Tor's War Written by Harry McKenzie, copyright 2006
The first warning came just as Tor the Minotaur finished his breakfast. The horns carried by the city guards began to blare, summoning the militia and the rest of the City Guard to the walls. What had been expected for the last week was now upon the city of Kashin, the Ogarian forces had arrived. He pushed aside the remnants of his meal and stood up, picking up his huge axe and nodding to Bjarn and Hrothgar, his companions. Bjarn was a human, of sorts, and Hrothgar was a Gnoll. They made an odd but incredibly effective team. They got up and made their way out the door of the barn that served as their quarters. Tor didn't particularly like living in a barn, but there were no other buildings that could accomidate his towering frame and his massive weight, so he made due and didn't complain, after all, it beat the mazes as far as he was concerned. Bjarne and Hrothgar stayed there since no other place in town would welcome Hrothgar.
They did not run, though Tor's brisk walk coupled with his massive stride ate up distance nearly as fast as a running man. It took them mere minutes to reach the main gates. They watched as they were closed and barred. The militia and City Guard, an odd mix of humans, dwarves, elves, and a few Tomaths rushed to the walls. Weapons were readied and several catapults were being moved into position as well. Tor pulled himself up onto the paraphet, ignoring the wooden ladder that had no hope of supporting his weight, using his hands to grasp the edge and muscle himself up. He stood and looked across at the invading Army that was moving up outside the walls. Hrothgar followed his lead, with Bjarne opting to use the ladder.
It was a damned impressive sight. There were literally hundreds of Kobolds, Orcs, Coyotes, Minotor Lizards, and a few Ogres mixed among them. All of them were forming up into assault groups as they watched. Tor grunted unhappily and Hrothgar growled softly, the enemy were well-trained, and disciplined, that was bad news for the defenders. They were also still outside of arrow range for the moment, as a few hastily fired shafts that fell short proved. The arrow fired ceased almost immediately as the archers, who had been shopkeepers and tradesmen until the call to arms came, realized they were out of range as of yet. The Catapult crews had no such problem, they began to lob flaming barrels of pitch into the assembling Ogarian ranks. Most missed, but several scored direct hits, sending Orcs and Kobolds fleeing in terror.
Tor grunted his approval, fire could reduce the most disciplined troops to terrified rabble. It wasn't going to be enough though, he noted. There were just too many Ogarian troops and only a few catapults. And there were long lulls between shots as the massive weapons reloaded. Time that the Ogarians used to reform ranks and begin to march forward. They moved into arrow range and the amateur archers opened up again, felling a large number of Ogarian troops, again, not enough archers and too many Ogarians. Though there were large gaps torn in their ranks, they kept advancing. Tor hefted his axe and waited, it wouldn't be long now. Beside him, Hrothgar began growling again, and flexing his claws. Bjarn pulled out his ebonite axe and got ready as well.
The first wave struck a few moments later. They surged up to the wall and began placing ladders for the assault troops. The defenders pushed the ladders down where they could, poured burning pich down on the enemy, fired arrows into their midst, and even dropped rocks. For a moment, the assault stalled, but then, several Kobolds got up the wall and pushed the defenders back enough to allow a ladder to be successfully placed, and a troop of Orcs surged up it. Tor moved into action, he moved to the breach and with one swing, dispached a half dozen Kobolds with his huge axe. He bellowed a war cry that had the effect of momentarily freezing the remainder of the nearby Orcs in their tracks for a moment. This gave Bjarne and Hrothgar time to get into position.
They droppped down off the paraphet and circled to the other side of the breach, then Hrothgar lifted Bjarne up and then scrambled up behind him. They then charged from the opposite flank as Tor swung his axe again, cutting two Orcs in half before the rest reacted. The remaining Kobolds lept down from the wall into the courtyard, prefering to face the less massive defenders below. The nearly dozen Orcs remaining turned and tried to attack.
The problem they immediately encountered was that the paraphet was too narrow for them to attack en mass. They could only get two abreast up here. Tor's massive bulk completely blocked the paraphet to their front, and Hrothgar and Bjarne did the same behind them. Still, they tried. And found much to their final dismay, that Tor's axe outreached theirs. His first swing tore through the two unfortunates in front and wounded one behind them. Hrothgar litterally tore the first Orc he found in half with his claws, Orcs were his a special enemy to him, he delighted in hearing them scream as he ripped them apart. Bjarne's axe added to the carnage, and within a minute, they had linked up with Tor, killing all the Orcs atop the paraphet.
Tor reached the ladder just as an Orc reached the top. he reached out and crushed the Orcs skull in his massive hand before shoving the ladder away from the wall. Several arrows whizzed past as he did so, as Kobold archers tried to keep the assault from stalling. They failed to hit the large target Tor presented, mainly due to the fact that he moved faster than they expected. Not one to press his luck too far, Tor, followed quickly by Hrothgar and Bjarne dropped down to the courtyard to help mop up the Ogarians who had fled their counterattack. They found that there were only a few left and they dealt with them swiftly, his fellow defenders cheering as they dispached each one.
Though they had stopped one breach, a dozen others opened elsewhere and the defenders began to give ground. Before long they found that the enemy troops were begining to pour into the city though gaps where the defenders had been pushed back from the walls. They set out and within a minute had closed one breach by themselves. They then joined a dozen Dwarves and sealed a second. They left the Dwarves to hold that section of the wall and continued on. Over the course of the next hour, they closed six more breaches in the wall. Tor suffered two minor wounds that nearby Clerics rushed to heal quickly. Word of their actions spread through the defenders and bolstered their flagging courage, giving them heart to close the remaining breeches and begin to hunt down the Ogarians inside the city.
The repreive did not last more than an hour. Just as the defenders finished off the last of the invaders from the first wave, a second wave crashed into the walls. Again, several breaches were created in the defenders, and the Ogarians poured through. Tor and his companions rushed to one such breach, to be confronted by a dozen Ogres. Tor bellowed a challenge, Hrothgar growled in defiance, and Bjarne smiled grimly. Then, both sides charged. The impact when they came together was like a thunderclap. Two Ogres went down, one gored through the chest by Tor's horns, the other mortally wounded by Hrothgar ripping out it's throat. Bjarn was struck a glancing blow that staggered him, but before the Ogres could take advantage, Hrothgar was there, keeping them at bay.
For almost a minute, both sides went at each other, trading blows that could shatter a tree trunk, with neither side gaining an advantage. The Ogres had superior numbers, but Tor, Hrothgar, and Bjarne fought like a well oiled machine. Their attacks were coordinated where the Ogres weren't, their defense of each other kept the Ogres from landing any serious blows, and it worked, one by one, the Ogres began to go down. In the span of seconds, the Ogres went from ten, down to three. The last three Ogres realized that their individial attacks were being foiled, so they all set their sights on Tor, the largest target, and went after him as one.
It was a fatal mistake. it opened them up to attack by both Hrothgar and Bjarne, and they went down quickly. Tor, however, paid a price. The final flurry of blows had penetrated his defenses, leaving him with a gaping wound in his right side. Blood was leaking out freely, and it was bubbling as well. The big minotaur sat down and tried to catch his breath, he was suddenly having trouble breathing. Spots began to dance before his eyes as Bjarne tore a srip from Tor's tabbard and tried his best to bind the huge gash. “I think we need to find a Cleric. Fast.” he said.
“We find.” Hrothgar barked before loping off in that peculilair gait of his. Bjarne shook his head, he hoped Hrothgar could find one quickly, Tor looked bad to him. He didn't know much about Minotaurs, but Tor was turning a ghastly shade of grey, and his breathing was becoming very labored. It didn't take a healer to know that if something wasn't done quickly, the big Minotuar was going to die.
“Hurts.” Tor gasped. He was never one to waste words, Bjarne had to admit.
“We'll get someone to look at you as soon as Hrothgar gets back.” Bjarne said to him, “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”
“Go help the Guard kill some more orcs.” Tor coughed. Bjarne nodded, the Big Minotuar knew he was dying and this was his way of asking Bjarne to leave him and get on with the town's defense.
“Alright. But I'll be back for you.” Bjarne stood and hefted his axe. He started to leave, but was halted by Hrothgar trotting up with a familiar figure following, “I'll be damned.” he muttered. Cassandra, the Cleric of Curiss, their sometime partner was with Hrothgar. Bjarne allowed himself a grim smile, if anyone could help, she was the one.
“Get out of my way you big Oaf.” She said as she pushed past Bjarne. He took no offense at her words or tone, it was just her way, he was used to it by now. She pushed her unkempt hair out of her face as she knelt down beside the big Minotuar. She was not a big girl, and next to the huge Minotuar, she looked like a child's doll as she pulled off the makeshift bandage and examined the grevious wound. She made a sour face and pulled out her Holy symbol. “I shall pray for you Tor…but it may well be Curiss' will that you not survive this.” She said gently.
“Do it then.” Tor coughed, bloody foam was begining to fleck his lips.
Cassandra nodded and lowered her head. She didn't want anyone to see the concern in her eyes, Tor's wound was far beyond anything she had ever tried to cure. And she was genuinely fond of the big guy, she really didn't want to lose one of her few friends. She began to chant as she placed her free hand against the wound. If it hurt, Tor gave no sign. As she continued to chant, a golden glow began to radiate from her Holy Symbol. it traveled down her arm, across her chest, down her other arm, spread onto Tor's chest and began to build in intensity. Within seconds, the glow encased them both and became too bright to look at.
There was a loud CRACK, and the glow vanished, leaving Cassandra slumped against Tor, who sat there blinking. He was whole again, and if it weren't for the blood around his mouth and on his side, he would appear to have never been injured.
Hrothgar hopped around in excitement and yipped happily, “All better!” he exclaimed. Bjarne picked up Cassandras limp form and stood up, waiting for his comrades to join him.
Tor stood and looked down at Cassandra's limp body without speaking, it amazed him that a human would do for him what she had just done. “Is she alright?” He asked. Bjarne checked that she was breathing and nodded an affirmative, it appeared that she was simply exhuasted by the prayers. Tor hefted his axe and looked to the nearby sound of battle, “Put her someplace safe…we have Orcs to kill.” he rumbled.
Cassandra began to recover before Bjarne could find a place to leave her. she insisted on accompanying them into the battle…quite vocally in fact. Tor merely shrugged his acceptance and the others went along with him. In short order they found themselves approaching a rather loud fight. A mixed group of Humans, Elves and a single Dwarf were battling a score of Orcs and a dozen Kobolds. The Dwarf seemed to be the source of most of the noise, as he gave a ferocious roar everytime he charged an opponent.
Tor stopped for a moment to survey the battle, rather than just rush in. He had learned the folly of blindly rushing into a fight growing up in the mazes. The Dwarf, who seemed to be wearing some sort of irrdescent scale mail armor and wielding a Dwarven war axe, and a large steel shield that he used as an occiasional weapon to good effect, was slowly tearing a path through the enemy. His companions, who seemed to mostly be novice fighters at best, were doing their best to keep his back and flanks protected.
As Tor appraised the fight, Cassandra pulled out her crossbow, loaded a quarrel and let fly, dropping a Kobold in it's tracks. As she reloaded, Tor gave a single nod to Bjarne, who in turn, gestured with a slight turn of his head to Hrothgar. The two began to move quickly to the left, circling the fight. Cassandra let fly again, dropping another Kobold as the two warriors reached the left side of the melee. The Dwarf had dispatched almost half the Orcs by now, but his companions were starting to fall to fast attacks from both Orc and Kobold.
Tor gave a great bellow and charged. He lowered his great head just as he reached the mass of combatants, and he plowed through them without slowing, impaling a Kobold with a horn, trampling an Orc, bashing two aside with his shield, and cleanly decapitating another with his huge axe. At the same moment, Hrothgar and Bjarne tore into the fray from the flank, Hrothgar tearing an Orc in half with his claws, and Bjarne cutting one down with his axe. Cassandra added another Kobold to her score as the now completely paniced enemy started to flee. As they started to flee, the Dwarf and his companions set upon them, a few brief clashes of steel on steel and it was over.
The Dwarf looked up at the unique group that had come to his aid. he stroked his brown beard and was silent for a moment, his eyes lingering on Tor's talberd, that bore the insignia of Firestorm, “Thanks be to ye strangers.” He said in a heavily accented common, “Ahira Bandylegs, Knight of Rakore.”
“I am Cassandra of Kashin.” Cassandra replied to his introduction as she put away her crossbow, “Thanks are not neccesary.”
“I am Tor.” Tor rumbled as he bowed slightly to Ahira.
“Bjarne Bearstrider.” Bjarne introduced himself.
“Hrothgar.” The Gnoll yipped and then shook himself much like a dog, which earned him an odd look from Ahira.
“Nevertheless…you have my thanks.” Ahira replied. He turned to face Tor, “I see by your tabard that you are a member of Firestorm…I was unaware that there were any Minotaurs in Rakore.”
“I came from elsewhere, Sir Knight.” Tor replied simply.
Ahira waited a moment, until it became clear that Tor was not going to elaborate.“Very well then, would you all like to accompany me to the east wall? As I understand, there is a large breach of the defenses in that area.”
“By all means.” Cassandra replied for the group of them, “Lead and we shall follow.”
Ahira nodded and set off at a trot, the rest of the odd group following at a walk. it took the only a few minutes to reach the next battle, and it was a big one. The Ogarians had managed to get a siege tower against the wall here, and they were using it to pour troops over the wall in a fairly successfull attempt to overwhelm the defenders. Ahira gave a roar and charged at the Ogarians closest to them, Tor bellowed and charged as well, quickly outrunning the Dwarf. Hrothgar and Bjarne trailed in Tor's wake, knowing that no creature in Tors path could withstand his charge, and they fully intended to use his breaking through the Ogarains to get themselves into the enemy rear and cause choas.
Cassandra hung back, she said a quick blessing and then raised her crossbow, taking aim at a Kobold archer. She let fly and dropped him just as Tor plowed into the enemy line. He scattered Orcs, Kobolds, and Coyotes like tenpins. Hrothgar and Bjarne immdiately tore into the fray, adding thei own brand of mayhem to the destruction the big Minotaur was unleashing.
Ahira joined them, and in a mere minute or so, the enemy was in a headlong confused retreat. There was simply nothing big enough to deflect Tor when he charged, and they couldn't mass enough troops quickly enough to slow his charges either. Even when they tried to stand, Hrothgar, Bjarne and Ahira added enough power to his onslaught that they inevitably faltered. Cassandra continued to pick off targets from a distance as well, and she moved up twice to lend healing to Bjarne and Tor, when they sustained injuries.
In short order, they found themselves atop the wall, facing off against enemy troops still trying to come across using the siege tower. Tor and Hrothgar placed themselves squarley in front of it, effectively forming a lethal blockage.
“Anyone have any ideas on how to wreck that thing?” Bjarne asked as he held a position guarding Hrothgar's flank.
“It's made of timber…“Ahira observed, “It will burn.”
“Anyone got enough tinder to start it then?” Bjarne asked as he decapitated an Orc that got too close for it's own good.
“Pitch barrel over there.” Hrothgar observed as he tossed a Kobold over the wall and pointed at a stack of barrels nearby.
“I've got it.” Tor said. He backhanded an Orc into several others trying to come through the siege tower, effectively blocking it for a moment, then, moving with far more speed than one would expect from such a massive creature, he ran to the barrels and lifted one to his shoulder. He trotted back to the siege tower with it, and paused to allow Bjarne to light its contents, and then tossed it into the siege tower, setting several Orcs on fire as well as the tower itself. Within a minute, the siege tower was burning fiecely, ending it's usefulness to the enemy.
As they watched the tower burn, Cassandra observed something odd on the river outside of town. As the river passed Kashin, it bent to the south slightly, allowing them to view a section of it from their position. A large ship was coming into view on that stretch of the river as she watched. It seemed to her that the ship was larger than almost anything she had seen on any inland river. She wondered just how it got there and where it came from. “Look at that.” she said to her companions, pointing her right hand at the ship.
“Hmmm. Big ship for a river.” Ahira observed. They all watched as a huge Rakoran flag unfurled from atop it's center mast, and a moment later, the ship began firing catapults and ballistae into what looked to be an Ogarian command post. Some of the ballistae looked to have enchantments upon them as they produced ice or lightening bolts as they struck. Within a few minutes, the Ogarian forces began to mill about in disorder as they lost instruction and intelligence from their commanders.
“That captain is either a genius…or stark raving mad.” Bjarne decided aloud. The others silently ageed as they watched the strange vessel come about and head back towards the Kashin docks.
“Perhaps we should go see which he is?” Cassandra asked no on in particular. When she recieved no answer, she simply began walking towards the city docks. After a moment, the rest began to follow.
“Why do I think this may be a bad idea? Bjarne asked Tor.
“Because it may well be.” the big Minotaur replied.