(Woe Begotten Wine and Gross Grog)
Blothe had just about taken all he could take. It had been months of waiting and worrying The trulls seemed determined to wait as long as it would take and longer. They had brought no siege engines with them and seemed content to make do with pillaging the countryside, reveling in gluttony and general mischief.
For a while, at the outset of the siege, Blothe’s mercenaries had begun leaving by what they believed to be secure and covert routes. Suddenly the trulls built catapults and trebuchets and began lobbing the bodies of these unfortunate defectors (what was left of them) back over the walls into the courtyard. The message was clear. No one was getting out alive. Eventually the mercenaries stopped trying to escape and resigned themselves to being in it for the long haul.
One day the full effect of his fate slammed home to Blothe when he was told that their stores were diminishing appreciably and he would no longer be enjoying the salted kippers and jams he’d become used to. Pies and cakes were advised against as the flour would best be reserved for bread and lefse, a staple flatbread. Blothe ordered that only enough of such pastries be prepared for him alone. Several types of his favorite wines were also in rare supply. He commandeered the keys to the larder and wine cellar and put his subjects on strict rations. He knew how to take charge, yes indeed. Was it any wonder he was King? He and only he, would dine and drink at his leisure.
The man clearly did not know the meaning of shame.
Grimmley and other of the king’s advisors who’d gotten fat and used to the luxuries that Blothe now hoarded to himself, were on the verge of mutiny and there was talk of assassination until word reached the ear of Lord Half Carrigan. Carrigan being a soldier cut from the old cloth would die for his king if it came to that. He’d sworn an oath and his honor was far more precious than his life. After interrupting an assassination plot he hung the four suspects, all inside advisors to the king, from the wall by their feet as the trulls shouted encouragement. When all had confessed, he cut them loose to drop one hundred feet to their deaths in the waiting arms of the trulls. Grimmley was the only advisor now left and that only because Carrigan could get no concrete evidence against him. Given the chance however, Grimmley would gladly sell the king to the trulls for safe passage out.
Today Blothe was fuming. “Why have none of the surrounding tribes and villages come to our aid? You can’t tell me no one knows what is going on here. When this is over, I’m going to tax them for all they’re worth, you just see if I don’t.”
Lord Carrigan rolled his eyes. “Sire, the lion’s share of the outlying communities are farmers and herders and I dare say they’ve been hit the hardest by these invaders. We haven’t seen the likes of the warrior chieftains like Guntar Bloodaxe and Rollo the Hammer for years now. The Verdistor tribe, Vorm and his lot, might not even know what’s going on. They’re a ways off. Juliex and his Drakedahlers may eventually show, but I wouldn’t count on it. I might remind you that we have had very little truck with the other warrior races like the Svartalfar and the Dwarves. Your forebears did nothing when the Dwarves were invaded by the goblins. And speaking of which, it was reported to me this morning that there are goblins at the north wall. I’ve just returned from confirming the news. They are lined up some ways off, just standing there. I was just able to make them out through my spyglass. They’re goblins alright. What they’re waiting for is anybody’s guess. They’ve a much better chance of climbing the walls than the trulls.”
Blothe sputtered and waved his flabby arms, pacing to and fro.“Oh for the love of Idun! Is there nothing you can do? Nothing at all? Monsters all about and nothing is being done. What am I paying you for, anyway?”
Carrigan whirled on his king regaining his composure at the very last moment. “Sire, I might point out to you that I have not been paid in months. The soldiers who remain are here out of loyalty to you or because they have little choice. Regardless, we may have to wind up fighting our way out. I dare say we have months of stores left, maybe years the way we’ve been rationed lately and you’ll likely outlast the halest of us by months after that. On that day, however, we will probably trade a death of fighting and dying sword in hand for the inglorious fate of withering into starvation. We are truly at the mercy of whatever fate the Norns have in store and complaining about it is not going to aid the situation.” The Captain turned on his heel and strode briskly from the chamber leaving his jelly-bellied monarch slack-jawed and finally realizing the gravity of his circumstances. There was more at risk now than just having to do without some creature comforts. He, the king himself, might very well perish, and horribly at that. He retrieved the keys to the wine cellar from their hiding place and shuffled off to the only escape he could hope for; the sultry, sanguine embrace of wine’s stupefaction and slumber.
Ooga was now acting captain of the trull army and was currently with the faction at the south gate of Krawnholde. He was thinking back to the day the men in Krawnholde sacrificed four of their own and the excitement it caused amongst the trull horde. There had been some debate among Ooga and his fellows as to what might have caused the men to do such a thing and it was generally agreed that the men were sacrificed to the trulls in an effort to placate them. Never did the trulls guess that it was the price they paid for treachery. Whatever the cause, Ooga and his trulls were wishing that something similar would take place now to break up the monotony of this day to day waiting game.
Someone had taken to staging night raids on the edge of the trull camp, firing arrows into the camp from the cover of darkness. Ooga had sent out scouting parties twice to find and punish whoever it was but neither of the parties were ever heard from again. Daytime missions turned up nothing and the only footprints in evidence were that of the trulls themselves. To date, twenty seven trulls had died of their injuries either outright or from subsequent infections and another thirty were being treated for wounds.
Just today three of the perimeter guards failed to report in for shift change and their bodies or more correctly, remains, had been brought to his tent. The portions of their carcasses that weren’t outright dissolved were shriveled like a raisin.
Ooga had himself led parties to scour the outlying farms convinced that they had missed a population of farmers, herdsmen or trappers, but turned up nothing for their efforts and had, in fact, lost a few soldiers in the process. Upon returning to camp there would always be some turmoil such as tents catching fire mysteriously and Ooga had each time had the occupants of the tents flogged for drunkenness and/or carelessness.
This night Ooga and the captains Biter Grizzlemoosh and Iggum Hockflem were reconnoitering and sharing a tent and cask of mead. “Damned if I can figure out how to whip these carless scum into line. I’ve been limiting the grog for my boys an’ it still don’t seem t’ matter. Had three fires last night alone.” Biter leaned over and barked a fart that cleared the tent.
“Crikey!” exclaimed Iggum. “I ain’t a softy by any means but that was disgustin’. What’s got into you, lad?”
“Been feelin’ kida punk for the past week or so.” Said Biter.
“Yeah, well get that smelly arse outa here.” Said Ooga. “I gotta sleep in this tent tonight, ya stinker.” Ooga chased Biter off and, holding his breath, went back into the tent to retrieve the cask. He joined Iggum by the fire and poured another tankard of mead. Sitting he said, “I can’t help thinkin’ that this kinda stuff wouldn’t be happenin’ if Igar was here. I can’t believe he just up ‘n’ took off like that. Can’t help wonderin’ if he ran afoul o’ whatever’s pickin’ off our boys.” He took a long pull on his draught and looked suspiciously into his mug, looked up at Iggum and said, “Gaw! I’d swear that fart worked its way into me grog.”
Book 3 of The Bloodaxe Saga.