Sunday, June 26, 2016


'The early riser chooses his path!'
    That was a saying Dax had learned from the Elves. One of many wisdoms he remembered from his time with those so different from his own kind. Their philosophies on life were often focused on patience and understanding.
    Unlike elves, Dax did not have more than a century of living and thus patience wasn't always easy, but he had been patient. It was what Kruzz had needed, for his path would not be easy. But now, patience had run its course.
    The sun was rising on the horizon, giving the sky an orange glow, but all Dax could see was the flap to the shaman's hut, where Kruzz still lay. Today, he told himself, would be different. He had been patient as long as he could be. Now, he had to get the brood back on his feet or it would be too late.
    Dax took a deep breath to find his center, then shoved the flap aside and entered the hut. Kruzz was still lying on the slab of rock, asleep. The shaman, Vorg, lay a few feet away on the ground under some furs. Dax would not be needing his help today.
    He went to stand over the brood and watched. Kruzz's brow was furrowed, tusks bared as he tossed his head from left to right. It was a fitful and restless sleep. Dax's gaze slid over the young orc's body and stopped at the sight of the stump where his left arm ended. It was well bandaged and probably healing at a good rate. The rest of his body was covered by a fur.
    Dax lifted the cover from Kruzz's legs. As he had feared, their light green color was turning pale. Their strength was ebbing away and the longer it took for the brood to get back on his feet the harder it would be to get them back to their former strength.
    Dax sighed, but he knew what he had to do. It was not the Elvish way that he had been taught, but the Orcish way that was in his blood. He tossed the fur from Kruzz's body and pulled on his good arm, bringing the brood upright with a jolt.
    "Ahhh! What are you doing?" Kruzz jerked to wakefulness.
    Vorg stirred in the corner, but when his eyes were no longer clouded from sleep and he saw what was happening, he only nodded and lay back down.
    "I'm doing what needs to be done to get you on your path." Dax heaved the young orc onto his shoulder.
    "What path? There's no path for me. Let me down!" Kruzz struggled feebly. He didn't have the strength to stop Dax.
    Dax stepped out of the hut with Kruzz pummeling his back with his good arm. He ignored it. Kruzz showing some spirit, displaying a will to fight was the whole point of this endeavor. Without saying another word Dax strode forward through the settlement to the fighting pit where he had recently fought Ragnur.
    Kruzz's wailing continued, but Dax shut the brood's cries from his mind. He crossed to the middle of the arena and set Kruzz onto his feet. Either his legs or his will could not hold him and he fell on his backside. It didn't matter. He would be getting up soon enough or never again.
    "What are we doing here? Take me back to the shaman!" Kruzz's whining was turning into outrage. That was good.
    Dax remained silent and walked to the edge of the arena where he retrieved two staves. He tossed one to the broken orc sitting on the ground. It bounced once and rolled the rest of the way to Kruzz's feet.
    "What am I supposed to do with that? I can't fight." He kicked the staff away.
    The rage of a moment before gave way to despair. Dax saw the shift of emotions clearly. Where once the brood had been confident in his abilities, knowing he would conquer the world, now he lacked all self-esteem. It was time to force some of it back.
    Dax began to circle the youth, twirling his staff in his hands all the while. Every three seconds he'd tap the end of the staff on the ground with a thud. Kruzz remained impassive as Dax set the beat. Now he would have to make the brood listen.
    "You are an orc." Thud. "Orcs are warriors." Thud. "They fight no matter what!" Thud. "But you have given up." Thud. "So what does that make you?"
    Instead of thudding the staff on the ground he jabbed Kruzz in the chest. Not hard, rather in a goading manner to make his anger flare up. The brood only gasped in surprise.
    "I'm nothing!" Kruzz shoved the staff from his chest, but Dax brought it back with force.
    The staff took the brood under his chin, knocking his upright torso toward the ground. Kruzz cried out, catching himself with his right arm. Blood dripped from his mouth to the dirt and as he returned to his sitting position his eyes darted at Dax filled with rage.
    "Another insolent remark and you will regret it even more." Dax bared his tusks in a snarl.
    He had to be tough now. Had to be strong and superior, ignore his friend's trembling and his hate. Dax could think of no other way to draw the youth from the edge of desolation. He resumed his circling and carelessly twirled the staff once more.
    "A grunt has proven his strength." Thud. "He has fought and prevailed." Thud. "He will fight again to protect his tribe." Thud. "You have proven yourself, have fought and prevailed." Thud. "But you would not protect your tribe." Thud. "You say you cannot fight."
    Another jab to the chest. A fire burned in Kruzz's eyes, tusks raised in defiance. Dax knew and feared the brood's thoughts, "I can't fight!" But they remained unspoken, maybe out of fear or respect of being beaten again. When no further response came, Dax continued walking around him.
    "A brood is as reckless as a berserker." Thud. "As thickheaded as a rock." Thud. "And when he's hurt he cries and gives up, running to a mother." Thud. "That's what you are to me, Kruzz. A brood!"
    A final jab that would break or make him. Dax shut his eyes, not knowing what the next step would be. If Kruzz gave up, there was no more he could do. The staff shot toward his chest and stopped.
    Dax opened his eyes, he felt resistance where there had been none before. Over the tip of the staff he saw Kruzz holding its end with his right hand. It hadn't touched his chest. Now Dax saw his eyes and knew he had succeeded. The rage and fire was there and sullen defiance had turned into action. All of this, Dax realized in a second, but it still didn't give him enough time to react.
    Kruzz shoved the staff back into Dax's face with such force it snapped his head back. Blood dripped from his nose as he grinned.
    "I went on the Hunt! I fought and I proved my strength! I am not a broodling anymore!" Kruzz bent his knees and got onto his feet with some effort. He was still shorter than Dax, but he swore the young grunt had grown since last he stood.
    "Good!" Dax wiped the blood from his face and went to pick up the other staff. "Then show me what you can do and I'll teach you whatever you think you can't do."
    Dax tossed the staff and Kruzz caught it in his right hand, ready to start anew.



  1. The payoff might have been a bit too soon. Then again, Kruzz' struggle isn't new, either, so perhaps this is a good way to condense the subject of recovery. After all, self-doubt and renewed sense of purpose are tried and true elements of character development.

    Not sure there's too much else to critique here, honestly.

    1. Little to critique isn't a bad thing. ;)
      The road to recovery is never easy and it definitely isn't over yet either. However, having a main character in a slump, with two other characters hovering over him, can get old really fast. I tried to let the passing of time be obscure, so that it seems like more time has passed, although of course it couldn't have been to much, with all the other things happening in the world. Maybe I could have skipped ahead more clearly, mentioning the passing of weeks or months and the decline of his health, but I "needed"/wanted the story to move on.