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Raven's Rage

Being the reconstruction of an account of the War of Orc's Death as witnessed by one otherwise unknown Lyracum Bloodquill, supposed companion to the Lord Thomas Raven. Due to the partial nature of his record and the shifts in human languages since that time, some portions of this record are extrapolations based on information available from other sources, most notably Sage Garnet's infamous and popular accounting "The Raven And His Lovers".

...and how can I tell you of his magnificence, his majesty then? We had stung them, hurt their pride badly the day before, but they were still in their thousands and they knew we were trapped in that place. Only the promise of trapping us so had brought the Chieftain to accept Thomas' challenge and only the Raven's incredible victory against that immense Orc let us walk away from them.

Their fire-pits in their hundreds were the more impressive for the leagues they had carried the wood to light them. They covered the canyon floor and even up a ways on the sheer cliffs to either side. Against this looming red aura, Thomas watched impassive. He had one foot up on one of the many boulders strewn like giant's pebbles and leaned into his hands where they rested on that knee. Sometimes his head would turn a bit and his eyes glisten as he watched and thought. His wizard came to talk quietly with him once, and as he turned to face him I could not but help to see them as mirrors, one of the other. Both had the great eagle's beak of a nose and full, sensual lips. Both had piercing eagle eyes, though the Raven's were older and colder. With out speaking the Raven shook his head and the wizard bowed slightly, a courtesy he would begrudge no other, and left.

Majesty I call it, and offer no offense or even disrespect to the King. Bastard the Raven may have been, but the stamp of his mother's lineage was apparent in full. He still wore the black leathers of his time as bandit, but he never has looked the part. Even with his men thundering behind him to ravage some hapless caravan, his men where too disciplined and his actions too controlled and humane to be those of a bandit.

Then, in that deadly box canyon, his majesty appeared in full, his challenge, thrown echoing through the canyons, had rung the heart with honor and valor and put that entire horde to the question. The courage with which he faced that Orc, tall as a troll and vastly better armored, steadied our pounding hearts and firmed resolve even in the weakest of that company. Even so, I freely admit that I did not breathe at all when silence fell and the Orc Chieftain gasped out those dying words. Nor did any in that host. Majesty it was that prompted the Raven to bow to the Orcs and majesty it was that kept his walk firm as he walked away from that yelling, screaming horde.

That night, the eve of the real war, the Raven watched the fires much longer than I. I had no vaguest notion of the horror and confusion to come. I remarked in my journals of the time of Thomas' haggard appearance, his sorrow at his thoughts of what was to come. I think of those innocent words and the glory that thundered through my head then and my eyes get moist. Even in the months that followed, as the Raven's eyes burned holes in his head and we lost our companions one by one, Thomas had the greater spirit commoners such as I expect from the noble. Even later, towards the end, when he kissed his scouts on both cheeks and made me record their names, Kurigal, Meaphus and Greenoaks, knowing even then that he was sending them to die, them knowing it as well, they and he did what they must. That is majesty.

It is the burden of that majesty, and his own full mind, that forced Thomas to kill so many and in such a way. If there had been any option, if the King had even listened once to his warnings or taken even a bit of time to prepare his army, I believe the Raven would let the horde pass and have petitioned to join the King. Perhaps then the war would have been fought as in a story and honor could have been kept for both sides. But that was a fantasy, a child's make up story of knights and battle. The interior lay open and inviting, and the King's forces numbered less than a thousand. If the Orcs were not stopped in the Canyons, they would not be stopped short of Arrowhead herself.

That morning dawned, clear and already warm, promising a heavy, burning day to come. Roused by my friend, I found the Raven still by his boulder. As the sky brightened, others of the band donned their armor and took up the staggered ranks that Thomas had invented. I saw the wizard go among them and do little things, like a knight sergeant dressing his troops. He came to me and offered, with his insufferable smirk, to bless my staff. I did not see fit to answer him and he moved on while I did the deed myself.

When the air had brightened enough, and a bright line of sun had begun the climb down the western cliff toward the canyon bottom, we could see the Orcs in a mass facing us not half a league away. They had no strict organization, although they did seem to group apart from each other, perhaps by barbaric tribe. That was when the Raven drew Scarlet Rage.

What can I say of the sword? She was a rapier in shape, though a foot longer than you'd expect. She was of a reddish metal and a blackened, burned looking hilt. Protecting the hand was a dome of the same reddish silver metal. At the apex of the dome, where it met the blade, was set an egg-sized gem of flashing color that glowed softly in no fixed color. We all had heard her speak in husky, almost angry tones, though I think I was one of the few there who understood elven. We had all seen the Raven move with blurring speed when he wielded her and I had even seen the truth of her splitting stone at the Raven's command. Only that majesty I claim for him had stopped him from using Rage against the Orc Chieftain, using that lesser sword instead.

He knelt then, like I was wont to do for services, and held Scarlet Rage before him reversed like some symbol of divinity. The moment caught at me and I knelt as well, and then others until all our hundred were kneeling, even the wizard. I held my staff before me, the copper sun of Ra seeming to almost shine like a greater priests. I prayed then, even watching the Raven.

Slowly he lowered Rage, his hands on her blade, into the ground. I saw the dark runnels of blood where she cut him flowing down to her tip and into the rocky soil of that desolate canyon. He lowered her until only his bleeding hands held her hilt above ground. He was speaking to her in a faint singsong, although I could not make out the words, and she was answering with a growling snarl of sound that seemed to grit the teeth and vibrate through the bones.

The Orcs could feel it too, and began to yell and advance. Still we knelt there, unprepared for charge, and our faith in the Raven held us there. The Orcs began to run. Perhaps some foreboding or fear broke them, though I think it was bloodlust and no fear on their part. The boulder beside the Raven rocked convulsively, like an egg trying to hatch. Then others did. Soon all the rocks around us, from the size of a head to the size of houses, were rocking and beginning to roll about. One rolled over Giperion, leaving little but blood and raw white bones, but still we held, kneeling.

I think then the Orcs may have slowed, at least the mob in front, but my attention was on the Raven and the effort of giving him my support, for it seemed that he was drawing energy and will from each of us in this making, this summoning. My sight was dark around and only his kneeling figure was clear. I felt then, that the symbol on my staff shed it's own light like the sun and that the warmth of it took me up like a chip of wood on a wave and the power crashed into the Raven like a wave travelling between two cliffs, becoming faster and steeper, raging forward, channeled, yet unstoppable. I felt that wave crash into something like a seawall and shatter it, be shattered by it. I was thrown back to my body, lying senseless amidst a great roaring and crashing that soon deafened me.

I rolled back over to my stomach and got to my hands and knees, my head hanging in weariness. Yet I knew that death was running toward us, and others, if not myself, would need my aid. I rocked back onto my knees to try and stand. For the first time, I saw the "wave". Creatures of stone bounded toward the Orcs. Some were as small as cats and some bigger than ogres. They were all vaguely man-like though no features were apparent to me. They paid no attention to us, and several of our band were crushed as they leapt past. The Orcs had stopped their rush and set themselves for the charge for they held great store by valor then, but they could not hold. Nothing could have held against that wave of stone.

The Raven sprawled senseless ahead of me, Scarlet Rage snarling, impaled in the earth near his cheek. He was pale, like a man drained of blood, and the ground beneath him was dark with blood, it seemed with much more than could have come from one man. Fear choked my voice then. I scrambled on all fours to him. I was not strong enough to stand. I rolled him over then and cradled his head in my lap. I know nothing more of that battle, save the aftermath, as I kept him alive with what simple powers I could. I remember little save a desperation that I was not good enough and the growing conviction that the sword was taking his life even as I bolstered it. Still it growled and spat, a foot away between my spread legs. At no time did Thomas once show any sign of life, save the faint exhalation of breath.

It seems to me that the sounds grew fainter, though that could have been deafness. Yet the vibrations of huge stone legs pounding into the earth diminished as well. As my fear for the Raven grew, I became aware of others crawling to us. I remember the wizard saying, "You must stop now." in a tired sad voice and wondered how he, alone of us, had managed to stand. I remember trying to speak, trying to deny his command, to assert that I would protect my lord as long as I lived. I could not speak clearly and could not hear the mumbles from my own mouth.

Yet, he was not talking to me, and his gaze was on Scarlet Rage and he spoke again. This time there was such command in his voice that none could have withstood it. "You *must* stop." Still the sword snarled and growled, though it seemed to me to have more a garrulous tone than before. A third time he spoke, and this time there was no command in it at all and I wondered how any of us could hear its quiet tones, "You are killing him." and silence fell.

Barely a thousand Orcs survived that battle. Yet only four score of our band remained. Ever afterward, the Orcs were more cautious and cunning. A long year it took to break them, with no help once from the King, for whatever reason. Only five of us survived, if you don't count the wizard. I return on the morrow to help bury the Raven and his Rage. There are none left of those Orcs but the spineless, honorless dregs that have run from us few.

I go to sleep with my lord.

May Ra light your path.

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