Small Packages: Scars
Luca hated fire. Fire had killed his parents and as a winter gnome, fire was especially painful to him. As Marius charged past him drawing his blade, acting without caution or forethought Luca was reminded of how like fire his brother could be.
There was little choice; Luca whistled the loose command to the pack of three wolves that served the brother’s as companions. There would be other orcs with torches, followed by more orcs with bucket. Luca recognized the implications immediately, this was a burn brigade keeping the grounds of the fort clear of cover. It was a standard tactic when expecting an attack.
The chance to reason and calm Marius passed in a blink, when something offends a paladin’s convictions it was best to get out of the way. Luca followed his brother in a guarded trot and called the eldritch cold to blast any foes.
The orc spotted Marius and called out for reinforcements. The orc was no slouch, he dropped his torch a couple feet ahead of himself drew his spear and braced it off his rear foot angled low and further supported with his shield. The moves were practiced and near mechanical in their precision. This was a soldier that had drilled until such movements were second nature, and he would be joined by at least two others before Marius closed the distance into melee. Luca sent a dart of freezing energy over that orc’s shield.
Luca had once skimmed an orc tactical manual and could hazard that this was likely a foot patrol unit. There would be eight legionaries with tower shields, longspears, a brace of pilums, and the deadly legion issue orcish gladius. They would try to form up ranks which made them more deadly as each man was trained to guard the man to his left with his shield. They’d form two lines with 4 spears in the back making attacks between the gaps while those out front stabbed and slashed with their deadly blades from closer quarters.
Allowing the orcs to form up into even a partial defensive formation would mean death for the gnomes and their wolves. It would take the orcs less than a minute to gather and form so every second counted. Luca had a magical bond with Calia and Seline, the two female wolves who he ordered into either side of the tall grasses to flank, the tactic would at least hopefully stall the orcs.
Closing more distance, Luca dreaded doing what he knew he must, as he dismissed Iz after launching another eldritch dart at the same orc he had already wounded. A flood of weakness and pain brought tears to the Winter gnome’s eyes but he needed his summons. Three of the orcs were set for Marius when Calia leapt from the grasses and scored a deep calf bite on Luca’s wounded orc dragging him down. He foolishly tried to regain his feet rather than a short blade exposing the back of his neck, Calia didn’t miss the opportunity.
Maruis adjusted the angle of his charge and caught a second orc patrolman who had drawn his sword rather than spear. This orc was perhaps a green horn as he lacked the skill and grace of his dead companion; he chopped a sloppy overhand strike that Marius easily evaded as he charged into his foe. The blade was that of an orcish longsword that had about half a foot cut from the base the handle, modified to serve as a bastard sword for a gnome. Marius drove the blade will all his charging momentum through the weak point of the footman’s breastplate, the sides where the armor is strapped. The green horn footman was dead before he hit the ground.
Seline and Kane occupied the third orc who had both his spear and his short sword out. He was using the spear tucked under arm and braced across his back to ward off Seline, while his sword stood in a defensive posture for Kane. The wolves had him flanked and would circle and strike.
In the chaos of melee, Marius had not yet noticed the other five orcs from the patrol who formed up with two in the rear pilums in hand and three up front with their shields covering one another and short-blades at the ready. The marched steadily holding their tentative formation.
Luca called a small elemental of earth to flank and harry the orcs from below. With a spell he called a hawk to dive and attack from the skies. His brother drew a pillum from the fallen and lazily chucked it at the wolf flanked orc with his off hand. The orc easily dodged but was put off balance enough for the wolves to strike him down rapidly, finishing him brutally in front of his marching companions. They responded with a pilum volley the wolves easily dodged, but held.
Luca was nearly to his brother’s side when he called the power of the cloak and turned into a winter wolf. The pack jumped into the tall grasses for soft cover and stealth. They’d circle round the rear and try to break the formation, Marius and Luca just had to hold up for a few moments.
Luca blasted the front with his new form’s breath weapon. Formations were bad at dodging. Marius drew and a specially carved bit of chitin and spoke a word of command in a passable draconic. Webs quickly formed and held the formation in a sticky mess.
Luca dropped wolf form and called out to Iz. There was no point in watching what came next. Held fast Marius would use either the remaining fallen’s pilums or long spears to finish the patrol and avoid the mess. Trading at the Fort was now a pyrite errand.
It was Luca’s sincere hope that the Fort didn’t spare a wizard from Black Spire College to investigate. The last thing they needed was to get on the empire’s wanted list. Every orc would be a potential enemy, not to mention the bounty hunters.
Fire made scars on the land and in the hearts of two orphan gnomes, the burn squad that cleared the Fort’s killing fields would pay for being careless with their fire today. Marius was easy to underestimate, he was usually so kind and warm, like a crackling hearth on a cold day. Though like that same hearth, if things got out of control he was capable of as much destruction and violence as any raging fire.