While waiting at the doctor’s today, I was reading The Thousand Orcs.
I must be the only one in the waiting room who laughed his ass off. The chapter I was reading at the moment is probably the best thing I’ve ever read 😀
It’s about two dwarven brother being escorted from a forest by two elves. Now, one dwarf just reminds me of Gimli so much 😀 – Ivan Bouldershoulder. Actually, he and the elf, Tarathiel, are kinda like Legolas and Gimli 😀
Ivan’s comments like Now, are ye to make a friend of a dwarf and let him chop an orc head or fifty?, ..And I’m thinking me axe’ll be fitting real well between them orcs’ eyeballs... just kick ass 😀
Of course, his brother, Pikel, is just as awesome.
That little guy is a (powerful) druid (yeah, quite “undwarfish”), but what makes him really kick ass is Pikel language that consists only of comments like Oi, Oi. The guy does some serious shit and then starts giggling or going Wee!
Anyway, here’s the mentioned chapter:
R. A. Salvatore:
Forgotten Realms The Thousand Orcs (The Hunter’s Blade Trilogy I): Chapter 20 – Sharp Turn in the Road
They moved along the paths of the Moonwood easily, with Tarathiel, astride Sunset, leading the way. The bells of his saddle jingled merrily, and Innovindil walked with the dwarf brothers right behind. The sky was gray, and the air stifling and a bit too warm, but the elves seemed in a fine mood, as did Pikel, who was marveling at their winding trail. They kept coming upon seeming dead ends and Tarathiel, who knew the western stretch of the Moonwood better than anyone alive, would make a slight adjustment and a new path would open before him, clear and inviting. It almost seemed as if Tarathiel had just asked the trees for passage, and that they had complied.
Pikel so loved that kind of thing.
Among the four, only Ivan was in a surly mood. The dwarf hadn’t slept well the previous night, awakened often by Elvish singing, and while Ivan would join in any good drinking song, any hymn to the dwarf gods (which was pretty much the same thing), or songs of heroes of old and treasures lost and treasures found, he found the Elvish styling little more than whining, pining at the moon and the stars.
In fact, over the past few days, Ivan had had about enough of the elves altogether and only wanted to be back on the road to Mithral Hall. The yellow-bearded dwarf, never known for his subtlety, had related thoseemotions to Tarathiel and Innovindil often and repeatedly.
The four were moving out to the west from the region where the elves of the Moonwood made their main enclave and just a bit to the north, where the ground was higher and they would likely spot the snaking River Surbrin. The dwarves could then use the river as a guide on their southerly turn to Mithral Hall, Tarathiel had explained that they had about a tenday of traveling ahead of them —less, if they managed to float some kind of raft on the river and glide through the night.
Pikel and Innovindil chatted almost constantly along the trail, sharing information and insights on the various plants and animals they passed. Once or twice, Pikel called a bird down from a tree and whispered something to it. The bird, apparently understanding, flew off and returned with many others, lining the branches around the foursome and filling the air with their chirping song. Innovindil clapped her hands and beamed an enchanted smile at Pikel. Even Tarathiel, the far more serious of the two elves, seemed quite pleased. Ivan missed it all, though, stomping along, grumbling to himself about “stupid fairies.”
That, of course, only pleased the elves even more—especially when Pikel convinced the birds to make an amazingly accurate bombing run above his brother.
“Think ye might be lending me yer fine bow?” the disgruntled Ivan asked Tarathiel. The dwarf glared up at the branches as he spoke. “I can get us a bit of supper.”
Tarathiel’s answer was a bemused smile, which only widened when Pikel added, “Hee hee hee.”
“We shan’t be accompanying you two to Mithral Hall,” Tarathiel explained.
“Who was askin’ ye?” Ivan grumbled in reply, but when the two elves fixed him with surprised and a bit wounded looks, the dwarf seemed to retract a bit. “Bah, but why’d ye want to go and stay with a bunch of dwarfs anyway? Course ye could, if ye’re wanting to, and me and me brother’d make sure that ye was treated as well as ye treated us two in yer stinkin . . . in yer pretty forest.”
“Your compliments roll as freely as a frozen river, Ivan Bouldershoulder,” Innovindil said in a deceivingly complimentary tone.
She tossed a wink to Tarathiel and Pikel, who giggled.
“Aye,” said Ivan, apparently not catching on.
He smirked and looked hard at the elf.
“We have much to discuss with King Bruenor, though,” Tarathiel remarked then, bringing the conversation back to the issue at hand. “Perhaps you will bid him to send an emissary to the Moonwood. Drizzt Do’Urden would be welcomed.”
“The dark elf?” Ivan balked. “Couple o’ moon elves like yerselves asking me to ask a drow to walk into yer home? Ye best be careful, Tarathiel. Yer reputation for hospitality to dwarfs and dark elfs might not be sittin’ well with yer kin!”
“Not to dark elves, I assure you,” the elf corrected, “but to that one dark elf, yes. We would welcome Drizzt Do’Urden, though we have not named him as a friend. We have information regarding him—information that will be important to him and is important to us.”
“That is all that I am at liberty to say at this time,” Tarathiel replied. “I’d not burden you with such a long and detailed story to bring to King Bruenor. Without knowledge of that which came before, you would not understand enough to properly convey the information.”
“It is out of no mistrust of you two that we choose to wait for King Bruenor’s official emissary,” Innovindil was quick to add, for a scowl was growing over Ivan’s face. “There is protocol that must be followed. This message we ask you to deliver is of great importance, and we let you go with complete confidence that you will not only deliver our words to King Bruenor, but deliver them with our sense of urgency in mind.”
“Oo oi!” Pikel agreed, punching a fist into the air.
Tarathiel started to second that, but he stopped suddenly, his expression growing very serious. He glanced around, then at Innovindil, then slid down from his winged mount.
“What’s he seein’?” Ivan demanded.
Innovindil locked stares with Tarathiel, her expression growing equally stern.
Tarathiel motioned for Ivan to be quiet then moved silently to the side of the trail, bending low to the ground, head tilted as if he was listening. Ivan started to say something again, but Tarathiel held up a hand, silencing him.
“Oooo,” said Pikel, looking around with alarm.
Ivan hopped about, seeing nothing but his three concerned companions.
“What’d ye know?” he asked Tarathiel, but the elf was deep in thought and did not reply.
Ivan rushed across to Pikel and asked, “What’d ye know?”
Pikel crinkled his face and pinched his nose.
“Ores?” Ivan cried.
In a single movement, Ivan pulled the axe from his back and turned, feet set wide apart in solid balance, axe at the ready before him, eyes narrowed and scouring every shadow.
“Well, bring ‘em on, then. I’m up for a bit o’ chopping afore another long and boring road!”
“I sense them, too,” Innovindil said a moment later.
“Dere,” Pikel added, pointing to the north.
The two elves followed his finger, then looked back at him, nodding.
“Our borders have seen orc incursions of late,” Innovindil explained. “This one, as the others, will be repelled. Trouble yourselves not with these creatures. Your road is to the west and the south, and there you should go and quickly. We will see to the beasts that dare stain the Moonwood.”
“Uh-uh,” Pikel disagreed, crossing his burly, hairy arms over his chest.
“Bah!” Ivan snorted. “Ye’re not for throwin’ us out afore the fun begins! Ye call yerselfs proper hosts and ye’re thinking o’ chasin’ us off with orcs needin’ killing?”
The two elves looked to each other, honestly surprised.
“Yeah, I know, and no, I’m not liking ye,” Ivan explained, “but I’m hatin’ yer enemies, so that’s a good thing. Now, are ye to make a friend of a dwarf and let him chop an orc or fifty? Or are ye to chase us off and hope we’re remembering the words ye asked us to deliver to King Bruenor?”
Still the elves exchanged questioning glances, and Innovindil gave a slight shrug, leaving the decision to Tarathiel alone.
“Come along, then,” the elf said to the brothers. “Let us see what we can learn before rousing my people against the threat. And do try to be quiet.”
“Bah, if we’re too quiet, might be that the orcs’ll just wander away, and what good’s that?”
They moved a short distance before Tarathiel motioned for them to stop and bade them to wait. He climbed onto the pegasus, found a run forSunset, and lifted into the air, rising carefully in the close quarters, up and out to the north.
He returned almost immediately, setting down before the three, motioning for them to hold silent and to follow him. Up to the north a short distance, the elf led them to the top of a ridge. From that vantage point, Ivan saw that the mystical tree-attuned senses of his companions had not led them astray.
There, in a clearing of their own making, was a band of orcs. It was a dozen at least, perhaps as many as a score, weaving in and out of the shadows of the trees. They carried large axes, perfect for chopping the tall trees, and more importantly (and explaining why Tarathiel had been so quick to return with Sunset) and more atypically, they also each had a long, strong bow.
“I saw them from afar,” Tarathiel explained quietly to the other three as they crouched at the ridge top. “I do not believe that they spotted me.”
“We must get word to the clan,” Innovindil said.
Tarathiel looked around doubtfully. They had been traveling for a couple of days. While he realized that his people would move much more quickly with such dire news as orc intruders, and without having a pair of dwarves slowing them down, he didn’t think that they would get there in time to catch the orcs in the Moonwood.
“They must not escape,” the elf said grimly, thoughts of the last band retreating into the mountains still fresh in his mind.
“Then let’s kill ‘em,’7Ivan replied.
“Three to one,” Innovindil remarked. “Perhaps five to one.”
“It’ll be quick, then,” Ivan replied.
He took up his heavy axe. Beside him, Pikel fished his cooking pot out of his sack, plopped it on his head, and agreed, “Oo oi!”
The elves looked to each other with obvious confusion and surprise.
“Oo oi!” Pikel repeated.
Tarathiel looked at Innovindil for his answer.
“It has been a long time since I have had a good fight,” she said with a wry grin.
“Only a dozen—ye’ll have longer to wait for any real fight,” Ivan said dryly, but the elves didn’t seem to pay his remark much heed.
Tarathiel looked over at Ivan and asked, “Where will you fit in?”
“In the middle o’ them, I’m hoping,” the dwarf answered, pointingtoward the distant orcs. “And I’m thinking me axe’ll be fitting in real well between them orcs’ eyeballs.”
That seemed simple enough, and so Tarathiel and Innovindil looked to Pikel, who merely chuckled, “Hee hee hee.”
“Don’t ye be frettin’ about me brother,” Ivan explained. “He’ll find a way to do his part. I’m not knowin’how —I’m usually not knowin’ how even after the fightin’s over—but he does, and he will.”
“Good enough, then,” said Tarathiel. “Let us find the best vantage point for launching our strike.”
He moved to Sunset and whispered something into the pegasus’s ear, then started away while Sunset walked off in another direction. Innovindil went next, moving as silently as her elf partner. Then came Ivan and Pikel, crunching away on every dry leaf and dead stick.
“Vantage point,” Ivan huffed to his brother. “Just walk in, say yer howdies, and start killing!”
“Hee hee hee,” said Pikel.
Innovindil also wore a smile at that remark, but it was one edged with a bit of trepidation. Confidence was one thing, carelessness quite another.
With the elves guiding them, and despite the noisiness of the dwarves, the foursome came to the edge of a rocky clearing. Across the way, the orcs were at their work, some chopping hard at one tree, others holding guiding ropes tied off along the higher branches.
“We will hit at them after they have retired,” Tarathiel quietly explained. “The sun is high. It should not be long.”
Pikel’s face grew very tight, though, and he shook his head.
“He’s not for watching them cut down a tree,” Ivan explained, and the elves looked to each other doubtfully.
Pikel opened a pouch, revealing a cache of bright red berries. His expression grew very serious and very stern. With a grim nod to the others, he walked up to a nearby oak, the widest tree around, and put his forehead against its thick trunk. He closed his eyes and began muttering under his breath.
Still muttering, he steppedinto the tree, disappearing completely. “Yeah, I know yer feelings,” Ivan whispered to the two elves, whowere standing dumbfounded, their mouths hanging open. “He does it all the time.”
Ivan’s gaze went up to the branches, and he pointed and said, “There.”
Pikel exited the trunk some twenty feet above the ground, moving out on a branch that overhung the rocky field.
“Your brother is a curious one,” Innovindil whispered. “Many tricks.”
“We may need them,” Tarathiel added.
He was looking doubtfully at the dozen or more orcs, all with bows on their backs or lying within easy reach. Looking up at Pikel, though, he knew that the dwarves weren’t likely to wait, whatever he suggested, so he went into a crouch and began surveying the battlefield, then motioned to Innovindil to fan out to the side.
Ivan walked right between them, crunching through the trees, axe in hand, stepping onto the edge of the clearing.
“Can’t be hitting anything that moves, now can ye?” he taunted loudly.
The chopping stopped immediately. All sound from the other side of the clearing halted, and the orcs turned as one, their yellowish, bloodshot eyes wide.
“Well?” Ivan called to them. “Ain’t ye never looked death in the eye before?”
The orcs didn’t charge across the way. They began to move slowly, deliberately, with a couple barking orders.
“Them’re the leaders,” Ivan whispered back to the concealed elves. “Pick yer shots.”
The orcs never blinked, never took their eyes off the spectacle of the lone dwarf standing barely twenty feet from them, as they slowly began to collect their bows, to string the weapons and bring them up to the ready.
The leaders continued to talk to the others, and it was obvious that they were calling for a coordinated barrage, bidding those already prepared to fire to hold their shots.
The elves fired first, a pair of arrows soaring out from the brush to strike true across the way, Tarathiel’s taking one leader in the throat, Innovindil’s catching another in the belly, sending it squirming to the ground.
At that same moment, the air before Ivan seemed to warp like a ripple on a pond, and that wave rushed across the clearing as the orcs let fly.
Arrows warped even as they cleared the bows, bending like the strands of a willow tree and flying every which way but straight. Except for one, from the trees to the side, that soared in at Ivan.
The dwarf saw it in time, though, and he jerked down, bringing his axe up to the side and, fortunately, in line with the missile. It clipped the blade, then Ivan’s armored shoulder, staggering the dwarf to the side but doing no real damage against the armor he wore.
“Get ‘em all, ye durned fool!” Ivan scolded his brother, who giggled from the boughs above him.
Across the way, the orcs looked at their bows as if deceived and saw that most of those, too, had warped under the druidic magic wave, and so they threw them down, drew out swords and spears, and charged wildly.
Two more barely began their run before elven arrows dropped them.
Ivan Bouldershoulder resisted the urge to counter with his own charge, and the urge to look up and make sure that his scatterbrained brother was still paying attention.
Another pair of elven arrows soared off, and Tarathiel and Innovindil leaped out beside Ivan, each drawing a slender sword and a long dirk.
The orcs closed, leaping stones and scrambling over boulders, and howling their guttural battle cries.
Handfuls of bright red berries flew out over Ivan and the elves, enchanted missiles that popped loudly and sparked painfully as they hit. Dozens of little bursts settled in and around the charging orcs. The enchanted bombs did little damage, but brought about massive confusion, an opening that neither Ivan nor the elves missed.
Ivan pulled a hand axe from his belt and flung it into the face of the nearest orc, then drew a second and cut down an orc to the side. Out he charged with a roar, his large axe going to work immediately on one stumbling monster, halting its charge with a whack in the chest, then flying wide as Ivan spun past, coming in hard and chopping the creature on the back of the neck.
But it was the movement of the elves, and not ferocious Ivan, that elicited the sincerely impressed “Oooo” from Pikel up above.
Standing side by side, Tarathiel and Innovindil brought their weapons up in a flowing cross before their chests, rising past their faces and going out at the ready to either side, so that Tarathiel’s right arm crossed against Innovindil’s left, forearm to forearm. They held that touch as they went outagainst the charge, moving as if they were one, flowing back and forth and turning as they went, Tarathiel crossing behind Innovindil, coming around to the female’s right and shifting past, so that they were touching right forearm to right forearm, right foot to right foot, heel against toe.
Not understanding the level of the joining, an orc rushed in at Tarathiel’s seemingly exposed back, only to find Innovindil’s blade waiting for it, turning its spear aside with ease. Innovindil didn’t finish the move, though, but rather went back to an orc that was still off-balance from Pikel’s bomb barrage. The elf slid the blade easily through the orc’s exposed ribs as it stumbled past. She didn’t have to finish that move either, for Tarathiel had understood everything she had accomplished in the parry as surely as if he had done the movement himself. He just reversed his grip on the dirk in his left hand, and while still parrying the blade of the orc he was fighting before him with his sword, he thrust out hard behind, stabbing the attacking spear wielder in the chest.
In a single, fluid movement, Tarathiel extracted the dagger and flipped it into the air, catching it by the tip, then brought his arm toward the orc before him as if he meant to throw the dirk.
The orc flinched, and Tarathiel rotated away.
Innovindil came across, her long sword slashing the confused orc’s throat.
Tarathiel slopped the rotation first and dropped his sword arm down and around, hooking his still-moving partner around the waist. He pulled hard, lifting Innovindil off the ground, pulling her over his hip, and whipping her across before him, her feet extended and kicking at the orc that had come in at Tarathiel.
She didn’t score any hits on that orc—she wasn’t really trying to—but her weaving feet had the creature reacting with its short, hooked blade, striking at her repeatedly and futilely.
As Innovindil rolled across his torso, Tarathiel reached across with his left hand, and she hooked her right elbow over it, and he stopped his rotation completely, except with that arm, playing with Innovindil’s momentum to send her spinning out to his left.
At the same time, as soon as she had cleared the way, the male struck out with his right arm, his sword arm. The poor orc, still trying to catch up to Innovindil, never even saw the blade coming.
Innovindil landed lightly, her momentum and spin bringing her rightacross the path of another orc, her blades slashing high, stabbing low.
In that one short charge and spin, the elves had five orcs dead or dying.
“Oooo,” said Pikel, and he looked down at the berries in his hand doubtfully.
Then he caught a movement to the side, moving through the brush, and saw a pair of orcs lifting bows.
He threw before they could fire, the two dozen little explosions making the orcs jump and jerk, stinging and blinding them.
Pikel’s arms went out that way, his fingers waggling, calling to the brush around the pair of orcs. Vines and shrubs grabbed at the creatures, and at a third, Pikel realized with a giggle, for he heard the unseen orc roaring in protest below its trapped companions.
Ivan didn’t have the grace or coordination of the warrior elves, and in truth, their deadly dance was impressive to the dwarf. Amusing, but impressive nonetheless.
What he lacked in grace, the yellow-bearded dwarf more than made up for in sheer ferocity, though. Rushing past the orc he had chopped down, he met the charge—and hard—of another, accepting a shield rush and setting his legs powerfully. He didn’t move. The orc bounced back.
Ivan chopped that leading shield arm hard, his axe creasing the shield, even digging into the arm strapped under it. He jerked the weapon free immediately, lifting the orc into a short turn and forcing it to regain its balance. The dwarf struck again, this time getting the axe head past the blocking shield, chopping hard on the orc’s shoulder.
The wounded creature stumbled back, but another rushed past it, and a third behind that.
Ivan was already moving, taking one step back and dropping low. He grabbed up a rock and threw it hard as he came up, thumping the closest orc in the chest, staggering it. As its companion came past it on its left, Ivan went past it on the right. His axe took the stunned orc in the gut, lifting it into the air and dropping it hard on its back.
The second orc skidded to a stop and started to turn—and caught Ivan’s axe, spinning end over end, right in the chest.
Ivan, orcs in hot pursuit, charged right in, bowling over the creasedorc as it fell and collecting his axe on the way. He kept running to a nearby boulder and leaped up and rolled over it, landing on his feet and falling back against it.
Orcs split around the boulder, charging on, and expecting that Ivan had run out the other side.
His axe caught the first coming by on the left, then went back hard to the right, smashing the lead orc from there as well.
Ivan hopped out behind the backhand, ready to fight straight up, but he found the work ending fast, as elven blades, already dripping orc blood, caught up to his pursuers.
There, facing the dwarf from either side of the boulder, stood Tarathiel and Innovindil. Much passed between the three at that moment, a level of respect that none of them had expected.
Ivan broke the stare first, glancing around, noting that no orcs were in the area except for dead and dying ones. He heard the clatter of the remaining creatures fleeing in the distant trees.
“Got me eight,” Ivan announced.
He looked to the orc he had hit with the backhand, blunt side of his axe. It was hurt and dazed, and trying to rise, but before the dwarf could make a move toward it, Tarathiel’s sword sliced its throat.
The dwarf shrugged. “All right, seven and a half,” he said.
“And yet, I would reason that the one among us who scored the fewest kills was the most instrumental in our easy victory,” said Innovindil.
She looked up to the tree to where Pikel had been sitting. A movement to the side turned her gaze, and those of Ivan and Tarathiel, to a tangle of brush from which Pikel was emerging, bloody club in hand and a wide grin on his face.
“Sha-la-la,” the dwarf explained, holding forth the enchanted club. He held up three stubby fingers. “Tree!” he announced.
There came a movement behind him. Pikel’s smile disappeared, and the dwarf spun around, his club smashing down.
The three across the way winced at the sound of shattering bone, but then Pikel came back up, his smile returned.
“Not quite done?” Ivan asked dryly.
“Tree!” came Pikel’s enthusiastic reply, three fingers pointed up into the air.
The day was warm and sunny when the four companions came to the northwestern corner of the Moonwood. From a vantage point up high on a ridge, Tarathiel pointed out the shining line of the River Surbrin, snaking its way along the foothills of the Spine of the World to the west, flowing north to south.
‘That will bring you to the eastern gates of Mithral Hall,” Tarathiel explained. “Near to it, at least. I suspect you will find your way to the dwarven halls easily enough.”
“And we trust that you will deliver our message to King Bruenor and the dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden,” Innovindil added.
“Yup,” said Pikel.
“We’ll tell ‘em,” said Ivan.
The elves looked at each other, neither expression holding any doubt at all. The four parted as friends, with more respect between them, particularly from Ivan and Tarathiel, than they had ever expected to find.
Okay, it’s Valentine’s Day today, so you were probably expecting a love story. In my defence, I don’t like romance novels, and Tarathiel and Innovindil are lovers 😀