Authors: Sam Ferguson
The Wealth of Kings
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Wealth of Kings
Copyright © 2016 by Sam Ferguson
Published by Dragon Scale Publishing
All Rights Reserved
Tales from Terramyr
(Short story anthology)
Other Books by Dragon Scale Publishing
The Protector of Esparia
by Lisa M. Wilson
Stones of Power: Exile by Eric Buffington (Coming Soon)
Year 3,201 King’s Era.
year of the reign of Sylus Magdinium, 5
King of Roegudok Hall.
Sylus watched the line of trees to the south. He couldn’t yet see the orcs from his vantage point on the hill, but he knew they were there. Dwarven spies had already warned him of the danger posed to the humans in the north. Sylus was determined not to let the orcs ever reach the humans.
A single captain waited atop his mount on Sylus’ right hand side, waiting for the king’s order. Sylus’ own cavedog shifted restlessly beneath him, and Sylus leaned forward slightly in his saddle to run his hand over the rough, black scales of the beast’s neck, clicking his tongue quietly to soothe her.
He didn’t have to wait long before the first orcs emerged from the trees. The main body of the army was comprised of footmen. They carried spears, swords, and axes. Their armor clinked and clanked as they marched, reflecting the sun off their grease-stained metal. Sylus took in a breath and waited patiently until the first goarg riders appeared on the western flank of the army. The goargs were a giant breed of shaggy coated goats with massive, curled horns they could use to batter down soldiers and weak doors alike. The orcs had long ago found the secret to domesticating them, but no other race in the Middle Kingdom was capable of replicating their success. The goarg riders were among the fiercest orc warriors known in the Middle Kingdom. Within minutes, King Sylus counted a total of four thousand orcs. Three thousand footmen, and one thousand goarg riders. Their focused march to the north told Sylus that none of the orcs had spotted him or his captain yet. A low profile was yet another advantage to the cavedogs.
The dwarf king couldn’t help but smile when he saw the enemy army. Though he abhorred the notion of losing dwarf life, deep within himself he couldn’t help but relish a good challenge.
“Prepare the others,” Sylus told the captain. “Upon my signal, charge over the hill and follow me into the eastern flank. We will cut them down here.”
“By your command,” the captain replied dutifully. Sylus watched as the captain turned his cavedog, and directed the massive lizard down the opposite side of the hill to where the three thousand dwarf soldiers waited.
Sylus surveyed the enemy army, letting his black eyes scrutinize them until his gaze fell upon the enemy general.
“Borgnat,” Sylus whispered as his smile widened. His spies had already told him that Borgnat was leading the assault, but that did nothing to spoil Sylus’ pleasure at seeing the orc general for himself. Borgnat was large for an orc, rumored to pull the arms off of prisoners taken in battle with nothing but his bare hands. There was more to the orc general than rumors, however. In the last three years, he had razed seven human settlements farther to the south. He had also destroyed a city of elves near the border with the orcish lands, and that was to say nothing of the conquest he had already completed among the orcish tribes themselves as he rose to power by cutting down other orc chiefs and generals.
To let this orc through to the north would spell the end of the sapling human settlements.
Sylus looked to the sky, wondering whether Tu’luh the Red would return in time to join in the battle. When he failed to spy the great dragon, he sighed and tugged on his left gauntlet one more time. Dragon or no dragon, the fight was upon him.
King Sylus pulled his hammer, affectionately known among the dwarves as Murskain. The mighty weapon felt good in his hand, perfectly balanced and sized specifically for Sylus’ body. The spike on the back side of the hammer glinted in the sunlight as Sylus held it out to the side and urged his mount down the hill, letting out a mighty cry as the massive black lizard burst into action. His dramatic hailing of the orcs had the desired effect, as the orc army turned in unison to face him.
A group of twenty spearman broke off from the army and knelt down at the base of the hill. Sylus almost pitied their foolishness. Just as he closed in on the spearmen, the orcs all looked up as the rest of the dwarf army crested the hill and the sound of thousands of feet announced the ambush. On the opposite side of the orc army, the goarg riders were shouting and pushing their way through the throng, but their help would not come soon enough.
Sylus swept aside five spears with his hammer as he charged. This might have left him exposed had he been a human knight riding upon a horse, but a dwarven cavedog was not without weapons of its own. The giant lizard snapped forward and ripped the arm off an orc on the left, then it spat the limb out in time to lunge up and rake the face and neck of the spearman directly in front while the lizard simultaneously struck out with its jaws and bit the orc just to the right on the shoulder. The teeth didn’t penetrate the metal armor, but they didn’t need to. The force of the cavedog’s bite was enough to crush the metal, and the shoulder joint. Blood oozed out from the spaces between the pauldron plates, and the orc howled in pain as its arm bones cracked and splintered.
By this time, Sylus had brought his hammer back into play. He finished the orc on the left with a deft blow to the head that toppled the warrior backward to the ground. Next he swung in a horizontal chop, taking two heads clean off and dropping another pair of bodies. The other spearmen regrouped and tried to enclose him in a circle, but a tail lash swept the feet out from under two orcs, and a savage bite severed another orc’s leg just below the knee, ripping the armor along with the limb. Sylus put another two orcs down as well.
The remaining spearmen were swallowed by the dwarf army which pushed through them as though they had been made of paper.
Sylus urged his steed on, looking through the chaos of bodies and blood to find Borgnat. He drove in behind a trio of dwarves that formed a wedge for him. They split the army’s flank open and drove their weapons into any orc foolish enough to square off against them. The dwarves used their momentum to push the orc army out to the side as they cut them down, mercilessly punishing them for their trespass. The cavedogs all fought as violently as the dwarves. Even when a dwarf warrior fell by the enemy, the cavedog would fight on until it too was slain.
Had this been an army of goblins, or even humans, the battle would be over by now. The sheer ferocity of the assault would have sent most rational enemies fleeing for their lives, but orcs were another matter. They lived for battle. They relished it, worshipped it even. It was bred into their being as the only way to prove themselves worthy of a better station in the afterlife.
Sylus had often doubted that any station in Hammenfein would ever compare to the Heaven City of Volganor, but even he could not deny the conviction and fervor with which the orcs fought.
Shouts went up through the enemy ranks. Orcs snarled and put up a ferocious defense.
Continuing to push his way through to the center where he had seen Borgnat riding surrounded by his personal guard of goarg riders, Sylus flinched away suddenly as blood sprayed across his face. A second later he noticed a glistening spear point protruding out the back of the dwarf in front of him. A moment later he saw a massive, white-furred beast leaping out over the line of orcs immediately in front of him. The strong, thick horns blasted into the dwarf on the left side of the wedge. The crunching bone all but overshadowed the dwarf soldier’s muted groan as he crumpled backward. The goarg’s hooves landed square upon the cavedog beneath the slain dwarf, driving the lizard into the ground and snapping its spine in several places.
The cavedog underneath the dwarf slain by the spear lashed out and ripped the goarg’s hind left leg off. The sinew and flesh made a sound not unlike parchment being torn by hand as the meat and bone came free from the goarg’s body and the beast stumbled. Sylus charged in, one hit to the orc rider on top, who was struggling to maintain his balance on his gravely injured mount. The orc’s helmet broke inward and blood spurted out the bottom.
Sylus then expertly flipped his hammer over and drove the spike down into the base of the goarg’s neck. The beast grunted and fell to the ground.
“Sire!” a dwarf called out from the right.
Sylus turned just in time to see a dwarf leap from his cavedog to place himself between an orcish crossbow and the king. Sylus heard a loud, metallic thump, and then the dwarf fell to the ground. The cavedog he had leapt from, however, wiggled as it sprinted forward and lunged into a trio of orcs. It killed one and managed to topple a second before spears and swords took it down.
The dwarf king pressed forward as more dwarves arrived to guard his flanks. The fighting was much fiercer now as the orcs were fully turned to face the dwarves. More than that, goargs were breaking through the footmen and pressing the dwarves back. Sylus narrowly dodged a spear jabbing toward his chest, turning to the side slightly and then clamping his left arm down over the shaft to catch it in place. His cavedog responded to the slightest of Sylus’ commands, this time stepping back and helping Sylus pull the orc forward. Sylus came in with an overhead chop that drove the orc to the ground in a heap atop other corpses.
Sylus ripped the spear free and flipped it over. Now he had a weapon in either hand. He squeezed his saddle between his thighs and urged his cavedog forward. He jabbed out at a sword-wielding orc, then came in with the hammer to finish the assault, driving the spike through the orc’s armor and into his chest. An orc lunged in from the right then, but Sylus’ cavedog snaked in and bit the orc in the tender flesh of the inner thigh. The lizard’s teeth sank into the flesh just above the cutout in the greaves, and stopped the orc cold as he howled in pain.
A dwarf on Sylus’ right helped the cavedog by driving a sword through the orc’s neck.
Suddenly, the orcs in front of Sylus shrank away.
“Steady!” Sylus called out. He knew the orcs better than to think they might be routing. As the wall of orcs split apart, a mess of goarg riders confirmed Sylus’ suspicion. “Bow-sticks!” Sylus commanded. The king threw the spear haphazardly, and with his now empty hand reached for a metal cylinder hanging from his belt. The dwarves nearby likewise pulled for cylindrical objects hanging from their belts. Sylus pointed one end of the shiny weapon at a goarg’s chest. His thumb then found the button near the back of the bow-stick, and depressed it. A metallic click was followed by a
A small, but deadly bolt with a razor-sharp broadhead sailed through the air and sank deep into the goarg’s chest. Dozens of similar shafts followed only an instant later as the other dwarves fired their bow-sticks.
The rushing wave of goargs fell to the ground, the nearest animal crashing a good ten yards away and stranding its rider. Sylus turned his bow-stick over in his hand, his thumb eagerly sliding around the shaft and looking for the second button.
“Fire two!” Sylus shouted.
The next volley dropped many orcs as the flying missiles easily penetrated the metal armor. Small, and powerful, the bowstick’s only flaw lay in the fact that it was a very limited use item. The inner springs and triggering mechanisms required precision to manipulate, making it impractical to reload on the battlefield. Still, it fulfilled its intended use. It broke the goarg charge, and slew many orcs besides.
Each dwarf warrior let their bow-stick fall, kept in place by the chain attached to their belts, and followed their king as they began a short range charge at the stunned enemy.
The cavedogs tore at the ground with their claws, propelling the dwarves forward as clumps of dirt and turf were flung up into the air behind them. The scent of dirt and grass mingled with the metallic stench of blood hanging over the battlefield. Everything moved as if in slow motion. Sylus’ brain worked faster than ever. He calculated the steps until his mount would reach the nearest orc. At the same time, he noted how the orc was moving. Scowling beneath an open-faced helmet with yellow bottom tusks protruding out from dark green lips, the orc warrior raised both hands overhead, preparing a chop with a mighty axe which was glistening brightly in the sunlight.
Sylus grinned. His cavedog moved in toward the orc’s right side. The axe began slowly arcing downward toward the dwarf king. Shouts and groans erupted all around Sylus as other dwarves collided with orcs and the battle continued. His cavedog made straight for the orc’s right side, head down and wagging in perfect counterbalance to its tail as the body swerved and moved. Then, the cavedog darted left at the last possible instant. Sylus struck up with his hammer, not at the orc, but snagging the axe just under the blade and breaking the shaft. Splinters exploded out under the pressure as the orc’s weapon broke. Then, a fraction of a second later, the dwarf king brought the spike down and cut back toward the orc’s unprotected neck. The orc never stood a chance.
All returned to normal then as the battle swarmed around him. Quick thrusts and swings blocked and parried, resulting in both orc and dwarf bodies falling to the ground. From what Sylus could see, there were far more orcs dying than dwarves.
Then he saw Borgnat.
The mighty orc was pressing his goarg through the fight at a methodical, tempered pace somewhere between a trot and a walk, allowing the goarg enough time to lash out with its sharp hooves while Borgnat brought death down with his mighty, black sword.
Sylus issued a command in Peish, the language of the dwarves, and instantly a group of twenty dwarves formed a wedge before him and pushed through toward Borgnat. They cut down as many orcs as they could, and pushed others aside. A few of the dwarves fell by spears or swords, but Sylus was easily able to follow the large, clear swath the dwarves left in their wake.