A shadow moved quickly in the shade of the moon. It also moved cautiously and stealthily, so no enemy would spot it and it could launch a surprise attack. Then Robert the Orcbane, the monster hunter arrived in front of the cave in the West Harper Hills. He hid and tried to recall his plan again before going in for a surprise attack.
No guards in 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 clasped his hands and prayed like a true Vadisian devout, and then he kissed the ring on his left little finger. He was now ready.
Okay, here goes nothing.
Robert entered the narrow cave with a torch in his left hand and his trusted Kiliji in his right hand. He walked along, and saw a faint light from afar. Now he was convinced that someone was indeed there and camped inside the cave.
I’m in luck. They're here – or whatever it is.
He walked on, and the cave was getting wider with stalactites and stalagmites on his way – he was going underground. He saw some torches hung on the cavern posts, and drew a conclusion that the orc could lead his gang as well as humans do and he became more alert.
As he walked on, he smelled something strange. And the air around him moved like a soft breeze. He raised his kiliji. Suddenly two pairs of eyes were shown on his left and right, and two kobolds pounced on him. Calmly, without looking, Robert moved right and slashed his kiliji to the upper right, and cut through the kobold on his right on its gut. Kobold blood sprinkled on his hair and armor. He successfully avoided the kobold on his left. Without wasting any time, he attacked the kobold. The kobold blocked Robert’s attacks with its sword – but Robert’s attack was getting quicker and came from different angles and variants, the kobold got overwhelmed and finally Robert pierced its chest. Before it died, the kobold let out a loud, long howl as an alarm to warn its comrades.
Robert thinks, So much for surprise. I better think of another plan quick.
He thought as he ran on forward, hoping to reach A’bong and the remaining six kobolds before they reached him first. But it was still a long way to the center and Robert heard angry kobold barking sounds not far from there. So he decided to drop the plan and head back. On the way, an idea came 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 put the torches off – except the ones near the narrow exit - and hid behind a post just like the kobolds did. Then the six kobolds arrived, running in frenzy. They realized that two of their comrades have been slain, by sniffing the blood on the kobold carcasses. And they howled in fury, especially the two female kobolds – because all the males were their mates. Robert saw that this was a perfect opportunity to attack – but hechanged his mind as he heard a loud yell.
“HALT! On guard, you hound 'n bitches! Something’s odd here!”
Robert saw A’bong the orcish captain's silhouette appeared from the light of the torch from the exit and from the orc's rear. Then A’bong roared again.
“Ghr'oak*)! You morons! Can’t you see? The infiltrator is trying to ambush us! He put out the torches!”
(* Ghr'oak = A hole in your gorged flesh! – A very rude Orcish sarcasm)
The kobolds only barked 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 thought. This orc probably eats humans, or at least the kobolds do. He can smell my presence too! I got to get ready!
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 fight each other to get the female and to show who’s the strongest. And A’bong was indeed an example of an orc idol because his brutality was more terrible than his rude language.
Back to the tension at hand. Robert thought hard to free himself. Now he began to think that he could've chosen to be an assassin or learn the methods of stealth-killing, or be a sorcerer with mass-killing skills, but martial art was what he did best. No regrets, then. A swordsman was a swordsman. Then a kobold sniffed near his hiding place. Robert was tensed. Then in split seconds his wit flew fast and without thinking twice he carried on with his new plan and attacked the kobold near him without looking; only using his other senses.
He successfully slashed the kobold diagonally on the torso, and the kobold wailed and died instantly. A’bong and the other kobolds heard the wail, and ran to the source. Then Robert avoided the kobold in front of him and ran to the exit. But the large kobold lunged with its claws, slashing Robert’s left arm, leaving three scratch marks on the wound. Robert was in pain – but as usual he only grimaced – never screamed. Clutching his bleeding left arm, Robert ran into the narrow part of the cave, and waited midway.
Then he heard loud barking and saw the large kobold entering the narrow passage, and its two fellow kobolds also entered with him. As they were racing to reach Robert, the three kobolds crammed with each other on the narrow passage which width can only support one person. Robert used this opportunity by slashing into the large kobold, splitting it in half with his incredibly sharp kiliji. Then he charged onto the second kobold and decapitated it. The last one, the female kobold sprang onto Robert with a greater speed than the male, and sinked its teeth on Robert’s chest only to find that its teeth only went into the thick leather armor and only scratched Robert’s chest a bit. Robert saw this opportunity and thrusted his kiliji into the female kobold’s gut, killing it at once. Then he pushed the dead kobold away and patted his reliable armor, as though thanking Vadis for the one who sold him this good quality armor.
Then no one came into the narrow passage – and Robert thought that A’bong has already realized this tactic too. And it was getting brighter inside – the torches were lit again. Well, playtime was over, Robert thought. Now it was the real showdown between a human, an orc and two kobold mongrels. Robert took out his healing potion and drank the whole dose from the container. Then he boldy walked into the wide caverns again, clutching his bleeding left hand, thinking.
I should’ve worn my robe and cloak tonight – and brought a healing salve.
A sarcastic voice greeted him as he came out of the narrow pass.
“Well, well, the rat finally came out. Still have the guts, huh?
You got bigheaded after killing my six mongrels, huh?”
Robert saw A’bong standing at a distance, staring mockingly at him. Robert approached 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 backed away. And Robert has already arrived in front of A’bong. Apparently A’bong underestimated him because of his arm wound and several minor wounds on his body. And A’bong thought that the blood on Robert’s right was Robert’s, so Robert must be in front of the death’s door and A’bong can finish him with ease.
Robert said, “You know what your problem is?
You talk too much!”
Without warning, Robert attacked A’bong with his kiliji. A’bong was shocked with Robert’s fast move – for a dying man. He got overwhelmed at first, but he successfully repelled Robert’s blows with his great axe. Then Robert increased 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 used his skill – Power Bash and inflicted a deep wound on A’bong’s shoulder, but A’bong showed 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 backed away staggering from the shock vibration from the effect of A’bong’s strike, then he gathered his strength again quickly and launched his combo move – Ten Point Chain Slash, slashing ten times on ten different weak point possibilities in split second. It was a devastating combo. A’bong couldn’t match his speed with Robert’s and got slashed in seven points and could only block or avoid three. Blood gushed out from the wounds, and A’bong fell on his knees on the ground.
But as Robert was going to deliver his killing blow, the two kobolds charged to save their master and attacked Robert from the front and left. The large kobold seized Robert’s left foot, gnawed on Robert’s armored left side. At the same time the female kobold held Robert’s sword and kicked Robert right on his cheek. The blows threw Robert backwards, and now he was completely helpless – sprawling on the ground – seized by the two kobolds. Boy he wished that he complied with Hulferd’s advice to bring a party along – and his stubbornness would lead to his death. And once again he got the feeling he hates most: fear, as A’bong rose up again with glee. He raised his axe high – ready to deliver the Land and Sea Divide Slash to split 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 came in Robert’s mind and Robert quickly regained his resolve and wit.
He thought, NO, I can’t die now!
He screamed, “YAAAAAAHHH!!!”
The slash went down. Robert let out his spirited glare, and in split seconds, with his remaining strength rolled to the right, dragging the large kobold with him with his free left hand and the blow from A’bong slashed the large kobold instead and splitted it in two – the large kobold has served as Robert’s shield. The female kobold got shocked and its grip was loosened. Robert got up and thrusted his kiliji into the orc’s throat – his unarmored part and also the orcs’ common weak point. A’bong spilled out blood and he died with wide-opened eyes before he can say “Impossible!” – His last thought.
Robert retracted his sword from A’bong’s throat, and the dead orc fell on the ground. The female kobold howled 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 was growing inside him. It was fire, the element of Robert’s inner strength. It has been triggered when Robert avoided A’bong’s last attack and now it was growing out from his hand then covered his kiliji. From now on, he could use fire property in his sword skills. The female kobold whimpered at Robert’s display of strength – He’s stronger and more deadly than A’bong was and ever be. Its canine instinct took over – it fled.
But Robert was now determined to finish his job completely and slashed his sword from afar, horizontally. A crescent-shaped fire emerged from the slash and flew in high speed towards the kobold. The kobold felt a hot wind behind it and turned its head back – and it howled in terror as the fiery crescent split its torso in two.
It was one of the sword skills that originally utilized air – The Dragon Wings Air Slash. Now with fire property, the skill was improved to the next level: The Crescent Fire Slash. Robert and Hulferd could do multiple air slashes, but in this case one was enough to finish the job.
Realizing that his job was finished, Robert sighed in relief. Tears started rolling from his eyes, as though he was sad and dissatisfied, but in fact the true reason was different. And his expression was somewhat indifferent. One may think that this was just a daily routine for Robert, or a mere trifle.
It’s another job well done.
But before he could 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 made him staggering, lolling and then he collapsed on the ground, unconscious. His condition was 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