Huddled together at the mouth of the cave Lourek and Lukren kept glancing over their shoulders. They were supposed to watch for the orc that was undoubtedly trying to find them in the whiteout, but they were preoccupied with how Helena was doing.
“Ember, fetch the herbs from my component pouch.” Sorley turned to talk to the dwarves. “Pack a handful of snow into a tight ball for me and bring it here, please.”
Lukren swiftly gathered some snow together and pressed it into a ball then gingerly tossed it to Sorley. “Catch.”
Sorley caught the snowball and pressed it into the wound left by the spear.
“Gah!” Helena screamed as she awoke from passing out. “That stings!”
“Hold still. I need to dress the wound still. That’s just for the swelling.”
Scampering back Ember deposited a leaf-wrapped bundle into Sorley’s hand. “Is that the one you wanted?”
The leaf began unfolding itself as Sorley held the snowball in place. “Apparently mom enchanted the leaves, so I guess that’s a yes.” The leaf finished unfolding, revealing a poultice. Sorley removed the snowball and quickly pressed the poultice into the wound, pressing the leaf against Helena’s thigh. “Can you hold onto that while I prepare some strips of cloth?”
Helena nodded weakly, covering Sorley’s hand as he pulled away. “Thanks.”
Sorley removed his heavy coat and pulled off his tunic. “That’s cold!” He quickly put the coat back on and started ripping his tunic into strips. “Okay, you can let go now.”
As Sorley finished knotting the first strip on one of the dwarves yelled, “orc!”
Turning to look Sorley saw Krakust, the orc that he had cast laughter on, standing in the mouth of the cave. An ice wolf was standing next to him, difficult to make out with the whiteout in the background.
Lourek and Lukren were already in the middle of swinging their weapons. One of them connected with the ice wolf while the other missed the orc.
“Ah, dwarves. I haven’t had the meat of one in a long time.”
Standing tall and grabbing the grimoire from his side Sorley began to flip through the pages, remembering where his father had often turned during combat practice. As he looked at the glowing Gaelic script, about to cast one of his father’s spells he collapsed to the ground.
“Sorley!” Ember ran up to him to check if he was still breathing.
At the entrance, the orc pulled a scimitar from his side and swung it at Lourek, catching him in the arm, but not breaking through the leather armor. Evryn bit at Lukren, but the dwarf was able to interpose his short-sword, causing her to pull back before skewering herself.
– – –
Sorley awoke in the middle of a lush and wild forest. Animals were skittering about, full of energy and almost seeming to frolic. Standing up from the mossy ground he leaned against a tree to steady his feet. Ember was nowhere around, though he could sense that she was concerned for him.
A figure stepped from behind a nearby tree. The figure stood tall and slender. Her jet black hair fell unbound to her waist in contrast to her pale white skin. She wore a light-green dress and when Sorley looked into her eyes the deep blue captured his gaze.
“Sorley Aelfson. I’m glad to finally meet you.” The fey woman smiled as if she were amused. “Are you enjoying your time on Domhan?”
“Who are you, and where am I?”
The fey frowned, and Sorley felt disappointment in his core. “I’m Gormaliev, the Calculating. You may call me Gormal. I am the Archfey that guides and bestows powers upon your family line. Was I never mentioned to you?”
Thinking back to lessons long before meeting Ember, Sorley vaguely recalled hearing the name once. “It’s hard to remember that far back. It was before I met Ember.”
Upon saying the name of his familiar a large fox appeared from behind Sorley, circled around him and stopped, standing next to Gormaliev. The fox opened its mouth and spoke. “How is my daughter doing? I know she has no memory of me. It’s better that way, but I do wonder how my children are doing.”
“Right now she’s worried about me. I was in the middle of battle before Gormal called me here.” Sorley looked around. “Where is here?”
“Welcome to the Feylands. Do you like it here? Maybe you can visit in person sometime.”
“I do, but maybe you should hurry up and tell me what you need to. Lourek and Lukren are fighting an orc and an ice wolf by themselves.”
“Hush, Aliziyah. I must tell Sorley of the coming invasion.” Gormaliev waved a hand in the air and a silver bowl filled with water appeared atop a short pillar. “Gaze into the reflection pool and I will guide your vision.”
Sorley peered at the glass-like surface of the water. The wind picked up in the forest, but the water did not react. In the water, he saw flashes of creatures with three arms fighting an army comprised of various races.
“In this first vision of the future, all the races of Domhan other than the orcs band together to fight off a race of creatures known as the keridashi. This fails.” The vision showed orcs entering the battle on the side, cutting into both forces. At first, they are pushing back both the keridashi and the coalition of the other races, but eventually the keridashi break up their ranks and utterly destroy both armies.
The vision restarted, showing the same army except now Sorley could make out a spattering of orcs throughout. “In this vision, the orcs join in the defense of their home-realm and together they are victorius.” The keridashi forces were pushed back until they broke and scattered. “They do not reorganize into an army, but instead they build a civilization in the desert that is doomed to fail.”
Sorley gazed back at Gormaliev after the visions faded from the silver bowl. “What can I do?”
Aliziyah poked Sorley’s hand with her nose. “You will be the bridge between the orcs and the other races. It’s the least you can do in thanks for Gormal saving your life.”
Taken aback Sorley glanced at Gormaliev, a questioning look on his face.
“You weren’t going to end up on Domhan when you passed through that realm portal back on earth. You were going to Darkfall. The undead there would have corrupted you and then devoured you, or just devoured you, or just corrupted you. One outcome is as likely as the other. I would like to explain this, but you must awake now. Your dwarven allies need your help now.”
– – –
With a gasp, Sorley sat bolt upright. He distracted Krakust from a blow that surely would have maimed, if not killed, Lukren.
“Stupid human. Maybe I should kill you instead of capturing you!” Krakust swung at Lukren again, but Lukren was able to block and then gouged the orc’s arm.
Grabbing his father’s grimoire Sorley stood and cast a bolt of purple-tinged blue at Krakust, surprising him and causing him to take a step backward. “You will be doing neither today!”
Ember ran forward and bit into Evryn’s leg, causing the ice wolf to step back, unpinning Lourek who jumped to his feet.
“You overgrown mutt, I’ll teach you not to pin a dwarf!” He swung his short sword, trimming a large swath of fur before connecting with the ice wolf’s leg. The wolf howled in pain and backed off even farther. The leg was visibly broken.
A strange, guttural and growling noise came from behind Sorley. “Duck!” Helena was propped against the side of the cave. Her left hand had a green ball of flame in it and her arm was covered in scales up to the elbow.
With a glance backward, Sorley bent forward and to the side, giving Helena a better shot at the orc. Lukren had been shoved against a wall by Krakust and Lourek was too preoccupied with Evryn to pay attention.
With great exertion, Helena threw the green flame at Krakust who took it full in the side. He was thrown off of the dwarf and out into the whiteout, screaming in pain the whole way. The scales slowly disappeared, leaving an outline similar to a tattoo on Helena’s arm. She collapsed into unconsciousness.
Sorley stood upright again, a little surprised by Helena’s display. He slowly turned to look back at Lourek and the ice wolf. Lourek kicked the wolf in the side as it turned to leave the cave, concerned for her master.
“Well, that was new,” Sorley said, barely keeping his voice from cracking. “I’ll make sure Helena’s vitals are ok.”
Lourek and Lukren exchanged glances then moved to the back of the cave. “Lourek, is this an old mining tunnel?”
Lourek ran his hand along a seam in the rock. “No, but there’s a hidden door here. I’ll check for traps before we go any further. Watch the door Flaskheart?”
“I’ll let that go because we were just in combat, brother.” Lukren turned and sat at the door, rubbing his arm where Krakust had grabbed him to pin him. “Who was that orc, anyway?”
Sorley pulled his hand away from Helena’s wrist. “She’ll be fine. I think that was Krakust. The orc that was keeping us under watch in the orc village.”
Ember laid down next to Helena, trying to keep her warm on the ice-cold stones. “Can we move her? We can’t stay here now.”
There was a rumble from the back of the cave, and a dark mist rolled from it. “Oh, crap.” Lourek’s voice interrupted Sorley’s reply. “What’s scarier? The orcs, or an area that Darkfall is pushing through?” As he finished speaking a thick smell of death reached Sorley’s nose. “Also, I can’t close the door now it’s open. The lever was rotten and now it’s disintegrated.”