Tales of Darkmoon Vale
Ithilien's Journal 1
he orc warrior fell onto his back watching his newly severed arm twist and tumble through the air, only to land on the stony ground five feet away from where he fell. His right arm had been severed just below the shoulder, and although most of the wound was already cauterized from the bluish-white flame licking the blade of the sword which had dealt him this mortal wound, dark-red ichorous blood spewed forth from his severed brachial artery. The orc was not yet dead, but he no longer wanted to fight.
The paladin’s eyes burned as sweat trickled off his forehead. Was it sweat, or was it blood? He did not know, it did not matter. The acrid smell of burnt flesh rose up from the dead and dying bodies at his feet. It permeated the air, reached under his steel helm, and into his nostrils. The paladin breathed in the malodorous stench, and a perverse grin crept onto his face. He glanced down at his sword, Arnulad’s Grace, as the black blood stained upon its keen edge bubbled and boiled away under the heat of the blue-white flames of his patron lord’s vengeance, leaving the metal innocently untarnished.
The dim-witted orcs had actually conceived a well organized trap for he and his ranger companion, the paladin mused to himself. Well-organized, but poorly executed. They had been surrounded and attacked from all sides whilst orc archers peppered them from range. It took most of the divine healing energies at the paladin’s disposal for he and his companion to survive to this point.
With no enemy within reach of his sword, the paladin quickly looked around the battlefield for his companion. The elven ranger was surrounded by three orcs, one of which was the size of a bugbear and easily twice as heavy as any other orc the paladin had ever seen. It was the leader of the orc company, the cowardly beast had finally shown himself.
Within the span of a brief second, the circumstances of the last two weeks flashed through the paladin’s mind. He and the ranger had learned of a remote temple of Lumacien nestled in the foothills of Mount Glorimar along the Thandolier Plains, which had been savagely attacked by orc raiders. The orcs had killed all the adult inhabitants of the temple, but had taken all the temple’s children as slaves. They easily tracked the raiders to their hideout and learned there were at least two score of the foul creatures in the cave encampment. They waited until scouting parties left the cave, and one by one, attacked and killed the orcs within the scouting parties. Three separate parties had left the encampment, none had returned. When the heroes believed the numbers of orcs had dwindled enough, they decided to enter the possibly deserted cave encampment in hopes of finding the children. They were, in turn, ambushed themselves deep inside the seemingly abandoned cave complex.
Now most of the ambushing orcs laid dead at his feet. All that was seemingly left of the raiders were surrounding and killing his elven companion. The paladin immediately began to run across the span of fifty to sixty feet which separated him from the combatants. He knew that he had enough divine power left in himself for one more curing, but he had to reach his companion before the elf fell. The ranger was bleeding profusely from several grievous wounds, and with each passing second, his sword arm seemed to slow. As the ranger cut down one of the three remaining orcs, the paladin marveled at the elf’s skill with a sword. He knew how deadly he was with a bow, but never did he imagine that he would likewise be so skilled with a sword. The nimble ranger’s longsword plunged deeply into the chest of yet another orc. The elation the paladin felt was quickly drowned in horror… in the same instant that the orc was run through, the last orc, the lead orc, raised his great axe above his head and brought it down upon the ranger. The great two-headed axe cleaved the elf from his left shoulder blade down to the center of his torso. The elf’s lifeless body unceremoniously slumped down to the cold stone. The paladin stopped in his tracks as he watched his faithful companion fall. He solemnly whispered a quick prayer. “Farewell Dryden and may Andunai smile upon your soul noble ranger of the Tindor Forest… Never have I fought beside a more braver soul, nor a more deadlier bow…”
The orc chieftain turned and looked squarely at the paladin. The paladin could see clearly now that the gargantuan orc had not a single wound upon his body. The calm coldness of resolution swept quickly across the paladin’s mind… so this was how his life would end. Fear clenched his heart in its icy grip. It was not death that the paladin feared, he could not envision a better death for himself than to die here, surrounded by the fallen bodies of his enemies. Nay, it was the fear of failure which pulled incessantly at his resolve… the children… what would happen to the children now that he had failed in his quest. He called forth the last remaining remnants of divine energy within himself to heal his own battered body, the ranger no longer had any use for his healing. Even with the magical healing, the paladin knew he was still near death.
As the raging orc barbarian chieftain charged wildly at the paladin, he set his feet and readied himself. The paladin knew he could survive one, perhaps two hits from the monstrous humanoid bearing down upon him. He marked the orc chieftain as an enemy of Arnulad and called upon his patron lord for divine aid. He instantly felt holy magical energy surge throughout his body. His legs were less weary, his arms seemed faster and stronger, his flaming sword seemed less heavy. Still, the holy knight knew it was not enough to halt the inevitable… this was the last battle he would fight, the last enemy he would face in his liege’s name. And yet, he was filled with an unbelievable sense of peace and tranquility. Here at the end of his days, he was not alone… the divine power of his patron Ilad coursed through his veins. Alas, here in this cold dark cavern buried deep within the bowels of Mount Glorimar, Arnulad would be by his side when he fell.
The speed and rage of the charging barbarian snapped the paladin out of his reverie. The great two-bladed axe came down in an overhead downward swing, arcing directly at the paladin’s left shoulder, the exact same swing which had felled the brave elven ranger. The paladin raised his shield to block the axe, but even with the power of his god fueling divine strength into his arms, he was not fast enough to deflect the killing blow. The paladin waited for the shock of impact, the crackling sound of broken bone, the flashing pain of tearing flesh, and ultimately the coldness of unconscious oblivion. But it never came…. The blow somehow deflected off his shoulder plate as if pushed aside by an invisible unseen force to end it’s downward swing harmlessly to the left of the paladin. The orc’s eyes widened in confusion and disbelief, not understanding what mysterious force had deflected his perfectly-aimed killing blow. The paladin’s mouth widened into an incredulous grin… perhaps today was not the day, perhaps not…..