A howl of anguish tore through the gloomy and hushed atmosphere of the expeditionary camp of the Northern churches. Everyone in the camp could hear the pain and anger in that deep and terrifying howl. Many of the soldiers in the expeditionary camp who heard this trembled in fear while others were filled with even more uncertainty. They could only assume that this howl was a result of another unfortunate circumstance. Only a fool would not be able to understand that this howl was from one of the Direwolves and just recently, one of the twins had been sent to chase after the tribals who had been attacking them as of late. With no news being heard for some time, put together with this howl of anguish, anyone could see that something terrible must have happened. The camp became even more unsettled as rumors spread throughout the expedition.
The Northern churches had been in the process of recalling and consolidating all of their subordinate camps. Some of the minor subordinate camps had already fled their circle of influence and attached themselves to other expeditions. Under normal circumstances something like this would cause a major incident and conflict. However, due to the circumstances of the Northern expedition, some of the minor subordinate groups were emboldened to cut themselves off from their influence. These groups were welcomed into other expeditions and the Northern churches which had been weakened significantly because of their recent losses chose not to pursue the matter. They couldn’t afford any more setbacks and instead consolidated the forces they had remaining and reorganized their army.
Even with their forces having been weakened, they were still a powerful force numbering close to twenty thousand. Archbishop Ragnir was struggling to keep things together, but things hadn’t completely fallen apart yet. With the news of such a major defeat and the assumed death of the Direwolf Grigor, Ragnir was suddenly overcome with a bout of anxiety and stress which almost caused him to collapse. Grigor’s brother, Toran, was awash with grief once he heard the news. It was his howling that greatly disturbed the camp and when he heard of the death of his brother, he howled for several minutes before finally running off. Ragnir attempted to stop him, but Toran was incensed and refused to listen. He disappeared from the camp and did not return.
Meanwhile, Shelise and Eneran were paying attention to the mood of the camp. They too heard the howls from Toran and immediately knew what it meant.
“This is exactly what it does. I have never been more certain that the demon is still alive.”
Shelise had briefly stepped out of her tent when she heard the howling and was followed after by Eneran who never left her side.
“Hmm… Isn’t it time you reveal yourself?” Initially Eneran was about to comment on Shelise’s words, but he soon noticed the one hidden from sight nearby. This particular individual could easily infiltrate most locations without ever being seen or detected.
“So, you sensed me.” A feminine voice replied before a figure materialized and quickly moved into the tent followed by the other two.
“Isn’t that obvious Melisana? As a magic caster, it shouldn’t be strange to have a detection item or two.. especially when you reach my realm of power. It wouldn’t do to have a sneaky being such as yourself attacking me from the shadows.” Eneran chuckled while comfortably returning to his seat within the tent.
“Enough of wasting time, what did you find Night Fury?”
Melisana eyed Shelise from the side and didn’t immediately answer. Instead she walked around a bit while remaining silent. This only visibly annoyed Shelise, but Melisana didn’t care about her reaction. Eneran was much more patient and waited patiently for her response.
“No need to be so impatient little girl.” Replied Melisana after letting Shelise stew in anger for a moment.
“Do I look like a fool to you? I am not here for your amusement, out with it already!” Shouted Shelise.
“It seems that Tihr’s influence on you has been quite detrimental. You are just as impatient as all the rest of his devout. Do you think that only you matter girl? I do not serve your god and I am here with my own agenda. Try to keep that in mind, especially when asking my aid.”
“Alright, there is no need to argue. Why we don’t calm down and get to the heart of the matter?” Eneran’s calm voice interrupted the two women from there little spat and the two finally backed away from each other. Those of the Church of Tihr did not get along well with the members of the Church of Murder so this was a normal occurrence whenever the two met.
“I inspected the location of where our target supposedly died. There are too many suspicious points about it, especially when taking into account the numbers of supposed dead. The one responsible did a good job trying to cover up the incident, but I was able to see a thing or two out of place which leads me to believe that the target is in fact not dead.”
Shelise scoffed at her words and said, “As if I needed you to confirm such a thing. I already knew that the demon was still alive. It is as obvious as day to me.”
“Then I supposed you don’t need my services?” Asked Melisana menacingly.
Eneran rose from his seated position and stood in front of Shelise before another argument broke out, “It is good that you are able to confirm our suspicions. Let’s try not to devolve into another argument, okay? Anyway, I think following that werewolf would be wise. A werewolf’s senses are much greater than that of us Humans. Even though your detection abilities are superior to the average Legendary being, a werewolf’s senses might be even more valuable. I think it is quite obvious why that wolf left the camp. Perhaps following him would be in our best interests?”
Melisana didn’t bother to respond, instead she stepped backwards and immediately disappeared. She didn’t feel that any more discussion was necessary now that a new lead had been revealed to her.
“I despise that bloodthirsty bitch! The members of the Church of Murder only know how to scurry around in darkness, always hiding from the light. There is no Justice in anything that they do. What despicable and wretched people they are!”
Eneran didn’t immediately say anything in response to Shelise’s words and instead just raised his eyes slightly and turned away from her before saying, “Regardless, she has her uses. Otherwise it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, do you truly wish to search every corner of this god forsaken place? Perhaps you should be a little more tactful in your approach?”
Shelise ignored Eneran’s comment and instead changed the subject, “And what should we do from here?”
“For now, it would be wise to remain as we are until we have a better lead. The only one we must fear on the Steppes is that Elder Dragon and his kin, at least until the negotiations are complete. If we can bring him to our side, then we need not fear any being on the Steppes. At that time, we can search for your brother without worry.” Replied Eneran.
“Didn’t I tell you not to call ‘it’ my brother?!”
Eneran rolled his eyes and once again lounged in his seat while sipping a hot cup of tea.
A tall and muscular Orc called out to Grobak while pointing to a narrow canyon in the distance. The location was a highly defensible one with only one path in. On each side of the canyon were steep cliffs which reached sharply into the sky and a river ran straight through the middle of it eventually opening up into a large lake further within. It was an excellent location for a large tribe due to the abundance of water and the highly defensible entrance. It would be extremely difficult to attack those within the canyon under normal circumstances. Of course, it might be a different story with powerful aerial units who could fly overhead and use the cover of the steep cliffs on each side to avoid ranged attacks. There were no such forces on the Steppes except for the Wyverns and Dragons, but their territory was much deeper within the mountains and they didn’t usually hunt in this particular region.
Grobak grinned and patted the Orc on his back before waving his tribe on. They had most likely already been spotted long ago and there was no reason to hold back. It would be difficult to hide a tribe of almost fifty thousand especially when there was only one approach. Grobak’s tribe had swelled to its size of approximately fifty thousand over the trek to their destination. He had killed and forcibly submitted numerous smaller tribes throughout the march. Anyone who refused to submit to his authority and worship his master was killed without hesitation. He had left a bloody swathe through the Steppes and had killed more than ten thousand tribal members. Those who submitted were added to his tribe and he had grown his tribe into a formidable force. They could now be considered a decently powerful mid-sized tribe.
All of this was necessary in order to raise his authority among all the tribes. Only with real strength and authority could one have a say in the political relationships between tribes. Too strong, and one might be seen as a dangerous rival, but at the same time no one would be taken seriously without sufficient strength. Grobak realized this and had prepared accordingly, as did Aleks. Grobak was now a powerful tribal leader who could not be ignored, but not influential enough to be a threat. After finally arriving at their destination after weeks of travel, Grobak had his tribe set up their tents just outside the canyon and made his way with his elite tribal guards towards the home of the Harkul tribe to pay respects to their leader. The chief of the Harkul tribe was known as a powerful Master class being on the verge of becoming a Legendary being and he led his tribe with an iron fist. He was an Orc that appreciated talents, and if one could get in his good graces they would be respected and welcome into his influence.
This was Grobak’s goal and his hidden intentions. It was time to move the horde.