The Swarming in the Dark V – Bright Swords and Dark Counsels

Orsog hurled himself from a hillock and plunged into the horde of waiting goblins. His sword cleaved one in twain and left gashes on several more. The hellspawn clumped together in battle, swarming over their

Orsog hurled himself from a hillock and plunged into the horde of waiting goblins. His sword cleaved one in twain and left gashes on several more. The hellspawn clumped together in battle, swarming over their enemies. Such tactics cost them many lives as Orsog’s sword rose and fell, broad strokes wounding or killing several at once.
Markos, his Asentic companion, came rushing in behind him, shoving the clawing crowd back with his square shield. His companion’s short sword thrust into the guts of goblin after goblin. They worked as a team, Orsog plowing into the masses before them and cutting a furrow Markos worked hard to keep open. But no matter how many fell before their blades, more foes came scrambling in.

“Where are the others?” Markos yelled above the din.

Orsog’s head whipped right and left. The screams of dying men sounded above the croak, rasp, and cackle of their killers. Those screams were fewer than before and cut off quickly.

“Dead!” the barbarian answered. He turned and whirled his blade in a great arc, beheading a goblin at Markos’s flank and tearing open the shoulder of the one crouched behind it. “Back to the woods!”

Had the order come from anyone else, Markos would have thought him mad. The whole region was forest, but none of it was thick enough for cover. Just broad avenues between towering pines. But because it was Orsog who commanded, Markos obeyed.

Another half-dozen of the amphibious creatures died before the humans made it out of the pressing crowd. Another score was coming from the left to flank Markos, but Orsog rushed past and gave them pause in the form of flashing steel and splashing blood. Then the pair of survivors were sprinting again, back up the hillock they had flown down, then along a narrow gulch and up the side of a ridge.

Markos was a fast runner by anyone’s standards, but Orsog was a jungle panther. The hulking barbarian flew over gullies and rivulets with ease, twisted around tree and boulder without effort, and seemed to run up hills even more swiftly than he covered flat ground. The legionnaire had trouble keeping up.

At last the war cries of the goblins behind them receded. At some point in their swift passage up and down the hills and between the banks of twisting creeks, their pursuers had lost them and drifted north of their course. Orsog stopped and motioned for Markos to catch his breath. As their heartbeats slowed, the barbarian spoke.

“Listen, Markos. I was wrong. This is not a wandering clan from the north.”

“If it was, they would be better armed.”

The big man grinned. “You have a mind as well as an eye. Yes, they would have their own blades, not scavenge our dead for weapons. And there were two clans working together. If that second had more than claws, we would be dead.”

“You think they surprised the others?”

“I do.” Orsog grimaced. “And that swarm was big enough to overwhelm our brothers by sheer numbers. But you and I cannot raise the dead. Let us speak of the future.”

Markos grunted. “We need to make it back. Warn the prefect.”

“Can you do it alone?” the barbarian asked. “I have a journey to make. I may be able to find where they came from.”

Markos shrugged. “I can. Where should I say you went?”

“You shouldn’t. I gain my knowledge from sources the prefect cannot be seen allied to. Do you understand?”

Markos’s heart skipped a beat. Did Orsog mean to go among the wild Volaki? Where else in this trackless waste could he go? It was death for Asentic men to go there. Would a Rendic barbarian find himself any more welcome?

“Yes, brother,” he said. “Gods go with you.”

To Be Continued…

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