Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mexta II

The battle had been short, if one could even call it a battle. It was closer to a massacre than anything else. Mexta had been the leader of the assault. The day before she had ridden up and shot an arrow at one of the farmers. Today they had killed any who didn't flee.
     When would they have a real fight? Why did the king not send his armies to stop them? It had started as simple revenge, but their elder had ordered them to continue their raids. The humans had attacked a fellow clan without provocation and the Orcs would not let that stand. Let the humans feel their wrath and face what they have brought on themselves. If they wanted to fight the Orcs, then they would get a fight they would never forget.
     But so far none of their raids had been worth remembering. Mexta enjoyed the slaughter, she reveled in it. However, if there was no fear of death, no challenge in defeating the enemy, then what was the point?
     Her thoughts turned back to the giant. Now he would have been a challenge, until the rage faded from his eyes. His lust for vengeance had been satisfied by killing Grodun. After that he would not fight anymore. He had become content.
     "Mexta! Don't clean your axe yet. A rider is approaching." Draykon, one of the younger grunts, shouted to her.
     She wasn't going to clean it yet anyway. As leader of the assault it would be her duty to treat with the enemy. Whoever it may be. "Watch my back!" Mexta strode towards the oncoming rider, great axe in hand. Blood dripped off its edges, sure to intimidate the rider.
     To her surprise it wasn't a human. It was an Elf. He brought his horse to a halt and looked at Mexta, eyebrows raised. He saw her axe and the blood, then his eyes widened as he looked behind her, where smoke was rising form the burning buildings. He looked back at her with cold disdain in his gaze.
     "What have you done? Speak, Orc!" He raised his chin and looked down upon Mexta from atop his horse. His sharp nose and the tips of his ears were clearly defined against the setting sun.
     "Leave off, Elf! The humans attacked one of our settlements. They asked for this. We are only giving them back in turn what they gave us." Mexta would have loved nothing more than to yank the creature off his horse by his long silvery hair, but her elder would probably frown upon that.
     "These humans have surely done no such things. They were peaceful men and women. We treated with them regularly. They weren't like others that have settled here. They were good." His words were harsh in the Orc tongue, though his facial expression was one of sorrow, not anger.
     "Hah!" Mexta snorted with derision. "These were different you say! Hah! All humans are the same. Their king ordered to attack a clan. If you attack one clan, then you attack all the clans. So instead of attacking one village, we are attacking all the villages. That's what they asked for."
     "You speak of a full out war. War effects us all. The Elves won't just idly stand by. We will have to interfere."
     "Oh, you want to interfere, do you?" Mexta hefted her axe. It was a large weapon, double bladed. With enough force she could cut rider and horse in half with one swing.
     "I will have to inform the Druids." He eyed her axe. His hand twitched for only a moment, but he did not grab his sword. Instead he turned his horse to ride away.
     "You do that. But remember who started this. We were attacked unprovoked." She shouted after him as he rode off.
     This was an interesting turn of events. She wondered what Gwarr, their elder, would say to this. The Elves and Orcs hadn't fought each other in decades. The Great War was over a century ago. Was this the beginning of another? And who would come out on top?
     "He's awake and shouting again." Draykon came up to her, stopping her mind from wandering.
"Then I better give him a visit." Mexta smiled, lifting her axe onto her shoulder. The Elf was gone and Gwarr would have to wait until they returned to their settlement anyway.
     She took her time walking back to the camp. She could hear him yelling more than fifty feet away from her tent. She sat down by a fire and took some meat off the spit. She ate her share peacefully, ignoring his shouting. When she was done she got up and cut some meat off the spit for him.
     When she finally entered her tent he stopped yelling. She leaned her bloody great axe against a box with her belongings. The giant was tied up to the pole holding up the tent. "I brought you some food. Is that what you were shouting for?" Speaking in the human's tongue still bothered her, but she was getting used to it.
     "I'm thirsty, too." The giant growled.
     Mexta threw the meat on his lap and untied his hands. She wasn't worried about him trying to attack her, that was the whole problem. She knew he was a fighter at heart, but the fight had left him ever since he avenged his wife's death. He rubbed his wrists and started eating the meat.
     She sat down on her box and lifted her axe. Now the time had come to clean it. "This is human blood. I killed many today. Don't you want to avenge their deaths as well?" When the raid had ended, the giant had dropped his weapon and asked them to kill him. But Orcs honored those that fought bravely and had proven strength. Killing him without a weapon in hand would have been honorless. For him and the Orc who killed him.
     Ever since that first raid, Mexta had pulled him after her. Going from one village to the next. Every day she tried to provoke him to fight, but he would not listen. All he did was eat, drink, walk and sleep. She was starting to lose her respect for him, but she still knew that deep within him there was a fighter.
     The giant did not rise to the bait. He just kept on eating while she cleaned the blood of his fellow humans off her weapon. When he asked for water again, she gave it to him. One of these days he would have to stand up and fight. And when that happened she wanted to be the one to slay him. One of these days.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bron II

Bron and his men had received new orders from the commander. The Orc's had abandoned the mines and with some scouting done Bron was sure that they had left no traps or any other kind of dangers. The camp was moving in and started building some houses for miners to settle in. The only problem was fresh water. The closest source for that was the former Orc settlement.
     There was however a note in the commander's orders that spoke of some kind of spring in the mountains. Bron was supposed to make up a scouting party whose sole purpose it was to find the spring. If they found that, then their water troubles would be over. He decided to make up three scouting parties instead. That way they could cover more ground.
     "Captain Bron! The scouting parties have been assembled and are in search of the spring." A soldier came to stand next to him.
     "Alright. Back to your post!"
     Bron began his tour of the camp, checking if everything was in order. His arm was still in a sling, ribs and head still bandaged. He must look pretty fatigued, but he kept his back straight and his men greeted him with respect as he passed.
     He thought back to the fight and to how fortunate he had been. The Orc had been on top of him and could have killed him easily, but he was still alive. He got lucky. That was all. It could have been over just as easily.
     Bron wasn't so much worried about his own life. It was the things he would miss. The people who he would never see again. Who would never see him. Mary, Alexander and Gregory. Alexander was almost a grown man now. He would probably join the military soon, like his father. He would be able to watch out over his mother and little brother, if anything were to happen to Bron. He was was sure of it.
     However, he wouldn't want the boy to step in his shoes too soon. He was alive. That's all that mattered. He just hoped he could get some time on leave soon to see his family. Just in case. It had been a close call. He would really like to see them all again.
     A rider came galloping up the road. One of his scouts from the camp's perimeter. He was in a hurry. Bron tensed. Were the Orcs coming back to take what was theirs? Was it too late for him to see his family again?
     "Captain Bron! There's news from the capital."
     "Let's hear it!" The tension left his body. They weren't under attack. He'd prepared his men for the possibility of an assault, but if the Orcs came in force, he didn't know if they could put up much of a fight. Many of his men were still wounded like himself.
     The scout unrolled a piece of parchment. "Dire news has reached the capital from several villages on the northern borders of the kingdom. They have been raided by Orcs. Most inhabitants have been killed. Men, women and children"
     Bron had been expecting this news, just not so soon. The Orcs were out for retribution. Doing to them what they had done to the Orcs. They were just doing more of it. His actions had truly just been the beginning.
     "What are the King's orders? Have you word from the commander? Something must be done to protect the other villages." His family lived in Freshire, a village in the east. They were safe for now, but who knew for how much longer?
     "It doesn't say, but I've heard rumors of a special battalion being trained to fight these beasts."
     Good! It seemed the chancellor had listened. Bron wondered how the new trainees would fair. They better do well, because war was coming.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Small John

A knock came at the door.
     Small John hurried over and opened it. It was Serah, the Princess's maid. "John, the Princess will see you now."
     "Uhm... yes, just a moment." John hurried back into his room to get ready.
Serah stomped in after him. "One does not keep the Princess waiting." She started, but then she saw Small John struggling with the fine clothes and his hair was a mess. "Oh my! In this case we better make an exception. Let me help you dearie!"
     Small John had been trying to get ready for the past half hour, knowing that he would be summoned to the Princess's chambers today, but he was unaccustomed to wearing more than a shirt and trousers. Serah seemed to know just what to do. She ignored what Small John had tried to put on so far and got out new clothes from different drawers.
     "Here, these are underclothes. Put those on first. And get rid of those leggings, you're not a courtier. A fine pair of trousers will do. And here is a nice linen shirt, don't bother with the laces at the top. You'll look a bit rugged, but fine nonetheless. Now go behind that screen and get dressed. Then we can get a comb through your hair and be on our way."
     Small John changed into the clothing quickly, not wanting to keep the Princess waiting much longer. He was amazed by the simple colors, brown and white, that Serah had chosen for him. Before she came he had been fussing with red, purple and blue, even yellow clothes. He thought they all looked horrid, but that was what everyone else seemed to be wearing. Luckily Serah helped him pick out things that he felt more comfortable in.
     Running a comb through his hair hurt and getting all the knots out took a few minutes, but then they were on their way. Small John thought they'd be in a rush, but Serah walked through the halls slowly. Apparently, that was how it was done. Running or even just walking fast, would probably be seen as improper.
     Small John was busy thinking about what he should say. The Princess wasn't just any girl. He was told they were the same age, but he would have to show respect and much of it. The girls in Duranham were nothing compared to her. Small John had gotten along with them well enough, even kissed a few, but those experiences surely wouldn't be much use to him when meeting the princess.
     Thinking of Duranham hurt inside. They were probably all dead now. That's why he was here. His father had sent him to warn the King and to save his life. He would probably be out on the streets now, but at least he'd be alive.
     It was the Princess who asked the King if Small John couldn't stay in the castle with them. Serah had told him that. She said that since he had no place to live that he could become a kind of companion or friend of the Princess, since she didn't have any others.
     Serah stopped in front of a door and Small John almost ran right into her. He was so nervous he was starting to sweat. "Calm down, John, and don't forget who you are speaking to. She is the Princess after all."
Serah opened the door and they entered together. She  announced their arrival and the Princess turned away from the window to greet them. Small John was dumbfounded when he looked upon her. She was a vision of beauty. Young, tall, slim and blonde. That's what he saw from afar, but as she came closer he saw the effects of her illness.
     They were about the same age, but her eyes were set in deep hollows and there were bags underneath from lack of sleep. She was tall, but what she had gained in height she lacked in weight. She was too slim for her stature, barely more than skin and bone. She looked frail, as if one could snap her like a twig. Only the beauty of her hair remained as a symbol of what she could look like if she were healthy.
     Serah curtsied. "This is John."
     The Princess smiled at him. Serah coughed. Small John smiled back, looking at the Princess, completely oblivious. Serah gave him a nudge with her elbow, which pulled him out of his stupor. He bowed. "Ahem... excuse me, my Princess."
     "Hello John! Please, call me Wendy." Her eyes, though set deep within her face, sparkled with joy.
     "I thought your name was Theowenna?" Small John looked at her in confusion.
     Serah drew in a sharp breath. "John! She is your Princess. If she asks you to call her Wendy, then you shall not question her!"
     "It's okay, Serah." The Princess smiled on, even though she was starting to dodder. "If you don't mind, let us sit and..."
     "Please, sit down." Small John wasn't going to let the Princess stand any longer than was necessary. He didn't want her to faint after all.
     "John! You shouldn't interrupt the Princess when she speaks!" But Serah shuffeled over to the Princess and lead her to a seat by the window. "Of course, when it comes to her health it is best to let her rest as soon as possible instead of letting her babble on, because she thinks it is the proper thing to do." She gave the Princess a kind nod and a smile. "Now come over here, boy. And sit down."
     Small John went to sit across from the Princess. His brow was still sweating, which made him feel uncomfortable and he didn't know what to say, which made the sweating even worse. So far whenever he had opened his mouth or had failed to do so, Serah had scolded him. Luckily the Princess had recovered enough to speak again.
     "I asked you to call me Wendy, because it sounds so much better than being named after my father. And that is why I have always wanted my friends to call me so. Sadly, since my sickness has gotten worse over the last few years, my friends of my childhood seem to have spread out through the land, going on with their lives. I was left here in my room and have once again become Theowenna, the Princess." Her face dropped in a grimace of despair and she placed her hand upon her forehead, but the corner of her mouth gave a hint of a smile.
     "If it pleases you, my Princess." Small John thought that was the right way to speak with her. "Then I shall call you Wendy. I would gladly take the place left by all your childhood friends, as you can fill the space left within me. Since I have lost all my old friends as well." Small John tried to fight back the tears as he remembered his friends, his father and his mother most of all.
     The Princess's act of dispair vanished in an instant and she smiled again. "I'm glad that you will be my friend, but please don't speak like some stuck-up fool. Just be yourself."
     Small John smiled back at her. He had lost many that he loved, but the future was not as dark as he thought it might be. There was hope left inside of him. He raised an eyebrow questioningly at Serah, wondering if she would accept his plain speech in front of the Princess. She nodded, seeming to know what he was thinking. "Alright! I'll be myself. Then if you don't mind. Please, call me Small John."
     The Princess snorted with laughter. "But... but your so tall."
     "Well, you want to be called Wendy and you have your reasons and I have mine."
     "Okay. Small John it is. I'm pleased to have you as my friend." Wendy smiled more brightly than ever.
     "And I'm pleased to be yours, Wendy." Small John smiled right back at her.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kruzz II

They had been traveling for days. Kruzz's feet hurt, but he didn't let it show. He was carrying a pack with food and mining equipment on his back and held his spear in his hand. The pack was heavy, but the spear was worth it. He was proud to have it and would not show any sign of weakness.
     Reeba had spoken to Worg as promised. The Elder was impressed with Kruzz's fighting ability that he had proven against the humans, but he also said that they must follow traditions. Only a grunt should wield a weapon and if Kruzz wanted to be a grunt then he would have to work like one. If he were to carry the same load a grown grunt carried and did not complain, making it all the way to the Turak Clan's settlement then he would be allowed to go on the Hunt. He'd be one of the youngest grunts to do so in living history.
    Kruzz wasn't sure if Worg wanted him to pass this trial or not. It was a very heavy load, but not the heaviest. Grim's load must have been twice as heavy and the blacksmith, Ragnur, carried three packs, all as big as Kruzz's and he had a very large sword slung over his back as well. Kruzz wanted to become just as strong as them. He wanted to be a grown grunt and prove his strength. That was why he didn't complain, even though his back ached and he felt like he could not go another step.
    Grim was still hurt from the fight against the humans, so even though he insisted on carrying more than others, he was going slow. He and Kruzz ended up going at about the same speed and Kruzz used Grim's presence and display of strength as motivation. He kept him going.
    It didn't take Grim long to notice Kruzz staring at him while they traveled and on the second day he spoke to him. "So, I hear you want to go on the Hunt. You can't have seen more then fourteen summers. You sure you're up to it." He smiled with his big tusks sticking out.
    "Fifteen!" Kruzz declared proudly, wanting to seem tough. "I've seen fifteen summers and I killed humans during the attack."
    "And you think that makes you a grunt, do you?" Grim was still smiling. Kruzz began to worry that it wasn't a friendly smile, but more of a humored smile. As if Grim was making fun of him.
    "It doesn't make me grown up, but it proves my strength and the Elder has given me this trial to see if I am up to the task. He will let me go on the Hunt once we arrive the settlement, if I make it on my own. I will not disappoint him. I will prove my strength." That would show Grim that he was serious.
    Grim scrutinized him, looking him up and down. His smile had faded and then he suddenly burst out laughing. "I like you, broodling. I really do. And I'm excited to see you go on the Hunt. I'm sure you will soon." He gave Kruzz a hefty pat on the back, which almost made him fall.
    After that Grim and he talked more often. Sometimes while walking, sometimes when they made camp in the evenings. Kruzz was starting to feel like he was already one of the others. A grunt. The others didn't speak to him like Grim did. Traglok and Ragnur didn't even look at him, as if he were just another broodling not worth their time.
    Two more days of traveling and they finally arrived at the Turak Clan settlement. They were greeted with mixed welcomes. Kruzz's clan, the Griklog, was relatively new founded. The broodlings were only of the second generation. The first generation having joined together out of volunteers or castoffs. Some may have originally come from the Turak.
    Kruzz dropped off his pack with the others. The mothers would sort through their food and equipment and would begin building up their own little camp within the Turak settlement. As other grunts started moving through the settlement, greeting Orcs they knew and introducing themselves to others, Kruzz decided to do the same.
    That was his plan at least, until he got distracted. There was a gathering of Orcs near the edge of the settlement. A target was displayed more than fifty feet away. One Orc was surrounded by the others and he held a bow. He was knocking an arrow and took his aim. The tension was high as everyone watched. He let the arrow fly and everyone cheered when it hit the target.
    "Roah!" Ragnur showed up behind Kruzz, shoving him aside, roaring with rage. He stepped into the mass of Orcs. "Dax! I challenge you! Lay down that piece of wood with string and fight me with a real weapon!" Ragnur pulled his large sword from his back. The blade was as wide as a cleaver and almost as long as Kruzz was tall. "I made this for you. So that I could split your head with it!"
    Dax, who everyone had watched shooting his bow, turned to face his challenger. His tusks twisted into a grin. "Rag! I haven't seen you in years. I heard you were coming back. Welcome!"
    "Don't call me that you useless heap of an Orc. Do you accept my challenge or not? Answer me or I'll cut you in half where you stand." Ragnur was seething, weapon in hand, ready to strike at a moments notice.
    Dax seemed more amused than threatened and took his time pondering the threat. Which only made Ragnur madder. "I accept! But not today. I'm sure you and your clan are tired after traveling. Today is a day to celebrate our coming together not a day of mourning a death. Tomorrow we can fight." Kruzz thought Dax had a weird way of speaking, it sounded so formal, not blunt the way other Orcs spoke.
    "Raaarrr!" Ragnur turned his back on the crowd and stamped off. Kruzz didn't quite understand what was going on. What had Dax done to Ragnur that made him so mad? But he didn't get a chance to find out. Reeba was standing next to him. She must have witnessed the confrontation and had gotten distracted. Now that the tension was gone she turned to him.
    "Kruzz, the Elder wants to speak with you. You have proven your strength twice over. He will tell you when it is time to go on the Hunt."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Serah

Serah bustled through the palace halls until she reached the guarded backdoor to the King's audience chamber. The guards recognized her stout frame from a distance and smiled at her arrival. She was one of only two people allowed to enter the King's chambers at all times. The other person was with him at the time, Commander Arenson.
     Serah entered the chamber, but stood to the side and said nothing. Matters of state were none of her concern, but when there was news concerning the Princess, then it was her duty to be informed. And as far as she knew the Commander was bringing just such news.
King Theowen was as thin and long as a beanstalk. He barely seemed to fill the seat of his throne or any ordinary chair, for that matter. One would hardly believe that he was King, by the look of him, if it weren't for the crown on his head. But when he spoke his education and authoritative nature came to the forefront. As Serah witnessed once again during the King's and the Commander's conversation.
     "The boy came all the way from Duranham. He brought a message, saying that the village was going to be attacked by Orcs. There were no fighting men, so I doubt they stood a chance." The Commander spoke solemnly.
     "What else did the boy have to say?" The King seemed troubled by the news. His voice was grave, but Serah could tell by the way he was rubbing the ring on his right ring finger with his thumb. He was troubled indeed.
     "The boy can't read. He didn't know what message he was carrying, since his father sent him away before the Orcs attacked. On the other hand, our troop's attack on the Orc settlement was a complete success. Chancellor Damien has just arrived with the good news. It seems like the Orcs have retreated from their mine encampment  as well. The gold is ours for the taking, Your Majesty."
     "You know fully well that I don't give a damn about the gold." The King raised his voice. "Have they found the spring? We've started a war, Commander. Not out of greed. Not for gold. We started a war to save my daughter. To find this magical spring in the mountains that can save her life. Have they found it, Commander?"
     The Commander was a strong well built man, but now he looked pale and seemed to shrink back into his clothes. Deserved him right. He should know better that the Princess's life was all that mattered to the King. After he lost his wife, he didn't want to also lose his only child.
     "We have men searching for it, Your Majesty. The mountains are not easily searched, but I assure you. We will find that spring."
     "Good. You are dismissed!" The King saw Serah and turned his head towards her with a smile.
     "Your Majesty? There is still the matter of training men to fight the Orcs. I was hoping..."
     "Are you my Commander or not, Arenson? Training men and fighting a war is part of your job description. So do it! You have my approval to train whoever, however you want."
     "Yes, Your Majesty!" The Commander turned on the spot and seemed to shoot out of the room as quickly as possible. The King truly should have hired a more capable man. He looked grand in his uniform, his body filled it well. He might even be a cunning and efficient general when it came to preparing for war, but the man still lacked confidence and a strong will.
     "Now that business is dealt with, what can I do for you Serah? How is my daughter?" The King's affectionate smile was warm and reassuring. Completely different from what he had seemed like a moment before.
     "I heard of the news the Commander was bringing. I'm sorry to discover that the spring has not yet been found. All things considered though, the Princess is doing well. She felt strong enough today to go for a walk in the garden. Don't worry, I was with her all the time and we took several breaks for her to rest."
     "Are you sure that she is well enough for such strenuous activities?" He raised his eyebrows in concern.
     "I'm confident that giving her body movement is one of the healthiest activities she can do. Especially, in the fresh air. If she were to lie in bed all day, then her muscles would stiffen and soon she wouldn't be able to move at all. She is weak Your Majesty, but she is still a young woman that needs to move as freely as possible."
     "I trust in your expertise, Serah. I just worry, that is all. If there is more news, concerning the spring, I will let you know. Please, return to my daughter and take care of her. You are all she has and as you well know, she is all that I have."
     "Yes, Your Majesty. Don't worry about the Princess. She is in good hands." With those words, Serah left the chamber, leaving the King on his own, worrying about his daughter and the war that he started, just to have a chance of saving her life.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mexta

The night was coming to an end, dawn was breaking. The attack on the village was about to begin. The grunts surrounding her were getting restless, just like she was. The battle rage was upon them all. Growing until nothing could hold them back anymore.
     Mexta was the only fury in this band of Orcs. The only female warrior. One might think that the grunts would disrespect her for not performing her honorable duty as a mother, but that wasn't the case at all. Being a fury would make her all the more desirable when the time came to lay down her axe. Grunts would fight each other to prove their strength and be chosen as her mate to produce strong and brave broodlings.
    However, these thoughts were nowhere near Mexta's mind at the time. Her blood was boiling and she was ready to kill. The human's deserved it. They had attacked a small clan, whose grunts weren't even there at the time to protect the mothers and broods. Even if they had been, they weren't even warriors, like Mexta and her companions. They were just miners and blacksmiths.
    The humans would have to pay. Just like they had attacked a small helpless settlement, Mexta and the grunts were going to attack a weak village. They knew that the men were only farmers and herdsmen. They weren't warriors, they couldn't fight.
    Mexta and others had demanded that they just charge the village and slaughter all of them. Show the humans that Orcs should not be intimidated. Their elder had forbidden it however. Saying that that was not the Orc way. So they sent out a rider to send a message, a warning.
    Most men and women will have probably left, abandoning their homes and valuables to save their lives. That was the human way. The way of cowardice. Whoever remained would be the few brave enough to face their death. It was a shame to have to kill such courageous warriors, but they were human after all. They deserved it.
     Grodun, who was in charge of the attack, bellowed a guttural command and the grunts were on the move. They stormed out of the woods, over a field toward the village. Mexta was surprised to see that not only had the humans stayed to fight, but they were lead by a large man with an axe. He was shouting something, probably encouraging them and then they did something even more unexpected. They charged.
    Mexta had never heard of such a thing. Who in their right mind would charge an oncoming company of Orcs. When Orcs fought each other that was the norm, but whenever the Orcs fought a different kind of being the defenders pulled back, scared off by the Orcs fearsome charge and their battlecries. These humans were courageous, she had to give them that much.
     The two fronts crashed into each other. Men and Orcs alike screamed in pain and in glory. The human's were no warriors, they were ill-equipped, but the sharpened scythes, pitchforks and axes cut like any other weapon. And these human's were determined to not die without taking some Orcs with them. Even as the Orcs cut into the heart of their group, they stabbed and hacked, leaving bloodied, dead and dying grunts in their wake.
     Mexta took off a human's arm with her axe and then his head. Another one came at her with a pitchfork. He jabbed it at her, trying to keep his distance, but she closed the gap and knocked his weapon aside, leaving her plenty of space for the kill. She looked around for her next victim and saw the giant man with his axe yelling in the midst of the fray.
     He was encouraging his fellow humans, shouting obscenities at the Orcs. Mexta heard him shout something about his wife. That they had killed her and that they would pay. The battle whirled on around him. He fought one Orc and planted that big axe in his head. He tore the axe free and fended off a blow from another grunt. With a big swipe, his axe caved in the grunt's ribs.
     As Mexta moved toward other human's blocked her way. She cut them down effortlessly. She wanted a real challenge. That beast of a man was to be her foe. But Grodun beat her to it. He was in charge, so she decided not to get involved. It would not have been honorable to fight two against one.
     The man's axe clashed against Grodun's shield, one blow after the other. The grunt barely had time to lift his shield up again for the next blow. Mexta could tell that he would lose if he didn't go on the offensive. Finally, he managed to knock one of the giant's blows aside and he swung his sword in answer. The human wasn't only big and strong, but he was fast as well. He blocked the sword with the haft of his axe and the sword stuck. It was a very thick haft. The giant smiled and tore the sword out of Grodun's grasp. A few more strikes with the axe brought Grodun to the ground and a final blow crunched through the shield and into the grunt's chest.
     All was silent. Not because, the Orcs were surprised to see their leader fall in battle, that could happen in any battle. It was silent, because the battle was over. Mexta had been focusing on their fight, trusting in her instincts to warn her of an attack, but nothing had come. All the human's were dead, except for the giant.
     He looked around, dazed and exhausted. He was surrounded by Orcs. All of his friends and fellow human's were dead. He had led them into this battle and now he was all alone. He tore his axe out of Grodun's chest and shield and lifted it into the air. "I'm dead anyway." He shouted for all to hear. "Just tell me who came into our village yesterday and shot my wife. Who killed her? I want my vengeance. Only then will I stop fighting."
     So that's why he was shouting about his wife. Mexta stepped up. The man raised his eyebrows. "You, a female?"
     "No, I did not kill your wife." Mexta hated the human language. There was too much tongue clicking and many nasal sounds. The throat was barely used to distort sounds as it was common in the Orc tongue. But this human had proven strength and bravery, she was going to speak to him so that he would understand. "The grunt you just killed was the leader of this vengeful attack, for you humans killed many females and broods in one of our settlements by the mountains. You say you wanted vengeance, well we wanted it too. We've had ours and you yours. Grodun was the leader." She pointed at the grunt's dead body. "It was his duty to give the warning. He killed your wife."
     The giant let his axe drop to the ground with a thump. "Good. I've had my vengeance. Then fulfill yours. You can kill me now. I'm done."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big John

"John! Come quick, it's Marla!"
     Big John was chopping wood for the village, but as soon as he heard someone shout his name, he dropped his axe. Sweat ran down his face from the hard work, he was exhausted, but something had happened to his wife, so he ran to their house as fast as he could.
     He burst through the door with his heavy frame. Several people were within. Marla was on the bed, bloody bandages next to her, on the floor. The village healer was leaning over her. "What happened?" Big John asked.
     "She was out in the fields, gathering herbs," said Gabe, a farmer. "An Orc rode up to her and shot her with an arrow, point blank."
     Big John went to kneel beside the bed and hold her hand. There was so much blood. Her hand was cold and clammy. Marla looked him in the eye, gasping for breath, face twitching in pain. "An Orc? Why would it do that? Where did it go?"
     Marla grasped his hand with all her strength. "It...it said... to give a message. Tomorrow at dawn... They...they... attack!" Her fingers slackened and her eyes closed.
     "Marla?" Big John was about to shake her. She couldn't just die. But then the healer held him back.
     "She's just unconscious. She's still breathing. But there's not much more I can do. It doesn't look good."
     Big John sighed in relief. Then got up on his feet and stood up straight, towering over everyone else in the room. "Where did that beast go?"
     "It rode off to where it came from. They're going to attack tomorrow. It was a warning." Gabe looked pale. If it was from all the blood or from the prospect of being attacked, Big John didn't know or care.
     "A warning? Shooting an arrow through my wife is a warning?" Big John balled his fists together. His breathing quickened. It was an outrage. How dare they attack. What had the villagers of Duranham done to those beasts. They couldn't let this stand. Something had to be done.
     "Mama?" Small John stood in the door to their home. He was out of breath and looked ghostly pale. They called him Small John, only because he was Big John's son. Physically, he came after his father in every regard. He was tall for sixteen years of age and was still growing. Having helped his father cut wood over the years had made him muscular as well. But looking at him now, Big John saw how young he still was.
     Big John strode toward his son and blocked the boys view of his mother and the blood. "She's fine boy. She just needs to rest. I need you to do something for me. Go outside and unhitch the horse from the cart, I'll be right out."
     Small John looked uncertain, but followed his father's orders and went back outside. Big John strode to the healer, she was the only scribe in the village, and he asked her to write a message for the King. He gathered some provisions and with the message in hand he went outside.
     Small John had just finished unhitching the horse and was putting a saddle on its back. "Come here, boy! I have an important job for you. I need you to bring this message to the King. You hear? Can you do that for me?"
     Small John looked up at him. He was tall, but still not quite as tall as his father. He seemed to feel that something wasn't right, but he nodded. "Pa, is Mama gonna be alright?"
     "Of course she is. Don't you worry. You'll be back in a few days and she'll be just fine. You'll see." Big John hated lying to the boy, but it was better than the alternative. He knew he was going to lose his wife and he knew he was going to fight against Orcs, fearsome warriors. He didn't know if he'd survive, but he damn well wasn't going to let his son be endangered as well. He had to get out while he still could.
     "Okay, Pa." Small John grabbed the provisions and the message. Before he could get on the saddle Big John grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him in for a hug.
     "I'm so proud of you, boy. That's why I trust you to do this for me. Just wanted you to know that." He let his son go from the embrace and put on a broad smile. He hoped the kid wouldn't see how fake it was. "Now go, boy. Go."
     Small John smiled back and got up on the saddle. The horse galloped away, bringing his son to safety. Big John went back inside his house. People were still gathered within, watching Marla. She was conscious again. Big John knelt down beside her.
     "Where's my small Johnny baby?" She whispered.
     Big John took her small, cold hands into his. "He's safe, darling. He's going to be just fine."
     "That's good. I'd just like to see him again. One more time."
     "Don't say such things. You'll be just fine as well."
     "Maybe... it doesn't hurt anymore... maybe you're right." Marla smiled up at him."My big handsome woodsman. I love you." All strength left her hands and the light in her eyes began to fade.
     "I love you, too." Big John kissed her forehead, a single tear running down his cheek. She was gone.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Kruzz

Kruzz still held the bloody spear in his hands. He was one of the few broods that had gotten away with the mothers. Kruzz and some of the other fifteen year old brothers and sisters had banded together to stop the humans, but they hadn't been able to hold long. Most of them died.
     Kruzz could still hear them scream in pain. He could see the dead look in their eyes. Just like he could see and hear the humans dying at the tip of his spear. He had killed two of them with the help of his brothers and sisters. And he had wounded a third on his own. That's when this little brood came and told them all to run. He said Grim was fighting off the humans. That he had already killed four and was going to stop the humans from following them.
     Four. Grim had already killed four and had held out long enough for them to escape. He must have killed at least three times as many while he held the humans off. He had come after them galloping on a horse. He must have killed the rider. He was bleeding from several wounds, but he had made it back and had made sure that the humans didn't follow.
     Grim was a true grunt. All grown up and strong. Kruzz wanted to become just like him. In less than a year he would be allowed to go on the Hunt to prove his strength. He had already killed today, but the elders probably wouldn't accept that as proof. They would say that he was still too young.
     "Kruzz? Are you alright?" Reeba, one of the mothers, came up to him. "Come on my little broodling, give me that spear and go wash yourself."
     "I'm not a little broodling anymore." Kruzz answered. "I'm almost a full grown grunt. I killed humans today. I'm strong, just like Grim!"
     "That you are. But why don't you humor an old mother and get yourself cleaned up. Now give me the spear."
He gingerly handed her the spear. "Can I keep it? Can you keep it somewhere for when I go on the hunt?"
     "Yes, dear. After you've cleaned yourself, we can clean the spear together. I will talk with Worg. I'm sure he'll allow you to have a spear of your own. You are strong after all and you protected us." She took the spear. Then she petted his head and sighed, as mothers do.
     Kruzz went to the river to clean up. His hands were coated in dried blood and little droplets marked his face as well. He was excited. Reeba was going to tell Worg, the settlement Elder, that he could have his own spear. His very own spear that he had already killed with. He was truly becoming a grunt.
     Refreshed and clean, Kruzz strode back into the work camp in front of the mines. When he passed one of the huts he heard raised voices and couldn't resist. He was sure that the Elder and other grunts were discussing the attack on the settlement. Kruzz hid behind the hut and tried to listen in.
     "I still can't believe it! Why would the humans attack us without warning? Have they no honor?" that was Worg the Elder. Kruzz could tell by his old and frail sounding voice.
     "I don't know, Worg. I can only tell you what happened. I could tell that some were honorable in the way they fought, but others tried to gang up on me. Whoever gave the order to attack though, he had no honor. That I am sure of." Grim's voice was loud and forceful in comparison with the Elder.
     "Honor or not, we cannot just let them do as they please. We have to respond. Send word to the clans nearest to us. They need to know what happened."
     "What about the humans in our settlement? We can strike back, take what is ours. Avenge the slain. Let me lead us into the fray and let us kill some humans." Many of the other grunts roared their approval, but not all agreed with him.
     "Pah! You lead us, Grim? I think not!" Kruzz didn't recognize the grunt's voice. "You may have proven your strength against those humans today, but you know nothing of leading. You know nothing of responsibility. We cannot trust you to lead, just like we cannot trust you to work. Follow me brethren. And we will slaughter those humans and stick their heads on pikes. They will not dare fight us again."
     "How dare you..." Grim started, but was cut off by the Elder.
     "Hush, you two! We will not strike now. We don't know how many humans there are and our numbers are small. You are right of course, we will need a strong leader in case of a fight. And Grim, I'm sorry, but Traglok is right. You are strong, but not a leader. Traglok is the head miner, so he should lead us in battle as well. In the meantime, I am still the Elder and I decide what to do." He paused, as if in thought. Kruzz listened in anticipation. What would he decide? "We have to leave the mines. We could defend them, but it might cost us our lives. We will have to ask for asylum in one of the clans nearby. Prepare to leave within the next three hours. We have a long way ahead of us."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Damien

Chancellor Damien and his guards arrived at noon. The attack on the Orc settlement had already been performed by Captain Bron. From afar everything looked satisfactory. Tents and huts were afire and many bodies of those grisly beasts could be seen scattered about. Only when Damien and his men came closer did he see their own casualties.
     Too many dead and wounded. They were supposed to slaughter these ghastly women and their hell spawn. How could so many have put up a fight? He didn't understand these beasts, but it seems he and the commander had both underestimated their strength.
One of Captain Bron's scouts came riding towards him. "Chancellor Damien, sir! The settlement is ours."
     "I can see that. Take me to Captain Bron!"
     "Sir... he was wounded during the fighting."
     "Is he conscious?"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "Then take me to him. Now!"
     "Yes, sir!" The scout rode off. Damien and his men followed.
     A tent for the wounded had been set up outside the settlement. More and more of the men who had taken injuries were heading towards it. Guards were posted by the entrance. They stood at attention as soon as they saw Damien arrive.
     "He's inside. May I return to my post, sir? Who knows if the Orcs will retaliate." The scout rained in his horse, but seemed eager to get back. That was good. He knew his duty.
     "Yes, yes. Go ahead, soldier." Damien got down from his horse and entered the tent. His men stayed outside. Maybe that would help the other two guards stay at attention.
     The tent reeked of blood and other bodily fluids. Why had so many been wounded. This was supposed to be an easy victory. Damien discovered Captain Bron in the back, a bandage around his chest and his head and one arm in a sling. He got up from his cot and stood at attention.
     "Chancellor, sir! Does the commander have more orders?" He seemed fit enough, even though he must have taken quite a beating.
     "Camp here and have your scouts keep an eye on the mines. You might want to fortify the camp with ditches and stakes. Who knows how those beasts will react to our advances."
     "Yes, sir. Those of my men that are able are already digging. The commander can rely on us, sir."
     "I also wanted to hear a detailed account of how the attack went. I can see that there are more casualties than I and the commander expected. Can you tell me how this happened?"
     "Sir... maybe we could step outside for a moment?" The captain looked around at his wounded men. He seemed uneasy talking about the fight in front of them. Damien couldn't understand why, but he nodded his consent. Captain Bron threw a jacket over his shoulders, covering the bandaged ribs and the sling.
     They left the tent together and headed towards the settlement. Damien's guards held a respectable distance. As they got closer, Damien could see more and more of the Orc bodies. Their swamp-like skin color mixed with the red of their blood. That and their frozen, dead faces set in anguish made them look even more like hideous demons of nature.
     "It happened early on during the fighting." Captain Bron began as they were finally out of earshot from others. "There was a male Orc still in the camp. He knocked me off my horse... I'm lucky he didn't kill me. Unlike the ten he did kill or maim, before he escaped."
     "You're telling me you let that beast get away?" How could such a thing manage all that? Ten soldiers, defeated by one of them.
     "They are smarter and stronger than you would think. Even the women fought hard and killed several. Quite a few escaped with their children as well."
     "Don't compare their kind with ours. They are beasts, all of them. Understood, Captain?"
     "Yes, sir!" Captain Bron stood at attention. He seemed tense, but he was a good man. A good soldier.
     "Good. Now, do you have anything you want me to tell the commander? I'll be on my way again immediately."
     "My men were well trained, but they had no chance against a grown male Orc. If this turns into a war, sir. Then we need to be better prepared. We need to train men that can fight these..."
     "Beasts!" Damien realized that the captain didn't like calling them that, but that's what they were. "I will inform the commander. We will have to begin training immediately. You've assumed correctly. This was only the beginning and war is coming!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grim

Grim awoke with a start. His head was pounding. He shouldn't have had so much ale the night before. As always, he had probably overslept. He'd be late, getting to the mines.
     The pounding in his head was still bad, but it didn't explain the shouting coming from outside his tent. It wasn't just shouting, there were screams and the ring of metal on metal. The sounds of battle.
     As soon as his brain processed the information, Grim jumped up and out of his tent, wearing nothing but a loincloth. His muddled mind cleared as he viewed the scene of carnage. humans were attacking the females and the broodlings. He had to do something.
     Grim had forgotten his battle axe in his tent, but that didn't mean he was less of a threat. The grayish green skin of his arms was thick and taut with muscles. Orcs were strong beings, even as little broods, but working in the mines, chipping away at the hard mountain stone, had made Grim even stronger than most.
He saw a human on a horse, raising a bloody sword to strike down a broodling. Grim would hesitate no longer. He ran off in a sprint and dove at the human, knocking him from his horse, to the ground. The human looked dazed from the fall and was surely in pain, with Grim's weight pressing down on him.
     Grim grabbed the fallen sword and turned to the broodling who had grabbed a spear. The brave little fellow wanted to fight, but with the other grown grunts at the mines there was little hope. "Run. Gather as many as you can and run to the mines. I'll distract the humans."
     The brood looked at him defiantly, he really wanted to fight. Grim gave him a stern look and then the little one gave up and nodded that he would obey. The brood gave a shout of alarm as a human came running towards Grim yelling something or other about a Captain Bron.
     Grim got off the human, who had passed out, and strode towards the one coming at him. A brutal slash with his sword almost cut the human in half. Now Grim had two swords.
     The broodling was still watching him with awe. "Go, dammit! Run and save the others." The broodling nodded and ran off.
     More humans came running at him. Grim roared in fury and cut them down. Striking with the sword in his left hand and then the one in his right. One of the soldiers managed to slash his arm. The pain only made him angrier. He buried one of the swords in the man's skull.
     Another soldier came at him with a spear. He was careful and poked at Grim from a distance, always jumping back when Grim tried to engage. The fight ended with Grim taking a spear wound to the leg and the soldier taking Grim's sword to the chest.
     Weaponless Grim searched for his next foe. The rage of battle was upon him and even though the wound in his leg gave him a slight limp, he was itching for another human to kill.
     He saw a trail of females running from the settlement with their broodlings in tow. He ran towards the edge of the settlement to block the path of any humans who might try to follow.
     The sights he saw made his blood boil. Tents and huts afire. Dead females who had tried to protect their young. Dead broodlings, barely thirteen summers old, who thought they could fight like berserkers. Dead Orcs all around.
     Five humans were following the females. Grim had to stop them. He grabbed an axe from a dead broodling's fingers and attacked. He hacked off one soldier's sword hand, who fell to his knees screaming. He knocked another aside with his free hand, before the human could strike. The third soldier slashed at his chest. Red blood ran down Grim's stomach. He roared in pain. Anger reaching new heights within him.
     Grim hauled his big axe and felled two men with one stroke. The axe remained in one of the bodies as they fell away. The soldier he had knocked aside lay on the ground, but he raised his sword and slashed Grim's thigh, before Grim's large fist knocked him out.
Two wounds to the same leg made his limp a lot worse. He grimaced in pain as he faced the last human. The man only had a dagger, probably having lost his sword during the fighting. He circled Grim cautiously. Anticipating an attack, Grim waited and quickly grabbed the human's arm when it came.
Grim tried to twist the blade aside, but it still cut a deep gash in the skin of his ribcage. He still had ahold of the man's arm though and he pulled him close so that he could bite into his neck. It tasted horrible, but Grim's large tusks left a grievous wound behind. The soldier collapsed, trying to scream, but only gurgling his blood.
The females and broodlings had made it far enough. Grim was panting from exhaustion and blood loss. He wouldn't be able to fight much longer. He had done what was necessary to give the others a chance to escape. That's all that mattered.
Another human on a horse rode around a burning hut and spotted him. Grim didn't know if there was much he could do. The man had a spear and was riding straight at him. Grim couldn't fight any longer, but his warrior instincts still reacted to threats. As the spear thrust came, Grim dodged and grabbed the rider, throwing him off his horse.
Grim didn't much like the beasts, but he would be faster riding it than he would be limping after the others on his bad leg. With the last of his strength he straddled the horse and rode off. Leaving the burning settlement behind.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bron

"Captain Bron. What are our orders, sir?"
     Bron looked at the Orc settlement in the distance. Atop his horse he had a clear view. Wooden huts and leather tents were scattered in a large area. It didn't seem like the Orcs had much structure, but it was a settlement nonetheless. His men camped behind a hill, out of the sight. They were waiting for the commander's orders.
     Bron held the official document in his hand. The commander's order to attack the settlement. He gave no reason, he didn't have to. He was the commander. But Bron knew why they were here. Why they were supposed to attack.
     Behind the settlement loomed the Blacktop Mountains. Many resources could be extracted from them. Coal, iron and more metals, but most importantly: gold. Gold. That's what this was about. That's why Bron would have to give the order to attack women and children. All the male Orcs will have gone to the mines by now. The settlement would be defenseless. Well, not completely defenseless. They were Orcs after all. Even their females and children would put up a fight. Bron would have to keep that in mind when he and his men attacked. Orcs were dangerous, no matter what age or gender.
     The soldier next to him cleared his throat. "Captain?"
     Bron sighed. It was time. "Prepare the men for the attack. Commander's orders!"
     "Yes, sir!" The soldier left to perform his duties.
     It wouldn't take long. Bron had heard some of the men tell rumors that they were just here to scout the terrain. That the King wouldn't want to start a war with the Orcs. But most thought the King a reckless fool. They thought they were here to do just that. And they were right.
     In less than ten minutes his battalion of about one hundred men was ready. He raised his arm and let it drop, signalling the attack. A horn blew. He and his ten scouts dashed ahead on their horses. The rest came running after them, shouting and screaming. The settlement was sure to hear them, but there wouldn't be much they could do. They were outnumbered and his men were well trained. It wouldn't take long to slaughter them.
     Bron rode into the fray, sword in hand. A female Orc came running out of one of the wooden huts. She charged at him with a spear, screaming.
     Bron had thought it might be morally difficult to kill these women, but in the face of danger his instincts kicked in. He deflected her spear with a swing of his sword and as the momentum of her charge brought her closer, his backstroke cut her down.
     Immediately, another female came at him. He cut her down as well. His scouts were spreading out, doing the same. The fastest of the men on foot were starting to pour into the settlement. The rest followed.
     There was movement to his right and he turned to attack. It was an Orc child, a boy. Bron hesitated. Females that attacked him were one thing, children were another. The boy looked shocked and confused. A man atop a horse, towering over him. With Orc blood spattered on his armor and more dripping from his sword. The kid must have been scared.
     It was Bron's duty to slay him. He had his orders. But still he hesitated. Until the child's shock turned into rage. The boy jumped to grab a fallen spear. Bron had no choice and raised his bloody sword.