The Night Before Wintertide
A Story by Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr
As the sun rose, Robert stepped out to the top deck and took a deep breath, soaking in the fresh ocean air. The dwarf had a boat and navigator waiting for the adventurers in the port of Argos and had set sail right away. They decided to rest upon reaching the lone port of Iona and the dwarf was the first to awake. Robert looked out upon the jungle island and took in all the beauty.
The sun, rising above the jungle, gave the entire island a warm glow. The exotic birds from the area could be heard making some of the most beautiful sounds the native inhabitants had the luxury to experience, while the sounds of waves crashing set the mood of the island.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Icarus asked as he walked next to the dwarf.
“Very. Where’s the boy?”
“Still sleeping, I thought we’d talk before he woke.”
“What is there to talk about, elf?”
“Just because the prince and I accompanied you on this,” Icarus took a deep breath, “adventure… that does not mean you will treat it like your past expeditions for the coxcomb.”
“Those men knew what they were getting into.”
“Not the point. The prince is more important than this treasure. Understood?”
Before Robert could respond to Icarus, Jason climbed up from below deck. The prince, unlike his companions, looked disheveled. His hair was wild, his clothes wrinkled, and he was barely awake. He approached his companions, stretching to force himself to wake.
“Let’s get ourselves a hat,” Jason yawned as he spoke.
“Coxcomb of Andekus,” Robert corrected.
“And where does one wear the Coxcomb of Andekus?” The prince quipped.
“’Tis not the same thing—”
“I think I’ve made my point,” Jason smiled before directing his attention to Icarus, “So what’s the plan?”
“Jason, my boy, this was your idea,” the elf said. “I am following your lead.”
“In that case, let’s make our presence known to the locals. No reason we can’t start this off diplomatically!”
* * * * *
The three companions stepped off the boat and entered Port Mir’Dautag, named after the orc town that was nearby. As they walked off the pier, heading east toward the town, the port workers stared. It wasn’t often a human visited the area, let alone accompanied with an elf and a dwarf. Robert was inclined to reach for his weapon, but Icarus sensed that and nudged the dwarf.
As they entered the town, Jason noted the lack of security. There were no walls erected to protect the town, nor were there any guard towers. The buildings were all very similar, built from stone with open windows and doorways. The only differences seemed to be that buildings that were meant for business had wooden roofs, whereas the residences had thatched roofs.
“May I have a word with you strangers?” A deep, strange voice called from behind the group.
Turning around, the three adventurers were faced with an iron-clad orc, standing taller than Icarus, with grayish-green skin. His hair was dark and had several braids that were brought together as one ponytail. His mutton chops hung from his chin—also braided. The sun glistened off his armor, adorned with what appeared to be a captain’s cape, with light reflecting from the metal scabbard that held the orc’s broad sword.
The orc’s hand moved to the pommel of his sword, and he was ready to unsheathe it at a moment’s notice. “Perhaps I was not clear. Let’s have a word.”
“Good day to you sir,” Icarus said, taking a step forward, “I apologize on behalf of my group, we were taken aback.”
“What do you mean, ‘taken aback’?”
“Um, well, we… we just weren’t—”
“I’m having a go at you,” the orc laughed as he released his hand from his sword.
The three companions nervously chuckled along with the orc before Icarus finally responded. “The name is Icarus. I’m joined by Robert and Jason. We’ve come from Arthica to visit our sister island.”
“Arthica? We don’t get many visitors from there. What brings you to Mir’Dataug? Surely taking port in our capital city would have offered,” the guard hesitated for just a moment, eyeing the group, “less of a distraction?”
“Dautran, even with all its beauty, is not the first place I would show my companions. Not when you can catch the sun rise from behind the jungle at your lovely port,” Icarus explained.
“Don’t forget about the temple, we’ve got to visit the temple,” Jason chimed in.
“The temple? Are you referring to Yen’Taug?” The guard asked.
“That’s the one. And we’re kind of in a hurry—”
“Watch your tongue, boy!” Robert angrily cutoff the prince.
“Jason, Robert, please not now,” Icarus pleaded.
“The boy must learn respect,” the dwarf argued.
“Respect? I need to learn respect? You dare talk to your prince with such disrespect?” Jason countered.
“Jason? Prince? You’re the son of that skrig king, aren’t you?” The orc questioned.
“What was that?” the prince asked, almost confused by the orc’s sudden hostility.
“If we could all just take a moment and relax,” Icarus tried to reason with everyone.
“Your father is the king of Saffraan, is he not? Iollan Dactyls is nothing but racist skrig that banished my people from any kind of trade talks with Arthician towns. If it weren’t for King Kristoff Quinn of Silverrod, we would have crushed Arthica and its capital,” the guard explained.
“My father is no saint, but you would be best to find respect for the royal family of Saffraan. It is out of respect that we haven’t come to our sister island to crush you—you’re far from innocent.”
The orc guard stepped up to Jason, looking down at the prince, “You should listen to your dwarf friend and watch your tongue.”
Without hesitation, Jason swung his fist into the orc’s chin. The guard, taken by surprise, teetered back from the impact. The orc unsheathed his broadsword and swung toward Jason, who hadn’t yet tugged his own sword from its scabbard. Icarus quickly removed his baton and extended it to its full bo staff form and blocked the weapon from hitting Jason.
“Always need to make things difficult, don’t you?” Icarus asked his prince.
“I like to think I make things interesting,” Jason responded before removing his longsword from its scabbard.
Jason and Robert, with battle axe in hand, flanked the orc guard as Icarus stayed directly in front of him. The guard swung his sword about, contemplating his next move. He directed his next slash towards the dwarf, narrowly missing as Robert jumped out of the way. Before the orc could turn to face his adversaries again, Jason and Robert rushed him.
They underestimated the orc, who was able to rush the prince and the dwarf himself, bending slightly to meet them with his shoulder. When they collided, the two adventurers were sent flying back several feet, landing on their backs. When the orc stood straight once again, he locked eyes with Icarus.
“I apologize for my friends, they are a little over zealous. Perhaps we could just take a moment to talk?” The elf tried to reason.
“You take me as a fool?”
The orc shouted a war cry before rushing Icarus. It was clear that the orc, although skilled, was still far beneath the abilities of the elf. He was able to side step the guard, using his bo staff to trip the orc to the ground. Before Icarus could react, he heard others approaching fast.
As Jason and Robert stood, they were faced with three additional orc guards with swords at the ready. The original orc guard was joined by another, then.
“Captain, are you alright?”
“Arrest these three and throw them in separate cells,” the captain paused, looking at Jason before continuing, “Feel free to especially rough with that one.”
Two of the orc guards grabbed Jason, each punching him in the stomach for good measure. The remaining guards grabbed Robert and Icarus as they headed north, into town. The captain rushed ahead and caught up with the guards holding Jason. As they walked, he leaned in towards the prince.
“Perhaps that skrig of a father will listen to us now,” he whispered in the young man’s ear.