Arry Flashorc has called in a favour from Rekhardt Sharke asking him to pay a visit to the Notables Club in Mudfayre, Londinium and make sure nothing amiss occurs during the magicke mirror show.
What could possibly go wrong...
“Careful wif it lad. Its wurf more than yer noggin and that's fur sure. Easy now, put er down nice an slow.”
The burly young Orc carefully laid down the large ornate mirror onto the specially build wooden stand. Old certainly, really heavy more definitely; his back ached. The two of them had only carried the thing a hundred yards from the cart to the snow covered garden behind the Notables Club in Mudfayre and yet both of them were feeling queasy and rather dizzy from the effort. It wasn't the weight of the mirror, as the two of them were used to hauling coal and night soil all eve long. Rather it was an aura about the mirror. Neither of them had actually seen it due to it being carefully wrapped in a thick velvet robe big enough even for the largest Hunvarian to wear with ease. But their job was done and the copper in their pockets was easily earned. Due to it being Captain Flashorc they had insisted on being paid upfront, everyone knew he was a rogue, but all he had said is that he got it cheap from an Otharmann trader in Port Bristle the week before.
“There we is; all done. Now off to the Strangled Parte Inn for wur supper and a squeeze of Lucy if we is lucky.”
Side by side they nodded in deference to the assembled members of the Notables who were now flowing out of the rear doors of the Club and forming up in front of the mirror stand. Those assembled barely noticed the two labourers as they passed and instead continued their discussion that had begun in the cigar and pipe smoke of the hearths of the Club.
“No idea my dear fellow. Flashorc just said it was a wheeze and that we would have a ripping time looking at in, or in it. I forget which.”
Lord Pumpergranite was tugging at his grey whiskers as he spoke. Flashorc was a rogue, everyone knew it but he was also a treasure to the club as he always seemed to be able to dig up all manner of entertainment for the members. In this case the mirror was from the deep deserts of Aegpyt and he had been told that it was able to conjure up images of long past times and peoples. He found the idea of standing or sitting watching a screen for entertainment rather odd but he was game for a laugh. Best not to delay though, it was chilly and the warm rooms of the club called to him and would do more so as time passed.
“Jirvy. Be a good fellow and get that cloak off the mirror so the show can begin. Arry Flashorc ain't here so its his loss. Onwards with it!”
The white liveried butler bowed and then strode to the mirror and unwrapped the cords which bound its cover. In less than a minute it was bare the the crowd gasped in delight...and then moments later the crowd began to scream.
At the far end of Mudfayre Captain Rekhardt Sharke was not having such a jolly time. His hand was on the hilt of the long brutal sword at his side.
“Damn him and damn you. I paid for a lead here and you haven't given me one. We have been wandering these cobbles for an hour. Now where is that ruddy club before I split you where you stand.”
Cowering in front of the angry Captain a small Joccian offered every apology he could think of. From his ailing mother to his gammy leg and his torn nerves from the Wulchurn Expedition with the army. All the while his black eyes never left looking at Sharke's hand on his sword.
Padrag Harpy a monstrous sized Bog Orc placated his officer explaining that it was not the Joccian's fault that he could not find the Notables Club as he had insisted that they stop at O'Harrorcs on Hardgayte Lane to trade in the gold teeth they had taken from Colonel Lassie Fayre the month before in Catalucia. Placating would not be easy, especially not in this case. Padrag knew that Sharke owed Arry Flashorc a favour and it had been called in this very morning. Go to the Notables Club and make sure no one messed with the members during the magicke mirror show. Now they were late and the show would have begun. Harpy opened his mouth before before he could speak there was a nearby and sharp retort. He knew the sound of a pistol being discharged. Sharke knew it too and he let go of his sword and signalling the small group of Rifleorcs he pointed in the direction of the shot.
“Come on Padrag, they’re playing our tune. A groat says the song is where we need to be!”
Crunching the fresh snow into the cobbles as they went the group made best speed for the now increasing sound of battle being joined.
Richly dressed Orcish nobility were spilling out of the lane that ran down the side of the Notables Club as Sharke skidded to a halt. In a manner well practised in war he grabbed the nearest of the fleeing Orcs and shook him until he got what he wanted. What was happening?
“Round the rear, blood. It's no mirror by Sentinal. Its alive, their not myth, their well and alive here and now. Let me go, we have to flee.”
Sharke grunted and pushed the panicking noble aside. He gave his orders in a short gruff tone and drawing his sword stomped forward into the lane. Sergeant Harpy along with Rifleorc's Hagsmun, Arris, Tunge, Koopa and Purrkinz followed him with Major Piecrust, Captain Fredorcson and the other Orcs in the group bringing up the rear.
The scene that greeted them in the garden was like the battlefield of Tarrenvera. Instead of dry grass it was the thin Cryptmass snow that was streaked with blood and gore. Captain Sharke swore long and loud before turning back to his Orcs and issuing his orders. He spoke as the final few members of the club sprinted past the cluster of green jacketed soldiers.
“Load and make ready. Wait for my word. Pick your targets.”
Against the Elves of Armorica it would be simple enough. Blue and white moving among the rocks, advancing across a powder smoke streaked field, picking their way about a breach. This would be no different. Cut throats, Orcs or others, the Bakur Rifle would kiss them dead all the same. Sharke swung back around and raised his sword expecting the foe to be there ready for the killing. But the garden was empty of anyone but the dead. He paused.
“Padgag. Where the bloody hell are the bastards? There's no one here but us.”
The huge Bog Orc lowered his mighty seven barrelled Nock gun and took two strides to his officers' side. There was indeed no one in the garden except for half a dozen badly mangled corpses and the gore soaked platform upon which stood the what Harpy assumed was the Mirror of Zyrgone which Captain Flashorc had wanted them to guard during the now abandoned show. The mirror was unlike anything Harpy had ever seen before and being of Guinalea he knew Wylde Magicke when he saw it. There was an aura about the mirror, like a purple mist which stopped any reflection coming from its glass surface.
“Soir. It might be the mirror which tis the cause of his here morder. But your'e right enough that there is none here but us.”
Sharke swore again. That treacherous sod Flashorc had done it again. From some far off place where civilisation was a looser concept than here in Londinium the mirror was undoubtedly to blame. But how and why. What was it capable of? Growing up in the rookeries of this very city Sharke had gained a fine sense of when danger was near and it was damn near now. Best to rid themselves of it and have to explain it to Arry later. He pointed his blade at the mirror.
“Dahn. Put a bullet in that glass and break it before it comes at us with any of its mischief.”
Dahn Hagsmun, an elderly Orc, was the best shot in the whole of the 105th regiment and Sharke had no doubt his expertly loaded rifle would hit hard and true. An moment later there was the sharp crack of a Bakur and a puff of grey smoke. But instead of the expected sound of glass shattering and falling a very different noise reached the ears of the Rifleorcs. A long drawn our roar of pain and wild rage mixed came from the purple clouded mirror. The roar was so loud that the windows of the club behind the group shuddered in their frames.
All of the Orcs shifted uneasily and Sharke growled at them.
“Steady you buggers. Seems a bullet ain't going to give us glass rain. Padrag, Bok, Daz with me. Fix yer swords.”
It took only a short time for the chosen to pull out the foot long wickedly serrated bayonets and fix them to the front of their rifles and along with their commander they formed a small semi-circle and trod carefully towards the mirror while the rest of the Orcs kept their weapons levelled and ready. All but Hagsmun who was muttering about wasted wrapping and was carefully reloading his Bakur.
“Slowly now. Lets keep it slow. Right to the edge of the platform.”
The four advanced until they reached the foot of the platform where they were confronted with a discarded velvet cloak of a considerable size and what looked like the lower half of a servant wearing blood soaked white breeches. Of the upper half of the poor wretch there was no sign. Now that they were much closer the aura of the mirror was clearer and the glass in its setting more like a liquid than a solid pane. There was no reflection just a wavering black surface. Sharke stepped up onto the platform. Harpy called for caution.
“Careful Soir. That might be just what our half an Orc here did and it ended poor for him.”
Sharke grunted his dismissal of the remark and took two more steps bringing himself onto the same level as the mirror and then he looked into it and time simply stopped. It was as if the mirror reached out and grasped him by the skull wrenching him toward it by only his mind and not his body. His vision leapt from his eyes and towards the black glass and then bursting through the ochre surface his vision left his body very far behind.
Tall grass rushed beneath him at increasing speed while a blue sky and bright sun was overhead. He heard the calls of wild boar and other animals and saw Orcs wearing nothing but loincloths and carrying spears hunting them. His heart soared and he wanted to be with them, he felt the rush of the hunt and the primal glee at the kill as one of the Orcs brought down a boar and then others fell upon it with their bare teeth ripping into the beast raw. This was life, this was real, not the dream of sticks which boomed death and sown clothes of red. This was wrong Sharke felt as if he was loosing his mind here. He struggled to return to his own time, his own world and as his vision began to pull back from the now fur and blood drenched Orcs he heard another sound; a roar like the one the mirror had made when Hagsmun had shot it and it was getting louder. His sight fled across the waving grass, retracing its path, all the while the roar got loader and as he neared where he had begun a shadow fell across the grass. A monstrous shadow of scales and claws reaching for him...
Sharke felt himself being flung bodily from the top of the platform to crash face first into the snow at its foot. Harpy had grabbed him and made the throw seemingly just in time. To the Bog Orc his commander had just leaned forward towards the black surface with a blank look on his face and then the mirror had begun to reach out for him. Padrag had acted just in time, what had been minutes for Sharke had been seconds for him, as the extending black mass of the mirror's suface had exploded out to reveal an arm even larger than his own. The arm was red in colour with great tendrils of muscle beneath its scales and it ended with lethal looking white tipped claws.
Lifting his face from the thin snow and then crunching his nose back into position Sharke rose angrily to his feet just in time to be struck by Rifleorc Koops as he fell back from the platform. Koopa apologised without looking round and Sharke, still groggy, was just about to yell at him when he too saw what was happening to the mirror. The arm was no longer just an arm, it was a body and a leg too. A creature was hauling itself through the glass!
The four of them took step after step backwards as the creature emerged fully onto the platform and roared with tremendous volume. It was bigger than any Ogre Sharke had ever seen. Scaly and red from head to foot it was terrifying to behold, even more so as it shook out wings from its back and then flexed its muscles drawing a seven foot sword from a leather harness about its waist. Even as it did so a smaller creature much the same but without the wings climbed through the glass of the mirror and then another, and another. All of the Orcs were mesmerised by the creatures and mouths agape they did nothing.
Padrag Harpy saw the ragged hole in the giant creatures upper torso where Hagsmun's bullet had obviously struck it and this broke what was evidently a spell upon the group. He struck Sharke in the side with his free fist while the other brought the Nock gun up.
“Soir by the devils of Haydes give the order!”
Sharke reacted more by instinct than conscious choice. The monster, for that was what it was, ahead of him was something from a nightmare. Born of rage and fuelled by the desire for destruction and for endless flesh torn with blade and claw. It was legend, his mind reaching for the word, a word long disused but lodged by racial memory more than anything else. Then it came...the word, the fear, the terror of an age he knew nothing of but knew all the same. Snarling he shouted it true.
“Dragons! Fire you scum!”
Ingrained command in the Orcs took over and in an instant the air was torn by the passage of a dozen bullets from rifled barrels. In lesser troops and with misfire and inaccurate muskets the tally might well have been less but these soldiers were of the 105th, the Albion Rifles, and they hardly ever missed especially with their carefully loaded first shot. Every bullet found its mark upon the huge Dracci Lord and the monster staggered back under the impact of so much lead. Sharke was now fully aware of his surroundings and reacting to the danger as if it was any other.
“Padrag finish that bastard!”
The massive dragon man was stooped now and aside from the thirteen bloody rents in its flesh it was missing one of its wings as well. Its great sword hung limply from its hand but in its eyes Sharke could see the kind of anger and venomous rage that even in war few ever see. And it was still standing despite taking the kind of punishment that was beyond any foe he had ever faced before. It roared once more as Sergeant Harpy raised his Nock gun and pulled the trigger setting off all seven barrels with one act of his scarred finger.
None of the pistol sized balls from the Nock gun missed their mark and the Dracci Lord was blasted apart as five of the balls hit its head and neck. The heavily muscled body pitched forward and crashed to the thin snow with such an impact that Sharke felt the turf shudder under his feet. As the smoke cleared there was no time for celebration or even to draw breath for behind the now dead Dracci Lord another three smaller Dracci had emerged from the mirror and were advancing with blades of a strange greenish stone in their clawed hands.
“Back. Back to the line. Load, load.”
All of the Rifle Orcs who had delivered the accurate volley upon the deceased Dracci Lord were now rapidly reloading their rifles. They sped the process up by not wrapping the bullet and banging the butt of the Bakur on the hard ground. The shots would not carry as far but that was of little concern as the enemy were so near. Sharke balanced the relative safety of the thin line of green jackets against the nearness and the danger of turning his back on these ferocious foes. He had not lived so long by ignoring peril or underestimating a fellow killer and these creatures radiated murder like he had never felt in his life. He would stand where he was and meet them with steel.
The three Dracci moved towards the four like liquid fire with a gait so smooth they seemed to barely touch the snow. Lithe despite their muscled backs and red skins they belied their physical power and weight with their dancer like movements. Sharke brought up the heavy blade and goaded the nearest dragon man. As he shouted his challenge he wondered if the creature even understood him. But then violence had its own tongue.
“Oi! You red bastard, come get split!”
They might not have caught the words but the Dracci heard the tone and they accepted the challenge. In a few steps they were upon the four soldiers in a storm of rage and anger. As they came one of them flung a stone disc that whistled past Sharkes' head and then buried itself in the torso of a Rifleorc in the line behind him. The Orc went down screaming and then the sword play began.
Bok Arris was the first to meet the dragons in combat. He twisted his bayonet and lunged plunging its serrated length into the Dracci who had just thrown the stone disc. It screamed in pain and swung an arm at Bok who did not manage to duck in time before the clawed first connected with his head. He was felled like a tree and dropped leaving his rifle and its bayonet embedded in the Dracci. Rifleorc Koopa pulled the trigger on his loaded Bakur and the shot blasted at point blank range into the wounded Dracci's neck. These two wounds were too much for it and it fell backwards dead with Bok's rifle still hanging from its chest.
Koopa did not have time to react before another Dracci brought its stone blade down hard on his right leg. Bones snapped from the crushing injury and the Orc fell as the Dracci leaned in for the killing stroke. It never got the chance to deliver the that sword stroke however as Padrag Harpy grabbed it bodily in a bear hug. Koopa scrabbled away his leg trailing as he watched the big Bog Orc expend all his strength against the dragon man. At first it seemed that Harpy would triumph with ease as the Dracci howled in pain but then the creature set itself against the sergeant and flexed its own muscles in an effort to break the hold. As it did so Koopa could see it gaining the upper hand as it exerted itself. Harpy was lucky that he had caught hold of it from behind because its clawed hands and feet were ripping at his legs and arms. If its face had been towards him those rows of teeth would have bitten his throat out.
Padrag Harpy redoubled his efforts and he strained, the veins on his face standing out. Howling with fury the creature tried again to free itself but the Bog Orc was too strong and all of a sudden with a sickening crunch the Dracci went limp; its spine broken in two. Harpy let it slip down his bloodied front and then gripped the vicious looking head and twisted sharply, shattering the bones that connected the broken spine to the creature's skull.
Meanwhile Rekhardt Sharke was trading and parrying sword play with the last dragon man. The two of them were unaware of the world around them and even when a rifled bullet struck the Dracci in the leg it just ignored the injury and continued on intent on Sharke alone. Sharke swung his sword in a wide arc and the Dracci parried and then it actually snapped at him with its teeth. He recoiled and then doubled back the steel sword whistling through the air. The steel met red flesh and stuck fast in the roped muscle beneath it. Sharke swore just as the creatures own sword struck him glancingly in the shoulder. He felt his arm go numb so he let go of the sword and reached into his belt for the two needle like knives that he kept there for moments such as this.
Jaws wide open and sword almost forgotten in its hand the Dracci drove forward on Sharke and made to bite his face clean off. As it did so Sharke pulled the two thin knives from his belt and lunged in return. The needle like knifes plunged into the creature's belly and this was enough for it to miss Sharke's face and instead its teeth tore a mixture of cloth, skin and flesh from his shoulder. Both the warriors roared in pain and for a moment the fight stalled as both accessed their wounds. But only for a moment.
Sharke had let go of his blade but now he decided to retrieve it. He grabbed for the sword and wrenched it free of the Dracci. It felt good to have the heavy hilt in his hand once more and he pressed his attack. With a quick swing of the steel he cut into the creature's right arm but the dragon man wounded as it was still proved dangerous. Tearing the thin blades from its belly the Dracci dropped them and despite the deep rent in its arm raked at Sharke with both its hands; having discarded its own sword for a more personal form of combat. The tall Rifleorc was not fast enough to avoid the claws and he felt the agony as his clothes and skin shredded at their touch. With its arms forward the blood red engine of death had left itself open to his follow up attack. Ignoring the pain coursing through him Sharke brought the sword back and speared it into the muscled meat under the creature's right arm. It howled but Sharke pushed up as hard as he could and the steel blade continued its ruinous course and broke bones before bursting the vital organs beneath.
Even a child of the dragons could not ignore so many wounds and it staggered away from Sharke bleeding profusely. There were two loud cracks and two more bullets struck the creature making it totter on its clawed feet. Despite his own injuries Sharke pressed on and with a rapid step and then brutal downward swing of the heavy blade he hewed the head from the Dracci. It fell dead in an instant.
Sharke collapsed to his knees and drove the point of his sword into the frozen soil so that he could lean upon it. The three dragon men were dead but in the time it had taken them to dispatch them more had emerged from the mirror and while a few of them were advancing upon the Orcs most of them made for the opposite end of the garden. There they had found an old drain and its rusted iron cover proved no match for their claws. One after another they dropped into the hole and down to the lands beneath Londinium were some believed Wylde Magicke still held sway. He knew that his small command could not stop them but by now the militia and the Ogres of the Peelers must be on their way. That would be their problem. His was that damn mirror.
“Drop those sods!”
The Rifle Orcs drilled holes in the skulls of the few Dracci who threatened them and their officer. They had taken their time and aimed avoiding body shots and trying for the heads of the creatures where the ropes of muscle of their frames would be of no use. It took all their skill and all the loaded shots they had but it worked. As the creatures collapsed Sharke issued another order.
“Purrkinz grab that cloak and get it back over the ruddy mirror.”
The youngest member of the group slung his smoking rifle and ran for the platform lifting the velvet cloak as he reached the steps. Sharke admired the lad, it was a brave act getting near that mirror. In a few more moments the cloak was back over the mirror and Purrkinz was lashing its attached cords around and around before tying them tight.
Sergeant Harpy offered Sharke a hand and the kneeling officer took it and hauled himself to his feet. The two of them were bleeding and bruised but it could have been worse. Koopa might never walk again if they could not set his leg in the manner that Armorican doctor had shown them in Lisabone and Bok Arris was still out cold the damage to his head still to be seen. They had gotten off lightly and Sharke knew it.
Captain Flashorc owed them an explanation and Sharke would get it. The favour was paid in full and then some. Sergeant Harpy spoke.
“Those were tough buggers soir. Nasty like the meanest wench in Inskinning town I tell you.”
As he spoke Sharke heard the thudding approach of many feet. The chase would have to continue under the earth.
“No Padrag. Not tough at all. That wer easy, I've seen tougher whores in the alleys of Mudrid. Lets go and find Arry. After all its Cryptmass and it would be rude not to call on him at home.”
An Orcs in the Webbe Original! "Sharke and the Mirror of Zyrgone" was written exclusively for OITW's 2012 Advent Calendar and was first published on Monday 17th December 2012.
Once again Gavin has written a Dracci tale for the Advent Calendar specifically for me on my birthday. I cannot thank Gavin enough for these tales, they really do make the day for me.