Rain of Thorns #1 – Waylaid

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Torval loosed an arrow. It was a long shot but in a blink of an eye the whistling arrow had found its way, hitting with deadly precision. Torval knew the buck would crouch down at the sound of the bowstring snapping forward in an effort to jump away to safety. The arrow was fast enough that Torval aimed low and as the stag dipped in preparation for its jump it took the arrow behind its shoulder before it ever had a chance to bound away.

In earlier times a dwarf using a bow may have fairly common place, but as of late it what somewhat as a rare of a sight as he was. Torval spent a good deal of time out of doors, living off the land. Oak leaves and pine needles often made his mattress. A cane rod and his bow and quiver provided his meals. He was certainly no ordinary dwarf.

An adolescent when Thorin and Company made for the Lonely Mountain, and banished from his home when the Dourhands took hold of Thorin’s Hall; Torval fled Ered Luin and eventually made camp in the northern forests of Breeland. Over time he became a master of the bow and today it was paying off.

Torval had just taken his first stag in weeks.  He was thinking about the lean venison he would soon be feasting upon. As he was dragging his bounty across the Greenway towards camp he noticed some commotion down the road to the south. A group of orc had waylaid a group of travelers headed towards Bree. Two men lay still in the road and a girl was being carried off by an orc, slung over its shoulder. The fourth traveler covered her face with her arms as she was being kicked by a tall lanky orc as she lay in the dirt, a broken sword blade lay at her side the hilt still in her hand. Four other orcs were scurrying away with crates and barrels from the traveler’s wagon.

Without thought, Torval dropped the stag in the road and nocked an arrow and loosed. The sounds of a low whistle followed the arrow as it flew through the air and skewered the kicking orc in the eye. The orc fell instantly and with out so much as a gasp. Luckily, the orcs carrying off their loads had not heard a thing and were out of bow range. Torval hurried over to the woman, who was now pushing the corpse of an orc off her legs so trying to stand up.

“My good lady” Torval said in a whisper as he got near, “let me help you up.”

Though her face was black and blue, and her lips busted and bleeding; Torval could tell she was attractive by man’s standards. Her brown hair had a touch of red tinge. Her pale blue eyes squinted with pain, but she carried an air of command about her.

Pulling the orc off her, Torval took her hand. “Torval, at your service!”
“Eva.” She grabbed his arm and slowly took to her feet. “We have to save my sister!”
“Indeed, but what of your other companions?” He asked as he turned to the two motionless bodies in the road.

Eva picked up the broken blade at her feet and sighed. Scowling, she  threw down the blade and the hilt had remained clenched in her fist. “They are dead. The orc came up behind us and I was further up the road, to far to help in time. By the time I got back to the cart they were down, my sister was being beaten and I got hit in the back of the head by an unseen orc. I fought them, but my sword was broken and the orc quickly overpowered me.”

Torval handed Eva the sword he kept at his belt and replaced it with the wood cutting ax from his pack. “Let us save your sister and rid ourselves of these orc!”

Together, Eva and Torval sprinted up the hill in the direction the group of orc had made off in. They were well over the hill by now but in the distance screams and whimpering could be heard coming from a copse of tall trees. Using his knowledge of the land, Torval lead Eva around and up to a higher vantage point at the top of a rocky crag where they could see into the stand of trees from the other side. There must have been a dozen or more orc huddled around a pile of travel bags, crates and barrels and ripping them open. Eva’s sister lay in a heap next to a tree stump, her arms and legs bound, squirming as a large orc gagged her with a strip of leather.

“What is her name?” Torval asked in a hush.
“Her name is Ella.”
“Can you fight?”
“I can do well enough!” she said firmly, and almost too loud. An orc looked around as if he had heard something.
“Will you act as a diversion so I may free Ella and pull her to safety? I can get in close with out being seen.”
“Yes, what do you want me to do?”
“I will sneak down and get behind the stump near Ella,” Torval said pointing. “I will make three owl’s hoots, it will be your signal to push this boulder over the edge and roll it down the hill. Then,” he paused. “Kill whatever comes up here.”
“I will. Good luck, and please hurry!” She gestured towards her sister.

Without a word Torval set off to go around the orc camp and get into the trees. It would take a little time to get there unnoticed, but he was good at this. Tracking, stalking and sneaking to hunt an animal was his thing. How could sneaking past some orc be any different? It had taken him a good half hour to get around the canp. He was some 100 paces away when he heard an owl screech, then hoot. Off to his left he heard another owl hoot in reply, and then a third owl called out some distance ahead. Blasted owls he thought.

Eva pushed at the boulder, struggling to get it to move but after rocking it back and forth a few times, the earth underneath finally let go and the boulder went crashing down the hill side.

The orc all stood at once, looking towards the sound and at each other. The large one stood over Ella and drew his wicked blade. Torval was too far away and had no shot due to the thick stand of trees in between him and the orc standing over the girl. The other orc drew their blades and axes and went towards the short cliff face where the noise had come from.

Torval went into a full on run, as well as a dwarf can, towards Ella’s captor. The large orc heard the pounding beat of Torval’s feet, splashing through a stream and breaking sticks and twigs as he ran. Torval reached back to his quiver and pulled an arrow. He nocked it as he ran and then slid to a stop some 20 paces away from the orc, drew and fired. The arrow found it’s mark.

On the other side of the camp, two orc had heard the orc yell as he toppled over and had turned around. Nine other orc continued towards the crashing they had heard. Eva hid behind another boulder and waited for them to get closer.

Torval let another arrow fly. The arrow sailed through the trees but as it got near it clipped a tree branch and was deflected slightly, hitting one of orc in the leg. The orc stumbled, broke off the arrow and continued towards the dwarf. Torval ran forward towards the orc, who were now within a few steps of Ella. In a blur of motion, another arrow was sent whistling towards the injured orc and felled him mid-stride. Torval grabbed his wood-ax and charged the other orc.

The group of orc investigating the sound had reached the rock face but had immediately turned around, looking back at the camp after hearing the ruckus. Eva stood up and leaped over the edge down at the group of orc a short distance below. She landed squarely on an orc’s back and drew the blade of her sword across his throat from behind. The orc fell beneath her as she rolled to the side and back onto her feet.

Ducking the swing of a crude ax, she turned on her heel and brought the sword up and into the gut of the ax wielding orc taking it out of the fight. She pulled the sword free just in time to parry a spear blow coming from her right. Eva feinted and then with a series of sweeping blows she split through the orc’s spear and into its forearm and shoulder. The orc screamed just before the tip of sword found its heart.

Torval ducked his shoulder and barreled into his third orc, pushing it backwards. The orc pushed back with his shield and came out swinging a short curved sword from behind it. Torval leaned back and to the side, the blade just missing his beard. Like he was splitting wood, Torval came down with the ax in an overhand chop that lodged the bit deep in the orcs shield. With his other hand, Torval grabbed the hunting knife from his belt and pushed it up underneath the shield and into the orcs fleshy belly. It cried in pain as Torval stabbed at the orc once more, and it fell. Torval kicked the orc in the face and went to retrieve his ax from the orc’s shield. In another moment the orc was dispatched and Torval turned to Ella.

“Greetings Ella, you’re safe now.” He bent down and severed the ties at her wrists and ankles, and untied the gag from around her head.

Ella was young, perhaps in her teens or a young adult. She had spent her whole life in a small village to the north and had never seen a dwarf before. “Thank you… sir” she said as she winced and wrung her hands.

“Not 30 steps behind you there is a creek, on the other side is a large tree stump with a hollowed base, run and go hide in it. We’ll be back for you in a moment.” Torval handed Ella his hunting knife turned and ran towards Eva.

By the time Torval reached the group of orc in between him and Eva, she had slain three more. In quick succession, Torval loosed three more arrows. Two had each found an orc’s back and had pierced through, immediately they fell to their knees and then to the ground. The third arrow hit low and the orc barely noticed.

Eva thrust her sword forward towards the orc directly in front of her but the blow from another orc’s club found her ribs and caused her strike to miss. She would be bruised but the armor she wore under her traveling garb and absorbed much of the force. She turned and in a graceful arc, she swung the sword at the orc with the club, separating the orc from his arm that held the club. The orc growled and an arrow from behind hit it in the back of its neck. The orc fell forward and Eva noticed a second arrow sticking out, low on the orcs back.

She turned her attention to the remaining orc just as its fist found her already battered face. Eva crumpled to the ground. Torval’s ax came down and clipped the orc in the shoulder. The orc turned and snarled and swung his blade at Torval. He tried to parry, but the sword caught his ax under the bit and ripped it from his hand. As Torval reached back to get an arrow, the orc lunged at him and then both went to the ground, the orc on top. The orc placed both hands on the hilt of his sword and raised it high for a vicious downward chop.

Looking up, Torval saw a blur and a glint of steel in the air, and not a blink of an eye later the orc fell over, the handle of the hunting knife given to Ella sticking out of the hollow at the base of the orc’s neck.

Back on his feet, Torval smiled at Ella as they both moved towards the older sister still laying, groaning on the ground. She had been knocked unconscious but had only been out for a few moments.

“I don’t believe there to be anymore, but help Eva back into the trees and hide there.” Even after this violent skirmish, Torval’s mind was still on one thing: venison. “I’m going to get that buck I left in the road.” He gestured past the trees, and walked off.

Much later in the day, after hours of slow travel through the forest; the three of them made it to Torval’s camp with little event. The two women rested as he skinned the buck and set it on a spit over the fire. At least they’ll eat well, he thought as he turned the meat.

Sometime later, satisfied with the sample of meat he had just tasted; Torval went and woke the two women up. “Suppers on.”

During their meal, a conversation was struck up and Eva went on to tell her story of how she came to be Captain of the Guard in the village where she grew up and how she had been called to Bree to help with the increasing trouble the Watchmen there were having with southerners coming into the town and causing trouble. Ella and their two male companions were coming along, to work in the markets.

Finishing his meal and wiping his face with a rag from his back pocket, Torval said, “You can stay in my camp for as long as you need, and I will accompany you to Bree if you would like.”

A smile started to appear on Eva’s face but quickly vanished.

“What’s wrong?”
“The broken sword I left on the road – I must retrieve it.” Eva looked off into the darkness and began to weep.

6 comments

  1. Andang /

    Great job Sig! I can’t wait to see the rest of the series!

  2. Lilikate Buggins. /

    A good read thanks for posting.

  3. Now if only I could put to an original novel as easily as that fan fic flowed from my stubby dwarf fingertips!

  4. Kaleigh Starshine /

    Very nice!

  5. AnUnexpectedVidcast /

    Very cool. 🙂

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