Sunstorm lay on the ridge, looking down at the Horde encampment in the valley below. In the dim pre-dawn light he counted at least sixty orcs and a trio of raider wolves sleeping near the dying embers of a campfire. He would have guarded the camp with at least two shifts of three men, but the orcs had apparently assigned only two grunts to the duty and one of them was asleep. The camp was easy pickings. With two hundred battle hardened Alliance soldiers less than a mile away, Sunstorm knew the fight could be over within minutes.
Instead, he would follow his orders.
The Alliance Assembly wanted intelligence, and the tinkers had promised that they could get it. To Sunstorm’s left, Nuji Kodosbreath looked at him expectantly. “We’re ready to go,” he whispered. Sunstorm nodded, and the dwarf pulled a strange crossbow from his belt. Pointing it toward the slate-colored sky, he pulled the trigger. As the bolt left the weapon, it burst into flame and carved a blazing slash across the sky.
“First, they’ll take out the guard,” Nuji said, and Sunstorm watched a man rise from behind a bush and roll a grenade between the guard’s feet. A quiet chuff tossed powder at the guard, who twitched and froze in mid-cry. “Total paralysis,” said the dwarf. “The dust is related to the same toxin Zecker used for his wand. Believe it or not, you have to milk a spider to”
“The wolves,” said Sunstorm. “They’re awake.” One was already on its feet, looking toward the fallen guard.
“Wait for it,” replied the dwarf, as all three wolves padded silently across the camp.
“Closer….” The lead wolf sniffed at the guard. Sunstorm gritted his teeth.
“Now!” hissed Nuji, as a pair of elves stepped onto the road. When the wolves bayed and charged, the first elf launched a net that wrapped around the beasts. The second pulled a rope that activated a steam engine hidden in the woods, dragging both net and howling wolves across the road and up into a tree.
“That woke ’em up,” said Nuji. “Time to bring out everyone.” As orcs leapt to their feet and snatched up weapons, the dwarf pulled at a ring hanging by his ear and the steam whistle mounted on his helmet let out a piercing shrill.
“Much better,” grumbled Sunstorm, Horde archers looseing arrows in their direction as their commander circled his troops in a defensive formation. When a half dozen steamwarriors stepped out of the woods, the archers followed the lead of the headhunters hurling spears at the tinker warriors. With the spears and arrows bouncing off their thick armor, the saws mounted on the arms of the steamwarriors roared into life. Tossing clouds of woodchips behind them, the steamwarriors toppled trees and pushed the orcs toward the center of the camp.
“Six against sixty,” said Sunstorm. “You really think those are good odds? They can’t win this fight on their own. Let me send in the rest of the unit before your men are slaughtered.”
“The steamwarriors aren’t fighting the orcs,” said Nuji. “They’re driving them. Here come the dirtworm crews with the big finish.” A low rumbling shook the valley as the ground beneath the Horde troops shuddered and collapsed. Cursing, the orcs and trolls tumbled into the fifteen-foot deep hole now beneath them. A moment later, a pair of gnomish helicopters crested the far rise, dragging a cable-mesh net that they dropped over the mouth of the hole. From the surrounding bushes, tinkers leapt forward and began spiking the net in place.
Nuji let out a pair of blasts on his steam whistle, and the tinkers in the valley below joined him in a victory cheer. “I heard the Assembly wasn’t too happy when your men killed all the orcs in the last raid. I wonder how much information they’ll be able to get out of sixty prisoners,” he said, grinning.