Elf Boy's Friends - VI
War and Peace
The expedition traveled via a space portal between the capital and Bled, the garrison town which lay at the western end of the winding mountain road that lead to the Eastern Plains. That was the closest than any of those with the skill to open portals had ever been to the area of military operations against the orcs. One limitation on portals was that you could not open one to a place you have never been to before or could not see in the distance.
From Bled their route of march paralleled the mountains, bypassing the secondary road to the mountain resort recently attacked by the orcs, in favor of another road that penetrated the mountains farther along. Once they reached the foot of the mountains their scouts unfurled the green and white pennant which signified a parley. (A white flag would signify surrender.)
A couple miles into the mountains they were met by orc scouts. Though their manner was surly they respected the parley banner and lead the column a few miles deeper into the mountains. Across an open meadow were the orcs defending a wooden wall recently thrown up across the mouth of a defile leading deeper into the mountains. The Commonwealth escort of Frost Giants formed a shield wall facing the orcs but did not draw their weapons. They were here for a parley, not a battle.
With the parley banner raised high the delegation and fifty guards moved close to the wall and called on the orcs to bring their leaders out to meet them. The orc scouts had told the delegates that their approach had been observed almost all the way from Bled so the orc chiefs had come to this spot to receive the delegates.
"We come in peace." Zaldor began, "but we are prepared for war if you insist on it."
Standing atop the wall the orc spokesman nodded and replied:
"The issue of peace or war depends on whether you accept our terms. We orcs are reclaiming our homeland in the southern half of these mountains all the way to the road that leads to the Eastern Plains which we will concede to the Commonwealth as an earnest of our desire for peaceful coexistence. Our territory also includes the so-called New Forest whose establishment we regard as an affront to our sovereignty."
Zaldor shook his head. "You are laboring under a misconception. We are not here to listen to your terms, which are completely unacceptable anyway. No power on this planet dictates to the Commonwealth of the Long River. We don't start wars, but we always end them on our terms."
"Your vaunted Commonwealth has grown weak and currently is badly overstretched. You could never conquer these mountains. The side that faces the rift valley is steep and rugged. The mountains form a natural fortress defended by six hundred thousand orcs."
Zaldor shrugged. "There are a one-hundred thirty millions of us. Do the arithmetic."
"Are you really ready to pay the butcher's bill for a war to the death?"
"Actually we have a proposal that might satisfy both parties, a way for both peoples to get what they need if not exactly what they want."
"We're listening. For now."
Zaldor then explained about the opportunity for the orcs to ally themselves with the Commonwealth and acquire a vast new land for the orcs in Amazonia, one with room for them to grow. He also said that orc perceptions of the Commonwealth's weakness was the worst sort of wishful thinking, and they should not bet their survival on that delusion. Zaldor reminded the orcs of their recent defeat at the resort at the hands of a bunch of civilians including women and teenagers and oldsters. Why the kitchen staff alone bragged about having "carved up" dozens of orcs.
Did they orcs really think they could take on a professional army supported by an air corps that could rain death from the sky. Nor could the orcs defeat the Commonwealth's mages and war wizards.
"We druids have taken a hand in this too." Owain declared. "If the orcs insist on war, we druids will blight your food crops."
"You have given us much to think on. We shall meet again in two hours."
With that the orc leaders retired to deliberate. When talks resumed, the orcs had a new spokesman, a military man from his uniform. The former spokesman and his supporters stood to one side clearly unhappy with the outcome of the deliberations.
Raising his mace the new spokesman shouted:
"You have marched into our land to threaten us with war and starvation. So be it. We choose WAR!"
The sweep of his mace was the signal for an orc mage to throw white fire at the delegates and their bodyguard of fifty giants. White fire streamed out unstoppably from his outstretched hands, but instead of cutting down the Commonwealth delegates the incandescent stream shattered a sun mirror Karel had created to reflect the image of the delegation which was actually standing to one side behind a Concealment raised by Sir Willet.
Behind the mirror was a space portal opened by Dahl which swallowed up the stream of white fire and spit it out on a trajectory that streamed across the sky. Only this stream of destruction did not expend itself harmlessly at the edge of the atmosphere. It entered a second gate opened by Sir Willet whose exit faced the orc hardliners. The relay ensured that a stream of white fire would persist long enough to emerge through the second gate even as the orc mage died.
The assembled orcs watched horrified as their mage and their hawkish leaders were disintegrated into a cloud of subatomic particles. Sir Willet dropped the concealment, and the grinning Frost Giants switched their weapons and shields back to their normal side.
Dahl nodded to Karel and Sir Willet. "Nicely done. Jemsen was right to label our stratagem fiendishly clever."
"It took all four of us to bring it off," Sir Willet observed, "combining your portals with my concealment and Karel's mirror plus Jemsen's trick of reversing the way the giants bore their arms so it would look normal in a reflection."
Zaldor called out to the orcs, giving them one last chance to rethink their choice for war. He pointed out that as their own war hawks had just found out, the choice for war was suicide. The original spokesman nodded.
"After that demonstration, we would be fools not to make peace with the Commonwealth and instead go to war with these trolls you have told us about to conquer a vast new land for our people. Now lets us sit down and work out the details of the peace. My name is Janne Saari. With the war party so er… abruptly impeached and removed from office, I and my supporters now speak for the orcs."
The orcs agreed to stop hostilities and recalled the column that was headed toward Elysion. Under the terms of the treaty most orcs would remain in the mountains till the trolls were defeated and they could emigrate en masse to their new land.
Meanwhile, the treaty provided that the orc army would form an expeditionary corps to join in the campaign against the trolls. The Commonwealth would provide logistical support, chiefly supplies and transportation. Since the orcs in the expeditionary corps would be away from home for some time, they would be carried on the rolls of the Commonwealth as auxiliary troops and paid a regular salary. The area immediately around the sacred peak would remain inviolate and legally an exclave of the orc's new homeland.
The orcs insisted on complete independence in their new land. Zaldor agreed. The orcs would be too busy establishing themselves in Amazonia to make trouble for the Commonwealth.
Drew and Corwin got another continent-wide scoop for the Capital Intelligencer. The four who devised the counter to white fire were Mentioned in Dispatches. Karel had the deep satisfaction of using his powers to help bring about peace even if he had to kill several dozen orcs in the doing. Jemsen shrugged and told him to regard the deaths of the hardliners as a case of assisted suicide, which Karel thought really droll.
Axel was hailed as another Young Peacemaker and later made a Stalwart of the Commonwealth which inspired Karel's joke that at the rate the were going and given their longevity, by the time they got to be old men, they all would need a cart to haul around all the titles they were accumulating.
Three months later, the circle of friends went off to war again, this time against the trolls in Amazonia. But that is another story.
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