Here are the first six pages of my first complete original story, titled “An Orc in Need”.
In the barren wastelands of the North there live a race of elves. As beautiful as the High Elves who live in the West but feared combatants and hunters like the Dragonborn of the East. They are the remnants of an empire that stretched across the frozen lands of the North that now lay in ruin.
The greatest of these Elves is the one known as the Winterhawk. A huntress from a dead village who escaped the bonds of enslavement to become a hero to all. Her adventures would bring great praise and glory to her name. This is but one of those adventures…
Our tale begins miles at the border between the North and the West, where the harsh snow gave way to green fields in the warmer months. It is here that Gaile Winterhawk was traveling by foot to meet with one of the most powerful kingdoms in the West, known as the Clans of McColloch. Compared to the other kingdoms the MacColloch’s were the most unique in that the leader was not one man of noble rank, but a council of elders and clan leaders united under one banner. One of these leaders was a Dwarf lord known as Tuenor. He had sent word to Gaile that his people needed her help a week prior to her journey. The Utopian Legion, in their desire to shore up as much iron as they could, had begun to kidnap any of Tuenor’s kin they could, holding them ransom for shipments of the metal. At first, the scum had tried to treat with the dwarf lord, but he would not hear them. Now his people cry for justice, but first the captives must be found and freed. But dwarves are good at three things; mining, crafting, and fighting. They are not good at tracking an elusive enemy. Tuenor had heard of Gaile from tales of her bravery and courage against all odds, as told by his kin from the Bleak Mountains. He had sent word to her by way of his cousin Balinor, telling of his peoples’ plight. Though she had just finished a hard-won battle, she went to them that day, knowing it would be a five-day journey to the lands down south.
But she did not travel alone. Accompanying her was a druidic ranger known as Quelleg. Having been born in the lands of McColloch, he had dealings with the Tuenor’s kin, and would be a useful guide in these unfamiliar lands. Being tall for a Gnome, his love for drink and womanly company was lost on his former fellow druids, who cast him out when he was due to be ordained. He didn’t mind; he was happier casting druidic spells without the rigidness of their rules anyway. Being tall for a gnome made it easier to make friends who couldn’t step on him accidentally.
Unfortunately, being tall for a gnome didn’t make it easier for long distance travel. His legs had tired of walking long ago, and now he was riding on top of their pack mule, a rather stubborn mule named Missy. Missy did not appreciate having a gnome on her back, and Gaile had to hold her reins in case she decided to stop moving, which the mule did often and for little to no reason.
“Tell me again why we have this blasted thing with us,” She asked her companion during one of Missy’s more stubborn bouts.
“Because it was that or carry five days of provisions on our own,” Quelleg replied, doing his best to urge the creature on by digging his heels into her sides. Eventually, the mule won out and they rested on the side of the road.
Gaile glared at the mule, watching it munch on one of the few patches of grass available on the path they were taking. “And to think this is only the third day!” She complained to Quelleg. “Must we suffer this mule any longer?”
“We could have it for dinner,” Quelleg replied with a hint of humor in his voice. “IF you would be willing to carry the provisions by yourself…”
Gaile frowned. “I guess we’ll have to suffer it a bit longer…” Quelleg laughed at her reply, then reached into his side bag for his pipe. “It is fortunate I know where we are,” He said, as he cleaned the old ash from his pipe. “There is an old inn half a mile from here. It lies near a tiny field where the stream feeds into the river. If we can get this mule to move, we should make it before dark.”
“Sounds good,” Gaile flashed Quelleg a weary smile before standing up. “I just hope there’s someone who will trade us a better pack mule there!”
“Maybe,” The gnome replied. With that, Gaile went to Missy and got her roused. The mule apparently had had enough of Quelleg riding her and started bucking every time the gnome tried to sit on her. Eventually, Quelleg decided it would be safer to walk behind Gaile and help her by holding the reins.
The sky had just begun its turn from day to night when they came upon the inn that Quelleg spoke of. “Ah! The inn!” Quelleg cried, unable to hide his relief. “Quickly, Gaile! The inn! The inn!” With that, the gnome began to make for the inn as fast as he could.
But Gaile did not share her companion’s haste. Something felt wrong to her senses. It was too quiet for one, especially for this time of night on a heavily traveled path as the one they took. And it had been a long time since they met anyone coming from the other direction. Most importantly, an inn is usually a bustle of noise and motion, even in the early evening. And innkeepers- the experienced ones, anyway- would hang a lantern out near their doors when it began to get dark for the weary travelers. And not only was it quiet, but there were no lights shining outside or in.
Just then, her senses picked up a noise that confirmed her suspicions; The light crunch of feet on dry grass. They were being stalked. “Quelleg!!” She shouted. “Take cover!”
Having known Gaile too long to suspect her of paranoia, the gnome dove for cover as an arrow went over his head, making a quiet whisper in the wind. Suddenly, twelve men rose from their hiding places, armed with clubs and axes. One of them strode forward, a sardonic grin creeping across his face. On his belt was a severed hand with two fingers missing. These were bandits plotting an ambush… and they walked right into it.
But these men were carrying themselves too proudly. The lot of them circled Gaile, ignoring the gnome for what they thought was more deserving prey. Gaile smiled wryly. Amateurs. She thought.
The grinning one shouted, “Get ‘er, men! That she-elf is ours!” his voice not even hiding his joy at what he thought were more easy victims. Several of the men bounded forward, then lurched to a halt, a few falling flat on their faces with the force of the sudden stop. Something had grabbed ahold of them underfoot. They looked down to see what had grabbed them and found a mass of roots tangling their feet together, one of Quelleg’s enchantments.
But their leader was not among them. Not knowing what the holdup was, he shouted “What’s wrong with ye? Don’t tell me yer afraid of an elf?”
His words spurred the rest of the group into action. Three of them tried to swing at Gaile with their clubs. Unfortunately for them, they swung too slowly and put too much strength into their swings. They stumbled and fell as Gaile danced around their swings, taking out her sword in a way that Quelleg would later describe as ‘elegant’ and swinging upwards at one of her attackers, taking his head off.
This act seemed to have the intended effect on the others, as they tried to step away from this unexpected threat. But it was not enough. For as they stepped further away, they fell into another one of Quelleg’s nature enchantments; unnatural quicksand. Once they had realized what had happened it was too late for them. Struggle and scream though they did, it only ensured that they would sink deeper into the quagmire.
The remaining few who weren’t engaging the elf now began to run away from her and her companion. As Gaile finished off the last of the stragglers she began to seek their leader.
“That’s far enough, elf,” He said. Gaile spun around to meet her foe, only to see Quelleg clenched in his forearm, a dagger at his throat. “Gaile- “He began to say before the bandit tightened his lock and silenced him.
“Drop the sword, elf,” The slaver commanded, a leery grin on his face. “Or the gnome dies.”
I’ll leave it off there. Hope you enjoy, and till next time!