It started as just an ordinary day in the forge. Ferris was just wiping his sweating brow after finishing the finest set of chainmail in the village, and the finest set he had ever made. His apprentice, Dustin, congratulated him as he took off his tough leather gloves. Ferris carefully lowered the suit of armor into the cooling barrel and looked away as the hiss of hot steam hit his face. Slowly he lifted the chainmail out of the barrel with the tongs and onto a table where it would wait until it was cool enough to touch. The suit would be set up in the little shop outside the forge until a traveler from one of the big cities came around and bought it. Dustin shook his hand with a smile, and they went to sit down for lunch before starting on the next item.
The little town they lived in, Tinworth, was about a 3 day journey from the nearest city. Tinworth was the tiny center of a largely farm-based economy; with only one inn, one blacksmith, and one market, Ferris could walk from one side of the town to the other in five minutes. The farmers brought their harvest into the town to sell, and with that money they bought new tools for the upcoming season. Ferris spent most of his time making farm equipment, but it was far from harvest season for most of the farmers, so he had to find other sources of income.
Whenever a traveler from one of the cities bought one of Ferris’s suits of armor or fine swords he got about as much money as he did from all the farm equipment for a year, so forging armor and swords was his main source of profit. The travelers often told him that he should move to a big city, even offered to help him with the finances of setting up a new business, but leaving Tinworth would mean that all the farmers wouldn’t have tools for the upcoming year, so while Ferris would like the extra money he knew he had to stay.
It wasn’t as though he was poor. As the only blacksmith in the town Ferris had the whole town’s business, so by Tinworth standards he was rich. He had the town’s respect as well, and he had even been offered a spot on the Village Council (which he refused). Ferris was happy with his current job, and wouldn’t dream of trading it for more money.
As he sat down to lunch with Dustin he looked outside and saw a column of smoke rising on the other side of town. He pointed it out to Dustin, who said, “Looks like the inn has a big fire going today. The smoke is never that high.”
“That might not be the inn. We should go make sure that everything’s ok.”
Ferris was a little bit worried. It didn’t look like the kind of smoke that came from a normal fire, and there was a lot more of it than usual. They walked over to the inn, which was near the center of town, and as they approached it was clear that the smoke wasn’t coming from the inn. It was coming from the outskirts of town, where the market ended and some houses were being built. Ferris started running toward the market, worried that the fire was out of control. If a fire was big enough it might spread and seriously damage Tinworth, so whenever the rare fire occurred everyone ran to help control it.
As Ferris got closer it became clear that the fire was not natural. There were screams that were faint but becoming louder as he ran closer. People were running away from the fire, which was very unusual, and Ferris was confused as he continued to run closer. As the fire came into view Ferris stopped in his tracks. What was once a peaceful market scene was drastically changed in every way.
There were strange creatures with swords running every which way chasing humans. They had pig-like faces, grey skin, fangs for teeth, and were wearing some sort of leather armor. As Ferris stood taking in the scene he saw several humans fall from sword wounds. Two of the creatures fell to weapons the humans had picked up in an attempt to defend themselves, but the humans were clearly being overcome when Ferris recovered from his shock and ran into the battle.
As Ferris got nearer to the fray one of the monsters started running at him. It was growling and yelling in a language Ferris didn’t understand, and brandishing a sword at him. Ferris bent down and grabbed a sword from another one of the creatures that was on the ground and raised it to parry the yelling one’s sword. He easily blocked the first attack and swung in for one of his own. The creature looked surprised that he was fighting back, and Ferris almost killed him with that blow. It barely managed to dodge out of the way, which left it vulnerable to another attack. Ferris stabbed it through the leg and it fell over, still yelling in that strange language. He quickly dispatched it and turned to look for others.
More humans were arriving, some of them with swords of their own. Ferris knew that it wasn’t enough though, there were too many of the monsters. The shopkeepers and farmers that he saw with pitchforks and cleavers couldn’t kill a warrior, although they had to try. Ferris went to find another monster.
They were everywhere. After setting fire to one of the farmhouses near the town they had charged in and started attacking people. Ferris saw several of them carrying away stores of food, beer, and silverware. A group of them passed him chasing a screaming innkeeper, and he jumped forward to intercept them. Again they seemed surprised at his attacks, so surprised that he was able to kill two of them before the others recovered enough to defend themselves. The first swing that came at him Ferris dodged easily and swung back at the creature. His sword glanced off the creature’s armor but knocked it down, which gave him just enough time to duck under another sword and kill its owner. Two of the monsters came at him at once and he was forced to back away quickly to avoid being sliced to pieces.
The two creatures pressed their attack, forcing him back. After several parries Ferris had an opening to hit one of them, but his sword wasn’t sharp enough to go through their leather armor, and he had to stumble backward again to avoid more sword swings. The longer he fought with this sword, the more he realized that it was awfully made. It had terrible balance and was very dull. If Ferris had one of the swords that he made all of these monsters would already be dead, but instead he had to fall back repeatedly to protect himself. Eventually he learned to use it with some degree of success, but it took him a long time to kill the remaining monsters. When he finished the last one off he looked around and saw that the other monsters were running away, leaving just the burning house and taking as much food as they could carry.
Ferris started to chase after them when he heard an inhuman roar coming from up ahead. It wasn’t one of the creatures either, it was something else, something bigger. As Ferris slowed to a stop he let the sword fall limp in his hand. Several other men with various weapons stopped near him and looked around worriedly for the source of the roar, which became immediately apparent as it walked around the corner of a building and came toward them. This creature was ten feet tall, had huge clawed hands and yellow skin, and Ferris could smell its rancid odor from fifty feet away, although he didn’t have that much space any more because it was running toward him.
Ferris ran forward to meet the creature and leapt backward to avoid a punch that made a hole in the ground when it fell. he jumped forward and tried to swing the sword at the creature, but was hit backward by the other arm. He sailed through the air and into a stall that fell apart on top of him.
He sat up, dazed and covered in dust, and had about two seconds warning before he rolled out of the way of the thing’s fist. Ferris jumped to his feet and dodged another punch, wincing at pain from his ribs. Unfortunately, he had dropped his sword when the creature punched him, so he rolled under another punch to try and pick it up. Dodging another two punches, he grabbed the hilt and rolled backward onto his feet. After another few dodging blows he had an opening and stabbed the creature in the stomach.
The badly made sword shattered in Ferris’s hands. He stood dumbfounded for a moment before the creature pushed him over and pinned him down with one hand. Ferris yelled at the pain from his ribs and the pain of a claw at his throat, and he dropped the sword hilt. He laid there, unable to do anything except look up into the creature’s eyes as it leaned down and roared at him.
Suddenly the creature reared back, releasing him and screaming at something off to Ferris’s left. The creature stood up, roared at whatever it was that was driving it away, and ran off in the same direction the other creatures had gone. Ferris got shakily to his feet and looked after it to see an arrow shaft sticking out of its back. He turned around and saw Dustin tighten his bowstring and loose another arrow at the creature’s back. It glanced off the warty skin, but the creature jumped at the impact and continued running.
Ferris went over to Dustin and shook his hand. Dustin looked sheepish, and said, “When I saw those smaller creatures I ran back to the forge and grabbed this.” He held up the bow. “I figured we might need a real weapon. It looks like I was right,” he said as he looked down at the broken sword a few feet away.
“You came just in time. Thank you,” said Ferris gratefully. A moment later his vision wavered and he fainted.
Ferris came to in an impromptu hospital in the middle of town, where several other people were being treated in addition to him. He felt his side, where a thick cloth bandage obscured his injury. He tried to get up and frowned at the pain, but he had to find out what was going on in the rest of town, so he got up and walked out.
There seemed to be some sort of town meeting going on. As Ferris approached he heard one of the town elders say, “We need to attack them, before they can regain enough strength to surprise us again. It’s only due to Ferris that the whole town wasn’t killed.”
One of the other elders said, “That’s a reasonably good plan, with one gaping hole; we don’t know where they are.”
“Someone has to have good enough tracking skills to follow them. That big one had massive feet, there’s no way it didn’t leave tracks.”
Ferris arrived at the edge of the crowd. People started moving out of his way, looking at him with something near awe. The elders stopped their discussion and looked over at him. Dustin, who seemed to be sitting in the honorary council chair, smiled at him and waved him over. Ferris walked over and stood near him, refusing the chair that he was offered. He looked around and said, “We need someone to scout their camp, or wherever they are living. We need to know how many of them there are, and especially if there are any more of the big ones. I’ll track them to their lair and scout them out.”
Every council member started protesting. The words were varied, but they mostly said that he was injured and unfit for such an undertaking. Besides, several of them added, now that we have such a large need of weapons we are going to need a blacksmith more than ever. Ferris heard all of them and waited for the talk to die down before saying, “I’m the only one who has enough fighting experience to judge their strength. Besides, if I get caught I can fight my way through a few of them, but if anyone else got caught they would be in trouble. I have to go.”
The council considered this before responding, “We can’t ask you to do that, Ferris. You’re injured.”
“I’m not asking. I’m telling you that it will happen, and hoping that you won’t try to stop me.”
They shook their heads emphatically. They looked scared to disagree with him, which Ferris wasn’t proud of, but he knew it was necessary that he go. Ferris walked away from the council, toward his forge this time, and Dustin hurried to catch up with him.
Dustin, panting slightly, said, “You weren’t thinking of going by yourself, were you?”
“Of course not. I can’t track at all. I figured you would offer, and I know you are a fairly good tracker. Besides, I need your bow arm to kill the big guy.”
Dustin smiled and said, “We found out today that the big one is called an ogre. The little ones were orcs. The innkeeper apparently knows quite a bit about the wide world and its many monsters. Orcs and ogres sometimes band together and attack human settlements. By his thinking we should all be dead; there’s no way a small town like us should have been able to fight that many of them off. Everyone here owes you their life, Ferris. You killed fifteen of them, with a horrible sword and no armor. If anyone should go near their camp it’s you.”
Ferris was grateful for the compliment, but he was too busy thinking about the day ahead of him to respond. When they got to the forge he put on the suit of newly made chainmail, thinking that just yesterday his only thought of the suit was how much money he could get for it. It really was his best work, with more mobility than any of his other suits while still providing the same protection. Ferris also grabbed one of the swords he had made about a month ago.
He and Dustin packed enough food for 2 days’ journey and set off. Dustin brought his bow and a quiver of arrows, with a knife in his boot just in case. They shook hands with several townspeople as they passed; the townspeople had evidently heard about their mission and come to wish them luck. They travelled to where the ogre had fought Ferris and followed the footsteps out of town.
The tracks were very easy to follow for Dustin, although Ferris would have had trouble. They travelled for about half a day, stopping for lunch on the way. They travelled onward, never losing the trail, and eventually came to see two orcs off in the distance, guarding what appeared to be a cave entrance. Dustin drew an arrow silently and drew it back, but Ferris put his hand on it. “Wait until I kill the one on the left, then shoot the right one. That way they won’t raise the alarm. We want as much surprise as possible.”
Dustin nodded and relaxed the bowstring. Ferris picked his way carefully around to the side of the orcs, but not carefully enough. One of the orcs looked over, and Dustin shot it with a well placed arrow. The other orc yelled in a strange language before Ferris dispatched it, but the damage was done. Ferris could hear commotion from the cave entrance, and before he could react several more orcs came running out of the cave.
An arrow felled one of them, but the rest were upon Ferris. He raised his sword and began killing them. With a poorly made sword Ferris had been a menace to the creatures; he decimated them with a well balanced blade. The seven orcs were dead within a minute, and he got a second to breathe deeply before a huge fist came out of the cave and tried to grab him.
If he hadn’t been wearing armor he would’ve been skewered by the claws. As it was the breath left his body and he struggled to hold on to consciousness as he was thrown backward. The ogre emerged from the cave, followed by several more orcs. Dustin began killing orcs, but a group of them ran at him and he was forced to focus on keeping himself alive. Ferris was left to deal with the ogre.
He got up and ran toward it. It seemed surprised as Ferris swung his sword, cutting its leg deeply. It howled in pain, and tried to punch him. Ferris ducked, rolled, and parried around the creature, occasionally killing an orc that rushed him, all the while unable to get near the ogre. He stepped back and set about killing as many orcs as possible. The pile of dead orcs grew, and the ogre couldn’t follow him fast enough to engage him. Finally he finished the last orcs and turned to the ogre, which growled at him menacingly.
An arrow hit it squarely in the eye. It reeled backward, howling in pain. Ferris ran forward and jumped, stabbing the creature through the chest. It fell with a final crash, and Ferris turned and looked at Dustin with gratitude. Dustin, nursing a small cut on his arm, smiled back. They knew they had won, and Tinworth was safe.