The Hateful Wars: Chapter Sixteen
Those sons of Celene who gathered the dead and committed them to the priests of Sehanine came upon a place of battle ringed about with many corpses. In the midst of these they found a toppled and broken stone sculpture of a single warrior. Though the flesh had been made stone, the petrified warrior still wielded his armor, weapons, and gear. “This is no work of an artist’s hands,” Onselvon said when he saw the broken remains. “This was Amras the son of Telfinwe.”
Onselvon made inquiries among the survivors and found one named Eldaeron who had fought beside Amras on the High Road. “Tell us all that befell you,” Onselvon urged.
“We fought our way through a clutch of black-armored ogre guardsmen wielding axes and spears. They ringed about the commander of the force, and we hoped to cut the head from the wyrm. Many fell on my left and my right, but Amras and I leaped through a gap in the ring and confronted the commander: a tall half-blood. That one carried a shield which bore goblin heraldry, painted in red. Namely, the head of a gorgon, magically painted with such enchantment that the serpents of her head writhe and move upon the face of the shield. When Amras saw the shield he stopped frozen, even with his sword poised for the stroke. The color drained from his flesh, and in a trice, he turned to solid stone. This I saw with my own eyes, and to my shame, I turned and fled.”
Onselvon reported all these things to Queen Yolande, for he considered the matter to be of no small import. Every tribe of goblinkind has its own sign and heraldry, but now the tribes rallied under the red-painted standard of the medusa’s head.
The Scrying Wards
The failed expedition to the Karrak Bowl, followed by the disastrous battle for the “Way of Tears” sobered the people of Celene. Likewise, the mountain dwarves had spent centuries mapping out the Low Road, marking every goblinoid stronghold and den, but when they went to war against their foes, it seemed to them that the maps led them into traps, ambushes, and dead ends. Was it possible that the tunnels themselves had conspired to shift beneath the earth?
What is more, goblin, orc, hobgoblin, and ogre bands struck suddenly and unanticipated in the lowlands, as if appearing out of air to smite helpless villages, hamlets, and farms. They showed no ruth, burning and pillaging, ravaging women and taking many slaves. Before a retaliation could be mustered, the raiders vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared, leaving militia frustrated and trackers and rangers befuddled. The alliance arrived a few days late and a purse of coppers short to every conflict.
Moreover, the great war-mages complained that all their scrying spells went awry. The mightiest of the elven mages, like Onselvon and Queen Yolande herself, found their spells blocked behind an impenetrable and incomprehensible obscuring power. Even the queen’s diviners found no visions or dreams.
“Tell me this one thing,” her Fey Majesty said to Onselvon, “What shaman among the euroz and jebli wields the power to block my diviners and my scrying spells?”
“Your Majesty,” Onselvon said with a deep bow, “Surely none exist among the goblinkind that can hold a single candle to the luminescence of your own fey powers, but there are some few in the Oerth who might.”
The queen nodded gravely. “I have suspicions,” she admitted. “And if I my suspicions bear weight, we stand in greater peril than orc raids on our borders and ambushes on our roads.”
“Ehlonna help us,” the old mage agreed. “Some powerful fiend summoned up from the pits or perhaps the decaying lich of some wicked spellcaster now works against us.”
The queen shook her head thoughtfully before continuing, “Often of late I have felt a strong and brazen will working against my will, a strong magic against my spells, a spite blacker than my own, and it freezes my blood.” She hesitated ponderously before continuing, “This ‘goblin shield,’ whatever it may be, deflects my every arrow and blocks my every stroke.”
“Then we shall find the arm that bears the shield and break it,” the old mage assured her with hard resolve.
Tribes of the Lortmil Mountains
The Queen of Celene summoned Bagbag, the loremaster and old wizard of Ironhelm to stand before Her Fey Majesty. Never before had the ancient dwarf been privileged to enter the Hall of the Grand Court at the base of the White Tower or lay his eyes upon the Perfect Flower. Kristryd came along with him and stood beside him, encouraging him to be brave. Trueheaded old Bagbag looked pale as a corpse. He cast his eyes all about the hall, trying to take it all in at once. The sky, the trees, and the stones seemed to spin about him, and he staggered under a spell of dizziness. His agitation increased seven-fold when he finally dared to lift his eyes to the Blossoming Throne and look into the lilac eyes of the graceful figure perched upon it. His heart hammered; he flushed red and averted his eyes like one who looks away from staring into the sun. Composing himself, he trembled and stammered with fear, “Your Majesty, your servant has come to your summons…”
The fey queen smiled like gentle sunlight through the leaves, but her lilac eyes fell knowingly on Kristryd with a glint of private mirth. Kristryd’s smirk revealed her own amusement over Bagbag’s discomfiture.
“Fear not master dwarf,” Onselvon the mage assured the bearded warlock. “We seek only to hear the names of the tribes of Lortmil Mountains, each according it’s standard and under its pendant, and there is none among our court who will offer us such a recitation in translation from the goblin tongues.”
“Of course,” the old dwarf cleared his throat. He thought for a moment or two, folded his hands behind his back, and rolled his eyes up into his head, like a schoolboy about to recite a lengthy poem committed to memory. Then, translating to Elvish in his head as he thought through the list, he began to recite the names of the principle tribes of the Lortmil Mountains:
These are the names of the tribes of the mountains. Behold the Gnollkind and the Flind: Black Tongue, Bleeding Moon, Bloody Axe, Blue Eye, Red Nails, Victorious, and Vile Epithet—these are the Gnoll and the Flind.
Behold, the Hobgoblin: Blue Bottle, Dog Humper, Dripping Eye, Flesh Hound, Long Cock, Meat Eater, Purple Squid, Puss Dripper, Rotting Kraken, Slave Raper, these are the Hobgoblin.
Behold, the Orc: Black Skull, Cracked Skull, Crooked Claw, Dead Dwarf, Demon Dog, Flaming Skull, Ground Meat, Hellhound, Highway Ambush, Hooked Cock, Jagged Blade, Loose Wheel, Reeking Rear, Plucked Eye, Red Fang, Red Rapists, Severed Hand, Saltburner, Shadow Doom, Tit Biter, Unblinking Eye, Violent Craven, these are the Orc.
Behold the Goblin: Angry Ogre, Belly Puncher, Bloody Eye, Dark Ones, Devil Baby, Dead Dog, Fairy Bugger, Forked Tongue, Goblin Boys, Hill Beater, Hungry Belly, Jab Stabber, Lich’s Hand, Molesting Dog, Purple Dragon, Red Devil, Severed Cock, Silly Fellow, Wolf Brother, Wormridden Tree, these are the Goblin.
Behold the Kobold: Aching Bones, Backstabber, Bloodstained, Broken Tooth, Devil Dance, Fell Ichor, Fire Giant, Green Meat, Leaping Lynx, Long Fart, Ochre Tooth, Razor Edge, these are the Kobold.
When the uncouth recitation concluded, Onselvon severely scolded the old dwarf, “How dare you speak profanity in the presence of Her Fey Majesty?”
Bagbag offered no reply. Blushing brightly, he bowed low before the scowling queen. Kristryd offered her own scowl of distaste as if to distance herself from her ill-mannered companion.
The queen lifted her hand and the loremaster straightened before her. “Tell us,” she said, “Of the Red Medusa tribe.”
Read the next chapter: The Stirges’ Nest
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