Book 2, Chapter 60

Ruffian

The army gradually made their way out, the dead warriors and horses left abandoned. This was a tradition of the Bloodstained Lands— once the humans left vultures, hyenas, and scavenging rats would feast on the corpses until only bone remained. It was considered the only way for the spirits of the dead to break away from the curse that plagued this land, moving on to the afterlife.

The wind wolves were left behind as well. They needed food, and the horse carcasses would do. However, unlike the scavengers of the Bloodstained Lands they would also eat the bones. Unless there wasn’t enough food available, Richard wouldn’t allow them to eat human remains.

Camp Bloodstone finally came into view by the evening, although it was still distant. The place was in the middle of stony peaks, with a crude wall erected between the natural rock formations to form a barrier. There was a watch tower built on top of the camp, giving them extensive warning of anything that came their way. A skilled archer would be able to shoot down anything in the camp from this position.

As the camp approached, the intelligence reports he’d acquired about it started to flow through Richard’s mind. Camp Bloodstone was close to the fringe of the Bloodstained Lands, not far from the Sequoia Kingdom and the Blackwater Duchy. It was an important stronghold for both adventurers and caravans alike leaving from the human countries, but the permanent residents of the place only numbered about 2000 people at most. At the limit, there could be as much as five thousand people travelling in and out of the place, the limit of the eight underground springs that provided the place with water.

Of the eight springs in Camp Bloodstone, four were under the control of a half-orc tribe called the bloodstone orcs. The remaining were split between four weaker points of power with the Blood Scythe, Mark, being one of them.

The head of the bloodstone orcs was called Stormhammer, and he was the most powerful person in the camp. The level 14 warrior was a force to be reckoned with, be it in his own capacity or due to the hundred ferocious half-orcs he controlled. His was an imposing presence, giving him a lot of say in Camp Bloodstone. Even in a human kingdom the half-orc would easily have been knighted, so in a small territory like Camp Bloodstone his status was a given.

Mark the Blood Scythe, Chiron the Cyclops, Bowen the Lame, and Howie the Razor were the remaining four centres of power. Each of them had a hundred soldiers themselves for the most part, individually ranging from level 12 to 14. Howie was a level 14 warrior himself, but rumours were abound that he would never dare challenge Stormhammer.

Mark had now become Richard’s first target. He was a fierce and cruel man, a level 13 warrior who fought with two heavy, enchanted short-handle scythes. Outside of his innate strength he possessed no special abilities, making him an easy target for Richard. With his current army, he had many ways of dealing with this man who was only high in level.

As Richard was deep in thought, he subconsciously started wiping his spotless hands once more on horseback. He only stopped daydreaming when he caught a glimpse of Flowsand holding back her laughter. After a moment of embarrassment, he suddenly figured out why and calmly put the handkerchief away.

A few half-orcs stood guard at the camp’s gate, and the arrival of Richard’s army sent them into a small frenzy. After all, there were two conspicuous trolls and more than ten wind wolves amongst them, making for a formidable group. The most important thing was that Richard’s group was made of unfamiliar faces, and it didn’t look like a caravan. It was obvious from the formation that they weren’t ordinary adventurers either, so their experience and intuition told the soldiers that this was a sign of trouble.

“What are you here for?” the leader asked.

Olar passed over the blood scythe pass to the man, pointing at Richard as he spoke, “My master would like to obtain some good wares from the barbarian plains, and we’re here to try our luck. We’ve already paid the toll.” This was a script they’d agreed to earlier.

The half-orc leader looked at the pass, and then back at the crowd. He looked at Richard who had a cold, arrogant expression on his face, before letting out two breaths, “Mark, that son of a bitch! There’s no toll to enter Camp Bloodstone, and this pass is worthless without any benefits. That fellow is hated, I suggest you throw this pass in the trash. If you’ve already paid him, you’re of no use to him unless you’re willing to give him more.”

“Thank you, my friend,” Olar said sincerely, handing over a few coins.

The half-orc seemed to relax after taking the money, but he still spoke up, “Orcs and elves can never be friends, but I still wish you good luck. Go ahead!”

He then had the passage opened with a wave.

A pungent odour assaulted the party’s nostrils the moment they entered the camp. It was a mix of excrement, rotting food, trash, and the scent of slaves who had never showered. It stung hard, like a grade 6 acid fog. The party’s expressions warped in disgust for a while, the two trolls being the most affected. They loved food the most, and their noses were particularly sensitive.

There were buildings of varying heights all over the camp, their walls seemingly made of weathered red rock. It was obvious that not much thought had been given to the place’s construction, the infrastructure likely formed over a long period of disorderly growth and territorial war. However, it was still relatively easy to tell the distribution of power amongst the springs, with tall walls separating the streets from the buildings whenever one was nearby.

In the middle of the camp was a five-storey building that looked like a castle. Several sharp, wooden stakes extended into the sky from the walls, giving the structure a strong orcish flair. There were several flags flying from the castle, a background of dark red with a warhammer dripping blood on the front. This was the flag of the bloodstone orcs.

Outside of the castle, the other buildings in the camp had no style to speak of, especially so in the west which was home to a large ghetto. The ‘houses’ in the area were crudely built, the walls made of piled rocks and the roof’s materials indiscernible. They were so short any adult human would have to bend down to enter, and it was unlikely the buildings would even survive the entrance of someone like Gangdor or the trolls. The places was littered with garbage and stale water, so many flies buzzing around they were like black clouds hovering on top.

As Richard was passing by a small alley, he happened to witness a few shabbily dressed but fierce-looking men surrounding a sack on the floor. They were relentlessly punching and kicking the sack, and one of them was even attacking with a spiked wooden club. Every hit left a dark stain on the sack’s surface.

The sack twisted and turned, leaving an indistinct sound coming from within. It likely contained a human given the size, but the people surrounding it were unrelenting in their attacks, harbouring an intent to kill.

Richard stopped his horse, sweeping his gaze over the attackers as he frowned without saying a word. These people were just ordinary folk, but they were committing such violence in public without remorse that their insane thirst for blood made him feel a little uncomfortable. If this craziness was rampant throughout the Bloodstained Lands, he would have to adjust his conquest to accommodate. He would have to make the kind of adjustments Flowsand had in mind.

The men realised they were being watched, stopping to turn around and stare at Richard. They were skinny and dirty, with no physical strength to speak of, but their bloodshot eyes made them look very fierce. It was obvious that Richard’s party outnumbered them, and the two trolls looked formidable at first glance, but this did not deter them at all. One of them even raised his head and shot Richard a look of contempt, the provocation in it obvious.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA