After the Fall

Interlude: A Gathering Storm

The stench of death hung in the air. Cecily wrinkled her nose as she picked through the battlefield, picking arrows out of corpses and looking for signs of life. A guttural, hacking cough drew her attention and she approached the sound carefully. It was an orog – the huge orc was lying on its back, blood from many wounds pooled beneath it and its gleaming blue steel armor rent asunder by crossbow bolts. Somehow the brute was still breathing, and its hand twitched as if it wanted to push itself up. Cecily walked forward and brought her blade up. The orog stared balefully at her from beneath jagged blue tattoos. Then it spoke, in guttural Common, face contorting in hatred. “Puny elfling. Those chosen by the storm will sweep over you like a … rain of fire. All your weapons and magic will be futile … against the might … of the chosen. Death will come … to … you all.” The orog trailed off, gurgling as its throat filled with blood. Cecily lowered her blade as the orog’s shallow breathing stopped. A shiver went down her spine, chilled by a westerly wind that blew her hair across her face.

Many leagues away, horns sounded at the edge of a great plain. The marching army stopped, drawing to a halt as the blast of the horns faded away. An eerie silence swept over the plain in the horns’ wake, as rank upon rank of savage warriors waited expectantly for the next signal. Barbaric orcs held the line, the largest among them bearing banners with the sigil of a jagged blue lightning bolt. Brutish ogres waited, sunlight gleaming on plates of crude armor and massive spiked shields. And towering above all of these, lumbering giants cast fitful glances around, watching the smaller creatures for their cue to act. But one by one, the giants’ gaze was drawn to the horde’s implacable foe: a massive forest, stretching east as far as the eye could see.

The giants’ shadows reached out towards the forest in the light of the setting sun, which gleamed against the leaves and branches of the mighty trees. Then, finally, the army spotted a glimpse of movement at the forest’s edge. A lone figure emerged, in a rough cloak of muted greens and browns. It leaned on a gnarled staff as it slowly made its way out towards the waiting host. At the center of the front line, ranks of orcs parted as a figure strode forward to meet the advancing person. This orc was bare-chested with intricate blue tattoos covering its chest, and it carried a bright metal spear that shone with its own light. This orc moved with the surety of utter confidence and advanced, coming to a halt a few hundred feet away from the solitary figure.

The two figures stared at each other for a long moment, shadows lengthening in the pregnant silence. Then the cloaked figure spoke, and its words carried softly on the wind.

“Begone, twisted creature. Turn your armies away. This land is not yours, and it does not desire your rapacious presence. Its protectors will not brook your intrusion, nor show any mercy to those who seek to defile its sacred places. Take your fevered ambitions elsewhere, and trouble us no more.” As the figure spoke, the forest seemed to somehow become quieter, achieving a palpable air of menace. A long moment passed.

The orc laughed. Its voice boomed across the plain as it brandished its spear. “Your empty threats do not frighten me, fool! The Chosen of the Storm do not care about your land or your rules. I have seen the great treasure that awaits us in the lands beyond your precious forests, and our host will not be denied its prize!” A blue-white light awoke in the hole where the orc’s left eye used to be. “We march with the weight of eternity behind us, and our pilgrimage will bathe the earth in blood until my vision is achieved. You have borne witness to the storm of destiny, and you have felt the earth’s pulse. You know what awaits us – so stand aside!”

The figure stood indifferently as the orc’s boastful words washed over the plain, but a slight frown creased its face as it heard the orc’s last statements. The figure pondered a moment, troubled, then spoke again, voice ringing with conviction: “You are touched by madness, creature, and your soul is an affront to the natural order. Your arrogance is born of folly, and you will witness this firsthand. You believe yourself to be chosen by the storm – so see what lies in store for those who stand before nature’s fury!”

The bolt of lightning struck from a clear sky, enveloping the orc leader with a thunderous crash. Orcs flinched, covering their eyes as the yellow-white light of the bolt seared their eyes. The wizened figure stood in judgment as the smoke began to clear, revealing a blackened, smoking crater.

The figure’s eyes barely had time to widen in shock as lightning leaped out of the clearing smoke. An acrid tang filled the air as electric blue light tore the cloaked figure to shreds, flesh instantly blackening as the heat of the massive bolt incinerated the druid’s body. A withered husk fell to the ground, parts of it collapsing into dust and ash. The smoke dissipated to reveal the orc warlord, spear extended and completely unharmed by the lightning blast. A raucous cheer erupted from the assembled orcs and giants as they glimpsed their leader untouched. The orc warlord turned to face his troops with a feral grin, raising his fist in a triumphant gesture, and his voice boomed out again: “No man or beast can stop the Chosen! I have seen our path, and this land will be ground beneath our feet as we march toward our destiny! ONWARD!” At this, the horde surged forward, the forest ahead somehow seeming less formidable and dark. The orc warlord turned toward the east, a feral grin spreading across its face as its troops charged around it. A large, winged shadow passed over the warlord, and an ear-splitting roar echoed the battle cry of the horde as it entered the world’s largest forest.


Jawndar Princess_Buttercup

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