The regicide started with a fire in the pile of gnawed bones and rags from victims in the corner of the throne cave. The mound wasn’t large and the fire didn’t grow big either, but the smoke made the throats of the nearby goblins close up, their eyes to water and their noses to sneeze.
“It’s burning, burning, burning!” a goblin shrieked and ran out into the tunnels of the cave complex. His green-skinned friends looked at each other, unsure of what to do. The first goblin to flee received a solid beating from the orc superiors, but once the first goblin had fled, subsequent runners would hardly be recognized. The goblins closest to the door broke off in twos and threes and headed for the tunnels.
“Come back here!” an orc sergeant boomed, but the goblins continued to evacuate. The sergeant looked around and considered whether he should follow and risk looking like a goblin fool himself, or stay. His memory of the stern fists and hard feet of his own superiors persuaded him to remain.
Something large but fleet footed scuttled across the granite walls, avoiding the torches, braziers and campfires in the stone darkness.
The orc king’s guards were stationed around the ramp that lead up to the throne. A sudden shriek startled them awake. Orange and blue lights went off several places in the cavern, to loud hissing and screaming. The stone walls amplified the noise to a painful degree.
Then green flames exploded in the three camp fires nearest to the orc king’s throne, spewing sparks and embers in tall cones. The king’s fierce warg jumped up and howled with fury, ready to face any attacker, but when green sparks landed on his pelt and continued to burn, he made a loud yelp and ran off.
“To arms, to arms!” the orc king yelled. His loyal guards clutched their weapons with their fists and ran off to defend the king and the throne
Bright eyes, nimble hands and quick feet were at work in the shadows. Here and there the orcs and goblins thought they could see something glint in the darkness, but were not certain. In the loud hissing and booming and smoke and fire, it was impossible to hear or see anything clearly.
“To me, to me!” the king bleated, sensing grave danger, but no one heard him in the fog of sudden war.
“Too late, too late!” a voice said, just audible over the roar of the chaos. A smile flashed and a ring of flames burst up around the king’s throne, locking him in place.
“Show yourself, coward!” the orc king shouted. He hadn’t gained the title for standing around and being that much of a coward himself. A rain of metal dust was the only reply. The king snarled and twisted to avoid the gleaming cloud that fell towards him, but he was too slow. It felt like every single piece of metal found its way into his hair and armor, even his leggings, where it itched and chafed like skin-rot.
A white light crackled on the surface above the king. He didn’t know what that meant, but it couldn’t be anything good.
“Aim at the lightning on the wall!” he shouted to the archers, hoping that some of them would hear. Several bows went off and arrows keened through the air. The king smiled. His archers were the most sure of aim on his side of the mountains. But the moving darkness danced away, as fluid as water and as intangible as air.
The orc king glimpsed a pale face with narrow eyes and black hair in a ponytail that reached almost down to the throne. An elf! He must have brought a small army to make such a racket.
“Kill him! Slay the elf!” the king roared, cursing his lack of a bow or a spear. As he had hoped the elf moved closer to him.
Suddenly, the king leapt up on the throne and snatched at the hair above him. He managed to grab a few strands, but they slipped through his fingers like a speeding fish and rushed back up to the darkness.
A white bolt of electricity hit the king and fried him in a jagged line from the crown on his head to the hairy big toe of his right foot and its ring of purest gold. The lightning grounded itself in the stone and split the smoldering surface.
The orcs yelled and shot and cut and grabbed. Quick as the lightning the elf had called from the hidden sky, he jumped, landed and rolled along the floor, then sprinted through the cave. A group of warriors tried to block the way, but the elf leapt up on the wall by the yelling orcs, tap-tap-tap-tapped five full paces along the vertical stone surface, before he jumped back down to the ground and continued into the tunnels.
Near the back door of the cavern system, the elf sang one note and drew a quick rune in the air. Kegs of black powder stored near the exit for easy access to outbound raiding parties exploded with an ear-splitting bang. The shock wave blasted the doors open and threw the elf far out into the white winter night.
“Uff,” the elf said. He rolled across the narrow entryway before he pitched over the cliff and into the valley below.
The orc lieutenant Mischka squatted down, scooped red snow up with his index claw and sniffed it. It was indeed elf blood. He didn’t need to taste it, the stench of berry juices, salad leaves and fried deer meat in the red told him all he needed to know. Mischka stood, leaned his head back and yelled.
“The elf must die!” he roared, shaking his spear at the waiting orc warriors. He thought he heard a faint laughter, but it must have been the wind through the ice-covered trees.
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