Another arrow buried itself in the dead tree beside the others with a thunk. Streaks of sweat running down either side of his face, Belàldur watched the arrow strike from his standpoint sixty yards away. With a look of dissatisfaction, the green-eyed elf reached back over his shoulder to grab another arrow. Behind him, the fool human was still prattling on about Tangadorin. Belàldur made no effort to stop him; he considered the soldier’s proselytizing to be a good source of motivation to reach his training goals quickly.
Another arrow sped towards the tree. As it struck home, something the man said caught Belàldur’s attention, and he turned to speak. He knew that he shouldn’t, going against the zeal of the newly converted was like sailing against the wind, but he couldn’t resist. “You think it was the Will of Tangadorin that got the job done today?” he asked in a quiet but firm tone, looking the man square in the eye, “I’ll tell you what won the day out there: Flames and fear.”
“Think of the orcs’ perspective. They were spread out, surrounding the keep, thinking all they had to do was to wait for Ynivax and his forces to die or break, starve them out. And they were nearly at that point. Then, the flames start up, coming out of the ground at seemingly random places. Started by my companions, who had snuck out on the field, and from the archers in the Keep, who fortunately had plenty of oil to make fire-tipped arrows. Then, arrow attacks start coming from different directions, followed by an attack from the forces suddenly coming out of the Keep, and then, as the final wave against the bow, a massed cavalry charge straight into the forces protecting the orcs’ commander. It’s no wonder they broke.”
“Like most of the battles I’ve seen, the side that runs first dies. It was ugly, but we got the job done. Some of our forces ran too in the chaos, but most held firm, and we got them out. No magic, no miracles, no hero’s tales, just the right circumstances and a bit of luck.”
“The mission to get the folks in the fort ready to escape hadn’t exactly gone according to plan either, but it worked. The three of us were supposed to sneak in and get Ynivax’ men some healing potions and brief them on our plan. The enemy was spread thin, but I spent most of the way to the keep worried that the orcs would hear the human’s loud breathing. I was so distracted that when we were getting up to the keep, I fell right to the ground. The things in my pack made so much clatter the dullest orc alive would’ve noticed it.”
“Then, to dive deeper into the piranha, I tried to put some arrows into the oncoming orcs, and only managed to drive my newly-purchased bow into the dirt. I’m still paying for that one.” Belàldur winced, the pain in his side surging with the memory of the wound there. Turning back to the tree, he fired off a quick arrow at it, then faced the soldier again to continue: “Luckily, the archers in the keep were on watch, and when my two friends got over the wall and let them know what was going on, their fire arrows spooked off the orcs. I made one of them pay when it panicked. As I said, the first side to run dies.”
“All in all, not pretty in the least, but we did get it done.” Facing the tree, he raised the six foot long elm bow once again towards the target. The soldier started up again about Tangadorin. Apparently, all it took was a little healing magic and a few words to convert some humans into devoted lunatics.
Satisfied, Belàldur put down his bow and arrows and turned about, looking for a good place to sit. Once comfortable, he thrust his hand into his pouch and pulled out a pipe and some leaf. He lit it, took a few puffs, and let out a long, slow exhaled cloud. He held the pipe out to the soldier, offering it to him. “Here, have some of this, you can relax and think on your new beliefs. And no matter what you believe, remember this: When you’re in stormy seas, always keep your wits about you.”