The shaman's hut was filled with herb smoke. Dax could tell that some of the herbs were being burned to dull the senses, but others just made the room smell better.
Kruzz still lay on the slab of rock and Vorg was seated next to him. A frown was on his face as he studied the putrid flesh of the young Orc's arm. The brood was unconscious. Dax should be calling him a grunt, he had proved his strength after all, but seeing him in such a weak state reminded him of how young Kruzz still was.
Vorg looked up at Dax, eyes red and brow furrowed. Even with the plugs in his nose he was bound to inhale some of the herbs. He should go out and get some fresh air, but he had been trying to help Kruzz any way that he could. To no avail.
"I've dissected the creature he killed. It's poison glands were mostly full, but I couldn't make an antidote in such short time. It's spreading too fast."
Dax clasped his hand on Vorg's shoulder. "You have done all that you could. Nobody expected more."
Vorg shuddered. "I'm going to have to take his arm off. At least that way he'll have a chance at living. If I don't do that the venom is bound to spread all the way to his heart."
Dax sighed. Poor Kruzz. It seemed like he was going to have a bright future ahead of him. This changed everything. Maybe he hadn't been ready for the Hunt. But who could have foreseen such a huge creature as his animal. What was the meaning of that beast coming to him for the Hunt?
"I better get things ready. The sooner we do it the better. I had just hoped that my treatment would work, but it's too late now." Vorg got up with a grunt and headed towards the flap. "I'll need your help when it's time. You and that other big fellow. Grim was his name?"
Dax nodded. "I'll go and get him."
They both left the hut, leaving Kruzz behind.
It was still early and the sun blinded him when he stepped outside. Dax went to look for Grim in his tent, but he wasn't there when he looked inside. He took a look around the fighting pit where some of the grunts were training and some of the broods were watching and imitating them. Grim wasn't there either.
Nor was he bathing in the stream. That would surprised Dax anyway. Grim probably hadn't bathed even once in the last month. It was far more likely to find him where there was something to eat. But even the burning meat on the spit hadn't lured the big brute over.
There wasn't much else he could do, but ask around. Someone must have seen him. Who better to start with than their elder. Elder Worg was in his hut, but he wasn't alone. Dax was asked to wait outside by his guard while he went in to ask permission for Dax to enter.
The guard came back out and grunted with a nod towards the flap. Dax went inside and was surprised to have finally found Grim, who was standing next to where Worg sat. "There you are. I've been looking for you."
"Then you've heard. Your shaman wants to take the little grunt's arm off." Grim scowled. "I guess it's better than letting him die, but what will his future hold now. You said the Hunt had meaning. What does this outcome say about Kruzz's fate?"
Grim's eyes were ablaze. Not with hatred for Dax, he could see that. It was frustration and anger at the world. Maybe there was more to Grim than he would have thought. Not just a lazy, strong, brute who did whatever he wanted. He genuinely cared for Kruzz. That was clear.
Worg's head sagged on his chest and he looked old and weak. Not like the strong leader that a clan should have. "It's my fault. I thought he was ready. I thought he had greatness within him. The Hunt was going to be his first triumph of many more to come. My plans for him have failed."
Dax watched Grim grind his teeth. He probably wanted to yell at his elder, but he had too much respect to do so. Did he think it was Worg's fault? Worg was taking the blame, but that didn't make it true. What the two of them needed was something to keep them from despair. They needed hope.
Dax took a deep breath and slapped his fist into the palm of his other hand. "Don't you two see what this is? This is a decisive moment not only for Kruzz, but for us. It will be hard for him to get used to only having one arm, but with our help he will be able to learn that not only strength matters. It will be our task to make him what he can become. Losing an arm does not make him less of an Orc. Losing hope will make him less than he can be."
A slight grin spread over Grim's lips, his tusks thrust upward. "You always know what to say, don't you?"
"I don't know if this will work." Worg still sat on the ground, his body slumped. "But we should at least try to help this young grunt. He will need us in the hard time to come."
"Good!" Dax crossed over and gently laid his hand on Grim's shoulder. "Then there's only one more thing to do, before we can help Kruzz on this hard path. Vorg asked me to get you, so we could help him do what needs doing."
All of the good vibes he had just spread were sucked away in an instant. Grim's smile turned into a frown and a deep rumbling growl came from his throat. "We'd better get it done then. The sooner the better."
Together they stalked out of Worg's hut and walked silently through the settlement. Inside the shaman's hut, Vorg was waiting. He had his tools laid out before him and fresh herbs were burning.
"Here, take these." He handed them plugs for their noses. "You'll need all the strength you have to hold him down. He'll struggle as soon as I start."
Grim held on to Kruzz's legs and Dax held on to his arms. The brood winced when he grabbed the wrist of his left arm. It's light green coloring had become increasingly blue over the last few days. It was getting high time to remove it.
"I'll make the cut up here." Vorg indicated a spot slightly below the shoulder, well above the infected flesh. "You two just keep him restrained."
Vorg lifted the saw from his collection of tools and placed it where he was going to cut. "Hold on tight now."
The brood looked peaceful as he lay there. His eyes were shut and his breathing was calm. Then Vorg began to saw. Kruzz's eyes burst open, his limbs struggled and he screamed. Oh, how he screamed.