"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.