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"Loyalties Divided"

A Tale of Stoneheart the Slayer

A Darkestorme Short Story by Jaffa Holland

loyalties divided

Reeling from his battle with a legendary dragon, Stoneheart discovers he has become more than he once was...

~

Valon had not felt the deep terror of Dragon’s breath for nearly 200 years, Dragons the mighty flying lizards had retreated to their nests and none had troubled Ureke in living memory, then in the darkness Ureke had been set light. The watch were taken by surprise and as the barracks burned scores of Dwarfs, Men and even some Elves were burned alive their remains devoured by a combination of flame and the Dragon’s hunger. The attack took the whole north by surprise, but even as the north woke to the smell of burning flesh and crying children looking for lost parents. A second night of terror many hundreds of miles to the south hit the human city of Karter. Karter the city of rivers and trade. Thousands of cattle and sheep destroyed, river boats smashed the pens burned. It was as if the Dragon was doing the work of an army.

The name and deeds of the great Dragon slayer Kazaung were told and retold and each time the tale became even more grand in the telling. The new king and both the old kings and were called to gather their armies to search out this black Dragon. The edict however, did not stop there. Fuelled by fear it was not just an order to hunt the one Dragon that has caused the damage but all Dragons and destroy them all. It was not long before many also whispered about the gold and precious gems that Dragons horded.

I am know by many names, I prefer Stoneheart, but the name that most know me by is Flesh-Eater the Truth Slayer and I carry with me the mighty Warhammer Deceit, I have now followed the path of my father and slain a Dragon. What should have been the crowning moment in my life is filled with the hollow knowledge that a demon was trying to possess the mighty beast and that it had let me kill it. I had though been badly burned during the meeting and my scars now glowed blue, my mind seemed to be full of strange images. It was as though I could still feel the Dragon was alive and images, flashes from its long life, burned in my mind.

Before me sat a human girl, as I looked upon her I wondered how could this creature be the Dragons daughter - a memory flashed, one of mine I think - I had promised to protect this creature disguised in human form. She was tall for what I could see, slim with long red hair with a stark black streak.

“Stoneheart,” she said to me,  “my name is Leathkind. I give this to you willingly for I trust you. Knowing my name gives you power over me. My father asked, and you accepted, that you will be my protector until I am strong enough to fight the rat demon king. You need to forge new armour from my father’s hide. You need to do it before the next moon sets or the armour will not protect you from Dragon’s fire. You also need to meld it with your own armour for although Dragons armour will protect you from Dragon fire it is not strong against normal weapons.  I know that you are finding this a hard situation to understand but you must listen to me. Within you, through the greatest of our magic, is our history. My father was the lore keeper of that history. This is why the Demon tried to take his body before his natural time of passing. I was meant to take on his role but not for ten more years. I walk as a human so that I can try and change the hearts of men and stop our slaughter. We are the longest lived of all creatures but our numbers grow few.

“A great plan was set in motion over two hundred years ago. It was to take us away from the realms of men, for a great change is coming, one that will likely destroy our race if nothing is done. The plan would see us seeking out magic that would help us change and enable us to survive what people will call the Time of Annulment. Now the great Grangren has been taken over by the rat demon and all our work is undone. Dwarf and man unite to wipe out our race. You have to stop him although I say this with great sadness as he is the mightiest of our kind.”

I spoke through gritted teeth, “My hammer can call out this demon and show the forces of the demon control over Grangren, maybe there can be a way for dwarfs and men to leave you in peace but I drought this will ever be. I think that your kind will always be hunted, that other lands far away need to be searched out across the sea.”

Leathkind advised over the next few hours that her kind were nearly ready to move that they had created safe places where they had been raising their young, there numbers have been growing slowly but growing, different colour Dragons had returned and their magic had increased with each new birth. With Grangren attacks all the hard work was jeopardised. The rat people wanted a war, they wanted to see all Dragons destroyed as Dragons had been fighting there kind for as long as they had known that they were creatures of chaos that wanted to see war between all races that never ends.

As she spoke, images of wars upon wars flew into my brain, I knew that she spoke the truth for Deceit detected no lies from her, my course was set, it was time to head out and kill the demon that had taken hold of the mighty black Dragon, that if possible to do this in plain sight of the races of the world. First though I had to forge armour, Dragon armour. I had no forge but there was a large fire pit that I could heat my chainmail in to accept the Dragon scales. This was to prove much harder and grimmer a task then I had first thought. First I had to cut scales from the corpse of my charges father, then the binding of metal to scale failed and failed again, it was a full week before I managed to create a suitable set of armour.

Leathkind agreed to travel with me, although nervous as she had not yet come to have much in the way of power, although she could change into a red Dragon and fly if necessary from harm. We left each with our own thoughts for although I was somehow now connected to Dragon kind. I found this melding of minds unnatural and wanted rid of this quest. Deep within my red mist was fighting the Dragon lore and I was feeling if my mind was on the brink of being lost.

We journeyed for six weeks, the scale of destruction shocked me, it seemed that every village and town had suffered some attack of some sort. It seemed that it was not just the great black Dragon that plagued the lands but also strange beasts had come at night and set fire to store houses, winter was only but weeks away, this year would be very harsh indeed. It also seemed that the different clans were fighting each other but one seemed to know why. Although it did seem that the Dragon had gathered to it an army near the northern city of Drogran. I knew the way, it would take but three weeks of hard marching to reach.

The journey was uneventful, my leg hurt as I was not used to a forced march but Leathkind seemed to be able to find us game every night and if I am honest I had rarely eaten so well while out in the open. As we reached Drogran a vast battle was underway, it did not seem to have any leadership it just seemed to be different tribes of different races mindlessness hitting each other. The loss of life was staggering.

There sitting on a great heap of bodies was the great Grangren, I could feel its hate and I could tell from my war hammer that a demon held sway over Grangren.  My body began to burn, a blue glow rose from my body, I called out to Grangren, some part of the mighty Dragon responded to its name, as Leathkind had advised knowing a Dragons name was to have power over it.

The black beast took to the sky and fast as an arrow shot at me, screaming all the way, I was bathed in fire, the land was blackened with the intense heat, my armour held, I ran at the beast as it came down to bite me in half I hit it as hard as I could with Deceit, I felt like my mind and body would explode, the lie of the demon hidden within a living beast was nearly too much for me to bear.

I staggered and lashed out again, a great scream of pain came from the beast, but as the smoke cleared a mighty rat stood where a very wounded Dragon lay. “So you dare to call me out, I will make you pay Dwarf I will ensure that your race is the first to be destroyed”. The dead started to get to their feet, a vast undead host had been created by the demon. “Everybody that falls makes my army stronger for I am the bringer of chaos”. Those that were still standing charged into the undead host. I charged the Demon, we fought toe to toe. Hit after hit was matched. Deceit and my armour saved me, along with the shard of star berried within my chest, the magickes that were directed at me would have destroyed any other that had not been cursed by that fallen star. Then a look of shock registered on the demons face as a spike pierced its back and came out through its chest. Leathkind had gathered the dying energies of the mighty black Dragon and transformed into a red/black Dragon, the spike was a talon. I struck again with Deceit and in a blink of an eye and a sound like a clap of thunder the demon had disappeared. The dead army collapsed and the corpses stayed dead.

A great gathering was called and all the races that had been at the battle agreed that the Dragon had been nothing more than a puppet, that the records would be made clear that the Dragons had not played a willing part in the destruction that had Leathkind not intervened then a vast army of the dead would have wrought much destruction across all the lands. With much reluctance the empty Dwarven mines of Hazadkar to the extreme North was to be given over as a place of safety. Although should Dragons come forth and reek destruction this right to dwell would be taken away.

For my part I wanted nothing but to be left alone, this was not to be for I still held the Dragon lore and it had to be passed down to Leathkind, this took over ten years and involved me having to reside at Hazadkar. Other tales of violence did take place in this time, but against those green skins that lived deep in the mines. A tale for another time...

~

Stoneheart's tale will continue here on Orcs in the Webbe in 2016 as The Time of Annulment draws even closer...

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Webmaster's Notes

The above short story is an Orcs in the Webbe original and was first published on December 6th 2015 as part of the 2014 Advent Calendar.

Jaffa is a long time friend and ex-house mate of mine who has been my opponent in many battles of Flintloque and Darkestorme. I hope you enjoyed this tale featuring his character, Stoneheart, here on OITW as much as I did.