Prince of the North Tower – Chapter 3

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Fiction, Literature | 46 comments

The broken bones of shattered wagons and carriages lay strewn upon the ancient road, the rotting remains of felled horses still tethered to them. Broken crowfeather arrows dotted the scene, their iron tips reclaimed, the useless shafts and black fletchings discarded. The bodies of humans and goblins littered the fields around the ruined transports. Stripped of anything worth stealing, they were left to bloat in the sun. One tattered pennant bearing the coat of arms of Salzheim snapped in the breeze. I’d once thought the white blocks on the blue banner were masonry rather than salt. Over my head, a similarly sized pennant bearing the Raven Coast Roc of Karststadt matched its dance. It was easier to distinguish my heraldry from the banner of Ritterblume than spot the mark of distinction for the heir presumptive. So our contingent rode under my banner, as the Graf rode under his.

Johan Ritter, the copper-haired youth with the kettle hat, rode to my right on a borrowed horse. Ritter was almost as common a name among the landed vassals of the north as Schmidt was among the peasantry. It got rather confusing, as I was not sure which House Ritter he belonged to. Seated upon the diminutive gelding, his shoulder only came up to my elbow. To peer out from under the broad rim of his helmet at me, he had to tip his head back.

“Do you think anyone survived?” he asked.

“The runner who alerted us said there were signs the Goblins had taken prisoners,” I said. “So it depends on how well they’ve weathered captivity.” Of course, in the days that had passed, the trail had grown cold. I didn’t know what I was looking for, and there was nothing glaringly obvious to go by. I came to a stop shy of the first corpse. The column stopped behind me, and Lenz rode up to stop at my left. He gave me an expectant look, as if waiting for orders. Orders, from me. He was supposed to be in charge of this column as much as I was, and he was the one who’d actually wanted to be here. Sure, armored up, atop the tallest horse, with a banner pole affixed to the back of my saddle, I could easily be mistaken for a commander. But Lenz, of all people, should know better.

The incline down towards Salzheim was a field of rippling grasses. But, like most of Ritterblume, just under the surface was gravel and talus. To either side, sloping up to the mountains, were the fell-fields. There it was more barren and sparse, scraggly vegetation showed the broken stone that so frustrated the plow. Gaps in the northern peaks revealed the passes into the karst lands of the Slagveld Mark. There was little doubt that the Goblins had first approached through those gaps, but whether their camp was in that direction was another matter. Jost’s column came up behind ours, and the Graf rode ahead with his personal retinue to come up alongside Lenz and me. His armor shone where it was visible under the green tabard with the herd of horseflowers covering his torso. The modifications needed to accommodate his gut were less visible under the livery, though he would have worn the heraldry even if it didn’t help.

“It’s a mess,” I said.

“The tracks have been erased by the intervening days,” Jost said. He turned to the only unarmored rider in his retinue. It was the man who’d carried the message to us originally. “Which way did it go?” The weary man pointed north, to the gap leading to the karstlands.

“Makes sense,” Lenz said.

“Searching the Slagveld is going to be a bit difficult,” I said. “The terrain there is a mess.”

“We already have a plan for this eventuality,” Jost said. “Your contingent will have the first Eastern fork. Be methodical, but don’t get too far from the main column.”

I nodded. Being methodical would be hard enough. Keeping pace with the main column was going to be worse.

“Gerhard, Werner,” I called. The Sergeants-at-arms in charge of the wings of our contingent rode over. They were older, more seasoned cavalrymen to counterbalance the inexperience of Lenz and me. “We’re headed North.”

The pair barked affirmatives, and we reformed the column.


The karstlands of the Slagveld Mark were riddled with harsh, vertical rock formations, winding ravines, blind valleys, sinkholes and caves. Hardy plants clung to the poor soils, painting splotches of green against the pale limestone. Some even sprouted from cracks in the rock, refusing to let the inhospitable nature of the spot deter them. The horses splashed through an alkaline stream that gurgled over and around stones resistant to dissolution in water. The confusing tangle of geographic features left me wondering how we would ever hope to spot the Goblins before they ambushed us. The gnarl of erosional landforms would drastically favor the side that knew its byways and passages. This was not an advantage we had, and hoping the Goblins were ignorant on the matter was foolish.

I flexed my gloved fingers about the haft of the lance resting on the toe of my boot. The spear was far more plain and utilitarian than the brightly decorated jousting arms, but robust and built to inflict injury rather than avoid it. Graymire snorted, his ears flicking towards the source of the stream. It was a semicircular tunnel at the end of the ravine. I was debating suggesting the column turn about and backtrack to the last fork, but I could see daylight at the other end of the tunnel. It was not terribly long. I turned to ask Lenz what we should do, but found him already looking up at me, waiting for my instructions. I kept my expression calm despite the irritation bubbling up within me. He was the one who wanted to be out here. The one looking forward to the chance at a real fight. Moreover, he needed to learn to lead to prepare for when he’d need to take over from his father. Even disregarding all of that, he had been put at the head of this column as much as I.

“It looks like the ravine continues on the other side of the tunnel,” I said.

“There’s not a whole lot of water,” Lenz said, “The stream isn’t going to be very deep. We can just ride through.”

“If there were not so many pits and sinkholes in the area, I’d be tempted to agree.”

“Wouldn’t the stream drain into a sinkhole?”

“If there were an outlet for the water to go through. I’m just saying we can’t presume the depth of the stream in that tunnel.”

“I guess we’d have to go in there to find out,” Lenz said.

I sighed and resumed riding forward. Graymire’s hooves continued to splash through the water, tone unchanged save for an added echo as the sky was obscured and I passed into the shadows. We emerged almost completely unsubmerged from the far end of the tunnel where it became a distressingly narrow slot canyon. Still, the water barely reached Graymire’s ankles. It was the small frontage that worried me, and the way our advance echoed down the stone channel. The passage curved gently around to the left, the far end obscured by the close-pressed walls. With Lenz and Ritter to either side of me, there was no room in the canyon for additional riders. The numbers in the column behind us became meaningless if we ran into the enemy. Worse if they occupied the top of the canyon walls, as they’d be able to rain missiles down upon us with impunity.

So far, I saw no sign of any Goblins.

With no choice in the matter, we followed the curve of the canyon to where it opened up. The valley beyond was an uneven, sloping bowl with weathered gray walls and a green bottom. The stream was a confluence of three rills spilling from different springs at different heights and locations along the far wall. Between the stream and the up-slope cliff sat a camp of ragged hide tents and roped corrals. The perimeter was marked by a crude stone rampart studded by short wooden stakes. The rampart was not tall by any means, as the tops of the irregular hedgehog of stakes only reached the crowns of the Goblins standing behind it. I wasn’t sure who was more surprised to see the other, us or the Goblins. A moment of shock hung silently in the crisp air.

It was broken by the shrill cry of the sentries, and I spurred Graymire into a run, unslinging my shield at a gallop. Their gate, a gnarled log studded with iron-capped stakes, sat open – the gap in the ramparts clear. Lanky, wretched creatures with floppy ears and dark green hides scurried to shift the logs. These Goblins were dressed in loincloths, and so thin of limb that it would have taken a dozen of their number to shift the log barricade into place. The six of them that beat me to the gate were not enough. The one on the end let out a yelp before his existence ended in a spray of green. The iron tip burst through his lean torso as if he were stuffed with straw. The carcass lodged on the lance, weighing it down and rendering it difficult to bring to bear. I let go of the haft and drew my sword as the tents began to empty out. Caught off guard, they had snatched up their weapons, but few wore anything resembling armor. Those that did either had on a basic helmet or had wrought iron plates tied
to their bodies by crude hide straps. It was easy for my blade to find flesh, which was good, as there were a lot of Goblins pouring in my direction.

Terror sliced through my veins as the swarm closed. I lashed out with all the alacrity I could bring to bear. Amidst fountains of green gore, I was occupied with deflecting rough-hewn iron blades, spears and cudgels. My sword darted between their strikes, opening arteries, spilling entrails, severing limbs and decapitating bodies. It was as if I was alone amidst a sea of green flesh. As another spray of hot ichor splattered across me from the open stump of a neck, I realized I was alone. I’d foolishly and recklessly charged ahead of the column, and now I was about to be drowned in the tide of foes. Knocking aside a glaive, I plunged the tip of my blade down the gullet of its wielder. Graymire bucked, kicking at the chittering masses that had gotten too close.

Despite their numerical superiority, the ring of bodies piling up around me made the Goblins balk at getting within reach of my blade. It gave me a moment of respite to risk a glance back at the column. The barricade gate still stood open, newly decorated with slain Goblins. The other riders were bogged down at the gap, hacking away at the tide. The bellows and ear-cuffing strikes of that tide’s bully-leaders sent their subordinates forward again, ending my moment’s reprieve. As I readied myself to meet the oncoming horde, I was yanked out of its path by Graymire breaking into a run. The sudden charge almost pitched me from the saddle. Crashing through the startled ranks, Graymire trampled those Goblins unable to get out from underhoof.

My attempts to rein in Graymire proved less than successful, and I finally saw that he was not running from the mob, but charging towards something. The platform was a coarse hide stretched between the tips of six massive tusks bound together with sinews to form a savage pedestal. Atop the platform stood a Goblin with greasy white hair cascading down a cloak of black feathers. Above his head he waved a staff of lacquered bone topped with a similarly lacquered skull. Glowing gemstones set into the skull’s eye sockets spilled smoky azure energy that swirled in a torus, chasing the path the skull traced through the air. Within the energy, howling Goblin faces screamed soundlessly, swirling through the smokey trails. The building energy had my skin crawling and all of the hairs on my body standing on end.

Graymire collided bodily with the bundle of tusks, dislodging them from where they were rooted in the soil and knocking the Goblin sorcerer from his perch. The caster’s concentration broken, his gathered energy discharged outwards in a thunderclap, knocking me from the saddle and causing the fight to pause. The sorcerer and I were on our feet at the same instant. In the half second he took to muster his magical might, my blade licked out and opened up his throat. His spell died in a gurgle of green blood. I had no time to bask in the cheer from my fellow riders, as it accompanied the first of the crowfeather arrows to whistle past me. Crouching behind my shield as well as I could manage, I scrambled for cover under the barrage of iron-tipped missiles. I felt a few clang against my shield and heard a few pass close enough for the whisper of their flight to sound like a war shout.

I rolled through the opening of a tent to get out of sight of the archers.

Had I not been tumbling along the ground like a fool, I would have been skewered by the spears of the four Goblins standing just inside. Instead, their initial thrust went high, as they’d been ready for someone to walk in. But spearmen in arms reach I could manage. I came up sword point first, the steel punching into the weaker armor at the nearest Goblin’s armpit. Unlike those outside, these four had crude mail jacks and wrought iron plates strapped properly in place. I cleared the two spear points to my left with a bash of my shield and sank my sword tip through the visor slot of the Goblin to my right. The steel lodged in the bones of his skull and I had to knee his corpse off the blade. The moment’s effort cost me as the spearmen began to stab for the weak spots in my own armor. Avoiding getting skewered nearly drove me back out of the tent, and I chopped down on the haft of one of the spears. Twisting my sword, I snapped the wood, leaving the Goblin with a badly splintered weapon, the iron tip sagging morosely from the end.

The one without a working spear scrambled back, leaving me with the last of the four. I cleared the last spear with a swat of my shield and plunged my blade between his gorget and neck. Green bubbled up around the steel as it bit deep into the Goblin’s vitals. Drawing the sword free, I searched for the last Goblin. He’d snatched up a human-made sword from a pile of plunder in the middle of the tent and was holding it two-handed. Despite the courage needed to charge me, the Goblin was a lousy swordsman, and didn’t last long. I parried twice and struck his head from his shoulders. It was a cold, efficient kill that released a fountain of green blood from the stump of the Goblin’s neck.

The very human shriek that followed led me to take in the interior of the tent more fully. Focused on the actual threats, I hadn’t noticed the prisoners staked to the ground around the perimeter of the tent, nor the pile of pillaged goods from which the Goblin had taken the sword. This was a loot tent, and the shriek had come from one of the prisoners. The last Goblin’s vitae had sprayed across her as he fell, and she had reacted badly to the shock. The darker green smear along her battered and filthy seafoam gown was still not as dark as the expression writ across her features.

“What kind of rescue is this?” she demanded.

“The kind that can end very quickly,” I said. Her scowl darkened, but I cut the bindings of all the prisoners anyway. “There’s still fighting going on, so be careful.” Opening the tent flap with the blade of my sword, I peered out. The riders had broken through the gate and the entire force had managed to get stuck in. With our superior arms, armor and strength, these Goblins would not last very long. I strode back out of the tent and found Graymire. Once back in the saddle, I’d planned to go looking for Lenz, but it was easier for him to find me. He rode up alongside me with Johan in tow. From the amount of green they were splattered with, I gathered they’d been in the thick of the fighting. A broad smile split Johan’s features despite the weariness in his expression.


The stream ran green with blood. It was quite literal, as we washed off our gear and our horses in its alkaline currents. Our messenger summoned Graf Ritterblume, and he arrived with his company before I managed to finish getting my own gear washed down. Admittedly, I’d started late and had been drenched in ungodly amounts of Goblin vitae. I left my shield propped against a rock and went over to meet Jost. The prisoner in the stained seafoam gown beat me to him.

“Graf Ritterblume, thank the heavens.”

Jost dismounted and doffed his helmet.

“One of your men was very discourteous with me, and was uncouth enough to spray me with Goblin blood.”

“I am not so great a sword master as to control where the blood goes,” I said.

“You did this?” For a moment I wondered at the source of her confusion, but realized I had been wearing my helmet earlier. She had not yet seen my face before. “I demand an apology!”

“I’m sorry I saved your life,” I said.

“That was uncalled for,” Jost barked. I was about to apologize for the snide comment unprompted, until a smug look came over the girl. I simply held my tongue instead.

“Who is this man?” she demanded.

“Who are you?” I asked.

Jost sighed. “I know you two have met before. I was there. Kord, this is your cousin, Magda von Salzheim. Magda, this is Kord von Karststadt.”

“The Kord I knew knew how to act around a lady,” Magda said, turning up her nose at me.

“The Magda I knew knew how to act like a lady,” I said.

“Enough!” Jost barked. “Lorenz, get over here.”

Lenz jogged over to where we were gathered.

“I wish I could say this was the last of the Goblins, but we also found a camp further West. If there are two camps this far South with outriders past Steel Fen, then the Slagveld Mark is lousy with them. This is going to be a long slog.”

My spirits sagged as he said it. Rationally, there was no arguing with him. Half the materials from which the camp had been assembled looked to have been dragged south with the Goblins. They would never have invested so much effort in a forward base if they were not already dug in and planning to stick around. Why had Kirchner not even given warning? The whole purpose of the Margrave of Slagveld was to keep the Goblins north of the North Tower. That was his only job.

Jost continued speaking. “The two of you are going to escort Magda back to Salzheim and speak with the Pfalzgraf. Tell him what we know and ask him to send aid in driving back the Goblins.”

“Yes, sir,” Lenz said.

“Then you will get on a boat for Farcairn.”

“What?” Lenz asked. “Why are we going away from the fighting?”

“Even if the Emperor does not show up at the tournament, one of the sponsors is the Herzog Freinmarkt-Ziegeberg. He is a friend of ours, and he will send troops to help scour these valleys. Look around – we’re going to need all the men we can get to dig them out of all the knotholes in this land. If the Emperor does show, beseech him as well.”

“I understand,” Lenz said.

If you want your own copy, the whole book is available from Amazon in eBook, Paperback, and Hardcover variants.

About The Author



A premature curmudgeon and IT drone at a government agency with a well known dislike of many things popular among the Commentariat. Also fails at shilling Books


  1. UnCivilServant

    The stream ran green with blood

    I forgot that line, but I like it too much.

    • WTF

      I must say, UCS, you write a damn fine battle scene.

      • Sean

        Action packed.

  2. kinnath

    I am enjoying your story. Thanks again.

  3. EvilSheldon

    Aw yeah. Nothing like a little sudden overwhelming violence to properly set the tide of a battle!

    • UnCivilServant

      I also tried to slip some character details in there outside of the obvious verbal spat with Magda.

      Despite his misgivings and ill-imaginings in earlier chapters, Kord is by no means cowardly (The ambush didn’t really get to show that off since there was no active decision on his part), but he’s also inexperienced enough that he didn’t make sure the rest of his cavalry squadron was with him when he charged. While this could have been implied from his overall age, making understandable mistakes instead of stupid ones subconsciously reinforces that and the impression that he is human.

      • ron73440

        I never got the idea he was cowardly.

        He always seems to downplay his abilities and contributions.

      • UnCivilServant

        Then it worked – Muahahahahahaha!

      • EvilSheldon

        I’d say that his inexperience would lie in the fact that he didn’t know that his squad would be with him when he charged – both by getting too far out in front of his main body, and by not having run through this kind of immediate-action drill with his troops. Entirely an understandable mistake, but also the kind that often get written in blood.

      • creech

        Goblins pretty stupid to not have a scout watching that canyon. But complacency has led to all sorts of surprise attacks since Trojan horse times.

      • UnCivilServant

        I can only say they were A: Not expecting a counterattack in that location, and B: not the most professional of forces.

      • Sean

        “Not fair! We’re the one’s doing the raiding.”

    • UnCivilServant

      Well, not anymore.

      Private Prosecution used to be standard fare in Common Law. Even in this county.


      Senator Moobs calls to increase the number of justices in… 3…2 …

      • Suthenboy

        …..and they get their wish but those extra justices wont be appointed until after Trump is elected. It is delightful watching morons shoot themselves in the dick. Ok, I am a terrible person. I admit it.

        *increasing the # of justices wont change anything. They only want it for short term advantage which, at this point, will backfire on them. It’s like watching the keystone cops. Their long term Frankfurt school tactics of removing thought from reality isn’t going to work out for them very well.

    • Suthenboy

      Thomas is correct. Were it so then Trump or any of his cohorts could prosecute the people prosecuting him, especially is we are using imaginary laws ex post facto. This is real banana republic monkey bullshit. All of the players that did this belong in prison.

  4. The Late P Brooks

    Private Prosecution used to be standard fare in Common Law. Even in this county.

    WANTED- Donald J Trump. Dead or alive.

  5. Tundra

    Excellent chapter. But I’m impatient so I’m on chapter 17.

    No spoilers but it’s really gathering speed!

    • UnCivilServant

      You’re almost halfway done. I mean they just got to [REDACTED] after [REDACTED].

      • Tundra

        I was glad that he [REDACTED] and met back up with [REDACTED].

  6. kinnath

    So, some pundits are suggesting that Biden withdraw and free his delegates so there can be a contested convention. Except, we already had a shadow convention to get Biden’s name no the ballot in Ohio. That seems like an “oh shit” moment that the Dems will need to deal with.

    • Grummun

      I’m confident the Ds can find a judge that will require Ohio to put any replacement for Joe on the ballot.

      • kinnath

        You could/would see lawsuits from the Ds claiming the civil rights of the primary voters were infringed.

        And you could see lawsuits from state officials that their laws are being violated.

        This would be fun to watch.

      • Nephilium

        Yeah, there will be a friendly federal judge in Hawaii who will rule on it for the D’s I’m sure.

      • kinnath

        And I expect some federal judge in Ohio might rule the rights of the citizens of Ohio were being violated by a change imposed outside the legislature.

      • kinnath

        Vote for the hooligans that have been running the country for the last four years, not the hooligans that ran the country the previous four years. It’s the only right thing to do.

      • Nephilium


        Hooligans you say?

      • kinnath

        video unavailable

        fuck the corporate firewall

      • Nephilium


        Just a Rancid song, appropriately named Hooligans.

      • Suthenboy

        The Editorial board. Notice no one is putting their name on that.
        Every hear a five year old explain why they should get something they want that is completely unrealistic and certain to create disaster? If you haven’t, just read that article.

        *disclaimer, I barely got through the first paragraph or two. Just boiler plate talking points.

    • Suthenboy

      Were Biden laying on his death bed barely conscious he would not relinquish power. See RBG. These kinds of people dont care about country, party, family…nothing save their own personal grip on power. He would rule from the grave if he could.

      • Drake

        Undead Biden would probably do a better job.

      • Beau Knott

        Do you want Lich Kings? Because that’s how you get Lich Kings

    • The Other Kevin

      Notably missing from the list: Highlight stellar record.

    • ZWAK came for the two-fisted tentacle-fighting, stayed for the crushing existential nihilism.

      If your survival strategy is a list of eight things, you are fucked.

    • ron73440

      The president’s “survival strategy” consists of eight things:

      Dismiss “bedwetting”

      I thought you were making that up.

  7. The Late P Brooks


    In the aftermath of the president’s disastrous debate performance last Thursday, no would-be replacement has been the recipient of more wish-casting among despairing Democrats than the second-term Michigan governor.

    Whitmer? Are you fucking kidding me?


      Think of the campaign ads, “A Dalmatian fur coat in every closet!”

      • Beau Knott

        She’s only governor because someone dropped a house on her sister.


        I dunno, I thought the “And your little dog too!” politician was out in the Dakota Territory.

  8. The Late P Brooks

    Headline I want to see:

    Supreme Court Opposes Criminalizing Policy Disputes. Democrats Outraged.


  1. Animal’s Daily Immunity News | Animal Magnetism - […] I get into this, check out my buddy UnCivil Servant’s latest chapter of Prince of the North Tower over…