Sometimes a story is so good, that a person has to listen, no matter what the circumstances.
It was late and everyone was tired but happy. The raid against the Long Knives had gone very well. Lots of food, gold and weapons had been taken, but the true prize was a small keg of Malarian brandy. Happy with the results of the raid Turel ordered the brandy opened and spread amongst the lutins. Before long the whole group was singing and laughing around the bonfire. After a few drinks, the ruins the group was camped in didn't look frightening at all.
The ruins did provoke the inevitable question that Turel had been expecting. This time it came from Vershak. "What is this place Chief Turel, slayer of Barnak the mighty?"
The lutin chieftain put down the gold chain he had been admiring and smiled at the young warrior, showing a ragged collection of broken and dirty teeth. The warrior was out on his first raid, and was celebrating his adulthood with friends and large quantities of brandy.
"This place is called Lord Fools Leap, some human built castle here. He just come here and put it up. He not swear loyalty to Great Chief Turlo. He not even give great gifts to chief to use land. Human just march here and take it. He thought it would be easy to take the land from our tribe." The chieftain laughed, "We showed him how well The Slaughterers fight." The whole group growled in agreement.
"Why is he called Lord Fool? Is that his real name?" Vershak asked.
"What type of name is that?" Another asked. "How can you be proud and vicious with a name like Fool?"
"That not his real name," Turel answered. "The name he used was Lord Marcel Borrelli, Lord of Tinesdale."
"A fancy name. Too bad he couldn't fight as well as have a big name," someone commented.
Turel punched the speaker hard, knocking him unconscious. "Fancy human know how to fight very well, that not why he called fool. He called fool because he not know when to NOT fight."
An older, much scarred lutin next to the Chief nodded. "Good warrior know when to run away instead of fighting."
Vershak looked at the chief with a puzzled expression but didn't speak.
"Lord Marcel come when Slaughterers busy with great fight against The Smasher clan," the chief said. "He kill some lutins who guard this hill and take it for his own. He build this castle in little time," Turel said waving his arms in the air. "He come in spring, by fall he have whole castle built."
"Wow!" Came the exclamation from one of the listeners. "Great magic."
"Nah," the chieftain answered. "He bring many, many people with him and they work all day and night, digging and building. They bring many carts full of stone and wood all cut and ready to fit together. Castle go up very quickly."
"It come down quickly too," a lutin commented. The whole group laughed and growled at that one even Turel.
Turel let the merriment die down before continuing the story, swallowing some of the potent brandy as he waited. "Great chief Turlo has big problem, how to get rid of this human and his tribe. Turlo give many warriors to Kerchal, his lesser chief. 'Kill them all' he said. 'Take many slaves and loot. Bring them here.' Kerchal like that idea. Many slaves and much loot make him look great, he win loyalty of many warriors. Kerchal think he come back from killing Human Lord and then kill Turlo and take his place." Turel laughed. "Turlo know Kerchal want to be chief. So he sent him out to be killed. Kerchal take most worthless warriors against humans, and fight them while Turlo watch from forest."
"These humans fight on horses and use long spears called lances. So when stupid Kerchal lead warriors out of safe, protective forest Lord Marcel in his shiny armor ride them down. Smash and kill all of them," Turel slammed his foot into the dirt smashing long dead lutins into oblivion.
The chieftain shook his head and then took a long swig of the brandy. "Turlo have a big problem. He has to kill humans, but how? Lutins can't fight knights on big horses out in open fields around castle; horses and knights too powerful there. So clever Chief change plans. Castle surrounded by open fields but fields are surrounded by forest," the lutin laughed out loud the sound echoing off the walls of the ruins. "So Turlo have warriors stay in forest during day, they only attack in darkness, or when some human get too close to woods."
The lutin paused for another drink and to heighten the tension. "It work! Proud knights unbeatable in open fields because horses can gallop fast, but a horse can't go fast when it has to dodge trees."
"Why knights not get off of horses and fight on foot?" Vershak asked.
The chieftain laughed. "Have proud nobles fight on foot like lowly peasants? Never!" He took on a haughty air and shook his head. " True knight fight on big horse, wearing tough metal armor and tight helmet. But big horse can't gallop in woods. Metal armor tough but hot and heavy too, can't sneak up on enemy clanking around in armor. With helmet on head human not hear lutin sneaking up behind him until BAM!" the lutin smacked his fists together and the whole group jumped. Everyone laughed and cheered at that and the story telling stopped for a moment.
The brandy had done its work and Turel was feeling mellow. "Chiefs plan work! Humans go out to cut wood and lutins ambush them. Humans plant fields during day, lutins destroy them at night." He laughed out loud his voice echoing off the ruined walls. "Soon all farms burned, and people hide all night in castle."
"Lord Marcel ride out on huge horses with many knights. With banners flapping and emblems proudly displayed everywhere he galloped into the woods to 'slay the foul monsters.' And gather honor and glory." The lutin paused for effect.
"Only a handful rode back out," the chieftain said in an ominous voice. "Rest die in traps, or ambushes. Pretty banners all torn and muddy. After that humans stay in castle all the time, day and night. Lutins surround castle and burn all the farms, gather much loot. Great Turlo gather many lutins because of his great victory of the human and he command HUGE army."
Turel waved his arms around at the ruins that surrounded his group and shadows danced across the stonework like ghosts of the castle's long dead builders. "This castle full of people then young and old; hiding and looking for safety."
"Turlo lord over many lutins but he have great problem; how to take castle. Humans hide behind tall stone walls and deep ditches. Attacking would be hard, many die and not sure castle fall. He order catapults built and great siege towers put together. So he have his army surround place, not let anyone in or out and humans slowly starve."
"Why don't Keepers come to help?" one of the audience ask.
The storyteller shook his head. "Duke can't. Grisnak the brother of Turlo have big army attacking Keep. No help from there. Also two human lords enemies, Duke tell Turlo that it stupid to go into lutin area. But he not believe him, say Metamor only want to keep conquests for himself."
"Sertef, the moon goddess walk across the sky many times as human sit in stone fort. People slowly starve, grow discontent at Lord. 'Why we stay here?' they ask. 'We leave and go to Metamor where we be safe' they say. Lord Turlo not like that."
Turel stood up and assumed a haughty stance in imitation of the long dead lord. "NO!" he said in a deep voice, very much unlike his own. "I am Lord of Castle Tinesdale, baron of Arlendale. I will not retreat from these vermin." The lutin waved his arms about. "Fools! These creatures cannot defeat us! We will crush them all!"
The audience laughed. "Some vermin," a lutin shouted to the long dead human. "We beat you!" Everyone present cheered and clapped.
The storyteller let the audience quiet down on it's own and then continued his tale. "Many in castle cheer at mans words, call him brave and fearless. But others are not so happy. They see way things going. They know that holding castle impossible. They say he a fool for fighting a battle he can never win. These people get together and decide to leave secretly."
"Did they escape?" Vershak asked.
"Turlo know they leave and let them go. Their leader give lutins much gold and silver for safe passage and they promise to never come back. People leave and do that!" the lutin said, surprised. "None who leave ever go north of Dike again. Some settle at Metamor others go further south."
"Turlo see chance to win great loot without big fight, so he send messenger to castle to offer them same terms as group who had just left. 'Give me gold, silver and jewels and you go south in safety.' A fair deal I think," the chieftain said in calm tone. Then his face hardened. "Lord Marcel send messenger's head back. He insult chief and say lutins never take castle."
"Chief in great rage call all lutins together and tell them how human leader curse them and call them vermin. He order great attack. Catapults smash towers and walls, fires rage everywhere. Then just before midnight he order attack. Lutins swarm over walls into castle, nothing can stand against great army. Soon whole castle fall except tower on tallest part of hill." The lutin pointed to a tall shadow that loomed off in the near distance. Its top was broken with age but it was still very tall, taller then any tree.
"Lord Marcel make stand there in tower but too many lutins attack. Door is bashed in and humans forced to retreat to upper floors. Many die as humans fight to the death. Finally only Lord remain fighting on roof of tower itself surrounded by many lutins, including great chief himself. Great chief Turlo order all others back. Human fool but he fight with great bravery. Chief impressed. 'Surrender and give me gold and jewels as ransom I let you go free," he say."
The lutin shook his head sadly. "Human just curse Turlo, call him filth and vermin. He jump onto battlement. 'I die rather then surrender to you'. Then human lord jump off into open air."
There was much cheering at that point and the party broke up into loud raucous singing long into the night. Finally near dawn the group slowly made it's way off, singing as they went.
A long time after the last lutin had departed a figure stirred from the cover of a ruined wall. Misha stepped into the clearing and motioned for the rest. Soon Kershaw, Finbar Danielle, and Meredith joined him.
"Why didn't you give the order to attack?" Meredith signed with his hands.
The fox shrugged. "Didn't feel right. Besides I didn't have the heart to interrupt the story."
The bear laughed out loud. "They'll be other chances to kill lutins.
Besides it was a great story."