Warlords of Chaos
by Robin Gordon
THE END OF THE ADVENTURE
Copyright Robin Gordon, 1993/2004
In the Elf King's palace in the greenwood the friends met again. They had a meal, and then the Warlords in their grey robes, the colour of grubby cobwebs, were led before the kings and their counsellors. In the clear light of the woodlands of Iltuvion their inhuman heads were revealed as masks.
"I would see the faces of these Warlords," growled King Goggi. "Let their masks be removed."
Elves moved forward and seized the devilish, horned mask of the one, while Dwarves seized the cruelly beaked hawkshead of the other. The metallic masks were removed and the pale faces of the Warlords stared forlornly at their captors. They were weak chinned and long nosed, and had sparse, grey-white, woolly hair.
"Let them be held here for the moment," commanded Gollin. "Then they shall go with our armies and be imprisoned forever beneath the Lone Mountain."
"So be it," said Goggi and Vendendros together.
Afterwards a great victory feast was held, and, as a climax to the festivities, King Vendendros adopted Gollin as his heir and declared him Prince of the Elves.
* * * * *
Next day the Elvish and Dwarvish armies set out together to take their prisoners to the Lone Mountain. They met few Orcs and even fewer Arachnoids or Scorpionids, and those they found were swiftly despatched. The Grey Mountains were free of trolls and Orcs, and the Dwarves of the Lone Mountain came out to meet them and escort them home. The Dwarves entered the mountain caverns, but the Elves set up their tents on the plain.
It was in the palace of Goggi, King of Dwarves, beneath the Lone Mountain that the great victory feast was held. The celebration at the stronghold of the Elves seemed in comparison a hurried and makeshift affair, a feast on the edge of the field of battle, where the warriors were still clad in their battle-stained garb. The Dwarves had time to prepare everything in advance. The great banqueting hall sparkled with lights, each of them reflected many times in the highly polished marble, bronze and gold and in the myriad of precious stones set in the ceiling, in the furnishings and about the clothing of the host and his guests. King Goggi and King Vendendros wore their finest robes. and, though one was tall and slender and the other short and stout, their demeanour was so majestic and regal that not even the normally satirical eye of Jellybean would have seen anything incongruous or comic in their appearance together.
The Dwarvish princes, Oggi and Roggi, were richly caparisoned, and duril shone about their chests and waists with a gleam like that of no other metal. Not even gold could match it. The Lady Doria and the great captain Amphibolas, now grown inseparable, wore the pale, shimmering colours of the Elves. Jellybean and Frobisher were clothed in freshly laundered shirts which seemed none the worse for their long baptism of war, and, much to Frobisher's satisfaction, they were at last wearing their jeans. Gollin, when he had seen them, had had similar trousers made for himself, though his, as befitted a prince of both Elves and Dwarves, were of the finest cloth imaginable, combining the richness favoured by the Dwarves with the shimmer preferred by the Elves. Around his waist gleamed the Belt of Bollin and on his breast hung a single precious stone, brighter than all the gems of the Dwarvish palace: the Jewel of Ilirion.
The great hall was crowded with Elves and Dwarves, and there were too, among the most honoured guests, a small number whose existence had always been denied, ignored and forgotten: the Elf-Dwarves. Gollin was not unique after all, although he was the Elf-Dwarf, the one whose coming had been prophesied. His birth could not be hidden because he was a prince, the son of a prince and a princess, but others, less exalted, had always existed, hidden in humble farmsteads far from the great ones at court, the shame of their families never spoken of, never acknowledged. Now at last they could come out into the light and be made welcome at the palaces of their kings.
After the feasting came the speeches. King Goggi announced that the Dwarves would return to the Grey Mountains and the Red Cliff. Oggi would be King under the Grey Mountains and Roggi King under the Red Cliff. Goggi himself would remain King of Dwarves, and his successor would be Gollin, High King of all the Elves and Dwarves of Iltuvion.
Enthusiastic cheers resounded round the great hall. Then, suddenly, they died away, and a fearful silence followed. By the table of the kings stood five tall figures shrouded in cobwebby grey. Menace exuded from them and held all those present in thrall, staring breathlessly at their blank, inhuman faces, the heads of daemons, with horns or tusks or the curved beaks of birds of prey.
"We have come," said their leader, "to demand the release of two Warlords whom you hold prisoner."
His voice sent shudders of fear through the assembled Elves and Dwarves. Gollin rose from his seat and moved slowly to confront the fearsome visitants.
"We hold the Warlords captive as hostages to protect our world from further interference," he said. "I will not release them unless you can guarantee that Iltuvion will be left in peace."
"You will be left in peace," replied the leading Warlord. "We are permitted our game as tempters and manipulators of the peoples of all the worlds. We are not, more's the pity, allowed to obliterate a world except through the gullibility of its inhabitants, or you would not now exist. The game is over here. Now that you have recognised us and shown us to your people we have no further power except as ghosts to frighten the feeble-minded. You will be left in peace. The incompetent Warlords will receive their punishment at our hands, not at yours, and the game will continue elsewhere. There are many, many worlds, where races such as yours can serve our pleasure. Do not imagine that you can warn them. When we leave we shall remove all the aliens from your world and send them to their own planets. Then the portals will be closed. Iltuvion wishes to find peace in its own way? Then it shall. No Daemon shall visit it again, but you will not find the wormholes that lead to other dimensions. You have chosen isolation and that is exactly what you shall have. I have spoken, so be it! Produce the errant Daemons!"
Gollin nodded to Oggi and the Dwarvish prince left the banqueting hall. A few minutes later he returned with the Warlords. Still unmasked they stood trembling before their fellow Daemons.
"Go!" commanded the leader and pointed at the two captives. Instantly they disappeared.
The leader turned once more to Gollin. "As my words, so is my will. As my will, so mote it be," he said. Then he raised his hands to shoulder level, spread his fingers wide in a gesture that might have been a farewell or an invocation of Daemonic power, and all five disappeared.
"If we can believe the Warlords," said Gollin, "the salvation of Iltuvion lies in our own hands. We are free of outside interference. We have won! Only one problem remains. We must get Jellybean and Frobisher home before the portals are closed, or they will be forever imprisoned on Iltuvion."
"I can think of worse fates," said Jellybean. "This is a wizard place."
"We must go home, Jellybean," wailed Frobisher, who suddenly felt that Jellybean might insist on staying.
"I suppose so," sighed Jellybean.
"You must," said Gollin. "It is your duty to warn your people about the Warlords."
"Gosh, yes!" cried Jellybean. "I hadn't thought of that. Come on, Frobi. Don't hang around like a wet lettuce. We've got work to do."
The horses were brought out. Jellybean and Frobisher set out for the Red Cliff accompanied by Gollin and Amphibolas. They rode swiftly and openly, without fear of enemies, and without stopping to rest more than a couple of hours each night. No-one knew when the Warlords would close the portals, perhaps they were already closed. All the four companions could do was to ride as fast as possible.
Three days later they swung round the eastern flank of the great escarpment and turned south and westwards along the river valley to find the Red Cliff. Their hearts were high and they felt confident that they would reach the portal on time.
Then, from the scattered rocks ahead, rose a band of Orcs.
"It's vem Fings!" screeched a well-known voice. "Geddem! Chop veir 'eads off! We'll stick 'em on poles. Toldjer you 'adn't seen ve larst o' Snotrag ve Great!"
"Ill-founded confidence is the most deadly of traps," said Gollin ruefully - and his words later became a proverb among the people of Iltuvion, rather like our Pride comes before a fall.
"Draw your swords!" he commanded. "We are surrounded. Doubtless they will expect us to try to break through where they seem weakest."
"They've probably got reinforcements hidden behind the rocks," cried Jellybean.
"Undoubtedly," replied Gollin. "Wait till they come closer, then charge straight for Snotrag. We are bound to fall, but we'll take that vile devil with us."
"And as many of his foul thugs as we can," added Amphibolas grimly.
Overconfidence now mastered Snotrag. He climbed upon a rock in full view to wave his murderous mob forward. Quickly Amphibolas fitted an arrow to his bow. Snotrag saw it, but too late. Before he could move the arrow took him full in the throat, and he fell dead from the rock.
The Orcs howled and fell back, but then they came on again, keeping low to the ground, with their shields raised. With only four to oppose them they knew they could not lose. On they came.
The sky had become dark and menacing. There was an oppressive stillness in the air. Lightning suddenly flashed. A rush of wind whirled across the valley, and it seemed that helpless creatures were blown with it.
"Scorpionids," cried the clear-eyed Amphibolas. Then they were gone, and the air was again still and full of menace. The Orcs came nearer.
"Be ready," said Gollin.
Again lightning flashed. They heard the wind again and felt its rush - and the Orcs were gone, spinning through the air. After that all was still.
"It's the Warlords!" cried Amphibolas. "They are taking away the aliens."
"On! On to the portal!" shouted Gollin.
"It's too late!" wailed Frobisher.
Then again the lightning flashed and the wind rushed hurtling down. Jellybean and Frobisher were lifted from their horses. They saw Gollin and Amphibolas below them.
"Goodbye!" they shouted and saw the High King and his captain raise their arms in salute. Valley, rock and cliff flashed past, then the wind veered and hurled them straight towards the Red Cliff as if to dash them to pieces on its face. The two boys shut their eyes tight until they felt their hands and knees sink softly into muddy ground. They were on the grassy slope above the Bunn.
From somewhere above them they heard the excited voices of Parmenter and MacNeil.
"They disappeared, Sir, just vanished."
Mr Waggoner's voice rang out next: "Jellybean! Frobisher!"
"Here we are, Sir," replied Jellybean. "Have you been looking for us?"
"That, Jellybean, is the understatement of the year. I think you had better come with me to the Headmaster," said Mr Waggoner.
"Wizzo!" cried Jellybean, much to Mr Waggoner's surprise.
* * * * *
"I have ... ah ... questioned Bennett and Frobisher about this afternoon's events, ah, Waggoner," said the Headmaster.
"I have ... ah ... taken into account, of course, the information received by telephone from ... ah ... Miss Wyndham at St Ursula's. I have attempted to make sense of the ... ah ... hysterical reports made by certain of our own pupils, and used every technique of analytical criticism known to scholarship in an effort to decipher the two boys' own account. At the last I have formed an ... ah ... acceptable hypothesis and ... ah ... drawn my own conclusions.
"In my opinion, Waggoner, which is based on a long experience of the English schoolboy, there is only one rational explanation capable of accounting for all these disparate narrative strands, though it does require some ... ah ... skill in identifying those facts which are germane to the issue and those which are ... ahem ... not.
"The elimination of coincidence, Waggoner, that is the key to the mystery. Whether it is reasonable to suppose that Bennett and Frobisher were either lurking in the shrubbery at St Ursula's, or, as they themselves claim, were transported to another world, an ... ah ... alternative dimension, or perhaps both simultaneously - that is, so to speak, the ... ah ... question, mmh?"
"Oh, indubitably, Sir."
"Precisely. My conclusion, Waggoner, is this. The boys have filled their heads with nonsense based on these ... ah ... fantasy wargames which descend - in ... ah .. spurious line, I may say - from the ... ah ... fictional works of Professor Tolkien. Boys being, as I am sure you appreciate, boys, they translated their fantasies from the gaming board to a modernised equivalent of the old game of ... ah ... Cowboys and Indians."
"Or Cops and Robbers?"
"Indeed yes. The comparison is apposite. Now comes the crux of the matter, and mark this well, Waggoner. While hiding from their opponents Bennett and Frobisher began to read from a fantasy war-story book - probably taking it in turns to read aloud - and, in the warmth of the afternoon, they ... ah ... fell asleep in their place of concealment, dreamed similar dreams, and, being woken suddenly and in confusion by the shouts of their schoolmates, confused their dreams with reality.
"In this highly suggestible state they were prepared to accept any promptings, however absurd, and weave them into their dreamworld - hence their enthusiastic adoption of the idea that they had been at St Ursula's and escaped on horseback. No, Waggoner, I think that, despite the coincidence - and a very peculiar coincidence it is too - of the boys lurking in the bushes having claimed a kinship to Frobisher's cousin, there can be no doubt that they were merely trouble-makers from the local village. Our own missing pupils were, without any doubt whatsoever, asleep on the banks of the Bunn for the whole of the afternoon. Don't you agree?"
"I do indeed, Headmaster," said Mr Waggoner, greatly relieved that the Headmaster had come to the same conclusion as he had. "The matter can be safely closed then?"
"Quite. Quite. I do not think we need concern ourselves further. All's well that ends well, eh?"
"Yes indeed, Headmaster."
* * * * *
"Well I suppose it was too much to expect the Archbeako to believe it," said Jellybean to Frobisher. "It must seem pretty fantastic to grown-ups."
"But how can we save the world if no grown-ups will listen to us?" wailed Frobisher.
"We'll be grown up ourselves in a few years," said Jellybean. "Then people will have to listen to us."
- The End -
Please remember that this story is copyright. See Copyright and Concessions for what uses are permitted.
Title page and contents
Robin Gordon's homepage
Send an e-mail to Robin Gordon