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Chapter 10

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Chapter X

The Host of the North

 

The army of The Northern Gate, the largest above ground city in the north. Crested over the ridgeline to the north. It had started as a trickle, a small line of grey clad warriors, before the main force some twelve thousand dwarves and mountain-men came above the line of the hills.

Nick watched them arrive from the ramparts of Normanguard, observing the mass of blue and grey marching towards the mountain, even at this distance he could see a stout looking dwarf on a ram leading the army. As the army drew closure, Nick was able to get a better look at the dwarf who was leading the force. Jarnolim Kazburn bore a striking resemblance to his older brother Doraghek, only with white, blonde hair and beard instead, behind him his host continued to march towards the mountain until Jarnolim, and a few others rode ahead of the main force to enter Normanguard, with the rest of the force began to set up camp outside its gates.

“How many now?” Nick asked as Jarnolim and his guard rode through the large gates and he turned his attention back to the large host that had started to assemble outside the mountain walls. A raged mix of dwarves and mountain-men, all who had answered the call to war.

“I would say about thirty thousand.” Bruce replied, he had been ordered by the old butler to keep an eye on Nick, a task that was proving a lot harder than he had initially thought, as whilst the boy may act well, the translator had quickly found that he had to keep his guard up and his brain alert for the slightest sign of the kid planning another escape attempt. The last attempt involved him having to call Nick down from the ramparts that they were presently on as he attempted to abseil down the mountainside. “There will be more though, Barca had reported that more and more resistance cells are joining him at The Iron Tooth, and we’ve had reports from your brother that his mission is also producing good results as well.” Bruce finished and Nick turned around at the news regarding Jack.

 

It had been a surprise when a lone north-man arrived at the mountain asking to speak with the old butler, it had seen odd, they had expected for the stranger to have a message for Fierhand. However, the reasoning became clear when the man had told them he had ridden to the mountain to give them an update on Jack’s progress as he rallied the scattered and poor northern towns to the cause.

It had been a shock to hear about his deal with the trolls, so much so, that Vernon had insisted that the stranger avoid that in the report that he was going to give to the king, as he had feared what the response would be. Which the north-man had done, albeit reluctantly, only telling Fierhand that Jack would meet them at The Iron Tooth directly unless they happened to cross paths on the way south. And had then been paid for his deception handsomely and rode out to return to Jack to give the unknown instruction that Fierhand had given him.

“It’s not enough.” Nick said, returning to the previous conversation and gazing back at the large host that was camping at the foot of the mountain. Whilst one of the largest armies ever put together since the imperial golden age, Nick knew that they were going to be severely outnumbered, even with Jack’s reinforcements and the resistance cells joining up with the main host at The Iron Tooth.

“Your probably right kid.” Bruce said walking up and joining him in looking down at the ever-gathering host. The reports that they had received from Juliett Squad were not good, with news that the enemy were stepping up their efforts in breaking Barca’s forces that held onto the strategic town at the base of the slope.

“How much longer now?” Nick asked turning around to face Bruce, who paused before responding.

“Not long now kid.” Bruce said returning to the ever-growing encampment. “We’ll need to move out soon at any rate before this host eats the mountain bare.” Bruce finished and Nick sighed in relief at this, taking the translator off guard, before remembering the fact that the kid wanted to head south, and had been badgering Vernon to let him for the past few months. What he had said however, still held merit. The large army was rapidly starting to strip what little food that this land offered bare. They were already having to ration what little of it that Fierhand had managed to save before the first few troops arrived.

As Nick took one last look at the landscape surrounding the manor before returning back inside the mountain, shadowed at a respectable distance by Bruce. Nick wasn’t under any illusions about why Bruce was tailing him, having overheard Vernon asking the translator to keep an eye on him. There was no need, he had no intention of sneaking off, he kept up the show of trying to leave the mountain, for Vernon’s sake, not that he was planning anything else, he was just bored and wanted to keep both his body and his mind active.

 

Codsworth hung back from the main group of dwarves and mountain-men as Jarnolim rode into the entry hall and looked around, a thick grimace on his weathered face. Although several years younger than Doraghek, his pale hair made the newcomer look much older than his brother. Jarnolim proceeded to get of his ram, which stomped the ground angrily, eager to return outside, although it was hard to tell who was madder, the ram or the rider. Not that either Fierhand or Doraghek looked best pleased to see their family member back inside the mountain once more.

“Jarnolim.” Fierhand said, breaking the ice as Doraghek seemed unlikely to anything but glower at his younger brother.

“Father.” Jarnolim responded and whilst he was polite enough, there was definitely a coldness to both their voices, although that was nothing compared to the look that the brothers gave each other, neither speaking to each other.

Codsworth despaired at this fact, as he knew that the last thing, they needed was a rift amongst themselves, especially with the hodgepodge of forces that they had gathered, comprising numerous cultures and species. And that wasn’t even considering the fact that they were to be joined by trolls, a group who were well known to have animosity to all but their own kind. Not that Fierhand or anyone other than their small group knew about that fact, Codsworth could have smacked his head against the wall when he had heard the news and was very interested to hear Jack’s reasoning for bringing those creatures into their growing alliance.

“How many soldiers have you brought us?” Fierhand asked, and Codsworth guessed that the king was wishing that someone else would talk, just in order to end this particular encounter.

“Twelve thousand, give or take.” Jarnolim replied, leaning heavily on a large Warhammer, something that he had not holstered in the presence of his father or brother, an action that spoke louder than the mild tone of his voice ever could do. However, before the king could stop Jarnolim the lord of The Northern Gate. “So big brother. I hear you’ve made some new friends.” Jarnolim finished and glanced up at Codsworth, who had not spoken and was trying to keep himself out of the way of this awaked family reunion.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Doraghek retorted as he also held onto his weapon tight in his hands, like his younger brother, he had insisted in not sheathing the weapon despite the fact that they were with supposed allies.

“Word travels far dear brother. Tell me, when did my older brother become so soft towards outsiders?” Jarnolim said, a glint in his eye, which Codsworth took to mean that he was trying to see how far he could push Doraghek before he acted rashly. This however was enough as it was only by the brothers Borgood holding their leader back, that Doraghek didn’t lunge himself towards Jarnolim in that very moment. It was now becoming apparent to the commander why Doraghek had such a fraught relationship with his younger brother now.

“They’re no outsiders here.” Fierhand said, as the king stepped forward, Codsworth noted that Jarnolim took what looked like an involuntary step backwards. The dwarf quickly corrected himself, but it showed that he still feared the king, even if it was at a purely subconscious level. “They are all north-men, even if they weren’t born here.” Fierhand finished, the king didn’t look back at where Codsworth stood, but he didn’t need to in the commander’s opinion as it was obvious who Fierhand was talking about.

“As you say father.” Jarnolim said, although there was a look in his eye that Codsworth didn’t like, whilst he doubted that it was anything to malicious, Codsworth still vowed to keep his guard up whilst Jarnolim was close by.

 

Back in the quarters Codsworth had managed to get everyone gathered. A feet in of itself as all but Vernon and Nick had jobs to do.

“How much longer?” Jimmy asked, the young scientist having witnessed the slow gathering of the army. He had also gone to check the food stores, and whilst they were nowhere near empty, to say that they were full would have been a lie.

“Within the week at a guess, perhaps sooner. There’s no point remaining here much longer.” Codsworth said as he leaned against the wall, he hoped that he was correct in that statement, as they would quickly run out of food if they stayed for any length of time, plus he had not been blind when Jarnolim had arrived and guessed that it was only a matter of time before a fight would break out between the brothers or their men. “Everyone who will come has now. We were only remaining here for Jarnolim, and now that he has finally arrived, there can be no stopping Fierhand.” Codsworth finished looking around at the group to judge their reactions to this news and he was not disappointed, all looked at the bare minimum like they were ready to go south. In truth the commander had had his doubts about the old butler, who he thought might choose to remain behind, but even Vernon looked as eager as a man who was closing in on seventy could be.

“That’s good. There’s not much more we can do here.” Charlie said, and both Jimmy and Abi nodded at this. There experiments had slowly started to grind to a halt, as whilst Edgar had some telepathic ability, it was nowhere near powerful enough for what they needed. The sooner they left here, the sooner they might get a hold of Martin, and have him attempt the difficult procedure.

As Codsworth was about to speak up again, a sharp rap on the door distracted him. Instinctively he reached for his weapon, he wasn’t the only one, as both Bruce and Jimmy had done the same. Before the three remembered where they were and took their hands of their guns, and Codsworth opened the door, to reveal a dwarf standing there as still as a statue.

“Commander. King Fierhand has requested your presence in the throne room.” The dwarf said in a stilted voice that was slightly unnerving to Codsworth. But he nonetheless nodded, and the dwarf retreated back through the door.

 

In the throne room, Codsworth found himself alone with only King Fierhand for company, it felt odd as whenever he had been in the presence of the king, there had always been at least a dozen advisors, or at the bare minimum Doraghek with them in the room.

“So, my young Imperial. I have gathered my army, all thirty thousand of them. Not to mention the others that are making their way to the tooth. Now tell me straight, how in the gods name are we going to win?” Fierhand asked as he sat in his large throne and gazed down at the commander with interest. “I know that you lot have been experimenting with those gems, I take it that they have something to do with your plan.” Fierhand finished.

“Yes.” Codsworth replied, in truth, he had no idea exactly what Charlie was planning to do, but it had taken a vast amount of her time since her team had made the discovery and Codsworth had no doubt that they had at least made some headway on the matter.

“Anything you can tell me about it?” Fierhand asked, looking interested. At this Codsworth paused, thinking through the best way to phrase what he had to say.

“We’re going to use the gems against him.” Codsworth said, he refused to say the name partly out of hatred for The Shadow, but mostly out of fear, as he had not forgotten how the demi-god had torn through their defences back at the manor, as much as he’d like to. “But for that we need…” Codsworth started but Fierhand finished his statement for him.

“You need Martin Wolfrick. and he has disappeared to who knows where.” Fierhand finished looking tired at the fact.

“Yes. He was last seen heading southeast, but we no longer have our resident tracker so have been stuck. We have been using young Edger in Martin’s place, but Charlie doubts if the boy has the power to win us the day.” Codsworth said, they had been getting results, but they had not been promising, as something in Edger’s abilities was stopping the lad from fully committing to process.

“If we had young Wolfrick though, the plan would work?” Fierhand asked getting the conversation back on track.

“Well… Charlie thinks so at least, and that’s the best reassurance I can give you your grace.” Codsworth replied hoping to give the old king at least that little bit of comfort.

“I hope this plan of yours works commander. I’m staking my country and people on it after all.” Fierhand said looking grave as he spoke, as if he doubted the plan even more than Codsworth did.

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