Saturday, August 29, 2015
As they stood at the split of the two roads, Hoddie turned to Rowyn and Niro.
"This is it." He said. "It's your last chance to change your minds. From this point on we enter Gaymere. I'm going on but neither of you have too. You have no connection to us Goblins. What happens to my people is not your responsibility. You can turn back."
"No." Rowyn shook her head. "You're wrong. You're going against Bruego D'aruk. He has to pay for what he did in Pelordra and I have to get that unicorn horn from him before he can use it to kill your father or anyone else."
"And you?" Hoddie turned to Niro.
Niro thought for a second as Sima stepped up to rub against his leg.
[I follow you.] She sent.
"My father told me to go to Pelordra." He said. "Only she can take me there so I have to follow her. My sword and ax will be with you."
"Then follow me."
Unlike Eventide, the road into Gaymere was dark and thick with heavy foliage. No sunlight slipped in through the heavy canopy of trees overhead and the air was thick and hot with the smell of rotting vegetation. Sima was in the front with Hoddie armed with his daggers right behind her. Rowyn was in the middle while Niro kept watch on the back.
Though dark, the forest was loud and alive with the sounds of the night. They walked for hours hearing the sound of twigs snapping under their feet, frogs croaking somewhere off in a distant pond, crickets chirping and a wolf howling to his lunar night mistress. Though it seemed peaceful, from his years of training and living in Gaymere, Hoddie could pick out and identify each and every sound. He could tell the difference between a wolfs howl and enemies signaling between each other and tonight the moon was full but the howls were all wrong. They had the wrong pitch to be wolves howls. As Sima started to growl, Hoddie slowed down to let the others catch up with him.
"We're being watched."
"I know." Niro whispered. "Sima says there's five out there watching us."
"I counted four." Hoddie said and nodded ahead to the left and right side of the trail. "We can't avoid them, they'll just come at us from the back if we get pass them."
"Then we go straight ahead." Rowyn stepped out and walked pass Hoddie heading down the trail.
"Hold on Princess." Niro hurried forward. "Let us go first."
He looked down at Sima and sent her a quiet message to camouflage herself and follow through the thick bush of the forest. With his sword in hand, Niro took the lead. He watched for the slightest movement of the trees as he walked. He felt the light breeze as it blew across his face. He waited for the hint of movement as they slipped through the denseness of the forest. Then just as they reached a group of oaks, he heard a soft buzzing and ducked as the first Goblin arrow streaked pass his ear. Niro and Hoddie dived to the side as the Goblins rushed out to attack. Rowyn spread her wings and leaped up into the trees and conjured a bow and took aim at the first Goblin coming at them. Her arrow streaked down straight into its chest knocking it back dead into the mud. as three more Goblins charged, Hoddie leaped out with his twin daggers flashing ans sliced into another Goblin. Just as a third Goblin was about to brain Hoddie, Sima grabbed it and pulled it screaming into the under bush. That left one coming at Niro. Just as Niro crossed swords with the Goblin, another stepped out of the forest.
"Hold your swords!"
Niro took a step back as a Goblin dressed in bone armor walked out to stand beside his companion.
"Hoddie Fearfist." He said. "What brings you into the land of the Black Skulls?"
"Koxir Mugwart." Hoddie stood up. "This is Bloodfang territory, your clan has no claim here. I know there is no honor in the Black Skull clan but if its war you want, Kranko will be glad to give it to you."
"See there is where you are wrong." Koxir reached up and took off his Orc skull helmet. "We Black Skulls do not fear Kranko Fearfist or the Bloodfangs, would you like to know why?"
"Yes." Hoddie said curious. "Please tell me why."
"Because Kranko Fearfist no longer sits on the high seat of the Bloodfangs."
"You lie!!" Hoddie jumped out to dive in and attack Koxir. Niro grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Let him go Human." Koxir sneered at them. "I fear no Bloodfang, let him come and face his death."
"I'll let him go." Niro said. "But first, answer a few questions. What have you dome to Kranko?"
"We Black Skulls haven't touched Kranko." He said. "But we will take advantage of his absence and take the land that the Bloodfangs hold."
"Bruego." Hoddie said. "That damned Orc again. He did this."
"I know nothing about an Orc." Koxir pulled his sword and stepped out. "Now, let him face me and his death."
Niro stepped aside and let Hoddie go.
"I'll be right back."
Hoddie pulled his daggers and went out to meet Koxir. The Goblin laughed when he saw that all Hoddie was armed with were his two daggers. He wasn't even wearing any kind of strong armor. He put his helmet back on, then turned to the one warrior he had left.
"Give him your sword." He ordered. "He needs a proper weapon to fight with."
"No." Hoddie smiled. "This will do."
"The have at it!!"
Koxir charged at Hoddie. He raised his blade for a strike at Hoddie's neck intending to chop down at him. Calmly Hoddie took a step to the side and in one swift motion, he slipped his dagger blade right between the third and fourth rib and into Koxir's heart. Koxir barely felt it until he turned saw the dagger sticking out of his chest. He took two steps toward Hoddie and fell at his feet.
Hoddie looked up at the warrior looking down in shock at his dead leader.
"Well?" Hoddie went and pulled his dagger from Koxir's chest. "Leave us and live or join him in death. It's up to you."
The warrior slid his sword back into its sheath and turned and ran off into the forest.
"Bruego has your father." Rowyn said as she joined them. "How do we find him?"
"Sima can track him." Niro said. "If we have something of his to get a scent from."
"This cloak was my fathers. Would that do?"
"No." Niro shook his head. "It has your scent, we need something only your father wore."
"For that, we're going to have to go to Blood Tooth and his private cave." Hoddie told them. "And I'll have to go in by myself."
"Agreed." Rowyn said. "We'll find a safe place to wait and maybe do a quick search of the area while we wait."
"Fine." Hoddie picked up his pack and heaved it onto his shoulder. "Just stay out of sight. It won't be good if you get caught spying on Blood Tooth."
Deep in the ever dark forest of Gaymere, there was a five mile long, quarter mile deep chasm in the ground. This was Blood Tooth, the home of the Bloodfang clan. Blood Tooth was said to be the creation of a long dead dragon that took his claws and gouged out the rip in the surface of Keanna in a great rage. Goblins had found it and built homes and tunnels all through it over thousands of years then spread out through the lands around it to create Gaymere. Over the years, many clans had fought over control of the Tooth. Some won, some lost. Sometime the loser would leave and find a new place to live, sometimes they didn't and were made slaves of the victor.
Like Orcs, Goblin society was ruled by the strongest and murder and betrayal was very common. Most Goblin rulers ruled by fear and intimidation, but all that had started to change when Kranko Fearfist became the chief in Blood Tooth.
You see years ago in a place far away, Kranko had learned of a thing called honor and it changed him. His heart was no longer ruled by hate and greed. He had ambition, yes, but he thought there was another way to go about getting want he wanted then murder and backstabbing. He started to talk and teach other Goblins about honor. He had many fights and many duels, and somehow he always managed to fight fair and come up on top until his fight with Bog Fanggore the chief of the Bloodfangs and overlord of the Goblin nation.
For a year Bog had heard rumors of a Goblin teaching warriors of something new and totally contrary to the Goblin way. He heard whispers of the crazy scheme called honor but dismissed it as a weakness that any true Goblins would never accept. But as time went by, the talks about Kranko and his honor grew louder and louder until Bog could ignore it no more. He ordered Kranko brought to him in chains to stand for his judgement.
Beaten and bloody, Kranko was dragged through Blood Tooth and tossed on the ground in front of Bogs bone throne. Bog looked down on him as the small arena where he held court filled up with Goblins to watch Bog put an end to Kranko and his ludicrous concept of honor.
Kranko stood up to face Bog on his throne as the charges were read. Bog charged him with sedition and conspiracy. He stood and called Kranko a traitor to the Goblin nation and he sentenced him too death. But one of Bog's own lieutenants stepped out and objected to Bog's sentence. He said as a senior warrior under the laws of the clan and tribe, Kranko had the right of combat. If he wished, he could challenge Bog to a battle to be chief of the Bloodfang clan. Kranko accepted and made the challenge. The warrior asked if he was sure he wanted to make the challenge. He reminded him that if he lost, not only would he be put to death, but his family would also suffer the same fate. Kranko accepted and still made the challenge. As Bog accepted, the arena was prepared for the battle.
The battle was to be fought to the death in two challenges. First with swords and if no one won that, they would move on to clubs. As the battle started, Kranko faced off with Bog and fought with honor while Bog used every dirty trick he could think of. He threw dirt in Kranko's face, he used weapons other then the one allowed in battle. He even had someone in the crowd stick out his leg and try and trip Kranko. But Kranko was fast. He dodged the dirt, deflected the dagger and with a smart kick at the right moment, he broke the ankle of the interfering bystander. Then time was called and each opponent was given two minutes to rest and switch weapons to clubs or hammers. Though most of the crowd cheered for Bog, there was a number that stood on Kranko's side. The warrior who had objected and spoke out for Kranko was Chonk Bonegrinder. By speaking out for Kranko, he knew he had signed his death warrant. Bog would have him killed if he won the battle. His only chance was to side now with Kranko and support him in ant way he could. From his own arsenal, Chonk brought out his father's hammer and gave it to Kranko with his pledge to stand by him win or lose. It seems his honor concept was working and some were starting to believe and accept it.
When the call came to fight, Kranko charged in with his hammer ready. Bog fought with every trick he knew, but it just was not to be his day. Kranko wore him down and after thirty minutes of battle, Kranko's hammer struck Bog on the shoulder and spun him around and into a blow to his face that split open his head. As Kranko stood exhausted in triumph, one of Bog's men charged out with his sword raised high aiming for Kranko's back. Like a shot, Chonk was there to defend his new chief. He intercepted the blow and sank his dagger into the heart of the attacker.
That was the first day of Kranko's rein as the chief of the Bloodfang clan. It was never easy. Not many accepted his concept of honor but in time, they learned to respect Kranko and they learned what honor meant and how it could benefit there lives. But of course there were those who refused and would always plot behind his back. Kranko didn't care, he had his honor and his allies and his secret which kept him and his son safe.
It was dark by the time Hoddie had made it to the first tunnels of Blood Tooth. There were four Goblins on sentry at the tunnel. Hoddie had no idea what had happened and why his father had lost his place as the chief, so he didn't know how safe it was for him to be in Blood Tooth. He pulled the hood of his enchanted cloak over his head and concentrated on the changes he wanted to make in his appearance. His nose grew longer and his mouth twisted, his eyes bulged and his back became hunched. Hoddie pulled a small pocket mirror from his pouch and check to make sure he was unrecognizable. With a little concentration, he added a thick scar across his face and was satisfied with his look.
With a sword at his side, Hoddie stepped out and walked down the trail to the tunnel to Blood Tooth. In his mind he quickly went over what he would tell the guards that would get him pass them and into Blood Tooth.
"Haakhec." Hoddie said with a nod as he approached the four warriors. "I am here to seek council with the chief of the Bloodfang clan. I have an opportunity that he will find profitable."
The four Goblins looked at him, then at each other. One stepped out with a short spear leaning against his shoulder.
"Who are you?" He asked. "What clan are you from?"
Hoddie's first thought was to name the Black Skulls. But he wasn't sure if they were involved in this in some way. Maybe a clan they had never heard of might be a better idea. He thought quickly for a second.
"I am Goboc, son of Tuluk Blacktooth of the clan Greyclaw." Hoddie puffed out his chest with pride.
The four Bloodfangs looked at him and scratched their heads as if they had never heard the name before. Hoddie frowned.
"You have heard of the Greyclaws?" He ask. "We defeated the Stinkbreaths and the Grimfangs, we tore out their hearts to grind in the mud. It was wondrous bloody war for all to sing about. Surely you have heard the songs?"
"Aye!" A warrior nodding vigorously and punched one of his companions. "We have, the songs were glorious. The battles must have been great."
"They were." Hoddie smiled. "Now who am I to see? Who is the chief of the Bloodfangs?"
The warrior smiled at Hoddie and at that moment, Hoddie knew they had something in mind.
"You said you had something that would be profitable?" He smiled and handed his spear to one of his companions. "What could you have that could be profitable to Slug Fearfist?"
When Hoddie heard that name, he lost concentration for a second, and his image blurred. Without giving the warriors a chance to react, Hoddie dived into them and grabbed a hammer and smashed it down in two quick blows knocking out two warriors. Dropping the hammer, Hoddie grabbed his daggers and as he dived between the two shocked warriors, stabbed them both in the heart. After he wiped his daggers clean, he dragged the four and hid them in the forest then returned to the tunnel and started on his way in.
Once in the tunnel, Hoddie stopped for a second and concentrated on making himself invisible. He stepped into a small crevice and thought about what hr had learned from the warriors. Slug Fearfist was the chief. Slug Fearfist was his uncle. His father's brother. If he was the chief, that meant he was the one in league with Bruego D'aruk. He had betrayed his own brother to an Orc, one of their oldest enemies. Hoddie was so angry, he almost punched the tunnel wall. But he knew breaking his hand wasn't going to help his father, so he stepped out and started on his way down into the heart of the Blood Tooth.
Invisible from sight, Hoddie made his way down and into the tunnels. At first he didn't see very many Goblins, but after a few turns he entered into the main Cavern and looked down into Blood Tooth from a balcony high above.. What he saw sent a shock through his entire body.
Blood Tooth was usually a very busy society with Goblins doing many different tasks. Like most communities, there were hunters, and smiths, Kranko had even set up schools for the young. The Goblins had come a long way since Kranko took over as chief, and they had prospered. But now that Slug had taken over, thing had changed.
As Hoddie looked out at Blood Tooth, he saw hundreds of warriors preparing for war. Forges burned out in the open making swords and hammers. Timber from the forest had been cut down for spears, clubs and ax and hammer handles. There were warriors everywhere pounding each other and beefing up for war. Blood Tooth hadn't been like this since Bog was chief.
Seeing this, Hoddie could think of only one reason for such preparations, Bruego and Slug were planning to move out of Gaymere and attack someone. It could be the Elves, the Fairies or even the Orcs or Humans. Bruego was planning something and Hoddie had to find a way to keep the Goblins out of it or everything his father had fought all theses years for would be wasted.
Pulling his cloak tighter around him, Hoddies started down through the forges and gathered warriors being careful not to let anyone touch him. He slipped passed the guards and made his way to the entrance to the lower levels where only the chief and his family had access. It the entrance, two Goblin warriors stood guard. As Hoddie approached He realized he knew them. It was two of his uncles toadies, Gruen and Gronk Maul. Two twin brothers that always did his dirty work. They were pretty dull minded so Hoddie didn't think he's have much of a problem getting pass them. Especially with the help of his cloak. Ducking to the side, Hoddie concentrated on a change in his appearance. He went from invisible to the mirror image of his uncle Slug. Slug Fearfist unlike his brother Kranko was a sloppy looking Goblin with jowls and a belly. He wasn't really much of a fighter but with the Goblins that followed him, he didn't have to be.
Disguised as Slug, Hoddie walked over to the Maul brothers who snapped to attention.
"Get out of my way." He said waving them aside.
Like two obedient dogs they stepped aside and let him pass. Hoddie stepped on the spiral staircase and started on his way down. As he walked down the stairs, he slipped back into invisibility so no one on the lower levers would see him coming.
Shrouded in invisibility, Hoddie went from room to room, from apartment to apartment looking for his father. He search his own personal rooms and the rooms his father use. He moved on to search Chonk's rooms and those of his mate to find nothing. That meant either his father wasn't there in Blood Tooth or he was in the dungeon.
Just as Hoddie was about to head down to the dungeon, He heard a familiar voice coming out of Chonk's room.
"Yes." He heard. "Kranko and Chonk are well guarded, there's no way that ugly little bastard could reach his father in the dungeon no matter who is helping him. You go finish your ritual, I have Blood Tooth well in hand."
"Good." A more gravely voice said. "When I'm done, and I have the power I need, we march. Be ready."
Hoddie knew those voices. It was Slug and Bruego and he was right. His father is still down here. Now he had a choice, he could help his father or go after Bruego. Well that would be a easy choice. He would have to leave Bruego to Niro and Rowyn since they had the magic to fight him with. Hoddie's best move would be to free his father. Well the the dungeon it is. He headed back up to the cavern above to go to the dungeons to help his father win back his clan. He hoped Rowyn and Niro were ready for Bruego D'aruk.
The moon shined bright as Niro and Sima crept through the forest. Sima was alert to every sound and smell around them. She had the scent of the band of Goblins that kept watch on the trail and steered Niro away from them. Tonight, their mission was to locate any and all Goblin watches so they could avoid being seen by them. So far they had found eight watch sites with Goblin guards. Niro relayed the location back to Rowyn, who waited in a hidden spot each time they found one.
As Sima and Niro did they're search, they came across a hidden little pocket clearing. In the center of the clearing, Niro found a small altar with strange carving and symbols etched all around it and something dead in the center. This didn't look to Niro like something the Goblins would make. As far as he knew, most Goblins worshiped Tyree, and this didn't look like what one would sacrifice to Tyree. It looked more like something dedicated to something much darker.
[Rowyn.] Niro sent out. [I think I found something.]
[What is it?]
[It's an altar.] He walked around it looking more closely.
[Forget it.] She sent. [There are a few of Tyree's altars scattered all through Gaymere. Goblins like to worship out in the open.]
'[I don't think this is one of Tyree's altars.]
[Why?] She asked.
[There's a dead satyr here as an offering. I don't think Tyree would like that.]
For a minute, Rowyn was silent. Niro could feel her confusion.
[Stay there.] She said. [I'm coming to join you. I need to see this altar.]
Niro and Sima stepped back into the forest to keep hidden in case a Goblin patrol wandered by. A few minutes later, Rowyn came flying down out of the trees to join them.
"Show it to me."
"It's right over here." Niro pushed his way through the bushes to show her the altar. Rowyn stepped out and studied the alter and it's poor sacrifice. It was a round slab of granite with black ash etchings of dark symbols. There were four unlit black candles and the body of a dead satyr.
"Bruego is here." She said. "This is his altar."
"That's what I thought." Niro said. "What do you want to do with it?"
"We destroy it then give the altar and this poor soul back to Tyree." Niro bent down and picked up the satyr body and put it aside. Then he took out his ax and slammed it down on the granite block smashing it to pieces. Niro and Sima dug and grave in the spot where the altar had been and Niro placed the body in the grave. Together, they buried the satyr.
FROM THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT.
TO THE YOUNG AND FREE.
WE RETURN WHAT IS YOURS.
TO THE GREAT GOD TYREE.
WE CLEANSE THIS SOUL
AND SET IT FREE.
WE DEDICATE THIS LAND
AND RETURN IT TO THEE.
As Rowyn and Niro watched, grass sprouted to cover the grave and beautiful flowers grew in a circle around the edges of the grave. Then in the center, a patch of glowing lilies of red and white bloomed. Tyree accepted the satyr and this was his way of saying thank you.
"I guess he likes it." Niro smiled. "Now what do we do?"
"We wait." Rowyn went and sat back where she could watch the grave. "He will come, and when he does, we will be here waiting."
It was cold and dark in Blood Tooth's dungeon as Hoddie creeped through the aisle. Usually there wasn't very many prisoners down there. Kranko didn't like this place, he had spent time here when Bog was the chief and the treatment he had received. He had swore only to send his worst enemies into imprisonment, but now it seemed he was back behind bars.
With his daggers in hand, Hoddie slowly went up and down the aisle of the dungeon. He saw many of his fathers warriors here, the cells were all full now. Searching he went from cell to cell until he saw a familiar face. Chonk Bonegrinder lay bound hand and foot in and single cell. Hoddie stopped and studied the lock on the door then pulled from his pouch two thin needle like picks and started working on the lock.Seconds later he slowly swung the door open and went in and knelt and covered Chonks mouth before he could make a sound.
Slipping back the hood on his cloak, Hoddie pulled Chonk up so he could see him.
"Hodgodde?" He said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"Saving your butt." Hoddie said. "Do you know where my father is?"
"Yes." Chonk said as Hoddie untied him. "He's here in the dungeon. Your uncle plans to use him for some kind of sacrifice."
"Not if I have anything to say about it." He helped Chonk up on his feet. "Can you walk?"
"I can do better then that." He smiled. "I can fight that fat bastard, just give me a sword."
"Here." Hoddie pulled a sword from under his cloak and handed it to Chonk. "We have to get everyone free from these cells. Do you know where the key is? It would take to long for me to pick all the locks."
"The guard has them." Chonk said stretching his arms and legs and swinging the sword. "If I make a little noise, I can get him in here. He'll come in and try and give me a kick, I'll have a surprise waiting for him."
"Good." Hoddie said. "Where's my father's cell?"
"Straight up on the left. Go, I'll meet you there once I have the keys"
Hoddie nodded then turned to leave.
"Hoddie." Chonk quietly called him back. "It's good to see you here. He will be proud."
Hoddie smiled and left to find his father. He quickly ran up a few cells and turned left and found a cell with two warriors standing guard. He pulled his hood back over his head and vanished from sight then pulled his daggers and slowly walked on to the cell. Just as he reached the cell, Chonk started screaming. The two guards stepped away from the front of the cell and Hoddie attacked. With two lightning strikes, he slashed the throats of the two guards and they crumpled to the ground. Hoodie stopped and listened as the guard came in to see why Chonk was screaming.
"Shut up in there!" He heard. Then he heard the cell down open and a sudden grunt of surprise. Hoddie smiled as he went to work of Kranko's cell door. He opened it and rushed in to find his father laying still on the floor. Knelling, Hoddie lifted him up into a sitting position.
"Father." He reached up and touched him between the eyes. "Father, wake up it's me. Wake up please!"
Kranko's face was all bruised. His lip was split, his eyes were bulging and there was a huge lump on his head. Hoddie reached in his pouch for his emergency supplies and took out his one and only healing potion. He uncorked the vial and tipped it to Kranko's mouth and poured it in. The golden brew flowed in sending its warm healing effect through Kranko's body. As Hoddie watched, his swollen eyes and the lump seemed to just melt away and go down. The split lip sealed and his eyes fluttered then opened. He moaned and looked up into to sons eyes.
"Hoddie?" He looked around. "What happened? Where am I?"
"You're in the dungeon in Blood Tooth father." Hoddie smiled relieved that he would be OK. "They took you prisoner."
"What are you doing here?"
"He came to get us out you old fool." Chonk came in followed by a hand full of Goblin warriors. "I told you the boy would make you proud, now get your ass up. We have a score to settle."
"Slug?" Hoddie stood and helped his father to his feet.
"He has help." Hoddie told them. "There's a Orc wizard out there trying to take Gaymere and there rest of Fay Shrea. I have friends up to after him, but we have to stop Slug and get Blood Tooth back under control."
"I need a weapon." Kranko frowned. Chonk handed him a hammer he had taken from the guard room. "No one touches Slug. Leave him too me. Let's go take the Tooth back!"
The forges of Blood Tooth burned hot as Slug screamed orders to his weapons makers to work harder. He wanted sharper and stronger swords. He wanted hammers and spears that would equal anything the Elves could bring against him. Between his warriors and Bruego's magic, expected to take more then Blood Tooth. He wanted to prove he was better than Kranko and that he deserved to be overlord of the Goblins.
With the enormous Swel Warhand at his side, Slug made his way through Blood Tooth to the arena where the bone throne of the chief sat. There he had planned to give his new lieutenants the locations for the morning attack.
With his chest puffed out and his fat belly hidden behind tight armor, Slug walked out and stepped up on the dais where the throne sat. He looked out at the gathering of Goblins and smiled a devious grin. He had won. The throne was his and Kranko now lay beaten and bounded deep down in his dungeon. He cleared his throat to talk to the crowd.
"Ghec dager!" He raised his fist into the air. "Kranko is no more and tomorrow we march for my glory!!"
"Think again Worm!!"
Slug turned to find Kranko walking in and up on to the dais with Chonk and Hoddie at his side. Shocked to see his brother free, Slug turned to the left looking for a way to escape and was stopped by five of Kranko's warriors charging in.
Refreshed by the healing potion, Kranko walked out and stood opposite Slug and Swel on the dais.
"So you want to take my place as chief of the Bloodfangs do you?" Kranko said his voice echoing through the arena. "You think you have the strength to hold all the clans under your leadership? And all of you will back his claim for my throne?"
The warriors out in the crowd murmured to each other whispering back and forth. So far none of them stepped forward preferring to let Kranko and Slug decide who would rule. Then a tall warrior stepped out.
"There is only one way to decide who rules." He said.
"I agree." Kranko said. "If you want the throne Slug, make the challenge and pick up a weapon. Face me brother or forfeit your claim."
"The throne is already mine Kranko." Slug laughed. "There is no need for a challenge. I have already won."
"You have won nothing Slug." The warrior shouted. "You have not proven your strength, or wisdom to lead. All you have proven is that you have no honor and that you would ally us with one of our worse enemies. You think we didn't know about the Orc. Make the challenge Slug or suffer the price of treason. If you win, you will be chief. If you lose, you die."
Slug looked out at the gathered assembly of Goblin leaders. He knew he had no choice and he had to make the challenge or they would all denounce him and he would be stoned to death by the whole Bloodfang clan. His only hope was if he could substitute Swel for himself in the challenge. Swel could fight in his stead and be his champion.
"I will meet your challenge." Slug sneered at Kranko and stepped beside the huge Swel. "Since you make the Challenge, I get to choose the mode of combat. And I choose combat by surrogate. I choose Swel Warhand as my champion."
Swel stepped forward rattling the dais as he walked. He dropped his hammer at Slugs feet and folded his arms across his chest and groaned at them. Out in the crowd the Goblins started whispering to each other surprised at Slug's strange announcement. There had never been a challenge like this before and they weren't sure if it should be allowed.
"You have it confused brother." Kranko said. "I don't make the challenge, I am the rightful chief of the Bloodfang clan. The challenge is yours, but I will accept it and fight Swell."
"You can't fight Kranko." Said a warrior standing in the front of the dais. "If you accept his challenge then you have to choose another to fight for you. The challenge is for surrogates."
"I will fight." Chonk said. He pulled his sword out and stepped out in front of Kranko to challenge Swel.
"No." Hoddie put a hand on Chonk's shoulder to stop him. "A son should always stand at his fathers side. I will fight him."
Kranko looked at his son with pride though he wasn't sure this was a good idea. Swel stood at least two feet taller then Hoddie and was packed with muscles. He hoped the boy was fast because that would save his life.
"Are you sure?" Kranko asked.
"I am." Hoddie took off his cloak and handed it to his father. He pulled his daggers and spun them in his hands.
"Take my sword." Chonk said pushing it out to Hoddie.
"I don't need it." He walked out to meet Swel out in front of the dais. "These are all I need."
The crowd moved back as the two combatants stepped down into the arena to battle. A warrior wearing old armor with a red strike on it stepped out.
"This is a challenge of the leadership of the Bloodfang clan." He said. "The winner will not only be our chief, but he will be chief over all the clans in Gaymere until another beats him in the challenge. The loser will die today. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Hoddie said as Swel just nodded an acknowledgement.
"Then let the battle begin!!"
As the warrior stepped back and out of the way, Swel pulled his sword and charged at Hoddie. He raised it and went for a quick kill. Hoddie waited until he was about to strike then spun to the left and reached out and carved a slice down Swel's back as he passed. Swel stumbled and turned hardly noticing the pain from the cut. As he flexed his muscles, Swel took a fighting stance and moved in on Hoddie. Holding his sword with two hands, he stabbed then swung down. Hoddie stepped to the side then twirled and kicked out at Swel's knee. As it folded and Swel started to fall, Hoddie kicked up and hit him in the chin. Swel fell back and Hoddie was on him stabbing into his shoulder three times then leaping back as Swel's sword sliced through the spot he had he had been in.
With a loud guttural yell, Swel was back on his feet and charging at Hoddie. Now he was hurt and angry. Like a ram he ran at Hoddie and hit him hard. Hoddie went flying back to land on his back with the air knocked out of him. With a mighty roar, Swel dived on him with his sword raised ready to impale him. With lightning like reflexes, Hoddie swung out with his daggers and sliced trough Swel's throat then rolled as fast as he could to get out from under him.. Swel slammed into the ground next to Hoddie clutching his throat as the blood sprayed all over the ground. As Hoddie got up, Swel kicked a few times then lay still.
"The challenge is done." The warrior said as he stepped up on the dais next to Kranko. "You are chief."
All the warriors standing around the arena went down on one knee and bowed to Kranko. He turned to Slug who stood there trembling and kicked him off the dais.
"You challenge has failed." He said. "You die tonight."
"No!" Slug screamed and pulled a sword. "I am chief here! I rule this clan! I command you to kill them now!!"
Kranko leaped across the sword from Slug then cracked him in the head with the hilt. Slug fell knocked out cold.
"Take him to the dungeons." Kranko commanded. "Let him sit and stew for a while. We have an Orc to deal with."
As the warriors dragged Slug out, Kranko took his place on the throne and called his son over.
""You have friends outside?"
"Yes Father." Hoddie answered. "They may need help to defeat the Orc."
"Then let's go and help them."