((My first shot at non-guild exclusive fan fiction, feel free to drop comments/criticisms, and/or check out our guild site at idv.shivtr.com))

Fang grunted as he ground the last inch of a thick cigar under his heavy boot, the hot coal hissing as it hit the fresh snow. The pine forest was resplendent in its beauty, thick fir boughs hanging low with heavy crystalline obelisks of ice, all dusted with the huge flakes of the first snows of fall. The sky was darkening with the last fleeting hours of sunlight, night coming early in these the final days of Heartfire. The orange orb burned low in the sky, casting thick beams of amber light that danced and played through the prismatic icicles, reflecting brightly off the pure-white snowfall.

It was all lost on the big Orsimer. Not that he didn't appreciate his homeland; quite to the contrary, he often wandered its rolling hills, rocky crags, towering peaks and ancient thickets. It was the nature of his business in the wood today that deprived him of his normal sense of wonderment and appreciation. For today, he came not as Fang, a simple smith and a lover of whiskey and cigars, a hard, honest worker with a strong sense of loyalty. No, today he wandered these woods as Fangrax gro-Shael, the Iron Chieftain, leader of the Garos Val Stronghold, a masterful warrior and seasoned veteran of countless battles, mightiest of the Orcs of the Iron Hide. And he came to take life.

Five days previously, a troll of frightening proportions had attacked one of the Stronghold's scouts, killing her and badly wounding another Orc who came to her aid. In the lands of Garos Val, there was one rule that was held true above all others: you harm a member of the Stronghold, and the Chieftain will deal with you personally. So here he was, shin-deep in powder, fully armored with his greatsword across his back, trying to move quickly enough to avoid sinking into the wet ground. He wanted another cigar, but he was finally nearing his prey, and he didn't want the beast knowing he had fire.

There was a cave about a hundred feet ahead of the hunter, its entrance partially covered by ice. That's where it would be. Fangrax approached, drawing the spectacular greatsword as he did. As long as he was tall, the blade was as dark as the mountain rock, but gleamed softly in the gathering moonlight. The Orc stopped twenty feet in front of the cave and readied himself. Hunting a troll was not like hunting a deer or some other game; there was no stealth involved, no careful stalking. Issue a challenge, and they will come forth to meet it.

“Come and face death, beast!” Fangrax roared, powerful baritone ringing through the black stone walls of the cave. A familiar call, half scream and half growl, echoed out in return. Fangrax steeled himself. It was beginning.

The troll came forth from the cave slowly. Unusual for a troll; they were normally quite energetic, this one seemed almost calm. It stood nearly ten feet tall, thickly muscled and bulky, dark green to the point of almost being black. Its triplet of eyes appraised Fangrax, taking stock. This was no normal troll. “Trolls do not take measure of their enemies,” Fangrax thought to himself. This battle, it would seem, was to be much more challenging than anticipated. Fangrax felt no fear, just resolve. The Iron Chieftain cannot afford to waiver. The beast roared again, a call that Fang was more than happy to meet.

“Trinimac, observe my tribute and strengthen my body,” he called out to his god. “Dalgar lok-bora mar!”

His sword erupted in bright white flame, a litany of Trinimac emblazoned proudly on the dark blade. With a roar of ferocity to match his opponents, the Chieftain charged, blade hoisted aside his visage, the embodiment of the consummate warrior.

The troll screamed its response and rushed to meet its opponent. As Fang drew near, it swiped at him with its right arm, thick claws bared. The Orsimer ducked the blow, his blade trailing him as he slipped past the beast, cutting a sizzling gash across the troll's right thigh. The beast howled in pain, swinging at Fangrax's back, but to no avail; the Chieftain was already out of range. The Orc turned to face his foe once again, face expressionless. The beast charged again, swinging with its right claws again. Once more Fang made to duck the blow, this time his sword point leading towards the beast's abdomen. Suddenly, he was on the ground, nose bleeding where the troll had struck him with a strong kick.

Impossible. Trolls don't know how to bait.

Fangrax didn't have time to ponder. He pitched his feet over his head, bringing them down in the snow and rolling upright, blade ready in front of him. The troll was pressing him immediately, and he barely managed to bring the flat of his greatsword up to catch the claws before they cut him, retreating as he weathered a flurry of swipes. As soon as an opening presented itself, the warrior leapt back, deftly dropping his hand to a throwing axe on his belt and hurling it end over end into the troll's still-smoldering leg. The beast ripped the weapon out with a defiant cry immediately, but that was to be expected. Fang hadn't thrown it to do damage, but instead to buy himself a moment.

He rushed again, sword angled similarly to his last charge. The troll's right leg lashed out. Fang shifted his blade near to his chest, reversing his direction in a neat spin that lifted the white-hot sword in an arc that neatly severed the beast's leg at the knee. The troll howled again, toppling over. The Orsimer believed he had won. He was incorrect.

As he finished his spin, facing the creature, he was tackled heavily. His sword, not gripped tightly, fell from his hand, and he was barely able to get an armored gauntlet up to avert the gnashing teeth of the creature. It flailed violently, spittle and angry roars issuing from its mouth as it tried to clasp those terrible fangs around the Orc's throat. Fangrax could feel the claws digging through the chainmail under his heavy plate, threatening to burst into him at any moment. He pushed the troll away with all his might, managing just enough space to pull his knees to his chest before the several hundred pound weight settled back onto him.

He kicked his right leg out under the armpit of the troll, slipping his left over its shoulder and kneeing it heftily in the rightmost eye. It was dazed for a moment, time Fangrax used to lock his legs together behind the troll's head, compressing the veins of the beast and cutting of its supply of air and blood. It came out of its stupor and reared back, whipping the Orc up into the air. Fangrax shifted his weight forward, straining his core as he moved with the troll's momentum, blasting his elbow downward onto the frenzied creature's middle eye. This time, the creature lost consciousness altogether, toppling onto its back.

Fang held his choke on the beast until he was sure it would not be awakening, then dismounted and collected his sword. He wasted no time plunging the great weapon through his foe's chest. His father had taught him that when it came to the trolls of the mountains, it was better to be twice as sure than to fight the same beast twice.

“All thanks to you Trinimac for watching over this warrior,” he recited, always resolute in humble piety.

With a grunt, he drew and lit a cigar, puffing on it happily. A slight smile lit on the Orc's features as he turned towards the Stronghold. A good battle.