Ondernifam stood tall, taller than any other orc around. “And now, we will conquer the world!”
Only minutes earlier, Boar had sworn allegiance to help fight against Ondernifam. He had sworn to return to his realm, not to upset the tide of battle. And yet… And yet, there he was. The proud, the mighty, the warrior Ondernifam! How could he leave his master’s side?
“You seem unwell.” Ondernifam crossed his arms. “You are disoriented after crossing into this realm.”
“I am mighty!” Boar roared back. It would not do to show weakness in front of Ondernifam.
“You are the mightiest.” Ondernifam agreed. “I sense confusion in you.” Boar opened his mouth to protest, but Ondernifam cut him off. “It is allowable, in this instance. It is not a weakness. You swore an oath to me, but that was centuries ago. I was taken from you, and you have sworn other oaths. Oaths that conflict with your oath to me. Since you presumed me dead, this was allowable.” Ondernifam stalked closer, his skin turning black. “You have a choice. Renounce those oaths and return to your first oath. This is allowable and honorable. Or renounce my oath, and leave this palace at once.”
In that instant, it all made sense. Boar had assumed Ondernifam was dead! Now that he knew his commander was alive, he was released from every vow made after that!
“I swear my allegiance to you, now and forever.” Boar fell to his knees yet again. “I will serve you in life, and should I fall in your service, will cheer you on from the Endless Battle until you join me in eternal combat.”
“I accept your pledge.” Ondernifam placed a monstrous paw on Boar’s shoulder. “Rise, my son. We have much to discuss.”
Boar followed Ondernifam as the mighty commander stalked through the fortress. The other orcs that had been present in the throne room vanished, dissipating to their various tasks. Boar snorted as they made their way through the obsidian and granite halls. Oh, it was good to be back. Orclings scurried around their feet, dashing back and forth in their efforts to repair and build up the castle.
“What happened?” Boar finally asked as the two of them reached a war room, complete with an enormous carved map of Calsin. Several foot-tall orclings sat on the edges, poised to move the various markers that sat in key positions across the display. “Please, I still don’t understand?”
“I don’t understand fully, myself.” Ondernifam rumbled. He gestured at the map, which showed more or less the same information that Sapphire had shown him earlier. “We were on the verge of conquering it all. I still remember the Battle of the Rift. Oh, such glory!” Ondernifam sighed, then shrugged. “I was asleep. There was a flash of light, and I was here. In a fortress built by orclings, without a single one of the creatures in sight. Females mingled among the men, common traders walked through our castle like invited guests.”
Boar nodded. “So you took it back.”
“So I took it back.” Ondernifam held up his right hand and balled it into a fist. “I put the females in their place, made our men become true warriors once more. In a way, whatever happened did me a favor. We were already one united country. All I had to do was signal the cry for war, and orcs across the world began the great purge. And since then, it has been a never-ending bloodbath.”
“Good!” Boar snorted. “You do me proud.”
“I have missed you, Boar.” Ondernifam turned to him. “Though you present me with many questions.”
Boar dipped his head. “Speak, and I will answer.”
“I thought the changes to the world had come through some sort of witchcraft.” Ondernifam rumbled. “I thought the world had changed. Now, it seems that I was the one who changed, jumping from one world to the next. You say that your world, the world I came from, still exists?”
“As far as I know, yes.” Boar nodded. “I was brought here by accident. I do not know how to return.”
“It is of no consequence.” Ondernifam walked up to the map. He nodded at the orclings, who scampered across the stone table and began placing markers in the middle of Distisil. “Franclin tells me that you were heading to the Wizarding Academy. You were going to find a way home.”
Boar snapped his jaw. “That was the plan, yes.”
“Good. Then we will make it our plan as well.” Ondernifam turned to Boar. “The rest of this world will fall within months. Help me secure my victory over this continent. Once we reign supreme, we will enter your own world, laying waste to it. I will be the first orc in history to rule two worlds!” Ondernifam smiled, ignoring the blood. “And then we will move onward. I will conquer even more versions of Calsin! We will rule it all.”
Boar smiled as well, relishing in the pain as his own tusks chaffed against his skin. “I will help you lay waste to all your enemies.”
Ondernifam clapped Boar on the shoulder. “To the future, then.” He sighed, then nodded. “It seems that the key lies in the Wizarding Academy. Now that we know it exists, I will redouble my efforts to find it. Until then, I have other tasks for you.”
Boar lowered his head. “Name them, my master.”
“You will head north with an army I provide to you. There, you will meet with the forces outside the Northern Free Province, and lead them in battle. I do not need the entire province to fall today, but I do need you to take a city or two. Reduce their resources, show that they cannot stand against our might.”
Boar dipped his head. “It will be done.”
“Good.” Ondernifam turned to stomp away. “I will send messengers to Oferisan, who will rally the troops for you. You’ll leave in two hours.”
Boar frowned. “And until then?”
“Until then, you are to head down into the village.” Ondernifam flashed a small smile. “There are many females in heat right now, and I cannot take care of them all. I need more warriors to fight by my side. This war is far from won.”
“Of course, master.” Boar turned and walked away. He didn’t know the exact path to get down to the village, but he would figure it out.
He was riding into battle for Ondernifam! He would lay waste to the entire world, he would lay waste to all worlds!
He was mighty. He was an orc.
Boar opened his mouth and roared as the army crested the final hill. Below him, the orcish army sprawled out for miles on end. Smoke rose from a thousand fires as the army below sought to stay warm in the winter winds.
Behind him, the orcs following close behind let out an equally powerful roar, shaking the snowy land of the Northern Free Province. Troops began to wander past him, making their way down to join the orcs that had already been camping there.
“We await your word.” Oferisan rode his horse up next to Boar. “We will attack at once if you command it.”
“Word of reinforcements will not quickly find its way into enemy hands.” Boar rumbled. “Allow the troops to rest. We attack at daybreak. Join me in the tent of meeting in three hours.”
Oferisan inclined his head and rode down with the troops. Boar crossed his arms and surveyed the camp. According to the report supplied by Ondernifam, the army already in the north numbered five thousand, along with three thousand additional troops from the mixed allied armies. Boar was still uncertain of what to think about that, but was unable to think about it more as Franclin rode up next to him.
“What would your grace wish I do?”
“Stop talking like that.” Boar spat. “After that, go find the other leaders. We need to discuss our battle plans.”
“Of course.” Franclin inclined his head, then shrugged. “You do realize you’ll need to be less gruff than that, right?”
Boar turned and glared at the spidery human. “What do you mean?”
Franclin held up his hands, causing his horse to skip slightly. “The allied forces are only allied with the orcs because they know that they would die if they weren’t. This will be the first time that they’ve been sent into battle against people that they betrayed to come here. Scare them too much, and they might just decide to leave.”
Boar snorted. “Are you thinking of leaving?”
“Of course not.” Franclin shook his head. “I know how to hedge my bets. The orcs are winning. Sure, you’ll probably purge us all after you’re done with the larger threats, but hey.” He shrugged. “One problem at a time, right?”
“Right.” Boar snorted. “Now go! Pathetic human.”
Franclin just chuckled and urged his horse off into the distance. Boar watched him go, more than a bit uncertain of just where the boy’s loyalty lay. Himself, certainly. Oh, well, non-orcs could hardly be trusted to understand concepts like honor and glory.
Boar kicked his own horse, urging the beast to charge down into the encampment. The entire location was very distinctly divided into sections. On the northern side, where Boar currently rode, it was entirely orcish. The only tents he saw were made from skin and bones, slain enemies, some of which still dripped with blood. Orcs lounged around, fighting each other and stomping through the snow.
Ahead, though, the scene changed drastically. The tents were made from cloth instead of hide, and the people… Were a bit less jovial. It didn’t take long for Boar to reach the edge of that part of the camp, where he nearly rode his horse across a dark elf lying in the snow like he was dead.
“Move, creature!” Boar roared.
“Oh, alright.” The elf slowly climbed to his feet and lurched out of the way. “I’m fighting for you, aren’t I? Stay away from me.”
Boar leapt from his horse, eliciting a sharp whinny from the beast. “What did you say?”
The elf, a man who seemed quite short for an elf, spun to glare at him. “You killed my family! I’m fighting for you, and I’ll serve you will, but stay away from me!”
“You have no right to talk to an orc like that!” Boar stalked forward and grabbed the elf by the neck. “I should eat you, here and now.”
“Do it.” The elf sighed. “I’ve been too afraid to take my own life. Just kill me and be done with it.”
“Whoa, now!” Franclin walked around the edge of a tent and held up his hands. “Boar! We talked about being less gruff, remember?”
“He insulted his commander.” Boar bit out. “He deserves death.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.” Franclin walked forward and put a hand on Boar’s arm. “All us infidels deserve death, but right now, you can’t really afford an uprising. There are as many allied troops here as orcs, and though I’m sure you could slay us all, that wouldn’t help you take the next city, now would it?”
Boar sighed. “If I kill him, people revolt?”
“Possibly.” Franclin shrugged. “Can’t hurt anything to show a bit of mercy.”
Boar growled at the man. In that moment, his time as a Dragon Hunter rose back into his mind. There were, indeed, times when failing to execute a prisoner could make life even worse for his enemies in the long run. He growled and dropped the elf to the ground before turning.
“Are the other leaders ready?”
“It’s been five minutes!” Franclin shook his head. “Give them a bit of time. Why don’t you go check out the Corral?” He pointed towards a portion of the camp that seemed to have a large number of soldiers grouped around it. “That’s where all the women are being kept. You could go there, take a few minutes to relax, and-”
“I don’t want women.” Boar snorted. Why did everyone always want to go play with girls? “I want to crush the bones of my enemies!”
“Then you’ll just have to wait.” Franclin shrugged. “You can go to the tent of meeting now, if you’d like, but it’s going to be awhile before anyone comes to join you.”
Boar nodded shortly and stomped off into the tents. His horse had ran away during his conversation, and he made a mental note to eat the creature for supper as punishment.
The tent of meeting, quite unfortunately, was deep in the tents of the allied forces. As Boar stalked through the tents, everyone shrank away from him. They were scared of him. Good. He snorted at a family of high elves, and frightened a duo of aqahartis into fleeing. It was strange, to have that much power.
He had only had that much power a few times before, when he and Ondernifam stalked through the ruined cities that they conquered. The children that screamed up at him, the women that begged to be left out of the conflict. After Ondernifam vanished, he had so desperately tried to regain that glory, but his mind wasn’t as keen as his commander’s. Now, it was back. That power, that glory. The realization that all feared him.
When he reached the tent of meeting, as Franclin had stated, it was empty. The only feature of the tent was a map of the northern areas of Calsin. A few totems on the table showed the location of the camp, along with the location of the nearby cities. Boar leaned over it, squinting down at the names.
If he wasn’t mistaken, every city from his version of Calsin was gone, either wiped off the map or having never existed in the first place. The Northern Free Province consisted of five cities, separated over about one hundred miles of ground. Four of them stood near the border, while the fifth seemed more distant and protected.
Boar was still studying the map when the generals began to trickle in. The orcish generals were the first, as Oferisan and three others walked through the tent flap. The other generals were a bit slower, though two dark elves and a dwarf soon appeared inside as well. Franclin was the last, trailing behind the dwarf. Boar leaned over the table and pointed down at the map.
“We strike at dawn. We will destroy the city of Herogod. Are there any questions?”
Eight sets of eyes simply stared at him, blinking. The orcish generals jumped to the punch, screaming their cries of war.
“We will lay waste to the city! We will stand over their dead bodies in triumph!”
At the rear of the table, Franclin slowly held up a hand.
Boar snorted. “Yes?”
“Do you think it might be possible to get a slightly more detailed battle plan than that?” Franclin raised an eyebrow. “A plan like that is just going to get us all slaughtered.”
Boar shook his head. “A plan like this is how we win!”
“No, no, no.” Franclin walked over next to Boar and sighed. “Do you know why Ondernifam has been able to win so far in the war?”
Boar frowned. “Because he’s the best?”
“Because he uses strategy.” Franclin tapped the table. “He thinks. From what I can tell, you used to think about things before you went all ga-ga over meeting him again. Now, why don’t we think this through, just a bit more.”
Franclin turned to the table. “Now, the city of Herogod is a smart choice. You thought through that much, at least. It’s a bit farther of a march, but they won’t be expecting us, and it’s better terrain to attack on. But there’s the crux of it.” He put his hands around the marker on the map, framing it. “It’s better, but we still need to talk about it. Herogod is built at the end of a canyon, and at last report, had three dragons guarding it. Now, start talking.”
Boar scratched his chin. “I suppose… If we attack through the canyon, they’ll be able to defend against us.”
“Yes.” Franclin nodded. “I was at the defense of Herogod the last time your armies tried to take it. They all came charging up through the canyon, our dragons filled the canyon with fire, and no one survived. Given that I’m working for you, I’d rather not go on a mission with no survivors.”
“Alright.” Boar crossed his arms. “What would you do?”
Franclin shrugged. “There’s a forest here,” He pointed at a location just to the south of the city, “called the Enchanted Sapwood. There’s a sacred grove there, I think. Herogod maintains a road there so that the high elves can go worship there. Now, if we can take the grove, we have a path straight into the city. We have a location that the dragons won’t burn for fear of upsetting the high elves. We have a defensible location.”
Boar nodded slowly. “Anyone else?”
Once more, eight sets of eyes blinked at him.
“If I’m listening to suggestions, I want everything.” Boar grumbled. “Your ideas, now.”
The first of the dark elves leaned forward. “I say we do what the knight says. Take the grove. Once we’re there, our Persphonix can corrupt it and give you a portal straight into the city. We probably can’t make it big enough to get your entire army through, but we could get a few people inside. They could disrupt the defenses enough to allow for a more major attack.”
“I do not like using elven magic!” One of the orcs roared out. “We will be destroyed by it!”
Boar frowned and turned to Franclin. “Has Ondernifam used magic of other races in order to achieve our victory?”
“Many times.” Franclin nodded. “He almost managed to take our fortress in the Scorched Lands once by using a tribe of aqahartis.”
“He lies!” The same orc bellowed. “This never happened!”
“Ondernifam did what he needed to do in order to win.” Franclin spoke softly. “The end result justifies the means. If you have to use the magic of another species, do it.”
Boar crossed his arms and huffed. All the eyes in the room looked upon him. He didn’t want to appear weak, but he wanted to secure the most powerful victory for his master. What should he do? What would he have done when he was still a Hunter?
The answer rang clear. How many times had he called for help to solve a problem? He had even been willing to risk the magic of the Realm Mages in order to defeat the angels.
“We will enter the city through the grove.” Boar nodded. “We will still attack through the canyon, but only after the city is defenseless.”
“I will not stand for this!” The same orc turned to walk away. “If the orcs can’t fight for themselves, what do we stand for?”
Boar turned and leapt across the table. He slammed into the orc and knocked him into the cloth wall of the tent, causing it to burst into flame as the second orc activated his blood magic. The two of them fell out into the snow, tangled in a brawl.
“You will not question my leadership.” Boar snorted as a crowd began to gather. “Is that clear?”
“I will question whatever I need to question!” The orc climbed to his feet, shaking away Boar. “I will make sure that my soldiers are given the greatest glory possible!”
“You seek to lead them to their deaths.” Boar climbed to his feet. “You may decide this battle, but you will have to kill me to do it.”
The orc didn’t even hesitate. “You have been softened by your time away. I will slice your meat from your bones, I will-”
Boar drew upon his blood magic and spat a fireball in the orc’s direction. It burned through his metal armor, seared a hole through his chest, and burned out through his back. The orc collapsed in a pile of meat, dead before he hit the ground.
“I need a new general.” Boar turned back to the others. The remaining orcs appeared quite impressed, through the allied troops simply looked horrified. “Find me someone more suited to the job.” Oferisan nodded and stalked off, and Boar stomped through the scorched hole and into the tent. He nodded at the dark elf and balled his fists. “Prepare your priests. We will take the grove and proceed as you have planned.”
“It will be done.” The dark elf nodded. “Do you know who you’ll be sending through the portal? If my people know ahead of time, they can prepare themselves to make the trip a bit easier.”
Boar nodded. The decision wasn’t a difficult one in the slightest. “I will go through. I will lay waste to their city and prepare the way for our glory.”
The elf hesitated. “You do realize that there will be dragons, right? Perhaps you’d like to send someone a bit more dispensable?”
Boar only tilted his head back and roared. “The dragons will fight, but they will die.” He forced a small smile. “Killing dragons is something I’m good at.”
“Attack!” Boar kicked the sides of his horse, urging the steed onward. It was a new horse, not the pathetic creature that had abandoned him the day before. “Now!”
Behind him, the thundering hooves of two hundred noble steeds carried his strike force towards the sacred grove. The rest of his troops were preparing themselves near the mouth of the canyon, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. All he had to do was take down the city’s defenses from inside. Kill a few dragons, maybe. Nothing that he couldn’t do on a normal day anyway.
His force tore through the trees, racing past pines and cedars, firs and oaks. Snow and mud flew high as hundreds of hooves ripped it from the ground. He roared, loud and long, hoping that it would instill fear in all who heard it.
Ahead, he caught a glimpse of the sacred grove. The trees stood tall, fair-skinned trees that were the same color as if it was the middle of summer. Of course, they stood behind a line of spearmen and soldiers, but there weren’t many. Maybe one hundred total?
As they got closer, Boar sniffed the air. He could smell the sweat and fear on the enemy soldiers. They were terrified. Terrified of what Boar would do to them. Terrified of death. Terrified of everything. Boar smiled and roared even louder. They would be still more terrified by the time he was done.
When he was a mere thirty feet out, Boar swung off his horse. Without hesitating, Boar turned around and dug his claws into the horse’s side, then spun and threw the injured creature at the line of soldiers. They had only moments to react before a thousand pounds of dying horse slammed into the row of spearmen. Half a dozen crumped as it struck, several more fell back as the beast lashed out with its hooves in fear.
Boar roared and called upon his blood magic, leaping across the distance in a single bound. He landed in the gap caused by the horse and thrust out his hands, releasing purifying waves of flame. Armor melted into flesh, skin blackened and fell from bone.
The rest of the orcs reached the same point only moments later. Soldiers turned and ran as the green-skinned warriors leapt from their mounts, smashing fearlessly into the mixed lines. A soldier tried to run past Boar, but Boar simply grabbed his helmet and crushed his skull like an apple. He then bent down and picked up several of the spears that had been intended for use against the orcs. It was child’s play to pin soldiers to the ground and trees like toys. The fighting lasted mere minutes, with only a handful of orcish casualties.
“Well done.” The dark elf from earlier trotted up on his horse. “Are you satisfied?”
“I will not be satisfied until I had laid waste to all of Calsin!” Boar roared. Around him, other orcs caught up in bloodlust shouted similar things. The elf sighed and simply trotted past, angling up to the ground.
“You’ll want to come with me.” The elf climbed down from his horse. Several other elves trotted up as well, a number of which wore dark red robes of clerics. “We’ll need to open the grove, give us a few moments.”
Boar nodded and turned to the orcish army. “Who desires to go with me?”
Instantly, dozens of roars filled the air. Boar pointed at several of the closest orcs, who all lined up behind him. The dark elf priests began waving their hands in front of the wood, chanting soft melodies in a language that Boar didn’t understand.
“What are they doing?” Boar rumbled. “We have a war to win!”
“The guardians of this grove have sealed themselves inside.” The dark elven general soothed him. “It will take us a moment to open it, as I’ve already told you. Please, just wait a few moments.”
Despite the dark elf’s assurances, it took nearly five minutes before a gap opened up in the wood. Boar pushed through the gap before any of the elves would have a chance to take the honor from him. Inside, he found two green-skinned high elves, both of whom cowered quite uselessly on the ground.
“Please!” One of the begged him. “You must not kill anyone in our sacred ground!”
“We’re taking it.” Boar grabbed the man by the shoulder, lifted him up, and gored his face on his tusks. Blood dripped down into his mouth, and he drank deeply from the elf’s life. After a moment, he tossed the corpse to the side and grabbed the second man, a much younger individual with skin that was more gold than green.
“Please.” The boy stammered. “I don’t want to die.”
“No one does.” Boar snapped his neck without a thought and tossed the body to the side. He wasn’t juicy enough to warrant a bite. “The grove is secure!”
“The Persphonar don’t believe in violence.” The red-robed Persphonix began to climb through. “They would have given you no trouble.”
“And they died anyway.” Boar snarled. “Open the portal!”
The elves did not answer, but simply began waving their hands. Traces of red magic began to float through the air, but nothing else seemed to happen. Boar snapped his jaw and began to stalk back and forth.
Slowly, the other six infiltrators began to climb inside as well. This time, they had to wait for nearly twenty minutes while the elves worked. Two of them began fighting each other, but Boar could hardly blame them. After all, it was hard to keep bloodlust going after a battle had subsided. When one of them snapped the other’s neck, Boar sighed and walked to the entrance of the grove and grabbed the nearest orc he saw. The winner pranced back and forth, and Boar smiled. If some casualties were necessary to maintain the morale of the other troops, so be it.
By the time the energy began to actually swirl into a proper portal, Boar was beginning to consider doing some fighting as well. The dark elven general was nowhere to be seen, but that was hardly unusual. Boar snorted and took a deep breath.
“After we go through, tell the others to be ready.” He began to call on his blood magic, pumping himself up. “We go into glory today!”
The elves said nothing, but simply continued to work. Instants later, a portal burst into existence above their head, a swirling whirlpool of energy that seemed ready to suck in anything and everything it saw. Boar leapt upward the moment it appeared, and was instantly caught on its tide. In that instant, he was taken away… With luck, to victory.
When he sailed back out of the portal, his feet slammed into solid cobblestone almost instantly. Instead of being in a courtyard or next to the walls, though, he found himself in… A jail cell. And not a particularly large jail cell either. Ten guards stood just outside the bars, fear in their eyes.
“You will burn!” Boar roared at them. Fire exploded from his jaw, killing all ten soldiers instantly. He smashed through the bars without a word, turned, and tore through the jail. Loud thuds echoed behind him as the rest of his army came through the narrow gap.
Boar smashed through the wooden door at the end, relishing the feel as it crumbled to splinters. He came stumbling out into a small courtyard that appeared far too close to the middle of the city. More soldiers ran in his direction, a force at least fifty-strong, all armed with spears and shields. Civilians, women and children, screamed and ran from the courtyard, apparently not expecting the attack.
Boar smiled and called upon his magic. He clapped his hands, unleashing a shockwave of destructive energy. Cobblestone shattered into slivers, transformed into deadly projectiles. The soldiers staggered against the blast, several of them falling to the attack. As the other orcs ran out around him, Boar took a deep breath.
“We have to reach the edge of the city.” He nodded. “Come!”
He called upon his magic, racing past the soldiers in an instant. His team tried to follow, but several were too slow and fell victim to infidel spears. Boar roared as he raced down a narrow street that twisted through tall, multiple-story buildings. As he ran, civilians began to toss things down from windows, trying to hinder his progress. Stones, barrels, even just water. It was hardly anything that would stop him, but it was annoying nonetheless.
At the end of the street, he caught glimpses of iron. Soldiers piled into the gap, locking shields and holding their formation tight. He could still get through, but it was going to be difficult. A roar shook the air as he drew upon his blood magic. He would just have to melt them. He would watch as their…
No. He wasn’t here to fight every soldier in the city. He was here to break down the walls so that his army could fight the soldiers. His magic stirred as he blocked it from exiting his body. He had already called upon it! If he tried to contain it now, it would destroy him! He needed to release it, somehow.
Desperate, he released the magic through his feet. A concussion shook the ground as he was thrown up into the air, to the sky. He reached out, raking the walls with his claws, causing himself to twist around and land perfectly on one of the rooftops. Perfect! Now, he was out of sight, unimpeded as he made his way towards the wall.
Of course, his vantage point actually allowed him to see the wall. And it was a long ways away. The canyon itself was nearly ten miles in length, though the city only comprised about a mile of it. Boar was near to the end of the canyon, where the city terminated in a sheer cliff face. He still had nearly a mile of guards and buildings to travel before he could reach the walls and actually do any real damage.
Oh, well. If that’s what needed to happen, that’s what needed to happen. He drew on his blood magic once more, thrusting it into his feet and throwing himself forward, across the city. He leapt from rooftop to rooftop, sailing through the air like a bird. Soldiers below him looked up in awe. He was mighty! He was…
A shadow filled his vision, and a claw struck him from the side. Without warning, he was thrown from the sky and towards a massive limestone structure. He drew on his blood magic for protection, forming a fiery shell around his body. Walls gave way as he struck the building, he fell through floors and ceilings like paper. Finally, he reached the ground, where he smashed into the foundation hard enough to crack it in two. His vision filled with the sight of an entire building collapsing on his head, and the world went black.
When Boar awoke, he found himself in an… Unusual position. In chains.
His eyes snapped open wide as the shock of it hit him. He was in the same courtyard that he had first entered upon traveling through the portal. The door still lay splintered and cracked, the bodies of soldiers still lay scattered across the ground.
Of course, the bodies of a number of orcs also lay scattered across the cobblestone. Boar counted six at a glance. They had killed every one of the strike force that he had brought with him. And now they were going to kill him. Of that, he had no doubt. Dozens of soldiers stood around him, swords drawn. The chains that bound him seemed designed to prevent his blood magic from activating, as he couldn’t pull even a trickle of energy from his body.
“My, my, my.” The soldiers parted, allowing the dark elven general to stalk through the crowd. “How the mighty have fallen.”
Boar snorted. “I’ll kill you for this. I’ll skin you alive, I’ll pull your arms from your sockets and feast on your flesh.”
“You’ll try, I have no doubt about that.” The elf shrugged and leaned forward. “May I be honest with you, orc?”
“Please do.” Boar snarled.
“I’m enjoying this.” The elf smiled. “Oh yes, I am. You’ve killed so many of my people. Don’t you want to know how I organized it all?”
“No.” Boar closed his eyes and tried to think. The attack had failed, which meant that the defenses of the city were still up. Since he had been betrayed, though, his armies were likely to attack the city anyway. They would be slaughtered. “How long before the attack?”
“About five minutes, I’d say.” The general laughed. “Would you like to see your army fall under our might?”
“No.” Boar desperately tried to think of a way out of the situation. He had to take down those walls. If he didn’t, Ondernifam was going to lose a massive portion of his army.
“Sometimes, you orcs are so boring.” The elf sighed. “Should I kill you, orc? Or should I leave you alive?”
“If you’re smart, you’ll kill me.” A single thought popped into Boar’s mind. The dragons would be our defending the gates of the city, right? If that was true, then maybe there weren’t any dragons keeping an eye on him. “Leave me alive, and I will make you pay.”
“Of course, of course.” The elf nodded. “On the other hand, if we leave you alive, maybe Ondernifam would do it for us?” He snickered. “Oh, I’d love to see that. The mighty Ondernifam, killing his right-hand man.”
“That’s a fight you’ll never see.” Boar rumbled. He opened his eyes again and tugged on his chains. “Kill me!”
“No, I rather like the idea of leaving you alive.” The general chuckled. “Now, please. Are you certain you wouldn’t like to see your army die? I can arrange it.”
“No.” Boar hung his head as he fought to break free from the chain. The metal was too strong! He couldn’t do it. “I don’t want to see.”
His vision wavered back and forth, going dark after a moment. Boar frowned, only to grimace as an image of the canyon appeared. The point of view seemed to be from high above the gates, looking off into the distance. It was sharp, very clearly defined. Enhanced by magic, most likely. Boar closed his eyes, but was unable to block out the image. It was being projected straight into his mind, overwhelming everything else.
He loosed an angry roar, a roar to the gods. A roar to Nubierd, the god of war and the orcs. A roar of desperation. His army would fall. He would be disgraced. The image of the canyon began to shift, panning back and forth across the soon-to-be-battlefield. There was nothing he could do. Nothing but watch, nothing but…
A scaled claw snaked into the image an instant later, seemingly scratching at something just out of view. In that instant, Boar understood.
“You’re projecting my vision into one of the dragons.” Boar breathed. “You’ve linked our minds!”
“It’s amazing what dark elven magic can do.” The elf laughed, out of Boar’s sight. “We can link minds, split souls…”
Boar tuned out the elf. His mind was linked with the dragon! It was the only stroke of luck he had experienced that day. Though he had never attempted the feat himself, his time at the Wizarding Academy had taught him of a blood magic trick, particularly useful if your own capabilities for blood magic were hindered. It was a stretch, but…
Desperate, he reached into the dragon’s mind. It wasn’t hard, and in an instant, he was nearly overwhelmed with images. Images of the Scorched Lands, images of fighting the orcs. More images that he didn’t understand or care to understand. And, most importantly, fear. Fear due to the fact that someone else was inside his mind.
With that, Boar drew upon the strength of the dragon’s body. Instantly, pure power filled his veins, blood magic a thousand times more destructive than anything he could have pulled from his own body. The chains fell from his hands as they melted into puddles, and he climbed to his feet. The dragon thrashed violently as it tried to throw him out of its mind.
Boar roared and thrust out his hands, pouring flame from his body he could feel the pulsing energy, though he couldn’t see one bit of it. His vision was still tied to the dragon, still tied to the beast. He fought to keep his balance as the dragon spun, causing his vision to shift and spin. The city came into his full view, a city on fire.
Enormous gouts of fire rolled through the city, consuming buildings and soldiers alike. All fell before the fire as it roared toward the city walls, blasting through the structure in an instant. The dragon began to flap towards the center of the city, towards Boar himself.
Boar smiled and allowed the flow of energy to dissipate, then withdrew from the dragon’s mind. His own vision returned, allowing him to view a ruined square, filled with corpses and molten stone. The dark elf knelt in front of him, somehow protected from the enormous blast. Overhead, the dragon roared towards him, fire brewing in its jaw. A moment later, though, the dragon burst into flame and fell to the ground, nothing but ash long before it struck the streets. Boar smiled at the sight, not minding the pain. Since he had used the dragon’s body, the dragon’s life force, the blood magic had demanded payment from the dragon instead. Roars echoed in the distance as Boar’s army began its charge.
“Now, why would you still be alive?” Boar knelt down next to the cowering dark elf. “I don’t think any of your magic would have protected you.”
The elf shook his head rapidly. “You avoided me.” The creature whimpered. “I think you wanted me alive.”
“I did.” Boar wrapped his paws around the creature. He sniffed the air as a new odor added itself to the smell of ash. Urine. The elf had peed himself. “Do you think it was, perhaps, because I wanted to fulfill my vow? That I wanted to skin you alive, pull your arms from their sockets, and eat your flesh while hearing you scream?”
The elf squeaked loudly. “Maybe?”
“You know what? I think it was.” Boar rumbled. In reality, he had no idea why the elf survived, but it was as good a guess as any. “Why don’t we get started?”
Boar stomped back into the camp, magic flowing through his veins. Fire erupted under every footfall, melting snow and burning the smattering of grass that dared to grow there. His soldiers, victorious in battle, marched behind him. Another hub of resistance had fallen. The Northern Providence now only had four cities. Soon, it would have even fewer.
“Ahh, you’ve returned!” Franclin walked out from the tents, among the few soldiers that had stayed back at the camp to maintain their hold there. “I was wondering when you’d come by.”
“Now.” Boar rumbled, then turned to him. “I sent word ahead. Have you rounded them up?”
Franclin nodded. “They’re all here.”
With that, Franclin turned and led the way back to the tent of meeting. There, all the allied generals stood in chains, bound to stakes that had been hastily erected there. A crowd already gathered around the area, both orcs and infidels alike. Boar stomped through the crowd and up to the small clearing around the prisoners.
“Warriors of the orcish Empire!” Boar turned to address the crowd. “Allied forces! Despite great treachery and villainy, we have won! Herogod lies in ruins. We stand one step closer to ultimate victory!”
The cheers that rose up to greet him were, if he wasn’t mistaken, quite forced. The orcs were happy, but the other races seemed far less enthusiastic. Boar snorted and held up his hands.
“As many of you have probably guessed, there must be punishment for the accused. Many of us, including myself, were sent into a trap. This is unacceptable. True warriors will meet their foes on the battlefield, not through trickery.”
“We can’t beat you in normal combat.” A high elf bound to the pole gasped. “We do what we can to survive.”
“And yet you fail.” Boar crossed his arms. “Does anyone else wish to align themselves with the men up here?”
There was utter silence, and Boar nodded.
“These men, these bringers of deceit, will be executed. Everyone else involved will be pardoned. However…” Boar let his voice drop as low as he dared. “You will not be allowed another chance. You are in a fortunate position. Do not make the Empire regret giving such a privilege to dogs like you.”
With that, Boar reached down to his belt and drew his sword. Nearly four feet long, it was a powerful weapon that he had pulled from the ruins of Herogod. In one fluid motion, he spun and sliced all three of the remaining generals in half. The sword, enhanced by his incredible strength, sliced through both tendon and marrow, even slicing the wood stakes in two. Blood gushed across the ground as the bodies and poles collapsed. Slowly, Boar turned back to the crowd and held his sword high. Franclin stepped up next to him, and Boar roared.
“After this, you will need a new leader. With that, I give you…” Boar let his words hang, then spun and stabbed his enormous sword through Franclin’s gut. The hilt slammed into his orange armor, the tip of the blade lodged in the frozen ground. The Hunter’s eyes went wide, but he said nothing as blood began to fleck between his lips.
“I don’t trust you.” Boar knelt down, lowering his voice. “You may have been on our side, but I suspect that you organized this trick to begin with. It’s something that the Franclin I know would have done. You set this up knowing that it would fail. A double-betrayal. The infidel troops trust you even more than they did, and you’re in my good graces as well. Hundreds of people die, but it puts you in a position to assassinate Ondernifam someday.”
Franclin ground his teeth together and spat blood in Boar’s face. It was intended as an insult, but the blood tasted quite good. Boar had always wondered what Franclin would taste like.
“The ends justify the means.” Franclin whispered, his voice almost gone. “I had to do it. You were a Hunter, right?”
Boar nodded. “That was a long time ago.”
“That was a few months ago.” Franclin spat. “I don’t know much about the Hunters, but I know they were men of honor.” He leaned forward and placed his hands on the hilt of the swords. “If you are still a man of honor, kill him.”
Boar climbed back to his feet and pulled the sword back out of Franclin’s body. Steel screeched on metal as the boy collapsed to the ground, dead. Boar smiled and held the bloody sword aloft.
“Your new masters will be the orcs, now and forever!” He thundered. “You. Will. Bow!”
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