Right - slowly getting the show back on the road after another dalliance with Napoleonic era naval warfare. Got sidetracked with sorting out a pressie for my Dad's 60th. Foolishly I'd joked with him last year that I'd depict the whole battle of Trafalgar for such a mile stone birthday having made a smaller scale diorama for his 59th - http://teasgettingcold.blogspot.com/2011/01/came-in-his-majestys-ship-minotaur-of.html
So having spent most of January (pics up when I get them off me Mam's camera - forgot to take mine to the do, and once more it was a bit of a rush to get finished in time!) painting up the British and Franco-Spanish fleets in 1/1200 scale its nice to be back in sunny, war-torn Ramalia for the next installment of Orc's Drift...
Encounter at Ashak Rise
Borinn Fimbul surveyed the scene before him with satisfaction. The riverbank was alive with industry as several groups of Dwarfs busily sifted through the fine silt. He congratulated himself on his decision to desert from the Army of the Grand League and marvelled at how he had been the only one to spy the great riches that lay sparkling in the River Canis. Safe in the knowledge that the road was watched carefully by Dwarfish eyes reddened by Gold fever, Borinn let his mind wander back to when his scheme had been in its infancy...
"Hang on, lads; I've got a great idea"
"What's that then?" whispered Snorinn, furtively looking over his shoulder in case they were heard.
Borinn Fimbull, regarded his son with his sternest of looks, before sweeping his baleful gaze across the rest of the motley gang assembled before him.
"It's a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say."
The Dwarfs nodded their assent earnestly and huddled together to listen to the plan...
The night air was suddenly ruptured with a loud explosion. Horses reared and screamed and the shouts of the soldiers soon added to the consternation and confusion. Tent flaps were thrown open and the 52nd Ramalian Foot left the warmth of its bedrolls to see what threat it now faced.
Amidst all this chaos, thirteen shadowy and diminutive forms scurried off into the woods at the edge of the road.
Borinn fetched his son a hefty blow around the head.
"You were only supposed to blow the bloody horse up!"
"Nevermind that - at least they won't be after us on horseback now. Right we'd best be off before we're missed."
With that Borinn, Snorinn and their band of deserters headed back up along the river. With a lightness of step and gladness of heart, each Dwarf knew that there was gold to be had - gold a plenty! By the end of the night there was more than a few of the party that had sore heads because they had forgotten the need for stealth and given in instead to the urge to sing an old mining song or two.
Absent-mindedly humming one of said mining songs, Borinn was gradually brought out of his reverie by an insistent ringing noise. Looking around dazedly, the old Dwarf finally came to his senses - the alarm bell. That meant intruders! Intruders who wanted his gold!
Already the others were stashing their panning gear and were concealing themselves along the river bank. Already the sound of baying hounds was ringing through the valley. Borinn's already beady eyes narrowed still further and his knuckles whitened as he tightened his grip on his axe...
The game seemed to be up for the Dwarfs. There was no hiding from these interlopers. Borinn, Snorinn and their party made a dash for the bridge - the only place they were likely to hold off the tide of Orcs pouring up the valley towards them.
The three Dwarfs who had been working downstream from the main party had also seen the danger, and began making their way back towards the bridge.
Nearer to the cabin the prospectors had been using to stash their ill-gotten gains in (and less importantly to eat and sleep in), three pack mules stood passively by. This scene of rural tranquility contrasted sharply with the clamour of the third party of Dwarfs who now scrambled into position. Readying their crossbows, three of them headed for the ditch, which skirted their dwelling. Without a thought for their own lives and their thoughts firmly fixed on getting the all important gold they had collected so far to safety, the two remaining Dwarfs headed for the cabin to begin loading up the mules.
Hagar Sheol drew himself up to his not inconsiderable height and cast his eyes down the valley. There lay the hut the stunties had no doubt holed themselves and their gold up in. All there was to do was to cross the bridge and take it....
With a great roar from their chieftain, the Orcs of the Severed Hand surged forwards. The hobhounds led the way, bounding forward with much snarling and slavering, as Borinn and his men moved to block off the bridge.
Behind them came the main Orc column, flanked by two small groups of archers.
And a small trailing force brought up the rear.
Barely had Borinn, Snorinn and their two clansmen made it to the bridge than the hobhounds were on them. Jaws snapped and ripped but the Dwarfs managed to fend them off. However, caught out by the savagery of the attck they were forced back onto the bridge itself.
As their quarry had now gone to ground in the ditch that ran along the wall, the arrows of the Orc archers on the left failed to find their targets. Those on the right fared only slightly better having found their range - one of the Dwarfs was struck, but was saved by his finely woven chainmail.
Vowing revenge, the Dwarf crossbowmen opened up from their position in the drainage ditch and indeed their comrade was avenged as an Orc archer fell. Behind them, their two comrades readied themselves to begin loading the mules up with their stash of gold .
Just outside the other side of the house, the Dwarf who had rung the alarm bell was about to enter, to begin pulling the cases of nuggets from their hiding place beneath the floorboards.
In the confined space of the bridge, Borinn and Snorinn joined the fray, easily holding the rabid pack off and slaying two of the vicious beasts to boot. Unable to press their advantage of numbers home the combat ended in a stalemate for the hounds.
A bottleneck was beginnig to form as the Hobhounds again failed to push the doughty Dwarfs off the bridge, losing another two of their number. Impatiently the warriors of the Severed Hand queued up for a piece of the action as well as Orcs can!
The Dwarfs on the bridge found themselves pushed back now, as the hobhounds surged forward. There were no casualties on either side but again the sheer ferocity of the dogs attacks forced the Dwarfs to give ground, despite the arrival of the gold panning party from downstream.
The laborious task of loading had begun as the first cases of gold emerged from the cabin atop Dwarfs sweating with the effort.
And the crossbowmen in the ditch once again scored a hit. However, it was to prove only a glancing blow and only served to provide one happy Orc archer with a souvenirr of the battle!
As their targets had become embroiled in the fighting on the bridge, the archers on the left flank moved over and combined with the archers on the right. That should give them a more unfair advantage in the duel with the Dwarf crossbowmen conealed in the ditch.
Things weren't looking so certain for Grashak Kra and his hobhounds on the bridge. Again they failed to pull any of the Dwarfs down and again they suffered terribly at the hands of Borinn and Snorinn, losing two more hounds.
The now reinforced unit of archers let fly at the Dwarfs across the river and scored two hits but no wounds...
The crossbowmen return fire and again pick off an other Orc archer.
More gold was loaded onto the mules as the three Dwarfs worked feverishly, stopping only to surreptitiously open a case and lonngingly at its contents.
Having worked himself up into a proper gold-fuelled frenzy, Snorinn laid about him, felling another two hounds and sending the rest of the pack packing! With a great cry of "You shall not pass!" ringing in their ears, the hounds ran, whimpering, with their tails between their legs.
However, the Dwarfs' victory cries were soon silenced as the main Orc column took the place of the hounds and crashed into their painfully thin shieldwall.
The archers reformed themselves into an extended line with a most unorcish display of drill and discipline. This precision seemed to follow on into their shooting - bringing their bows up and loosing their arrows in unison, they cackled and howled as the ditch became a ready-made grave for one of the Dwarf crossbowmmen.
Failing to actually wound any of the bridge's defenders and even losing one of their number in the mad charge, the Orcs forced the Dwarfs to retreat or risk being overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, with much yelling, shouting and even biting, Grashak wrested control of his pack back and turned them towards the bridge once more.
The mules were beginning to shift restlessly under the weight as another three cases were brought out and loaded onto them.
Grimly, the sole remaining crossbowman loaded his weapon and picked off another Orc archer.
Undaunnted by the horde of leering greenskins bearing down upon them, the four plucky Dwarfs took back the upper hand in the combat. Led forward by their chief and his son, they felled two more of the brutes and drove their attackers back across the bridge!
Cursing the cowardly wretches around him, Hagar Sheol bellowed out his orders. The trailing force moved forward and joined up with beleagured advance guard. Again, however, the Dwarfs' skill at arms made them tough targets to lay a killing blow on and two more Orcs mixed their blood with the cold, clear waters of the River Canis.
With the added momentum from behind the Orc column acted like a battering ram on the Dwarfs' defensive line. Again Borinn and his clansmen found themselves stepping back over those they had slain but moments ago.
The archers again took their aim at the last Dwarf crossbowman. They had found their range and some of the more enterprising bowmen were attempting to drop their arrows into the ditch from on high. Sadly for the Dwarf one of them found their mark and he slouched down to join his comrades in the mud.
With shaking hands one of the mule loaders took his animal's tether in hand and began leading it towards the Linden road and safety. His two comrades looked on with more than a hint of jealousy in their gaze, before going back inside to get the last of the gold from its hiding place.
Picking their way back through the corpses that littered the bridge and its approach, Snorinn and company were able only to fend off the Orcs' attacks. Unable to gain a breathing space or take a stand, the Dwarfs were again forced back. The Orcs now had a bridgehead and things looked bleak indeed!
Again Hagar pressed home his advantage, spurring his warriors on to drive the Dwarfs back. Despite once more failing to kill any of the enemy and sustaining another casualty, the Orcs won through with strength of numbers again. Visibly shaken at the prospect of losing the gold to these savages, the Dwarfs almost broke, but luckily gold fever had the stronger pull.
Taking advantage of the gap left by the advancing Orc column, Grashak Kra spurred his charges onwards and they too crossed the bridge, followed by the archers, in search of new targets.
Finally the last of the cases of gold nuggets were loaded onto the mules, as the two Dwarfs cast the odd fearful glance at the worsening situation over by the bridge.
That situation was going from bad to worse as Borinn and his clansmen struck back. Beset on two sides, they managed to strike another foe down. Orc blades found their way past the defenses of two of the beleagured Dwarfs. Stepping back over their own dead this time, the Dwarfs again retreated in good order.
The one ray of hope (well for the Dwarf in question!) was that the lead mule team was making good progress towards the road and didn't appear to have any obstacles in its way...
As the Dwarfs are pushed back once more in a bloodless round of combat the archers took advantage of the space and crossed the bridge, opening up into extended line once more. Spying the Dwarf attempting to lead his mule very quietly to safety, they let fly an ineffective volley at long range.
Grashak Kra also spotted the danger and moved his hounds forward to intercept any Dwarfs attempting to escape along the highway.
Beads of anxious sweat joined those caused by gold fever as the two Dwarfs lashed the last of the cases of gold to their mules and began to lead the stubborn animals away from the clamour of battle.
The bitter fighting dragged on between the clansmen and the main Orc force. Two more Orcs were dispatched as the fighting swirled around Snorinn and Hagar.
The big old Chieftain was not one to turn down a challenge from a puny stuny and yet he couldn't quite conceal the look of pained surprise as the little Dwarf's sword rang against his battered helm!
Risking one last look back to see how his comrades were faring, the lead mule driver turned and breathing a sigh of relief mixed with sadness and anger. The road ahead was clear and he had gold and the memories of his clansmen and their murderers to keep safe. The sound of battle soon receded as he rounded the bend and began the descent down to Linden.
The desperate struggle between Snorinn and Hagar raged on. This time it was the Dwarf's turn to feel the strength of his foe's arm as the Orc's great axe crashed into his shield.
The Orc archers' advance had paid off as one of thee mule teams lurched out onto the road ahead of them. With much arguing over how big a share they would receive should they bring the overloaded beast down, they let fly their arrows.
As the stricken mule breathed it last and its Dwarfish driver ground his teeth in despair, the Orcs began a new round of arguing over who had actually made the kill...
Not wishing to loose out on any claim to the booty, Grashak Kra spurred his hounds on to attack the third mule. The Dwarf leading it dropped the mule's tether, swung his crossbow up and fired at the oncoming hounds. The shot went wild, but the Dwarf was ready for the onslaught and deftly opened up one of the ferocious hounds' bellies as it flung itself at him. The other dogs were unable to bring the mule down straightaway as it laid about itself with powerful kicks.
Enraged at having lost another faithful hound, Grashak barged into the fray.
Had the Orc packmaster, or indeed any of his foul smelling brethren looked down the road they might have redirected their barbarism. Bathed in the golden light of the setting sun and cutting a rather ill tempered and disconsolate figure was the muleless mule driver - dragging his share of gold to freedom.
Again the Dwarfs succeeded in holding Hagar's horde at bay. Borinn again proving himself to be a real thorn in their side as he slew another two of the monsters. A wide berth opened up around the maddened dwarf and the Orcs fell back before the red ruin he dealt.
And yet the Dwarfs' apparent invulnerability couldn't last. First taking the flat of his axe to encourage the cowering warriors around him, Hagar dealt a mighty blow against Snorinn. A great roar erupted from the now emboldened Orcs as the Dwarf hero sank to his knees, helm cleft in two. Another of his clansmen joined him as the baying crowd closed in once more.
Grashak Kra's snarling hobhounds also finally succeeded in pulling the last mule to the ground. The beast's life blood mingled with the cold that cascaded from its packs into the dirt.
Borinn looked about him and despaired. As his last clansmen was struck down beside him he bowed his head in shame...
Not because he had deserted or gotten his gold through dishonest means...
As he made his last stand and bellowed his last lamenting warcry his only regret was that his gold would be sullied by rough and Orcish hands...
The smell of charred and roasted meat wafted through the cold mountain air as the Orcs sat around licking their chops and gnawing at the last of Dwarfs. Hagar Sheol absent-mindedly rolled a large and mishapen nugget of gold in his hand. The Stunties had fought hard and well for their treasure but to no avail. The Orc chieftain grinned - they would late arriving to the big fight but he was sure none of the other tribes would find this little venture as rewarding as he had already...
So another mauling for the Orcs - not as bad as what the Vile Rune tribe suffered, but still the Severed Hand suffered a fair few casualties and wouldn't be turning up to Orc's Drift till turn 8.
The Dwarfs on the other hand amassed a huge 34.5 victory points for the gold they managed to squirrel off the table and the casualties they inflicted on the Orcs - again characters like Borinn and Snorinn proved to be absolute demons in close combat. They pretty much single-handedly held up the Orc advance and refused to rout despite being pushed back right from the bridge to near their own table edge! It was just a shame more of their party weren't alive to savour their victory in the end!
Next installment - Last Stand at Linden Way