Saturday, August 06, 2011

The War Pigs of Hamfest

One of the better known historical facts regarding Hamfest, that sleepy little swine-herder village on the edge of nowhere, several days north of Glendale Township, is that they were on the front lines of the Ogre War, and in fact saved Glendale with a clever, if somewhat cruel stratagem.

In those days the Adventure's Guild had sent an expedition westward to investigate the Iron Hills, which had been recently discovered, and of which nothing much was known. As it turned out the Iron Hills were riddled with tunnels and warrens in which a vast number of Kobolds, Goblins, and Ogres had lived for a very long time, unknown and unsuspected by the people of Glendale. Nor had the Ogre-folk known that the humans had settled in Glendale Valley at that time. And so it was that the wrath of the Ogres was aroused, and they began to wage war on the people of Glendale. It began with small expeditions that burned down farms, and sacked small villages in the south. Then the east, and finally a large army was formed with the determination to push the people of Glendale into the southern sea. And so it was that an Ogre Army came to Hamfest late one autumn evening, secretly as they could, having assembled on the road a day's journey northward.

The Ogres were heading south along Glendale road, and came beneath Blueberry Hill. There they massed their elephants into three blocks of six elephants each. The elephants were mounted by Kobold archers in small towers afixed to the elephants backs. The Ogres formed a phalanx of pike wielders in front of the elephants, while behind the elephants the main army of Goblins and Hobgoblins massed into a huge triangular formation. Hamfest was the first town in their way, and was set to be duly destroyed by fire, pillage and rapine. The Ogres marched the army down the road toward Hamfest, lead by their greatest and most ruthless commander, Throk Llodre, the Crimson Impaler.

Having had some small warning in advance from Lord Amoralon the Dragonfly Prince of Feylandia, the Hamfest village was as well fortified as it could be. Behind the wooden wall along the barricades and parapets, were 20 of the best of King Oswald's Barons, 130 Knights in chain-mail and stout kite shields, swords brandished and gleaming, and about 400 infantrymen with pikes, short swords and light armor. They watched the horizon at sunset, as the dust from the approaching Ogre Army rose into the air from the north, the light of their torches shimmering against the dust with an orange glow. Thum, thum, thum, they heard the great deep drums as the Ogre Phalanx rounded the bend and came into view.

The army stopped there and began a solemn chanting amid the drums under the light of their thousands of torches. Louder and louder, and faster and faster came the chanting, until midnight, when suddenly all of the Ogre fires went out, and the dreadful scene turned pitch black in the darkness. All that could be heard were the sounds of tramping boots, the horrifying Goblin song, and the long braying and trumpeting of the elephants as the entire mass surged forward through the darkness.

It was then that Lord Beltane sent up the signal, which was a green flaring torch tossed high in the air from the bell tower in the center of the village. At the edge of the forest along the western side of the road, safely out of view of the approaching horde, Farmer Giles executed the plan he had hastily devised and recommended to the Barons of Oswaldia. One hundred pigs he had lathered in oil, and contained in a hastily constructed wooden pen whose wide gates faced the road along the western side. Grimly, he lit the pigs on fire with a torch and ordered his retainers to swing the gates open as he perceived the elephants were passing by in their gigantic columns.

One hundred flaming war pigs, squealing madly in an agony of pain and madness, came hurtling out of the darkness down the grassy slope toward the elephant columns. Before a single Kobold arrow could be fired the entire mass of elephants, spooked out of their minds, turned and ran pell mell into the crowds of Goblins behind them, crushing hundreds, and scattering the rest into the forests and bogs thereabouts.  It was pandemonium for the Ogre Army as long bow arrows began to whistle down in a constant rain onto their ranks from the walls of the village.  Ogres, however, do not panic.

The Ogres surged forward, their phalanx rattled, but still intact. They had intended to surround the village and guide the elephants into a charge at the gate to break it down, but this plan was now ruined. Thus, instead Throk Llodre barked out the order for the Ogres to charge the village gate and break it down with their maces, and even their bare hands if need be, and so the phalanx began to surge toward the wall in the darkness.

Nothing could be seen, but only the roaring, grunting and cursing of Ogres could be heard as they charged thunderously toward the village wall. But at that moment the darkness was broken in numerous places by mystic spells cast from the bell tower, and so the battlefield was illuminated by four brilliant balls of light high over head. By this light the gate of the village opened and out marched the pikemen in formation, followed by the Calvary of knights in shining armor. The Ogres turned to face their enemies and so there was a ferocious battle at the gate of Hamfest village, in which Lord Beltane distinguished himself for valor, as did his fighting men, and as did too Farmer Giles, who had come running up along the road with his own men to join the battle. By dawn the Ogres lay in heaps along the wall, and those not slain fled with Throk Llodre into the forests and far away, back to the Iron Hills from whence they came.

Farmer Giles was hailed a hero, and knighted by Lord Beltane. But he had no interest in fame or fortune, or being a Knight, and so he returned to his farm with his retainers, and to this day he lives out past Audax hill, happily herding swine, growing corn, raising his family, and keeping a watch on the northern road. And so, this is how Farmer Giles of Hamfest won his renown and helped to save the citizens of Glendale using an effective, if somewhat cruel stratagem.
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