The Wardog’s Coin consists of two stories set in the epic fantasy world of A Throne of Bones. The title story is about a human mercenary company which finds itself in the employ of an elf king. Outnumbered and under attack from an army of orcs and goblins, the Company discovers it is no longer fighting for pay, but for survival.
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FAR BELOW THE rock I crouched behind, the goblins moved through the mountain pass in loose, meandering columns, stacked fifteen or twenty troops wide. It was hard to count exactly how many of the enemy light infantry there was, since the cruel whips of the orcs that drove them mercilessly onward wasn’t able to keep them marching in no sort of recognizable formation.
We’d twice beaten the blasted breeds back from the very pass they was marching through now, but once they’d managed to haul up their catapults to where they could drop rocks on our heads, the capitaine gave us the order to fall back and join the rest of the elf king’s army.
“How many do you make?” I asked the elf perched on a large boulder above me. He was a scout from the Silverbows, one of the king’s elite troops, and he had eyes so keen a hawk might envy them. Today he and me was on the same side. Problem was, tomorrow might be a different story.
“No more than eight thousand.” He spoke good Savonnais, with only a hint of elf. “They don’t matter. I think the problem lies with what follows.”
I squinted, trying to make out what the large, black objects following the goblin columns below might be. The shapes was too big as to be orcs or goblin wolf-riders, but there was a lot of them, and they moved in an even less-disciplined array than the gobbos.
“I can’t see what they are.”
“Big pigs,” said the elf grimly. “Orcs ride them. Like wargs, only not so fast.”
“Is that how you call them? We say pigs of war. Very big, very fierce. I think maybe three hundred.”
Damn it all to hell and back! If heavy cavalry wasn’t the very last thing we needed to see at the moment, it was pretty bloody close. Three hundred godforsaken warboars!
Ever seen a pig? I don’t mean a nice little piggie with a pink arse and a curly tail, I mean a big old he-boar, with black, bristled hair, sharp yellow tusks, and a giant hump on his back. Now, imagine one twice the size and three times as mean, not a whole lot taller than a donkey but a damn sight wider and weighing more than a horse. Then strap iron armor across the front, sharpen the tusks, and throw an overmuscled breed carrying a greatsword on his back. That’s a warboar.
King Everbright don’t have nothing in his army as can stand against a charge from three hundred of those monsters, except for the Company, and to be honest, even we can’t expect to do much more than get run over. The blue-bloods of Savondir and their men-at-arms might laugh at the boar riders before skewering all their mounts on lances and throwing them on the firepit for dinner, but us wardogs don’t have lances. Or plate. Or pretty warhorses.
I climbed down from the rock on which I’d been sitting and shouldered my pack. It was going to be a long walk down to the camp, so I had to get moving if I hoped to get there before night.
“What will you tell your capitaine?” The elf scout stared at me with his weird yellow-green eyes.
“That there’s an avalanche of big pigs about to fall on our heads.”
“What will he do?”
“I don’t know. Probably send a few of the younger lads home with messages for our kin. I suppose most of them will be last wills and testaments.”
“He will stay and fight? He will not run?”
I laughed, but if it came out more bitterly than I’d meant, the elf didn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he just didn’t care. “I suppose it would be a particular regiment of archers who’d be told to take us out if we tried to skedaddle, wouldn’t it?”
The elf didn’t confirm or deny that the Silverbows had been ordered to turn us into human pincushions if we attempted to withdraw our services without warning. But when his cat-slit eyes narrowed, I was pretty sure he caught my drift.
“Nah, he wouldn’t run anyway. Contract’s a contract. We get paid, we stick around and fight.”
The elf nodded. “It is good to know not all men are without honor. I wish you many kills before you fall.”
I’ll bet you do, I thought. Sod honor! Especially since all those right honorable elves will be off escorting His Royal Elven Arse to safety while we get ourselves trampled into a bloody muck by oversized hogs.
But it wasn’t the Silverbow’s fault, and he was a decent enough sort for an elf, so I waved him farewell and set off down the rocky mountain trail. It wasn’t going to be fun trying to make it before sunset without breaking my neck, but it sure as hell beat what the Company was going to be facing in a day or three.