As Summer passed into Fall, the three came near to finishing the cabin. The walls were up, the roof was almost complete. Trevan and Gimble would only see Yeark after the sun went down each day. And when they woke up each morning they would find that Yeark had cleaned the cabin and neatly organized their work areas, put their tools away and swept. On days when the weather kept them from working on the cabin, Trevan would work on building crossbows, like his father taught him. He found that Yeark quickly learned to help him with this work too and became quite proficient as a crossbow craftsman. Yeark made a small, kabold sized, crossbow for himself. Gimble didn’t like the idea of the Kabold being allowed to have any weapons, but Trevan seamed to trust him. The only real problem Trevan or Gimble ever had with Yeark was his annoying tendency to build traps everywhere. Some of them were useful, like the small traps he set that kept their cabin free from rats and insect traps that killed wasps, flies and spiders. But traps like the one Treven set off when he walked out through the door one day were a real pain. That one caused the shelf that held the pans to fall and created such a loud noise that Trevan thought he was going to have a heart attack. Trevan tried to get Yeark to stop making traps, but the best he could do was get a promise that the traps he made would cause no harm. Trevan eventually got better at spotting the traps, but Gimble really had a knack for finding and disarming them.
One evening, just after sundown, a marauding band of orcs was sneaking up behind the cabin when they stumbled upon one of Yeark’s warning traps. When they stepped on a concealed pressure plate a whistling thistle was shot into the air. The whistling thistle was a local plant that produced seed pods that make a loud whistling noise when thrown. This alerted the three in the cabin and startled the orcs. There were four of them and they stood about six feet tall. They walked hunched over and each carried a large war ax. They had dirty black hair and were very pig-like in appearance with low foreheads, and large canines protruding from their lower jaws. They were dressed in ragged leather armor and were moving very quietly before setting off the alarm. It took them a few seconds to realize what had happened. Once they regained their composure, they gave up any pretence of stealth, let out a loud war cry, and ran up the hill at full speed.
Inside the cabin, it took only a second for them to realize what had happened. Gimble quickly looked outside while Trevan and Yeark each grabbed up their crossbows and a handful of quivers. Gimble yelled “Orcs!,” dove for his carpet bag and pulled out three short swords. He tossed one to Trevan, hesitated a second, then tossed one to Yeark. “We might need these,” he said. Trevan and Yeark ran outside, around to the back of the cabin, and quickly fired at the approaching orcs. Gimble took a second to pull a chain shirt from the bag and slip it on.
The bolts from the two crossbows sang as they flew through the air at the same time and both hit the lead orc. He fell face forward and the other three continued up the hill without a pause. Trevan quickly loaded another bolt and fired while Yeark was still fumbling with his, trying to get his small bolt seated and the mechanism cocked. Trevan’s bolt landed where it was aimed, but the orc it hit never slowed down. Gimble ran around the side of the cabin wearing his chain shirt and swinging his sword. Yeark gave up on his crossbow, threw it down and picked up his sword. Trevan managed to fire once more, but in his haste, completely missed his target. He grabbed his sword just as the orcs were upon them. The orc in front reached Trevan first. Trevan felt the air fanned by the ax blade as it swished past his ear while he struck the orc with his sword. His orc screamed and grabbed his wounded side with one hand while preparing to strike again. The kabold took his short sword in both hands and charged the second orc. His sword pierced the orc’s armor and poked a hole in his stomach. This orc swung wildly at Yeark but only managed to hit the ground as he passed. Gimble ran to the third orc and was nearly knocked off of his feet when the orc’s ax glanced off his chain shirt with a shower of sparks. Gimble staggered and hit as hard as he could with his sword, but it only cut a new gash in his orc’s already badly cut-up leather armor. Yeark took another stab at his bleeding orc but was unable to connect while his orc, swinging his ax back-handed, hit the small kabold with the flat side of the ax which sent him flying through the air. He landed some distance away, unconscious. Trevan stabbed at his orc again but missed. His orc, while holding his wounded side with one hand, swang at Trevan. Trevan jumped back but the ax cut a long streak across his chest. Fortunately, the cut was only superficial. The orc that had dispatched Yeark, now turned on Trevan. He swang his ax and Trevan ducked at the last second, just avoiding loosing his head. Gimble hit his orc again and this time drew blood, but Gimble was hit by a solid ax blow. If he hadn’t been wearing his chain shirt this blow would have proven fatal to the gnome. It cut through the chain links and cut deeply into Gimble’s side. He fell and was wounded to badly to get up. This left Trevan alone facing three angry orcs. The orcs looked at each other and grunted something in their guttural language. They all laughed at what they thought was a good joke and turned to attack the lone human boy with their axes held high. Trevan took a couple of steps back and then stood firm, determined to die before he would run. Bracing for their attack, he noticed that the fourth orc had now recovered from the crossbow bolts enough to get to his feet and was coming to join in the fight.
Gimble was able to lift himself up enough to cast a spell on the weeds and vines that covered the ground just in front of the orc that was running up the hill. The orc failed to notice the vines rising up about two feet off the ground just in front of him and fell again as his feet became tangled in them.
Just then Trevan heard something behind him. Coming around the cabin was another large creature, yelling some sort of war cry and swinging a great sword. Trevan thought, “great, more orcs.” The orcs in front of him stopped and stared at the newcomer. This was no orc. This was a human, albeit a large one. He was dressed in animal hides and pushed Trevan aside as he rushed past and attacked all three orcs with a vengeance. With one great swing of his large sword he felled one orc and wounded another. Then he spun around and buried his sword into the third. As he pulled his sword from the body, the orc he had only wounded hit this stranger in his shoulder with his ax. His animal hide coat absorbed most of the ax blow. With a loud cry the human jumped into the air. With hilt in both hands, he came down sword first and sliced the third orc nearly in two. This wild man quickly jumped up with a fiery look in his eyes and a snarl on his lips and spun around looking for another foe, Ignoring Trevan and Gimble as if they weren’t there.
Trevan suddenly recognized this man as Ozur, the barbarian that had passed this way with a wagon full of children. In his current state he bore very little resemblance to the mild mannered man he had met then.
Ozur spotted the last orc, who had untangled his feet from the vines and was coming up the hill to join the fight. When he saw this wild man running towards him with his bloody sword and the dead orcs behind him, he turned and ran away as fast as he could. Ozur chased him to the bottom of the hill where he disappeared into the woods. With one last warning scream at the fleeing orc, Ozur turned and returned to the top of the hill.
Gimble managed to stand. Trevan picked up the still unconscious Yeark. The four of them went into the cabin and barred the newly finished door. Ozur sat on the floor and leaned back against the wall, exhausted. Trevan checked Yeark for wounds before tending to his own. Yeark would be out for a while. Trevan helped Gimble bandaged his wounds and offered to tend to Ozur’s shoulder. At first, Ozur wasn’t even aware that he had been wounded. He thanked Trevan, but said that he would take care of it himself. He took some herbs from his pouch, spit on them to make a paste and applied it to the cut on his shoulder.
Once they had recovered from the excitement and tended to their wounds, Trevan turned to Ozur and said “Boy am I glad that you came by when you did. You saved our lives! I’ve never seen anyone fight like that. I almost didn’t recognize you. How did you learn to fight like that?”
“No one taught me,” said Ozur. “Something just comes over me when I get mad and I go into an almost uncontrollable rage.” Looking over at Yeark, he continued, “Why are you saving the kobold?”
Trevan thought for a second, and said, “He is my servant. . . It’s a long storey.”
“Do you have a lot of orc raids here?”
“No. This is the first time they ever tried to attack us here,” said Trevan. “We have seen orcs in the woods, but they have always just been traveling through. We never had any problems with them before.”
Ozur said, “The folks down in Morningside said that orc raids were increasing down there. They say that they are moving up from the south for some reason.”
Ozur removed his leather over coat, his leather under coat and his two shirts. Then he tore off a strip of cloth from the bottom of his long shirt and tied it around his shoulder wound. “How are you going to kill a dragon when you can’t even handle a couple of orcs? Or have you taken my advice and given up on that idea?”
“I don’t know how,” said Trevan. “All I know is that someday I will kill that dragon that killed my parents.”
“You certainly have the courage,” sad Ozur. “I know very few men that would face off against three full grown orcs like you did.”
“Except for you!” said Gimble. “You just charged in and whipped them all! It was great!”
“I wouldn’t have,” said Ozur, “if I had thought about it. I just saw Trevan was in trouble and, well, you saw.”
Gimble said, “I’m with you, Ozur. I don’t even think that a dragon can be killed. I saw Abraxas shot with an arrow that would have killed a large bear and he didn’t even act like he noticed.”
“Oh, they can be killed all right,” said Ozur. “Where I come from we kill them all of the time. Of course, they are white dragons, which are small compared to red dragons.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large knife with a 6 inch dragon tooth handle. “This tooth is from one that I killed.”
Trevan’s eyes got big. He set up straight, inched closer to Ozur and asked, “You killed a dragon? How did you do it? Tell me about white dragons.”
“Well,” said Ozur, “like I said, white dragons are only about half the size of red dragons and they are not nearly as smart. They only live where it’s cold most of the time. They like ice and cold. As a mater of fact, their breath weapon isn’t fire, like the red dragon but a cone of cold that freezes everything it touches. You are right about a single arrow not being enough to bring down a dragon. That is why it is so hard to kill one while it is flying. But, if you can get it to land, sometimes you can hit it with enough swords, spears and the like to kill it. Sometimes we would find one in its lair, where it couldn’t fly, and kill it there. That’s how I killed this one,” holding up the dragon tooth. “But a red dragon is an entirely different matter. First of all, they are really big and really smart. Abraxas is probably the biggest and the smartest of all. He won’t just land and fight a fair fight. The next thing about red dragons is their magic. White dragons, if they are old enough, can do things like control the weather and create magical walls of ice, but red dragons can cast all kinds of magical spells.”
“What if we catch it in his lair so he can’t fly?” asked Trevan. “Like you said you did with the white dragon?”
“Well,” said Ozur, “you have to find it first. Like I said, white dragons aren’t all that smart and their ice caves aren’t that hard to find if you know what to look for.”
Trevan said, “I heard that Abraxas has his lair in a mountain under a volcano.”
Ozur said, “A dragon like Abraxas hasn’t lived as long as he has by making his lair easy to find. You can be sure he has it in a well hidden spot. He may have even used magic to hide the entrance. You might walk right by it and never see it. If you could find it, it may have other monsters guarding it and warning Abraxas of intruders, and he has probably placed traps to kill unwelcome guests. If you did manage to get past all of that there is one more thing have to remember about red dragons.”
“What’s that?” said Trevan and Gimble at the same time.
“He breaths fire.”
After a few minutes, Trevan asked, “What happened to all of those kids you were carting around?”
Ozur pulled out a large leather cloth and began to clean his sword. He said, “When I got them to Morningside I was almost arrested. They thought that I had stolen the children and was trying to sell them. They call my kind ‘barbarians’ and look down on us. If it wasn’t for Drizzle, you remember her?”
“Yes, I remember Drizzle,” Trevan said.
“I remember her too,” chimed in Gimble, “Cute kid.”
Ozur continued, “Well if Drizzle hadn’t told them what had happened I would have had to fight my way out of there. Some nice families took in all of the kids. Drizzle, against my advice, was adopted by a family of mages. They said that they would train her on the use of magic. They said that she had a knack for it. I’m still not sure if I did the right thing in leaving her with them. I don’t generally trust magic users.” As he said this he glared at Gimble. “I was on my way back north to my homeland. I was just stopping here to say hello when I heard the fight.”
Yeark regained consciousness the next morning. Everyone’s wounds healed quickly. Ozur stayed for a few days, just to make sure that more orcs didn’t show up. He gave Trevan and Gimble some tips on fighting with swords. After Ozur left, they practiced with their swords a little every day. They made themselves practice swords out of wood. They found that Yeark was quite good with a properly sized sword. He had been trained in sword play from a very young age. Yeark practiced with his crossbow. They all kept an eye out for orcs.