“By the sacred name of Marr… there are so many of them!”
Kyruk stood atop the gate and surveyed the carnage below. The Rallosian Army seemed endless, extending as far into the swamp as his eyes could see. Over the last few years the ogres had sent many raiding parties into Innothule, but nothing close to this.
Captain Gormuk signaled his archers to fire another volley at the Rallosian cavalry and turned to his friend. “Numbers do not matter, for these devils have no honor in their hearts. They will fall as other invaders have.”
Kyruk shook his head. “I do not think honor will be enough this day. They will soon breach the walls of Gukta and enter the city. If they reach the hatchery?”
“No!” croaked Gormuk, firing an arrow of his own. “Do not think such things! Marr will preserve us as he always has!”
Kyruk chanted an incantation and gestured. Comets of ice rained down from his webbed fingers onto the ogres below. But for every ogre that fell, it seemed three more took its place.
“The tunnels, Gormuk! You must order the constables to gather the eggs and take the civilians into the tunnels, or all will be lost.”
The captain fired more arrows, muttering a prayer with each. The ogres brought catapults to the front of their ranks as their mages summoned huge spheres of flame to launch at the walls. Gormuk could see the fight slipping away from them. “We have fought long and hard for this place. So many battles with the trolls… so much bloodshed. How can we just abandon it? How can we do that to the one who gave us his sacred blessing?”
Kyruk cast bolts of lightning at the ogre wizards, but they were shielded from his attack. “This is just a place, Gormuk. The swamp will preserve us and we will grow strong again. But to stay would be prideful, and such pride brings dishonor. If they stay in the upper tunnels the civilians can safely reach Guk, and the Rallosians will not be able to bring their war machines inside its narrow passageways. There we can make a stand.”
Gormuk shot more arrows, but his efforts were futile. The ogres kept coming, and more and more fallen frogloks lined the battlefield. The catapults fired, sending huge globes of flame crashing into the city walls, setting them ablaze.
The captain turned and shouted to the guards below. “Go to the council and tell them that we cannot hold the wall! You must take the eggs and hatchlings into the tunnels. Gather all the civilians and guide them to Guk. We’ll seal the tunnels behind you.”
The guards saluted and rushed to obey the captain. Gormuk turned to Kyruk. “The elders say some dark power has arisen in the depths of Guk. I pray they are wrong, and that the ancient citadel will protect our people.”
“It’s the right thing to do, Gormuk. On my oath to Marr, we will hold these monsters back and give our people the time they need to escape.”
“We will do more than that!” shouted Gormuk. “The swamp will flow with ogre blood this day!”
Gormuk fired more arrows down at the Rallosians, then dropped his bow and unsheathed his sword. “Make sure the tunnels are sealed, my friend!” With one mighty leap he jumped from the top of the wall down to the battlefield below. He threw back his head and let loose a mighty croak. “For Marr!” He charged into the fray and swung his blade back and forth, cutting a swath into the ogre battle line.
“Gormuk, fall back!” cried Kyruk, casting a protective spell upon the captain. But Gormuk charged into the endless ranks of the ogres and disappeared from view.
“Your sacrifice will not be in vain, old friend.” Kyruk wove his strongest spell and unleashed all his power onto the ogres below. The Rallosians drew closer to the wall as the catapults launched again. Kyruk gasped and whispered a swift, fleeting prayer.
“Where are the rest of them?”
“We are not sure, General. The hatchery has been emptied, and we can find no trace of the civilians. They just seem to be? gone.”
Urduuk dismounted and walked over to the sergeant, fixing his gaze upon him. “Gone? Gone?” Urduuk clenched his mailed fist and shot it forward, crushing into the jaw of his subordinate. The ogre crumpled to the ground, as much from intimidation as from the blow itself.
The general turned and surveyed the burning rubble that had been Gukta. “I ordered you to wipe all trace of these abominations from this wretched swamp, and yet somehow they managed to escape. How? And more importantly, to where?”
A burly ogre stepped forward and saluted the general. “I swear to you that they did not break our line, sir. But whether through magic or some form of trickery, I believe there is only one place they would go. Back to Guk, to the ancient tunnels they once called home.”
Urduuk considered the junior officer’s words a moment. “Yes, of course. The frogloks would seek the only safety they could find. You, lieutenant, what is your name?”
“Danarg, my lord.”
“Lieutenant Danarg, gather your soldiers and go to the mouth of Guk. Take them into the tunnels and cleanse that cursed place of the froglok pestilence once and for all. Do not emerge until this duty is done. Am I clear?”
Danarg saluted again. “I will not fail you, General.” He turned and motioned for others to follow him.
Urduuk climbed atop his steed and addressed his troops. “As planned, the rest of you shall divide into two wings. Those of you who bear the mark of Tallon will secure Innothule and move northward to rendezvous with our orc allies in Southern Ro. Those of you who bear the mark of Vallon will ride with me to the Feerrott and prepare to take the Mountains of Rathe.”
One of Urduuk’s advisors drew close to him. “General, the Arm of Vallon incurred heavy losses in the taking of Gukta. They need reinforcements.”
Urduuk nodded. “We will enter the Temple of Thule and add the forces of Fear to our ranks. They will make a useful addition to our army.”
“But General, the Amygdalan were unwilling to join with us before. What will change their minds now?”
“Their minds are irrelevant, for they serve a weak and silent god. They will join us or I will destroy their crumbling temple and shatter the Fear gate.”
Urduuk signaled his legion to march westward. He knew his troops had a taste for conquest and they would quickly grow hungry for more. “The Avatar was right,” he said to himself as he rode toward the Feerrott. “This world will soon be ours.”