Category Archives: Oldhammer Fiction

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 12 – A Better Prize

The concluding part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – Holiday in Orkrania! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you don’t know what I’m on about – go back to Part 1 to read more about the story and Part 1!

I’m planning to turn this into an eBook – just need to edit it and find a suitable cover image, but for now here’s the concluding section of the story:

 

“Let them in?” spluttered Drew. “Are you mad?”

One of the dwarves standing behind Gundrun nodded violently.

“Not mad—experienced. They’ll hack down the doors sooner than later. But if we time it right and surprise them—we’ll have the upper hand.”

Drew nodded. He could see the wisdom in the old dwarf’s words. “OK—let’s do it.”

The dwarf archers that had been picking off goblins and orcs from the upper windows came down to the courtyard again. The halflings stayed where there were and tried to pick off enemies whenever they could—no sense giving them a respite or cause for suspicion.

There were eight of them. They all loaded their crossbows and stood waiting just inside the gate. On either side the rest of the miners—forty in all stood ready with axe, pick and hammer.

Thud, thud went the axes of the orcs. The door was strong and the progress of the orcs was slows, but they would get there in the end—they’d already stopped sending their boyz over the wall—each time they were simply fodder for the dwarves axes as the clambered over.

Gundrun nodded to the two dwarves who held the heavy wooden bolt in place behind the gate. They heaved on it, pushing it up from below and then leapt back as the gate sprung open. Two large orcs, stripped to the waist stood looking surprised with axes raised high above their heads as the doors opened. Their green skin was slick with sweat.

Behind them stood a mob of heavily armed orcs—dressed in chainmail and carrying shields. But they didn’t expect to be hit by a volley of crossbows. The dwarves let fly. Both of the semi-naked axe orcs went down and at least four behind them sank to the ground as the bolts went home. Helpers passed the dwarves each another loaded crossbow and a second volley hit the orcs—barely giving them any time to get over their shock and raise their shields. Another six went down. The dwarf miners shouted their war-cry and rushed out of the gates attacking the decimated ranks of the orcs. The fight was brutal, and a number of dwarves died, but after a few short minutes it was brutal. The orcs were fleeing, leaving at least thirty—half their number on the field dead. Their long limbs carried them further and quicker than their pursuers and some discarded their armour to make their flight swifter.

A huddle of goblins on foot and a scattering of wolf-riders gave the dwarves pause, but Gundrun ordered them to close ranks and brought up his crossbows again. Two swift volleys broke the goblins as well and the wolf-riders covered their rout.

“That’s enough,” said Gundrun. “They won’t come back in a hurry, and besides we’d never catch them.”

“Well done,” said the tall aristocratic human. Two large dogs were at his side.

Gundrun’s lip curled—they were those shapeshifters—the cause of part of the dwarves trouble. He had no idea who this man was, and didn’t care to know.

Gundrun turned away. “Time to bury our dead,” he muttered and strode away to look at the bodies of his fellows—hoping to find some of the fallen still alive.

“Hmm, a bit rude wasn’t he,” said Hardlee to the large Doberman at his side. “I think it would be time to leave though—never know—they might come back. Where’s Shilby anway—he was the man you bit on the leg. Not like him, running off.”

The Doberman shook her head, but then the ears pricked alert. It looked back towards the inn and growled low. Hardlee turned to look. A large orc, helmeted and bearing a huge axe was striding towards them. In the distance on a rocky crag above the inn a man and a female figure stood embracing next to the body of a large winged creature. Hardlee wondered who they were—that thing, the wyvern had been clutching Meagana in its claws, and then Shilby had run off hadn’t he. Was it them?

But there were more pressing concerns. The large orc was closing on them, and at his back a mob of goblins scurried to keep up with him. The dwarves were reforming their ranks and marching back to the inn. There would be a final engagement—the orcs and goblins were not done yet.

“We should go, fast, don’t you think,” said Hardlee. “Never mind Shilby.”

The orc broke into a run. The Doberman and the pitbull barked at him as he came. Hardlee trembled. There were no dwarves nearby—they were about to close with the goblins. The sword was still at his side. He drew it—it flashed even though the sunlight was dimmed now by the clouds. It was an old sword-magical they said and always worn by the heir of Hyperia ever since the orcs were driven from the kingdom.

For a moment the orc chief paused. He pointed at the sword and shouted—“that’ll be mine,” and charged now down the hill at Hardlee, his axe raised above his head.

Hardlee held out the sword—hoping that it would protect him. He raised it to parry as the orc swung down at him. He actually closed his eyes at that moment. There was a barking and growling, and swearing in orcish and then a whimpering of canine pain. Hardlee opened his eyes to see the orc with the one dog biting at each leg. He hacked at the pit-bull with his axe, snapping its spine, and then produced a cruel, serrated dagger and lashed at the Doberman, cutting her deeply on the shoulder. She let go her jaws’ grip and wimpered away.

The orc turned on the dog and raised his axe. The dog was too injured to move fast out of the way. But then there was a noisy yapping and from the forest a dirty haired poodle ran onto the field. It flung itself at the orc’s mid-riff and caused him to stumble and let go his axe as he swung it—it flew about twenty paces away. The orc batted the poodle away from him. The dog scampered over to the Doberman and the two animals made their way to the woods. Hardlee held out his sword. He wanted to run as well.

Grim Bearit looked at the man holding the ancient sword of Shinee, something that he had dreamed of owning since ?? and looked at his own dagger. “Not a fair fight is it. Let me get my axe.”

But then there was a blast of a horn. And up the road came marching a unit of royal guard all in shining mail with halberds shouldered and a banner flying.

“What’s this?” shouted the orc. He turned back to the inn to see how his gobboes were doing. The answer was that they were done. The dwarves had killed a few with no loss and now the goblins were running to the hills—joining the rest of Grim’s army.

He roared into the sky. “A wyvern, a wyvern, my kingdom for a wyvern.” But nothing answered his call.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 11 – Beauty and the Beast

The penultimate part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – hope you have been enjoying it! Go back to Part 1 if you haven’t read any before.

Hardlee took a step back as the fierce Doberman growled. “Shilby, I need you. There’s two of them. I’m sure you can finish them. Look one of them hasn’t even got any clothes on. Shilby?”

Arfur Shilby was staring up into the sky.

“Shilby!” shouted Hardlee. The naked man sprang towards him and waved his knives at him. Hardlee stumbled backwards and fell over a bench that had been left out in the courtyard. Dazed for a moment he heard the screeching of bones and flesh and the whimpering of a dog. He opened his eyes and lifted himself to a crouch. The naked thug pushed him hard and he fell to the floor. The man stood over him. Hardlee for some reason couldn’t get his eyes off what was dangling over him. He gulped, not sure if he was more afraid of being killed or the man’s well-developed appendage.

A tall long-haired woman joined the man. Hardlee with relief turned his full attention to her. She also had no problem with nudity and her form was lithe and muscular and very attractive.

“I can pay, pay you,” he stammered.

“We know,” said the woman. “How much?”

“What?” Hardlee replied. Surprised that his offer might work. “Anything. Well within reason. I am sure my father will pay. And I have my own estates. Jewels. Name your price.”

“Hmm, yes all of that. An estate would be good—we like our privacy. But also money. Jewels are an efficient way to carry wealth so we’ll have those. In return, we’ll make sure you get out of here alive.” She looked around. “There seems to be a few complications with this job.”

She offered her hand to Hardlee, and after a moment’s hesitation he took it and she pulled him to his feet—her grasp was powerful and strong—he felt himself pulled towards her as he stood and for a moment his clothed body toucher her naked one. He sprung back quickly, but she kept a tight grip on his hand.

“We have an agreement?” she said. Her strong brown eyes fixed his. She was nearly as tall as him.

He nodded. “Yes. Absolutely.” He grinned. “That’s a relief, Shilby, eh? Shilby where are you?”

But Shilby was not paying his prince the least bit of attention. He was staring up at the wyvern. He shaded his eyes and he could see more clearly than the others that the wyvern clutched a figure of a woman in its claws. It was the prince’s girlfriend, Meagana.

Hardlee came over to him and looked up as well. “By the gods, has that creature got Meagana?”

Shilby nodded.

“Hmm, well that’s sad. A shame, a real shame. She was a lovely girl, elf-girl, whatever. But all good things come to an end. Not much we can do, eh? Mama didn’t approve after all, she’d much rather I settle down with a homely duchess—and maybe she’s right. Much too much excitement just recently.”

Shilby shrugged.

“Now, these dogs/people, whatever they are. They’re not going to kill me. In face I think they may even protect me and help us escape. So how about you and they work out a way to get me to the safety of the woods or the road, and we can get out of here?”

But Shilby ignored his prince. Nearby there was a dwarven crossbow, dropped by a miner who’d been skewered by a goblin archer. Shilby picked it up and loaded it and made for the stables.

“Hey, Shilby. What are you doing?” called Hardlee. But Shilby ignored him.

He stood on a trough and clambered onto the roof of the stables. On that side of the inn there weren’t any orcs or goblins—yet anyway. A few wolf-riders stood in the distance forming a cordon—to stop anyone escaping, he assumed. He looked up. Still the wyvern circled. He could hear Meagana’s voice crying for help. He raised the crossbow and shot high at the wyvern. He saw the rider dodge out of the way as the bolt fizzed past. The wyvern stuttered in its flight as the rider pulled hard on the reins. Even though the wyvern was several hundred feet away, at that moment the orc rider and Shilby locked eyes. Shilby could see the rider’s rage. It was only matched by his own, and the sense of outrage he felt at Hardlee’s abandonment of his lover. She didn’t deserve that.

The wyvern descended in tight arcs and came to land on a small crag of rock a hundred yards to the north of the inn up the slope of the valley. Shilby had already jumped from the stable roof over the wall of the inn and was striding purposefully up the hill through soft springy tufts of grass.

The orc-rider jumped from the back of his beast and the thing released Meagana fro its clutches. She looked fairly unharmed. Shilby couldn’t see any blood. But as she scrambled to get away, the creature hissed at her and waved a huge claw at her. She shrank behind a boulder to avoid the attack.

But the orc, a large figure, with huge muscles and thick plate armour and a wicked helmet with cruel spikes adorning it was coming at a jog to meet Shilby. Shilby dodged the first attack from the orc’s two-handed axe. He jabbed with his sword, but it glanced harmlessly off the orc’s breastplate. The orc raised his axe again and brought it down hard. Shilby managed to dodge again, but this time he slipped and he was on the ground. The orc smiled a slavering evil smile and raised his axe again, confident that the human could not slip from his grasp again.

A rock slammed into his helmet from behind. He turned and roared towards where Meagana was standing behind a boulder. Another rock was in her hand—she threw it and it hit the orc on his nose, he stumbled and fell to his knees, there was blood. Shilby dashed away and towards Meagana. Next to her the wyvern lay on the ground, it’s head curled back next to its tummy.

“You killed?” he said, incredulous.

“An old Elvish charm,” she replied. “It sleeps only.”

“Let’s go,” said Shilby, “before it wakes.”

“Not yet,” she said. And she took his arm and pulled him towards her and kissed him.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 10 – Drew and Gundrun Work Together

And here’s part 10 – go to Part 1 for the start of the story.

Drew slapped the dwarf on the shoulder. “Just move. We can sort this out later. We need to tidy up. Misunderstanding wasn’t it?”

The dwarf glared at him. He held a beer towel to his head trying to staunch the blood from a nasty looking head wound. His fellows has already exited the bar-room and were milling around in the courtyard—halflings rushed around with trays of ale cups to keep them distracted. But there were a few stubborn remainers, who simply didn’t know when to call a fight over.

“We were the aggrieved party,” muttered the dwarf. “Things need to be put right.”

Drew shrugged. “Get some air, have a pint and we’ll all talk in a minute or two once we’ve had a chance to clear up inside. We were all attacked—by those dog things and their naturist human friends.” Drew shook his head. A weird sight that had been. He shuddered to think what was going on upstairs—that’s where the intruders had gone, leaving a trail of carnage after themselves. Something to do with that nobleman and his retinue—had to be. But he’d not dared go up to see what had happened. Perhaps best to see what came out first?

The dwarf shrugged and limped out into to the courtyard. “We dwarves bear a grudge a long time—don’t you forget that—we’ll have our reckoning.”

Drew sighed. He knew that only too well. With the tourist appeal of the Orkranian mountains only stuttering into life, he was reliant on the surly custom of the dwarf miners. But every interaction with them seemed to lead to some argument or other. And Gundrun, their de facto leader, was the worst.

He looked round at the tap-room. It was a mess. There’d been fights in here before—mostly to do with dwarves. But never before had every item of furniture been smashed or shattered—some of it could be repaired, but most of it was only good for firewood. There would be a reckoning all right. And he knew just who was going to pay. He glanced out of the door at the crowd of bruised and battered dwarf miners. They had gold after all didn’t they. He waited a moment watching. Egbert and Lily both returned with their empty trays. Good. It was safe.

Drew slammed the door of the inn shut. Remarkably it had survived too much damage. It was a fine strong door. Reinforced with iron. Drew didn’t mind that it drew the attention of the dwarves.

“Hey! What’s going on?” shouted the stubborn one with a beer towel wrapped around his head.

Drew smiled and shrugged. “Drink your beer,” he shouted through the window. Most of them were, grumbling together in small groups—comparing bruises and cuts and stories of the fight. Most of them ignored the fact that a lot of the fighting had been dwarf on dwarf. Why let the truth get in the way of a good boast after all.

Drew beckoned Lily over. “Get more ale ready—should keep them calm a bit longer.”

“Yes, Drew,” she said. “I’ll get some barrels out of the cellar. But do you have the key?”

Drew glanced at the stairs. He’d left the key upstairs that morning. He didn’t fancy going up there at the moment, until he knew what was coming down. “Let’s see how it goes—we have some bottles of spirits and wine in the bar—they can have that—might knock them all out quicker!”

“Why are they drawing their weapons again?” quailed Lily. She pointed at the courtyard through the window. Drew looked. The dwarves were grasping axe and hammer handles and drawing swords in readiness for something. Two of them had climbed onto the narrow wooden walkway above the gate. They were moving in a weird way, Drew noticed as they looked over the wall, almost as if they were dancing. And then one of them stopped suddenly and fell backwards into the yard with a thud—an arrow was embedded in his shoulder. They had been trying to dodge arrows. But who? How?

Drew hesitated. Should he open the inn door and find out what was going on out there. Was it a ruse. The other dwarf on the walkway above the gate was crouched down—and peering over the wall—he was shouting at the other dwarves in the yard. To his disbelief, Drew saw that the dwarves were opening the gate—was that really such a good idea—let in whoever was shooting at you, so they could shoot at you some more?

In poured a group of dwarven miners—many holding shields to protect their heads and backs as they scurried inside—the shields were prickled with black-feathered arrows. They all rushed in and the gates were shut hurriedly again. Drew stood on a broken table to get a better view and could see that there were others outside the gate—not dwarves but armed humanoids with green skin and large teeth—orcs! And goblins Drew noticed—riding wolves—they were the ones shooting the arrows. He grabbed his blunderbuss and the bag of shot and powder, and rushed for the door.

Gundrun was standing before him when he came out into the courtyard. He wiped some black blood off his axe head as he looked up at Drew.

“What the hell are you doing now, Gundrun—your lot have caused enough damage to my establishment and now you bring a horde of goblins and orcs to finish the job?”

Gundrun spat an answer. “How dare you—we’ll save your runty hide for you and you should be grateful—or should we open the gate again and let the greenskin scum in—tell them you’ve invited them to a high tea of roast halfing?”

A black-fletched arrow thudded into the door frame above Drew’s head. The heat of his blood ran suddenly cold. He shook his head. He hated to do this, but he’d best make peace with the cantankerous old dwarf.

“No. No, of course not. It’s just been a hard day. Come, let’s talk. How many are out there? Where did they come from? You’ve stirred up a right hornet’s nest.”

“Us?” Gundrun huffed. “They came out of the trees—from the mountain. No idea what they want. Not supposed to be any orcs much in this hills anymore—they all went to ground. But I fancy this is different—must be the start of a full invasion, by my reckoning.”

Drew shook his head. “And we’re in the way. What can we do?”

Gundrun looked at the walls of the courtyard—they were high—over ten foot and built of solid wood logs, but there was no walkway or battlement that they could guard. “Not much we can do, but wait for them to try to get over the wall and then hack ‘em down as they come. That tower over the gate is too dangerous—there’s no cover, although it’s good for seeing what’s going on. We have some crossbows and you must have some short bows? Never known a clan of Halfling to be without half a dozen bows at least. We can put some of my lads and some of your keen-eyed youngsters upstairs to fire back at the gobboes.

Drew cast an apprehensive look at the first floor windows of the inn. “I’m not sure about that. There’s been some trouble up there.”

“Trouble?” asked Gundrun.

“Same trouble that caused the bar-room brawl—well some of it went upstairs—those dogs, naked men and women—something to do with one of my guests I think. I heard some fighting going on up there. Not sure if it’s safe.”

“Hmm, and I thought it was because you’d refused some of my hard-workings boys a drink. We need to go and take a look up there though—we need to see what’s going on.”

There was a shatter of glass in the window above the inn’s main door. A second later the figure of the aristocrat fell through, a bright, shining sword falling to the ground under him. He was clutching at the window sill. Drew and Gundrun heard shouting and the man let go and dropped to the floor only a few feet below. He stumbled away looking about him in a dazed way. He saw the sword and picked it up hurriedly. There was the barking of a dog and growling and then another man tumbled out of the window and crashed to the ground. Drew recognized him as one of the aristocrat’s men. He clutched a sword and was bleeding from a wound in his leg.

There was a roar from the gate—and Drew turned to see two vicious looking orcs clamber over the top and jump to the ground inside the inn’s courtyard. Each wielded a wicked curved sword in one hand and a dagger in the other.

“For Durin!” came the war-cry of the dwarf miners and a line of axe and hammer armed dwarves charged at the orcs. More were coming over the wall and the bolts of crossbows flew to knock them back.

There was a screech in the sky above, and Drew looked up. A huge winged beast circled above them. There was a rider on its back. He grabbed Gundrun’s arm. “They’re coming at us from all sides.”

“Get your lads upstairs now!”

“But what’s still up there?”

As they spoke, the large Doberman and a naked man burst out of the tavern door. The dog looked around the courtyard and stood pawing the ground and growling when it spotted the aristocrat and his man.

“I’m guessing it might be safe now,” said Gundrun. “Harald, Oglin, gather any of the boys with crossbows and get upstairs—make more arrowslits in the walls if you have to.”

“My walls!” exclaimed Drew. “No, you’re right,” he said as Gundrun’s brows beetled, “Tolly, Lily and Sam, get your boys and go with the dwarves upstairs—shoot anything with a greenskin!”

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 9 – Hardlee and Shilby escape from the inn

Part 9 of my Oldhammer Fiction novella – if you’ve not read any yet, head back to Part 1 for a synopsis and the opening part.

At last they were all upstairs on the trial of the Prince. Lola sniffed. Yes his scent was here definitely. She could smell it on the carpeted stairs and on the landing. Prince Hardlee had been here and it smelled like he was still here. But where?

They were on a landing with the stair well behind them, defended by Oscar in hunting hound form. To the left was a single door, and then a corridor stretching from this end of the inn to the other, with several door coming off it. But right in front of them looked like the best place to start. A large double door in fine wood. And there was even a painted sign above the door that read “The Prince’s Suite”.

Where else should they start?

Lola barked orders to the others. Poppy and Bella would check The Prince’s Suite first, while Lola and Alfie hung back to provide support. If Hardlee wasn’t there they would check the other rooms in the same pairs. Each pair would comprise one in human form and the other in dog form, that way they could maximise their senses of smell and other dog attributes, with the ability to open doors and handle deadly human weapons. Lola would stay in her Doberman form, while Alfie remained as a human. Poppy would transform back into a ??, while Bella kept the human form she had already assumed.

Bella tried the door handle of the Suite. It opened without resistance and Poppy scampered in to see what was inside. Bella followed—knife in hand, peering around the doorway, her buttocks wobbled slightly as she leaned forward. She turned and shook her head. Nothing there. Poppy scampered out sniffing the ground and looked up at Lola and then glanced down the corridor. The scent of the prince was in that direction.

Lola stepped lightly across the landing murmuring quietly to the others in a low growl. She and Alfie would start at the end of the corridor and work down. Poppy and Bella would come from this end and meet in the middle. There was a door right at the end of the corridor, which Lola and Alfie would check first. But first she padded into The Prince’s Suite. The bed was unmade, and there were items strewn about—men’s clothes of a fine quality. Some books and bottles of wine and cups were littered haphazardly on the table. The Prince was an aspiring poet and a prodigious wine drinker. This looked like his room. Lola dug her nose into the bedsheets and the discarded clothes that littered the floor. She had his scent.

Lola left the room and met Alfie on the landing. They walked quietly down the corridor and approached the door at the end. Poppy and Bella went to the closest door on the corridor—a normal enough looking door on the left side and tried it. It was locked. Poppy began wedging her knife down the side of the door to see if she could locate. She’d try to open it quietly at first, but if need be they could break the door down.

They heard Oscar barking at the top of the stairs. And shouts from drunken dwarves. Oscar would have to keep them at bay while they searched. He was a vicious hunting dog in animal form, and was well equipped to do that.

But what none of them expected was for Oscar to be attacked. They had not checked the other door that opened onto the landing. A big mistake, for in there Shilby and three guardsman had lain hidden readying their swords for action. Now Shilby, having heard the dogs and people go past, opened the door quietly and saw Oscar in front of him facing away growling at the top of the stairs that lead down to the bar. Shilby wore iron-toed boots and used the right one to kick Oscar full in the flank, knocking the hound into the air for a moment and deposited him against the wall with a thud. There was a cheer or a jeer form the dwarves at the foot of the stairs. One of them started to climb the stairs, but stopped suddenly as Oscar the dog started to become Oscar the man. His body expanded suddenly, limbs and spine bending in strange ways. Oscar grunted and growled in pain as the transformation happened. Oscar slashed at him with his sword. The blade of it hacking a gash out of the shapeshifter’s neck. Oscar died with a dog-like whimper, half-way between man and dog. A short furred tale dropped from his back between his legs. The body of Oscar hunched over, blood gushing from the wound in the skin that was recognisably human but covered in a patchy fur. His nose and jaw extended oddly and large canine teeth poked out as blood and drool spat from his mouth.

Shilby turned to his three soldiers. “Get them—down the corridor. Protect the prince!

The three men didn’t pause and dashed around the corner. Poppy and Bella were trying to open a locked door—shaking the handle and hadn’t heard the death of Oscar. There was still a lot of noise coming from the brawl downstairs.

The three soldiers were surprised to see a naked woman holding a dagger trying to open the door of the prince’s room—not really his room, but the one where they had put him for his own safe keeping. Well surprised might be a bit too strong for it, as often there would be nothing unusual about seeing a naked or near-naked young woman coming and going from the prince’s chamber—if you were a household guard you got used to that kind of thing. But today in the middle of what Shilby had told them was an assassination attempt, with a fight going on downstairs it didn’t quite seem to be the time or place. Plus one of their mates was probably stuck somewhere in it—they assumed he was downstairs somewhere in the bar seeing as he hadn’t returned. And this young lady was carrying a dagger and had a busy looking dog—a terrier—at her feet. That wasn’t usual for the kind of young women that normally visited the prince.

Shilby had checked that Oscar was really dead and then turned to warn the dwarves off—“Nothing for you to see up here, get stuck into your own business or a beer—they’re on me.” He then went to check on how his men were getting on with the other assassins and turned the corner of the corridor to find his men ogling the naked behind of a young woman, who had a dog sniffing at the bottom of the door. At the end of the corridor he could see that the door to the halflings’ private rooms was open and there was a what sounded like a turning over in progress.

He shoved two of the men in the back. “Come on then get stuck in.” And there was no choice then because the naked woman and the dog heard them. The dog snarled and dived at one of the men’s ankles, trying to bite into it. The man was forced to strike at the dog with his sword. But at that moment the dog leapt away and the man’s sword bit into his own leather boot. He yelped in pain. The sword hadn’t cut through the leather, but he’d given himself a mighty good whack nevertheless.

The guard was distracted by his own pain. “Get your guard up,” Shilby roared. He swung his own sword between the two guards to deflect the blow, but the naked woman’s long knife thrust faster and quicker than he could manage. The guard grunted as the knife flashed back, red with blood, and he slumped to the floor. Shilby hacked again, pushing the falling body of the guard aside. The woman raised her knife in defence from the high blow. But she was not strong enough to stop Shilby’s sword knocking her to the ground. She slipped on the wooden floorboards of the corridor, now slick with the guard’s blood. Shilby drew back his blade quickly and hacked at the woman’s bare neck. She dodged quickly and would have avoided the worst of the blow against a slower man than Shilby. But Shilby could see what she going to do and directed his blow to where he thought she would move. Instead of her neck, the sword smashed with a crack like plates being smashed into her skull. The sword came back with a chunk of bone and hair, matted in blood. The naked woman was dead.

Meanwhile the other two guards who still lived had corned the ferocious dog, using their swords to prevent it from dodging past them they had scored hits on it as well and now the mangled body of the animal lay slumped and twisted by the wall of the corridor.

“Look alive lads, don’t get cocky,” hissed Shilby. “There’s more of them through that door at the end I reckon.

Shilby’s prediction was proved right. A bulky well muscled man with cropped hair and the face of a pit-fighter burst through the door, naked apart from the long serrated knife he held in front of him.

“Don’t these tossers ever where clothes,” muttered Shilby.

“You bastards,” he shouted as he saw the dead bodies on the ground.

A Doberman emerged growling at his heals and they both ran headlong down the corridor.

There was a moan from the door to the prince’s room, halfway between them and the onrushing man and dog. It was the prince’s voice calling for help.

Shilby pushed the guards in the back. “Hold the corridor, I’ll get the prince.”

But instead of running towards their enemies down the corridor, he turned and ran back to the guard’s room. He rushed in and raised his sword hacking at the thin wood and plaster wall that divided the guard room from the bedroom they had moved the prince to.

Shilby was through the wall in a matter of seconds, knocking a table over as he stepped through the mess of the destroyed wall. The prince was in the corner of the room, a sheet pulled over him, pretending he wasn’t there.

Shilby thought a moment about whether to leave him. Hardlee wasn’t much of a prince in truth. He had all the good looks and the posh bearing in public of a prince, but in reality as Shilby was finding out he was no more than a spoilt and a coward to boot. Hardly deserving of loyalty. Hmm, hardly. How appropriate.

But his training and his code took over. The prince was in his charge. He had served the royal family all his grown life. He would do his duty.

He ran to the corner of the room and whipped the sheet from Hardlee. The prince smiled a petrified smile at him when he realized he wasn’t going to be killed. He was curled in a little ball. Shilby grabbed him by the crook of an elbow and hauled him upright, unbending him like a wood louse. “Come with me now. We’ve got to get outta here.”

He pulled the prince through the hole in the wall and scrambled into the guard’s room. But as they emerged onto the landing, Shilby could tell something was wrong.

It was too quiet. He turned and saw the naked man, practically his whole body covered in blood. His serrated knife dripped. He thought he could see a chunk of flesh hanging from it. He glared at Shilby and Hardlee, hatred in his eyes. From behind him there was a low growling and the Doberman stepped forward—it’s jaws bright with blood.

Hardlee tugged at the sword at his side and with a clatter he drew his sword. It flashed with light even in the dimness of the landing. It was a special sword, just a shame that it was Hardlee using it.

“Break that window,” shouted Shilby, pushing his prince towards the window on the landing furthest away from the man and dog.

“Come on then!” he screamed at them, and slashing wildly with his sword he charged.

No matter how psychotic his enemies were, they didn’t want to come up against a strong man wielding a long sword with fury and skill and they retreated to the narrowness of the corridor, the man waving his dagger and the dog growling. That was all he needed. To give them pause so they could get away.

He turned. The prince had smashed the window.

With his lungs and legs bursting he sprinted at the window, knocking the prince off his feet and through the window. Even so the dog was fast. He felt sharp teeth sink into the leather of his boot and strong jaws clamp down—he was stuck on the window sill. The prince was dangling on the other side, holding on by one hand.

“Jump, it’s only one floor,” Shilby shouted.

He jammed his sword into the dogs maw and levered the mouth open. It squealed with pain and let go and he tumbled out of the window, rolling into a ball to break his fall. He bounced off the roof of the porch of the inn and down onto the muddy courtyard. Safe for a few moments at least.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 8 – Prize Finer than Gold

Part 8 of my Oldhammer Fiction novella – go to Part 1 if you’ve not read any yet!

So far so good, mused Grim as he circled the valley of Nstaad on the wyvern. The Hard Core boyz had chased the dwarves away from the exchange—they hadn’t even put up a fight. Now if his own servants could get in there and find the gold even better.

The air was cold at this height above the mountains and the wyvern had to swoop in tight circles and flap its wings hard to keep in the air—Grim had once heard something about an elvish practice called Pisicks that claimed the flight of creatures such as dragons and wyverns was impossible and against nature, but one thing he did know what that to keep airborne the creature he rode had to flap its wings bloody hard. So the air stream rushed past his ears and the cold burnt the green skin of his face. He loved it. He exulted in his pain and superiority—from here he could see everything like a king—like a god!

But what was this? What were those flippin’ mercenaries doing—the whole unit of gobboes was driving fast down the slope of the valley in a large loop aimed at the road south of the inn. He’d said to Shur Burt that they were to send some wolf riders not the whole bloody lot of them. Where was his reserve now! Every good general should have a reserve—he’d heard that somewhere.

Was it too late to recall them? Maybe not. He could dive down and land in front of them—that would scare the shit out of them and no mistake. Send some of them back to the woods at least—perhaps just split them in two now—seize the road south to prevent any escapes and attack the inn from that side too. And hold the others back—under his command—waiting on the slope to see where they were needed. It looked like the dwarves were retreating to the inn, so they’d have to attack that place to get them all—maybe put a light to it, or smash it down. Shame his wyvern wasn’t a fire-breathing dragon—that would be well handy.

A wisp of cloud obscured his view for a moment. He pulled on the iron chains that were the wyvern’s reins and kicked her side with his spiked spurs.

“Down fell beast,” he grunted—the old orc who had bred this wyvern told him that she obeyed certain commands, but Grim wasn’t sure he believed that—it seemed pain and pushing and pulling were the main things that the beast understood.

The wyvern lost height as Grim had wished, but now he was further east over the valley, towards the glade of trees where rumour had it an elf witch dwelt. He looked down. The leaves of the trees below were a lighter green—elven trees perhaps when compared to the dour dark pines that covered much of the mountains. And something glinted down there. There was a small lake, a pool of glistening water. Grim bent over the neck of the wyvern to get a closer look. A pink figure was in the shining water. Grim took the wyvern down to get a closer look. Maybe this was a prize finer than gold.

Tears came to Grim’s eyes as the wyvern plunged through the clouds. A ray of sunshine though illuminated the lake in the glade once the wyvern was clear of the cloud. Grim pulled up on the chains and the wyvern levelled off and turned in a slow arc over the trees—perhaps a hundred paces above the lake. A female lay floating in the water—dark hair streaming like a fan from her head. And she was naked.

The Broken Hand orcs counted it a special right of their royalty to mix with other races—humans usually. They counted the mixture of bloods and pollution of the so called “good” races with their own a privilege above any other. De facto therefore Grim had probably some half-orc blood in him somewhere—it was difficult to find willing human females though—for some reason they were put off coupling with orcs. But here floated an elf ready to be taken. To be his mate perhaps and to enhance the next bloodline of the Broken Hand.

Grim spoke to the wyvern, hoping the creature would understand, “Pick up the floating elf, don’t kill it.” He thought about adding the word “gentle” but very much doubted the wyvern would understand. To his disbelief the winged creature began a shallow dive over the lake, skimming low over the trees. At the far end of the lake, Grim glimpsed a white domed building. A figure clothed in white stepped from the doorway and held up her hands towards the wyvern and Grim. Somehow Grim decided it best to duck at that moment. It was a wise choice as then he missed a bolt of blue light that screamed over his head.

The woman in white began running and shouting.

Grim looked over the neck of the wyvern. The female elf in the water was still floating. Well you couldn’t hear that well if your ears were submerged could you, but as they came closer she must have realised that something was wrong. There was a splash and suddenly the naked elf was flailing around with her arms trying to swim away. She glanced over her shoulder, just as the wyvern stuck out its claws to pick her up. Grim smiled as she looked at him. She was more beautiful than anything he had seen (although admittedly she didn’t have much competition, given the company Grim kept).

The elf now dived suddenly, her slender pale legs tipping into the air as she tried to push herself down into the water. But the wyvern was fine with that. She grabbed the elf’s ankles in her claws and plucked her out of the water like an osprey takes a fish from the sea.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 7 – Battle Joined

Battle is joined in the foothills of Orkrania! If you’re new here go back to Part 1 for the start of the novella and to find out what it’s all about.

So the battle of Nstaad began. What had started as a tavern brawl, would now become a battle fought with steel, claw and blood. Grim Bearit’s Broken Hand orcs emerged from the wooded slopes of the mountain above Nstaad with the Hard Core Boyz to the fore—hungry for blood and loot. Grim himself had his wyvern harnessed and his war lances and javelins prepared. He took to the air to survey the battlefield leaving orders to Shur Burt the shaman and his personal orcish servants to give instructions to the hobgoblin mercenaries to hold back the goblin slave-warriors until needed. Much was lost in the rush to ready for combat. And perhaps all of Grim’s intentions to use the force as a strategic reserve were not quite passed on properly. There was something about sending a force to cut off the road south of the inn for instance. The fact that Grim meant just some of the wolf-rider scouts might have been lost.

The Hard Core Boyz poured from the woods in no particular order, blinking in the sunshine that they counted as their enemy, and pretty soon the doughty band of dwarven miners under the command of Gundrun Rocksplitter heard the whooping battle cries and excited grunts of the orcs as they jogged towards the gold exchange. The dwarves paused, dressed their ranks and about turned to march steadily back up the hill intent on engaging their arch enemies, but the sharp-eyed youngster of a dwarf, who had brought the message from the inn, also saw that a veritable horde of goblins and wolf-riders were also streaming out of the woods further to the east. He stopped Gundrun to tell him and the old dwarf leader surmised that the orc and goblin army was playing one of their damned tricks and using greater numbers to envelop his own force. The death of him and all of his fellows was not going to help to either preserve the honour of dwarves in their dispute with the halflings at the inn, or preserve the gold at the exchance, which besides consisted of just a few nuggets on the counters and tables inside the exchange—pickings not being that good recently. The largest consignment that Gundrun had at the exchange was well hidden and protected inside a safe protected by runes that Gundrun was confident that no orc could open.

So Gundrun’s greater experience won over the hotheads in the party and the dwarves turned again and rushed headlong towards the inn, not even having time to destroy the bridge over the rushing stream as they did so. Not a retreat, but a tactical withdraw, Gundrun thought in his own mind.

And what of events at the inn?

You may remember that the whole cause of the barroom brawl that had developed at the inn was because of the shapeshifting dogs that burst into the tap room looking for Prince Hardlee. Well those shapeshifters had now left the dwarves behind to brawl amongst themselves and a few unlucky haflings. They’d made it to the first floor where a long uneven corridor that went the length of the inn provided access to private chambers for those guests who could afford to pay. That meant Prince Hardlee, Arfur and the retinue of four men-at-arms, all in disguise, they had taken three of the rooms between them—Hardlee and Arfur having their own rooms and the four men-at-arms (now three after the death of one in the stables courtyard) sharing another room. Their were eight rooms in total though, so the shapeshifters had to search for their prey first, sniffing at the doors to see if any human was inside. Even in human form they had a well developed sense of smell.

Prince Hardlee was enjoying a slumber after the excitement of seeing his beloved that morning. But Arfur had already heard the disturbance and was sitting with the men-at-arms waiting with weapons ready. But more of that soon.

Gundrun’s miners and the orcs of the Hard Core Boyz exchanged some arrows and crossbow bolts—across the stream as they approached the inn—the dwarves with crossbows turning to fire once they had loaded and running ahead to load again, their friends covering them with shields as they went – there were just a few so armed, but they were good shots and took down some orcs—enough to make them wary about a pursuit that was too close. But Gundrun could see the unit of goblins marching resoulely on their left flank, driven on by hobgoblins with whips, and he feared being caught in the open between the orcs and goblins. He like most dwarves felt far more comfortable with a good stone wall between him and the enemy. So he told the lads to stop their skimrishing fire and march double quick to the inn. Once there they bared the gates and set about working out how to defend the place.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 6 – Grim Bearit and Orcs Attack

Part 6 of my Oldhammer Fiction novella Holdiday in Orkrania. See Part 1 for the start and a synopsis.

The forested slopes of the mountain overlooking the village of Nstaad were quite—mostly. Apart from the sound of Grim’s wyvern snacking one of the runty goblin slaves, the place where Grim sat high in a tree watching the valley was peaceful. His army rested, waiting for the daylight and the cruel burning of the sun to pass. They planned to attack at night. So his army of orcs and goblins were down below in shelters on the forest floor, or tucked away in some of the small caves on the mountain slope. But Grim didn’t rest of sleep. He watched, always watching, to see what his enemy was doing. He had spent the last year watching the tribe of the Broken Hand from his refuge in the Orkranian mountains, waiting for an opening, an opportunity—and now one had come. The chance to seize the wealth of the miners of Nstaad and build an army to take back power over the Broken Hand tribe once more.

He stood up from the barrel on which he sat, and grabbing the trunk of the tree for support stepped towards the edge of the platform. A simple railing provided enough support for him to lean his weight on and gaze out.

Ra’zle and his goblin engineers had built him this wooden platform on his orders so that he could keep watch on Nstaad. Little seemed to be happening in the valley below—he could see the small encampment of tents outside the gold exchange. That would be their main target of course. Grim assumed that was where the gold must be, but if not they could torture the dwarves they captured until they gave up the secret of its location.

But how to best use his forces to make sure they seized what they needed—they would have the advantage of surprise and of numbers, but the dwarfs could be stubborn fighters—especially where gold was concerned.

There was a rustle of leaves behind Grim, it was Shur Burt, a shaman of Urk and self-appointed chief counsellor to the rightful king of the Broken Hand tribe.

“Whadya want?” growled Grim, not happy to be disturbed. He much preferred being alone with his own thoughts when working out a plan of battle.

Shur Burt bowed and scraped, pawing the ground ag Grim’s feet as he knelt before him. He seemed to make a speciality of grovelling, and Grim knew that he wanted something—most likely to push his own ideas.

“Oh great high king, I come to hear your words of wisdom on how we will be successful in the battle to come.”

Grim thought about asking Shur Burt for his thoughts, but paused—that would be a show of weakness that no Orc leader could afford.

“Why da ya wanta know? Just do what I telz you.”

“Of course master, never anything less, and sometimes more.”

“Uh?” Grim wasn’t sure what Shur Burt meant by that—probably the shaman’s attempt to fool him with his greater command of frilly words. The fool would suffer if he kept that up.

“As well as the sharp blades of your soldiers I can also provide much help when I call on mighty Urk to help us, but to do so I need to prepare and check that the portents allow it. Enlighten me oh mighty Grim.”

“Come here,” snapped Grim, losing his patience. He grabbed Shur Burt by the necklace of shrunken heads that he wore and dragged him to the rail of the platform that overlooked the valley below. Shur Burt gulped audibly as the force of Grim’s handling of him forced him into the rail and nearly toppled him over the edge. It was only a drop of thirty feet, but still enough to kill or seriously maim.

“There’s the valley of Nstaad. The gold exchange nearest to us on this side of the stream, and then the old coaching inn beyond the bridge, and to the far left of the inn the grove—they say an elven witch dwells there, so we’ll avoid that, but I’ll keep watch on it from above with my wyvern in case she emerges—and then,” Grim chuckled, “well you can deal wiv that can’t you?”

Shur Burt gulped and nodded. Grim relaxed his grip on the shaman and brought him back from the edge.

“And then what else? Well the Hard Core Boyz, they’ll do the main attackin’ won’t they—always do and they won’t have it any other way—they can take on the dwarves in their little house full of gold. But some of my own boyz will be right behind them—they’ll make sure everyone stays honest and don’t try ta take any gold what isn’t there’s, coz it’s all mine see?”

Shur Burt nodded furiously at that, fearing another close view of the forest floor.

Grim drummed his stubby green fingers on the railing. “Wot elze, eh? The gobboes. How best to use them? They’re disciplined. The hobgob whips keep them in check. But they’re a bit feeble if they’ze come against some dwarves direct. But they’re quick and the wolf gobs can go on ahead quick as lightening.”

“Against the halflings?” wheeled Shur Burt, hoping that his suggestion didn’t cause enough displeasure for him to get slammed against the railing again.

“The inn?” grunted Grim. “The gobboes and the hobgobs fight for money and loot so maybe—they can loot the inn and take that as payment for this month. I’ll as much gold left over as we can getz.”

Shur Burt nodded. “Of course, master. To take back what is rightfully yours from King ??”

Grim slammed Shur Burt’s head into the railing and the shaman nearly passed out with the pain—he saw a bright light that could been a million explosions inside his head combining into one. “He’s no king, awright!”

Shur Burt was in too much pain to respond at first. He crouched on the floor, feeling his head. Something felt a bit sticky in the matted grease of hair. His fingers came back coated in a sticky black liquid when he touched it—his own blood.

“Understand?” asked Grim.

Shur Burt nodded. “Yes master, I’ll steer clear of that word again. So sorry.”

“Steer clear …” pondered Grim. “Yes that’s what the gobboes should do to start with—well at least until we seez how things go. We’ll keep ‘em back in the woods. Maybe send some wolf boyz round the inn to cut off an escape. Good idea, Shur.”

Grim raised a meaty fist again over Shur Burt’s head, and the shaman cowered beneath the expected blow.

“You’re a kidder,” said Grim as he patted Shur Burt gently on the head. “You wanna get that cut looked at—looks a bit nasty.”

Grim turned to go. He’d had enough on this windy platform for the moment, and he was hungry. But then some movement down in the valley caught his eye. While he’d been conversing with the shaman, things had been happening in the valley of Nstaad. A large group of dwarves were assembled in front of the gold exchange, and were even now marching down the path towards the bridge and beyond it the inn.

Grim stood there, his jaw hanging in amazement.

“Dey’re going! They’ll have the gold wiv them. We’ve gotta move quick boyz!” he shouted. “Everyone wake up. Time to kill stunties!”

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 5 – Lola’s Pack Attack

Part 5 of Holiday in Orkrania – my free Oldhammer style novella. For the start of it go back to Part 1. 

Drew gritted his teeth as he polished dry another flagon. The orders for beer and ale were coming thick and fast. The taproom and the common room were both full of dwarfs who seemed intent on emptying the inn’s supplies of anything liquid. They’d have to siphon off the stream soon enough and tell the miners that it was a new transparent type of beer—very high proof, and see if they noticed. Most of them were so drunk by now that Drew doubted they would.

“And they’re paying for all of this?” asked Rose, Drew’s wife as she pushed a tap into a new barrel that Jase, their son had just rolled up from the cellar.

“They will do,” said Drew, “they will do.”

“All on credit, again, Drew? What did I tell you. We can’t run a business on credit!”

Drew blushed. He knew she was right—he was worried about it too—that the dwarves would never pay, yet he’d made the decision, to he defended it. “There’s gold in those hills, Rose. Plenty of gold. So they’re good for it—of that I’m sure.”

“Even now that you’ve turfed them out—they are taking the proverbial if you ask me before they go. If you ask me…”

Drew never did get to ask his wife the question she so wanted him to ask her. Despite the noise of two dozen dwarf miners drinking and singing, the commotion that came from the door to the stables rose above that to draw Drew’s attention.

Drew saw a Dwarf looking angry on the far side of the tap-room as the door from the stables opened, nudging his arm and causing him to spill his pint. A large dog—black and brown, a doberman, burst through the door followed by two men and two women. Apart from the hikers he didn’t have any other human guests—and besides they usually wore clothes. One of the dwarves whistled as the naked women pushed past. They seemed intent on getting through the crowd of miners as quickly as possible. The dog was growling.

Drew got onto the higher step behind the bar—better to be seen. “What’s this then. Who are you—we don’t want any actors or whores here. Where are your bloody clothes?”

That drew a round of jeers and more whistles from the drinking miners.

“Everybody shut up,” snarled one of the naked men. A squat brute of a fellow—could have been a dwarf except he had no beard and was completely bald. “Let us through or else.”

“Else what?” grumbled a grey-bearded dwarf standing at his elbow. “Who do you think you are laddie?”

“Grr, no one calls me laddie,” the man snarled again, spittle shooting from his mouth as he turned on the old dwarf miner. The doberman was at the man’s heals and barking, what almost sounded like a warning.

The greybeard wiped the man’s spittle from his beart and glaring with eyes like candles in the depths of a deep mine drew back the fist holding his pewter flagon and smashed it into the face of the bald man. The man’s head reeled, but he seemed to have been expecting it and was prepared to take the hit in the face. The elbow connected to the forearm and hand holding his dagger pumped backwards like a mechanical piston and punched the sharp point of the dagger into the old dwarf. The longbeard groaned in pain as the blade stabbed into his guts and slumped to the ground, wailing like a babe.

The response of the dwarves around the bar was rapid if predictable—let no-one tell you that dwarves are slow. Once roused to anger their ferocity can stir them to hasty action. The taproom descended into a maelstrom of punching fists, slashing daggers and whirling dwarf picks. Several miners swung and grabbed at the bald man who had stabbed their, but he was very swift. So swift in fact that before the eyes of Drew he actually disappeared from view, and instead he could hear dogs—more than just the Doberman snapping and snarling at the legs of the dwarfs, several who yelped in pain as large canines sunk into their calves and thighs.

The two women did not stand watching, but instead slashed out with theirs knives, held in a reverse grip to rake the faces of the dwarves. That’s as much damage as they could do like that—a stabbing action was better, but now that battle was joined that required getting closer to the dwarves—dangerous work when hard fists and harder picks were being swung. In fact some of those fists and picks were a danger to other dwarves.

The other man, who hadn’t disappeared pushed over two nearby tables to hold back the surging mass of angry, drunken dwarves—creating a corridor next to the bar towards the stairs and then ran quickly past them and up the stairs. Drew took a swing at him with a flagon but missed by a country mile and nearly unbalanced himself to topple to the ground.

“Everyone stop!” he shouted. “This instance.”

But no-one seemed to hear or care what he said. The he saw Jase, who had been collecting cups near the door, hit by a swinging dwarf pick. There was blood splashed up and Drew thought the worst.

Drew jumped behind the bar and pulled off the door of the cabinet underneath the bar—he could fix the lock later. He pulled out the blunderbuss that he kept there—loaded and primed, he just needed to light the fuse. He did so behind the bar and then clambered up again to face the brawling chaos of the bar.

He didn’t know where to aim it—the women and the dogs were intermingled amongst the dwarves in an ungainly fight which seemed to be going nowhere but was causing a lot of damage to the fixtures and fittings of the taproom. He didn’t have to worry about aiming though. The fuse on the blunderbuss burnt quicker than he planned and the thing fired with an explosion louder and firier thane could have imagined. Blowing a whole in the ceiling and causing a light fitting to crash to the floor—luckily no candles were lit—but everyone ducked and stopped fighting at least for a few seconds.

When the dust and smoke cleared the fighting broke out again—some of it was dwarf against naked human and dog, some of it was directed at other haflings, but sadly much of it seemed to be a squabble between dwarves.

Nevertheless, one young dwarf miner, so young that his facial hair was not much more than a tufty excuse for growth, was bundled out of the front door of the inn. “Go and get Gundrun,” he was told. “We need help down here.”

The young dwarf, who was also quite long-legged for a dwarf and thus a bit faster than most, dashed out of the inn door, through the gate of the wall that surrounded the courtyard. He turned right and around the corner of the wall began jogging up the slope of the valley towards Gundrun’s Exchange. There was a rough track that led up the slope and crossed the fast running stream that ran through Nstaad. A wooden bridge, built by dwarves spanned it, and there was a ford next to it—where the stream was shallower, but slippery rocks and the speed of the stream, fed on thawed ice, meant that crossing that way would be precarious at best.

But the young dwarf had no thought of that while he ran. Just that he was missing the fight and he wanted to do as he was told, give Gundrun the message, and then get right back to the inn as soon as he could.

Gundrun was in his element when he arrived. The old dwarf was in the front of the exchange building with a long line of miners standing queueing out of the door. These miners, who were all camped around the exchange building were newly down from the hills. They’d brought their finds with them—nuggets of gold, and now they wanted to know how much they were worth.

“Hurry it up,” grumbled one of them who was near the back of the line. “I want to get going before nightfall.”

“Why? Ready to retire are you?” grumbled another over his shoulder as he turned and glared at the impatient dwarf.

“Huh! Chance’d be a fine thing. No. These hills aren’t safe. Time to move on.”

“Nonsense …” the dwarf in front was about to continue the argument, but stopped when he saw the young, long-legged dwarf rush to the door of the exchange. Almost looked like a human he did. “Oi, where you going. There’s a line.”

The young dwarf, panting, ignored the complaints of the dwarves standing in line and pushed through to where Gundrun stood behind his counter, a small magnifying glass to wedged in one eye socket, appraising in detail the gold crystals in one quite large nugget of rock.

“Gundrun …” panted the dwarf. “Come … quick … a fight.”

Gundrun looked up the glass still in his eye and saw at extreme close up the scruffy thatch of the young dwarves beard, barely covering the lad’s acne. “Oooh,” he said and removed the magnifying glass in a hurry. “What’s that boy?”

“Fighting at the inn,” the dwarf gasped, bending over to catch his breath. “I was sent to get help.”

“What!” roared Gundrun. “Trying to evict our boys ahead of time are they? I won’t be having that.”

“Dogs and humans—no clothes on,” said the young dwarf.

“Eh? What’s that?”

“Dogs—biting at ankles, and naked women with knives.”

Several of the miners waiting in the queue had now huddled round to listen. “They’ve set dogs on our brothers have they—those bastard halflings!”

“What’s this about naked women?” said another.

“The actress perhaps—the elf girl from the temple—have you seen her…”

“OK lads, let’s not hang around fantasising,” snapped Gundrun. “Our brothers are in trouble. Grab your weapons—a helm and shield if you have one handy and let’s get down to the inn.”

There were twenty one of them all told. Gundrun gave the young lanky dwarf—Smartsch was his name—a spare axe and a shield, and grabbed his own trusty warhammer. He’d had time to slip on a coat of plates—leather with metal plates sown into the lining, and slapped a round helm on his head—that would have to do—but after all what armour and weaponry could Drew and his extended family muster—some knives and short bows at best. The dwarves would not take this lying down—oh no!

“Right then lads,” said Gundrun, looking at the motley crew of miners—most had just grabbed their picks for weapons, but some had axes as well—mostly used for chopping wood though rather than skulls—these were workers on the whole rather than warriors—although a few did have helms and swords that they’d grabbed from their tents. “Let’s not run—no point getting out of breath—need to save energies for hewing halflings, but let’s not hang about either. Let’s go!”

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 4 – The Lola of the Pack

Part 4 of my Oldhammer Fiction novella – see Part 1 for the start of the story.

Lola watched as Max, Bella and Oscar trotted back from the front door of the inn. Behind her Alfie growled, barely restraining his aggression. She turned her neck and bared her sharp teeth at the pitbull. Be quiet.

The three dogs entered the edge of the forest and approached Lola, their tails between their legs, submissive. She stood up, towering over them on her long Doberman’s legs. She scolded them with some short sharp yaps. What happened? I told you to stay and find out where the men are.

Bella bounded forward, eager to please, and barked an answer. We did see the men—two of them, but we were chased off.

What? replied Lola. One simple thing …

It was his fault, butted in Oscar, curling his lip at Max, the dirty white poodle. Couldn’t keep his hunger to himself, went sniffing round the tables and the Halfling innkeep noticed us and sent us out.

Max shied away, lay down and put his head down between his paws. Lola stood over him, wondering what to do. They couldn’t afford mistakes like this.

Then Poppy emerged from the ferns. I was at the stables like you told me to, she yapped in her annoying Terrier voice. There’s six horses, that means Shilby, Hardlee and four others. The other four have the livery of the Royal Guard on the saddle cloths—not very well disguised but the men are dressed as normal travellers.

Well done Poppy, at least I can rely on you, barked Lola. Were the guards still at the stables?

No they were there just seeing to their horses. They went inside to eat and drink I think.

Anyone else in the stables?

Poppy shook her head, and let her tongue loll out to cool down. She’d run all the way back.

Good. I don’t think we’ll get back in through the front door, but maybe one of the servants has left a back door open. Each of you get your knife bundles out and drag them with you to the stables.

The dogs hurried around the clearing and produced small leather bundles that were hidden in the ferns. There were larger piles of bags underneath—containing clothes, boots, traveling capes and cooking utensils.

Not you Max.

Max turned and looked at Lola with big brown eyes. Silly pup, she thought. But she couldn’t help feel a pang of guilt for singling him out. Max was the youngest—an adolescent in human terms, and not quite fully grown in terms of a dog. He annoyed him in some ways, but she felt protective to him as well.

You’re going to stay here—look after our kit until we get back.

But Lola, he whined, you promised. My first kill …

Lola sniggered. A strange sound for a dog to make and came out like a growl. You’re along for the ride kid. I don’t expect you to do any killing—least of all assassinating the Crown Prince of Hyperia.

Max turned his back and went and sat near their bags hidden in the ferns. He didn’t look at Lola.

Whatever, she thought. I’ll deal with that later.

Lola and the other older dogs trotted up the hill towards the inn, but giving the front entrance a wide birth. Even so they had to enter the gate in the large courtyard wall that surrounded the buildings of the inn. The gate was large stout and wooden—big enough to allow a coach to come in, and the walls next to it were over ten feet high—a reminder that this always hadn’t been a holiday destination—there used to be trouble in the hills, Lola remembered—half-remembered tales of orcs, goblins, trolls even. But now the most dangerous things here were her and her pack. Their shapeshifting ability was a curse of birth and a blessing—not restricted like were-beasts to only changing at the full-moon, they could change from dog to human at will—but that made them outcasts as well if normal humans knew of their abilities—that’s why although none of them were related they stuck together like a family. And they made the best of their abilities. No one gave a second glance if it was sniffing round for scraps in a lord’s hall or an inn—it allowed a shapeshifter assassin easy entry, and then it could either attack in dog form if the chance presented itself, or change to a human if sheer savagery was not required—that was the usual method in fact—it allowed a quieter kill and then escape again as a dog, who couldn’t be blamed for the kill as there were no teeth marks were there?

How they were going to kill the prince, she hadn’t yet decided. First they needed to know where he was and then most likely they would wait until he was alone, or with just one or two of his companions, and then in human form they would strike while he slept. Lola wanted them to get into the inn first.

They reached the stables which were to the right of the main building where the taproom, the common room, kitchen and private rooms were located. There was no one there—just six horses occupying stalls in the row of a dozen that the inn had. There was a room for storing tack and a large covered area that would house a coach too if there was one there. A shut door lead into the main inn building. The horses were dopey and content when the entered the stable yard, but when they got there they started to become agitated.

Bella, a sheepdog began her transformation into a human. The horses immediately began to whinny and stamp.

The black and white hairs of Bella’s fur retracted into her body and her whole frame lengthened and straightened until she was standing on two legs, her dog’s snout retracted into her face in a few seconds leaving the smooth skin of a young woman. Her hair was black streaked with white. She stood there naked, shivering and pulling at the small bag that she had carried with her.

Lola growled. You fool. No clothes and you look like a fool now.

“We’re stronger like this,” said Alfie, who had also changed from a pitbull into a squat, muscular bald man. He was gripping his dagger already. “I’m ready to kill.”

Poppy was on all fours next to him changing more slowly. Her body writing as it did so, struggling against the change—that could happen sometimes, some found the transformation between species more difficult to handle than others. With a grunt the hairs retracted into her body and she restrained a yelp as her bones and muscles changed. She was a petite human with curly brunette hair, but she stayed on all fours panting as she recovered from her ordeal.

That’s when the man stumbled through the door that lead to the interior of the inn. He stumbled because he had been drinking, some formidable Halfling brew known as Knock Knees 7. His arm was around the diminutive shoulders of a Halfling barmaid, two and a half feet shorter than him. She was giggling and innefectually slapping away his hands which were trying to make their way under her dress.

The cheery expression on the man’s face disappeared as he saw the scene in the stableyard. “What is this place a brothel? Already at it I see?” He pointed at Poppy on her knees. “Did you force her?” he accused Alfie with slurring voice. “I don’t hold with that.”

Alfie shook his head. “Na. Not that. We’d rather have privacy though if you don’t mind.”

The man frowned and looked around. Probably wondering why there were dogs around as well as two naked women and a man. Then Oscar came loping into the yard—dragging his hind legs and tail behind him. He always liked to change in private as his transformation was by no means easy—only half his body changing at one time, the other half following up to several minutes later. The front part of him was a man, the rear half that of a hunting hound.

“What the …?” said the man. His last word would have been the act that he would perhaps have liked to have been doing when he died, but instead he just said it when Alfie plunged is dagger into his heart. The Halfling barmaid screamed. Lola bit at her leg and dragged her to ground and the others bundled on top of her to quieten her down. She soon stopped struggling and was still.

Lola raised her red fangs from the flesh of the halfling’s leg. The time for stealth is over then. Into the inn and find the prince! she barked.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 3 – Grim Bearit

A fairly short section here to follow on to Part 1 and Part 2 of Holiday in Orkrania. Introduces a key character though – the wyvern riding Orc chief Grim Bearit.

 

Grundyr pawed the mountain crag uneasily. Grim pulled back the iron chain that acted a rein and halter for the great wyvern and grunted. “Enough. Stay will ya.

The wyvern sighed moodily—two jets of exhaled breath condensed like smoke in the air in front of it, but it stopped moving.

“That’s my girl,” said Grim, punching the beast affectionately on the neck. He sat up in the saddle and peered down into the valley. Through a break in the clouds he could see the green valley below. The stunties, longshanks and midgets called it Nstaad. Grim chuckled to himself. Soon he would give it a new name: Slaughterhouse!

Not for nothing had he assembled the largest tribe of orcs to come out of the Orkranian mountains in a generation. He knew what was down there and so did his boyz. Most of them were from the granites of course like himself—only weedy cowards still dwelt in Orkrania—too scared and snivelling to show their faces above ground. But the granites were overcrowed—no good loot or tasty man-flesh to eat their—it was an orc eat orc existence alright—hard as—and his teeth and gums weren’t getting any younger. He’d seen the writing on the wall last year (not that he could read or write though) and brought a hundred like minded orcs from his tribe with him—to take advantage of opportunities elsewhere. Those opportunities were made more urgent when the Broken Hand tribe had turned in on itself in a bitter fight for leadership. Grim knew he was best off out of that—well he had lost as well and would have been killed if he hadn’t fled with the core of his own bodyguard and those others loyal and foolish enough to back him against his brother—Snaarit.

It looked very green in the valley of Nstaad, but Grim knew there was gold down there as well—that’s what the stunties had been spending the last year digging up. Some of the boyz had said let’s get it now—break into their mines, but Grim knew better. Why fight over a few nuggets when the stunties would do them the favour of gathering it all together for them in one place, and then they could go down and take it all for themselves.

One of the little gobboes had sneaked in—done some recce work. The news he brought back was all good—the place where they kept the gold wad almost unguarded—just a few stunties in tents outside and old stunty who was probably the one in charge—the gobbo had seen him with a large key round his neck a few times—Grim would need that key. Then there was the old inn—it had walls, so could be defended, but there was not much to worry about there—it was run by a few fat halflings—they’d be easy pickings.

Grim grinned. He’d be feeding on fat halfling roast and drinking their ale by nightfall. He couldn’t wait.