20. Forsaken Gods

- 12:01 am

“Not even the gods know what fate has in store for us ….  
And I am just beginning to understand what possibilities are opening up for me …  
But one thing is certain: we WILL meet again …”  

With these words, the new avatar of Beliar performed an teleportation spell. Sparks flew around and Xardas disappeared from the captain’s cabin of the Esmeralda in a dazzling light. The teleport took a lot of energy, as it transported him back to the mainland, directly into his new tower in the icy slopes of the north. But he arrived, albeit somewhat debilitated, still struggling with his newfound power. He clutched his head, closed his eyelids, and heard … something speak to him. Something familiar.  

He had to get into his new summoning chamber quickly, meditate, and keep control of the voice. As of yet, his summoned servants had not completed his new tower, but with his newfound power, not only would the construction of his new home speed up, but so would his plans.  

Two weeks later:  

“Explain to me again, great Kan, why do we conduct our war council in the language of the filthy Morras?”  Kan heaved a deep sigh, the orc straightening his right shoulder plate before raising his voice, “If this land is to be ours, Varek, we cannot do without the humans. Learning their language will ensure our survival.”  
Varek grumbled in response but remained silent. He was already unhappy about holding such an important war council in the Innostemple of the human city of Geldern, let alone in the language of its natives. A large round table, at which the participants sat, was brought inside the temple. The latter was still adorned with gilded pillars, tables, the gold plates of the city and other priceless artifacts and valuables.  
Other warlords, as well as shamans of the council murmured or made similar sounds to Varek.  
Kan began to speak again, this time, however, a threatening undertone graced his statement, “Do you have something to say to me, Varek?!”
“No, great Kan.”, Varek quickly announced.  
“Good, in that case we can continue. As I said before, working together with the Morras, who have come to see our victory, will ensure our survival. Otherwise, even after our victory over the filthy rebels, there will always be insurgents. And killing all Morras is not a solution either, as much as that might disappoint you. And as we have seen in the cities, there are enough Morras who were dissatisfied with their puppet king and called for a strong leader. And also, for an end to the war.This is our chance.”, Kan turned his with a look to one of his warlords, “Umbrak, speak.”  
Umbrak rose and replied, “Now that we have the Morras’ settlements in the western and midlands regions in our hands, it is time for the castle the Morras call ‘Faring’ to fall. A second pass to Northmar and a way to the king of the feeble Morras is thus open to us. There is only one problem …”  
Kan growled audibly, “I can’t have any more problems, Umbrak. Speak! What is this problem?”
“Faring is a paladin castle built on the mountain of this Morra village. That’s why our first attack failed.”  
“I don’t want explanations, I want SOLUTIONS!”  
“With solutions I can serve, orc.”, a new voice chimed into the room. Every single orc in the room jumped to their feet and grabbed a weapon.
“KROTAKH JABARTH!”, some of them yelled, before the eyes of the orcish council turned to the older man in the black robe.  
Xardas slowly strode closer to the council as the orcs pointed their weapons menacingly at him, only to be stopped by Kan:
“Wait! … Who are you, Morra?! And why are you in my war council? SPEAK! Before I have you smashed to pieces!” he growled.
Xardas’ lips curled, his voice pausing in a calm tone as he retorted, “I am here to make you an offer. I have the means to assist you in your endeavor, orc.”  
“What could YOU offer me that I don’t have to win this fight, Morra?”  
“Hmmm,” Xardas smirked. “You have surely heard of the rune magic that humans rely on, especially those vain fire mages and paladins? The same magic that keeps your armies at bay, far from the king and his closest henchmen?”  
Kan nodded slowly, grumbling impatiently.  
“What if this rune magic was no longer a factor?” continued Xardas. “Their entire foundation would collapse, like a crumbling old house. And your path would be free and untroubled.”  
“Why should I believe you, Morra? Who’s to say you’re not lying to me? Why would you want to help me? Why would you betray your own people?”  
“I am not betraying them. I am merely bringing the war to a quick end. Your shamans themselves will recognize the power I bear within me. Furthermore, for my service to the orcish people, I ask for a favor from them.”  
“What kind of favor?”  
“We shall come back to that. Now, however, prepare your attack on Faring.”  
“Wait, Morra …”  
“Do you want to come outvictorious or do you not?!”, Xardas raised his voice.  
“Of course, we want that, but …”  
Xardas interrupted the orc leader gruffly, “Then do not question my words again, orc. Attack the castle and you will be victorious.”  
With those words, the former supreme fire mage teleported out of the room, leaving behind confused, irritated war leaders and a pensive Kan.  
After a few moments of silence, Umbrak spoke up, “Great Kan … You’re not going to tell this Morra …”  
Kan did not let him finish, “Prepare the attack. We are going to Faring. With or without the help of this Morra. Gather ALL the troops that are available. We’ll attack from both sides this time.” 

1 week later:  

“ALARM! ORKS!” roared the guard from the battlements to the castle courtyard. Hastily, countless paladins and knights, runestones in hand, gathered on the battlements and watched as an armada of orcs with their heavily armed mercenaries passed through the village and simultaneously streamed through over the pass to Nordmar. The outpost to the icy lands had already fallen.  
The simple inhabitants they left alone, but whoever stood in their way was mercilessly cut down.
The warriorsof Innosdid not wait any longer to counter this with their paladin magic and ordinary projectiles from their crossbows and bows. But the orcs and their mercenaries also turned their archers against the defenders and a skirmish broke out.  
“We need more SHOOTERS here! Bring me more-…”, one of the paladins did not bring out any more than these words before he was killed by a bolt and fell down the defense wall.  
“GOOD SHOT, CONNOR!” shouted one of the mercenaries to the deadly archer.  
Suddenly, a bright, shining light appeared, stopping the fighting. Sparks flew around and from the smoke that appeared, he stepped out.  
“Isn’t that …?”  
Xardas strode forth with a red glowing spell, resembling moreof a light in his right hand, and went up the path to the locked down and fortified castle. Neither any of the paladins, nor any of the orcs and their mercenaries dared to oppose or attack him, until he finally disappeared again in a cloud of light at the foot of the stairway to the lattice.  
One of the paladins then, without hesitation, continued the attack … only to realize that nothing cameout of his runestone. He frowned, “What the …?”  
Gradually, the other paladins also realized that they could not cast their spells. Some began to take mana potions in desperation, but even this was to no avail.  
“MEN, GET READY- ARGHHH!” one of the paladins groaned as he was struck down by the first orc to break through the now broken-downgate. He was not to be the last on this fateful night.  

Kan fought his way through the entrance area of the castle courtyard with his troops and watched as his fighters stormed the rest of the castle, obliterating the defenders one by one. While his men were busy conquering and looting the castle, Xardas appeared before the warlord’s eyes once again.  
“I have kept my word. Rune magic will no longer seem to be a factor in your conquest,” spoke the dark mage. “Now it is your turn, Kan Ork.”  
“You have truly kept it. The orcish people will thank you for it. Speak, what kind of favor do you require, what do you demand?”  
“Nothing that would not be in your interest anyway. There are a certain number of artifacts I want you to find for me, …”  

By Gregox