With most of the Drow players having fled the Underdark or quitting because of that bitch Kali, I didn’t expect we’d be hearing too much about the fallout from Amyaththalas anytime soon. Probably best to just forget about the whole thing, and pretend nothing ever happened, right?
Yeah, it was definitely going to come and bite me on the ass. I just hoped it wasn’t going to be anytime soon. I needed a vacation from my vacation!
Now that we were back in Lithaes, there was a lot to do. With the possibility of war looming as the lightsiders went and got their panties in a twist, we needed to prepare to fight. The castle had long been repaired, and its defenses improved upon even from what they were, thanks to the innovations of my dwarf and gnome slaves.
But those were fixed emplacements. If we needed mobile siege weapons, we were still woefully unprepared. Fortunately, Johnist had been exploring, because that’s what the man did, and had come across a rather interesting character that he had sent to me for an interview.
Mountain Ogre Male
Level 75 War Hulk (Barbarian) / Monstrous Bulwark (Fighter)
Titles: Defender, Kobold Golfer, Gnome Punter, Dwarf Splitter, Sexecutioner, Siegemaster
Cave Ogre Female
Level 75 Warcaster (Ogre Mage) / Hordesmasher Mage (Elementalist)
Titles: Monster Mage, Kobold Slayer, Human Bane, Hordebreaker, Blaster
Deep Ogre Male
Level 70 Farshot Master (Ranger) / Assassin (Rogue)
Titles: Siege Sniper, Human Bane, Orc Bane, Hidden Mountain
Sea Ogre Male
Level 73 War Priest (Priest) / Stormcaller (Lightning Mage)
Titles: Monster Priest, Dwarf Bane, Undead Bane, Doomhammer
Lavaborn Ogre Male
Level 74 Fist of the North Star (Monk) / Demonsoul (Warlock)
Titles: Monster Mage, Demon Binder, Elf Bane, Goblin Bane, Troll Bane
Half-Celestial Ogre Female
Level 75 Flamespear Huntress (Favored Soul) / Spearmaiden (Fighter)
Titles: Blessed of Hiatea, Human Bane, Goblin Bane, Troll Bane, Flametouched
It seems that Ashed started the game as a regular Ogre, but his own Trial of Ascension got him the Mountain Ogre race. He was ten feet tall, and would probably be over twelve if he wasn’t slightly hunched over. His arms could be mistaken for tree trunks if they didn’t have the grey, stony texture of mountain ogre skin. Moreover, he wasn’t just wearing a loincloth like most ogres, but had on a suit of freaking plate armor sized appropriately for him, and had a giant hammer and shield as his primary weapons, but I also saw a claymore that was at least eight feet long strapped to his back, for when an OGRE needed to use a two-handed weapon.
He also wasn’t alone. His company, the Disavowed, were all from different ogre tribes, but were exiles for one reason or another (usually involving them not wanting to be capriciously evil like most of their kind), and they had joined together to form a mercenary company. That, in itself, was enough to pique my interest, for a mercenary company of ogres, one that included ogre mages and healers as well as just fighters, was an impressive sight all on its own. The real kicker with these guys was that they were experts in siege warfare. As in, each one had a profession like Siege Engineer, Demolitionist, or the like. Need something blown up, or bombarded in the field? These were your guys.
Looking at Ashed, I chuckled, and said, “All right, your titles are pretty awesome. Defender and Siegemaster I can understand, given what you do, but what about the other ones? There has to be a story there, right?”
The other ogres laughed at that, and Ashed sighed, “Well, Kobold Golfer is cuz I took me hammer and smashed them. Only, they real tiny, you know? So sometimes I gots to swing down to hit them, instead of smash them into floor. But they small, so they go flying when hammer hit them. Ten times, and I gettin’ the title. I do extra damage with hammers against small-sized creatures or smaller now!”
“Same idea with the Gnome Punter. Gnomes are small, and they don’t shut up. So this one gnome was real annoying, and I kicked her. She went flying least twenty feet. Now I kick gnomes REAL far!”
I laughed, and said, “And the other ones, I know you gotta have a story for those, right?” I may have been wrong, but I swore I could see the ogre blush. But that might have been because his clan were laughing at him.
“Well, it like this. We took a job on the edge of the Hordelands, yeah? Dis dwarf, she see us at a nearby fort, and she been havin’ a bunch to drink. She heard da stories about how ogres are packin’ downstairs, and was drunk enough that she thought she could take it. An’ I was drunk enough that I thought it’d be a good idea.”
I tried to keep a straight face. Truly, I did, but that was just too damn funny. “So you ended up splitting a dwarf, huh? HA! HAHAHA! Oh, yeah, Ashed, that’s the funniest image I never wanted to think about and am going to have to drink at least a keg of ale to forget. You and your boys want a place to stay, and some work, the Aria of the Twilight is expecting trouble to be coming our way before too long. Lightsiders and humans getting their knickers in a twist about how I’m so horrible about things, and they’re trying to drag the elves into it because they haven’t had a dragon attack like the humans did. You think you’d like to make a name for yourself helping Aria defend the Wyrmwood against a whole bunch of human and lightside assholes who think they know best?”
Ashed looked at his crew, and chuckled. “Soundz like a fun fight, and not a bad cause. But ya know we’z mercenaries, so we’z gonna be needin’ coin before we go and sign on with either side. But you sign us, we don’t break contracts, no matter what the other side be offering.”
I looked the six ogres up and down, and said, “All right, I’m willing to offer the standard merc contract we drew up while we were in WoD. Aria will pay each of you a hundred gold a month for a retainer. You can go out, adventure, practice skills, or whatever, so long as you’re ready to roll when we give the call of the humans invading. If you have siege weapons that can be brought with us ready, that’d be great, and you’ll have the services of my dwarven blacksmith and gnome artificer to help make them as nasty as they can be. Equal share of raid loot when we divvy up spoils from any combat you guys are a part of. If you have gear that you need, or something you’d like made, we’ve got some of the best crafters in the game, just like when we were the Lords in WoD. As an ally and contractor of the guild, you get a special rate. 30% of the normal cost, plus the cost of any materials you don’t supply.”
Ashed smirked, and said, “You talk real good, but we know you pay more den dat. What you say, plus two thousand a week each for each week of da war once it starts.”
I chuckled, and shook my head slightly. “A thousand a week, total.”
“No, we go maybe fifteen hundred a week each, but we got expenses, and you know once the rocks start fallin, they’ll be lookin at the big ol’ ogres as da reason.”
I shrugged. “Fair enough. I’ll go as high as five hundred a week, each, and throw in a personal golem made by me personally for your party built from materials you provide to specifications as close as can be managed. Upkeep and maintenance of the golem is on you, however.”
THAT got a reaction out of them, and there was a brief huddle, before Ashed said, “One thousand a week each, and instead of de golem, you be teachin Uzig to make golems, so that we can use them as part of our fightin’. And the golems be fightin’ wit us, included in our contract.”
I considered that, and then nodded. “Done, but any others of your group who wish to learn the skill will have to pay for it, as they are not covered by the contract. Is that acceptable?”
Ashed nodded, and then he slammed one massive fist across his chest. “The Disavowed be ready to fight for ya, Zayn Darkmore. Point us at the enemy, and we break their walls and smash their heads.”
I chuckled, “All right, then. And if, during the fighting, you get the Human Splitter achievement, be sure to get a vid of it and share to the rest of us, yeah?” The rest of the ogres were laughing, and I was about to move on to the next bit of business when a messenger ran into my throne room.
It was an elf, wearing the livery of the royal family. He looked out of breath, as though he had run all the way from Mylenoris. Whatever it was, this had to be important. The messenger took a moment to catch his breath, and then said, “Sir Zayn Darkmore, Lord of Lithaes, Knight of the Wyrmwood, Master of the Aria of the Twilight, Consort of Mirelth and Chosen of Sharess, his Royal Majesty, Avourel Liarora, King of the Wyrmwood, Defender of the Realm, Lord of Light, Faithful of the Elf-Father, and Protector of the Innocent wishes to inform you that the humans of Ograin and the followers of the Tailong the Sun Dragon have declared a holy war upon the Wyrmwood for the supposed crime of harboring one who unleashed Mirelth upon the world, causing the devastation of Duskhaven. As liege lord of all who call the Wyrmwood home, King Liarora calls upon you and your guild to aid in the battle, with all the forces you can muster.”
I frowned. I had been expecting something of this sort, after the quests Mirelth had given me back in Amyaththalas, but so soon? That was beyond my expectation. I was suddenly quite glad to have the deal with the Disavowed completed already. Looks like war was coming sooner than later. Looking at the messenger, I said, “When and where is the King mustering his forces? I have many of my people afield, in dungeons and distant lands, and it will take some time to recall them.”
“The King is marshalling his forces at the Fields of Amhelin, one week from this day, and will sortie to meet the human armies at the border.”
I nodded sharply, and said, “Then listen, and bring my response to the King.”
Standing from my throne, I used a simple spell to project my voice to all of Lithaes. “HEAR ME, OH PEOPLE OF THE TWILIGHT! WAR HAS COME TO THE WYRMWOOD! IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, THE ELVES OF THIS LAND TOOK US IN, AND GAVE US A PLACE TO CALL OUR OWN. THEY LAID NO BOND OR COMMAND UPON US, OTHER THAN THOSE ASKED OF FRIENDS AND REQUIRED BY A RULER OF HIS LAND. NOW THOSE WHO FOOLISHLY CALL UPON THE LIGHT AS AN EXCUSE FOR THEIR FEAR AND HATRED HAVE TURNED THEIR BLADES UPON THE WYRMWOOD!”
“NOW IS THE TIME WHEN THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP ARE TESTED AND ARE BORN ANEW! NOW IS THE TIME WHEN TRUE HEARTS AND TRUE DEEDS SHINE THROUGH, EVEN THOUGH THEY BE DONE IN THE DARKEST NIGHT, AND THOUGH THE HAND THAT GUIDES THEM BE DRENCHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE FALLEN! NOW IS THE TIME WHEN ALL WHO WOULD TRY TO TAKE FROM US THAT WHICH WE HAVE FOUGHT FOR LEARN THE TRUE MEANING OF FEAR!”
“ARIANS, ARISE! YOU ARE CALLED TO BATTLE, TO WAR! LET ALL THOSE CAPABLE OF FIGHTING TAKE UP ARMS! BLADES SHALL BE BLOODED, SPEARS SHALL BE SHIVVERED, SHIELDS SHALL BE SHATTERED, BUT WE WILL FIGHT! LET ALL WHO RIDE AGAINST US KNOW FEAR! FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES, FOR THEIR VERY SOULS!”
“WE ARE THE ARIA OF THE TWILIGHT, THE TRIUMPHANT SONG THAT HERALDS THE FALL OF THE DARKEST NIGHT AND THE RISE OF A NEW DAY! THERE IS NO SURRENDER, NO RETREAT! VICTORY OR DEATH! FOR ARIA! FOR THE WYRMWOOD!”
As the people cheered, I stepped down from the dais, and put one hand on the messenger’s shoulder. “Go, and tell the King that the Aria of the Twilight will stand with him, and make the humans regret ever being born that they should have lived to challenge the Wyrmwood.”
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Be sure to read my published works!
Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37
Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):
Volume 1 - Tutorial https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y
City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1
Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):
Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BB34DHF
The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T