The mournful wailing of a horn sounded over the battlefield, and the attacking Orcs paused in their attacks and retreated. As they pulled back, some of the Orcs even kicked their fallen companions, waking them up. Those fallen Orcs with wounds that would have ordinarily killed a normal person just stood up and rubbed their heads grumpily before limping back to their lines.
Major Frank stood inside the Sawtooth Mountain Pass Defense Command Center, watching from cameras overwatching the Pass. He noticed an Orc with his arm blown off and a gory exit wound on his back, woke up from the battlefield when his own kin gave him a good kick.
It groggily shook its head and stood up, scratching his armpit with his good hand and stumbled after the rest. Frank frowned as he watched similar scenes happening throughout the battlefield.
"It seems like the Orcs don't die so easy," Frank pointed out to Master Sergeant Pike standing at the tactical table.
Pike looked up from the map and glanced at the displays before commenting, "Bloody things just soak up all the damage like a fucking bullet sponge."
"Looks like about a hundred or so dead, maybe less and three, four hundred wounded," Frank did a quick calculation from the images he saw on the displays.
"They are retreating, looks like the battle is over for the day," Pike came next to Frank staring at the display. "So far there isn't any serious casualties except for some dumb fucks who don't know how to duck when the rocks from the catapults hit the walls."
"Those catapults are quite irritating," Frank highlighted the dozens of man-portable catapults on the screen, that the Orcs were carrying back.
The crudely made catapults were just more like a very simple trebuchet made out of wooden spars lashed together and using muscle power to throw 40 to 50 kg rocks by having two or more of the orcs acting as counterweights, pulling the ropes while another Orc held on to the basket holding their ammunition of choice.
Once enough force is being applied or the poor Orc could no longer hold on to the basket, it will release the basket, throwing its contents towards the target, sometimes with the unfortunate Orc along as he couldn't release his hand in time, much to the enjoyment and laughter of its peers.
"Rotate the men for some rest and hot food," Frank said, "Double the watch tonight, I got a feeling they might change their tactics or try something funny soon. Send the men out to clear the field and replace any barb wires that need to be repaired."
Pike saluted and left, smiling as he watched how the green Lieutenant had mature over the past few months and now a Major.
Empire Camp, 1st Fallowfall Regiment of Swords, The Duke's Own.
Inside a gaudy looking tent large enough to house 20 to 30 people, Duke Sturm hunkered on a beautifully carved chair made out of darkwood. The tent was decorated lavishly with other furniture made of darkwood, making it a full set, which probably is worth over a thousand gold coins, while thick and rich carpets covered the tent floor. A small gold brazier kept the cold away, but with the crowd of officers surrounding a large table in the middle of the tent, the atmosphere inside felt stifling instead.
"My Lord," Commander Elosen of the 3rd Fallowfall Regiment of Swords spoke, "The Oerkin have been stuck in a stalemate with the rebels at the Pass for more than three days! Give me two days and my regiment will take the Pass for you!"
"Tsk," A dark lean elf, armored in an ornate full plate with markings and colors identifying him as a Lancer, scorned Elosen. "The distinguished 3rd Imperial Lancers had been wiped out fighting the rebels at the Pass, and that is without any defensive walls in place. What do you think your three thousand men can do when your better peers failed to do so?"
Commander Elosen growled at Luisa, Commander of the 2nd Fallowfall Lancers, "You impertinent fool, shut your trap, who are your betters here?"
"Just stating a fact, well if you want to rush off to die, I shouldn't stop you," Luisa gave a dismissal wave at Elosen, who turned red with rage, and stood up, going for his sword.
"ENOUGH!" Duke Sturm roared, banging the darkwood tabletop in front of him, scattering the silver plates of meat and fruits. "Cease this nonsense now!"
Both Elsoen and Luisa, bowed and gave their apologies while sending glares at each other. The rest of the officers just shrugged as those two were always going for each other throats.
"We learned something in the past when dealing with these rebels," A scholar looking elf wearing a monocle stood up and said, "Since the last time we fought with them, they appeared to be capable of casting multiple Level 10 spells simultaneously. Also, it appears that the 'thundersticks' artifacts have changed, they now spew a large amount of smoke."
"What are you trying to say here, Dular?" Elosen impatiently grumbled. "Get to the point!"
"I am trying to say that, the rebels are much stronger than before," The scholar Dular, dressed in a dark blue trench coat, with silver runic markings replied. "We must be more careful this time."
Lord Sturm nodded, he had already taken a few more measures compared to previously. His lifeguards ringed his tent, and sentry wards were placed to cover all approaches to the camps. Even his own tent, spells were woven to protect him from any attacks, both physical and magical.
"The Oerkin commander had informed me that they are gonna, cast the Ritual tonight," Sturm told his men, who started to whisper among themselves uncomfortably. "Let the dogs have their chance then we see."
"Yes my Lord," The men around the table rosed and saluted.
The darkness in the tent was so dark that light appeared to have been absorbed. Urka couldn't see anything as he was led into the center of the tent by unknown hands. "Urka the Fierce, you have come for the ritual." A rasping voice came from the darkness, "But to gain power, you must sacrifice something. What will you give?"
"I will give the fallen enemies as the sacrifice," Urka intoned, following the ancient ritual. "My blood for life and my bones for strength."
"For that, our ancestors will raise, to wreak havoc among the living!" The Elder finished the ceremony and Urka felt hands leading him out.
As Urka left the tent, the Elder started chanting, followed by other shamans seated in a circle. A dark red glow appeared under their feet, and a magic circle slowly lit up in a reddish glow. In the center of the magic circle, was a block of black obsidian, where a naked elf was bounded and gagged.
The naked elf squirmed desperately, trying to free his bonds, his eye wide in terror as he jerked left and right. The chanting rosed to a high frenzy, and the shamans using thigh bones of people, drummed against the dirt floor, beating a tempo that drove the captive elf insane.
As the magical glow grew brighter and brighter, the elf's eyes bugled out, turning red as blood vessels ruptured, blood started flowing from his ears and nose. He arched his back in an impossible angle and his muscles spasmed, a wordless screaming raising in his throat. The tempo of the drums and the chaotic chanting grew faster and faster, and suddenly the elf exploded into a cloud of bloody mist, leaving behind his bones and organs which started to rot away.
And the tent fell silent immediately and darkness returned. The Elder shaman strolled up to the remains and dug out the rotted heart which still beat slowly and placed it into a small pouch. "Burn the remains, make sure all is ash." The Elder instructed and left the tent with the pouch.
Urka stood outside the tent, waiting with several warriors in a semi-circle. "Is it done?"
The Elder nodded, holding the stained pouch up, "We are ready."
"Come," Urka turned and led the way, his warriors and the Elder following behind him. They picked their way through the roots and wet soil of the forest under the blazing torches of the warriors, before arriving at a large clearing.
His warriors spread out, their torches illuminating the clearing, bodies of the fallen Oerkin laid in a pile. "We found where the Empire buried their dead the previous time they were here." He gestured to the wet soil.
"Wonderful," The Elder rasped, and started wandering around the clearing, before stopping and pointing to a spot on the ground. "Dig a hole here, as tall as an Oerkin."
Urka nodded, gesturing his warriors to work. He stood back and folded his arms as he waited. Soon over a span of a glass, a hole was dug, several rotted bones could be seen within the sides of the hole. The Elder glided over and examined the hole, circling it twice and seemingly satisfied, dropped the pouch in and starting chanting.
Urka felt goosebumps and a chill down his spine as he hears the chant. He fought back the urge to vomit and braced his legs firmly and tried to ignore the chanting. Suddenly one of the Oerkin warriors cried out, holding his head and ran around in circles, before ramming his head into a nearby tree trunk with such force, its skull split opened and bits of brain matter stained the trunk. Another Oerkin's legs shook and pee dripped down.
Just as it started, the chanting stopped, and the Elder appeared to smile at Urka within the hooded cloak. The Elder drifted over to the fallen Oerkin and paused over the cracked skull, poking the insides with a bony finger. "Hmmm," The Elder studied the spilled brains and declared, "The Spirits approves, this is a good omen."
Urka gripped his fists to stop them from shaking and gathered his voice before saying, "Is it done?" while the rest of the warriors recovered from the sanity inducing chanting. Some fell down on weakened legs with others vomited or peed themselves, they avoided looking at the Elder and their unfortunate kin.
"Yes, yes," The Elder responded, as its fingers continued to poke around the skull, leaving traces of grey matter on its fingers. It puts its finger into the hood, seemingly tasting the fresh brains, before turning around and gestured the soil, "Good, good, all is done, is just a matter of time now."
Urka nodded, his strength returning and felt the soil beneath his feet start to squirm and move. He quickly stepped back and keep alert, watching the soil started to crumble. Several moans suddenly came from the pile of Oerkin dead, and the Oerkin warrior who committed suicide jerked up on all fours and stood up, its movement like a puppet.
"Ahhh, my children," The Elder antics appeared to be like a child, as it clapping its hand excitedly. "Come!"
The dead Oerkins heeding the Elder's words stood up and shuffled over to stand in front of the Elder, while rotted skeletal hands erupted from the soil and dug their way out. Oerkin and Empire dead slowly gathered in a huge mass. Urka stared in fascination, as he only heard tales and stories of the undead servants of the Oerkin's Elders. The glassy-eyed Oerkin stared without expression ahead, while the rotted bodies of the Empire soldiers, most of them just bones and scraps of cloth clinging to their skeletal frames stood awaiting the words of the Elder.
"It is time," Urka said to the Elder and saluted with more respect than usual. With an army of undead, all they need to do is wait till the defenders exhaust themselves before the Oerkin pushes in. "Send them against the Pass now, they will be perfect for a night attack."
"Spirit warriors, come! Tonight you are alive again!"