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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 5

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Chief Glandar of Broken Bone


Fire and smoke filled the air from Talon Peak.  It could be seen for miles on the open plains of Kings Overlook.  In a way, it was a good thing.  If it had not been for the smoke from the burning town, the Clan Broken Bone would have missed the presence of the Steel Tide altogether.


The Tide must have cut into the Great Wood and come out behind U’taliga or Ork town as the humans called it.  If they had chose to pass by Talon Peak untouched and march on to Ronan, the clan would have been left far behind the mounted force.  But the Tide had decided that the Hawkeye of Talon Peak were too strong a threat to leave at their back.  Chief Glandar could see King Geiger’s way of thinking.


The Hawkeye were the best archers in the kingdoms.  The make of their bows gave them range three times the distance of the Steel Tide. They sculpted the bows from dragon bones that could be found in the many caves of the peak.  The risk of having them cut off a possible retreat for the Tide was too great to be ignored.  King Geiger may have gone mad, but on the field, he was still a great leader.


It seemed to Chief Glandar that the Tide had misjudged the number or the resistance of the Hawkeye forces.  The ork remembered well when his own tribe had fought the men of the peak before King G’Leaze had offered them his treaty.  Cunning men these hawks of the peak.  Clan Broken Bone had learned to respect the men and Glandar could tell it was a lesson that King Geiger was now leaning.


Clan Broken Bone had met with some of the Hawkeye leaders below the peak.  The Hawkeye moved freely through the caves that ran in all directions in the heart of the peak.  Glandar had his ork ready to move in on the back of the Steel Tide and help the Hawkeye defend Talon Peak.  Tybar, leader of the remaining Hawkeye, refused the idea, asking instead that the ork take their injured and children to Ronan and warn the people of the attack.


Normally, Glandar would have balked at the idea of Clan Broken Bone running from a fight.  Even one that would have meant the destruction of the clan.  But Glandar remembered his oath to King G’Leaze to protect his people from harm.  When King G’Leaze asked this pledge of the ork, Chief Glandar almost laughed in the half-elf’s face.


“Since what time does an ork care of oaths sworn to your kind?”  The chief asked in his best common.


“Since the ork has been recognized as an equal to all races, my friend,” King G’Leaze replied.  “Your race has done great evil to the world of men, but has the world of men ever offered the ork a choice?”


The question puzzled the ork.  All he had ever known about humans was that they hated ork.  And in return, the ork must fight against the humans to survive.  The idea of peace seemed obtainable on the plains of Kings Overlook.


For the first time in ork history, they settled into one place.  The king’s own daughters came to settle the ork into the plains. Builders came from as far away as Velda to help forge the ork town.  The chief saw his people’s numbers begin to grow on the grass land.  The wealth from the sale of the herbs they gathered gave them a comfort unknown to ork kind.


“Give a man no choice but evil,” the king had told him, “and you will have evil done.  But this does not make an evil man.”


The ork had made their choice.  Chief Glandar took the oath and had come to mean every word he spoke.  The Steel Tide would not take Ronan.  King Geiger would not own the Kingdom of Kings Overlook.


The ork had learned to respect the cunning of the Hawkeye so they listened to their plan.  They escorted the sick and wounded to the town of Ronan.  Then, they quickly organized the escape of all they could to the castle of Kings Overlook.  The Chief had sent his bastard son to warn King G’Leaze of the Steel Tide’s approach.


The Hawkeye had provided the ork with much more time to prepare for battle than the Chief had expected.  The smiths of Ronan had forged long sharp spears for the ork to fend off the attacks of the mounted force.  Deep holes were dug randomly on the plains in hopes of catching the legs of the unsuspecting horses.  Healers mixed potions and cut bandages for the up coming battle. All that was missing was a foe.


A mage that had come with them from Talon Peak presented Glandar with a powder made from some of the herbs that the ork had brought with them.  The powder was white and smelled of metal. 


“This is a mixture of my own mind,” the mage said with a laugh. “Seal it tight and catapult it into the Steel Tide ranks.  It will devour their armor and leave them sitting in their small cloths.”


The chief, like most ork, was very skeptical of magic.  They gathered the herbs for profit but cared little for the uses of them.  His mind was quickly changed after the mage picked up a steel gauntlet and dipped it into the powder.  The gauntlet turned brown before his eyes and gently melted away in the mage’s hand.  The thought of twenty thousand Steel Tide soldiers sitting upon their horses in their small cloths made the old ork laugh with glee.


The mage must have been seeing the same picture in his own head and joined in the merriment.  He sealed the magic powder and instructed the ork to take it up wind.  Nature seemed to favor the idea for the wind began to stir and blow in the right direction.


Shouts from the ongoing battle on the peak echoed across the emptiness of the plains.  The flames and smoke had begun to die off.  Talon Peak was mostly made of stone so there would be little to fuel the fires.  Even the shafts of the Hawkeye arrows were carved from a stone they called Feather Rock.  It was stronger and lighter than wood.  The center of the stone was always hollowed out and most always contained a deadly mixture of some sort.


Glandar looked at the round scar on his forearm.  He had been unlucky enough to catch one of those arrows.  It cut through his shield, armor, flesh and bone plunging itself to the red hawk feathers at the end.  When he had broken the arrow to remove it, a green slime oozed from the shaft.  The wound began to fester and swell.  A healer was barley able to save his arm.  Glandar wondered what surprises the Hawkeye were giving King Geiger on the flaming peak.


The sun would set before the Steel Tide would reach Ronan.  If the Tide decided to take the town at night it would give the ork a great advantage.  Their night vision was far superior to humans. This maybe the Tide’s plan if they knew that most of Ronan’s forces stood guard at the king’s castle in Overlook.  Another advantage for the ork was that King Geiger did not know that the ork had gone ahead of his forces.  The chances were good that the king would think the ork thankful the Tide had passed them by and make ready to fend them off upon their return.  Battling the Steel Tide on the way back would make them a weaker foe.  Had Glandar not intended to keep his oath and defend the people of Kings Overlook that would have been a good plan.


The sound of riders stirred the ork defense to life.  Tight rows of spearmen formed on the fronts protecting lines of archers.  Catapults filled with pitch ready to be lit, sat to the left and right of the ork lines.  Behind the cover of a hill, Glandar had his own mounted troops ready to charge the Tide.  Their wicked lances were made a few feet longer than the ones the Steel Tide carried.


A different foe you face, Geiger, Glandar thought to himself as he looked over his forces.    We a people with a home and a king to defend.  No more the evil savages you forced us to be.


The king’s daughter, Caitlin, had taught the ork the value of a good mount and lance.  The ork seemed to be made for the job.  They could lift longer lances than most humans and their horses used no bridles.  The ork controlled the mounts with nudges from their knees and feet.  This allowed the ork to turn their ranks much faster than a human line that had to lower lances to take up their bridles.


“Discipline,” she taught, “would win out over numbers in most battles.”


The chief had found this to be true from the receiving end many times.  He had let Caitlin teach the art of war to his forces and was impressed at their success.  The first battle that the new ork army had fought against a band of raiders from Vale, had been a great success.  Vale had been a loose-knit kingdom since their defeat by King Geiger’s father in the “Slaver War”.  The seven kingdoms had voted that slavery be outlawed in all the lands.  All but Vale agreed to the terms.  When Vale refused to release and stop the sale of flesh, most of which had been taken from the Kingdom of Tides, King Geiger’s father lead the forces of the other six kingdoms into Vale and scattered their army.  Vale, being mostly a slaver port, had never recovered from the war. 


With nothing of value to trade, Vale made its living raiding trade caravans of other kingdoms and blaming it on rogue knights.  Having no army of its own to speak of, Kings Overlook became a popular target.


The ork had come crushing down on the raiders.  For every ork that fell, ten Vale raiders lie bloodied on the ground.  The raiders soon looked for easier prey in other kingdoms. 


The glare from the sun had died down enough for the chief to make out the outline of the riders.  There were no more than forty of them.  It was still hard to see if they flew a banner.


“Scouting party,” suggested an ork standing nearest to Glandar.


That would be the only answer for a party of this size being ahead of the main host.  This would present a problem for the ork.  If this party were allowed to report back, the Tide would know of the ork presence in Ronan.  But if Glandar rode out to kill the scouts, it may take him into a trap.


Glandar nodded his agreement to the ork while pondering his next move.  The ork were set up in perfect position to defend the city but not to meet the larger force directly on the field.   In times before they learned the art of war, the move would have sparked a blood lust in the ork hoard.  They would have rushed out to meet the army and most likely killed far more Steel Tide than they lost.  The end result would have been a Steel Tide victory.


“Discipline wins over numbers in most battles,” Glandar repeated to himself.


The forty were in clear view of the towers now.  The look out would be able to make out the riders from a safe distance.  Another gift from the mage.  Glandar waited below the closest tower.


“Is Steel Tide, the look-out called down to his chief.


“They send such a small group of men to fight us,”  this came from an enormous ork wielding a great ax in each hand.  The tone of his statement was either one of disappointment or insult.  Maybe a little of both.


“It doesn’t appear that they come ready to fight,” the mage observed with his spell-heightened  sight.


“Scouting,” the same ork suggested.


“I believe most scouts try to stay hidden,” the mage objected.


There was no more time to ponder the job of the forty soldiers.  The horse of the man in the lead, stepped fully into one of the foot holes.  The horse screamed in fear and pain as his leg snapped in two.  It’s three remaining legs lashed out wildly after it hit the ground.  One of the frantic kicks caught the thrown rider in the side of his head.  All attempts of the rider to rise ended.  Another kick landed firmly on the leg of a horse next to it.


That horse fell to its side taking his rider with him.  The full weight of the steed came crushing down on his leg, leaving him trapped in the range of the continuing thrashing of the first downed horse.  The knight’s blood sprayed the white coat of his steed.  Other  horses panicked at the smell of the blood. 


The Steel Tide riders fought to keep their horses from bolting.  Some lost their fight and either rolled themselves off the mount to the safety of the grass or held fast only to find a new hole.  A few that thought to be safe on the grass, found themselves being trampled by another’s horse.  The shriek of death danced over the evening air painting the picture of the scene for all those without the gift of sight from the mage.


“I don’t believe the Tide expected any resistance from the people of Ronan,” the mage concluded.


Glandar had come to the same conclusion.  But why would the Steel Tide think to march forty into a town  to control it?


Something did not sit well on the chief’s mind.  He looked about the remaining men in Ronan.  They ran about carrying out the chores that had been assigned to them.  Lots of them he recognized as children from Talon Peak.  They had refused to leave the city and demanded a hand in the battle to come.  Most of the parents of these children were dead by the hands of the Steel Tide.  Glandar could not bring himself to turn them away.


Tybar was a known noble of Talon Peak.  As were many of the men by his side when they met with the ork.  Talon Peak had few nobles and Ronan was a city of nobles.  Yet he did not remember seeing one noble greet them upon their arrival.  Something was very wrong.  Maybe the nobles had run at the first sight of Talon Peak’s fate.


“Mage,” Glandar called, “You are familiar with families of noble status of this city?”


“Yes,” the mage confirmed.


“I will have you take three men and search their homes.”


The mage started to question the chief.  Then his face changed as if he understood why the mission had been suggested.


Glandar sent a rider to the ork line.  “Leave one alive,” was his only command.


A third of the riders lay dead or dieing on the bloodied grass.  The ones that lived looked too confused to contemplate battle.  The ork line volleyed arrows down onto the confused knights.  After a score more lay skewered with long shafted arrows,  the men pulled themselves together enough to attempt a charge.  Their numbers cut to almost nothing, the charge was stopped yards from the ork line.  The archers allowed the last of the men to charge the spearmen.  His horse came to a halt as it impaled on the end of the long steel spears.  The rider was thrown over the spearmen and captured.


The ork went quickly into motion.  The remains of the forty were taken off the field.  Any weapons that the Steel Tide carried soon became a trusted ally against them.  The wounded and dead horses alike were taken to the butcher to feed the hungry of the town.  Glandar knew an army of ork would soon deplete the town’s stores.


The prisoner was brought before the chief.  Other than a few bumps from his fall the man was in good shape.  He was stripped of his armor and weapons.  Looking at the man sitting in his small cloths on the ground brought back the memory of the mage’s powder.  He fought back a chuckle in light of the seriousness of the moment.


Before the questioning could start, the mage returned.  His face was twisted in thought.  The men who followed him seemed to mimic the expression.  At the sight of the prisoner, the mage signaled for the chief to come to more privet surroundings.


“There are no nobles of Ronan to be found,” he announced.


“Could they have left at first signs of battle?”  Glandar had already guessed the answer to his own question.


“Their houses lie empty,” the mage said, “it would have taken weeks for some of those houses to be stripped as such.”


“Nobles of Ronan have plotted against King G’Leaze,” Glandar concluded.


Fury filled the chief.  Partly because of his failure to stall the Steel Tide and partly for fear he would be too late to help his king.  The rage had to be released and he had but one target.


“Why did your company come to Ronan?”  Glandar demanded of the prisoner.  He kept his words slow and deliberate as not to revert back to the broken common that marked ork tribes as savages.


The man ignored his question but lowered his eyes from the ork’s angry stare.


Fuming, Glandar grabbed the man by the arm.  From his belt, he freed a large mallet and brought it crashing down on the man’s arm.  The bone splintered and burst through the skin.  The man yelped in pain.  Tears welled up in his eyes and leaked out their corners.  But still no answer followed.


Glandar motioned the healer over to the man.


“I break, then you heal, then I break again,” the chief commanded.  “That way, man will know what comes next.”


The man’s eyes widened with fear.  He looked at the splintered bone cutting through the top of his bare arm and then to the black steel mallet in the hand of the ork.  Everyone could read the debate that was working in the man’s head.  Finally, reason overcame defiance.


“We only come to pick up slaves to deliver to Vale.”


“There are no slaves in Ronan,” the mage objected, “only the small folk where here when we arrived.”


The realization of what he had said hit the mage.


“Oh, no,” he gasped, “You mean……………,” the mage couldn’t finish his sentence.


“And the nobles of Ronan,” questioned Glandar.


“Have taken land grants in the Kingdom of Tides.”


“They sold us,” finished a young boy that snuck his way into the guard hall.


“Has Talon Peak fallen,” the mage queried.  The mage, Turkle, knew that the Hawkeye would lure the Steel Tide into the caves of the peak.  Once in the mazes of the peak, the Hawkeye would have the advantage over the steel clad knights.


“Yes,” the man replied without hesitation.  “Most of the Hawkeye were captured in the tunnels and the rest were killed.”


“Nonsense,” the mage accused, “no force have ever entered the maze and left alive.”


“King Geiger had a map.”


More treachery, Glandar concluded.  The nobles betrayed the small folk of Ronan but who betrayed the Hawkeye.





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