Book 2, Chapter 73

Ritual

Three days later, the addition of the scrolls to the rune clearly surprised Stormhammer. Flowsand repeatedly emphasized that the dignity of the God of Valour could not be violated, and any ordinary person activating these scrolls would pay a hefty price, but the stricter her warning the more determined the hot-blooded half-orc grew.

At the end, Stormhammer personally chose twenty of his warriors for Richard as final payment for the rune, and thanked him for the scrolls as well. This group made for almost a third of the young elites of Bloodstone, and were it not for the scrolls Richard would likely only have gotten a troop of old, weak, sick, and lame soldiers.

Of course, he would have to wait until Stormhammer killed the Fleeting Shadow for them to truly obey him.

Early the next day, Stormhammer left Camp Bloodstone under a starlit sky, walking alone on a path of revenge. Richard took control of the new warriors the moment he left, wiping out the remnants of Mark’s influence and taking control of the spring he used to own. With such a precedence and the alliance with Stormhammer, Howie, Chiron, and the rest maintained a silence that tacitly acknowledged the change in power.

He then began research on Red Cossack. It turned out that the Red Cossack wasn’t merely the name of a person, but of one of the largest trade groups in the Bloodstained Lands. Any group that could prosper in this chaos was actually more terrifying than the bandits and horse thieves, more fierce than the orcs, desert people, and barbarians. Without being more vicious than all these groups, they would not be able to survive in the Bloodstained Lands and expand their influence.

Red Cossack was one of the largest slave trade groups in the Bloodstained Lands, with a guard troop comparable to a standard army. With more than 5000 warriors the army was like that of a human earl’s, but with the constant fighting in the Bloodstained Lands the individual warriors far surpassed common soldiers. Besides, that wasn’t even their strongest combat force. That honour belonged to the slaving parties.

Most slaves shipped out of the Bloodstained Lands were powerful barbarians and desert dwellers who were good at battle, with the occasional orcs as well. The slavers worked all year round, and all of them were bloodthirsty hunters.

The vanguard he’d sent ahead had encountered a border guard of the Red Cossack. Of course, the title of border guard was just in name. Most of the time, they acted as horse thieves. The red-armoured knight leading them was actually quite infamous— the name of Red Hook and his cavalry was known to many people even outside the Bloodstained Lands.

A small flame shot forth from Richard’s palm, lighting the few pages of information he’d acquired on fire. He watched as they burnt to ash.

‘Red Cossack… Looks like a pretty good target, and I have a righteous reason too. You snatched a hundred horses, so I might as well wipe you out…’ Richard thought, as he casually summoned a gust of wind to blow the ashes out the window.

……

 

It took five days for Stormhammer to return. The half-orc’s skin had turned an abnormal green, and he had many more wrinkles on his face now. It seemed like he’d aged ten years in the mere five days, his three braids now far more grey than black. Although he stood with his head held high, one could see a faint hunch in his back and sense the added weight to his steps.

Despite all that, however, the aged half-orc had glistening eyes. The huge enchanted hammer that he’d named after himself was in his left hand, with a wolf head larger than a lion’s lifted up in his right. His leathern robes were torn everywhere, and many open wounds could be seen under the cloth padding.

Stormhammer stood at the gate of Bloodstone, holding the wolf head high as he screamed with all his might, “This is the Fleeting Shadow, the mighty beast that ate a dozen of our brave warriors. It’s head is now in my hands, can you see?!”

The warriors guarding the camp’s entrance howled one after the other, clashing weapons or hitting their chests with their fists. More and more of them gathered, and Stormhammer continued to hold the head up high. Every raise of his arm was met with loud cheering from the half-orcs, and the cheering grew even louder as it spread throughout Camp Bloodstone.

"They really are a group of heroic warriors. That Stormhammer isn’t bad either,” Richard praised sincerely from the top floor of their inn.

Flowsand spoke calmly from beside him, “Do you feel regret for letting him use my scrolls? If you have even the tiniest bit, do think of the origin of those materials he gave us.”

“No, this isn’t regret…” Richard’s gaze remained fixed on the half-orc as he went silent for a moment, “... I was just reminded of something. If I fight in interplanar wars for a long time, I don’t know if I will change; I don’t know what I will change into.”

“I will not let you lose direction as long as I am around,” Flowsand said confidently, a smile on her face.

“I’m not saying I’ll lose myself… Rather, I might grow cold and blood-thirsty,” Richard explained.

"That, isn't it inevitable?" Flowsand looked at Richard innocently. Of course, her bottom was pinched heavily in return.

Stormhammer sent someone to invite Richard and his men to their tribal celebration soon after he returned to Camp Bloodstone. And before this banquet, he specifically invited Richard to their sacrificial ritual.

The altar of the bloodstone orcs was buried deep underground in their castle, centred around the statue of a strong orc warrior. This seemed to be the strongest fighter in their history, Bloodstone himself. Once he broke through to the ranks of saint warriors, the entire tribe was named after him. 

There were several other statues as well, smaller but about the same size as ordinary orcs, that surrounded the altar. These were great warriors in the history of the tribe, those like Bloodstone who’d also become saint warriors themselves. Stormhammer originally had a glimmer of hope to have his statue join these ranks, but his vengeance against the Fleeting Shadow and his desire for the tribe’s survival had led him to use Flowsand’s scrolls. This had completely ruined his hopes of advancing.

Richard was the only outsider in the underground ritual hall, the rest being the strongest warriors and smartest elders of Bloodstone, making for a dozen-odd orcs in total. Stormhammer began by singing a sorrowful and vigorous warsong, placing the head of the Fleeting Shadow on the altar.

All the orcs sang in resonance, surrounding the altar as they started a powerful ancient war dance. The steps were clumsy yet powerful, the voices hoarse yet majestic. Richard’s heart began to throb to the strong beat, and he gradually seemed to fuse into the ancient and mysterious atmosphere in the hall.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Mel

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA