The Blood of the Honored, Part 1
Hey peoples, this is a short story that takes place in my fantasy world called Riflen. The world of Riflen is a bit different from a lot of the fantasy world you’re probably familiar with, which you will notice right away. I hope you enjoy this first part of The Blood of the Honored. Part two to come next week.
Pargnok stood atop the battlements of the dilapidated and ancient fort looking out over the expanse of trees and grassy hills that was the county Alcoth, the most southern of Coalition districts. He could not see his approaching enemy, but he knew they were there. The Forest Elves moved through anything green as swift and silent as an adder over stone and they were coming for him – and those under his protection.
At the thought of his charges, Pargnok turned about to look down into the courtyard of the old holdfast. The busy movement of the small community of Alcoth made Forest Edge Fortress look like a bustling city. Goblins, Kobolds, Orcs like himself, several humans and even a young Elven couple all trying to keep themselves busy – and, for his and his men’s sake, helpful – in the shadow of what lay before them.
The reports had come in steadily to Pargnok’s superiors in the north – a large cadre of elven slavers from the Dark Forest had crossed the western border several days ago and was making its way slowly, but decisively for the small hamlet. Pargnok’s orders were clear: he was to take his mounted patrol directly to the fort and hold it until the fifth legion arrived (in give or take a week) to reinforce his position.
“I’ve never felt unchallenged,” Pargnok said wearily to no one in particular, “I’ll give them that.”
“No,” Grilcor, Pargnok’s 1st sergeant agreed, amused, from beside him. “Impossible seems to be the watchword of the Manticore.” He let out a light, tired chuckle and shook his head, looking down at the civilians milling about.
At the mention of the army’s symbol animal, Pargnok reflexively reached up to touch the Manticore claws that protruded from the top of his helmet. He remembered earning his by hunting the dangerous creature in the barren wastes of Glittersands far to the northwest. He remembered, too, the scar that the beast had given him from his neck to his navel. He wore both proudly.
“How many have returned?” Pargnok asked seriously, turning back to look out over the hills once again. He’d sent out fifteen mounted men when they’d first arrived at the fort to call in all the locals, three quarters of the force he’d brought with him. He hoped that one or more of his men wasn’t arguing with some narrow-minded farmer insisting on “holding his own” against the slavers.
“All but one,” Grilcor replied, now serious himself. “Trugmuk. We sent him southwest to some mining village called Stonetree. He should have returned by now, but he could have been slowed if the locals didn’t have mounts. The village is close to the border, though. I…” The sergeant was cut off by the sound of a long, mournful howl. Pargnok turned to the sound to see a worg riding in with a single small rider. It was not Trugmuk.
“Is that a child?” Grilcor asked confused as he leaned out over the battlements. Pargnok leaned out too and shaded his brow to block out the setting sun. Sure enough there was a child, a little goblin girl, on the wolf’s back. She seemed to be holding onto the worg’s mane for dear life.
“Open the portcullis!” Pargnok bellowed down into the courtyard. “Rider incoming!” Two of his men, an orc and a human, who had been standing at attention at the gate in question jumped into motion. They pulled on the large lever wheel next to the portal causing the portcullis to rise upward. A moment later the worg was through the portal and the two soldiers released their grip, letting it slam closed again.
Gasps and shocked exclamations were all that Pargnok could hear as he moved down the steps into the courtyard proper. Grilcor followed right behind, the butt cap of his war blade tapping on each stone step as they descended. When they reached the worg, one of the fort’s regular soldiers, a goblin that Pargnok thought was called Pushkin, was giving the exhausted animal some water.
“Well, this is definitely Trugmuk’s mount,” Grilcor affirmed, worried, nodding to Pargnok. The captain moved closer to the wolf to try to address the girl, who was still clinging to the animal’s mane tightly. It was then that he noticed the shock of red amongst the more neutral colors of the child’s attire.
“Healer!” Pargnok exclaimed loudly, as he approached the girl to examine her for any wound. When he got close enough to touch her, though, she looked up at him, her little yellow eyes filled with equal amounts of terror and grief. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight winters at most.
“It’s not my blood,” she whispered, frightened and sad, “It’s the nice army man’s.”