Born upon the battlefield, with a fallen officer's vest for a swaddling blanket and a sack of spleen for a pillow, the baby's wail mingled with the choking gasps and sobs of the dying and the roaring screaming of living men trying to end one another. Brown eyes opened in flushed red skin as tears ran with spittle from its mouth, tiny hands balling and grasping with a clot of birthing blood dried on the fingers, the smell of terror and bile driving the already confused and frightened newborn into further desperate hysterics. He strained with all six limbs to convey his displeasure, horse half and human arms alike crenelating inward and exploding outward with more force and energy than the tired little one could afford to give.
The Green Coat Man and His Red heart flung the knife through Wolf-Smell-Big-Man's neck, following through with a one handed claymore thrust through the solar plexus that arched upward through the heart and out again as the much larger being fell. He barely cleared the falling corpse of the Mongoloid Jotun, but spun to undeterred with a hand drawing his pistol as the Red soldiers and the Green soldiers rallied about him. Their invading foes were almost twice the size of Humans; almost four times the size and more the weight of these defending Powries, Brownies, Claurichauns, Leprechauns, and Pix.
The Jotun forces, despite the name, were made up of several Tribes and Races joined as one Culture- the True Jotuns (or North Trolls and Giants), the Ettins, the Centaurs, and the Humans of the Mongoloid and Nordic Folks. A "Jotun" could as easily refer to any of the respective peoples of the Borjigenheim Archipelago, and all had long ago come to share the same language- and come again, and again, to conquer the Mainland. Despite the size of the Pangaea and the World Government's influence, the small Archipelago constituted a significant threat every time.
'Major Mickey' grinned from exuberance.
Mighty Aurek did not listen to the Shaman's words and supplications to rest herself; too full of battlerage to feel the pain in her thighs and cervix, the war woman leaped atop the ramparts of the trench and charged from her charge and only child with her massive mace held as high as her proud head. The writhing child and her wounded warrior alike reached red, red hands toward the fading figure- and then the naked warrior was gone, disdaining rest and armor alike in search of something to crush. Quite within its rights to, the child began to squall in her wake.
When the Centaur Commander Aurek Whai had dropped into the trench following her instinctive needs in a moment of clarity, she had sported an arrow in her flank, a broken pair of ribs in the horse half, and of course the burgeoning burden of created life.
With a great cry the beast trampled toward the Green Coated Man with the Red heart, mace sweeping and crushing an Elven mercenary's head in as her hooves stamped through the flesh of his men- both Red of the Ire Lands and Green of King Scott's Lands. The Major fired twice before swearing violently around his pipes, smoke billowing before she was upon him. She definitely gave a snort of triumph as she brought her full weight down on his body and continued trampling until it was unrecognizable.
But then the sword swung, and as she toppled forward, it struck through again in a clear arc of steel and blood in the mist. The Major lowered the illusion, panting, and impaled the assailant once more for good measure before the corpse fell back into the trench they fought alongside. 'Mickey' tossed the brown eyed and black haired head, frozen in outrage, to a Powrie as a Leprechaun cleaned his weapon.
When she returned, as the Shaman had Seen, one of the Centaur's legs was gone from the fetlock to the thigh in a ragged diagonal slice, two bullet holes poured copious amounts of blood- one from each of her flat bellies- to the misty soil, and she was quite clearly and evidently missing a head. Pity, that, he thought as he struggled to make a choice and panted. Despite having after a fashion watched it happen, he still scarcely cleared the way in time.
One of her Nordic Jotuns, missing his fingers and here to be healed, failed to move at all and the better part of a ton of mass smashed his fair features.
And Mighty Aurek, named so by the Jotuns she lead- who were themselves reknowned as a culture for such prowess, was thus without question dead in the very hour of her heir's first breath.
'Michael Micnaevin McMicky Macavery' had discovered that ancient truism to be truth. Sometimes, one becomes that which one makes pretense to be. This invasion by wholly unrelated strangers had saved the increasingly confused and homicidal Aiden Thane from the hard choices of the Kin War- while thrusting him, in the eyes of both sides, into the role of The Major. Not 'a Major' as he would have preferred, to surreptitiously assassinate King Scott and return home from the Greens.
The one both sides looked to for repelling the Jotuns, because only 'Major Mickey' of all the commanders in either the Green or Red armies appeared to be capable of understanding and leading both sides. Tactically and emotionally, the Major had managed in this desperate hour to unite em as for so many years Scott had wished to. And many elements on both sides, King Scott included, wished him dead for it as much as acknowledging his use.
The Green Coated Man with the Red heart would be ended one way or another by the war's close.
The Shaman swore as he erected a spirit barrier over the gap to confuse and deflect foes. It was for good reason that these were called the Ire Lands; the inhabitants defending them were every bit as crazed and wrathful as the War-Folk Jotuns, even if they were barely the size of Aurek's foal! If only they had remained divided!
"Mas-master..." his acolyte whined, "is there nothing we can do?"
He remembered the first day, that glorious first day, when the Horde had roiled off the ship and thundered the soft muddy land of the rainy southlands, when the skies were blackened not by thunder but by the arrows of the crossbow wielding Centaurs and the compound longbows of the Mongoloid Jotuns upon them, and the swaths of slain carved into what was already clearly a battlefield staged between two massive armies of tiny folk. The Troll-Tribe feasted well as the Nordics drew the sails in the ruddy blood hued sunset, and much gold and finery was found upon the seemingly foppish little men. The first day, everything went as it was supposed to.
And then they had rallied, upon the third day.
He heard their drums in his sleep and wondered if that was the sound of fear, for the deeds of the drummers had truly stricken many of the Jotuns and cut them to the quick- literally in some cases.
For every foe cut down another seemed to come, with their fleet little feet and their nasty weaponry...
Aiden Thane had long ago discovered the inefficiency of the flintlock pistol he wielded, as powerful as the firearm had the potential to be; the cleaning and reloading sometimes took longer than a proper conflict. Simply using magic to summon more or imbuing the object with enchantments to summon bullets and gunpowder was nowhere near plausible as a convenience, for the saltpeter combusted on manifestation due to the barrel's residual heat and remaining ash. To make a gun that reloaded itself one would need either a noncombustible firing mechanism or noncombustible ammunition, neither of which were something he could attain.
He claimed to only know the word 'combust' because it meant 'fire' and 'boom', both things a good Claurichaun should be acquainted with.
But then the thought had occurred of finding a different enchantment set, one overlayed to cool and cleanse the barrel once the bullet ejected and then one to summon and set material in place. Excited, eager, he had parted with his estate for the right to attempt to have such a weapon made and place his name on it. More the fool, he swore, for the enchantment had killed the wizard and the magic-wielders had grown irked enough to silence any attempt at publication or reproduction.
But now, as he fired thirty seven rounds into the charging Troll-Jotun and she regenerated visibly, he definitely did not regret the acquisition. Her head split open one last time as her jaws opened to roar down at the Major, eyes roiling to the side and bubbling. The Greens thrust a flaming pike into the gap and caught her head aflame.
Eight foot humans and nine foot Centaurs with fifteen foot Trolls and Ettins against beings often smaller than a Halfling, and, to the Khan's regret, the Jotuns were losing more than they gained. Any corpse they could salvage was worth a far less lethal raid on a village elsewhere- the beings seemed rich as dragons- but taking the carcass and gear without dying was as challenging as fighting the deft little things. The Four Khans would soon pull out if many more hundreds fell.
"We live. Gather the wounded, and make your way to the shorehead along the trench. I will take the babe and distract the enemy," the Shaman growled, allowing his bear pelt to sag with his true feelings. The acolyte nodded and howled, then set to. The spirit barrier overhead began to whine under assault by the enemy.
The Shaman wrapped Mighty Aurek's shrieking progeny and began to run along the trench, cursing the audible firearms of his foes all the while- enough bullets and even the mightiest foe went down, apparently, for he had Seen Troll-Jotuns weakened just enough to be put to the fire even with their mighty constitutions and near-immortal regeneration. If the Jotuns had such tools, what fool would dare oppose them? But the Khans insisted relying on single shot tools was idiocy, and that arrows were more lethal and more terrible than any round ball could be.
Though himself a proud man, the Mongoid Jotun had long known himself that adaptation was key and that discretion was the better part of valor. He knew that Mighty Aurek Whai's last battle would be remembered if there were survivors to sing of it. Even then, she would be more reviled more than admired by kith and kin, for she lost her mind and life to blind madness, while abandoning her troops and newborn.
He carried the bloadsoaked rags as the terrible noise began to abate, the child turning blue with cold and hunger as the pitiful leaving of a Glory began to still. It was colder in the North, but drier, far drier, and even the Nordic Jotuns knew better than to expose their sea-destined young to the Damp before their constitutions were ready. The humid air would end the proud being to be as surely as a spear.
A baby was possibly the last thing the Green Coated Man had expected to see when dropping into the foul pit of gore, and possibly the only one that might have given the Red pause. It had no place here. He was many things, many terrible things, but never yet had he slaughtered a creature that had not yet had a chance to live.
Equally obviously, killing the Shaman as he ought would leave it without any means of succor, indirectly but equally inexorably killing it.
Nevertheless he was about to draw and stab anyway when a voice resounded behind him, a urbane and melodious voice he expected even less than the child. "Gud Lordy! A wee li'l Khanlin'! An' here oi was worried ye'd offed the tyke when ye killed his ol dame Mare!"
Resplendant even covered in blood, the King Scott passed with a trice through Aiden's vision as his enemy and 'superior' swiftly cleaved the hands from the Shaman and caught the quiet little Centaur. "With these we can be stoppin' this war! Just got to talk to 'is daddy right. Ye done good, m' boy, so very good."
The battle born burbled at the Green King of the Leprechauns, and Aiden ground his teeth. This might be his only chance to kill Scott; certainly it was the first time they were in the same place. But it might be the last chance to be rid of the Jotuns with any amount of ease.
Scott had some degree of precedent for his confidence, despite the bloodshed. The Jotuns claimed to be a family oriented society, and the King currently held the literal future of one of their Dynasties in his arms. The Centaur Khan alone withdrawing forces could save many lives, and it was altogether more likely that it would give all Four Khans an excuse to pack up with their hatred and return better prepared.
Every day cost all three Nations too many. Could Aiden really throw all that away for his personal agenda? It would be better to wait and strike the King in his Court.
If death and hostages alone would repel the Horde, there would scarcely ever be incidents anymore. It was too quick a fix, too easy. They would want something real enough to make their sacrifices worthwhile.
Why would the Leprechaun King...?
And Aiden saw it, at last. He had gone for his own goals to any expense, no matter the price; was it so shocking that the peace-preacher would do the same? Scott would give the Horde the money, perhaps more. All the bodies they had sacked and desecrated.
In return for peace, he would sell his men, just as he had sold their lives for defense and the chance at peace.
Aiden Thane began to bandage the stumps of the great Shaman's arms, attempting to distract his mutinous thoughts by preserving the second hostage, but stopped with a slow and murderous shudder. The King yelped as he sidestepped the first strike and set the child down. "Th' 'ell are ye doin', Major?!"