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Rantine
Rantine
Race: Orcish
Unit Class: Melee Unit
Hero
Requires: Clan of Embers
Bronze Working
Starts With: +25% against Melee Units
Can Use Bronze, Iron, Mithril Weapons
Hero
Orcish
Info: 4 Strength
1 Move
Cost: 180 Production
Special: Can Cast Convert City which takes control of any Barbarian city where Rantine is stronger than the strongest unit in the city

He would not wait much longer. If the men here caught him, they would kill him. Just for who he was, though if they knew what he had done, they would make it slow and painful. He didn't blame them, Rantine was not ready to die by the Bannor-men's hands, not just yet. But he could not leave until he met his queen, or the dreams would continue.

Dreams! He scoffed at himself. Being led so many leagues through the bitter cold, alone, by dreams. He was letting her control him, manipulate him again, and he knew it. But there was a line. He was not the orc he had been in his youth, rabid and bloodthirsty, eager for the excuse to rend flesh. Even an orc can tire of bathing in the blood of children, or at least this orc did. He had told her that many times as he traveled here, the last few months. There was a line he would not cross again, not even for her. Bhall did not answer him, except to continue the dreams.

He became aware of sound, coming closer. Someone was running through the underbrush. Noisy, and right towards him. He sighed, and poised himself to strike. Not to kill. He knew how to take down a lone man without killing him, and the fool should expect worse from the rest of the jungle.

It was not a human, rushing out of the Bannor village. It was an orc; a half naked orc girl. It was his queen, he knew at once, as the dread he had been feeling for so long vanished.

Braduk the Burning was as easy to find as ever, no matter how long he had been away. The unnatural fire showed the way, day or night. And now, for some reason, no blizzards obscured his sight. His journey had been fraught with the perils of winter, perils he had known all his life. The short trip from the outlying Bannor holdings to the sacred city of the orcs bore him no such hardships. The air was warm. No rain fell, let alone snow. He actually felt warm, even without his furs, which Sheelba now wrapped around herself.

"The men were celebrating the end of winter," she told him. Rantine nodded. Conversation was foreign to him, and this girl had no end of words. She made liberal use of them as they neared the city, telling bits and pieces of her life. But she was stunned into silence when they entered Braduk. Hundreds of orcs were arrayed before the flames, preparing for war. Sharpening spears, applying war paint, carving shields, harnessing wargs—everywhere was a flurry of activity. Rantine noticed the orcs arrayed around the banners of their clans. The Reindeer, the Forked Spear, the Bear... even two companies of lizard men. But above them all flew the banner of Embers. And that meant one thing to Rantine.

"Jonas ."

"What?" Sheelba clutched tightly to his arm as they began to be noticed.

"Jonas Endain will be here. When I left, he vowed to kill me."

"Why?"

"I was once a hero amoung our people. But I tried to stop the war, to lead a clan of orcs into treaties with men and against the savagry of Orthus."

Sheelba stared at him, confused.

"The men never intended to make peace. The elders were slaughtered. I was... thanked and released." Rantine looked away, unable to meet Sheelba's gaze, but before she could question him further, an enormous orc entered the village followed by a lizardman scouting party. An orc with a girl's head attached to the shaft of a thick mace.

"You."

"Hello Jonas. What's happening?"

"I have united the Clans, Rantine. We are marching on the humans. Going to revenge your folly. Bhall has chosen me to lead. Stay out of my way." The orcs' Priest-King pushed past Rantine.

"Wait—you can't do that!" Jonas turned to give Sheelba a contemptuous glare. "Every time you attack the Bannor, you die! I've seen it from their side. They win because they have bronze, they have iron, they have magics, and they have training! Throwing away orc lives in mindless raids will get you... will get us nothing! We need civilization to defeat men on their terms!"

"Who is she?" Jonas asked.

"She is your queen. And I... I will be your protector, Jonas, if you heed her. Otherwise, our people are doomed. I have seen it."

Rantine expected to die. Any other Clan might have listened. The Jonas he knew would not take such provocation. Jonas seethed. He gripped the mace tighter. Then, "Come, the two of you. We will speak of this alone."

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