A warrior of great renown returns to his homelands after many years to find that much has changed, largely for the worse. (Open for collabs, I wrote it a long time ago and wasn't planning on finishing myself)
It was a peaceful, even serene day in the forests of Kennaret. The trees sprawled over large rolling hills and hugged the shores of lazy rivers and babbling books. A lonely rugged traveler thought himself the only presence disturbing the forest’s quiet beauty as he rode down a beaten trade path atop a proud white horse. It was worn and rutted by the travel of many wagons over many summers, weaving this way and that, taking him around most difficult hills and through the shallowest sections of the creeks and brooks. The forest’s allure almost lulled him into complacency, as he listened only to the singing of birds and the rhythmical rippling of the brooks. The flowers were in full bloom, providing even further distraction with their bright blossoms decorating the dense foliage in a very picturesque way.
The rider did not appear at first glance to be out of the ordinary, wearing an unremarkable white tunic and brown pants, and a pair of large brown saddlebags on either side of his steed. He looked from a distance as any normal tradesman would, simply riding from one small village to another. But at close examination one might notice his hard gray eyes, betraying knowledge of hardships many have never seen. Light scars crisscrossed over his exposed forearms and calloused knuckles, mementos of battles won and friends lost. His hair was black, but had begun to go gray as seasons passed. His chin was bore the stubble of a new beard, a growth resulting in a few days of hard travel and little time for shaving. Altogether he presented an aura of calm danger, controlled and cautious. But for now, he was lost in memories and the bliss of returning home.
The traveler began to smile as he spurred his mount down the trail. Oh, how I have missed my land, he thought. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Almost as soon as the thoughts formed in his head however, his horse threw its head in the air and gave an angry warning neigh.
“What is it, boy?” The man spoke quietly, suddenly alert and searching the forest with his eyes. He dismounted and quietly walked his horse off the trail into cover behind a few thick ash leaf bushes. After whispering his stay command to his steed, he crept back to the trail to find the source of the disturbance.
He could hear a band approaching from around a sharp bend in the trail, hindering his line of sight. Whoever they were, they wore chain mail. The way their armor clinked also told him that they were not mounted. It was simply a foot patrol. But why would Shadowbane be alarmed at a simple patrol of soldiers? He thought. If anyone besides he himself were accustomed to soldiers and war, it was his horse.
As the patrol drew nearer, he remained hidden, and soon found the answer to his question. He could smell the band before he could see them, and it was the strong odor of death and rot that told him what he needed to know. Orcs. The man’s eyes lit with rage. There were no orcs in this land, not inhisland. He sped back to his horse and opened his large leather pack. Gently, he unfolded his prize possession, his war sword, from its leather coverings. It gleamed in the filtered sunlight of the forest, beckoning him to wield it. He obliged gladly. It was an odd looking sword as swords go, curving along its back as if for no reason but decoration, and sporting much more mass than one would think it needed. Its color itself was interesting, bearing the reddish hue of some unknown ore. Runes decorated the lower half of the blade on either side of its flat, probably some indication of its purpose. The man himself did not truly know its origin, having won it in battle and finding it quite useful in the years since.
After a seconds pause, he considered his armor, still neatly packed and cleaned. The man decided he had neither the time nor need for it. The steel would only slow him down in the close quarters of the wagon trail.
The orc patrol, five strong, turned the bend in the trail, lost in their own argument in their guttural tongue. They wore ragged chain mail stained with blood and dirt and bore jagged weapons decorated similarly. Their skin ranged from light green to almost black amongst the five of them. They were humanoid in form, a cruel mockery of mankind shrouded in hideous evil. Their noses were hook shaped, their ears overlarge and both were pierced in several places by brass rings and spikes. The worst was their eyes, all black and nearly always framed by a hideous scowl. The patrol overall was disgusting and ragtag, as all orc outfits seemed wont to be.
The man stepped out onto the trail in front of them, blocking their path. His sword trailed behind him as he strode swiftly toward them. Initially the monsters were surprised at his sudden appearance and approach, but they regained composure upon the realization that the foolish human was alone and unarmored. After a bark from their leader (the ugliest one, no doubt, with the most brass rings in his head) they drew their weapons and assumed awkward fighting stances.
The man halted, his sword down, its tip almost touching the ground. He pointed at the leader orc, his face stone and his voice serious. “What business have you here in my land?”
“*This fool seeks to reason with us,*” The scowling, disfigured orc laughed, speaking in the repulsive tongue of his people. The orc language was one of throaty clicks and barks, hard to interpret and even harder to speak. “*We will kill him and take his pretty sword.*” The other orcs howled their approval, smiling wickedly.
The man scowled, his eyes hard as granite, and spoke again, this time, surprisingly, in the orc tongue. “*What business have you here in my land? Tell me and I may make your death merciful and clean.*”
Dumbfounded that the man spoke their tongue, the fool orcs looked at each other for a moment and simply charged in to attack. The man grunted and dug his feet into the ground, judging the distance between himself and the orc party. Twenty five yards, he decided. With lightning fast speed, he launched himself into the air and came down violently amongst the orcs. His landing shook the ground, throwing four of the orcs from their feet in a hail of sundered earth and wind. The fifth, the leader, was not quite so fortunate. The hideous creature bore the brunt of the warrior’s attack and was cleft in two by the wicked red sword.
Only two of the four other orcs ever had time to regain their footing. The warrior was a blur amongst them, hacking and slashing at a blindingly fast clip. Onlyoneorc remained alive thirty seconds into the foray. He lay upon his back, looking up at the furious human who had his boot planted firmly across his throat.
“*One more time*,” the man growled. “*What the hell are you doing in my land?*”
The daft orc’s only response was a green spit projectile. A split second later his head rolled free of his body, liberated by a swift red blur.
The warrior shrugged his shoulders as he surveyed the carnage strewn about him, examining the dead orcs for information. All were wearing a uniform black cloak bearing a wolf insignia. Spitting a small amount of blood off to his side, the man kneeled and tore the wolf from one of the orcs cloaks. With a disgusted look he rolled it and stuck it in one of his belt pouches.
Standing up, he stretched to his full height and inspected his sword. Once again, it had served him well, and bore no damages from his fight. His clothes were ruined from the fight however, not from damage but from foul orc blood. The dark fluid had drenched his white tunic and smattered his pants. Nothing can get that smell out, he thought as he pulled off his disgusting tunic, discarding it on the forest floor. The pants he left on for modesty’s sake until he could find a suitable stream to bath in and get into some different, preferably less bloody, clothing.
Upon inspecting his sword, he noticed in his reflection a small amount of blood on his chin, a result of having to endure one blow during his fight with the orcs. As a younger man, he thought,I would’ve escaped completely unscathed. But alas, if all old age has cost me is one glancing blow against five orcs I should not readily complain.
He removed the his riding glove from his right hand, pushed his hand through his graying, unruly dark hair, and wiped the blood from his strong scarred chin. The man had a hard, lined face, one that was accustomed to frowning more than anything else. During his many years walking the earth, he had seen more war than peace by far, and this scene was nothing new to him.
“What the hell are all of you even doing here?” he wondered aloud, glancing down at the orc bodies around him. These orcs are too close to civilization by far, and organized under one banner no less, he thought warily. He immediately regretted not letting the last one go free for tracking purposes. The fool could’ve led me to their camp.
The warrior walked over to where he had hastily dismounted before his encounter and gently rubbed the neck of his great white stallion.
“Nothing ever really changes, does it my friend?” Reaching into his saddlebag he produced a sugar cube, and offered it to his steed. “That’s to make up for not letting you in on the fun, Shadowbane.”
Within minutes the grizzled warrior was back on his steed and traveling down a worn trade path. It had been a very long time since he had set foot upon his homeland, and he was now very worried about its current state. Little word had reached him of any troubles in Kennaret, but he knew perhaps best of all that no news was certainly not always good news.