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Saturday, May 20, 2006 Into the Den of Danger

A shadow moves quickly in the dark, in the shade of moonlight. It also moves cautiously and stealthily, so no enemy might spot him and it can attack them in a surprise. Then Robert the Orcbane, the hunter arrives in front of the cave in the West Harper Hills. He hides and tries to recall his plan again before going in for a surprise attack.

No guards at the front… Suppose the map is right. But I never know, right? I must be ready for all risks and possibilities. Maybe they have already expected a hunter to come and prepared an ambush. A’bong was a veteran captain. I was only a scout. I have no idea what kind of ambushes they will be preparing and how to tackle them. I only participated in one war – so I only know standard ones and no orcish types. Pity Hulferd has resigned, he must be able to give me a few more pointers. Ah, throw away those negative thoughts. I must overcome this by myself – if I ever want to improve. Vadis, help me.
Then he clasps his hand and prays like a true Vadisian devout, and then he kisses the ring on his left little finger. He’s now ready.
Okay, here goes nothing.

Robert enters the narrow cave with a torch in his left hand and his trusted Kiliji in his right hand. He walks along, and sees some light from afar. Now he is convinced that someone is indeed there and camps inside the cave.
I’m in luck. They’re here – or whatever it is.

He walks on, and the cave is getting wider with stalactites and stalagmites on his way – he’s going underground. He sees some torches hung on the cavern posts, and draws the conclusion that the orc can lead his gang as well as humans do and he becomes more alert.

As he walks on, he smells something strange. And the air around him moves like a soft breeze. He raises his kiliji. Suddenly two pairs of eyes are shown on his left and right, and two kobolds pounce on him. Calmly, without looking, Robert moves right and slashes his kiliji to the upper right, and cuts through the kobold on his right on its gut. Kobold blood showers and splatters on his hair and armor. He successfully avoids the kobold on his left. Without wasting any time, he attacks the kobold. The kobold blocks Robert’s attacks with its sword – but Robert’s attack is getting quicker and comes from different angles and variants, the kobold gets overwhelmed and finally Robert pierces its chest. Before it dies, the kobold lets out a loud, long howl as an alarm to warn its comrades.

Robert thinks, So much for the surprise. I better think of another plan quick.
He thinks as he runs on forward, hoping to reach A’bong and the remaining six kobolds before they even realize what the alarm means. But it’s still a long way to the center and Robert hears angry kobold barking sounds not far from there. So he decides to drop the plan and head back. On the way, an idea comes into him.

Why don’t I use their tactic against them? Hiding behind the dark parts will be good. I’ll use my ‘concentration’ and attack them in the dark.

Robert deliberately puts off the torches – except the ones near the narrow exit - and hides behind a post just like the kobolds did. Then the six kobolds arrive, running in frenzy. They realize that two of their comrades have been slain, by sniffing the blood and the kobold carcasses. And they howl in fury, especially the two female kobolds – because all the males are their mates. Robert sees that this is a perfect opportunity to attack – but he retracts himself as he hears a loud yell.

‘HALT! On guard, you hound ‘n bitches! Something’s odd here!’
Robert sees A’bong the orcish captain’s silhouette appears from the light of the torch from the exit and from A’bong’s rear. Then A’bong roars again.
‘Ghr’oak*! You morons! Can’t you see? The infiltrator is trying to ambush us! He put out the torches!’

Footnote : (* Ghr’oak = A hole in your gorged flesh! – A very rude Orcish sarcasm)

The kobolds only yelp and bark in reply, obeying their master and leader.
‘This one is good, better than the gorged guts trying to kill us these three months!
You bitch! Go to the center and bring us some torches! And the rest of you, spread! Proceed with caution! The infiltrator is still around here! Hiding!’

Gorged guts? Robert thinks. This orc probably eats humans, or at least the kobolds do.
Orcs are usually well-versed with Aurelian Common Speech as well as their own harsh language that mostly sounds like grunts and growls, but they always speak in harsh slangs and sarcasms, and only believe that they can only control or lead others by power and out of fear. Female orcs only choose those who are fearsome and strong (because no orc is fair – as a matter of fact). No wonder male orcs sometimes kill each other to get the female and to show who’s the strongest. And A’bong is indeed an example of an orc idol because his brutality is more terrible than his rude talks.

Back to the tension at hand. Robert thinks hard to free himself. Now he begins to think that he should’ve chosen to be an assassin or learn the methods of stealth-killing, or be a sorcerer with mass-killing skills, but martial art is what he does best. No regrets, then. A swordsman is a swordsman. Then a kobold sniffs near his hiding place. Robert is tensed. Then in split seconds his wits fly fast and without thinking twice he carries on with his new plan and attacks the kobold near him without looking; only using his other senses.
He successfully slashes the kobold diagonally on the torso, and the kobold wails before it dies. A’bong and the other kobolds hear the wail, and run to the source. Then Robert avoids the kobold in front of him and runs to the exit. But the large kobold lunges with its claws, slashing Robert’s left arm, leaving three scratch marks on the wound. Robert is in pain – but as usual he only grimaces – never screams. Clutching his bleeding left arm, Robert runs into the narrow part of the cave, and waits midway.

Then he hears loud barking and sees the large kobold entering the narrow passage, and its two fellow kobolds also enter with him. As they are racing to reach Robert, the three kobolds jam each other on the narrow passage which width can only support one person. Robert uses this opportunity by slashing into the large kobold, splitting it in half with his incredibly sharp kiliji. Then he charges onto the second kobold and decapitates it. The last one, the female kobold springs onto Robert with a greater speed than the male, and sinks its teeth on Robert’s chest only to find that its teeth only goes into the thick leather armor and only scratch Robert’s chest a bit. Robert sees this opportunity and thrusts his kiliji into the female kobold’s gut, killing it at once. Then he pushes the dead kobold away and pats his reliable armor, as though thanking Vadis for the one who sold him this good quality armor.

Then no one comes into the narrow passage – and Robert thinks that A’bong has already realized this tactic too. And it’s getting brighter inside – the torches are lit again. Well, playtime is over, Robert thinks. Now it’s the real showdown between a human, an orc and two kobold mongrels. Robert takes out his healing potion and drinks the whole dose from the container. Then he boldy walks into the wide caverns again, clutching his bleeding left hand.
I should’ve worn my robe and cloak tonight – and brought a healing salve, Robert thinks.
A sarcastic voice greets him as he comes out of the narrow pass.

‘Well, well, the rat finally comes out. Still have the guts, huh?
You got bigheaded after killing my six mongrels, huh?’

Robert sees A’bong standing at a distance, staring mockingly at him. Robert approaches him.
‘Gharh, not very good at all, you still got wounded by my mutts. You two, now stay away! It’s now a matter between two warriors. C’mon, take me down now! Show me what you got!’
The two kobolds back away. And Robert has already arrived in front of A’bong. Apparently A’bong has underestimated him because of his arm wound and several minor wounds on his body. And A’bong thinks that the blood on Robert’s right is Robert’s, so Robert must be in front of the death’s door and A’bong can finish him with ease.

Robert says, ‘You know what your problem is?’
‘You talk too much!’

Without warning, Robert attacks A’bong with his kiliji. A’bong is shocked with Robert’s fast moves – for a dying man. He gets overwhelmed at first, but he successfully repels Robert’s blows with his great axe. Then Robert increases the strength and speed of his attacks. Swordsmen usually use the balanced measure between strength and speed and have adequate constitution to bear heavy wounds before using healing potions.

Robert uses his skill – Power Bash and inflicts a deep wound on A’bong, but A’bong shows the Orcs’ great constitution by counter-attacking Robert with his great axe. Had Robert slowed down a little, he would have been split in two with the simple axe slash – Land and Sea Divide from A’bong. Robert backs away staggering from the shock vibration from the effect of A’bong’s strike, then he gathers his strength again quickly and launches his combo move – Ten Point Chain Slash, slashing ten times on ten different weak point possibilities in split seconds. It’s a devastating combo. A’bong can’t match his speed with Robert’s and gets slashed in seven points and can only block or avoid three. Blood gushes out from the wounds, and A’bong falls on his knees on the ground.

But as Robert is going to deliver his killing blow, the two kobolds charge to save their master and attack Robert from the front and left. The large kobold seizes Robert’s left foot, gnaws on Robert’s armored left side. At the same time the female kobold locks Robert’s sword and kicks Robert right at his cheek. The blows throw Robert backwards, and now he’s completely helpless – sprawling on the ground – seized by the two kobolds. Boy he wishes that he complied with Hulferd’s advice to bring a party along – and his stubbornness will lead to his death. And once again he gets the feeling he hates most: fear, as A’bong rises up again with glee. He raises his axe high – ready to deliver the Land and Sea Divide Slash to divide Robert in two.

‘Now, you die! And my mongrels will gorge your gut!’
In that critical moment a flash of a beautiful lady’s face comes in Robert’s mind and Robert quickly regains his resolve and wit.
He thinks, NO, I can’t die now!
He screams, ‘YAAAAAAHHH!!!’

The slash goes down. Robert lets out his spirited glare, and in split seconds, with his remaining strength rolls to the right, dragging the large kobold with him with his free left hand and the blow from A’bong slashes the large kobold instead and splits it in two – the large kobold has served as Robert’s shield now. The female kobold gets shocked and its grip is loosened. Robert gets up and thrusts his kiliji into the orc’s throat – his unarmored part and also the orcs’ common weak point. A’bong spills out blood and he dies with wide-opened eyes before he can say ‘Impossible!’ – His last thought.

Robert retracts his sword from A’bong’s throat, and the dead orc falls on the ground. The female kobold howls at the top of its voice, enraged by the loss of its mates and master. Robert’s physical strength has depleted, but a newfound strength is growing inside him. It’s fire, the element of Robert’s inner strength. It has been triggered when Robert avoided A’bong’s last attack and now it’s growing out from his hand then covers his kiliji. From now on, he can use fire property in his sword skills. The female kobold whimpers at Robert’s display of strength – He’s stronger and more deadly than A’bong is and ever be. Its canine instinct takes over – it flees.

But Robert is now determined to finish his job completely and slashes his sword from afar, horizontally. A crescent-shaped fire emerges from the slash and flies in high speed towards the kobold. The kobold feels a hot wind behind it and turns its head back – and it howls in terror as the fiery crescent splits its torso in two.

It was one of the sword skills that originally utilize air – The Dragon Wings Air Slash. Now with fire property its name is The Crescent Fire Slash. Robert and Hulferd can do multiple air slashes, but in this case one is enough to finish the job.

Realizing that his job is finished, Robert sighs in relief. Tears start rolling from his eyes, as though he is sad and dissatisfied, but in fact the true reason is different. And his expression is somewhat indifferent. One may think that this is just a daily routine for Robert, or a mere trifle.

It’s another job well done.

But before he can move to decapitate his target or collect the proofs of his work, his failing physical strength, wounds all over his body, and loss of blood makes him staggering, lolling and then he collapses on the ground, unconscious. His condition is critical, and sometimes when a man goes into that state, flashes of the past and his entire life may come to him…

End of Chapter One

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