She was shaking in a weird mixture of fear, excitement and pain by the time the Orcs gave up searching the bodies and hurried off to join the others. Again they gathered around the scene of the center of the first ambush and seemed to be moving the bodies of the fallen cavaliers around, and carefully arranging them for some reason.
Obviously they were trying to convince those who came upon the scene later, that someone else was responsible for the carnage. Staying in the shadows and moving very carefully, Amala moved over to the bodies of the Orcs she had killed. Holding her nose to keep from throwing up at the smell, she knelt down and glanced at them. They seemed like the typical tribal Orcs that she had seen from time to time. Then she noticed their feet. Orcs tended to favor big, sturdy, hobnailed boots. Yet those she had killed did not wear the typical Orc boots but short, leather boots with studs set into the soles for traction.
They were familiar somehow, though for a minute she couldn’t place where she’d seen them before. Then it occurred to her; they were legionnaire boots – the marching boots worn by members of the Imperial legions.
They wanted to leave footprints, she quickly figured out, and they were hoping to create the impression that the ambushers had been Imperial legionaries. But why?
She heard a commotion from the Orcs ahead, so she crept as close as she dared, then laid flat on the ground.
The Orcs were pulling a bound man behind them, a rope around his neck. She could tell from his armor that he was one of the cavaliers in Prince Edwarren’s troop. Leading them was a figure that certainly was not an Orc. He wore the rich clothes of a nobleman, though she could not make out who he was from her vantage point. The man pointed, and the Orcs dragged the cavalier to the spot.
“You will regret this, Bristane! You won’t fool them!” The bound man yelled at the nobleman.
The richly dressed man responded something in a much softer tone that sent the cavalier off into a furious list of curses, but only for a moment or two, because an Orc thrust what looked like a legionnaire’s spear between the plates of his armor. As Amala looked on in horror, the man gasped several times, and then fell over dead.
He had no more hit the ground then ‘Bristane’ began ordering the Orcs to position his body in specific ways.
“He should be on his back; he was knocked off a horse by a spear. Hurry up; we have three more and the Prince to set up. That damned coach interrupted our schedule.”
They dragged the body into place and sat up a few ‘dropped’ Imperial weapons. Amala thought she had heard the name Bristane before, but she wasn’t certain. There was a town named Bristane, a couple of days’ ride to the east. Could he have a connection to the town?
The mysterious nobleman monitored their placement of the corpse, then said something to the Orc captain and turned and headed toward the Guardhouse. Three Orcs accompanied him, but Amala was curious, so wrapping her cloak around her and staying low, she followed them, careful to give them plenty of space and swinging far around their perimeter as they neared the building.
There were a number of Orcs inside the guardhouse and four sitting around a campfire made in front of its entrance, so there was no way she could sneak or fight her way into the place. She crept as close as possible to the stone guardhouse, listening to the noise from inside. Aside from the sound of Orcs, she could hear the booming voice of Prince Edwarren, angrily arguing with his captures. Amala didn’t know what to do; she couldn’t rescue him and the remaining cavaliers by simply charging in, or she would have hundreds of Orcs to battle. Yet an idea came to her of a possible way.
Her father had told her about the Drow of the Underdark. He’d said that they tried to fight smart rather then to overwhelm an enemy with brute force. One method of the Drow that he had adopted was the use of either a coin or a small stone with either a darkness or silence spell cast on it. These are then thrown into the middle of combat, and the removal of sight or sound would throw their opponents off, whereas the Drow that had been trained to fight in these situations could move about almost as well as normal, giving them the advantage.
Her father had paid a large amount of money to have a silence stone enchanted, then a permanency spell added to it. The result was a stone he had used on several occasions in battle or to sneak around. In later years, while head of the Order of the Knights of Northmarch, he’d devised new strategies using both darkness and silence spells and had paid to have a number of darkness stones enchanted and then made permanent by spells. In overwhelming odds, he had told her, these might even up the chances, but only if the user of these enchanted stones understood how to fight in these sensory deprived conditions.
She’d been allowed to keep a silence stone and a darkness stone, which she kept in round, lead, locket-like cases in her pocket. For several years she had practiced moving about and fighting in utter blackness and silence. She’d learnt that when a person is suddenly deprived of both sight and sound at the same time, they panic and usually feel as if they are trapped, boxed in or suffocated and will drop whatever they are doing to escape.
She’d never tried using the two magic stones on anyone other than friends to chart their reactions, but she had no better idea on what she could do, so she quickly formed a crazy idea.