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.