Simple Diplomacy

The mountain air was cool with morning, the sun still too low in the sky to have warmed it even to the elevation's normal chill.  The valkyries gathered amidst the sparse trees needed all their discipline to keep from shivering.  Eigrid Godstrider was patient, but the Order of the Ram had insisted on meeting the valkyries at dawn, and she could not afford to antagonize them by making them wait.

A touch at her side drew her attention down to the massive snow leopard nosing at her hip.  She spared a rare smile for the beast, setting a hand atop his head to pet her fingers lightly through the fur behind his ears.

"There."

Eigrid's gaze rose back up at the word, focusing on the trio of orcs that had just appeared striding through the trees.  They held themselves tall, pushing through the lowest branches of the conifers rather than walking around them, and came to a halt twenty feet away from the valkyries.

The leopard at Eigrid's side growled quietly, prompting her to press her digits more firmly into his fur.  "Thank you for agreeing to meet with the Temple of Storms, warriors of the Order of the Ram."

The central orc spoke in answer, his voice gruff, expression neutral.  "The Order of the Ram did not agree to meet the Temple of Storms, we agreed to meet with you, Eigrid Godstrider.  The Temple has done nothing for the Order to aid in our struggles, you have at least suggested that we share enemies.  You are given one chance to speak what your Temple sent you to, and we will take your words back for the Order to decide if we will honor the Temple more than the Temple has honored us these many years."

Several of Eigrid's battle-sisters bristled at those words, but Eigrid kept her own distaste from her voice.  "Dark times are approaching.  Ancient enemies arise once again.  Against these enemies none can stand alone, be they orc or valkyrie or any other race.  The Temple of Storms seeks alliance.  We would join forces with all who stand and fight to see this ancient foe destroyed."

A growl interrupted her.  Her leopard was baring his teeth, fur standing on end.  Eigrid tensed to settle the beast back down, then stopped as she saw the branches above the orcs shake.  "Above you!"

The tree shook, branches snapping as a fur-clad woman dropped to the ground directly behind the three orcs.  She looked thin and filthy, but Eigrid's eyes widened in recognition of the bestial tooth-bladed scythe she carried.  She swung the weapon in a blur, spinning with the attack and neatly removing the orc leader's head from his shoulders in the time it took his hand to reach the sword at his hip.

The other two orcs stepped backwards, both drawing their weapons as the hlle viltajess vaulted over the falling body of their comrade.  Eigrid's blade sang free of its sheathe, she and her cat both charging forward with desperate haste.  One of the orcs brought his blade into place to parry the barbarian assassin's scythe only to fall back gasping around the bone-hilted dagger protruding from his throat.  The barbarian's scythe blurred towards the last orc again and again, his paired blades parrying it aside narrowly each time.  

The viltajess screamed with impossible volume, leaving Eigrid hearing only high-pitched ringing.  She could see the orc's face twisted in pain as blood poured from his ears, his next parry moving a hair too slow to prevent that wicked scythe from cutting into his shoulder.  Eigrid hurled her blade to cross those last few feet and watched it sail through the air as her hearing returned to her, the razor-sharp weapon striking home and neatly impaling the barbarian woman a heartbeat after her scythe tore off the last orc's face.

Eigrid stared down at the orcs, the battle maiden refusing to turn away until her sisters caught up to her.

"We need to tell the Order what happened to their envoy."

The Godstrider's voice was quiet with suppressed fury.  "They sent us an envoy, and that envoy is dead."

One hand gave an almost dismissive wave, gesturing to the corpses.  "Give them full rites.  The orcs do not care for such ritual any longer, but we will need the practice once they find out what has happened."

by Brian Nelms

A Day Like Any Other, part 3