Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rud

Rud entered the cavern.
    He had run up ahead to see what it looked like without a torch. He wasn't disappointed. The lake was more than a hundred paces across. The water pitch black, but at the far end of the cavern a silvery light spilled from the ceiling, trickling down into the lake.
    There was something divine about that silvery stream of water. If not from the Gods, it had to be some kind of magic. Rud longed to touch it, maybe even taste it. What would it be like?
    "Come on, men!" Captain Bron entered the cavern with a torch and like that all of the wonder was stolen from the cavern.
    Rud squinted and tried to see the silvery water, but all he could make out was a faint shimmer. He could still hear it trickle in the distance, but that was all.
    "Get the boat into the water." Bron directed the four men behind him. "I need two of you to row me over to the spring."
    "I'll do it!" Rud tried not to sound too eager, but there was no way he was going to give up the chance to be up close to it.
    Bron rose an eyebrow at him and smirked. "Alright! Rud and... Farley. You three take the stretcher and get those bodies outside. Bury them in front of the cliff entrance. That will make this place easier to find."
    The men heaved the small boat into the lake and got to work. Farley stayed put and kept the boat steady for Bron to climb aboard. Rud was about to get in as well, when the captain turned.
    "And nobody drink from the lake. I don't care how thirsty you are. If you don't have anything left in your waterskin then wait. We don't know what killed those men and I don't want it to happen to you as well."
    "What about the spring?" Rud looked at Bron hopefully.
    "I don't want to take any chances. We'll take a sample, that's all."
    Rud got aboard and Farley pushed them off. They each had a paddle and they made their way across the lake at a steady pace. Rud's left arm burned with every stroke. He had been wounded in the battle, but until now he had been able to rest. Each strenuous pull made him feel the stitches strain against each other. He hoped they wouldn't tear.
    Bron held the torch up high. It's flickering light reflecting off of the water. Rud could see the shimmering grow closer. His sweaty palms grasped the paddle and he rowed on. They were getting closer with each stroke.
    "Whoever built this boat did a half-assed job." Farley grunted with another stroke. "My boots are getting soaked."
    Rud looked down into the bilge frowning. He hadn't noticed the water sloshing back and forth. his boots were also wet and now that he was paying attention he started to feel the water seep into them.
    "We couldn't expect expert craftsmanship. Just keep rowing. It will get us there and back." The captain just kept on looking ahead toward the spring. The leak was no more than a slight nuisance to him. Rud thought they must be thinking the same thing. Only the spring in their minds.
     They kept on rowing. The ache in his arm becoming worse. The only thing that stopped him from complaining was that divine glow. They were no more than fifteen feet away and he could see how the shimmering water from the spring made a puddle within the black water of the lake. It was as if the two fluids repelled each other.
    "Slow down now. I don't want us to go through it. I just want to get close enough to have some of it drip into my flask." Bron eased himself forward over the prow.
    Farley and Rud slowed their rowing and tried to bring the boat to a gentle stop. the captain stretched his hand, holding the flask, out toward the silvery water dripping down from above. He was still a foot short.
    "A little bit closer."
    Rud and Farley stroked once. It was more than enough and the captain drew back quickly before the spring could trickle onto his arm. He carefully held out his flask and let it fill up. Rud longed to stretch out his own arm, just to feel it. He was so close now, he couldn't just turn back without at least risking it.
    "That's enough. Take me back to shore." Bron put the stopper on his flask and hid it away in his pocket.
    Farley started to turn the boat around and the captain was already looking to shore. Now was his only chance. Rud swiveled his paddle around to help turn the boat and when neither of the others could see he reached out and cupped his hand to catch some of the spring water. Without another thought he drew his hand to his mouth and drank.
    He shouldn't have acted so quickly on impulse. He should have thought about it more, but as he felt that fresh water slide down his throat his only regret was to not have savored it more. It was over and done with and he hadn't even been able to really enjoy it.
    As they rowed back to the entrance of the cavern, Rud thought about what he had done. He didn't quite know what he had expected, but he definitely thought that there would have been more to the spring than just plain water. Now that he had tasted it and nothing special had happened he wasn't so sure.
    It wasn't until they reached the shore and he jumped out of the boat to push it out of the lake that Rud noticed something. His arm wasn't hurting anymore.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Zir II

Zir sighed as he looked up the rocky hill. The trek to the Brogdah Clan was always a tiresome one. He could of course take a detour around the hill, but it would take a lot more time. He did not want to shy away from the obstacles nature put before him.
    He took his firsts steps up the hill. Small rocks dug into the callouses on his feet. Uncomfortable, but no more than a slight nuisance. The wound on his foot was already healing well. The hillside gradually sloped upward, making it more difficult to walk and more necessary to climb.
    Zir's hand took hold of a bad stone and it slipped from his grasp. A shower of some small and a few bigger rocks followed. They clonked off the bark on his arms and shins. A few bits landed on his head, but his thick hair cushioned the impact.
    Slowly, he made progress and finally managed to reach the top of the hill. The descent wouldn't be much easier, but he would make it. Nearby, he could make out the smoke of the Brogdah settlement. It wouldn't take much longer to get there.
    Zir didn't much relish the thought of talking to Gwarr. He was young and hungered for battle. It would diminish his honor to even consider peaceful actions. So why was Zir even wasting his time to go there? The same reason as always. To do nature's bidding.
    As he reached the clan's boundaries he was surprised to not be overrun by the little broods. Instead, he noticed a big commotion in the center of the settlement. A big circle was made by onlookers, shouting and screaming in delight.
    Zir squeezed through to watch what was happening. There was a human in the circle with a knife in hand, a giant of a man. Across from him a young grunt stood with a blade that shone brightly in the sunlight. The human was large, but he did not stand much of a chance. His small knife was nothing compared to the grunts sword.
    Zir tried to shout into the masses. This wasn't a fair fight. Where was the honor in this? It was the slaughtering of a human for entertainment. He could not let this happen. He shouted and tried to squeeze through the masses, but he wasn't heard and no one would let him pass to the coveted front where it was easiest to see.
    As Zir tried to get some attention, there was a loud gasp from the crowd. Zir looked up with dreaded anticipation. The grunt had charged and even though Zir had been sure that the human would be slashed down, he was wrong. The human wasn't only tall, he was strong too. He caught the grunt's sword arm in one hand and slashed across the grunt's leg with his knife.
    The Orc cried out in pain and punched the human with his free hand. Zir winced as the rest of the crowd whooped in excitement. The human still stood and began to twist the grunt's sword arm. He let his knife drop and used his free hand to punch the Orc in the face. Over and over again.
    The grunt swayed and dropped to the ground. The human had somehow taken his sword and was now holding it over the Orc. The sharp edge glinted in the sun as the tip came to rest on the grunt's throat. A hushed silence spread over the gathered crowd.
    The human had a bloody nose from being punched, but he smiled and removed the sword from the Orc's neck. He swung the blade back and forth, testing it's balance. "I think, I'll keep this." He said in the human tongue. Then he went to the stake in the middle of the circle, rammed the sword into the ground and sat down next to it, resting his back against the pole.
    Zir didn't realize how he had been holding his breath and slowly let it all out. The crowd started mumbling excitedly. Some went to help the grunt up from the ground while others just talked. No one went near the human, except for one.
    Zir recognized Mexta and decided to join her. Maybe he would be able to find out what that was all about. She was kneeling next to the human, grinning. As Zir approached she looked up.
    "Zir!" The smile on her face faded. "Does Gwarr know you're here?"
    "Not yet." He nodded toward the human. "What was all that about, just now? I was worried the clan had become prone to public slaughtering."
    The human dabbed at his bloody nose and looked up curiously. "What's he saying?"
    "I wanted to know why you were fighting the grunt." Zir answered in the human tongue.
    Mexta's tusks rose in a grin once more. "He just won his first fight. If he fights every day and wins then he stays alive. It's a deal I've made with Gwarr. Otherwise the Giant was going to be killed before the big battle. Human troops are already headed our way."
    Zir scowled. "Sounds like there isn't much time. I better talk to Gwarr." He started walking to the elder's hut, but turned around once more. "I also don't like this whole idea of the human fighting for his life. I'll have a word with you about that later."
    Mexta waved him off and he continued on his way to Gwarr's hut. He was pretty sure his talk wouldn't get him far, but he had to try. Gwarr was hungry for war and wasn't going to let an insult to the clans go by.
    A big grunt stood before the elder's hut. He smiled, recognizing Zir, but for the life of him he couldn't recall the grunt's name. He stuck his head into the hut and came back out.
    "Gwarr will see you." He stepped aside and held the flap open for Zir.
    "Thank you." Zir entered and wasn't surprised to see Gwarr polishing his sword. He always liked to present an intimidating picture.
    "Zir! You want to stop me from going to war?" He growled.
    "It's not what I want. The Earth wants that. I'm only speaking on its behalf." Zir straightened his back and prepared for his speech.
    "Tell me. What will happen if I don't do as you ask? If I go to battle the humans and kill them? What will nature do?" Gwarr put his sword aside and picked up an axe to clean next. His tusks widened into a grin.
    The air went out of Zir. "I don't know. I just know it won't be good. Not for us and the humans as well. Not for anybody." How could he make anyone see reason if he couldn't explain the consequences. "War just isn't the answer. Do you see no other way?"
    Gwarr's smile wilted. He put his axe down and got up, placed his hand on Zir's shoulder. "You are wise, brother. You know many things that I do not, but you have also forgotten things that I have not. We are Orcs and if there is one thing we are good at, one thing that we were meant to do. It is war."