Chapter 35 - Desperate Times
Things were not going well for the forces of good. The Orks were more afraid of their own leaders than they were of the army arrayed against them and they drove forward with a vengeance, sweeping most of the field before them. The only place where their advance was slowed was when they came to the Ogre and Dwarf. The Donohue brothers stood back to back and seemed determined to destroy the entire army themselves.
King Mark reluctantly gave the order to fall back, leaving the two of them on the field. He hoped they could make it off, but there was nothing he and his men could do. They orks were too strong now and he didn’t want to risk any casualties this early in the war. If a dwarf and an ogre had to die so that his people might live, that was fine with him. He and Woods hurried back with most of their army arrayed before them, clearing the path of the few orks who had survived the initial onslaught.
Brian Mann took the lead and great was his rage. Several orks, it was later said, fell dead merely at the sight of his face, for so great was his hate for them. Next to him was Jared, wielding a short sword and covering Brian when his attacks left him overextended. Finally, the small group made their way back to the Inn where they posted a guard and waited to see what would happen next. As the King took stock of his situation, he realized several people were missing. Apart from the Donohue brothers, Steve Harig and Zak Polifroni were both gone. More dire still was the disappearance of the Elf and the Wizard; he was deathly afraid that they had fallen in the conflict, for their loss would be sorely felt.
As he asked after the six of them, there came a great shout from the guard in the tower.
"They’re coming," he cried, "they’re coming."
The King looked out, fearing that the enemy was at last upon them and that all of them would die trapped in this inn. Luckily, the guards cry had been true if not very helpful. They referred to the wizard, elf, dwarf and ogre. By some miracle, the four had survived and were racing through the woods to reach the inn. The army of orks was but a few yards behind them, nipping at their heels the whole way.
Just as things looked hopeless, the ground around the feet of the orks suddenly came to life and they were entwined by the very grass itself. The branches of the trees bent down too and many more orks succumbed to the forest err they were able to stop. The four made it into the inn safely, pausing for a moment to catch their breath before attempting to speak.
The elf was first, "That was a powerful work of sorcery your majesty, which of your subjects lays claim to such skills?"
The king looked around confused. "Why, none of them," he replied, "I had assumed that Bollman had found some new use for his arcane skills. Truthfully, it did not seem that great a feat, this entangling by the vines".
"No, your majesty, that was not the feat I referred to, for that was a rather minor spell indeed. No, I meant the animation of the trees."
"Animated trees?" said the King, "I saw no such thing". He turned to face the assembled men. "Well, out with it," he cried. "Which of you has the skill to attempt such a feat and why did you not tell us of your ability?"
The men eyed each other warily, but none claimed responsibility for the deed. At last the King was forced to admit that he did not know who could have done such a thing or how.
"Nonetheless," said Bollman, "it saved us from certain death. Even now the trees move to encircle our inn, I hope with the comfort of a mother’s embrace, but I fear it may not be so."
"No," said K2, "I think not. I feel these trees are alien to us. I do not think they will harm us, but I do not think they are our allies either."
"Well, there’s little we can do about it now," said the King. "Woods, review the status of the troops, have the injured ministered to, and see if you can find a bed for everyone. Oh yes, post a guard, eight men at a time to watch in each direction. If these trees do mean us no good, I don’t want to find out the hard way."
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