I was just picking myself up from the shrubbery, rubbing my chest (which did nothing but appease my hurt feelings as I was wearing plate mail), when the orcs returned with their friends. When I say friends, I mean like fifty crazy, spittle slinging, sword waving, uvula wagging, psychonauts. It’s days like this I wonder why I ever left the monastery.
I settled my shield on my right arm, hefted my mace in my left and considered my options. First thing, the orcs saw the giants and half of them slowed their charge, while a goodly portion got all excited and increased their headlong rush into battle.
This was going to be painful. I’m not the front line battle guy. I’m the witty and debonair support staff. I heal and add interesting blessings and such while someone brawny stands toe to toe with the ravening hoards. Yeah, okay, evidence points to the contrary (on several points) but I just want it noted for the record in the off-chance I die before I complete my quest.
Which reminded me, now that I was mostly over my anger with the deities, I should add something more to this experience than just healing others. I was multi-talented. I said a quick prayer, waved my holy symbol around and settled a blessing down upon the giant and myself. He glanced at me, truly seeing me for the first time since I’d saved his life. The look of confusion was priceless, but the frothing hoard presented a more immediate distraction than his sudden realization that he wasn’t dead, nor dying.
My mind is a wondrous and tricksy place, as you may recall. It was in that moment, with a cabal of lunatics seconds away from engaging the two of us in combat, when I realized what was different about the youth (you know, despite the gut wound and the blood stains). His beard had been longer during the parley. Why had he but his bears?
Then the first orcs reached us. Actually, most of them ran right past me. I guess the combination of me being in the shrubbery behind some trees, and my white armor blended in with the snow on the ground, most of the blighters never even noticed me. They showed a particular fury toward the giant, though. He raised his eyebrows which disappeared into the ragged mop of his hairline, and hefted his sword, moving to stand beside the tree, guarding his left flank. By his stance, I could tell he was used to having a second weapon, but at the moment there was nothing at hand.
If he hadn’t been an ass and kicked me into the weeds, I could’ve given him one of the curved orc blades that littered the ground from the previous encounter, but that was not going to happen at this juncture. Fifty orcs. The number made my head hurt. I drew a deep breath and prepared to join the fray. The thought of calling a sanctuary dweomer did flit across my mind, but I knew I would never forgive myself if they cut that giant boy into ribbons. I was not inclined to perform that level of healing on him again, not after he booted me halfway across the glade.
Tactically, I had an advantage and was proud to exploit it. With the ring of steel on steel, the giant’s war cry and the ululation of the orcs, none of them notice me come up from behind them. Tactical advantage for the win. I killed four of them with a methodical administration of the mace and shield before any of them even knew I was there. They were shocked, likely expecting to only find more orcs behind them. I risked a glance toward the giant and was pleased to see him cutting orcs down like a farmer taking a scythe to wheat. Still fifty is a large number.
I killed two more orcs before any of them got turned around enough to engage me properly and I’m not ashamed about that. The only good orc is a dead orc, or so I’ve come to believe. Sure, I’d have said the same thing about the hobs a year ago, but today, right now, I’d take the hobs in any numbers I could get them. They had no love for orcs either.
The thin about a giant three times my height, you expect great things from that much leverage, torque and muscle mass. And I was not disappointed, but even the shoddiest fighter will land a blow from time to time, and these orcs were battle hardened veterans. I couldn’t count the number of dead or dying orcs in front of the giant, but some had slipped behind him, and things were looking bleak. The tide was turning against us based on sheer numbers.
If I was near him I could protect his back. On the other hand, he’d have probably stepped on me. As it was, he had his back to the tree, and was fending off attackers on both flanks and from the front. Now that the orcs realized I was there, I had an uncomfortable number of them turning to me, seeing a chance at easier pickings. Besides, I had all that shiny armor (as one orc shouted out) and a nifty mace that they could loot. Their priorities were in the right place, at least. Kill the enemy, loot his body, celebrate the victory, in that order.
I punched that guy in the throat. Jerk. But the others had already begun to size me up to see if the armor would fit one of them, and they pressed their attack. Suddenly I found myself hard pressed by a dozen orcs, including the flaming skull guy. Him I called out, saying something rather unforgiving about his mother, and generally taunting him for a coward. Remember how I said orcs were bullies. Several of the orcs took the time to jump in and deride flaming skull orc for being a milquetoast loser.
May I just say, I would have never thought in a billion years that I would hear the word milquetoast come out of the mouth of an orc. The mind boggles.
While the orcs were distracted, I dodged to the side, bashing the nearest orc with my shield, knocking another down with my mace and ran for the giant. It was a long shot, honestly. I had to cover two rods of distance with orcs at my back, plow through several sword wielding uglies at his left flank and get to him before he fell to the accumulating blows. Of course, that just meant we’d be together when the rest of the orcs got to us.
Yep, sure enough, another mass of the buggers had started flooding into the glade. Good thing I’m an optimist.