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"The Siege of Dragon's Keep"

A Tale of Stoneheart the Slayer

A Darkestorme Short Story by Jaffa Holland

siege of dragons keep
Artwork from "Siege" by Chuanzhong

The epic of Stoneheart continues into it's sixth year in this Darkestorme short story which sees the erstwhile Dwarf forced to defend his adopted home against a coalition of races bent on taking Hazadkar, the Dragon's Keep.

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Time, endless time, is what I felt I had. For eight years I walked the mines of Hazadkar. I was in all but name a prisoner. I was, to be fair, a well looked after one but a prisoner nonetheless.

Twenty great Dragons had come to live in Hazadkar, five hatchlings had been born and the first blue Dragon in over two thousand years had hatched. Dragons release magic into the surrounding area when they hatch. This is a deep and powerful magic as it revitalises the lands and is part of the source of all magic that other races draw upon. Dragons also have the ability to see possible futures and so the ones that thought that safe heaven had been granted and that the word of the short lived races could be trusted had come. Grrrant the baby blue Dragon had caused much conversations with the Dragons as he had the ability to bring harmony. That Grrrant by his very existence will mean that a certain amount of magic, woodlands, wetlands, and even humans and older races will in terms of numbers stay in harmony. Birth rates in the elder races will increase but reduce in humans. Parts of the forest will be unable to be burned or cut down to crow crops. Leathkind advised that a Dragon conclave had to be called such was the importance of Grrant, for should he stay within Hazadkar after just five sessions he would never be able to leave as he would be tied to the magic and the lands.

My body had healed and the nightmares had ceased in general. Leathkind rarely left my side, she seemed to draw power from our connection and although younger than all but the hatchlings had become the queen of mountain. In order to quell any thoughts of mountains of gold and jewels hid within the mountain she invited Dwarves/men and elf’s to visit and even to allow Dwarves to mine parts of the mountain. I knew though that her father’s hoard was vast and well protected elsewhere.

A large settlement had sprung up, both the elder and younger races felt secure with the Dragons protecting them. None knew that Leathkind could transform into human form. None knew that I was the keeper of Dragon lore, all knew that I was a demon slayer and of my history. Most stayed away from me and those few that did speak to me only did so when forced as for some reason I was given the grand title of keeper of peace.

Eight years of Dragon lore had now been passed on; with each new memory and piece of magic spoken I changed as the magic transformed me. I grew in height and would not be normally now be recognised as a Dwarf. My features had become more like those of Leathkind when she transformed into human form. I did not like these changes but hoped that they would revert once all the lore had been spoken.

It was clear to me shortly after wondering the mines that Hazadkar could easily become a tomb for the Dragons, with this in mind and knowing full well that the settlement below needed to be easily defended I called on skills of the crags the master Dwarven masons. Master Doowns headed my call. In secret he led two hundred masons craving out three new passages for the Dragons to escape. Payment for their work came in the form of weapons and armour made by myself each item using the finest of metals.

While these works were been undertaken some of the riches from Dragon hoards elsewhere were used to pay for the fortification of the mountain. A mighty wall twenty feet in height and six wide travelling nearly ten miles was built. A small lake was dammed so that water would also ways be plentiful. All round the mountain small caves were dug out where two to six could stay and rain down steal arrows. At the vast entrance to the mines a second and third wall were built.

It was well that these works were undertaken for unbeknown to us a vast army was assembling of Orcs, driven by the need to destroy the race of Man and a hatred of Dwarves and Dragons. The host over a period of two years had been attacking to the West and had caused devastation. Now the Dragon’s fortress was in there sights.

Bad luck would have it that the Dragons had left for a conclave leaving me to defend their home.

With little in the way of warning they hit at night the outlying settlements hundreds died but the beacon was lit and word spread fast that we were under attack.

I raced to the other wall with all who heard the cry to defend. Deceit in hand I ran at the first to come over the wall. Goblins and Orcs flung themselves at those of us that had reached the wall first. They were desperate to gain a breach. It seemed like thousands of them were hitting at once all with pure hatred and a want to kill. For what seemed like hours they just kept coming, where I could I tried to organise us but the reality was that we fought for our lives. At some point in the night, they launched other evil creature’s giant bats and spiders. Later I found a huge dead bear on the walls. How it had gained the wall I would never find out but eleven dead surrounded it.

The attack failed, but not for wanton loss of life, we were saved by the weak Northern sun. One of the weaknesses of Goblins is that direct sunlight hurts their eyes and makes it hard for them to fight.

Looking out, it was clear that we did not have the numbers to defend the wall. That we had lost close to four hundred though the long night. We had in the region of three thousand left but the host looked to number close to five times that number. It was Master Doowns came up with the plan to cover the wall in fire oil. We would set the wall alight when part of the host was over and then rain arrows down.

Hawks were sent with coded messages requesting help, for if we fell then the North was open to attack. I was unsure if any would come to aid Dragons.

That day all that could, took refuge in the mines. We had a lot of provisions so could withstand a very long siege, although I doubted that a siege was what our enemy wanted. I could see that wolves, bears, and other fighting beasts were part of what would be attacking us. This was a truly a battle of the races.

That night with me at the head, a brave token force agreed to stand on the wall and defend, luring as many enemy troops onto the wall as possible. An area a mile wide had been covered in oil. For a brave hour these Men and Dwarves and Elves fought and died. Master Doowns blew the horn and those that were able fled. It was a mad dash with arrows raining down from above and to the side. I would lie if I said that my heart did not race with delight. I was still a slayer at heart. The Dragon lore inside me had made me even stronger. My night vision always good was much enhanced. Fire arrows it the oil and the walls were aflame. From running away to turning and fighting close to a third of the enemy were slain.

We could not hold the wall so with the light of day coming round we retreated back to the second wall.

The second wall, I felt confident that we would be able to hold that we knew that the first wall in any battle would fall but that our second wall should be able to hold back a far greater host than those defending it. Firstly there was only one way to attack no building or tree stood in the way for eight hundred meters. The wall itself only could be breeched at a single point. The gatehouse had a whole in the top, suspended above that was enough rock to fill the gatehouse.

The wall was fifteen feet wide, with murder holes all along and catapults situated behind the wall ready to fire, rocks, fire-oil, and anything else that would kill the enemy.

We catapulted iron spikes over the wall into the dead zone so no wolves or bears would find a safe space to walk. That the riders of beasts could not charge in with ladders.

The mountain stood all round us so we could not be attacked from behind. Nor could a tunnel be easily dug through the solid bedrock.

We did not count on the fact that the lip of the mountain did not over hang the wall in one place. It was a narrow place to be fair no wider than an orc but wide enough.

First came the giant bats able to carry small Goblins on their backs firing arrows. On silent wings they flew up and hung on to the very cave roof. Unseen and deadly. Hundreds of them must have flown in over the course of the two nights.

Over those two nights the Orcs and Goblins tried to clear a path to the wall, mighty Trolls holding vast shields of metal protected Goblins while they cleared a path. Many died at as we launched our catapults but more came. This I realised later was just a diversion to keep us watching the front rather than our roof.

Over the noise many hundred Orcs slipped through the gap in the room and strapped themselves to the roof.

The third night they dropped from the room while the Goblins rained down arrows. Chaos descended as the main hoard attacked, thousands and thousands of the enemy launched a full scale attack. Fully half of our forces were destroyed in the first ten minutes. Oh how our pride let us down.

The wall was taken.

I let the red mist fully descend and embraced madness, time slowed as it always does for me, I saw the arrow fired and was able to step aside and throw an axe at the surprised Goblin as it hit blade first landing deep in the creatures head, while at the same time spinning and dropping to the floor smashing the knees of a giant Orc.

I can’t say how many I killed, but the weight of numbers pushed me back, I was bleeding from a score of small wounds but I did not notice. I was forced back to the third and much smaller wall. A small gate was still open and I ran for it.

The enemy were now in the mountain, the third wall was just that a wall that blocked any further entrance to the caves of the mountain. It ran from floor to cave roof. It was not built to withstand siege engines through.

I had but five hundred able fighters and the people from the town left. It was about to get very nasty. I spoke to all advising that it was likely that all would perish but that the masons would take the wounded and town people as deep into the mountain as possible.

We would fight in the tight mines and make them pay for every foot that they took. We filled as many containers with as much fire oil as we could. We covered the floor with the rest.

It was only hours before the wall was breached. They came through and died from our arrows and burned form the oil. They became carful and approached much more slowly and still they died.

I led from the front as we slowly retreated back deeper into the caves. It was slow going.

What we could not have known was that help was on the way. The Dragons had felt it and knew that there home was under attack, word had gotten through to the land of Men and an army was sent with all haste as although no great lovers of Dragons, they loved Orcs less.

We fought in the mines for three days, I have never felt so tired, I could hardly hold let alone lift my warhammer. I had no idea how many of us were left.

Then they were gone. One moment I was standing toe to toe then they ran.

It took a while to understand, but the Dragons, Men, Elves and Dwarves had all joined forces and hit the Orcs and forces for the dark from behind. They were destroyed to the last.

How the North changed in that one battle is a tale for another time, but suffice to say that magic was finally returning.

~

siege by chuanzhong
Siege by Chuanzhong

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Stoneheart's tale will continue here on Orcs in the Webbe in 2017 as magic finally collides with the ambitions of the Elven Prince, Mordred...

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Webmaster's Notes

The above short story is an Orcs in the Webbe original and was first published on December 7th 2016 as part of the 2016 Advent Calendar.

Jaffa is a long time friend and ex-house mate of mine who has been my opponent in many battles of Flintloque and Darkestorme. I hope you enjoyed this tale featuring his character, Stoneheart, here on OITW as much as I did.

You can see the previous Stoneheart tales, in chronological order by clicking on the maroon  Stoneheart  tag just below.