Saturday, 26 April 2014

Storm and Calm

Odeou chuckled to himself.

The campsite was carnage. He could hear the screams from his hiding place, a good couple of miles distant. Sinister lightnings flickered from low clouds, underlit in the night by burning tents. Shadows flickered along the sides of the valley as warmachine and wizard alike erupted with the pent-up violence that had simmered all along under the unnatural misery his generals had laboured under.

He could hear the shrill keening of witch elves, ululating as they slaughtered. And the presence of demons sent flickering shudders up his back. The gods were watching, all right. He could almost see their faces in the thunderheads.

In his lap, the frozen tears were slowly sliding back together. It was too soon to say exactly whose brow they might adorn. Odeou had his hopes, though.

Hunchbacked and bitter though he was, he was still kin to the greenskins. The primitive tribal orcs he'd recruited were hopelessly outmatched in the thick of the melee, despite their brutal strength. The other generals might be unwinding after months of repression, but they still had some elegance, some finesse in their violence. The orcs were killing each other as often as they killed anything else.

Odeou just hoped there would be enough of them left over to finish the Grey.


Cash sat under a torch on the battlements, staring out into the darkness. It was the earliest hours of the morning, too soon for dawn, and a stifling blackness sat over the fort like the arse of some giant, malevolent cat. The Wyrdfire was full of bickering officers picking holes in each others' plans, the barracks full of fraught soldiers looking to unload their fear into a fistfight.

Only up here was there a semblance of peace. The sentries were on edge, true, tensing at the slightest noise in the night, but at least they were silent as they strained their ears. He could hear himself think.

"A wonderful sound, is it not?" came a voice from just behind him.

Cash whirled, dagger out, and found himself face to face with the wizard. Tall, young, dressed in a well-weathered hunting tunic with a slender-feathered cap over it, all in silvery shades of grey. He looked more like the kind of sharpshooting dandy you'd find at a festival tournament than a wizard. Plus he was handsome. Cash didn't like handsome people. He wasn't one himself, he didn't like the airs that came with it.

As if in acknowledgement of his thought, the wizard arched a wry eyebrow at his knife and smirked.

"Apologies. I suppose I should have realised there might still be some anxiety amongst the troops," the Grey said, rolling the words fruitily round his elegant mouth. "Rest assured, sergeant, the night air has brought me all I need to feel assured. I have heard it."

"What's that?" he said, embarrassed, tucking the dagger away.

"The sound of victory, sergeant."

"Oh yes?" Cash said. "Can't hear it myself. Sounds like most nights out here. Too damn quiet."

"Aha, but then perhaps your ears are getting old. Not your mind, however," the wizard added smoothly, seeing Cash bridle. "Your plan is excellent. I have persuaded the Marshall to accept it. Even I could not have come up with such an efficient way to butcher our foes. Credit will be awarded where it is due, I promise you."

"Thanks," Cash said. He knew exactly what that was worth.

"I suppose all that remains is to put your superb scheme into action," the Wizard said. "You should try and get some sleep, sergeant, you'll need your strength for the fight."

Time enough to sleep in the grave, Cash thought to himself, and then wondered how long until he might find himself in one.

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