A betrayed soldier with a loyal wife and a kingdom to save. A treacherous king. An orc general who doesn’t trust his dark lord.
As the orc army of Skavan surges into Handar, Major Halmar must fight the toughest battle of his career. But he doesn’t trust his king, and the rest of the army has disappeared. And he has never fought a battle with his family so close and a town packed full of civilians.
General Bregesh, an orc of the skavan army, has every intention of crushing Handar, once and for all. But the Handar archers and footmen aren’t his only enemy. The dark lord of Skavan, Remfeltan, an undead necromancer, demands victory and he doesn’t care how many dead orcs it takes.
Character Series: Handar, 1
Group Series: no group series
Author: Chris Wilkins
No character pictures for this story. Yet.
Bregesh looked across the water at the fighting, his slit eyes taking in everything as his orc and troll soldiers were met by a wall of shields and spears. The highly trained, disciplined soldiers of Handar didn’t give an inch, instead pushing the orcs back and driving them towards the river. The roar of the trolls could be distinctly heard above the constant din of metal swords slashing into wooden shields and chain mail.
“Doesn’t that look grand?” General Scaraz said to Bregesh, standing beside him. “We shall be across the river in no time, don’t you think?” His chest was puffed out like a stuffed chicken, a childish smile on his face. He was nearly over five and a half feet, tall for an orc, with thick arms and a slightly stooped back. His thick, puffy face looked ridiculous for the General of all orcs of Skavan.
“Yes, Sir,” Bregesh answered dead-pan.
He knew the rules in the Skavan Army; agree with your superiors if you wanted to stay alive.
Bregesh looked at the town of Brunden, a fair city with a population of over ten thousand. He was an orc and so didn’t like human architecture. It was far too colourful, with too many bits of wood sticking out at odd angles purely for show. And glass. What good was glass for except holding gut-burning ale? He knew enough about human culture to know Brunden was a wealthy town with its large double storied houses with bay windows and large balconies, and tree-lined streets. Only rich people who were no longer concerned about food bothered to make such things.
And then there was the river. It was clean. Only rich towns had clean rivers with good drinking water.
He glanced at the Handar soldier at the front of the fighting on the opposite side of the river. He was obviously an officer, yelling out orders, swinging his sword with several dead orcs at his feet, and rallying his men. Bregesh recognised him from somewhere. It was like an itch at the back of his memory that would not go away.
The orc had seen the Handar officer several times throughout the day’s fighting. It wasn’t difficult. He was tall, strong set, with an air of authority and controlled violence about him that made him easy to spot.
He nodded his head. “I know where I’ve seen you before,” he said to himself.
“What? What was that, Bregesh?”
Bregesh looked at General Scaraz, his contempt well hidden. You’re probably not long for this world, General, he thought sarcastically, a wry smile creeping onto his face. He pointed with his finger across the river at the Handar officer. “I’ve met him before. Well, not personally, but in combat.”
Scaraz’s eyebrows popped up. “Really? Where?”
“It was one of our many border clashes. He had twenty soldiers. We thought we had them, outnumbering them several times. But they never gave up. There was an officer who made them fight long after normal soldiers would’ve given up. He formed his men again and again, and fought us until more than half of our patrol was either dead or wounded. We had to stop. That officer across the river is him. I’m sure of it.” Bregesh did not take his eyes off Halmar, looking into the distant past when he was a young orc soldier.
“He could have killed us all that day. Instead he let us gather our wounded and limp back to Skavan.”
Bregesh shook his head. “He was younger then, of course. But I remember that officer. He’s good, General. He knows how to fight. As we left Handar and crossed back over the border, they shadowed us, made sure we went back.”
Scaraz sneered at Bregesh. “So you admire this pathetic Handar officer, General Bregesh, because he showed you mercy! Do you think such sentimental nonsense is going to help you now?”
Bregesh looked back across the water again. Another line of orcs was pushing up from the foreshore where they had just disembarked from barges and canoes. Instantly they were met with a hail of arrows and a wall of spears and shields. They started to fall the instant the first one set foot on the far bank. The river had a red tinge.
“I don’t know, Sir. Just makes me wonder. Does his mercy make him stronger or weaker?”
Scaraz snorted derisively. “You’ll get your answer, Bregesh, when we’re pissing on his dead body. Now, let’s get across the river.”
“Get your heads down!” Halmar shouted, hefting his shield above his head as a hail of arrows flew over, falling amongst his troops, clattering off the stones and rocks. After the volley landed, he put his shield down, his thick arms swinging it around easily. The orcs were making good progress across the river. He had to hold them back and knew it would be touch and go.
He glanced left and right at his men, confident of the positions they occupied and the readiness they showed to fight, not thinking about how many would fall. The scar across his forehead itched again but he ignored it.
“Okay. The first one on the left.” he ordered. The archers close to Halmar drew beads on the chosen raft. “Loose.” The arrows, in parallel lines, raced each other to the target. Three orcs were struck in the chest and head and toppled over the side. Others were hit in the arms and legs. They screamed and fell, capsizing the canoe. None of the orcs came up, even the unhurt ones. Orcs couldn’t swim.
Sergeant Cripfir, standing next to his Commanding Officer, grinned.
“That’s rather clever, Sir. Should give them second thoughts.”
Halmar looked at his Sergeant and nodded.
Unlike most officers who preferred the private dining halls, Halmar went for a ten mile run everyday and worked out with his sword for two hours. The scar across his forehead, courtesy of an orc sword many years ago, gave him a permanent scowl. He lifted his shield again as another volley of orc arrows whistled over. One thudded into his shield.
An archer to his left screamed, spun around and fell to the ground, dying, a shaft lodged in his neck. Halmar gave him a cursory look, pushed the young man’s death out of his mind, and turned towards the other bank. The orc archers prepared to fire another volley across the river.
Halmar looked across the water with a sharp calculating look. He knew the enemy would come and come until his Regiment was pushed back. He turned towards Sergeant Cripfir.
With his shiny baldhead standing out like a beacon, and his face set grimly, Sergeant Cripfir was a scary soldier to both friend and foe alike. He didn’t believe in wearing helmets because they obscured his vision. He’d pointed out to Halmar a helmet would never really stop a good axe swing.
“Cripfir, I think we’re going to have a very busy time of it today.”
“Looks that way, Sir. They’re sure to get a bridgehead soon enough.”
Halmar turned back to watch the never ending stream of boats and rafts full of orcs, taking it all in and weighing up his options.
“Sergeant, I want to make them pay a high price for the crossing.”
The enemy had to paddle fifty yards before they reached the opposite side of the river. It was already littered with broken, burning and capsized rafts, pontoons and barges.