Darkening Sky, Chapter 19

  • Chapter 19

     

     

     

     

                    Kelp yanked his spear from the Telvanni mage and leant to the side to avoid a green paralysis bolt. He pressed forward mechanically, methodically, before absorbing a follow-up spell with a ward diffused into his shield and bending his knee as he stabbed forward. The spearhead broke through the last vestiges of the second mage’s Ironflesh and pierced his aorta.

     

                    Behind him, Alwel was taking down the last of their enemies with considerably more flair. She brought her shield high to draw an attack low, then sidestepped and brought it crashing down at just the right moment to shatter her first opponent’s forearm. A wide-area physical ward expelled out of her back kept the footmer behind her at bay, and she blocked an attack on the right with the haft of her spear. She twisted and thrusted twice. The first thrust curved underneath the right opponent’s guard and gored him through the lungs. Kelp heard the ribs shatter. The second thrust went low first, then Alwel jerked it in a feint to the right before bringing it back up to jab it through her last opponent’s eye socket.

     

                    ‘I never knew the defensive magicks we’ve been practicing would make things so easy,’ Alwel remarked, finishing off the Dunmer she had crippled earlier. ‘That’s all of them.’

     

                    ‘All right,’ Kelp said, already beginning to clean his own spear. ‘Let’s clear the bodies. We’ve opened up a path of least resistance for the Lozokh tribe all the way to the Velothi Mountains.’

     

                    ‘How can we be sure the entire clan is going to go straight for the Jeralls? I know Taramarco’s reported that they’re headed directly west, but is there any guarantee they’re actually going to cross into the mainland from the Bitter Coast?’

     

                    ‘One, the Orcs arrived here from the Bitter Coast and Karinae’s team has managed to stop the Telvanni from discovering the ships they landed on. Two, the geography of Morrowind, Skyrim and Cyrodiil works to our advantage. Remember our discussions around the map?’

     

                    ‘Right,’ Alwel nodded. ‘There’s a natural opening in the Velothi Mountains towards the Jeralls.’

     

                    ‘Correct. The Orcs’ ships are moored at what used to be the fishing village of Hla Oad. Apart from the northern section between Gnisis and Blacklight, the stretch of water between Hla Oad and the flatlands south of Verarchen are the narrowest part of the Inner Sea. From here the Orcs have several optimal routes, including a river that runs all the way inland next to Knocker’s Neck Pass. That leads them through the Velothis and out of Morrowind – and most importantly gives them a straight shot right to the Jeralls.’

     

                    ‘The most ideal option at that point for the Orcs may be to settle for the Colovian Highlands instead, but that’s why we have Nerunae on standby, no? As I recall, we’re leaving any Telvanni agents operating in Cyrodiil alone.’

     

                    ‘Yes. We should have a good idea when her time comes if Taramarco keeps up his reports on the Lozokh tribe’s pace. I must admit, they’re surprisingly mobile for such a large group on the march. Their camps are constantly set down and pulled up within an hour. Orcs truly are marauders at heart.’

     

                    ‘Taramarco will have to tell us immediately if they really are going the river route as you predicted,’ Alwel said, staring into the black cloud hanging above Vvardenfell in the distance. ‘In that case, Nerunae will have to leak the information immediately.’

     

                    ‘I admit that I could never have calculated that the whole tribe would go on the move,’ Kelp said sheepishly. ‘But we’ve adapted well enough. So far, everything’s still proceeding smoothly. Of course, we must prepare for further disruptions. Perhaps even entirely new players.’

     


     

     

                    Somehow, impossibly, they made it all the way to the Bitter Coast without encountering any Telvanni at all.

     

                    ‘It’s some kind of trick,’ Yaga murmured as he stared at the sea, rolling grey waves lapping against an even greyer shore. ‘It has to be. The Dunmer can’t have given up on hunting me so easily.’

     

                    ‘Then we’ll deal with them when they do show up,’ Mozag said irritably. ‘You’re an Orc, brother. Enough with your womanish prattle.’

     

                    As usual, the red light of telekinetic magic was swirling around Yaga’s arms today – he was moving the heavier carts all by himself, propelling them along the rough terrain of Vvardenfell more smoothly than any pack animal could. Mozag had argued with him about it for hours before they set off. The chieftain had thought it an insult to Orc pride that Yaga could even consider using magic to move their camp. Yaga had tried multiple angles. It was faster. It would save the tribe’s fighting strength. He had more than enough magic to spare for a measly few hundred tons, especially since they were loaded on wheels already. Mozag hadn’t budged. Yaga had gone ahead and done it all the same, and almost every other member of the tribe had to agree that it was far easier to move this way.

     

                    Easy. Mozag hadn’t taken too kindly to that – or his shaman’s insubordination.

     

                    ‘Maybe you’d like him to just carry you to the ships, too?’ he’d yelled.

     

                    That had put shame on the faces of every Orc within earshot. But it was too late. Yaga was already moving the camp.

     

                    Mozag was still snappish whenever Yaga talked to him. His troll skull headdress almost seemed to glower along with him as they made eye contact. Yaga had to sympathise. Mozag was in a difficult position – he’d been in a difficult position ever since Yaga returned to the tribe a full decade ago. Yaga was an immensely powerful being, more so than the entire tribe put together a hundred times over. In a culture where the chieftain was supposed to be the most capable individual, being overshadowed was never a good thing, even if Yaga’s strength was in magic and not in the physical conditioning the ideal Orc male was supposed to have. It didn’t help that Yaga was Mozag’s elder brother.

     

                    Of course, your typical Orc wouldn’t have been able to articulate those sentiments at all. Mozag certainly wasn’t about to open up about his predicament. The chieftain of all people being emotionally vulnerable? The very thought of it was heresy.

     

                    Mozag snorted under his breath. Heresy. It was something that he in turn couldn’t exactly talk about himself, but in the years he’d been away from the tribe studying his craft, he’d drifted away from religion as well. It wasn’t that he’d converted back to Trinimac or completely lost his faith overnight – he’d simply stopped thinking about Malacath. It was hard to put stock in deities when you could reshape the world at a whim.

     

                    And speaking of reshaping the world…

     

                    Yaga thrust out his hands to either side and the carts stopped moving. The Orcs marching by his side and behind him stopped as well. They had arrived at the dock. It was technically still a dock even if it was just five strips of rotting wood connected to the Orc’s ships by ropes. Yaga had woven enchantments into the ships themselves, though, and that had protected them from the elements well enough.

     

                    Mozag barked out orders and the Orcs began to loosen the mooring. The tribe scattered off to unload the carts onto the ships. They were galleys – small vessels compared to the multi-decked Imperial carracks and Breton galleons, but their lightness meant they could go inland into shallow waters. Yaga had liberated all five of them from a fleet of pirates in Skyrim, and they had served the Lozokhs well the last time they migrated. Most of the tribe still remembered the basics of seafaring.

     

                    As the Orcs worked, the clouds parted and the wind blew north, letting the sun shine down through the gaps. It was a rare sight in Vvardenfell and did wonders for morale. All of the tribe had been marching from dawn till dusk for days on end through a land of constant grey. Even though Orcs were naturally hardy, even though they had adapted to Morrowind, and even with Yaga doing the heavy lifting, some fatigue was to be expected.

     

                    With sunlight came warmth. The Orcs loading the heaviest carts onto the ships took off their fur coats. The younger children formed a circle and played at wrestling. Yaga saw Yagrash’s dreadlocks dangling between two shaved heads and smiled on his way to Mozag.

     

                    The chieftain was hauling three tables stacked atop each other in one go onto the first galley, grimacing as he carried the weight on his back and right shoulder, steadying it with his hands as the ship rocked lightly with the waves. Yaga waited until he set them down, then approached.

     

                    ‘I know what you’re thinking,’ Mozag said shortly.

     

                    That’ll be a first. ‘Yes, brother?’

     

                    ‘Yes, and I won’t allow it. I won’t let you coddle the tribe as you did your son. You will not move these ships with magic.’

     

                    ‘Actually, I need to recover my energies,’ Yaga said. ‘So it actually would be best to have the tribesmen man the oars.’

     

                    That was a blatant lie – moving the camp by himself had used up barely a tenth of his magicka pool – meant to appease Mozag, give him back his authority and dignity as chieftain. And it seemed to work. The lines above Mozag’s forehead eased up as he picked up his headdress and slipped it on, grunting in satisfaction. ‘Well, that’s good. You get some rest. Nice work moving the camp.’

     

                    As shaman, Yaga was one of the few Orcs who had a cabin. He dropped his travelling pack onto his bunk and went out onto the open deck. All the galleys were built after the same fashion. The captain and officer’s cabins were clustered in a covered area on the upper deck, while the rest of the crew slept on the lower deck. Each deck had twenty oars, ten on each side for a total of forty. The sail was square, after an old Imperial design. Light, fast and maneuverable. It suited the tribe’s needs, and cargo storage was simple. They were almost ready to move already.

     

                    A bout of youthful, raw-throated shouting erupted over the coast and Yaga frowned, craning his head to look. The circle of children had broken up and in the centre was-

     

                    Yagrash on the ground, curled up into a ball and protecting his head with his arms as another boy with a black eye straddled him, pummeling him with his fists.

     

                    Yaga’s nostrils flared as his blood boiled. He sprinted down towards the group and forcibly dragged the boy off his son, sending him sprawling into the dirt.

     

                    ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

     

                    The boy sprang to his feet, puffed up with resentment as he jabbed a finger at Yagrash, who was sitting up groggily. ‘He threw the first punch!’

     

                    The other children chimed in.

     

                    ‘Yeah, that’s right! Yagrash hit first-’

     

                    ‘He just couldn’t take losing three times in a row!’

     

                    ‘Be careful what you say about my son,’ Yaga snarled loudly, his hackles rising. The children stepped back as one, terrified. Passing adults looked on in fearful disapproval. Orcs were supposed to settle their problems themselves, but nobody was about to say that to the shaman’s face. ‘All right, Yagrash, here, up, up.’

     

                    Yagrash spat at the boy who’d been beating down on him just a moment ago, a sneer forming underneath his bleeding nose. ‘I only hit you because you used all those dirty grabs, you bitch, you.’ He spat again. ‘Pah! Next time follow the rules. Bitch! Bitch! I’ll have Blood Price from you next time.’

     

                    There were no ‘dirty grabs’ outside of the rules in Orcish wrestling. The boy bit his lip and looked at Yaga, then very wisely kept his mouth shut, turning away as Yagrash let out one last spiteful ‘bitch’.

     

                    ‘I could’ve beat him if he hadn’t used those grabs,’ Yagrash whined as Yaga led him to the ship by his hand. ‘I could have! You know I could have!’

     

                    Yaga chuckled affectionately. ‘Of course I know, son.’

     

     

                    The Star-Wound was acting up today, sending throbbing waves of energy out in flares, garbling the voices of the Hornets as they made their reports from five different locations across Morrowind.

     

                    Aenir concentrated and focused a stream of magic into the crystal ball as the third ash storm of the day whipped around his form, obscuring his surroundings, putting visibility down to less than three feet.

     

                    ‘Hold. Transmission is breaking up… adjusting, adjusting.’

     

                    ‘Captain?’

     

                    ‘Done,’ Aenir coughed, tightening the muffler around his mouth. ‘Repeat.’

     

                    ‘Sir. Pelagiad clear of all Telvanni scouts.’

     

                    ‘Balmora and Caldera also clear.’

     

                    ‘Verarchen observations post cleared. Communications destroyed. False reports submitted to Telvanni Council.’

     

                    ‘Kartur clear. No further communications outgoing. Reports also falsified.’

     

                    ‘All other Telvanni and associated operatives successfully redirected to Old Ebonheart. Remaining activity along predicted route is minimal.’

     

                    ‘Understood. Stand by.’ Aenir ended the spell and the crystal ball stopped glowing. The only noise left was the shriek of the ashen wind as it gouged into every bit of exposed skin. He turned to Larethor. ‘Commander, sir. We’ve done it. The Orcs are headed for the mainland, sailing out of the Inner Sea and into fresh water. They’re almost certainly banking on Knocker’s Neck Pass. What’s our next move?’

     

                    Larethor turned to look at his underling. In the thickness of the storm, and as swaddled up as they were, the Twinstinger could almost pass for a normal person – but even in the gloom and the howling dust, Aenir could see his eyes dancing a dull, unhealthy red.

     

                    ‘Now we follow,’ he hissed. His voice was damp and bloody. ‘And we wait.’

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

Comments

1 Comment   |   A-Pocky-Hah! and 2 others like this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  July 15
    Very interesting use of magic, and yes, that young Orc is so coddled. I think even Grulmar could beat him up. Larethor is just waiting for the right moment, isn’t he?