Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bron III

Bron was making his rounds through the camp. Life was beginning to settle down into normal patterns in and outside of the mines. Fresh water still had to be brought from the river on a daily basis. Everything else was going as planned.
    Bron hoped that he would be moved to a new position soon. Overseeing the camp should have nothing to do with his military rank as Captain. He only remained in charge, because the Orcs were still a threat.
    He didn't much relish the thought of going back into combat, having to face those beings, but there was the possibility of getting some time off before being reassigned. Maybe he would be able to visit Mary and his sons.
    "Captain! Captain Bron! We've found it. We've found it." Ethan, a scout, came galloping toward him on a horse.
    "Calm down, soldier." Bron stood tall, his arm still in a sling. "What did you find?"
    Ethan climbed off his horse and saluted his captain. "The spring, Sir. We found a path leading into the mountains. There's a whole lake in a large cavern."
    "Excellent, lad. Let's get some men and barrels to transport the water."
    Ethan looked worried.
    "What is it, soldier? Don't hesitate. Tell me!"
    "I think it might be better for you to see for yourself, Sir. It's no ordinary spring, you see."
    "What does that mean?" Ethan seemed lost for words. "Fine! Saddle up my horse. I'll met you in the stables."
    They were on there way a few minutes later. Ethan riding ahead at a fast pace. The rough pace was painful for Bron's ribs and handling the horse with one arm in a sling, didn't make it easier. The were getting further and further away from camp, making him doubt the spring would be worth the trouble.
    Finally, they arrived at a marked spot. A sheer rock cliff rose above them. It did not look like there was anything special and had it not been marked, Bron would have ridden past. Ethan got off of his horse and after Bron did the same, the scout lead both of their animals to a tree to tie up the reins.
    "We passed this spot many times over the last couple of days without noticing anything special." Ethan walked up to a wall of solid rock and slipped inside. He came back out. "I don't know how I saw it, but it was here all along."
    Bron stepped up and inspected the spot. It was fascinating. A natural looking occurrence that made the wall look solid. A trick of the light that didn't let you see that there was an entrance point. No wonder they had been searching for days.
    Ethan led the way through the winding path. Solid rock rose above them on both sides. "It leads deep into the mountains. It'll take about half an hour to get to the spring."
    Bron followed slowly, his ribs still aching from the battle and the ride. He wondered why Ethan was being so secretive. Why didn't he just tell him what he had found? The path was leading up the mountain, the trail becoming more hazardous. Getting water from the spring would definitely not be worth all this trouble, but Ethan seemed to think it was important for Bron to see it.
    Ethan had gone ahead and had reached the entrance to a cave. He was holding a torch, waiting for Bron. "It's right in here."
    Bron followed and they soon entered a great cavern. There was a slight chill in the air and Bron could see his breath escape his mouth. The torchlight reflected off the water of the lake that spread out before them. Bron thought he saw something twinkle more than a hundred paces across the lake, but he couldn't be sure through the glare of the torch.
    "There's plenty of water here and it doesn't smell spoiled, but I haven't dared to drink it." Ethan stood by the edge of the water.
    "Why is that?" Bron could hear something trickle in the distance. The spring.
    Ethan moved along the shore. The light of the torch flickered and threw shadows on the cavern walls. Three dark shadows remained unmoved by the light. It wasn't until he smelled them that Bron realized that the shadows were bodies.
    "Their water pouches are empty and they have no more food. There are several burnt torches near them. They must have stayed here for a while. Their coats have the King's sigil on them. They were probably sent here a bit more than a month ago."
    Bron took a closer look at them. The bodies were beginning to decompose, but they didn't look like they had been dead for more than two weeks. Bron had seen many dead men and knew what they looked like as time passed. Maybe the chill of the cavern slowed the natural process.
    A few features could still be distinguished. Cracked lips, hollowed cheeks and eyes sunken deep into their sockets. Considering the state the bodies were in, Bron would have guessed that they died of thirst and hunger.
    It made no sense. Unless the water wasn't good. But then why didn't they go somewhere else for water and food? Why stay here?
    "Captain?" Ethan looked excited as he turned to look across the lake. "There's one other thing I wanted to show you."
    Bron stood and turned to where the scout was looking. He still thought he could see something twinkling in the distance, but nothing could prepare him for what he saw when Ethan extinguished the torch.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Zir

Zir sighed in relief as his feet entered the cold river water. One would think that after years of travel the thick calluses on his feet would give him enough protection, but being barefoot and walking over a dozen miles a day was hazardous. Sticks and sharp rocks could sometimes break through the thick skin and then he'd have to deal with the consequences.
    Zir watched a small trail of blood vanish in the flowing stream. The water would clean his wound and afterwards he would walk through the soft grass and mud which would make a protective patch over his sole. He trusted in the land. Nature would take care of him.
    He would of course consider taking a break for a day, but it was only a few more miles to the Droklag Clan settlement. He might have to favor his left leg a bit while he marched on, but he would make it before midday.
    Zir thanked the water and asked the grass to be gentle. It tickled and stung when he pressed his foot into the dirt, but he gave a satisfied grunt. Life was nothing if not the acceptance of pain.
    It took him longer than it would have if not for nature's little jab, but he knew there was sure to be a reason and he did not complain to the wind or the sun or the earth as he wandered on. The top of the settlement's huts could be seen in the distance and he kept moving towards them at a leisurely pace.
    When he entered the settlement boundaries a horde of little broods came running his way. It had been months since he'd last been at the Droklag Clan, but the broods remembered him well. He was quite the attraction wherever he went.
    They all tugged on his knee-length hair to test if it was real and ask him why he was wearing tree bark on his arms and had vines wrapped around him. "Calm down, little ones. I'll come spend time with you later. First, I need to speak with your elder. The land needs to be listened to."
    The broods reluctantly let him go. Zir marched on towards the elder's hut. The grunt guarding it looked at him with irritation. He grumbled something as he went inside and came out again shortly afterwards.
    "Elder Ferkud will see you." The grunt's tusks were raised high in contempt.
    "Thank you, my brother."
    The grunt huffed in Zir's neck as he passed, but closed the flap to the hut without quarrel.
    "What do you want, Zir? Or should I say what does the land want?" Ferkud was an old grizzled Orc with gray hair on the sides of his head. The top was bald in a neat crescent.
    Zir knew that the elder didn't like it when his time was being wasted, which always put him in a lousy mood. But Ferkud was no fool and knew that Zir could bring useful information. If from other clans or from nature, it did not matter as long as it was useful.
    Zir leisurely stepped up to the fire pit in the middle of the hut and grabbed a fistful of the ashes of last nights fire. He wet one of his fingertips and dabbed it into the ash and licked it off. "Mmm. These are good ashes." He rubbed the rest into the wound on the sole of his foot.
    Ferkud was sitting cross-legged and had his hands propped on his knees, striking an impatient pose. A part of Zir enjoyed making him uncomfortable, but he was here on nature's behalf. Zir raised his hands up high for his proclamation.
    "Zirayus, the land, from the mountains to the plains, from the seas to the desert. " Ferkud sighed and his arms slumped. He hated it when Zir started his speeches like this. "The earth, dirt, rock and metal. The wind, from the slightest breeze to the howling gusts of a storm. The water from the salty sea to the fresh icy spring. Zirayus, our land has spoken to me."
    Zir's brow tightened and his tusks made his usual smile turn grim. "War is upon us!" Ferkud's back straightened and he was brought back to attention. "The land is unhappy with the bloodshed that this will bring. Something in the air has told me that no good can come of this and it must be stopped!"
    Ferkud's facial expression went from annoyed to outraged. "How dare you come to me and talk about stopping this war. Orcblood has been spilled. Unprovoked. The humans are to blame. It is our nature to fight back and show them what we are made of. No Orc will idly stand by and let those filthy beings do as they please. I don't care what the land tells you."
    Zir's tusks sank and he smiled sadly. "I thought you might react that way. I will have to find another clan elder that is willing to do something against this unnecessary evil. There is more to this war than just greed and honorless attacks. Someone needs to negotiate and find out what it is. Otherwise more will die."
    "Yes! More will die. More humans! Nobody hurts the clans and gets away with it. Nobody!" Ferkud snarled and got up to his feet, getting ready to through Zir out.
    "I see that I'm wasting my time and yours. Just know that the rivers do not want to flow red with blood. Neither Orc nor human blood. Death is always a waste."
    Zir turned and left the hut, leaving the elder behind. He sighed in sorrow for the land. He was doing what he could, but he could not make the clans change their ways if they did not want to listen.
    He went to play with the children until the sun began to set. The mothers gave him a meal as they often did. Afterwards he left the settlement and was back on his well trodden path. On to the next clan. To the next elder, who would reject him as well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Big John II

"I will not fight. I will not fight." Big John repeated in his thoughts.
    "Come on you sniveling coward. Get up and fight me!" One of the Orcs surrounding him kicked gravel into his face. Laughter echoed around him. Another Orc grumbled something in their harsh tongue and stepped up to him.
    Big John was tied up to a stake in the middle of the settlement. A thin hempen rope bound his hands behind his back. He was on his knees, head lowered to the ground, unmoving. He would not dare fight any of them. It would be certain death.
    The large Orc stood in front of him and shouted something to the gathered crowd. Big John saw the grayish green skin of the Orc's meaty hand move under his chin. The Orc lifted his head and smiled a toothy grin. Then it spat into his face.
    A roar of laughter and grunts erupted around him. Big John trembled with rage, but he did not move. His muscles tightened as he tried to suppress his anger and he felt the rope constrict his wrists. He could snap it in an instant if he wished. That was probably the idea. They wanted him to fight.
    Fire burned in Big John's eyes as he looked up at his tormentor. The Orc growled something to the delight of the others. Big John's heart hammered in his chest. He yearned to defend himself, but he would not.
    The Orc still held his head up with its left hand. It lifted its right and gave him a sharp slap against his cheek. That insolence was almost too much to bear. The rope dug into his chafed wrists. He had been bound and dragged behind Mexta for the last couple of days on their journey to the settlement.
    When Big John still did not get up to fight the looming Orc huffed, drew his fist back and gave him a mighty punch to the face. Big John crashed to the ground. His instincts told him to get up, to spring into action, but he willed himself to stay there. It was better that way. Let those beasts lose interest. They had there fun, now they could leave him alone.
    The Orc's feet shuffled away and after a time the grunts and deep laughter of the gathered crowd began to subside. Big John just lay there, breathing in the dust of the gravelly ground. His left eye was starting to swell shut and he could feel blood trickling down the side of his face.
    Slowly he began to move back into an upright position. He stretched his legs and leaned his back against the stake. His arms were sore from being tied behind his back. Now he could try to relax and get some rest.
    The settlement was bustling with activity. Now that he was no longer the center of attention they went back to their lives. The hunters came back with game, a few males and females were setting up a big tent and some females were taking care of the little ones. A few of the little Orcs had gathered to watch him now that he was moving again, but a female came over to herd them away.
    Everything looked rather normal. Rather peaceful actually. Though there beastly shapes always reminded him of what they truly were. If it weren't for them Marla would still be alive. All of Duranham would still be alive.
    Oh Marla! At least, he had killed the beast that put that arrow through her. That had been all he could do for her. All he wanted to do. He had been ready to die after that. What else was left for him? That's what he had thought at first, in the heat of battle. But then Mexta didn't kill him, nobody killed him.
    Since that day, Mexta taunted him. Always trying to rile him up, get him to fight her. His will was all that kept him from doing so. His will and the thought of his son. Small John was surely still alive. If he ever wanted to see him again and not leave him alone in this dire time, then he had to stay strong an wait.
    They could beat Big John as much as they liked. They could spit at him, humiliate him, even starve him if they liked. He would stay strong and wait. Wait for his chance to escape and go to find his son.
    "You are one tough human, Giant." Mexta came strolling over. She had a water skin in her hand. "I don't know if I should be impressed by your willpower or ashamed of your weakness."
    She poured water over his head and he lapped it up thirstily. He should count himself lucky that she didn't starve him or let him die of thirst. She wanted him strong enough to fight if he ever gave in to that temptation. If he were weak from hunger, the victory over him would be worthless. He understood that much.
    "I just spoke to our elder. He doesn't like having you here. He wants you dead."
    And just like that his hopes to escape were scattered in the wind. "Then why are you giving me water?" Big John's voice was scratchy from disuse.
    "He doesn't want to kill you here. He will make a show of it in front of the first human army that we must face. We've been raiding your villages for some time. Your king will strike back soon. That's when you will die to strike fear in your fellow humans' hearts."
    "When do we march?" His head sagged down. How much time did he still have?
    "Not for a week at least, I think. Until then you'll get less to eat. No point in keeping you fed well if you won't fight." Mexta chuckled and walked away.
    Big John leaned his head back against the stake. He was going to die. His death would dishearten the King's soldiers and they might die as well. His willpower had kept him alive so far. Was all that supposed to be for nothing? Was he just going to let those beasts kill him for show?
    No, he wouldn't. That was not his way.
    He flexed his muscles, feeling his wrists press against the tight confines of the hempen rope. It was ready to tear at any moment. Big John relaxed.
    It didn't have to be now. A week, at least, before they marched. That gave him plenty of time to choose the right opportunity.