Chapter 8

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Brothers by Blood

Forged in the volcanic depths of the Forsaken Mountain, the Vanquished Cleaver was crafted as a weapon to slay the enemies of the clans. Wielded by the Overlords throughout generations, Gathon Bloodfist carried its strength for years before finally passing it down to his second, Nekada Bloodfist. Although, despite the traditions, he has remained the overlord and is the self-crowned ruler of the clans.

Approaching the cave entrance with the Cleaver resting in his right hand, the black-haired vanghoul roared as he saw Gathon coming out from the shadows, accompanied by two bloodhounds. They were a mixed breed of hounds and wolves. With rage filling his eyes, Nekada addressed him, nearly shouting at full capacity, “they’re slaughtering us! How is this possible? The humans have never been able to hold up against our legions. When you spared that insect, it was to bring chaos and fear to these rats, not to prepare them for the fight!”

Fiercely stomping his foot, Gathon growled as he dropped his hammer, moving towards him. “Are you challenging me, brother?” he snarled, his fierce eyes penetrating his brother’s soul.

The two continued staring into each other’s eyes, ready to kill each other when a female vanghoul stepped between them. She was holding out her hands in an attempt to stop the feud. Though noticeably smaller than the two giants, her sharp voice wasn’t ignored as she snapped, “that’s enough! Put your hate towards something that can get us out of this situation!” She demanded.

After a while, Nekada lowered his axe as he took a few steps away and watched as Gathon addressed her.

“What’s the meaning with this, Malisha?” Gathon snapped back furious.

“We can’t keep ripping each other apart, not anymore. Their armies are marching inland as we speak, it’s only a matter of time before they reach the city. You know very well that we have many young and old who are not capable of defending themselves, we need every single warrior in the fight that you have brought upon us.”

With a thundering shout, Gathon grabbed her around the neck as he continued, “me?! How is this my fault?”

“We’ve never gone after the humans, not unless we’ve been forced to. But you have ravaged their villages, slaughtered their families, and now they’re coming for us. You have marred us and forced us to fight on two fronts. Remember who our real enemies are!”

The grip around Malisha’s throat tightened as Gathon’s fiery eyes slowly consumed her confidence. Suddenly, Gathon was knocked over on his side by someone wielding his hammer. Hastily gazing up, he looked into the aged face of another vanghoul. The dark-bearded giant standing before him seemed outraged with his actions. Armored in thick blackened plate with light trims, he was clearly a highly regarded vanghoul.

With a raspy tone of voice, he spoke calmly, “you’ve disgraced your family legacy, Bloodfist. Malisha is right, your recent actions are putting our people at risk. We need to make it right with the humans, and if you’re not willing to take up that mantle, I will!”

Filling his grasp with mud as he laid on the ground, Gathon spun around, throwing the mud into the old vanghoul’s face. It gave him enough time to get back up and engage him with his fists. In sheer physical strength, Bloodfist had the upper hand and punched his knuckles into the old one’s jaw, which knocked him over. He placed his foot on his throat as he growled, “you speak of disgrace when you are the reason our people are weak?! No, these are no longer your people. You’re a betrayer of the clans, and I sentence you to die!” He picked up his hammer and raised it towards the sky, preparing to smash his head flat when he was stabbed with a knife in his leg. Malisha had come up behind him, allowing the old one to get back up. Before Gathon got to retaliate, she ran with the old one into the forest. Sitting on one knee as he pulled the knife out, he looked at Nekada and shouted. “Bring me their heads! I want them dead.”

“As you wish, brother.” Whistling at the bloodhounds, Nekada started sprinting into the dense forest in pursuit with the hounds by his side. His ponytail upon his shaven head bounced as he moved at a high pace. The two had already gotten a fair distance between them and him, but it was only a matter of time before he caught onto their trail.

After rushing through the muddy swamplands of Ghoulshaw for a while, Malisha continued hacking through the dense forest with her personalized blade creating a path as she went. The crazed howls of the bloodhounds echoed through valley as drops of water fell from above. Nekada was closing in, but the hounds were having difficulties following the scent through the swamp, giving them more time.

The old one halted and gazed around the murky terrain. “Wait … Al’huran is not far from here,” he said calmly as he scouted the land around him. “The humans might already be there. Bloodfist has his scouts up and down the eastern shore, but as long as they do not engage, the humans are likely to fortify their position.”

“But Al’huran is cursed, the corrupted remnants will massacre them.”

“They don’t know that, and for what we know, that might be precisely what Gathon is hoping for. I refuse to let our dark past become their future.”

“This mess is not on you, Elder Vordrath. We don’t owe the humans anything. This is solely on the Bloodfist tribe, and they should deal with this themselves. You can evoke the banishment of the Vengeful, you have that power and authority, Arthouras.”

With a grateful look in his eyes, Arthouras bowed his head gently in appreciation of her trust. Breathing in the foul air from the forest, he scratched his chin through his thick braided beard as he replied, “in order to call upon the ancient war god, we need the people on our side. Right now, they tremble at the sight of the Overlord. They won’t challenge him before they can feel some sort of reassurance, that’s where the humans come in.”

“I see, that’s a smart move if the humans would work with us. But that is highly unlikely.”

As Malisha spoke, something caught Arthouras’ attention. It was sounds coming with the wind, moving south. There was someone exchanging words, he squinted in the direction the noise came from, speaking lowly, “I believe we’ve got company. Follow me.”

The two moved swiftly using the rain and wind in their favor to mask their sound. Using the trees as cover, the old Lord approached slowly. Coming down the path was two people, a man, and a woman. Arthouras glanced over at Malisha, stating curiously. “There’s an elf here, she’s with a human.”

“What? Why are the elves here?”

“With Gathon’s recklessness it doesn’t surprise me, but why is she with him? That’s punishable by banishment, or worse according to their laws.” Arthouras said thoughtfully, “I believe we’ve just stumbled upon our greatest opportunity yet.” Stepping out from between the trees, Arthouras started walking out into the open and was spotted momentarily. It was Feregreth and Fraya standing before him, and Fraya drew her bow in an instant with his head at the center of her aim.

Raising both his hands in surrender, the old vanghoul kept eye contact as he continued to walk towards them. With a calm, yet growly voice, Arthouras said, “I’m not here to fight.”

The captain raised his hand in front of Fraya’s bow as he stared confused at the vanghoul. Telling Fraya to wait, Feregreth asked, “why’s that? What’s stopping you?”

“I need your help, human. We need to stop this bloodshed before any more lives are lost.”

Lowering her bow in confusion, Fraya said as she recognized him. “You’re Overlord Vordrath, aren’t you?”

“I am, and I’m here for my people. The horrendous actions of one do not define our race. I’m here for reconciliation.”

Malisha stepped out from the trees with her hands raised and Arthouras introduced her as someone who shared his mind. Cutting down the distance between each other, all of them were on edge.

 Captain Feregreth kept his eyes on the two of them observing them carefully. “Why should we trust you? This could easily be an ambush.”

“Yes, but then you would have been slain by now. I know there are no reasons for you to trust us, but if we wanted to kill you, we wouldn’t have come out into the open like this.”

Having a hard time trusting anything coming out of his mouth, Feregreth hesitantly played along as he replied, “What exactly is it you’re proposing?”

“I would like to sit down with your leader and find a solution that both parties can agree on. I’m willing to go as far as it takes to prevent more loss of lives. Is that something you can arrange?”

Leaning over to Fraya, Feregreth spoke in a voice no louder than a whisper, “are they serious about this?” he asked. “They’ve been attacking us without warning, without purpose, yet now they’re asking for a truce. I don’t buy it.”

“I want to, but it’s too favorable. This can easily go wrong, but if it doesn’t, there is a chance you can actually leave the island. Let’s see how far they’re willing to go.”

With her bow resting in her hand, Fraya pointed at their weapons and told them to toss them over. Arthouras didn’t hesitate and removed all his weapons immediately. However, Malisha was utterly concerned and in doubt about this, but eventually gave in to their demands at the request of Vordrath. Adjusting her iron covered leather top around her ample curves, Malisha gazed into the eyes of Feregreth who was approaching then, while speaking in a somewhat confident tone.

“All right, I’ll help you get an audience with the General. Don’t let me regret this,” Feregreth said. “We were on our way to an old temple city, right?” The captain looked at Fraya, who nodded in agreement.

“We were headed for Al’huran as well, the ruined city just east of here. I would imagine your people would regroup at a location that can easily be defended?”

“It’s the tactical thing to do. I haven’t been there yet, so I can’t speak to how likely it is for them to go there.”

“Let’s hope they haven’t gone too far into the city at least. What haunts those ruins are much worse than whatever this war might bring upon us. We need to hurry.”

Staring curiously at his moss skinned wrinkles, Feregreth nodded and told him to lead the way. Their weapons were given back as a token of equal understanding, and because the path was likely to be dangerous. With a common goal, the group continued their journey towards Al’huran.

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