Monday, May 25, 2015

Mexta III

"Why don't you finally just get up and fight?" Mexta held out a bowl of gruel to the Giant's face so that he could eat out of it. "I mean, why go on living for a few more days. Maybe a week. You know your fate. Why not just snap that rope and fight? Die with honor."
    The Giant ate greedily and swallowed the moist paste with difficulty. He licked some bits from his dry lips and looked up to her. "I'd rather not die at all. I still have something worth living for."
    Mexta let out a bark of laughter. "You still have hope in your survival? You think you can escape?"
    The Giant dropped his head. He knew that his chances were close to zero. She could tell. But he still didn't give up. He would still try if he got the chance. "Let's say you make it out of the settlement. I'll follow you and bring two grunts with me. We track you and catch up. What would you do then? Would you fight to get away or would you give up and let yourself be dragged back here?"
    He lifted his head, jaw clamped shut. His eyes were aflame with hatred. He still had some fight in him. She had hoped for that. It was just slumbering under a layer of doing what was necessary to survive. She would rattle him further until it was finally awakened.
    Mexta drew a knife from her belt and cut her thumb. Blood began to well up and she smeared it on the Giant's face. He tried to lean away and she slapped him for it. He hung limp, taking the beating and not the bait. He wouldn't fight her yet.
    The fire that burned within the Giant, the sheer force of brutality which he fought with was something she respected. She wanted the warrior inside of him to come back to the surface and she wanted to beat him. She would have to wait.
    She got up and went to Gwarr's hut. The sun was setting and he would be waiting for her. Brock was on guard duty in front of Gwarr's hut. It wasn't that they were afraid of someone coming to harm their elder, the guard was rather a protection from unwanted visitors. If Gwarr were in danger he would probably knock Brock aside to fight his foe himself.
    Brock wasn't the sharpest weapon in the armory, but he was tall and strong. Intimidating to most, but not to Mexta. He smiled with his big tusks thrusting out of his mouth and nodded that Gwarr was inside.
    She entered the hut and saw Gwarr studying a map he was holding in his hands. He looked up briefly with a scowl on his face. That's what it would look like to most, but she saw a slight spark in his eye. That was the only kind of smile you could expect to get from him.
    "You were with him again, weren't you?" Gwarr murmured as he resumed his work.
    "Yes." Mexta stepped up next to him, her shoulder touching his. "I think it won't be long before the Giant bites. He still has hope of living. That will make him desperate"
    "Well, he won't live long. Scouts have reported that the human army is already on its way. This," he jabbed a finger at a large field on the map. "is where I want to do battle. We'll be marching in two days. If that Giant of yours doesn't fight until then he will be executed before the battle."
    "And if he does fight he will die before then." Mexta grinned. "Is there anything else you wanted?" She turned to leave.
    Gwarr's hand flashed out to grab her wrist and he pulled her towards him. She could feel his hot breath on her cheeks. His face was only inches away. "How much longer do you want to keep this up? I want you!"
    She leaned in towards him. Lips about to touch. Her hand shot up to grab one of his tusks and pull him towards her, giving him a massive headbutt. It hurt, but the stunned look on his face was priceless. "I'm a fury through and through. Claim me and I'll gut you like a fish and I'll use your tusks as toothpicks."
    She turned and exited the hut, her cheeks flushed and a smile on her face. If she wasn't mistaken she had even seen a hint of a smile on Gwarr's lips before she left. That would have been a first. She strode past Brock too flustered to even say a plain goodnight.
    Gwarr was the greatest warrior she knew. The youngest elder of any of the surrounding clans. He would be an excellent mate indeed. One day she might consider becoming a mother, but not anytime soon. The excitement of battle was too precious to leave behind.
    In the mean time she would focus her energy on the Giant. At first, she didn't understand him and always expected him to fight at any moment. She would have torn the rope days ago and would have fought and killed until defeated. He didn't do that though and it looked like he wouldn't fight at all. Everyone from the Brogdah Clan thought so.
    Mexta had tested him often. Trying to find the right way to challenge him. He always surprised her by not taking the bait. Their talk earlier however, had led to a new discovery and a new challenge. After she hit him, even though he probably didn't notice right away, she had dropped her knife.
    To her dismay, when she neared the center of the settlement, the Giant was still there, tied to the stake. She was so sure that he would try to escape. Was he a coward to not take the chance or was he sensing a trap? She didn't know.
    The sun had set and the settlement was only lit by torches here and there. The stake where the Giant was bound was mostly dark. Mexta was only a few feet away and he wasn't moving. He was already asleep.
    Well, if he wasn't going to take his chance, she might as well get her knife back. She bent down to look for it in the semidarkness. It was hard to see with the flickering of torchlight so far away. She searched the ground where she knew the knife should be, but couldn't find it.
    Mexta lifted her head to look at the Giant and saw a smile on his cracked lips. His wrists were free from the rope, her knife was in his hand. "I thought about killing you just now." He flipped the knife and caught the blade, offering her the hilt. "But what good would it do me? You're the only one keeping me alive. If I were to escape your clan would follow and kill me. I want to live. So how do I do that?"
    Mexta snatched the blade from him, her mouth dry, but her heartbeat eerily calm. He could have killed her without a second thought, but he didn't. She gave him a toothy grin. "You have to make yourself invaluable." She offered him the knife back. "You'll need this and will have to do exactly as I say."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Small John III

"All of you have been chosen for one of two reasons. Either you are strong." Commander Arensen was walking past the ranks of soldiers. He was tall and had wide shoulders. He was wearing his armor that shone brilliantly in the sunlight. "Or you are experienced and already one of the best."
    Small John stood straight. He was proud that he had been chosen to join the battalion, but he wanted more. He would have to prove himself against the rest of the men. Most of them were older and they looked stronger. Tough, but inexperienced like himself. Others looked just as martial as the commander. It was unusual for Small John to be surrounded by so many men that were as tall and as strong as he was, although he still had a few inches on most of them.
    "The goal of this battalion is to defeat the Orcs. To become the strongest, fastest and all in all best battalion we have to offer."
    Some of the men shouted their approval. The commander gave them a stern look and they quieted immediately.
    "It won't be easy. The training will be harsh and not all of you will make it through. Only the best can be of worth to the King. Together, when we are ready, we will march on the Orcs and will show them what we are made of. In the meantime other battalions are marching to our borders to protect your families and all of Thecia. And when the time comes we will come to their aid and will show them what the best warriors of the kingdom can do."
     Small John's heart beat faster. He wanted to be one of those warriors. He wanted to do his best and to show the commander how good he was. He wanted to kill Orcs and avenge his mother, his father and all of Duranham.
    "I'm telling you that others will sacrifice their lives on the borders so that you can train. So that you can become the best. Know this and give me all you have to offer. Make their lives worth something. So that one day we can protect this kingdom with the strongest force the Orcs have ever seen."
    Commander Arensen stopped walking back and forth and remained at the front of the ranks. A silence spread over the courtyard. Some of the men looked around unsure if maybe now was the time to shout with enthusiasm. Small John waited patiently.
    The commander cleared his throat and continued. "You will be separated into five groups of twenty men each. The groups will be filled with untrained and trained alike. Five of my most experienced men will be the leaders of each squad. Captain Jason will be in command of the first. The other four will be led by Guardians. They will be your mentors, your trainers and your only hope if you want to fulfill my expectations."
    Commander Arensen turned and left them standing at attention. A scribe took his place in front of the ranks and unfurled a piece of parchment. He held his chin up high and started reading from the list.
    "Captain Jason March. Leader of the first squad."
    A tall man stepped up to the front. He was shorter than Small John, but not by much. His shoulders weren't as wide and strong as those of many others, but he looked like he could handle a sword. What really struck Small John was that he had been called with a last name. His, must be a prominent family.
    Captain Jason turned to face the soldiers. His nose was held up high and his gaze seemed to look right through those in front of him. They weren't worthy of his attention. Small John hoped he wouldn't be in his squad.
    "Guardian Holden. Leader of the second squad."
    A squat man stepped through the ranks. He was shorter than almost everyone, but his arms were twice as thick as anyone's. He smiled broadly and took his place next to Captain Jason.
    "Guardian Morrison. Leader of the third squad."
    Tall and strong, the portrayal of what a warrior should look like. A thick scar ran over his cheek and more could be seen on his arms and hands. His jaw was hard set and not even the slightest hint of a smile crept to his lips when he took his place.
    "Guardian Robert Furrow. Leader of the fourth squad."
    Not as tall and not as strong looking as Morrison, Small John could still tell that Robert was more than a capable swordsman. The way he stood and moved with a certain ease declared his skill in Small John's eyes. He stepped up next to Morrison and smirked, a twinkle in his eye.
    "Guardian Yuseph. Leader of the fifth squad."
    His height and the width of his arms were similar to those of Morrison, but they were the least impressive of his attributes. His skin was the color of an oak tree. Darker than any tan. A scar, as white as cloth, went across half of his shaved head down over his eye. And the sword at his hip was a thick curved blade with only the front edge sharpened. Small John wasn't looking forward to being in his squad either.
    As soon as Yuseph was in position the scribe continued. "Adam of Gradford. First squad. Alon of Finnburrow. Fourth squad."
    The names went on and on. As soon as men heard their name they quickly strode forward and the scribe called the next. With the help of  his lessons Small John quickly realized that he was calling out the names alphabetically. It would take a while until the scribe got to S. He continued watching as all the called upon men took their places behind the leaders of each squad.
    "Jim of Freshire. Second squad. John of Duranham. Third squad." Nobody moved. "John of Duranham?"
    With a jolt Small John realized that he was being called. Even after Serah insisted on just calling him John, he still hadn't gotten used to it. He stepped forward and looked from one squad to the other. Which squad had he been assigned to?
    The scribe looked at him and sighed. "Third squad." Then he returned his gaze to his list and went on with his work. "John of Mirthwater. Squad five."
    Small John walked past Morrison, his guardian, and took his place in line. He couldn't help but notice the scowl on Morrison's face. So much for making a good first impression.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grim III

Grim sat in his hut mulling over his thoughts. Was Dax right? Could he have done more? Could he have been more? He was in deep thought. Something he wasn't used to. Something he hadn't let himself do in a long time. He had tried to bury his past, but now memories long gone were coming back to the surface.
    He could still smell the smoke in the air. Orcs lay dead and dying everywhere. Only a few of their own clan were among them. He could still smell the blood and feel his heart pounding in his chest. The battle rage was upon him and he loved every second of it.
    Their elder had ordered them to kill every last mother and broodling. It was not a regular feud between the two clans. Not the kind of problems that could be dealt with through a show of strength, a few raids and a final finding of mutual respect. Their elder wanted to destroy the clan and wanted to make sure that none of them survived.
    Grim was young at the time and strong. He did not think about his orders, he just did as he was told and killed with ease. Now he would have questioned those orders. Especially, after what he saw that day.
    Grim rose up from the ground and grunted as he knocked a large jug aside. Why was he torturing himself with those memories. He was no longer there. He was here and everything was good.
    Except that a war was coming. Actually, it had already begun.
    Dax's head popped through the flap into his hut. "Grim! Kruzz is back from his Hunt. He's hurt!"
    Grim huffed and stomped outside. "Is it bad?"
    His tusks clamped over his upper lip. He liked the little brood. It would be a shame if he wouldn't make it.
    "I think his arm was severely injured. I saw a lot of blood. He's with Vorg, our shaman." Dax went ahead taking quick strides to the shaman's hut.
    A lot of blood. That didn't sound good. "Did he at least kill the beast?"
    "I don't know." Dax opened the flap and stepped inside. Grim followed.
    Smoke filled the room. Grim could smell the shaman's herbs. They would take away pain, making you numb and drowsy. Kruzz was lying on a large slab of rock. Burning bundles of herbs were placed next to his head, one on each side. Vorg was bent over him.
    Dax circled around the rock and hissed when he saw Kruzz's arm. Grim went to look as well and drew in his tusks. The left arm had a long deep cut that went from his wrist, past his elbow, halfway up to his shoulder. The blood was still running freely, rather than thickening and the edges of the wound had a bluish-purple color.
    "Poisoned?" Dax asked Vorg.
    "Looks like it." He pressed against the flesh. Kruzz winced, but his eyes were still closed. "The creature he killed was a big beast. I've never seen its like around here. Its venom is acting fast. You two help hold him down while I bind his arm and treat the wound."
    Grim obeyed and held the brood down by his shoulders. Vorg got a leather strap and pulled it across Kruzz's arm, above the wound. Dax leaned over his body and held on to his hand, pressing it against the stone. As the strap was tightened, Kruzz began to struggle and when Vorg got out some powder that he pressed into the wound he began to scream, but Grim didn't let him budge.
    Afterward Kruzz was breathing heavily. He twitched sometimes, but Grim thought he was going to be alright. He looked up at the shaman, but Vorg was shaking his head. "I've never seen this before. I don't know if my treatment will help. We have to wait and see."
    "He'll be alright. You'll see." Dax smiled weakly."Look, he's awake. He's a strong one, he is."
    Kruzz's eyelids fluttered open. "Grim? Dax?" He winced and drew in a sharp breath. "I killed the beast. I finished my Hunt."
    "Yes, you did." Grim grasped his right hand. "You're one of us now. A grunt! But now you need to rest."
    Kruzz smiled. "Okay." He closed his eyes and fell asleep.