where it struck the creatures fell back screeching, whimpering spilled from their maws as their wounds leaked a white sap like substance; again and again he struck their razor like talons grazed his runic armour but never penetrating. Half a dozen fell to Elgi Drung in the opening moments the rest quickly withdrew from him to a safe distance and paced whilst hissing; confused Algrim glanced behind him and realised why they had withdrawn. And why the ground had begun to quake. A being that looked alike like the dryads propelled itself from the trees, this tree creatures was twice the size of the dryads and seemed to have twice the temper; its great wooden maw bellowed as it barrelled into and through the dwarven lines. With the first sweep of it's oversized arms it swatted three dwarfs into the air, throwing them ten feet away from the circle. With this new combatant's entrance the dwarf line crumbled, faced on multiple sides by multiple foes that seemed to be made from the forest itself they became separated and slaughtered. Slowly, one by one each dwarf was dragged own and slain, or a sweep of the giant trees great fists crushed their bodies and tossed them about like rag dolls; until only Algrim was left.
The runic armour protected him against all blows that came his way and in return he lashed out with the weapon in his gauntleted fists each time being answered with a cry of pain or a screech as it bit deep into flesh. Bellowing in rage he failed to notice the looming shadow until it was too late; its great oaken claws swept him upwards. The treeman Durthu looked the dwarven leader in the face as he squeezed, in his hand he could feel the metal slowly bending and crushing the being within;. Algrim barely noted when the axe fell from his grip and embedded itself into the ground. Durthu stopped squeezing when he saw the blood trickle from the corners of his captive eyes; sneering in contempt he tossed the corpse to the floor then without a word he turned and swept away with the remaining Dryads back into the darkness of the woods. The elves quickly followed and fled to their dwellings leaving the corpses for the forest.
Over time the glade was slowly swallowed, new trees burst forth from the dwarf flesh enriched soil, the only sign that there ever was a dwarf who had set foot within the forest was the slightest glint of metal from beneath the entangling roots. Of Algrim all that remained was a skeleton encased in armour, even in the years that passed the armour was untarnished such was the skill in forging it; the only other sign was a gleaming axe the stood above the boiling mass of roots that now covered the glades floor embedded with a tuft of earth it marked the battle site of which none other than the forest would know existed.
The battle itself was recoded in both the elven histories and in that of the dwarven people; it was entered in the Great Book of Grudges as the Battle of the White Glade. It was yet another grudge the dwarfs have to avenge, but they learnt a lesson; as much as they can hold grudges the forest can hold them for longer.
Thats brilliant, well done
A billion chinese can't be wrong - eat rice.
loved the but at the end in italics that really gave the story that little bit more power. and the sence of forbding was thier all the time in both sides of the story well done for another well writen story
Yes people i know that my spelling and punctuation is awful but I am product of British teaching pollicies so what can I do about it?
The story was well versed and did not suddenly jolt readers into different events, although when I first read the prologue, I had the impression I was reading a purely historical account. Most of all, the similar words used in the conversation with Ythil and Morgrim and that of the last line in the epilogue gives the story a sense of finality many stories might lack.
Thank you. One of the more recent pieces of fiction of mine, getting better with them. Thank you for the comments.