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Forums > Fantasy Roleplay Forum > Chronicles of Obelus: The Kapellmeister (closed)

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"For every noble creature, there was always a villain who agitated evil." Proverb of Ecru

Today, the Norse and Orc Kingdom found favor in recent events. The North Empire had gained prominence; achieving a great edge in this war. With Commander Delilah poisoned, this travesty would surely put a wedge between Joseph and Elvira's relationship; hopefully discouraging their morale and complicating their alliance; this is what the North Empire had desired. Indeed, a cursed darkness in Obelus had violently awoken. Those who perished in the sea were called forth to feed and spread their evil in Elvira's realm. The undead have risen from an eternal sleep, to plague the Ivory Forest, feeding on the living, until the Necromancers ritual was either silenced or abruptly contained. Masterfully, this wicked strategy had weakened a great number in the elven and human ranks; all credited to the treacherous display of the Mighty Kapellmeister and his necromantic song. Korag and Jovina watched this entire act from Lash’na The Red's spirit stone.

Korag was slightly disappointed that the Demon Caravan chose to be neutral. If Isabella was correct, these were the ones who defeated the Sea Queen and a hundred of her minions on the ocean. It was a horrible vision to see a ghost brought back to life in misery and defeat; but Isabella was the first Matriach to fall in this war—over her own senseless stupidity, he thought. He was intrigued with these spice traders and hoped that they would change their minds. But it did not matter now. With the undead arriving, they would find lots of opportunity for the winter.

Dezus Ib'ahali, also known as the Kapellmeister and traitor of Lord Jhadaris was taken to Axiom after his daring move, through a portal that Korag had prepared for him. Where he was taken, was not as horrible as the place he had left. In Korag's castle, was a marble paved floor, with purple linen drapes that covered window seals of pure gold. The scent of spicy meat, fruit and wine was smelt. The portal door he stepped through allowed him to witness all of these things. There he was also greeted by a dozen wood elves, once proud people of the Urdu Glades, now subjugated in chains; broken, defeated and without hope. They were prisoners of war, subverted to nothing but profit; abandoned in a dark realm to be forever forgotten. In the beginning, they were a hassle to contain; they had killed quite a few Orc guards who tried to break them. This was in the earlier stages of the war. After two years, they gave up hope and knew Elvira would never come back for them. So they did what any slave would do to survive—they became weak and did what they had to do to live until the next day; even if it meant pleasing Orcs, Norse and whatever else was wealthy enough to buy them. They were the Orc Kings most coveted slave possessions. And It was in Korag's benefit that they stayed close together; they could still do lesser heals and mending magic on his wounded army. Through time they had become bitter, hating elves just as much as he did.

"They are all yours Dezus. Do what you will with them. For your work today has been most impressive." Korag sneered.

Even though Korag was not currently in his homeland Axiom, but in Belgora, staying in Jovina’s Castle, Dezus could see The Orc King and his family through his glass eye, temporarily bound to Lash’na The Red's glowing spirit stone. Korag and his company could see the Drow as well and had watched him since he turned the tides of war in the Urdu Forest.They all sat intrigued as noble guests in the Norse Kingdom.

Belgora was the Capital of the North Empire, home of Queen Jovina, who also joined Korag’s company with her own family; both families watched the Drow’s previous battle scene intensely through the Orcess’ spirit stone; while they feasted at a private dinner table.

"I do not desire....females, my Lord. Besides, I am far too old to satisfy all of them."

Cackling was heard amongst Jovina's table. "He is a no good, treacherous bastard. But I like him." Elder Grommock chuckled, an Orc Adviser in Korag's circle.

"I can bring you males, if that is what you inquire?" Korag jested.

"No, I don't desire sex. Now get these wood elves away from me!" Dezus cried.

"Calm yourself, Drow. You forget who you are speaking to." Krognak said, brother of the Orc King.

Several Orc guardians came from the halls after Dezus' outburst.

“My dearest apologies.” Dezus simpered.

The wood elves lowered their eyes and stayed silent, disappointed that they would not get their opportunity to satisfy him. Thus slowly, each female was taken by the neck, their chained collars attached subdued them and the females were brutally dragged away.

Silence was in the room once more and Dezus quickly remembered whose home he was in and who had saved him from an instant death. The Drow realizing this, bowed his head apologetically. The only thing that saved his life now was his glass eye. As long as he commanded the undead in song, Korag would make use of him. But he would not tell him that. He would butter him up and make him feel special, until his Orcs inquired aged meat.

"It is fine, brother. I know Dezus has had a long day...an eventful day, at best, one that will undoubtedly place all of our names in historic countenance. What you've accomplished today was poetry and very well executed. Delilah has been a thorn in our side for years, slaughtering my troll forces like goblins. She is a foe we are glad to have ridden ourselves from, for the moment anyway. For now, rest Dezus and remember that my home is yours." Korag said kindly.

He would say no more to him, unless Jovina had words for the Drow. Perhaps she would call upon his services some other time. But for now, they needed him focused on keeping those undead rising. If the Kapelmeister's ritual had truly summoned the dead from elven ground, only Ecru himself knows what ancient beasts or warriors might come from its tainted depths.

"There is one request, my Lord and Lady...if you will hear?" Dezus asked, to both Korag and Jovina.

The queen's hall is quite unlike what a southern lord would expect. Their halls are gaudy, dirty, and stink of misconduct. Jovina does not tolerate things out of place or any blemish on her castle. Slaves are worked for their worth to keep the drafty stone castle at its best even through the dampest days and coldest night. The sigil of her house, a lone white bear over a field of black, is displaced only once, as the solitary display is more than enough to inspire fear, loathing, and respect in any visitors that find themselves fortunate enough to see the inside of her Queendom's heart. Seated at the benches are the most important members of the alliance. A great bear of a man, a stunning blonde woman, and a literal bear the inspiration for her banner are seated to the left of the sturdy wooden table, with Jovina nestled at the head. To her immediate right is Korag, with the rest of his party gathered in the seats beyond.

Jovina and her siblings had been engrossed in seeing through the crimson orb. Like anyone in a battle, they want to see the other side; to know their faults, weaknesses, and just how to shatter any strengths. Far too soon, Dezus has left the midst of their foe and is transported to Korag's castle. Orc trained slaves are offered, fervently rejected, and eventually led away. Amidst the movements, a comment is made.

"You're far too old to satisfy one of them," the golden haired Narcissa taunts, fearing nothing from the Drow, as he is so far away. Even if he were closer, she could shish-kabob him on her blade. Narcissa touches at her eye and makes a repulsed face at the grotesque being. "And too ugly to get any of them wet, no matter the skill. That eye! It's almost as bad as yours." Her elbow breaks from her side to nudge at the beastly fellow beside her.

Widsith releases a long breath from his nose during the onslaught of jabs to his ribs. "Shush." He declares, glancing sidelong at the heiress to the kingdom. Ecru help us if Jovina dies. Narcissa's complete lack of tact would have them rid of allies within a fortnight if the Shield Maiden were to hold any true power. He did not have a false orb pocketed in his socket, but a worthless eyeball, blinded long ago in a fierce battle.

The queen fastens her gaze over Dezus in silent study, her expression betraying neither pleasure or offense to the Drow's refusal of the elves. In fact, her face was so carefully guarded so often that she seemed to appear to be in a deep stream of thought. "By requesting we hear your request, you've made a request," she points out, her voice spun of amusement, disappointment, and approval in equal measure. "I believe we could entertain another. What of you, Lord Korag?" She turns to glance at her friend and ally, her eyes giving him a warmth not afforded to anyone else.

The Orc War Band had decided to rest in Belgora until the storm passed. Permafrost glaciers surrounded the northern lands and many families were unfortunate outside of these great Belgorian walls. There was a famine in the North Empire. Winter had tragically arrived and it was in its harsher state up here. Korag and his people had brought meat to Jovina's people; these two families had learned to survive together for decades. Centuries before them, their bloodline had learned to preserve meat and turn one elk into a resource that could keep a colony going for months.

This is why only a true Norse and great Orc could embrace the north.


Krognak had been entertaining Narcissa all night, since the families embarked upon this fine oak wood dinner table. Widsith had been the selected unfortunate one for a targeted amusement. His seriousness often made him a desired focal point. Thus when the blonde headed Norse General took a shot at Dezus, he could not help himself but laugh at the creature they watched from the Spiritist's glowing orb. He sipped his ale and could not hold his tongue any longer...

"Now I wonder if he is a eunuch as well." Krognak snickered. "Poor bastards, the both of them." He winked at Widsith.

Korag was not amused by their blatant disrespect for the Kapellmeister and Widsith, but he choose not to entertain in their playful infantilism or intervene. Instead he considered it all love. His mind was more introverted than his words; always thinking, always plotting on how to overcome the necessary barriers before him. And even though he was a King, it was the people around him who kept him going. They had a lighter outlook on life, something that he had to remember.

Jovina had played around with her words, outwitting the Dark Elf where he stood. Indeed, Dezus was beginning to disappoint him and embarrass him. For a Drow this clever, he had no conversational skills. Perhaps it was best that Dezus remained isolated in his new room, doing what he was called here to do; keeping the dead rising.

Korag smiled, when his Queen asked him if he'd entertain another question. He courted his bowl boringly, to grin at her and give her affection that he rarely gave to anyone. He took a scoop of the elk stew and drank down some ale to soothe his stomach. "I don't mind, but make it quick, Drow. You are running out of opportunities. And my Queen is hungry." He noticed that Jovina had not touched her plate yet.

How could she eat with everything they had just seen. From mermaid ghost resurrecting to a sick dark elf channeling undead from the sea. Indeed, appetites were hard to sustain in their rule.

"Very well," Dezus said, his next words more confident. "I would like the Spiritist, Lash'na the Red. Let me have her and her seer stone and I will promise you greatness upon your northern lands."

The room went silent, after his request. Lash'na looked up from her plate, her eyes aghast and shocked. Grommock even looked disheartened by the Drow's fowl request. Thus it was Krognak who lightened the room with a ruthless laughter.

"You sick hypocrite. You turn away a dozen elves for a tender virgin."

Life came into Jovina's room again after Krognak's humor. Dezus did not look happy from the other side of the stone. He looked like he was growing impatient with their badinage and joshing.

"Orc, I grow tired of your raillery." Dezus vented.

“You grow tired? Well that is apparent. Perhaps you should take some nightshade and rest from your previous perversions.” Krognak chuckled.

Korag furiously stood from his seat to take hold of Lash'na's stone; aggressively pulling the smaller Orcess with it. He held it close to his face so Dezus could only see him and no one else. The anger he showed had calmed down once he seen the fear in Lash'na's eyes. She was unsure what her King would do now. Would he really give her away so he can win? Her heart was in turmoil; she loved him and wanted to please her King, not live as a slave. Here she was free and ate among the royal family. She felt she deserved a place with him. But now, her life would be bartered away. Korag relaxed now, yet his voice was still intense, as he gave himself a moment to make his words clear.

"First off, never speak to my brother like that again. Secondly, give us one night. We are held up in a storm now and should arrive by the next nightfall. And when I return to Axiom, you will have your Seer and stone. As long as you do your part by keeping the dead coming. I want you to target her ancient tombs. Resurrect her kings and queens and her heroes of age. I want Elvira broken! Do this for me, Drow and you will have your request."

After Korag's words, he nodded for the Spiritist to end this conversation. Lash'na responded by deactivating her stone so Dezus could no longer see them or connect to it with his glass eye. As of now, Dezus had a job to do and Korag was playing his cards right. He knew everyone in this room had trusted him, so there would be no further words about his decision.

"We will prepare for Axiom at first light. Jovina, it has been sometime since you stepped out of your castle. Come with me. Let's get our blades wet again."

Widsith was blessedly slow to anger, even with the jibes from his and Korag's younger siblings. The man doesn't glance at Narcissa or Krognak, but keeps his attention on the Drow before them. His bowl of stroganoff lay finished before him, gone thanks to silence and a quick spoon. Beneath the table a polar bear licks scraps and steals from anyone not looking carefully after their dishes; save the monarch and matriarch at the far end of the table.

"Eunuch or not, they probably have more skill in the bedroom than you, runt," Narcissa jeers to Krognak, her partner in tormenting the room as a whole.

Jovina keeps her arms in her lap. In the end, she'll touch her when all matters had been addressed, even if it takes all night. The food was for the benefit of everyone else; under the vain hope that it might silence the beautiful of face, cruel of tongue disasters of siblings that were heirs to the kingdom. While Widsith considers what downfall Narcissa would bring, Jovina mentally shudders at what would happen if both of the brazen youngsters were to take over the allied nations. The rather unexpected request was made, quieting even the rowdiest of them. Abagor the polar bear takes this time to take a lick from Narcissa's bowl.

Krognak saves the day from silence. The warrior woman laughs loudly and smacks the table, scaring the bear away. "I grow tired of your bitching," she answers swiftly. "Why are we allied with such a complainer?"

Jovina knows precisely what she would do. What she hopes Korag will do. In the end, he chooses perfectly. A great askance required a great deed. A fleeting look of approval is offered when she's sure Lash'na isn't watching. "It would be an honor to fight by your side," she says with reverence and respect to the king. If one didn't know better, they may think she were in awe of the orc, but it's not so. She's seen and done far too much to degrade so easily into the role of a swooning girl. Only now that their future seems more concrete will Jovina take her first bite of the meal before her.

Widsith stands and excuses himself. Taking her cue, Narcissa does the same. She walks behind Krognak's chair, positions her hand to pull it back to two legs, then kicks it out from beneath him. "Let's go, you bedwetter. They're all done with us extras." With or without his compliance, the blonde nabs the orc's pointed ear and will lead or drag him from the hall.

Krognak was readying himself to consume another spoon full of stroganoff, until his chair was pulled from underneath him. The fit Orc hit the tile with laughter, his athleticism bearly hindered him from retreiving his balance again. He smirked at Narcissa instead of retaliating; her Norse scent forever pleased him. All the years they fought together, he desired her scent the most. So when she took his ear, he submitted to her, following her muscular hide like a loyal dog.

Widsith and Grommock chuckled as well; the two leaving together. Krognak’s bowl had spilled onto the floor and Abagor cleaned it up aggressively.

This left Lash’na, now alone in the room with the powerful couple. Nervously, she looked at the floor scared to death after what she had just heard. Her life would be offered to Dezus in a fortnight. In her heart she wished that she could run away. A few times she contemplating ending her life with the table knife. But she was not weak. The Spiritist looked up and smiled into the eyes of her King—she would offer her own life a hundred fold if it meant to see him have victory in this war.

“Where shall I sleep tonight, my Lord? I am full and tired.” The virgin said.

“You can stay with Masar'th. She will see you bathed proper.” He turned his gaze from the youth. “Good work today.”

The Centauress heard her name and took the Orcess girls hand eager to please him and lead Lash’na out; her eyes stayed low, respectfully. She did not want Jovina to see any lust in her eyes for Korag. The Orc King was here and she just wanted to be rescued. She knew the Orc was against slavery having tore the necks out of Jovina’s cousins; taking Axiom as his own and killing off the Earls of the North. But Korag was not here to liberate the weak. Jovina was the only slaver he supported. If an Orc was weak enough to submit to her, then it was not worthy to live. This went for any Centaur, Norse or anything that valued its life enough to remain in chains.

When everyone was gone he exhaled. The King was eager to finish his meal; he smiled to see Jovina finally eat. He wanted her to be strong for battle.

“Our siblings may be the death of us. But they are loyal and they love us. So we need them. The worst thing to do is to sit in our seat, surrounded by traitors and enemies. I’ll take incompetence any day.” He smirked.

Jovina finishes her first bite quickly enough, not one to savor the bland food for an unnecessarily long time. Once the elk and noodle mix has dropped down her slender throat, she nods in farewell to the troublemakers. It's only to Lash'na that she offers the compliment of speech. "Good evening," she declares simply enough. The fact that the queen had deigned to speak at all should be taken as enough of a compliment. She watches the orcess vanish behind the centauress, a mildly curious expression tingling in her eye. The door shuts, leaving king and queen truly alone.

Save the bear. Abagor's noisy, glutenous chomps are followed by a cascade of raspy licking over the wooden bowl. Once finished with his first offering, the off-white beast pads around the hall, grasping every bit of unattended cutlery and cleaning every last drop. Though he was one of the most spoiled creatures in the kingdom, even he had begun to feel the cut rations that comes with impending famine.

Then Korag speaks, drawing her dark gaze to him. With the eye contact comes a small smile that subtly tempts her lips upwards. Even with him, she won't release the reins of her emotions. "You'd rather a kicked puppy from a familiar litter than a hound trained by another master. I take solace knowing at least Widsith is competent." As for Narcissa - the blonde's jibes and jovial nature causes a sigh to cascade from her lips. "You're quite right. The pups won't bite the hand that feeds them." During her brief chatter, she continues to eat and will fully finish the bowl. Once it's gone, she'll slide her slender palm beneath it and slip the dish down in offering to her bear. Abagor approaches and licks eagerly.

Carefully, he watched her pale fingers offer her bowl to the great polar beast. Korag observed her tender flesh like a lion that cared for his weaker lioness. He trusted no one with her; not even Abagor. If he or any was to turn on Jovina, he already studied several ways in his mind; on how to dismantle its throat without his blade. Olive hues looked down on his own half eaten bowl, letting it fall to the floor as a bear offering. He was crafty with his own mind and emotions. Most Orcs in history were void of such things. The old Orcs, blood of the Kuu-Oneuk, had lacked such sophistication. They valued one Chief who subjugated the weaker males and took a dozen wives leaving the males to die without a legacy. The old way did not work—such savagery only led to rebellion and fear. Korag wanted a better future for the North Empire. He wanted Orcs to take wives, grow families and learn how to be self sufficient without relying on a chief to feed them.

“Yes, I appreciate Widsith. Grommock as well, for his endless wisdom. He is the only male Orc I trust with enough decency other than my brother to eat at your table.” He smiled.

He stood from his seat and gently took her hand. Tenderly he brought her warm skin to his soft lips. He wanted to court her like he was a fabled King in a fairy tale. There was no lust in his eyes, in spite of the stereotypic fettishes that seemed to plague their Northern culture. Korag and Jovina were great friends and even greater rulers who admired each other enough to see things the same. He carefully let her skin go, his musk scent now on her—tickling her pink nose like a winters pine tree.

“We should rest. We need to be strong for the ‘morrow.”

Korag had more to say before he left her. He had not shared his vision with anyone yet. So they would have time to strategize a decent battle plan. Indeed he would rely on her mind as well, respecting their many years of historic achievement together in the fray.

“I’ll be ready by the gates at the first light of dawn. Bring your best warriors. After we see the Kapellmeister I plan to take our number to the Ivory Forest. We should strike the eagle while the wings are weakened.”

Korag would remember the small upturning at the corners of Jovina's full lips, a privilege and a luxury that the Queen afforded only to this ally of hers. She nods, a barest hint of movement, for her acknowledgment and goodnight before she turns away into the hall's passageway, leaving Abagor noisily polishing the rest of the bowl that she had set upon the cold floor.



The chilled and biting wind of the rugged morning blows unafraid over the crested and barren hill that the elevated castle of the Norse stands proudly upon. Summers were already so short in the North, and the first besetting of winter only brought a fresh gale of cold to the land. A company of fifty fjord horses, all in varying shades of dun, crunch across the snow from the castle's daunting entrance towards the smaller company of Orcs at the castle's gates. Jovina, herself armed and poised with a blade upon her hip and chainmail between the furs that she wore and the plates she ported, rides at point towards where Korag and his companions yet wait.

Alongside her rides Widsith, his large and bulky frame almost dwarfing hers whilst the more rambunctious general's mount lags behind slightly, boisterous laughter echoing past the steppes. Narcissa tosses back her head as Helga recounted some of the romps with Krognak the night before. Despite the flirting, despite the grab of the rod and the tug of the ear, she has no intention of letting someone she perceived as weaker, ride her. All of the games and night romps had been left to the breastless, big-boned Helga and Beula. This sort of vulgar talk was common amongst the Shield Maidens, although not all took part in it. Keeping to the edges of the contingent, as well as being still in the vanguard, was Morrigan. Strength. The girl had strength, and even Jovina had placed a small immunity upon her upon the condition that she would remain loyal to the Hakansdötter line despite the mixed blood that inevitably drew much ire from the purist general.

Widsith rolled his eyes at his little sister certainly making so much noise of a time so early in the morning. The deep bass of his voice is a vibration easily heard even in the gale's whistling song all around them. "Gods above, must you stoop so low as to bring such topics at the early hour?"

The entitled Narcissa swiveled her head to snort and scoff at him. "'Stoop low', eunuch? Perhaps you're simply jealous that you can't be a part of it. A shame that your sword cannot replace the other," she tutted.

Regardless of the infantile bickering that she was unfortunately all too used to, Jovina does not even acknowledge the foolishness with glance nor reprimand. It was as if the Queen's expression was of ice and glass, only with eyes turned forward towards Korag. Her siblings are effective and skilled in battle despite their incompetence--particularly Narcissa with self-control. Even as they were not ideal for any diplomatic relations, both fight harder and swifter than lions, and their prowess would be needed to make a significant impact with their small numbers, able to be moved quickly and efficiency. To Korag, when she sidles aside him, she gives only a small nod, keeping the small hint of warmth from her eyes merely between them and them alone.

The Wolfhounds were already mounted up. They had readied themselves at the main gates, long before first light. With good rest, food and sex they were content yet again. Well most of them. General Ghola was still unhappy about this entire arrangement. She knew why they needed them, but somewhere in the back of her mind she dreamed of a day when the Orcs would rule the North. But she wanted to survive the winter first. She understood now that she could not openly question Korag; he had too much support around him. Where Ghola was an idealist, Korag was a realist. She knew he was making the right choice not only for their survival, but the north as a whole—there had to be unity.

“Glad to see you’ve come to your senses, General.” Korag broke her thoughts. “You are not just a soldier to me.” He said.

Many eyes looked upon him while he begun his speech. They had been waiting an hour already for the Queen to arrive, so their hearts were eager to move and restless. “That goes for all of you. None of you are expendable to me. Understand this. We are family. We are Pact. We are Wolfhounds!”

The sounds of wolf howling was heard from the Orcs. A good rally cry in the brisk of dawn; such would encourage morale even if their homeland was in starvation.

“Furthermore, I know of our people’s sufferings. Many Orcs and Nords are dying in this famine, I am well aware of it. We will take the Ivory Forest and secure it’s food.” Korag promised.

The Orcs howled again in excitement.

“You promised us an opportunity for treasure. We want the ivory ore. I can eat the fallen.” Gruzgob The Skull retorted.

The Wolfhounds supported that point with more howling.

“Korag speaks of the prosperity of the Kingdom. Not just your survival.” Krognak interjected.

“Shut your tusks, pretty boy. You stench of Nordic lay.” Gruzgob frowned.

Laughter was heard amongst them.

“Do not worry, my brethren. We will find lots of treasures, lots of meat. Even if we have to rob elven graves to achieve it. You have my promise.” Korag said.

Gruzgob smiled, satisfied.

“Another thing, speak to my brother foul again Gruzgob and you will not see any of it. This is also my promise.”

Gruzgob frowned, thus before blades were pulled on him and more was said, Jovina and her number had finally arrived. Korag let it go for now, hoping Gruzgob would be smart and not lose his life over stupidity.

The chains were broken and the gate had elevated, allowing the cool wind to meet their cloaked skin. Korag smiled at Jovina to see her fine group of Shield Maidens this day. He nodded to Widsith and Narcissa, albeit he did not expect to see Morrigan. This was indeed a surprise. It showed humility on Jovina’s part to win the support of another daughter of Ragathar; a rightful heir.

Jovina came beside him on horseback and Korag would share his plans with her.

“The storm has seized, so it is safe to take the northern path that leads east to Axiom. My army will be ready at the west gates of the Forge City. After we see the Kapellmeister, we will rest a day in my castle and move south through the Path of Nowhere...all in two days time. How did you sleep?”

Lash’na The Red squealed silently, when the Kapellmeister was mentioned. She did not want to be his. If only she could escape now; she contemplated. But it was winter and she knew to escape this life would mean certain death. The girl wanted to hold onto her life a bit longer, even if it meant becoming a slave to the Drow.

Jovina’s perfect porcelain complexion shows no sign of fatigue, nor of any other discernible expression. She is as calm and patient as she has always been, forever undaunted. Strength is a powerful thing, with multiple ways to set it on display. With her composed countenance, she shows no sign of perceivable weakness, not even to her allies. “Well enough,” the Norse Queen mused coolly, offering nothing more and making a small movement for Korag to move on ahead. She would follow alongside him, gently spurring her mount with gentle taps of her heels. While muskox were preferred methods of transport here in the north, if they were to travel to warmer territory they needed a better all-around mounts that could do just as well in the warmer weather, thus the fjord horses were used.

Narcissa rolled her eyes. “Yes, let’s get a move on, my blades crave elvish blood, blah blah,” she waved away. “I wonder if it’d tickle us all when we reach the warmer climates. It’s easier there to get all hot and frisky, I imagine,” she roared with laughter for several moments before regaining her bearings, tugging lightly at her reins and steadying her horse which had not yet grown used to her booming voice. “We’re going to crush those forest critters like a bug underfoot. Hopefully, some mudblood presence won’t curse us.” The barb was easily heard by Morrigan. Narcissa’s voice was powerful and demanding to begin with but certainly it was intended that she specifically heard.

Widsith chose to merely release a long sigh before turning his attentions to Korag and Jovina. “We have kept our number to a hundred to make the passage through the mountains easier…” he trailed off, being stopped by a daintily raised hand that came from his sister.

Jovina’s gaze had remained forward even as she had paused Widsith. “Perhaps what he wishes to ask, aligned with my own query: How many do you have at Axiom, Korag?”

Hopefully, some mudblood presence won’t curse us.” Morrigan was used to Narcissa’s barbs by now, but that didn’t mean she would not respond to it. After all, the uncouth blond would only get worse if she wasn’t challenged, and for her small stature Morrigan was actually very confident in her combat skills, both due to her runes and to the constant presence of Ragathar in her head.

“Why cousin, I wouldn’t have held you for the superstitious sort, to believe in such old wives tales. Afraid of little old me, are you? I can assure you I only go crazy at our enemies nowadays, I haven’t killed a comrade in a long while now.” She smiled at Narcissa, showing her gleaming teeth and just a hint of madness.

“Of course”, she continued undaunted by the look of the blond, “mistakes may happen. Although if I do go crazy with bloodlust I hope I kill one of your new friends. Gaining an Orc’s strength without the ugliness, maybe it’ll be worth the loss.” She looked dismissively towards their allies, and bit her tongue lest she say more than she intended and place the Queen into an untenable position. After all, Morrigan had decided to ally herself with Jovina and to come and be part of the Shield Maidens, it wouldn’t do to weaken them now with thoughtless words pronounced out of spite.

In her heart though, and in her mind Ragathar fully agreed with her, Morrigan rather thought their ancestors would have rolled in their graves, if they had any, to see the proud and beautiful Shield Maidens fighting alongside the beasts. Not that the Shield Maidens were still what they had been in the past, not if Narcissa was their brightest specimen.

Her eyes darkened and a bitter slanted smile appeared in the corner of her mouth. For now, she would keep her mouth shut and go to war. For the survival of the North they had allied with Korag and his people and that was that until winter passed. At least they were good fighters. That, Morrigan could appreciate. Her gaze went over the Wolfhounds, already mounted up at the main gates, frowning at the sight of General Ghola. That was an Orc she would not weep for … Korag and Jovina together, seemingly thick as thieves … her feelings were more ambiguous on that count. Time would tell what will come of that alliance.

She advanced with the rest of the Shield Maidens, watching out of the corner of her eye for Narcissa, lest the blond make a foolish move. But normally not even Narcissa would dare come to blows in front of their allies. After the battle though, or rather during the battle, it was another story … Morrigan smiled a dark humorless smile. She was almost expecting foul play from the blond, and was looking forward to having her eating her words from earlier. Mudblood indeed …

Krognak snickered at the mention of ‘mudblood.’ He and Narcissa were as close as kin through the years of battle, so it was only right he welcomed Morrigan properly. While his brother and the Queen spoke at front, he rode to the rear, near the Shield Maidens, to test them for stench. He could not smell blood cycling so that was comforting.

“Well met Morrigan. It’s obvious that Narci took on the more manly features of Lord Ragathar, unlike yourself and Jovina. Everyone thought Widsith would have a little brother, the way she came out pissing on her mother. Truth be told, their mother coughed out this blonde haired, rosey cheeked abomination. And despite her atrociousness, I refuse to go to battle without her. Good morning, Narcissa.” He grinned.

The Wolfhounds in Krognak’s side all chuckled through cold air. Meanwhile at front Korag answered in more detail to Jovina’s inquiry. “A thousand Orcs await my order at Axiom. But I will only take two hundred to battle. The rest will guard our twin cities.” He pulled out a map to show her. “My Captain and Quartermaster have a ship waiting for us on the coast of the north sea. We shall board that ship and raid Essellé head on. My two hundred will take care of the elves at the Path of Nowhere, eventually taking Thryesti, where we shall unite with them. This will leave Elvira with two cities left.” He let her take that strategy in. “She will expect us to go for the main Capital, but it will be a slaughter facing the Teliek'vhran families head on. By taking these two cities we not only cut off food supply, but we weaken Elvatian forces. They will have no choice now but to come out for food and we shall hunt them.”

Korag said no more of battleplans. They were losing daylight and he wanted to see the Kapellmeister before leaving the north.The drow was key to insuring their success. Without the Necromancer’s ritual, failure was highly possible. The good news was that the spy inside Joseph’s company had led the Jubileeians off track as she promised.

“And I meant to thank you, Widsith, for telling me about Naled the Translator. She was loyal to you and sent Joseph and his Knights into the Underdark. Lady Chalice has already informed me. Joseph is more than likely dead, if not trapped and enslaved by her Illithid. This move no doubt weakens Elvira, greatly. Let us be off then. I have a drow I need to see.”

With that he smacked the reins of his mount and hustled off into the morning clouds.

“Bah. Afraid, never,” Narcissa waved Morrigan away like a fly. And it was true that she was not afraid. Should Morrigan lose inhibition once again, Narcissa was brashly confident that her and another could put her down. It had absolutely caused her to flare with anger previously when Jovina had allowed Morrigan amongst the Shield Maidens. In Narcissa’s eyes, her distant cousin was tainted, like a mutt amongst purebreds. The blood of Ragathar flowed through them all: herself, Widsith, Jovina and Morrigan, and the lead Maiden believed firmly that the blood of their ancestor was what gave them strength. That the battle was, in its own way, the manner of bringing honor to Ragathar’s name and memory.

However, she is not stupid enough to turn her back on Morrigan without wariness. She is aware of the power the other Maiden was capable of. After all, it is likely the only logical reason that Jovina even allowed the technical throne rival to file amongst her ranks. “I’m not worried, dear cousin,” she returned the retort with a tone reminiscent of honey putridly mixed with lemon, lifting her chin lackadaisically. “Should you turn against us then you might as well grow pointy feery-fairy ears now! I’m sure some elf would be happy to run their blade through your corpse.” Narcissa then tutted, shaking her head at Krognak who had then sidled up next to her with his usual banter of greeting. “And here is the poor scrub whose shaft’s been duly pulled to the point of falling apart, from romping with Shield Maidens.” The deprecating introduction was spoken in a drawl as many of the Maidens laughed, particularly Helga and Beula. Narcissa’s heavy-handed air reeked of self-assurance. “Good morning to you too, Steven.” Such was their little joke from their first meeting.

Following Korag’s lead, the party, one after another, began to spur their horses into a steady canter so has to make haste with their intended schedule. At the remark about Naled, Widsith grunted in acknowledgement. His fling with the escaped slave—at least before his unfortunate incident causing the loss of his spear—had caused her to fall for him terribly, and she had willingly allowed him to use her, in more ways than one. And her last act would be one that expressed her utmost devotion to him, one that would help ensure their victory. “Every resource at our disposal is a piece to help ensure the end game.”

Jovina, although showing no outward reaction whatsoever, somehow was unconvinced that a man such as Joseph would fall so easily, particularly if the Sixteen were something not to be scoffed at. The fact that Widsith has resorted to manipulating a young girl to their whims was a testament of the position that they faced. And yet, a resource was a resource. She does not begrudge her brother the reasoning of the unorthodox and unexpected ploy. However, she doubts. It would not take a single Illithid to dispatch them all, in her eyes. She would not underestimate her enemies in such a manner, even as she hopes that they will underestimate them and their allies. Despite her thoughts, she says nothing of them. Ultimately she will see what sort of leader Korag is in the near future.

She considered Dezus. Despite the drow being what he is, she acknowledges his upbringing as a sibling in the Teliek’vhran family. He is such a critical role in her victory that he is a variable that she desires to be more assured that such will not shift, as it would spell disaster. “As effective of an ally as Dezus has been as well as how useful he can be in the future, how do you assure the drow’s loyalty to us?” she asked.

It had been a half day since they left the Belgora Capital. It was colder and icier in the east. Aggressive winds. Constant snow falling. But they were together, a healthy strong band that had proved capable to survive the harsh winter many years before this. There was a crucial look in his eyes—which had halted the Orc King...

Jovina’s question.

Once he stilled his mount, everyone halted to rest their reins. Korag looked into her eyes, his big muscular body seemed unnatural for one who spoke so eloquently, like a scholar. Thus it is what made him The Great. “Loyalty is always so uncertain. Even amongst our own kind.”

He looked at Gruzgob The Skull and General Ghola whispering amongst each other in the far rear; he even looked at the madness and hate in Morrigan’s eyes. There was only one reason these subjects remained, because they needed him and each other. Even if he did not trust them, he had to try.

“Just like a dog. If a master refuses to feed it, that dog will no doubt turn on its master. If I don’t give Dezus what he wants there is a possibility he may turn on us.”

Lashna The Red swallowed when she heard Korag and Jovina talking. Unlike the others who stayed back, she like Widsith, was a wise council and close enough to hear the monarchs speak freely. Then the conversation ended as a dot was seen coming from the east.

“Contact!” Grommock yelled. “Ready your defenses!”

The Wolfhounds despite whatever conversation was currently going on, made it forgotten in that brief moment. The riders all pulled closer in to make a triangular stance in front of Korag, Jovina and her Shield Maidens protected in the rear. Blades and spears were unsheathed. As the image came closer it was one surviving troll.

“Lower your arms.” Korag commanded.

All listened. The troll limped forward, it’s face and limbs bitten with ice and bloody snow. Korag stepped down from his warhorse to remove his wolf cloak and wrap it around the survivor. The troll fell to its large knees and struggled to speak. “Easy. Here drink...” Korag offered his waterskin. “Slowly.”

The troll sucked the waterskin down like a baby, coughing harshly from the cold moisture that punctured his lungs.

“Elvira. And her...contingent. C-cut us down in the far east.” The troll said. “W-we tried to flee to the south and recover but Delilah was there to flank us.”

“I am aware. I admit you’re a tough bastard getting this far. Are you all that’s left?” Korag asked.

The troll nodded.

“I am truly sorry for your losses. Will get you medicated and treated in Axiom. Someone get him some rations!”

“Thank you, my lord.” The troll said.

Morrigan’s eyes narrowed. She was not here amongst friends or even comrades, she felt like she was amongst enemies. Old honor and pride of the Norse, all gone. She could feel Ragathar in her head also becoming angrier … and it was not a good thing, as his ire only fueled hers. She fought to maintain control and calm down, but it was becoming more and more likely that she would have to make her own way. Not that others would not follow her lead, as Narcissa was not well-liked among the Shield Maidens, despite her being of noble blood. Or maybe Helga and Beula enjoyed her lewd jokes as much as they enjoyed the creatures' attentions. But for most of the others she was brash and crass and acted completely below her station. At least Morrigan had an excuse for the occasional blood lust.

A day and a half since their departure, and orcs were already holding on better than the Norse. Offspring grows weaker, Morrigan thought. Herself, protected and strengthened by her runes, did not suffer much, but could see the other Shield Maidens starting to tire under the icy winds. The party halted and, looking ahead, Morrigan could see Jovina and Korag talking, but could not hear what was being said. Probably some last minute strategizing, Ragathar offered, not that it would do much good at this point. Morrigan looked around carefully, noting friends from enemies and finding herself horribly outnumbered because of the orcs. But she had won against much poorer odds, so she decided to worry about things as they happened and not before. Besides, she still had her secret weapon that nobody knew about, and with that thought a cruel smile resembling eerily of her ancestor Ragathar spread on her face.

It was at that moment that cries alerted her and the other Shield Maidens that something was happening, and they formed protectively around her Queen and her party. A troll? Morrigan almost puffed … they were afraid of … one … single … troll … but seeing Korag get down from his horse and talk to the creature convinced Morrigan that more was going on, more than met the eye, and being in the rear did not afford her with sufficient knowledge for what she had in mind. She would have to get closer to Jovina and her party, and start to ride with them. Being left in the rear together with the rest of the Shield Maidens had its advantages also, as she was amongst her own people more, closer to them, and being seen and heard by them.

Ragathar brought her thoughts back to the injured troll … More likely a survivor from Korag’s troops. News are not good, I’d wager. The moment will come soon enough, you must be ready when it does. Morrigan’s eyes steeled in silent acknowledgement.

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