Sinking into the hot water, Marcus let his cares dissolve, if only for a short time. Closing his eyes, he felt at peace. As he was about to fall asleep, a tremendous rumbling awoke him. With a start, his muscles tensed and he sprang from the tub. A second and third tremor, then a fourth. The whole tower shook and dust fell from the rafters. Marcus slipped into a long, white tunic which clung to his damp body. Throwing open the shutters that closed over the windows, he almost immediately fell back from the sight; huge dragons! Seven of them. They skulked about the fortress and battered the walls. From afar, giants tossed boulders at the tower. This was the magnitude of an attack that Marcus had been expecting. He studied the dragons and found that they were slow moving and decomposing; they were zombies, raised by Astur himself.
Marcus slammed the shutters closed and spun on his heels. He grabbed for a chain shirt made of precious mithral rings and slung it over his torso, wriggling into it. He desparately searched for his pants when Klimt stormed into the room. His hand was missing; he had lost it long ago in a battle with a ranger and used a locked gauntlet in its place. Klimt reached for Marcus’ breast plate on the floor.
“Damn!” He shouted with exaspiration. “My wife was just tending my wounds, they suddenly the whole world starts shaking! Why’d they have to wait until we came inside?” Marcus walked over to Klimt and the orc helped him don his armor. “Does he really want that damned sword so badly?” King Astur sought the sword Lolor; when it was brought to the orcs near Moonrock, Astur’s army soon arrived, trampling all in its wake. The Elves of Moonrock put up a valliant fight, and when the army turned towards the orcish fortress, it was assumed that the army was weakening. In truth, they were originally trying to lure the orcs to Moonrock, perhaps to join the cause against the elves. King Mugluth refused to join Astur’s army, and soon became the target of Astur’s wrath. “I need a hand!” demanded Klimt, shaking his gauntlet in Marcus’ face.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Mugluth shouted encouragement to his troops. He drew Lolor, and charged at a nearly skeletal black dragon. The king’s horse shied away from the horrifying beast as it turned its empty eyes on the orc king. A hissing steam of acid shot out at Mugluth from the dragon’s maw. The king rolled away, narrowly avoiding the torrent of acid. He swung the sword at the dragon, but it returned the slash with a barrage of bites, ripping claws, and a smashing tail. The dragon then simply leaned its weight on Mugluth; the king’s breath rushed from his lungs as he heard the sound of his ribs cracking and his armor caving in. He stabbed the dragon again and again with the sword, but the creature simply pressed on. Mugluth felt the surge of an inky blackness tried to take him over. He nearly fell into unconciousness as the dragon rose again.
Karn rode by, shrieking at the dragon. His horsemen surrounded the creature and began punturing it with their spears while they rode about it in a circle. Mugluth struggled to his feet and found that his crown had been shattered by one of the dragon’s feet. His breath came in short gasps, although a spark of life remained in him yet. Anger filled him, and he slashed at the dragon wildly. Distracted by the horsemen, the dragon felt Lolor cut through rotten flesh and yellow bone with a powerful slash. The dragon collapsed, thrown off balance by the loss of limb. The hobgoblins swarmed over the dragon like ant, stabbing ferociously. Mugluth collapsed as the dragon’s head hit the ground. The life ebbed from him, just as it did from the dragon.
Ahorse, Marcus saw the scene from across the battlefield. He pulled at the reigns and galloped towards the scene. Klimt followed closely. When they arrived, Karn was trying to pry Lolor from Mugluth’s grasp.
“Don’t touch it!” ordered Marcus. Karn grunted at him defiantly. Klimt stepped forward, banging his axe on his shield threateningly. Karn looked about, and saw the war raging about himself. There would be other prizes, but none so grand as Lolor.
“I am king in Mugluth’s place. The sword is mine.” said Klimt as he tossed his shield aside.
“Take it then.” rasped Karn, kicking at Mugluth’s hand. Klimt looked at the sword and felt anger well up within himself. He quelled it with the simple thought that the world needed creatures like Karn just as much as it needed him right now. Like it or not, the hobgoblins were an essential part of the war effort. Karn mounted his horse again, with a sneer as Klimt took up Lolor in his left hand. Never taking his eyes off Karn, he slid the sword under his belt.
“Take it away from here.” Marcus said, “And hide it well. Astur wants it, and he’ll starve us and beat us until he has it.”
“I will take Flavish with me.” responded Klimt.
“Good. And others; ones that you trust.”
Klimt rode off the field, towards the South. Marcus didn’t watch as his friend disappeared into the haze of battle. He had enemies to kill and a war to win. If Astur did truly seek the sword, then maybe this gamble would pay off. It was possible that he could flank the army of the dead, but even then, how could he prevail over an army that never sleeps? Marcus let the thoughts pass and lost himself in the battle. The day was far from over…