Warlords of Chaos
by Robin Gordon
Copyright Robin Gordon, 1993/2004
The Dwarvish warriors lit fires and cooked meat and beans. Sentries were posted and the victorious army slept. Then, well before dawn, the trumpets blared and the army moved off again up the Grey Mountains.
Thundering boulders came crashing down upon them, hurled by the Trolls above. The Dwarves broke ranks and fled, squealing. The Trolls roared in triumph and hurled more rocks. Again the Dwarves advanced, urged on by their commanders, and again they broke and fled before the onslaught of the Trolls. Now the Trolls left their mountain ramparts and came loping down the mountain-side, their hideous shapes casting long shadows in the pale moonlight.
The Dwarves howled and fled stumbling down the mountain, while the Trolls, roaring and snarling, came raging after them. Down from the mountain slopes, onto the plain raced the Dwarves. After them came the Trolls, hurling rocks. Then, as the eastern sky began to lighten, the Trolls called off the pursuit and turned, well satisfied, for home.
Dumbfounded they stood. Across the lower slopes of the Grey Mountains a second Dwarvish army was arrayed. The Trolls charged, but these new opponents did not give ground. Dwarvish shields deflected the stones the Trolls threw, and Dwarvish battle-axes crashed onto Troll limbs. The axes were blunted on the Trolls' strong hide, but though they did no damage they still hurt. The Trolls charged in desperation, but the Dwarvish lines held fast, and the dawn was approaching.
As it grew lighter the Trolls moved ever more slowly, until finally the sun rose over the horizon. As its first rays fell directly on to the Trolls they shrieked most horribly and were turned forever to stone.
Now the Dwarves made merry on the field of battle. More fires were lit, and soon bacon was cooking. Not a single Dwarf had fallen in the battle against the Trolls, and the only injuries were bruises.
After breakfast the armies of Oggi and Roggi parted with high hearts and went their separate ways. Oggi went over the mountains to finish off any remaining Trolls by the simple method of driving them from their caves into the bright sunlight, while Roggi went to clear the rest of the Orcs from the Grey Mountains like rats from a sewer. The four horsemen, Gollin, Amphibolas, Jellybean and Frobisher, went over the mountains, travelling first with Oggi, then turning aside to the Shepherds' Pass. King Goggi and his escort travelled by the low road, through the old Dwarvish city, with Roggi.
The King looked pale when Jellybean saw him again.
"The great city of the Dwarves is in ruins," he said. "It stinks of the filth of Orcs. We shall have to divert the mountain streams to flush it clear before we can live there again."
"At any rate, no Orc is left alive below," said Roggi grimly. "It was a dirty business. We had to exterminate the females and the squeakers too. Luckily they made it easy for us by attacking. Those female Orcs can wield scimitars and morning-stars as bloodily as any male. We lost three good Dwarves, but we cleared out the tunnels."
"Then we had the easier task," answered Oggi, "for the mountain Trolls have neither male nor female, nor old nor young, but grow fully formed in the living rock. The few we found are rock once more and will never move again till the last fires split Tuvi and take all living things to their heavens or their hells."
"On, then," ordered the King. "We march to join the Elves and clear Tuvi forever of this Orcish scum."
The Dwarvish army marched on for several days more. They met little resistance, only a few gangs of Orcs, who were swiftly routed. Of the Arachnoids they saw no sign. They left the Red Cliff away to one side and made straight for the ford and the Elvish kingdom.
* * * * *
King Vendendros Quebnopollondrax Iltuvinophoros was aware of their coming. Lookouts sped back to his woodland court with the news of a great army approaching at speed.
"This is what comes of trusting Dwarves!" cried the King of the Elves. "We have sent them the Belt of Bollin, and now they think they are invincible and come to take our very kingdom!"
"Perhaps they come in peace," suggested the Lady Doria.
"Peace?!" snapped the King. "Do you need an army to come in peace?"
"Shouldn't we send an envoy to talk with them?" she persisted.
"Perhaps," grunted the King, "but in the meantime we shall prepare for war. Let all my Elvish warriors be summoned, in squadrons and battalions, in cohorts and regiments and legions. Let all be made ready to receive the Dwarves!"
* * * * *
How do you wager? Do you back the Elves or the Dwarves?
The Dwarves for my money.
Done! And my Scorpionids will take on the winners. I think they'll make a better job than your Orcs.
* * * * *
As the Dwarvish army drew nearer the Elves made swift and deadly preparations. The citadel was defended by bowmen and swordsmen, and other archers were concealed in the wood to take the attackers from behind.
The Dwarves made no attempt at concealment. They marched on with flags flying and halted with a blare of trumpets a short way from the edge of the forest. Then four figures detached themselves from the Dwarvish host and approached with unbelievable swiftness like galloping horses.
Horses they were, with riders on their backs. The archers made ready to attack, but the horsemen stopped, and one of them dismounted and came on foot: Amphibolas, the Captain of the Lady Doria's guard, who had gone off with the Dwarf and the unknown beings from another world.
He was immediately taken before the King. There he explained in as few words as possible that his mission had been successful and that the Dwarvish army was come to make common cause with the Elves against the Warlords and their creatures.
"But," demanded King Vendendros, "what of the Jewel of Ilirion?"
"It too is come," replied Amphibolas. "Will you not go forth to a meeting with King Goggi of the Dwarves and his two sons, Oggi and Roggi? Jellybean and Frobisher will be there too, and one other, neither Elf nor Dwarf, and there all shall be revealed."
"I am not accustomed to these mysteries," began the King. "Speak plain, Amphibolas."
"Father," interrupted the Lady Doria, "Amphibolas is sent to us, not just as our own captain, but as an ambassador of King Goggi. If it pleases the Dwarf King not to reveal all through a messenger why should we bear him a grudge? If you had weighty matters to discuss with Goggi would you send a Dwarf to tell him all that was in your mind? Let us agree to a meeting, and let me go with you."
"Very well," answered King Vendendros, "I agree."
A round table was carried out by order of the King of the Elves and set up at the edge of the forest between the two armies. Chairs were brought, and wine. Then the trumpets of the Elves resounded and forth came King Vendendros Quebnopollondrax Iltuvinophoros, richly apparelled and with a golden crown on his head. With him walked the Lady Doria Vignifica Myopapetia Imrahil, his daughter, and the Lord Amphibolas, captain of the Lady's guard.
The trumpets of the Dwarves were heard in answering fanfare, and forth came Goggi, son of Dwollin, King of Dwarves, and his sons, Oggi and Roggi. Battle-stained were their garments but kingly their bearing as they came forth to the round table. With them came three slighter figures clad in grey shirts, two of the same height as the Dwarves, and one taller, though not as tall as the Elves, who wore about his shoulders a Dwarvish cloak.
The Elvish King made a speech of welcome, and the Dwarvish King replied in equally formal tones, thanking his royal brother for the return of the Belt of Bollin and assuring him that the Dwarves came in friendship to ally themselves with the Elves, so that together they might drive out the Warlords and their creatures.
"We have already made a start," he chuckled in high good humour. "We have cleared the Orcs from beneath the Grey Mountains and the Trolls from their peaks. Now we are come to return to you your lost heirloom - and much more.
"Know then, noble King, that we could not return the Jewel of Ilirion before because it was lost when Prince Vigonas was killed and has but lately come back to us. We have now brought it home to you, borne by one who wears it of right, as he wears the Belt of Bollin: Gollin, son of Bollin and Ilirion, Prince of both Dwarves and Elves."
At these words Gollin rose to his feet and brushed aside his Dwarvish cloak. Around his waist gleamed the Belt of Bollin, and at his breast hung the Jewel of Ilirion, magnificent in the sunlight.
King Vendendros stood up too.
"What infamy is this?" he thundered. "By what right does this Dwarf-Elf creature defile the Jewel of Ilirion? Is it not the mongrel beast whose birth presaged the coming of the Warlords? It must be destroyed!"
"I am Gollin, son of Bollin and Ilirion, Gollin the Tamer of Horses, Gollin the Conqueror of Orcs," said Gollin proudly. "The Jewel and the Belt are mine by right of inheritance. My coming was foretold, and the coming of evil was foretold, but the prophecy means that, though the Warlords may lay waste Iltuvion, I shall destroy them."
"Oh, Father!" cried the Lady Doria joyfully. "It is Gollin! It really is. Don't you see how like Ilirion he is, and how like my grandfather, Quebnopollondrax?"
"It is Gollin, son of Bollin and Ilirion," said King Goggi. "We recognize him as a Prince of the Dwarves. Since his coming fortune has favoured us. In him lies our hope."
* * * * *
Things are not turning out as expected. Why haven't the Elves and Dwarves attacked each other?
Perhaps you had better bring up your Scorpionids.
You don't concede? Even though most of your Orcs have been destroyed?
No. I have more than enough in reserve. If the same thing happens to your Scorpionids it could still be a draw.
Pah! Where's the fun in that?
* * * * *
The meeting of the Kings of the Elves and Dwarves was interrupted by urgent messages. A swift Elf reported that a group of Arachnoids was approaching from the south-west, and a Dwarf, running as fast as his short legs allowed, gasped out the news that a horde of Orcs from the Red Cliff was crossing the ford.
"The Warlords are aware of our alliance," said King Vendendros bitterly. "Never before have the Orcs and Scorpionids attacked together. They usually seem more interested in exterminating each other."
"Perhaps it is another battle between them and we just happen to be in the way," suggested King Goggi. "After all, no-one has seen the Warlords. Perhaps they don't exist."
"They exist," said Gollin quietly. "Precious has seen them."
"When? Where?" demanded Goggi.
"Once," said Gollin, "when Precious was hunted by Dwarves and Elves as well as Orcs, he fled up a cleft in the Red Cliff and came to a narrow fissure. He scrambled in to hide, and found that it led deep into the rock. At its inmost end he found steps cut in the rock, and he followed them up, until they led him into a tower high on the Red Cliff's top."
"There is no tower on the Red Cliff," said King Vendendros scornfully.
"You mean, you have not seen a tower," said Gollin. "It was a tower made of some strange substance, like metal in some ways, like glass in others. Precious went into the tower. He saw the Warlords looking down on Iltuvion and moving their armies like pieces in some gigantic game."
"You expect me to believe that there is a huge tower peopled with giants on the Red Cliff?" said King Vendendros sarcastically. "We're wasting time."
"No, Your Majesty," replied Gollin courteously. "I said it was like some gigantic game, but the Warlords are not giants. - But you are right: we are wasting time. Send your army to meet the Arachnoids while the Dwarves take on the Orcs. Meanwhile I and my Companions will seek the Tower of the Warlords."
"Am I, Vendendros Quebnopollondrax Iltuvinophoros, King of the Elves of Iltuvion, now to take orders from this creature?"
"We are wasting time, Grandfather," replied Gollin. "You said so yourself."
"You must do as you please, of course," put in King Goggi, "but I think Gollin is right." He rose. "I take my leave of Your Majesty," he said. "May we meet again, victorious."
"Farewell, King of the Dwarves," replied King Vendendros. "We shall meet again when we have crushed the alien invaders." He looked Gollin up and down. "Hmph," he snorted, "Grandfather! Well ... there is something about him."
The legations bowed. The Dwarves set off back to their army and the Elves returned to their stronghold. Gollin and his Companions went with the Dwarves.
* * * * *
You were right. It was an alliance against our Orcs and Scorpionids.
The game is proving more interesting than we thought.
Those Dwarves are winning.
I have more Orcs to bring up.
And I have more Arachnoids.
* * * * *
The two battles raged furiously. The Dwarves were now well practised in the art of fighting Orcs, and the Elves, inspired by the possibility of victory, proved ingenious in finding ways of destroying Arachnoids. Once the hideous machines were down Elvish archers made short work of the Scorpionids and Tyrantulas.
No-one had leisure to notice the departure of four horses ridden by Gollin, Jellybean, Frobisher and Amphibolas. The Elf had the Dwarf-prince Oggi mounted in front of him.
They skirted the battle of the Orcs and Dwarves and rode swiftly to the ford. From there they could see the Red Cliff, and Gollin pointed out a great cleft that streaked it from top to bottom. The going was trickier on the far side of the river, for the land was pitted with ravines and studded with rocks and boulders. Even so it took less than half an hour to reach the cleft. There they turned their horses loose so that they would have a chance of escape if Orcs should attack, and climbed up the cleft.
It was not difficult. The surface was rough, and, though steep, it was far from sheer. Near the top they came upon a fissure. Gollin attempted to squeeze in, but he had grown too big.
"You could do it," he said to Jellybean.
Jellybean nodded. "Come on Frobi," he said, and squeezed in.
Gollin lit the lantern they had brought and handed it in. Frobisher followed Jellybean.
"Ugh! It's wet!" he grumbled.
"There's a sort of little stream dripping down," said Jellybean.
"I don't like this at all," muttered Frobisher. "There are bound to be spiders and centipedes and things."
"Trust you to think of that, you hairy ruin," replied Jellybean.
"It wouldn't be so bad if we had trousers on. Why have you stopped? What's wrong? Is it centipedes?!"
"It's the end," answered Jellybean. "The tunnel doesn't go any further. Let's go back."
"Wizzo!" replied Frobisher, and whizzed out of the fissure.
"It must be the wrong one," said Gollin.
They climbed higher and came to another crack in the rock. This one was big enough for Gollin. Amphibolas had no trouble. Jellybean and Frobisher slipped in easily. Oggi almost stuck, and had to be helped with a bit of pushing and pulling.
"Don't worry," Gollin called. "The passage opens out after the narrow entrance."
It did. It led them deep into the rock. They groped along by the light of their lantern.
"The passage ends just ahead," murmured Amphibolas, but he was wrong. It swung sharply to the right and began to climb, sloping gently at first, then more steeply. Soon they were stepping from rock to rock on a natural stairway. Then they found that they were climbing roughly hewn steps that began to swing round and became a narrow spiral staircase of dressed stone climbing through a smooth shaft.
Amphibolas grew more and more uneasy, for Elves are creatures of the open woods and grasslands and dislike enclosed spaces. Oggi found it fascinating. He took the lead with the lantern in his left hand and his battle-axe in his right. Amphibolas came next. He felt less claustrophobic close to the light. Then came Jellybean and Frobisher, with Gollin in the rear.
Suddenly Oggi gave a gasp and stopped dead. "I cannot go on," he growled. "I can see the stairs going up ahead, but I cannot move on. It is like an invisible spider's web."
"Are you caught?" cried Amphibolas.
"No. I can move back, but it will not let me pass."
Amphibolas stretched out his hand. "It is hard, like stone, but invisible," he reported.
"Glass?" suggested Jellybean.
"I will try my axe," grunted Oggi grimly. He handed the lantern to Amphibolas, hefted his trusty battle-axe, two handed, struck at the invisible barrier, and gave a cry of pain.
"It is harder than the hardest rock," he said. "It has blunted my axe."
Jellybean stretched his hand forward and felt nothing.
"Where is it?" he asked.
Amphibolas laid his hand on the barrier. "There," he said.
Jellybean's hand moved forward, it passed the Elf's. He walked forward. Nothing stopped him.
"There is nothing there," he said.
Frobisher followed gingerly. Gollin, too, walked through the invisible gateway. Amphibolas and Oggi tried again, but could not pass.
"If you want to know what I think," said Frobisher, his eyes gleaming through his spectacles, "I think it's a force-field."
"Then why doesn't it stop us, Clever-clogs?" demanded Jellybean.
"It's only programmed to stop Elves and Dwarves," answered Frobisher. "The Warlords want to be able to come and go quite freely, and perhaps even to summon Orcs up here. They've designed a force-field just to stop Elves and Dwarves. They never thought humans might come here."
"You're right, Frobi," cried Jellybean admiringly. "Gosh, the jolly old Frobisher brain is still whirring away in there under the Frobisher fringe."
"What are you two talking about," grumbled Oggi.
"It is a gateway held by invisible forces under the command of the Warlords," explained Gollin. "They can recognize Elves and Dwarves but do not know about Children of Men, or about Dwarf-Elves. We will go on and do what we can. Wait here for us. If we do not return take the horses and ride to my grandfather and my great uncle with the news. There may be other ways of getting to the tower."
"Take the Jewel and the Belt," he added. "Guard them well. I hope I shall claim them again, but, if not, return them to the Kings."
"Give the Belt to Amphibolas, not to me," said Goggi. "I am the next heir, and it might be an unhappy omen if I took it."
"Then let Oggi bear the Jewel," said Amphibolas, "As a token of trust."
* * * * *
Beyond the force-field gateway the steps were as smooth and regular as if they were cast in metal or moulded in glass. The wall was of the same substance.
"I think the whole tower is made of force-fields," said Frobisher. "That's why no-one can see it from outside."
"Then why don't we fall through it, Mr Genius?" demanded Jellybean.
"Well, it stands to reason, doesn't it? It's got to be a different kind of force-field, one that holds the Warlords - and not just the Warlords, or you'd have birds flying in and out all the time. It has to stop everything, even the wind and rain."
"Well it's possible, I suppose," said Jellybean grudgingly, "but it doesn't really make any difference what it's made of, does it?"
"Sh!" warned Gollin. "We are coming to the top. Precious came this way and saw the Warlords at their game."
"You're not still calling yourself Precious, are you?" grumbled Jellybean.
"I call that other self, that child of long ago, Precious, as he called himself," said Gollin. "Precious ran and hid and sneaked and skulked, and stole when he could. I am Gollin, someone quite different. But now we must sneak as quietly as poor Precious."
They sneaked quietly up the last few steps and came to an open doorway. Beyond was a hexagonal room, with two people standing at a table, or something like a table.
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