But before the signal, a lone short rider on a shaggy pony left a trail of dust across the plain. The jokes and taunts, combined with his overwhelming hatred for orcs in general, drove Wain mad beyond control and he flung himself without hesitation upon the left flank and the bodyguard of the orc chieftain. Unwilling to leave Wain unsupported, Sir James waved his men forward.
“Now! For God and freedom!” Sir James spurred Doubting Thomas into a gallop and led his small band upon the right flank. For a brief second he caught a glimpse of the Baron hustling his troops along, quick march fashion. Then the jeers that flew through the air were joined by arrows, their wickedly hooked points whistling as they screamed through the sky.
One of Sir James’ riders screamed and fell from his pony. The startled beast whinnied and took off, away from the battle, eyes rolling with fear. But Sir James and his men were close now, close enough to see how sharp the spears arrayed against their charge were.
Jack Black yodeled in a forgotten tongue and the ground beneath the orcish line rolled and hissed, like an enormous serpent. The frightened orcs tried to back off of it, their line faltered, and Sir James’ men crashed into them.
Doubting Thomas sent two orcs flying, shouldering them aside. A snarling orc with one eye tried to spear Sir James from the saddle, but he caught the blow and clove the orcs head in two with his flaming blade. Pushing past the initial melee, Sir James hammered into the squat archers behind, hewing heads and flaying fiends with wild abandon. Behind him men shouted, orcs cursed, and the ring of iron on iron filled the air.
The archers, terrified of the paladin and his flaming sword, broke and ran. Sir James turned to find his men, and found himself facing the fleeing spear orcs. Spinning Doubting Thomas in a circle, cutting down any orc unwary enough to step within his reach, Sir James shouted a battle cry and led his three remaining mounted men, and Black, towards the main host.
It was far more intimidating, forty some odd orcs on higher ground, and Sir James began to seriously doubt the wisdom of his strategy.
On the left flank Wain roared in anger and pain. His pony was dead, cut from under him in the initial charge. The majority of Shagrat’s bodyguard laid dead around him, only three stout warriors remaining close to their chieftain. Shagrat wore shining mail, well linked and probably looted from an ancient tomb or castle. A scimitar hung from his shoulder and he swung a great ax through the air as he advanced on the barbarian, howling his spittle-flecked challenge.
Wain leapt to meet the attack, bright blade shining, and the ax crashed against his chest, knocking him to the ground with a glancing blow. The orcs cheered their leader, scenting victory, but Wain sprang back to his feet and charged the orc chieftain, bowling him to the ground. Shagrat rolled to the side, and Wain’s killing stroke missed the orc’s head, but left his ear lying in the dusty grass.
Seeing their leader clutching his head and howling in the dirt, the remainder of the bodyguard jumped to the attack. Wain spitted the first one on his sword, and punched the seconds nose through the back of his head, but the third got through the barbarian’s fierce counters and hacked his war hatchet deep into Wain’s side.
Wain screamed and spun, ripping his sword from the corpse before him and sliced the last bodyguard’s head from his knotted shoulders. Blood dripped from where it gathered at his belt, flowing freely from his wounds, and Wain staggered to face the remaining horde, only his berserker strength keeping him on his feet.
Behind him Shagrat raised the great ax for an overhead blow, teeth gritted in pain, with a triumphant scream on his lips. Wain heard the scream and spun, but he had lost to much blood to move swiftly enough to counter the blow.