Around the pool Ember, Lukren, Helena, Drakust, and Evryn sat restlessly.
“Are you sure I shouldn’t go join them?” Ember asked, as she stood and began pacing in a circle around Helena. Her red fox fur standing out against the white snow.
Evryn snorted softly and rested her ice wolf head on Krakust’s lap. The orc patted her head and turned to look at Lukren, who was periodically drinking from a flask. “I assume you don’t want to share that?”
“What would you have to drink about? One of my kin is inside a serpent. I think only the dwarf should be drunk, anyway.” He took another swig, and a bit of ale spilled onto his unkempt beard.
Helena stood and motioned for the flask. Her sky elf skin blending into the background of snow. “Well, may I have a drink?”
“Sure, sure.” Lukren handed the flask over. “It’s almost empty anyway.”
With a swift motion Helena chugged down the remainder of the flask. “Ah, that’s not as good as wine, but it definitely has a kick.”
Krakust stared at Lukren for a moment then pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his pack. “Here.” He handed it to Lukren.
“Uhh…thanks.” The dwarf took the bottle and started drinking.
– – –
Sorley and Lourek watched as Donaar the dragonkin started playing chess against the spirit of an ancient mage. His magnetite colored stales reflected the dim light emanating from the bowels of the great serpent.
Turning to Sorley, Lourek stroked his braded dwarven beard. “So, how exactly is this game played?”
The human Sorley scratched his hairless face idly. “Well, the goal is to capture the opponent’s king. It’s the piece with the cross on the top of it. Different types of pieces do different things. Pawns, the short ones, can only move forward directly, or diagonally to capture other pieces for example.”
“So, it’s a war strategy game where both sides are equal and have the same resources?”
“Yes, I suppose that’s exactly what it is.” Sorley shrugged. “I’m not very good at it myself.” He turned his attention back to the game slowly advancing. “He seems to be doing fairly well from what I know.”
“Well,” the mage’s spirit said, “looks like your friends are bored. Let’s give them something to play with, shall we?” The spirit waved its incorporeal arms and two goblins appeared near Sorley and Lourek, weapons drawn.
The goblins said something in a language they couldn’t understand and ran forward. Meanwhile, on the chess board, two pawns, one from each player’s side, disappeared from the board.
The spirit shrugged. “I have to keep the game balanced.”
– – –
The serpent closed its mouth and laughed. “Oh, I forgot how well that mage played his games. Well, it seems your friends are in a combat situation. They should be fine, though. The old mage isn’t up to his full strength these days.”
Helena quickly translated the words of the serpent to the others. “I don’t think they’ll have a problem. When Orby is enhancing Sorley, he seems to have better tricks up his sleeve. I’d never heard of that before, but that’s how he was able to defeat you in the cavern.” She nodded at Krakust.
“That explains a lot. What is Orby, anyway?” Krakust took the whiskey back from Lukren and took a swig before giving it back.
Ember pawed at Evryn then curled up next to her. “Orby’s a light elemental. He’s Helena’s familiar.”
“I see. I’d never heard of a light elemental before now. Then again, the orcs aren’t really known for their grasp of the arcane.”
“No, we aren’t, are we brother?” A voice echoed from the forest surrounding the hot springs.
“Who goes there!” Lukren jumped to his feet, instantly sober, wielding his short sword.
Two orcs stepped out from the edge of the forest.
One spoke up. “Those sent to check that Krakust is doing his task.”
“You don’t seem to be doing that, now, do you?” The other added.
Krakust stood up and Evryn pushed Ember away so she could do the same. “That’s not very honorable of the chieftain to send someone to watch after one of their greatest warriors.”
“You were an exception,” the second orc said. “The chieftain doesn’t doubt you, but the elders have worries about you.”
Krakust raised his dagger, the only weapon he had on his person. “You defy the chieftain and say I am not doing my task?” His eyes became bloodshot and the veins on his arms stood out against his green skin. “I will defend the chieftain’s name since you soil it behind his back!” He stormed forward and stabbed at the second orc, his rage forcing his face into a scowl. “Traitors are to be killed!” He dug the dagger into the orc’s arm, let go of it, and pulled the pickhammer from his opponent’s back. He then kicked the orc backward into a tree with enough force to dislodge a large amount of snow. The snow dropped onto the surprised orc’s head with a loud thwump. Krakust turned to the first orc. “Well?!”
The first orc looked at Krakust with a searching expression. “Explar evost?”
“Epro, brother.” Krakust responded.
The first orc took his war hammer from his own back and crushed the second orc’s skull in himself. “I will tell the chieftain your travel goes well.”
The rage drained from Krakust and he relaxed. “I’ll be keeping the pickhammer.”
“I would expect no less, cheiflein.”
Krakust walked over and pulled his dagger from the dead orc’s arm then turned and walked back to Helena and Lukren. Putting his dagger in its sheath and strapping the pickhammer to his back.
“What in bloody Darkfall was that about?” Lukren put his short sword away.
“Something you might call kingdom politics.” Krakust sat down next to Evryn who was already lying down again.
– – –
Sorley let out a purplish-blue blast of fire at the first goblin, who convulsed and fell over in a smoldering heap. “They’re pawns. They seem to be pretty weak.”
Lourek nodded and pulled his daggers from his back. He threw both of them at the goblin, slaying it where it stood.
“Whoa, really? That’s too complicated! We were supposed to just be playing chess!” Donaar shouted in surprise. The two pawns that had disappeared reappeared on the board. “Guys, if he does that again, play with them for a while! That ruined my next move!”