The Scarlet King @lord22
Picking Up the Pieces

Chapter Eight: Picking Up the Pieces

The sun beat down hard on Arthas within the wilds of Andorhal. He and those few men assigned to him followed the remnants of an old road. Bits of it had been taken off by one sentient or another and here or there he saw houses built from the same stone. His men he did not know, for none of them had been with him.

They seemed a bit too fresh-faced for his liking and he found it hard to relate to them. Had it really been only a few months ago that Arthas hadset out on his first real military engagement? It seemed like centuries.

The trees and lands became less blighted as they went on. At last, the blight disappeared and at last they came within sight of the settlement. It was, at this stage, little more than a series of log houses with a town center in the middle. Said town center looked like it had been rebuilt from a previous ruin. Parts of the tower had been scavenged for parts.

Around the entire thing was a wall of stone and wood stakes. There was only one entrance, a gate of steel. Standing at that entrance was a majestically beautiful woman. She had long white hair and pale skin and wore an outfit that seemed designed to show off a body that was well worth it. Her breasts were enormous and packed into a red one-piece of red leather. Her lower half was covered by a loincloth and a red piece of armor that bared her long legs. And on her head was a very nice hat.

"Hail and well met, Prince Arthas." She said as he approached. "I am Inquisitor Sally Whitemane and I have been dispatched by the Silver Hand to assist you in your mission."

Arthas found his mouth going a bit dry. He had not been in the company of a woman with this kind of beauty since Jaina left him at Stratholme. And Jaina had been in possession of a bookish quality that compensated. Sally Whitemane… did not. "I was not aware Inquisitor was still a rank in the Church of Light." He managed to say, keeping his eyes firmly on her face.

"Much has changed in these past months." Said Sally Whitemane. "Although we have begun the construction of a new colony, the Black Orcs have filled the wood. More stream in from Alterac daily."

Was this the one Uther had said Arthas would get on well with. The comment had seemed passive aggressive at the time. Arthas didn't see how getting on well with someone like this would be difficult-

"But their efforts are in vain!" cried Whitemane. "The servants of the light shall flow forth and put them to the flame! Their children shall be cast from the walls of their cities! The screams of their women shall echo as torments unfathomable are put to-"

Ah, that was why. She was a fanatical nutjob. Arthas did not have time for this. "Yes, wonderful. Shut up."

Sally flinched, then looked down in disappointment. "…As you wish, Prince Arthas."

Arthas turned to his men, then Sally. "Our first priority will be to rally a militia to defend the settlement as it is constructed. Once that is done, we will hunt down the orcs and destroy them. They cannot be allowed to threaten our people.

"How many fighting men do we have in this place?"

"Very few." Said Whitemane. "Many of the warriors of Alterac were killed in the fighting. King Terenas chose to disarm the populace who were under our control. Those militias that remained were decimated fighting the scourge. There are some men who Lord Uther left behind to guard them, but these Blackrock Orcs surprised us."

"Bring me the commander." Said Arthas.

Whitemane bowed and the movement showed off her cleavage. The she turned and moved off. Sometime later she came back with a blonde man with a mustache, clad in Captain's armor. Arthas recognized him.

"Greetings to you, Prince Arthas." Said the man.

What was his name? It had been a long time ago. "Wilhelm, is it? We fought together at Strahnbrad."

"I am surprised you remember me." Said Wilhelm. "Lord Uther dispatched me here to aid with the defense of these people.'

"And so you will." Said Arthas. "Are there any other villages like this one?"

"What you see is called New Andorhal." Said Wilhelm. "There are a number of scattered villages, but this is the heart of the colonization effort. It's also the most defensible area."

"Send out your men." Said Arthas. "I need one in ten men brought here and armed with whatever you can find. Spears, axes, shields.

"Once you've done that you'll drill them for war."

"I have already begun training a limited number of them." Said Wilhelm. "But are you certain it is wise to take away from the workforce?" "Sally Whitemane said the orcs have filled the woods." Said Arthas.

Wilhelm glanced around. "Whitemane… exaggerates, milord. She has a tendency to see more enemies than we actually face. In truth, there have been only a few scattered sightings and most of them were chased off."

"Hold! A foul creature emerges!" cried Whitemane. "Arm yourselves my warriors! It shall suffer greatly!" Then there was a flash of light. She reached forward into the underbrush to grab her enemy, drawing it back and strangling it.

"Whitemane, that is a rabbit." Said Arthas.

Whitemane paused as she looked at the squirming, big-eyed critter. "…Evil comes in all forms. It may be a Dreadlord."

"Just put the poor thing down." Said Arthas. As Whitemane obeyed reluctantly, he turned back to Wilhelm. "Wilhelm, I want you to prepare them anyway. The Blackrock Orcs are probably scouting, looking for weaknesses. And with the Alliance weakened this region needs to be able to protect itself.

"Which settlement is closest to the Alterac Highlands?"

"This one." Said Wilhelm. "The orcs could cut cross country, but we've sentries that would spot them. And they do not know this land like the locals do."

"Prince Arthas, priests approach." Said Whitemane.

Arthas turned to the road and saw a large continent of elven priests walking down the road. At their head was a long-haired elf with a two-handed sword on his back. He saluted as he approached. "Hail and well met, Prince Arthas. I am Athanar. My men and I come from the Silver Hand to aid you in your struggle."

"My thanks to you, Athanar." Said Arthas. "But I was given to understand you had been recalled."

"All adventurers and support units within the Alliance military were to be withdrawn." Said Athanar. "However, Prince Kael'thas has created a new unit. One dedicated to ensuring that the land of Lordaeron recovers. Our primary focus is to be on ensuring that this land is restored to prosperity.

"If restoring that prosperity happens to involve acting as a support unit for the army, so be it."

So Kael'thas had found a loophole and used it to continue aiding them. It was something, at least. "Send my thanks to Prince Kael'thas." Said Arthas. "We'd all best go about our business.

"Wilhelm, are there any dwarves in this region? I'd like to draw up some riflemen."

"Unfortunately the dwarvish communities withdrew from here." Said Wilhelm. "There weren't many to begin with and they made their living by trade, not farming. I have requested a contingent of riflemen, but with the de-escalation, it may take time."

"Without any riflemen, we'll be hard-pressed to hold the orcs at bay." Said Arthas, confident they would attack.

"There are some remnants of the old Alterac Kingdom to the north of here, Prince Arthas." Said Whitemane. "We may hire them and advance over their spear strewn corpses!" Murmurs of disapproval from some of the men here.

"What she says is true." Said Wilhelm. "A mercenary named Blackthorn, once a Lord of Alterac, has power up in the hills. He and his men are adapt at hit and run tactics and throw spears like you wouldn't believe. Fortunately, he has mostly contented himself with killing corrupt tax collectors."

"I suppose they might make worthwhile skirmishers." Said Arthas. "Send out some scouts and see if you can find them or the orcs. Either is fine." Then he turned back to Whitemane. "Now, Sally, I need you to brief me on the work of the farms. How are things progressing?"

"Well, though I loathe the work, it is going well." Said Whitemane. "The magic of priests and sorcerers may be used to speed the growth of food in times of emergency. Even so, it is a complicated process and I have not had enough hands to do what is necessary."

"Very well then." Said Arthas. "Athanar, I am assigning you to assist Whitemane in whatever way you can."

'As you wish." Said Athanar. "I should warn you that going too swiftly in this sort of thing is dangerous."

"What do you mean?" asked Arthas.

"Rapid plant growth can exhaust the soil.' Said Athanar. "Creating Quel'thalas took the creation of an entire magical ecosystem. To use the same methods here could be disastrous."

"Do you have any among you experience in the process?" asked Arthas.

"Yes. We are taught it in our first days as priests." Said Athanar.

"Then have them begin their work at once." Said Arthas.

Things seemed to be progressing reasonably well. Perhaps, in time, Lordaeron would recover. In the meantime, Arthas was probably going to have to fight the Blackrock Clan again.

Days passed and Arthas spent his time in the boring task of organizing farm construction. He watched Wilhelm drill the men sometimes. Occasionally he made speeches to try to inspire the colonists. Now and then more would come in from other villages to join in the drills.

More reports came in of the Blackrock Orcs. Their jungle troll allies had been spotted here or there and a few spears had been exchanged. But no direct hostilities. Reports were also heard of bandits in the woods, but there were no raids.

Rumors of undead seen near the mountains reached his ears but no one could say anything concrete.

It was maddening standing in the eye of the storm, knowing that at any moment all hell would break loose. And yet Arthas never knew when.

And then, one day while he was finishing the last of his reports, Wilhelm entered his office in a hurry. "Prince Arthas, things are developing quickly. I just received news that the Blackrock Orcs are coming down from the mountains. They've assembled themselves and have large numbers of peons with them. It seems they intend to start settlements of their own.

"Worse still, a contingent of warriors is on its way now."

Arthas nodded. "Rally the men. Tell them to prepare for war."

Wilhelm paused. "I don't think they are ready for this. They know to stand in a line and fight but…"

"Unfortunately we don't have a choice." Said Arthas.

And that was how Arthas found himself standing before the gates of the settlement. He'd had the walls strengthened and a gate added, but the men were still nervous. In fact, they looked almost panicked. He walked before them. "Listen to me, all of you! A large contingent of orcs is on its way here and is likely to attack soon. We must stand our ground against them. If we fail here, your families will die and the colonization effort will be a failure. If we fail than thousands shall die for our inadequacy.

"Lock your shields and hold them back. The priests of the light will see to your injuries. And I will lead from the front." There were no cheers, these were not professionals, or even militia yet. But they did seem to get a grim resolve. It would have to be enough. At least they were backed into a corner if there was a way of escape they'd take it. "Wilhelm, take charge of your men."

"Yes, milord." Said Wilhelm.

And so the battle began. Arthas set his men up on the new causeways with stones to throw and javelins. Bows took too much work to learn, and he doubted they'd hit much. But it was something at least.

Out of the forests came the orcs and with them the trolls. They pointed and laughed at the defenses. The green-skinned brutes were clad for war, with huge axes. They faced a ragtag group of men in leather with hide shields. Only a few had any real weapons or armor. Though at least they had healing magic.

The orcs raised their ladders and a warrior stepped forward. He was taller than the others with red skin and glowing eyes. His red skin was tattooed all over and in one hand was a long katara. "Is this an army? Or merely a wall of pink flesh?"

Laughter came from them.

"Stay where you are, creatures." Said Arthas. "You trespass in our domain."

"Prince Arthas, your time has come and gone!" cried the orc. "The Legion has returned as foretold! Now the Blackrock Orcs will take this land as is rightfully ours!" "Believe what you will." Said Arthas, raising his hammer. "The Light will not abide by your presence. For the Alliance!" The men murmured a halfhearted response. Then the leader of the orcs motioned and his warriors charged. They brought ladders and roared battle cries. It was all Arthas could do by shouting encouragements to stop them from running away at once.

"Throw the javelins!" cried Wilhelm.

And they did. The orcs were clustered heavily so a few found their mark. But then the trolls began hurling spears of their own. Despite the defenses, many men were flung from the walls with spears in them. The priests saved who they could, and then the ladders were up.

A wall of green flesh leaped onto the parapets and Arthas rushed to meet it. He smashed down an orc with his hammer as a melee began. The men were wavering already as he crushed a skull and knocked another off the wall. "Stand your ground! Stand your ground!"

The orcs were bigger, stronger and more experienced. The only advantage they had was the chokepoint of the ladders and that was vanishing. Two militia were hacked down by one orc. Three of them managed to bring him down but were then faced with more.

Even as Arthas hacked around him, he realized the men were breaking. Even now some were fleeing off the walls.

"Run for it! We can't hold!" cried a man.

And then Sally Whitemane was there. She screamed in fury, sending a flash of light forward. It hit the leader of the fleeing man and he screamed in agony before collapsing dead to the ground. Then she did it again to the next runner.

Our left flank is collapsing!

"Stay where you are, pitiful cowards!" cried Whitemane. "You will fight, or you will die!"

It worked. Terrified of Whitemane, the men ran back to attack the orcs with the desperation of those with no way out. They hacked in blind fury and brought several down. Arthas redoubled his efforts and Whitemane began killing orcs instead of cowards.

It went on like this in a brutal stalemate for what seemed like hours. Ladders were cast down and raised up. The wounded were healed as the dead were cast down. Bodies piled up as Arthas fought with all his strength.

It seemed nearly as hopeless as Hearthglen. At least there he'd had professional soldiers.

But at last the orcs lost heart. They broke and drew off, fleeing off the wall. Several were killed on the way down, and the rest fled to meet with their troll allies. Both had taken serious losses, but Arthas looked at his own men and knew they'd given as well as they had gotten.

"Victory is ours. The orcs have drawn off." Said Arthas. "Well done, men!"

"I do not think they were expecting this level of resistance here." Said Wilhelm.

The men were exhausted and lying about. Those who weren't being healed were broken. He had to make them proud of this, had to break the despair. "All of you, well done! On this day you have become soldiers, warriors worthy of praise. Wilhelm, see to it that they are given extra rations."

"What of those who attempted to flee, Prince Arthas!" said Whitemane. "They must be punished!"

Several men turned white. Arthas waved her off. "They returned to their posts and hold the line after your… display. I consider the matter closed."

Wilhelm did not look pleased. "Whitemane, why were you so swift to kill those men?"

"The line was collapsing, Wilhelm." Said Arthas. "While it was not pleasant, the action was necessary. Post watchers and prepare the men with double haste.

"We must be ready for when the Blackrock Orcs attack in earnest."

"We won't be." Said Wilhelm grimly.

"Do you preach hopelessness, Wilhelm?" asked Whitemane with an edge in her tone.

"No, just the sad truth." Said Wilhelm. "The Blackrock Orcs are experienced warriors. They were expecting defenseless peasants like at Strahnbrad. That was why they withdrew, they got more than they bargained for. But when they come next they will hit us far harder."

"Then we will make them pay in blood for every step!" said Whitemane.

Arthas paused, deciding to let the ranting slide. "…Has there been any word on the location of Blackthorn?"

"None yet." Said Wilhelm.

"Redouble your efforts." Said Arthas. "If we can't find him soon we may very well be overwhelmed."

Things were looking grim again. The eye of the storm had passed.


Author's Note:

And update

The decision to bring in Sally Whitemane was made because I needed a female protagonist. So far the only prominent females have been Calia and Faldine. And both of them were secondary protagonists. It also gave me a chance for some humor.

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