“No need to be upset, remember we are on the same side now. I wouldn’t want any harm to come to you, that is the reason I am bringing this up.”
“I don’t follow.” Aleks said somewhat impatiently although his posture said otherwise.
“It has come to my attention that a certain important person will be arriving within the week to accompany the Aerthian expedition. Someone high in the Church of Tihr I am told, a new rising star of the clergy. I don’t know the exact details, but I do know you have a complicated past with the Aerthian pantheon and the Church of Murder has been asking around about someone, who looks a lot like you. The Northern pantheon had nothing to do with the events of a few years ago, but I know a thing or two about what happened. If not for the Church of Tihr’s influence behind the scenes, a certain country would not have been destroyed.” Archbishop Ragnir eloquently spoke while being somewhat mysterious.
Aleks intentionally put on a facade of hostility as he gritted his teeth, “Is there a point to this story, or am I supposed to be impressed?”
The Archbishop didn’t seem to mind Aleks’s reaction as he continued, “Don’t worry, as I said, we are partners. I am only bringing this information to you out of concern. Our expedition will set out in a few days, well before this representative of the Church of Tihr arrives. I am even willing to delay them for you while we head further into the Steppes. You should know that we of the Northern Church always help our own.”
“How magnanimous of you. This can’t be the only reason you decided to grace us with your presence.”
Ragnir chuckled once more and walked closer to Aleks while the two werewolf brutes in Human form bared their teeth in smug smiles. Nelay was intending to take a step forward to block the man from approaching but was stopped by a glance from Aleks. He simply did not fear this Archbishop or his two oversized henchmen. He could easily kill them if he truly wished to, it would only cost him a chunk of his remaining ‘Soul Potential’. He could always acquire more and it wasn’t as if they could harm him either. So what did he have to fear?
“I am taking a risk helping you. I think that you should perhaps show a bit of… gratitude. I need certain assurances that you are sincere if you catch my meaning.”
Aleks finally rose from his throne and walked slowly towards Archbishop Ragnir with Nelay walking a short distance behind him, she was much like his shadow.
“So in essence, you want something from me. A favor for a favor is it? Why didn’t you just come out and say it. I know what you want, you want the services of my guardian Brock. Isn’t that right?”
Ragnir raised both of his arms in joy, “Ah! I am happy to see that you are quite intelligent. I prefer to speak with those who have a bit of cleverness to them, rather than these two lugheads behind me. Although, too much cleverness could be dangerous.”
Aleks ignored the threat in his words and motioned towards a slave. He whispered in the slave’s ear and then turned back to face Ragnir while the slave ran off.
“Brock is training some of my slaves currently, but I will have him accompany you once the expedition sets out. Is this satisfactory?”
“That’s fine. I will expect his obedient service for the duration of the expedition. This is a momentous occasion and we can not afford to fail. I am sure you will agree. If we are unsuccessful in our endeavour, I also can’t guarantee your safety. Don’t forget that.”
Aleks nodded, “You don’t need to remind me. I am well aware.”
“Good. We will leave in a few days, prepare well. I expect great things from you. Haha!”
The Archbishop and his two subordinates left in a jovial mood and were happily discussing their observations of Aleks’s camp while speculating their future prospects and fortune. They were impressed by the discipline of the camp and were especially happy to gain the services of the famed war hero, Flash Blade Brock, who was renowned as a great warrior and general.
Aleks only watched silently as the group left without moving. He appeared to be considering something but in reality he was pleased with the outcome. Although one might think he had been taken advantage of, only he knew that this was something he not only expected but would in fact help his cause.
“Master, are you sure about this?” Nelay finally voiced her concern. She hated seeing her master being taken advantage of and that was how it appeared to her.
“This is fine. It may not seem so, but we have gained two things from this exchange. One, the knowledge that at least the more powerful gods of the Northern church were not involved in the incidents of the past. I am not talking about what happened a few years ago. I am speaking of my true identity. For the moment, we can at least infer this. Otherwise, things would have gone very differently. Although it doesn’t discount a rogue member of their pantheon being involved, if Wotan is not involved that is enough. It would seem that my conjecture is not far from the truth, that only a few gods were involved. Most likely they intended to keep it a secret from the rest to gain all the benefits. They haven’t told the others of their kind everything. And secondly, we also gain time, which is what we need most right now. I must gain the power of the Origin resting in these lands as soon as possible. Also, it would be best to leave Brock with them, there are too many things I do not wish for him to know about me and what I am truly capable of.”
Nelay didn’t say anything more and slowly digested his words. She truly admired her master’s foresight and wisdom.
Bright bonfires lit the solemn night air casting shadows all across the Orc encampment laid out across a small region of the Steppes. It was a relatively decent sized encampment, but not a large one. It housed a tribe of middling size, around a thousand which included the warriors of the tribe, the older elders, the women and the children.
It was a common sight among the Steppes which contained many such tribal encampments. Only the truly enormous tribes of the Steppes would have sprawling camps which were much more like cities than anything else. Their abodes were also permanent and there was no need for them to traverse the Steppes unlike the smaller tribes that were constantly on the move.
Normally, the Orcs of such tribes would be deep in their debauchery as they raucously laughed and drank themselves into a stupor around the large bonfires. Oftentimes, they wouldn’t even bother to conceal themselves as they raped their captives in sight of everyone else and would even take turns defiling their pitiful victims. None of the Orcs thought this a strange sight whether they be the other men of the tribe, the old, the females among their tribe, or even the young. It was a natural occurrence and nothing out of the ordinary.
On this night however, a thin trail of blood ran through the Orc encampment as a large and powerful Orc gripped tightly a decapitated head in one hand at his side and walked confidently towards the center of the camp. In his other hand, a large battle axe was being held with the axe head resting above his shoulder. He was grunting with smug confidence and glaring at the Orcs watching in shock from among the crowd. Following close behind him were around a hundred strong Orc warriors who were aggressively taunting the crowd. There was fear in the eyes of the warriors among the crowd and none stepped forward to stop them from approaching the Chief who was seated on a tribal throne.
“Grobak, how dare you show yourself here after having been captured by Humans!”
Grobak gave a guttural laugh before tossing the decapitated head over to the Chief.
“He said the same thing. I have returned to challenge you for leadership of the tribe as is my right! Come old man and die before my axe!”