|Ice and Steel|
Date of Occurrence:
A howling blizzard howled outside, while the Dwarves of Ironhall merrily feasted on bread and ale. They were celebrating the recent decimation of an Orcish ambush; the Orcs had come all the way from Eastern Emiria, but in the end, over two thirds of them were wiped out by the sheer coldness of Ironhall. The rest they dispatched with ease, with zero casulties. Such was a cause to celebrate in Ironhall.
"A toast, to the continued might of Ironhall!" shouted a drunken Dwarf, by the name of Meadswig. "May the Dwarves always stand as the Kings of the North!" The Dwarf hiccuped, and fell into unconsciousness, much to the amusement of the assembled Dwarves.
Bjorn Hammerfist watched the merry-making from the High Table, with some amusement. True, they were powerful: but of late, he was concerned. Things were changing. Every animal in the North could sense it. Even the Mammoths had become particularly jumpy, as if they could sense some kind of immense danger descending upon them. It was eerie.
Although he did not know for sure, Bjorn had his suspicions. He had heard rumors, mere rumors, that a new royal House of humans had settled in the north. Bjorn Hammerfist hated humans: he had seen what they were capable of before, when starving human traders, who had gotten themselves lost in the north, had attempted to break into his food stockpiles. He would have been happy to help them, of course, but not after they killed one of his guards. One of his friends. For that, he would never forgive the human race.
Shaking his head after the many recollections, Bjorn stepped down and joined the merry-making.
Meanwhile, several Dwarven guards were stationed outside the fortress.
"What did I ever do to deserve this?" asked one of the Dwarves grumpily, "I stand out here in the howling snow while the others get to party all night."
"Well," said one of them, "Don't think of it as an inconvenience. Think of it as an honor. We are what stands between Ironhall and the harsh world outside! With us here, nothing can breach these gates!"
Suddenly, a huge axe made out of pure ice soared through the air and struck a Dwarf in the chest. The Dwarf stumbled backwards and hit the snow, leaving blood in the ice.
Chaos erupted as a group of towering humanoids walked from the blizzard and began slaughtering the guards. A few of them ran into the fortress. One of the last guards just barely managed to crawl to the alarm rope, and pulled it just before a soaring ice-blade chopped off his head.
Alarm bells sounded, and the Dwarves at the feast dropped their food and rushed to the weapons stockpiles. The Giants, not wanting to contend with a hundred or so armed Dwarves at the time, ran off back into the snow.
But they would be back.
The Captain called out his strokes.
"Left." He swung right. His wooden sword smacked the boy he was training in the arm. "You said left!" the boy whined. "Your enemy will not call out his attacks. Watch his eyes, his face, his body, but don't listen to his words." The Captain handed his sword to the boy. "Training is over for the day, get some rest. We'll practice again tomorrow." He told the assembled group of trainees.
It was cold out, and the wind was picking up. The Captain grimaced, a storm would be on them soon. It was well past noon and the sun was beginning to dip in the sky when The Captain walked into the mess hall. The bitterness of the wind outside couldn't penetrate the warmth within.
The mess hall, as usual, was in an uproar.
The Captain settled himself down between two of his fellow knights, Garin Blake and Tom North.
"Tom here won't get his bloody bastard's feet out them doors for watch." Garin chuckled. "He made some other poor sap do the guard work."
"You go out there Garin, it's like to freeze even your hot blood!" Tom retorted. Ignoring Tom, Garin turned to The Captain.
"And how about you, Harry, you s'posed to be guardin' right now?"
"Just came in. Tom's right, it's bloody cold." The Captain told him. "Cold nothin'. Both of you are whining like a bunch of Southerners. Y'know what I think? I think you're--" He was cut off as the doors to the mess hall burst in and two guards strode through the center.
The room was silent.
The tiniest man The Captain had ever seen stood between them. A dwarf The Captain realized. He had heard of them of course, but he had never seen one in person. From his high table in the back, the King rose slowly. "And who might this be?" he boomed through the hall.
"Nur." The dwarf replied.
"Do you have a last name Nur?" The King asked quizzically.
"Might be I do, might be I don't. You filthy humans won't be getting it." Men jumped to their feet. Some fingered the hilts of their swords, some were even bold enough to draw them. A knight unknown to The Captain strode forward.
"Who are you Nur, who speaks so boldly to The King of the North?"
"There's only one King o' the North, and his name is Bjorn Hammerfist!"
The Hall was in an uproar again.
"SILENCE." The King boomed down from his table.
"Why have you come before us Nur?" "I've come because you stinking humans attacked Ironhall!" Nur proclaimed. The Captain stood up and let his voice be heard.
"Your Grace, there were no men on military missions this past fortnight." The King nodded solemnly. "Nur, what did these attackers look like?"
"They were big, huge even. Some watchers said they had blue skin. Wielded clubs and spears o' ice. They looked like humans." The ancient annal keeper took his time and rose. When he spoke his voice sounded like the rustling of old paper.
"There have been accounts of these creatures before. They have been called Frost Giants in the annals. They come from the far North, in raiding packs." He turned to the King. "Sire, if you would give me some time I am sure I can find some old scrolls relating to these monsters." The King nodded again.
"Do so. Guards, find some accommodations for our visitor Nur here." Against the dwarf's protests he was escorted out of the hall.
The hall, for once, was strangely peaceful after that.
The Captain received his summons at the crack of dawn by a mouse of a man. Rolling out of bed and getting into his attire as befit the master of arms, The Captain reflected on the past night's occurrences. The Captain was good at telling whether people were lying or not, and the dwarf was not lying. His face was angry, but underlying The Captain saw doubts that the humans were Ironhall's attackers. The Captain's footsteps echoed along the hall, and everything was quiet. The Captain liked the quiet, the sweet peace of a man's own thoughts, however he knew these halls would soon be loud and noisy.
He rapped thrice before entering the King's solar. "Enter."
Inside The Captain found a grand room with a huge fire blazing. Ancient tapestries depicting battles past lined the walls. The whole room itself was a snowy white. The King sat in the grandest of chairs, the old annal keeper was to his right and the dwarf Nur was in front of him.
"Harry, how nice of you to join us." The King said. He was not wearing his crown, but he was dressed in regal shades of white and blue, the colors of House Wintrey.
"Your Grace, how may I be of service?" The Captain asked.
"Our annal keeper has dug up information on these Frost Giants. If the tales are true they may threaten the north if they come pouring through the pass. We must demoralize and debilitate them. I'm sending 5,000 men north in two divisions of 2,500, I want you to lead one of them. Nur will be your guide." The Captain was stunned. He had not been on the front lines for 10 years.
"Your Grace... thank you. I... I won't disappoint you."
"See that you don't. Come back here with news of victory, and you will be well rewarded." The Captain left the room, and got into his battle armor for the first time in 10 years.