The mighty griffin let out a shriek when it spotted its destination from the air. It straightened out its wings and went into a wide spiral glide as it gradually lowered its altitude. It landed as gracefully as a beast of its size and weight could, right in the middle of Castle Arin’s courtyard. The fortress itself was not all that different from the ones seen on the western continent aside from a few quirks of traditional raptor architecture. Mostly the way the tall stone walls and turrets all had slanted tiled roofs and were covered in spikes and sticky moss to deter monsters from climbing up them.

The inner walls and buildings, on the other hand, had much smoother surfaces and were much more fascinating. The keep itself, for instance, was covered in decorative carvings and painted murals, making it appear far more extravagant than any human, elf or dwarven castle. It would appear that color as a whole had some sort of significance in raptor culture, as evidenced by how all of the lizard-folk roaming about the place had war paint on their faces. Some of the paints used had minor alchemical properties, though their main function was to designate the individual’s role and rank in a very obvious way.

“Are you sure that war paint isn’t there to help them tell each other apart?” Keira whispered. “I mean, they all look alike.”

“That’s because you’re not used to reading the subtle differences in facial structure and scale arrangement like they are,” Nao explained in an equally quiet tone. “It’s a racial thing. But yes, the warpaint does help.”

The wolfkin kept educating the catgirl on various cultural aspects of the Eight Tribes as they and the other smoothskins made their way across the courtyard. Unlike the port town, however, it was now the locals’ turn to stare at the foreigners. They really couldn’t help it considering the group of people that griffin just dropped off. Sure, they had grown accustomed to the sight of smoothskins, but anyone would be taken aback if they saw a muscular giant, a masked nosferata, a mithril golem, a heavily armed dwarf, and a trio of beastkin walking together.

In fact, the passing menagerie of people made even the humans on site gawk at them. There were quite a few of them too, most if not all of whom were part of the Imperial Inquisition. Their banners were draped over a few of the buildings around the courtyard and were also hanging from a few of the walls. There must have been a few thousand of them at least, showing that the Inquisition did indeed arrive on Velos in force. There even appeared to be a hastily erected griffin aerie built on the roof of the keep, one big enough to house a half dozen of the flying beasts. The Imperial architects responsible for that particular structure were currently yelling orders at a legion of laborers as they did their best to fix up the old walls and prepare them for the impending orc assault.

Keira and the others were guided away from the various ongoing preparations and into Castle Arin’s central keep. The building itself seemed more like a massive villa or mansion than a military installation, which became even more apparent upon seeing the interior. The grand halls, wide corridors, numerous windows and tall ceilings looked impressive and gave it a comfortable feel, but amounted to a lot of wasted space and structural weak points. It was not the sort of place that would hold out for long should the outer wall fall. On the upside it allowed even someone of Orrin’s considerable stature to walk around unhindered unless he wanted to go down the cramped side passages and tight stairways usually reserved for servants.

Once further inside, the Inquisition guide asked that Fizzy, Hilda and Kuro wait in the banquet hall. The golem was not as enticed by the promise of free food and drink as the dwarven Berserker and the towering wolfkin, but she accompanied them all the same. The four Heroes, on the other hand, were led to the conference room where the impromptu summit was going to take place. It had tall windows letting in plenty of light, a series of maps pinned to one of the walls, and a total of three people seated around the huge oval-shaped table in the middle.

“Ah, you’re here,” said the only human among them. “Please, have a seat.”

Keira, Nao and Kaede took a chair each, while Orrin sat cross legged on the ground, making the wooden floorboards creak ominously under his weight.

“Before we begin, I think it wise for everyone to introduce ourselves. I’ll start. My name is Sigmund Law, Hero of the Hammer, and devoted Paladin in service to Teresa.”

The man looked more or less the same as he did when Keira first met him. He was wearing a set of bulky full plate adamantite armor with a golden trim that bore a number of religious symbols related to his faith. Of particular note were the hammer-shaped insignias on his gauntlets, shoulders and belt. A black cape with the Inquisition’s eye-shaped symbol stamped on the back fluttered behind him, and several ribbons with Imperial heraldry and religious texts were bolted onto his gear. On the whole it was hard to say whether the suit of armor was meant for ceremony or battle, but given the man’s occupation it was safe to assume it could be used for both.

Sigmund was currently not wearing his helmet, making his head the only part of him that was actually visible. Boxxy had to admit, it was rather fond of the man’s face, as his scalp was so perfectly bald it was practically shiny. One could hardly even see the cross-shaped scar on his skull with all the light bouncing off of it. The ever-serious expression he had on his face was another story entirely, though the full beard and mustache he had served only to accentuate his smooth cranium.

“I would also like to point out that the Inquisition and I are here on our own terms, and that we are not acting on behalf of the Lodrak Empire.”

Sigmund Law, Hero of the Hammer

Having finished his self introduction, Sigmund gestured towards the raptor immediately to his right, inviting them to follow his example.

“My name is Hesk of clan Susk. Axel’s Hero, and a pure-bred warrior of the Broadfang Tribe.”

The individual in question was also wearing a full plate of armor, though it was vastly different from Sigmund’s. Unlike the black adamantite the human was using, this one was forged out of radiant white mithril. It also lacked any sort of religious iconography. It did bear a silver-colored pattern and a small shoulder-cape, but those denoted heritage rather than faith. The armor itself was made to fit raptor physiology, which gave it a rather exotic feel from the outsiders’ perspective. Especially the way it covered the upper half of the Hero of the Sword’s reptilian tail, which ended in a dagger-like blade at the tip.

However, the she-lizard seemed unwilling to take off her ridged helmet, which also slightly distorted her voice. It would be practically impossible to tell she was even female if not for subtle clues like the shortness of the helmet’s beak and the smoothness of the scaly tail’s underside. It was a bit odd she refused to show her face and head, but that could also be attributed to her birth. The Broadfang Tribe were the most brutal and warlike of the Eight Tribes, with a deep rooted ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. Any soldier hailing from that tribe was taught to be ready for combat at a moment’s notice, and Hesk’s position as Broadfang Paragon meant she was the greatest among them.

Hesk of clan Susk, Hero of the Sword

“Though I am honor bound to meet this orc threat head on as befitting my station, I do not wish to do so blindly. Make no mistake, my only goal in this little meeting is to maximize my people’s chances of survival, not to play buddy-buddy with you lot.”

Up next was the other raptor in the room, this one most definitely a male.

“This one is called Gux,” he said in a raspy voice, “and hails from clan Occozza of the Sagescale tribe. The rain is his mistress, the winds his guide, and Zephyra his patron. Just don’t tell him that last bit, it’s supposed to be a secret.”

This Hero of Rain was an individual Keira had already heard plenty about from Hilda, who had apparently worked with him in the past. He was a noticeably older lizardman, as evidenced by the worn and dried out appearance of his deep green scales. He was wrapped in loose-fitting and sturdy clothes with a thick, hooded blue cloak on his shoulders. His face was decorated with lines of bright blue war paint, matching the color of his garment and signifying his magical abilities. He had a bulging pouch tied to his hip, a pale yellow crystal ball resting in his right palm and various stick-like talismans and charms dangling off of his wrists and waist on strings.

Those trinkets were mostly unremarkable mediums for his Shaman arts, but the orb he was holding was of a particular interest. Unless Boxxy missed its guess, it was a magus sphere, a rare magic amplification item that filled much the same function as a staff. One would expect a Shaman to have a totem instead, but that wasn’t Gux’s primary occupation. In reality the man was a Level 100 Psionic, meaning he had Ranked Up into a razorscale raptor. This gave him a number of enviable advantages, such as the ability to regrow lost limbs with time and the use of the movement-enhancing Slipstream Skill. Unlike ascended humans or stonekin dwarves, this higher species was easily distinguishable from its base variant by the spiky fin-like growths that poked out of his skull and ran down the length of his tail.

Given his Ranker status, he was without a doubt the oldest and seemingly most powerful of the Heroes, but at the same time was arguably also the most unreliable. As evidenced by his odd self-introduction, the razorscale raptor was not entirely sane. His unfocused milky-white eyes were also completely blind since birth. His Psionic abilities made up for his lack of sight somewhat, turning what would normally be a substantial handicap into a manageable problem. He was a troubled individual to be sure, but also a free spirit that held a deep love for travel, adventure, and the splendor of nature - all virtues that Zephyra absolutely adored.

Gux of clan Occozza, Hero of Rain

“Oh, and if any of you should stumble upon a talking brass belt buckle, please ignore anything it says about Gux, for it is a liar and a scoundrel.”

Not wishing to address the elephant in the room just yet, the group continued going around the table, though it took the next in line a few moments of silence to realize it was their turn.

“Ah, yes. I’m Nao, Nao Shoki, Lunar’s current Hero. I’m a scholar by trade so I won’t be fighting directly if I can avoid it, but I will gladly help out with analyzing arcane anomalies or magical mysteries that might pop up. Which, if I understand the purpose of this meeting, should become more necessary than not.”

True to his word, the wolfkin had shown up completely unarmed. One could argue that a Caster needed only their wits and tongue to wreak havoc upon their enemy, but they would still normally have a staff or something to amplify their output. Such a thing was not present on Nao’s person. He still had a fancy-looking robe that was most likely a high-class magic item, but the only thing it would protect him from was the humid air and hot temperatures. Admittedly Hesk’s armor and Gux’s attire both had similar functions in them to help regulate their stamina, but neither of those armor sets were anywhere near as comfortable as Nao’s.

Nao Shoki, Hero of Magic

“My name is Keira Morgana and I’m the Hero of Chaos, though I’d prefer it if everyone just called me Keira. I’m an experienced scout, part-time inventor and full-time survivor. I’m told my common sense is a bit warped, but please rest assured that, despite being chosen by the Goddess of Instability, I am not actually a raving lunatic.”

Unlike her wolf-eared counterpart, the catgirl had shown up in full combat gear. Its innermost layer consisted of a form-fitting tunic and trousers stitched together from wyvern leather. The high-grade blue and brown equipment was excellent at making slashing attacks slide right off it while also enhancing speed and mobility to facilitate evasion and silent movement. She also had a breastplate shielding her upper torso, a slim shoulder pad on her left side, and a custom made helmet with holes for her feline ears on her head. Those three pieces of metal armor were forged from a mithril-obsidian alloy, making them naturally dark, light, and durable enough to protect a beastkin’s vital areas. She also had a hole in her trousers to let her tail move freely and assist in maintaining her balance.

In terms of weaponry, Keira only seemed to have her trusty mithril rapier sheathed at her left hip. In actuality she was packing an entire arsenal of blades, bows, arrows and explosives, all of which were packed into the Artifact-grade belt on her waist, known as Aetherial Repository #3. Potions, rations, campfire kits, sleeping bags and other essential supplies and tools were also tucked in there, but the vast majority of its contents were implements of death and/or destruction.

Keira Morgana, Hero of Chaos

“‘Sup? I’m Kaede, Mortimer’s new chief stabassist. I stab things. I also sometimes shank, jab, prick, stick and pierce, but mostly I stab.”



“Be serious for once in your life,” Keira scolded her.

Kaede, Hero of Death

“Spoilsport,” the nosferata grumbled while rubbing her head. “And it’s not like I was lying. The only thing I’m good at is making things dead, so don’t expect more than that from me. If you lot want something tracked or hunted down, you’re probably better off asking Keira here.”

“And I am Orrin Mildenhall,” the giant said with a bow of his head. “Hero of the Sun, faithful servant and de-facto archbishop of the church of Solus.”

Orrin Mildenhall, Hero of the Sun

“I will not be taking lives, but instead focusing my entire being on preserving yours and that of your fellows. Their well being will be in my prayers.”

“Hah. Now that’s a laugh.”

“… Is something the matter, Hesk of clan Susk?” Orrin asked in a calm manner.

“Praying for salvation will not shield you from the orcs of Velos, giant,” she sneered. “The only thing that will keep you alive out there is your wits and your mettle, so I suggest you don’t waste your breath.”

“I’m with the scary lizard lady on this one,” Keira chimed in.

“I have a name, furball,” Hesk hissed while slamming her tail against the floor in protest.

“Yeah, sure, but are you or are you not a scary lizard lady?” the catgirl insisted.

“Gux finds this assessment of Hesk’s person to be most accurate.”

“Ugh, bloody Sagescales,” she grumbled. “Look, I apologize for snapping at you, Keira, repeated skirmishes against the orcs have worn my patience a bit thin. In actuality, I am glad to finally meet you in person.”

“You… You are?” Kaede blurted out. “Are you sure you have the right Keira?”

“Indeed,” Hesk stated as the nosferata got another disciplinary ‘thwack’ to the head. “I have had the pleasure of working with a few of your trainees, those so-called Crimson Blades.”

That title was something Keira’s students had came up with on their own about a year ago, but their collective exploits had already given it a certain amount of weight. One of said students, for instance, reportedly wiped out a gang of nearly three hundred bandits all by himself. It took him several weeks to do so, but the only thing the brutes saw of him during that time were his arrows and traps. A dwarven Rogue, on the other hand, had infiltrated a criminal cartel within the Horkensaft Kingdom and gathered enough information to help the local authorities completely dismantle their operation. Then there was the female elf Ranger who tracked down and rescued the kidnapped heir to an Imperial noble house, leading to the two of them falling in love and marrying within a few months.

“If you are even half as capable as they are,” Hesk continued, “then I look forward to working with you in exterminating this threat.”

“Exterminating?” Keira raised an eyebrow. “I thought we were here to determine if there’s some underlying cause for this scourge and eliminate it before things get even worse.”

“Oh no, that is definitely going to be something we’re looking into,” Sigmund answered. “However, even if there is something to be found, it’s unlikely the orcs will just disperse and retreat back into the jungle without a helping hand or two.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Hesk continued. “Foul trickery or not, a scourge is still coming. And with them, the orcs will bring war. Not a skirmish, not a battle, not a showdown, but a full fledged war. With all its glory, and all its horrors. You all should do well to remember that if you plan to live through it.”

A heavy silence gripped the room. The female raptor’s dark and serious tone made it abundantly clear to the newly arrived Heroes exactly how grim the situation actually was.

“Tsk, way to ruin the mood.”

Except for Kaede, who seemed to be as nonchalant about the whole affair as ever if her childish grumbling was any indication.

“Hmm, there is something that has been bothering me,” Orrin mused while stroking his beard. “If it is that huge a problem, then should this not warrant a Holy Crusade? Granted, I am not a hundred percent familiar with the requirements to launch one, but…”

“Sorry to break it to you,” Keira butted in, “but that’s precisely what I was talking about when I said you shouldn’t count on any sort of divine intervention. According to my friend Fizzy, starting a Crusade takes a considerable amount of divine power, and requires that five or more deities agree that one is necessary.”

The mithril golem in question carried the immutable title of High Templar of the First Underworld Crusade. She was perhaps the only being on this continent to have firsthand experience with a divine call to arms, so it was only to be expected that her words would carry extra weight, even if they were borrowed.

“And let me tell you right now,” the catgirl continued, “there’s absolutely zero chance that the God of Luck will agree to put an end to a development this momentous before it can unfold completely. Even if it does mean countless lives will be lost.”

“Hmm, I see,” Sigmund mused. “Frankly speaking, Lady Teresa has been somewhat indifferent about the whole affair. She didn’t object to my decision to bring the Inquisition here, but She did not exactly endorse it either, so I do not know if she will be on board with this Crusade.”

“Gux has likewise not heard anything of Zephyra’s intentions, but that is mostly because Gux is not aware he is a Hero. However, it is safe to assume the Goddess of Rain does not wish to see Velos fall to these orcs. Their habit of devouring everything in sight and leaving behind nothing but barren wasteland will surely spell doom for the continent if they are not stopped.”

“Solus considers this a matter of the utmost importance for those very same reasons,” Orrin claimed with a heavy tone. “He wishes to avoid another Percepeia, but I fear there is not much support he can offer at present. It has been… a rough century for him.”

“Axel would surely act if he had the means and ways to do so,” Hesk weighed in. “He may somewhat admire the orcs’ instinctive propensity for tactics and strategy, but at the end of the day they are still abominations to be purged from the face of Terrania.”

“Lunar only seems to care about the underlying cause of this, uh, abnormal infestation,” said Nao while nervously scratching his nose. “Unless it is confirmed that powerful magic is the root cause of all this, it is unlikely she will move a finger. Even then a full-on Crusade seems… unlikely.”

“I’m here mostly to Level Up and earn some coin,” Kaede stated nonchalantly. “I’d like to do more, but that bonehead Mortimer thinks I’m still too immature to handle any of his Quests.”

“Huh, I wonder why,” said Keira, sarcasm practically oozing out of her throat. “Anyway, I can’t speak for Nyrie or Goroth, but I imagine this place is outside their… jurisdiction. Bottom line is there aren’t enough deities that think this situation warrants a Crusade.”

“Shame, an official Crusade would’ve been fun,” the nosferata said in a wishful tone. “Having access to massively overpowered army-wide divine blessings would’ve made this job a cakewalk. Wait, then what if our side intentionally fights like a bunch of mentally and physically crippled rodents? Surely that’d be worth a pity-Crusade or two.”

“Gux believes the Gods do not exist to push the cart or fix its wheels. They are there to ensure the traveler does not stray from the right path.”

“I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but I am of a similar mind,” Hesk declared. “Expecting someone else to bail you out of trouble every time a crisis happened would breed nothing but reliance and complacency. The pantheon expects us mortals to be capable of fending for ourselves, and I personally do not plan to betray their confidence.”

“Yeah, okay, whatever,” Kaede said with a shrug. “I’m just saying - crippled rodents. Think about it.”

The nonchalant attitude of the Hero of Death made Hesk slam her tail against the floor once again, almost like a judge demanding order in the court. It was unclear if that was her intention, but the effect was pretty much the same.

“Let’s make one thing abundantly clear,” she hissed at the upstart nosferata. “This meeting is not about the overall war effort - that part has been entrusted to the strategists and generals of the Flatfoot tribe. We are here solely to discuss how to handle this damnable orc warlord. So unless any of you have a way to literally wipe out a hundred thousand orcs, I suggest we focus on that.”

“Well said,” Sigmund exclaimed. “Now, before we get to the matter of hand, allow us to share what little knowledge we have. Gux, if you would?”

“As the Hammer’s Fist wishes.”

“Would you please stop calling me that?”

The Hero of Rain ignored the human’s complaint and flexed his telekinetic muscles. The magus sphere in his hand floated towards the center of the massive table everyone was sitting around. A series of blue light beams shot out of it, bending and twisting around each other as they drew a three dimensional figure in the air. A few seconds later, the four meter tall illusory image had solidified into the shape of an orc.

The specimen on display was like a savage mountain of muscle. A wide chest, massive shoulders, and exceptionally thick arms and hands, all of which were covered in countless scars. His physique gave him a very fiend-like appearance, except his face was nowhere near as handsome as a demon’s. The floppy pointed ears normally found on orcs were missing entirely, his nose was short, wide and mangled, but his most prominent facial feature was the mouth. A massive lower jaw, no presence of lips whatsoever, allowing everyone to see his two rows of giant, pointy fangs that were more akin to spikes than teeth.

Speaking of spikes, the orc was positively covered in them. His equipment consisted of a loincloth, a pair of boots, a set of vambraces, a shoulder pad and a cap. It wouldn’t function very well as armor seeing as how it left his chest, back and most of his limbs completely exposed. Not that this primitive-looking gear could stop anything resembling a serious attack. It looked to be cobbled together from vines, fur, bone, and metal shards, all of which would crumble the instant it met an adventurer’s weapon. However, it was impossible to deny that the skulls, spikes and chains combined with that monstrous physique gave the orc an imposing and intimidating appearance.

Orc Warlord

“This,” Sigmund began explaining, “is the orc warlord responsible for this mess. Gux here caught a glimpse of him by using his Ultimate Skill.”

The Skill in question was called Wandering Mind, and was something Boxxy had found out about through Hilda. It was a clairvoyance ability that separated the user’s consciousness from their body, giving them what was essentially a remote controlled MLG. Its perception range was limited to a radius of about twelve meters and it could not ‘see’ through solid matter, but the Wandering Mind itself could fly and phase through inanimate objects at will. The distance it could travel was only limited by the user’s MP reserves and it wasn’t all that useful in combat, but it was still an excellent scouting tool. The fact that it was practically undetectable also meant the user was free to spy on others with little to no repercussion, though Gux did his best not to abuse it.

Well, he did technically peek on some bathing beauties once or twice, but that was mostly to see if he could.

“What you will need to note here is the creature’s height,” Teresa’s chosen continued.

“Wait, you mean this projection is to scale?” Nao asked with wide eyes.

“That is so, Child of the Moon,” Gux confirmed.

“But I thought orcs only grew to a size of two meters, two-fifty at best! This one’s even taller than Orrin!”

“You are technically correct on both accounts, youngling,” Hesk stated. “However, I assure you this sort of thing is not out of the realm of possibility. Orcs continue to grow as they age, the vast majority of them just don’t live long enough to exhibit that trait. And this one is very old indeed.”

The female raptor stood from her seat and grabbed the pole weapon that had been resting against a nearby wall. Its wide triangular head made the weapon look like an oversized arrow, but the way she handled it made it abundantly clear it was a spear. One that she pointed at the translucent orc’s chest after hopping onto the wooden table, her armored toes scraping against the wood.

“See this wound right here, just below its left pectoral?”

Hesk then jabbed the scar she was talking about, making the spear’s wide blade pierce the lump of blue light. It was a perfect fit if one were to ignore the wound’s larger size.

“It was… made by that weapon?”

“Quite so, Kaede,” the ‘scary lizard lady’ responded. “If this image is accurate - and I have little reason to doubt that - then this orc has survived defeat at the hands of one of my predecessors.”

“How can you be so sure it was not made by a similar blade?” Keira asked.

“Because this spear is an Artifact that has been the Broadfang tribe’s solution to the orc menace for generations. I assure you there are none like it.”

This was precisely what Boxxy wanted to hear. Though the spear’s dull grade blade was not exactly shiny, its status as a unique high-grade weapon made it worthy of catching the shapeshifter’s interest as a collector. Though it would seem the not-a-catgirl was not the only one who was curious about it.

“Fascinating,” Nao exclaimed. “Lady Hesk, pardon my interruption, but could it be that weapon was not originally an Artifact?”

Magic items had a way of manifesting unique properties if they were used frequently for long periods of time. This ‘Item Rank Up’ was by far the most common way through which Artifact and Phantasmal grade equipment came into existence, and decades of killing orcs seemed like the perfect formula to make such a metamorphosis happen.

“This is so,” she confirmed with a nod. “Any orc pierced by the Orc Poker will find their flesh turn so rotten that it will literally melt off of their bones. It has the power to turn even the strongest of the green beasts into a foul sludge, assuming I can get close enough to land repeated strikes.”

“Huh. That strikes me as rather odd,” Nao remarked while cupping his chin in thought. “Usually in situations like these the weapon develops an effect to take advantage of an opponent’s elemental weakness. However, what you described sounds like a scourge-attuned effect, whereas the orcs’ Bane is supposed to be mind magic.”

In fact, the need to suppress hordes of the bloodthirsty creatures with wide-area mental attacks, or ‘stemming the green tide’ as the locals called it, was what led to the birth of the Psionic Job.

“I will not pretend to understand how or why it works,” Hesk stated. “I just know what it does and how to use it.”

“But if what you’re saying is true, then how can you be so certain this guy was stabbed by your super pointy stick?” Kaede chimed in. “I know a thing or two about stabbing people with flesh-eating toxins, and I can tell you right now that there’s no way a wound like that would heal so cleanly. Unless he used magic, but then there’d be no trace of it at all.”

“Not necessarily,” Orrin joined in. “If a particularly grevious wound is healed by magical means, then it’s possible some scarring might remain. Especially if the Spell or potion used wasn’t potent enough to close the wound completely in one go.”

“Unless he was stabbed before the spear obtained its unique property,” Keira pointed out.

“That is precisely the conclusion we reached,” Hesk continued. “According to my tribe’s records, my weapon’s orc dissolving ability manifested itself precisely seventy six years ago, shortly after its wielder at the time drove it into a particularly tenacious orc warlord’s chest.”

Hesk stabbed at the illusory monster once more with the tip of her spear.

“We have every reason to assume this is that same warlord. Meaning that this scourge has been over half a century in the making, and now that it’s here, you can bet your tails it won’t end well for any of us.”

She then climbed down from the table and took her seat, giving the newcomers a moment to process this information.

“There’s more to it than that, though,” Sigmund declared as Gux dispersed the lightshow. “We of the Inquisition have seen enough trickery, deception and foul play over the past two years to recognize this warlord likely has a cohort - a supporter or patron of some kind.”

“Gux believes this to be the case as well,” the blind lizard in the corner chimed in. “Orcs are many things, but creatures of patience - they are not. If this one had the ability to seize control of a horde this large, then they would’ve done it the first chance they got. They can, however, be surprisingly cunning, so an alliance of some sort would not be out of the question.”

“Might I ask how you are so certain of that?” Orrin inquired.

“Gux has peered into the heads of many an orc,” was his reply. “It is not a happy place.”

“In any event, that is most of the information we’ve been able to gather regarding the warlord,” Sigmund stated matter-of-factly. “Does anyone have any questions before we move onto making any actual plans?”

“Oh, I have one!” Kaede exclaimed while raising her hand. “It’s been bothering me for a while now, but - Hesk, you’re Axel’s chosen, right? As in, the Hero of the Sword?”

“Yes, I am. What of it?”

“Then how come you’re not using a sword?”

“I, uh…”

“Is it because spears are basically swords on sticks?”

There was a moment of awkward silence as Hesk genuinely had no idea how to respond to that. Neither did the other Heroes. Gux, for instance, was sitting patiently and quietly as if waiting for a storm to blow over. Keira’s ‘educational’ arm was already mid swing while her student giggled quietly behind her mask. Orrin had a look of bemused confusion while Nao hid his face in his palms. As for Sigmund, he crossed his arms, leaned back in his seat and let out a long sigh.

He still wasn’t sure whether this gathering would serve any actual purpose or if they were chasing something that wasn’t there, but Kaede’s question made one thing abundantly clear.

This was going to be a looong meeting.

A note from Exterminatus

All artwork in this chapter is courtesy of dmaxcustom.

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About the author


  • Chestiest Chest That Ever Chested

Bio: I'm a programmer, a mythical creature that survives completely on beer and cynicism. We skulk in the dark, secretly cursing and despising everyone else. Especially other programmers.

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