Irsbane's reverent gaze studied the half-breed speaker; with a bold finger, he reached out and placed it onto the older map. "No Orc has ever crossed the Gulls Neck without detection. The city itself was not breached, but it's remit was. There was no warning. Orcs, usually brutish and forthright, seem to have developed guile. That is enough to worry us."
The echo of his voice had not filled the hall, when at that moment the great doors of the meeting room swung open; they again swamped the petite figure of a dwarven messenger, who in this case was a young looking female with vibrant red hair. She was thicker set than the slender elvish women at the table, and hardly attractive in comparison. However, by dwarven standards she was pretty enough. Her walk was soft and graceful, with each footstep hidden by the long, flowing green cloth which shrouded her body. In her hand she carried a thin slip of paper. Uys recognised her immediately; her name was Nessisa, a member of the Jade circle, Irsbane's personal spymasters. With a deep bow she approached the clanlord, placed her message upon the table and respectfully retreated, but without leaving. Uys immediately took this as a sign; if it was just another requested document then she would leave. Instead, she was waiting for orders, a fact which worried Uys. Irsbane read, and for a moment, all sound was lost to the transfixed members of the congregation.
"If this is true, the hour is later than we thought. The men of the distant north; barbarians who live in the extremist states of permanent ice and blizzard; distant and alien to the civilised lands below the wall... if they speak correctly, then..." Irsbane, in a rare moment of hesitation, let his eyes glaze over. The words on the script became a haze, an indiscernible series of inscriptions that clotted their power in the speaker's lips.
"Lords Irsbane, what is it?" pressed Uys, suddenly concerned for his clanlord; his outstretched hand banged the table to shake Irsbane's trance.
"Not in this epoch have the scattered hordes of the Orcs combined; not in this age have they built engines of war. Crude as it may be, a solitary Orc is a fearsome foe; in a pitched battle, however, their ranks crumble against our formations and skill. And yet, if they become organised and find a way to breach the great wall, it is against the dwarves they will first march. The great horde is the ancient foe we have long since forgot."
"But that is not the only forgotten legend, is it?" Uys hadn't meant to sound so forthright, but the words shot out before he could think. Immediately, he shaped his mouth to apologise, but a sharp hand from his clanlord cut him off.
"You refer to the sarcophagus, Uys. You have every right to ask, but what I can give in return may only disappoint, for I can tell you little; there is no firm evidence to give to you. The best I can offer is informed conjecture: that it belonged to the last of a dying race..." Irsbane paused, not out of hesitation, but of an awareness that his words carried shock and so needed to be carefully chosen. "Whilst much of the city indicated a harmony of elves, dwarves and men, little of it offered evidence of a mutually governed society. The missing link is the presence of a ruling order; a fourth being or beings, that held our people within their power. Beyond that, there is much confusion. Why there is no record of these beings; why there is nothing beyond traces of myth and fragments of evidence, even amongst the elves, is a mystery. Some say it is tied to magics long since passed beyond the void of knowledge. And as to where the Orcs fit in, I can offer little light. Yet."
Uys nodded. He had nothing to add to Irsbane's words, despite their obvious power. Perhaps one of the others might offer a pearl of insight, or a shed of wisdom. Such finer matters of history were not his place to meddle with; instead, once the moment was right, he asked the only question he could: "My Lord. What are we to do?"
Irsbane sat forward once more, studying the maps in front of him. "If the enemy expects us to come after them, they will expect it to come through the wall. The beacon holders have sent no message of an army, but there is no reason to suspect that such a force as the barbarians report would head anywhere else. To travel that route is folly. I will send word to the King that a force must be sent to the wall immediately to reinforce it; I would hope men and elves will commit the same. However, your mission must lie elsewhere. You will take the short road to Grárhöfn, on the eastern shore. It is less than half a day's travel by road, and the nearest port to Kazucdir. Once there, you will take the Brinehammer north, beyond the wildlands' vice. There you will meet up with those who know that wretched world; we will send a detachment of hawks on the ship; when you reach the vice, make contact. I will enclose the rest of the details on the Brinehammer, but we must waste no more time."
Irsbane's words sunk into Uys like lead. The gravity was not lost on him as he stood, and bowed towards his lord. "I will not fail you in this."
Irsbane smiled, and looked to the rest of the group. "Friends, if I had known the urgency of this matter ahead of time, I would not have brought you to the depths of my city. You represent the best of all of us; the hope of all of us; the strength of our combined people. Go now, in conviction of what you are about to do; and if a dawn of doom once again rises from the shadows..." he said, quoting the epic dwarven verse that hung on the clanhold's walls, "then issue your thunder. I wish you well."
Uys turned to the rest of the hall; he had only just come to meet these people, this new fellowship of the three races of Tarimis. Whether he could trust them he knew not, but battle would not be far away if the pace of recent proceedings could indicate progress, and battle always tested one's trust in allies.
Taking his shield upon his back, Uys met the others in the eye. "Let's be off then, the road and seas beckon us, and beyond that, winter and the grey iron of Orcish blades; let's see if we can't make an impression."
With that, Uys lead the party out of the hall and up the same roads of Kazucdir. From the city gates he issued new mounts to those who asked, and from there he pressed on to the open road. The sun had set now, and so torches were issued to provide enough light.
"You elves have got better sight in the dark, right?" Uys asked, hoping one of them might offer to take point alongside him. Uys knew the roads, but keen eyes were always helpful. At a good pace, they would reach Grárhöfn before first light; Uys just hoped the Brinehammer had warm beds...
5.34am, the following morning.
The faintest flickers of orange peaked above the horizon, allowing a weak but beautiful flicker of light amongst the soft sea waves. As the group came over the hill, a little more light cast itself onto the port town of Grárhöfn; there, amongst the smaller fishing vessels that lined the harbour, a great open-sea cruiser stood like a lion amongst kittens: the Brinehammer. Upon her sight, other senses opened themselves up with the morning sun; the first songs of the sailors and shoremen filled the air: the music of over three hundred dwarves facing a fresh, clear morning, ignorant to the new dangers of an old foe, a many great miles away.
Last edited by Aufidius; 01-29-2013 at 03:47 PM.
Hector: What art thou, Greek? art thou for Hector's match? Art thou of blood and honour?
Thersites: No, no, I am a rascal; a scurvy railing knave: a very filthy rogue.
Hector: I do believe thee: live.