Secrets of a Dark Fortress

By Ryan Torbert

Approx. 9,770 E.R.


Raug hefted the immense chamber pot of his master. He took a moment to steady the cumbersome receptacle so that he didn't tip it and spill the contents all over his robes. With his nose wrinkled in disgust, the aging half-orc turned his head to the side and carried the pot from the elaborate bedchamber of the great general and his master, Malekk Jorung.

For one of part orc heritage, Raug didn't display any of the physical strengths that characterized his ancestry. His arms were slim and straight, though his hands were calloused from years of hard work. His chest was hollow and his midsection gaunt, as he had never been able to put on enough weight to show otherwise. The lack of proper nourishment in his citadel home didn't help the situation, of course. The diet of the vast city-fortress of Stor-gris seemed to be raw meat, vermin, and grog. To top it all off, Raug was short for a half-orc, barely topping five and a half feet tall.

Raug's hair hung in strands to just beneath his chin and served to cover what would be called an average face by any race's standards. His jaw was thick and square, and his nose wide and bulbous. Both features were shadowed by a wide and protruding brow, a brow which cast shadows over his tanned face when the sun was high overhead. Being the "runt" in a physically dominated fortress like Stor-gris would have spelled doom for nearly anyone, but Raug had proven early in his employment that he had other talents that more than made up for his lack of stature. In fact, Raug remembered a time when being the runt might have actually saved his life.

As was his habit, Raug thought back to those days of his youth as he carried his vile burden through the stone halls of the main tower.

It was nightmarish for anyone in the small community called Darmusk that day. Without any warning, dark-skinned orcs in heavy armor swept through the huts like the unstoppable tide. The dark folk pillaged, plundered, raped, and murdered as the tribesmen fled in fear. No reason was given for the attack, but such was the way of life under the heavy boot of Stor-gris. Unfortunately for many, reason didn't rule in the spreading empire of the powerful general Karoxfang. The orcs took what they wanted and burned most of the huts to the ground.

It was naught but luck that kept a young child from being discovered that night and for days thereafter. The child's mother, a middle-aged human woman, lay in one of the remaining huts, her eyes frozen in terror. The woman's last coherent action had been to cover her sleeping child in straw. That was only moments before the orc had broken through the shabby front door and thrust through her breast with a wickedly curved blade. After a quick glance around the hut, the orc saw nothing of worth and left through the very same door. Only luck can be blamed for the orc's failure to set fire to the ramshackle dwelling in which a young Raug hid.

The boy's fear while he hid in the hut tempered Raug's actions for years to come. In truth, the half-orc had never recovered from that terrible night and, to this day, Raug found himself constantly doubting and second-guessing his actions out of fear of failure.

The child, even with half-orc ancestry, knew his life was forfeit if the vile monsters found him. So he hid for several days, drinking what rainwater he could collect from the holes in the roof and eating the remainder of a stale loaf of bread that his mother had traded for the day of the raid. Though used to living in poverty, the boy grew even sicklier from the lack of nourishment. Out of a necessity to calm his aching, malnourished belly, the youth ventured forth from his hiding and left the hut.

The young boy searched among the burned out ruins of the community, seeking any signs of life. He found it soon enough, though it was of a peculiar kind: elves. A wandering party of Elhil from the Sarumvest spotted the boy and set to caring for him, as they thought that he was a human child. Had Raug not been so emaciated and small, the elves may have seen him for the half-breed spawn of a violent rape and killed him outright.

Once they learned of Raug's true nature, however, their disgust swiftly turned to hope, and their plans began to take shape....

Clang! "Damnit!"

Raug cursed at his own absent-mindedness, as he walked into a doorjamb, and the contents of the chamber pot roiled about, sloshing out small droplets onto his worn, brown robe.

Turning his head in disgust once again, Raug chided himself for a fool. For decades he had learned to control his thoughts and emotions, and how to turn such thoughts into power. However, he still had the habit of letting his powerful mind wander.

Exiting through the worn, wooden door that marked the slaves' entrance to the fortress of Stor-gris, Raug carefully maneuvered the pot. The warm air hit him as he exited the keep, though the smell was not much better than that of the load he carried. The air of the huge military keep of Stor-gris carried the fetid stench of death. The acrid smell of smoke mingled with scents of rotting flesh and feces, to make a new pall that hung over the massive, military city, a pall that was Stor-gris' own.

The dark folk inhabitants seemed to care little, or maybe they didn't even notice. Kobold and goblin slaves carried out the wishes of the orcs and hobgoblins, scurrying about the city with purpose.

In the fortress, where Raug spent nearly all of his days, the smaller dark folk were often killed for the mere enjoyment or sport of the larger races. Outside of the fortress's thick walls, however, kobolds and goblins outnumbered the larger races more than ten to one. Thus, the area outside of the great citadel afforded the smaller races protection in numbers, but this safety came with widespread poverty as the bulk of food was kept inside the fortress walls.

The city remained segregated, as much for the desires of the orcs and hobgoblins as for the safety of the goblins and kobolds. While Karoxfang didn't necessarily care for the survival of the lesser species, he understood the value of their numbers in a battle.

To the dismay of those thousands of men and women that had gone up against the war machine of Stor-gris, these little dark folk races had taken to a foot-soldier position in the vast armies. Typically used as fodder, they nonetheless were effective in wearing down an opponent's defenses so that the more powerful orcs, hobgoblins, and others could overwhelm their enemies. In the past, kobolds and goblins had even been used to slow an approaching cavalry so that archers could let loose one more volley, or pike men could set their stances.

Raug dumped the chamber pot into the deep cesspool that served as the fortress's toilet and looked to the sky. The sun was just dawning in the western sky, and its rays filtered through the dark pall of the city to shine on the half-orc's face. Raug took a moment to close his eyes and enjoy the warmth of the life-giving orb on his face.

The half-breed had learned to enjoy and respect the sun while living with the elves of Alustel. Though stern and proud, the elves revered nature, and the sun was seen as a giver and sustainer of life. The Elhil enjoyed many simple pleasures, like the warmth of the direct sun on one's face, or the way green grass pushed up between their toes. Such was the life of the elves when they weren't faced with war with the vast forces of the Dweller. It was a life that they'd taught to Raug, and one that he'd come to love.

Looking down to his own toes, shod in brown sandals, Raug merely sighed, for the bloodstained cobblestones of Stor-gris would never bring him the same feeling of joy.

The day progressed much like any other in the dark confines of the gray-stone fortress of Stor-gris. Raug, of course, spent a great deal of the morning listening to the bloviations and declarations of his master, the General Malekk Jorung. He could barely contain his contempt for the general's arrogance. Though the hobgoblin was fairly high in the power hierarchy of Stor-gris, Jorung hungered for more and thought that he was more than deserving of such. He plotted against nearly everyone in the fortress and, while that was actually common practice in Stor-gris, it could prove deadly should the wrong person find out.

"Damnit boy! Are you listenin'?"

A stale roll thunked off of Raug's chest, obviously thrown by the general to get his attention. By the glare in Jorung's eyes, Raug assumed that it wasn't the first time he'd asked.

The general shifted in his chair, and the old wood groaned in protest. The great hobgoblin dwarfed both the chair that he sat in and the table on which his elbows rested. His arm and leg muscles bulged to nearly impossible proportions underneath the long brown tunic that he wore. The tunic was dirty and torn, having been worn under the general's armor for quite some time. The lengthy garment was cinched at the waist by a plain belt, and an ample belly hung over it, showing that the hobgoblin had no lack of food to complain of. His visage was one that was used to showing anger, and it was no different now as he was enraged at being ignored. Jorung's bloodstained eyes nearly matched the magenta color of his skin as he glared at his servant.

"No... I mean, of course I was, great one. I was merely reflecting on your victories, great general. Your accomplishments are vast; it merely makes one such as I wonder how you are not in charge of this great fortress."

Raug's Dark Speech was perfect, even though it had been taught to him by an elf.

General Malekk Jorung grunted in response and scooped up another huge mouthful of whatever meat stew the kitchens had prepared today. After slurping down the contents, Jorung waggled the spoon at Raug much as a mother would have shaken her thumb at an insolent young boy.

"Yer lucky yer with me, smartsy-fartsy. You'd be killed by anyone else for such ignorance."

The general issued the claim matter-of-factly, as if only stating the obvious. In a way, he was. He scooped up the remainder of the meal into his wide maw and gulped down the contents of an earthenware mug, probably filled with blood grog.

As Raug stood, he held a scroll and a sharpened charcoal pencil, ready to write or sketch as his master ordered. Inter-fortress missives in Stor-gris were typically in charcoal as ink was a commodity item that none saw as necessity. Over his years in Stor-gris, Raug had discovered how to rub out and to perfectly rewrite such messages to say whatever he wanted. The half-orc said a silent thanks to the arrogance of General Karoxfang, for the half-fiend's confidence in his own power allowed the easily "adjusted" charcoal to be used. Even though that was the case, Raug still had seen more than one scroll that had come from outside the city walls that had been penned in a deep and dark ink. These, he guessed, were charges that came directly from the voice of Karoxfang's piety, the Dweller in the Vale.

Malekk Jorung sat back, and his chair groaned again. Immediately, a goblin slave scurried off with the General's used dishes, without uttering a word. With a cunning grin, Jorung looked to Raug.

"Yer to come with me to the council this day, boy. We've got a new player here in the fortress, an' he's a stinkin' orc!"

The general nearly spit out the word as if it were venom. He seemed not to care in the least if he'd insulted his servant by speaking ill of his heritage, or at least half of it. The general slammed his meaty fist on the table in anger.

"General Kahn Bozzunak. The fool brings a man with him to every council-a damned human! The affront, it's beyond imagination! Were I Karoxfang, I'd gut the spineless dog where he stood!"

There it was, Raug thought, the insult to the other side of his heritage. The half-orc maintained his composure, having practiced for just such occurrences.

Though unflappable in the face of Jorung, Raug wasn't always so calm with the other generals and those of power in Stor-gris. The half-fiend Karoxfang still managed to freeze the blood in Raug's veins with his piercing gaze. The training of the elves, though extensive, had not taught him how to respond when confronted with a creature of such power.

In this case, Raug's heart skipped slightly at the mention of the council. He involuntarily gulped back his nerves as he thought of the intense scrutiny that he would bear from Jorung's peers.

With a grunt and another shake of his bestial head, Jorung stood and stalked away from the small wooden table, presumably to don the ceremonial (though dented and worn) armor that he wore throughout the day.

As the general stalked away, Raug's thoughts guided him in a different direction. Possibilities raced through his head in a jumble. "Could this be what we were waiting for?" "Are we on the path to bringing down this vile empire?"

Though he tried to be optimistic, Raug couldn't help but think of every little detail. "Or.... is this a trap?"

Shaking his head to banish the thoughts, Raug proceeded to write the short messages that needed to be sent out on a daily basis, even when the great General didn't remember. Quite often that was the case.

As General Jorung dressed himself for the day's agenda, one thought still lingered in his servant's head. The thought served to twist Raug's insides as he considered the implications. "What if they've found out?"

Raug's worries seemed to be unfounded though, for if they wish to ambush and kill the spy, they probably wouldn't have forced him to sit through what was perhaps the most dull and boring meeting he'd ever witnessed.

He had only been introduced upon his entrance to the great, wide hall of council, as "Great General Jorung...and assistant." Some had noticed his appearance, however, and they were enough to cause Raug to try and keep his back to an available exit. His place behind General Jorung was ideal, as the exit from the chamber was located directly at his back. Though Raug doubted that he could possibly escape such powerful figures as those that sat in the council, having his back to the opening did serve to ease the knots in his belly.

General Jorung was seated in front of Raug, his back to his servant. Beside the general, several other decorated and accomplished generals sat in attendance, forming a rough semi-circle about a center seat. Some were of orc heritage, and some of hobgoblin, but all were dwarfed by the girth of Jorung.

Raug could tell even during such routine discussions as obtaining food and training secondary troops that Jorung was held in high regard among the gathered dark folk. The huge hobgoblin was consulted nearly as much as the great beast that sat upon the throne in the center of the semi-circle.

Atop that stone seat was Karoxfang the Vile, once the great General of the forces of Rothnog in direct service to the Dweller in the Vale, now ruler of the entire realm of Stor-gris. The creature was part orc and part fiend, his orc mother having been raped by a demon of some power. It was an odd combination, Raug thought, with the stocky musculature of an orc, combined with the elongated limbs of a fiend. Instead of the thick, stony fingers of his lesser race, Karoxfang's long fingers ended in hardened claws, claws that had been known to tear off the skin of more than one of the general's enemies.

The general's bronze, chain armor hung over a thickly muscled frame of mottled green skin. The polished armor shined as it reflected the light of various ensconced torches about the chamber. Karoxfang's fabled falchion rested in its scabbard against the foot of his throne. Though the half-fiend had considerable natural weapons of which to boast, the sword still never strayed far from his side.

The light, slanted eyes of Karoxfang pierced through whoever had the unfortunate task of speaking at that particular point in time. It was sometimes whispered that the half-fiend's eyes could indeed read the thoughts and feelings of those meeting his gaze.

Raug gulped and idly fingered the narrow, wooden band that he wore on one of his fingers. His Elhil teachers had instructed him in its use and assured him that it would shield his thoughts, but still Raug felt like the entirety of his mind was laid bare before the power that emanated from Karoxfang.

Thankfully the general's attention and that of the rest of the assembly wasn't directed at Raug but at a tall orc that now stood to address his peers. Raug nodded slightly at his master's gesture as Jorung turned and gestured to the orc, identifying him as Jorung's new competition, General Kahn Bozzurak.

Raug listened briefly to the man's speech, a simple accounting of his force's movements through the Hinterlands. The orc had the annoying habit of listing every little detail as if it was some grand accomplishment, and he was somewhat long-winded.

Keeping his ears tuned in to the orc's voice, Raug's gaze was drawn to the dark visage of the human that sat behind general Bozzurak. It was very odd that the hobgoblin would have a human for an advisor, as that race had just begun its long crawl of of barbaracy. Raug started slightly, as he found that the orc general's human advisor was staring directly back at him!

The human wore his jet-black hair back from his face, tied with a leather thong. The man's eyes were dark to match, and they shone like obsidian. He wore a simple, if voluminous, black robe, its deep hood drawn down and hanging from his back.

Catching Raug's gaze, the man gave a slight smirk and turned back to listen to General Bozzurak. Raug noted the man's brief look of loathing as he gazed upon the general. He chuckled to himself, for he knew that such a look could get one killed if the wrong people were to see it.

After the generals had all issued their reports and had been given further assignments, the attendants rose to leave. One by one, the generals and their respective assistants filed out, as Karoxfang rose to his feet.

Just as Raug turned to follow General Jorung from the chamber, a voice boomed from behind him.

"General Jorung, a word."

Raug froze in his tracks as the nightmarish voice called out to his master. When in the chamber with so many others, the voice hadn't intimidated him so much. Now, as it was turned in his direction, Raug visibly trembled at the deep and raspy call.

General Jorung, on the other hand, grinned to himself as he stopped in his tracks. Raug nearly stumbled into the massive hobgoblin but was quick enough to step to the side as his master turned. The general's grin was aimed at General Bozzurak, who was directly behind them. The orc general offered a sneer as he stepped quickly past the hobgoblin general, followed closely by his human assistant.

With a final glance at the pair, Raug once again locked eyes with the human and started as the man once again smirked. Shaking his head, Raug followed the two outside and set his back to the stone wall to await his master.

A few moments passed, with Raug's nerves on edge. A tumult of emotions passed through his mind as he waited, considering whether Karoxfang had seen his thoughts and was ordering his death or if perhaps something even more nefarious was being plotted to deal with the spy.

Raug considered, as he often had, why the powerful elves of the Sarumvest had chosen him to act as their spy. He was just a lowly and fearful half-breed. All of the training they had given him and their love and friendship were all painfully clear in Raug's memory as he continued to doubt himself. He feared not only for himself but also for those loved ones that he had left behind. For, should the Elves' work in Stor-gris fail, nothing would stop the great armies of Stor-gris from raining destruction on the demi-human kingdoms.

Finding out whether or not his fears were founded would have to wait until later, as Jorung stalked out of the chamber and motioned for Raug to follow. The general strode past quickly, a knowing smile on his face.

The hobgoblin general paced across the expansive common room of his bedchamber, his moving bulk making it suddenly seem...not quite so expansive. Raug watched in interest, thinking of how this newest revelation could affect his work here in the great fortress.

Karoxfang the Vile, it seemed, had heard of Raug's aptitude for the arcane and had taken interest. It looked as if the half-fiend had an important project that he wanted General Jorung and his assistant to work on.

"Karoxfang believes that this'll lead to the conquest of all the Hinterlands!"

The general clenched his fist and shook it in front of his face, as if he were squeezing the life out of the continent himself.

"Our new troops'll dig the damned dwarf-rats outta' their homes and burn the paleskin fairies in their forests! There'll be no stoppin' our army, and General Jorung will be responsible for its development!"

The general continued to pace, obviously quite taken with excitement. He stopped and pointed to Raug.

"You just be ready, cuz we start tomorrow. Let the kobolds know what you'll need, and they'll have it here in the morning."

His last command issued, the general stalked off from the room, undoubtedly to join his fellows in the common area for grog and a whore, or even a torture show. Raug's grimace showed his distaste for what passed for entertainment in the orc fortress; it had taken him several months to find excuses to stray from evenings in which he attended General Jorung at such shows. Now, thankfully, the general didn't even ask, perhaps forgetting that Raug had once been forced to join him.

As the massive hobgoblin's footfalls ceased to echo back to the bedchamber, Raug sighed and glanced about the room. He would have to scrawl a list of components that would be needed for the next day and have one of the servants rush about to obtain the items. Raug was to assist in showing these new "troops" the effects of magic and how best to fight against it. At much the same time, General Jorung would be instructing them in the more mundane parts of warfare.

The half-orc was at a loss for how to proceed. He, of course, didn't want to teach the troops too well, as they could be fighting against those very people that Raug was trying to protect. On the other hand, if he could teach them to the General's and, more importantly, Karoxfang's liking, then he could work himself into a position of more influence.

Raug weighed his next action as he left the bedchamber and started down the corridor. The half-orc's soft boots padded lightly on the stone floor as he followed the winding corridor around to the exit from the Generals' Hall.

Though only a few hours had been spent in the council meeting, the sun had already descended from the sky. The dark folk inhabitants of Stor-gris came to life late in the day and scurried about well into the night. Those who slept during the light of day squirmed from their dwellings and set to their tasks, tasks that were always present and necessary to run the military might of the dark stronghold.

Raug had never found it easy to adjust to the change in routine; the elves of the Sarumvest never slept, they only rested, and they enjoyed all phases of the sky, both day and night. He hadn't their strange and magical abilites, and thus had learned to sleep during the night and be active during the day. Now that Raug had to stay up well into the night, he found himself sleeping less and less and spending half of the dark night stifling a seemingly ever-present yawn.

Raug nodded silently to an orc guard as he passed through the huge archway that marked the transition from the Generals' Hall to the Common Barracks. The heavy wooden doors gaped open as they had for most of the time that Raug had lived in the fortress. The doors' closing would be seen as a sign of fear among the soldiers of the keep. The fact that they kept them open served to show that the generals held no fear of the vast numbers of common soldiers in the barracks. This was another of the rules that Karoxfang had made sure to keep, and throughout many generations of orc soldiers none had ever passed through the archway unbidden.

Padding silently through, Raug pulled his cowl up high, and his face was wreathed in shadow. Huddling low in his robes, the half-orc passed through the wide main hall in silence. The stench of smoke and the smell of stale grog assailed his nostrils as he continued past the vast halls and chambers that housed the main army of Stor-gris.

The roar of the main barracks more than covered Raug's footsteps. The orcs and hobgoblins of the great fortress had just begun their typical night's drinking, gambling, and eventually, fighting. Such disputes were known to erupt over practically anything and, though the captains and guards were usually fast to intervene, it wasn't uncommon for a few murders to be committed before the night was through.

Avoiding the stares and curses of the common soldiers, Raug walked out of the main corridor of the fortress and exited through the succession of main gates that separated the defensible baileys from the open areas. Murder holes for archers and crossbowmen, should they ever need to defend the fortress, extended far to each side in the open areas. The gates beyond were thick iron and would be only the first layer of defense for the massive construct.

Indeed, Raug thought as he passed through the main gates, he didn't envy whoever had the task of laying siege to the fortress of Stor-gris.

The cover of darkness had just fallen upon the dark city, and the lights of a thousand torches and fires had sprung up about the city proper.

The mighty towers that dominated the skyline of the area about Stor-gris were oriented near the middle of the city-stronghold. On either side of the towers were homes and hovels, in which kobolds, goblins, and orcs lived. Though they were mostly segregated by choice, the dark folk seemed to incessantly bicker and quibble between races, and fights in the common areas were a nightly occurrence.

To the east of the towers, beyond the common district and even the strong walls themselves, a sheer cliff dropped hundreds of feet down to the waters of Goblin Bay. To the west of the towers, beyond more homes and the main walls of the fortress, stretched a plain that flowed to the north. The plain was the main means of travel into and out of the city, as the wide, packed earth road could attest to.

Raug slipped out of the main tower and turned towards the bay and the sea beyond. He stalked across the open expanse of ground between the towers and the common district with purpose in his stride, hoping that none would question a high-level servant apparently out on duty for his master.

Passing through a dark alley between poorly made wooden structures; Raug stepped out into a main thoroughfare and crossed to the next alley. Even given his employ by General Jorung, Raug still risked much being in such an area unescorted at the onset of night.

The half-orc had a talent for passing without making a stir, however, and very few, if any, made note of his passing. Raug kept to the shadows when able and walked with his cowl low to hide his tanned but light skin.

Noting familiar terrain, Raug dashed off into a side alleyway and came to a set of wooden stairs set back into a cubby. The stoop led to a planked wooden door, upon which Raug knocked as he hopped up the stairs.

The door was poorly fit in the opening, and light shone around its reveal. Raug could see shadows flickering through the light as someone moved behind the door. Suddenly the hair on the half-orc's body tingled slightly, as he felt an arcane spell being used, probably a scrying spell to identify him. He chose not to resist it.

After only a few seconds, a slide was pulled and a pair of light, green eyes stared out from the other side of the door. A muffled voice followed.

"You've a missive for us?"

Raug nodded in reply and uttered the string of words, the code that would get him through the door.

"The general has a task, and he desires full anonymity."

With a thunk the slide closed and the bolt in the door was thrown back. A turn of the knob gave Raug entry, and he glided inside, closing and locking the door behind him. Blinking his eyes to adjust to the light of the room, Raug turned and grinned at the elven figure in the room.

"Venedal, by the mist of the glades, it's good to see you!"

The two clasped hands and Venedal grinned in return. The male elf was tall and lithe, as were most of his people. His body was toned and fit, mostly because of a life of battle and training. Venedal's copper hair was close-cropped, a fact that served to set him apart from many of the longhaired elves of the Sarumvest. His green eyes served to disorient any who looked into their depths, a fact that he seemed to use to his advantage against any prey, be it an enemy on the field of battle or a maiden in a moonlit glade.

Venedal was armed and armored simply, with a thin sword, almost thin enough to be a dueling foil, and a longbow with arrows. His robes bulged slightly at the shoulders, knees, and chest, probably with armor of some sort. The elf's dirty black robes no doubt had served him well to get into the city, as they resembled the simple garments that the servants were given to wear.

Raug looked at the rag-tag robes and smiled.

"Had you any trouble getting into the city?"

Venedal grinned in reply, and his green eyes sparkled with mischief.

"None at all; one simple cantrip and these buffoons think me to be the fellow that they were drinking with just last night. It seems as if they have no aptitude for our arts, or perhaps they're merely stupid."

Raug nodded to accept the point, then shook his head.

"You're right on that, but still be wary. The commoners in Stor-gris are indeed fools. The dark ones that inhabit the towers, well, I'm afraid they're much more intelligent than we expected."

Raug stepped further into the tiny room and looked about. A small bedroll was unfurled in one corner, and a simple desk with a lantern was the only other piece of furniture that adorned the room. Raug smile wryly.

"I see that you've taken only the best accommodations, as usual."

Venedal shrugged and grinned at the man's obvious sarcasm.

"My stay is only for this night, my friend. I'm to bring you this, and then to return to our people."

Raug beamed at the mention of their people, his breath taken away yet again at the kindness and acceptance that had been offered to him by the elves. He watched as Venedal reached into his voluminous robes and extracted a scroll in a glass tube. The elf handed it over with a nod, and Raug tucked it away in his own robe, barely giving it a second glance. Venedal motioned at the hidden scroll.

"I'm sure that you can guess at how many of our people suffered to make this document. We've spent a human lifetime of espionage and scrying to learn the many intricacies of the missives penned by the Dweller in the Vale. Now, at long last, we've made a forgery of their enigmatic leader's documents."

"This document, a message for Karoxfang, was penned by our very finest sages, elves who have devoted almost a century to learning the Dweller's hand. The sages have testified to its veracity, and it has passed trial deliveries through several dark folk outposts."

"This forgery will spur Karoxfang into motion and lead him to where we need him to be. You are to plant this where it will reach the general by accepted means, in a fortnight's time."

The elf's eyes sparkled slightly as if he felt the excitement of their plans coming to fruition.

"We will be ready."

Raug's amazement was evident on his face. That the Elves had planned such a thing to happen during his lifetime was incredible, indeed. The scroll weighed heavily on his person, perhaps due to its importance more than its actual weight. With it, Raug's doubt returned in full force, and he thought about the immense amount of trust that the elves had placed in him.

Grimly, Raug nodded his understanding, and the two brothers in purpose clasped wrists.

"It will be done, brother. Until I see you again, may Tal-Allustiel guide your steps."

Venedal repeated the saying and turned to guide Raug out of the door. Without another word, the half-orc pulled his cowl up and over once again and stepped out into the dark alleyway of the common district of Stor-gris. With a quick look in both directions, he started off, heading back towards the main tower of the massive fortress. He stifled a yawn as he considered what he still must do that night, for he had no idea what the "conventional" means were to get a missive from the most feared agent of Vornoth to its second in command.