Friday, October 1, 2010

The Broken Spear

Part 1

The mud was almost too deep to march through. It had been raining every day for almost an entire month, and it seemed foolish to Krunk that the great KhaKhan should want to conquer a place that had nothing better to offer than rocks, barren trees, scarce game and mud. Though he was soaked through to the bone and hungry, he plodded along with the rest of the thin column of orcs moving through the land the Boghul called “Tar-gar-thus”.

“Stop poking me!” growled a voice from behind. A swift kick to the backside sent Krunk sprawling forward face-down into the sticky mud. Before he could get back on his feet, he felt himself being pulled up by his hair. Soon he was staring into the narrow yellow eyes of a bull orc called Yaragath. The tusked tough was almost a third again larger than Krunk and carried a long crudely forged but sharp scimitar. Krunk had only his spear and had no shield to defend with. “I be more careful next time.”, Krunk apologized timidly. The brute expressed his acceptance of the apology by letting go of Krunk’s hair and shoving him backward into the mud again. Howls of laughter ensued from those around him, but Krunk swallowed his pride, got back on his feet and shouldered his spear, this time making sure the point of it came nowhere near anybody else, especially Yaragath.

It was no harsher treatment than Krunk had come to expect. He was only gurulukh; an orc tainted by distant human ancestry, however miniscule. Though he was still one of the Sula-ulus, his kind were not allowed to own land or choose their own wives, and were regarded as inferior by the less populous but stronger tomukh, or bull orcs. His kind were smaller and weaker, but not so small nor so weak that they could not be made use of in the Reven.

This would be Krunk’s first reven, if there was indeed anything worth raiding at the end of this mud-march. Though he had not yet proven himself as a warrior, he had earned some fair praise among his clan as a hunter. As a young boy he learned from his father how to anticipate the next move of his quarry, when to attack, when to dodge and how to know when he has met more than his match. When he became old enough he was allowed to join the older hunters, tracking the big game across the plains to provide food for his clan.. Hunting the wild boar, the krung-beast and the nhoolyan made him grow stronger and more fearless, yet one test remained for him to prove he was no longer a boy. That test was the Reven, and although this hunt would be far more dangerous than any he had ever been on, the reward would be well worth it.

Soon the sky began to darken and the column stopped its march to make camp amidst a large wind-eroded outcropping of rocks. As sentries were posted, everybody else scrambled to secure for themselves a bit of shelter from the rain that was beginning to fall. Krunk found a suitably dry place where one large megalith of granite had fallen over onto a second flat slab, creating a small cavern. There was room to sit but not to stand, which was all Krunk really wanted. He was glad to be out of the chilly rain and no longer feel his bare feet sinking in the slimy Taltain mud. Once shed of his armour, he examined the contents of his ration sack that he wore hanging from his belt on the march. There was some flattened black bread covered in mud, some green nuts and mud, and a thin strip of slightly mouldy dried krung-meat with mud-gravy. Krunk cursed Yaragath under his breath for having pushed him into the mud and on top of his supper. He was able to wipe away enough mud from the meat to make it edible. Trying the same with the bread yielded a soggy mess that tasted only slightly better than the yellow curdled sludge that the goblins considered to be cheese. Krunk threw it out of his stone shelter, raising a string of curses and threats from an orc who was trying with no success to find a place to sleep that was not already occupied.

Fortunately for Krunk the orc calling him out to fight was one like himself and not one like Yaragath. The two adhered faithfully to the customs of settling such disputes between orcs of equal birth, circling with fists brandished while a ring of jeering onlookers arbitrarily encourage their favourite contender to defeat his opponent by amusingly violent means. There is usually some degree of pushing and shoving, but both combatants have a clear understanding that if either tears off the other’s head and spit down his neck-hole, that the other won’t be there to help him fight the real enemy tomorrow or the next day. Had Krunk offended a bull orc in such a way, the fight would not last very long and would end with the other orcs squabbling over who would get to have the slain Krunk’s meager belongings.

After half an hour of taunting, name-calling, and a few below-the-belt punches, the disagreement was settled in the customary way, wherein both participants promise to postpone killing the other if each agrees to give the other a suitable reparation for all the rude names and conjectures about his ancestry. When it was all over, Krunk had two more strips of dried meat without mud, and the other orc had Krunk’s little cavern.

Krunk tried to get a night’s rest on the semi-sheltered leeward side of a large boulder, but there was no escaping the mud. He awoke the next morning with an aching back and a growling stomach. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was Yaragath sitting on a nearby rock sharpening his sword. The bull orc went meticulously about his task with a glint in his eyes as though he was bedding his newest wife. Krunk imagined to himself how Yaragath would probably someday have ten or twelve wives, yet give that sword of his more attention than any of them. Such thoughts would make Krunk a lot angrier except that he knew someday a hothead like Yaragath would pick one fight too many, let loose his rage, lower his guard and die like a nhoolyan blindly charging into his enemy’s spear point.

Soon the Boghul began barking out marching orders. Krunk took his place in line next to Yaragath for the daily counting of heads. It was soon discovered that two orcs had deserted the camp during the night. The Boghul was irate and seemed ready to use his whip on each and every one of the sentries for allowing the two to leave. Thoughts of desertion had entered Krunk’s mind on more than one occasion, but he knew his clan and kin would never forgive such cowardice. Rain-laiden clouds stretched endlessly toward the western horizon. Krunk sensed that this was going to be another bad day.

The company began its march westward as the dense fog clung to the cold wet ground. Soon they approached a small hill atop which stood a single lightningstruck tree, its dead branches stretched outward like two great claws. The two archers that were sent ahead to see what was on the other side of the hill reported that they had found a small farmstead. The spirits of the company were immediately lifted with the prospect of fresh food, dry shelter and Taltain women for the taking.

No sooner had the column crested the hill than a volley of arrows came forth from behind a low stone wall, catching the orcs completely by surprise. Those who had battle experience prepared themselves for a counter-attack, forming into small skirmishing groups or rallying around the Boghul or shaman. Just like the previous night, everybody raced for whatever cover was available. Krunk followed the veterans’ example and ran to join three other orcs inside a roofless stone hay barn.

“Wait now, young one.. Let our archers have some sport first.”, said one of the three. Krunk felt a brief awkwardness when he realized that he was cowering in a barn with the same orc he has fought with the night before. The barn’s two other occupants were bull orcs. The one with the sword and the iron-capped tusks offered Krunk a few words of encouragement. “When we attack together, we are stronger.” The other bull orc with the axe just gazed through the barn’s one small window while a hail of arrows bounced off the stone structure. “Today not good day to die.” was his only advice. Outside, the orc archers returned volley. A human voice cried out in pain from behind the low stone wall.

A bugle sounded, and a small company of armoured men bearing shields with the mark of the Crusaders of Denelspire came marching in step toward the orc archers. A disorderly mob of shieldless bull orcs with war axes charged forth to meet them, believing their war-paint would protect them. The Boghul held his best fighters in reserve as the casualties piled up in the centre of the small barnyard.

“Now!”, shouted old iron-tusks. The Boghul and his phalanx of fighters began moving toward the left flank and toward the Crusaders’ healer who had unwisely put himself in harm’s way. Krunk and the other three orcs left the safety of the hay barn and raced toward the far right end of the stone wall as a swarm of orc arrows flew by overhead. The surviving human archers loosed their arrows into the advancing orcs, but only struck one. The bull orc with the axe fell clutching his midsection. Only the prayers of the shaman could save him now.

The other three continued their charge, never looking back. Through the noise of battle, Krunk could hear the Crusaders’ healer chanting. Krunk ran as fast as he could while the archers were preparing to loose another volley. He reached the wall just in time, and leapt over it with a level of agility and fearlessness that he would never have thought himself capable of had he ever stopped to think about it. Catching one of the human archers off his guard, Krunk lunged forward with his spear, thrusting it at the archer’s chest. The archer parried the attack in spite of having only a small hatchet to defend himself with. The archer then tried to back away from his attacker in order to take one last shot, but stumbled over his own retreat. Krunk drew back his spear and was preparing to deal the killing strike, but at that moment he felt the flat side of a Crusader sword sliding under his right ear and threatening to remove his head from his shoulders. Slowly he lowered his spear and turned to face his captor, a rather tall human female in plate armour. Without lowering her sword, she looked Krunk straight in the eyes and spoke to him in his own language, much to his amazement.

“Your life is in my hands now . If you make peace with me, I will not harm you. If you make war with me, your death will be quick.”, she said as she demonstrated her precision with the blade by tapping his ear twice with the flat of it almost before he could even flinch.

What seemed to be a long silence passed between she and Krunk as he considered his options. All those months since he had joined the Reven, all he had heard was that the Taltain humans were weak, that their villages and strongholds would fall easily, and that when the orc nation reclaimed its right to Taltos, everybody would share in the wealth. He had been told that the Great Reven would sweep across Taltos like a storm, but where were the other three that had charged the wall with him? Everything was going wrong. After all his father had taught him and all the abuse his Boghul had put him through to make him tough, the attack had failed. Krunk, son of Kurzug of the Fireblood Clan, had been beaten by a scrawny human girl. The battle was lost. Soon the orcs would be hunted on their own hunting grounds until there was nothing left of the Sula-ulus but lies recounted by the hateful humans. Though he knew he was utterly defeated, he threw his spear wildly at the archer, missing him completely. The now unarmed orc looked his executioner defiantly in the eye and awaited death.

But death did not come. The woman withdrew her blade from Krunk’s neck and spoke to him again, her pale green eyes displaying no signs of self-doubt. “You may still prove you are a great warrior with the Crusaders.” Though moments earlier he had seen her as an enemy to his people, he now believed that she was the only person who would give him his second chance. He had failed his clan and his people, but it was his father’s judgement he would be least willing to face. Krunk resolved to prove himself worthy of his father’s praise whether with or without the Reven.

The woman sheathed her sword and gestured for the archer to retrieve Krunk’s spear from the mud, which he did with some hesitation.. Krunk stood tall as the woman offered him back his weapon along with the protection of Aurellius. Awkwardly he spoke his oath of fealty to her using as many Taltain words as he could recall.

“Krunk in human clan. Me do what queen want.”

Part 2

When the orcs began their final forlorn advance toward the wall, the Crusaders were ready. Less than a dozen orcs remained. Their archers had all been killed and the old shaman was nowhere to be seen. The humans outnumbered them almost two-to-one and were in an excellent location to defend themselves.. The orcs did not have a chance, but Krunk knew that most orcs will not accept that they have been defeated until it is too late. He stood beside his new queen, completely sure he had made the right choice even if it would mean killing his own people.

It was of little concern to Krunk that the two orcs charging toward the archers’ position were the same two who had failed to reach the wall with him in the initial assault. The archer who Krunk had fought with moments earlier managed to wound the smaller warrior as he tried to run through the thick brown mud. After nocking a fresh arrow, the archer took aim at the larger bull orc, but his arrow flew wild and struck the wall of the hay barn instead. Both orcs came over the wall, disregarding Krunk as any sort of threat. The wounded lesser-orc gave chase to the archer as the human tried to shoot and retreat. The bull orc charged toward the woman.

She put forth a ferocious defense against her attacker, but Krunk knew that the bull orc would quickly wear her down. He had been taught that her kind revered cleverness over strength, and very rarely did they expect their females to take up arms at all, which was one of the reasons the orcs were able to take so many human females as slaves. The thought of seeing the woman warrior become the unwilling concubine of some bull orc like Yaragath awoke a rage in Krunk that had been building within him throughout the long march into Taltos..

Krunk grasped the shaft of his spear as tightly as he could and tried to thrust it into the bull orc's back, The alert warrior saw the attack coming and turned, but his reaction was slow enough that Krunk was still able to wound him.. A thin line of blood began to trickle from a fresh gash on the bull orc’s forearm, but he seemed undaunted by his injury. Cursing as one might curse a stinging insect, the enraged warrior struck back at his small tormentor, bringing his heavy sword down upon Krunk’s armoured shoulder with a resounding clang. Krunk doubled over and fell forward, addled from the sheer force of the blow. Lying on the ground prone, he tried to get his feet back under him but found his right arm to be numb and uncooperative. Clumsily he tried to crawl toward his spear, but just as he reached it he heard a terrible bellowing howl followed by gasping and gurgling. The bitter smell of orc blood filled the air and the towering bull fell on top of Krunk, pinning him to the ground. For a fleeting moment it seemed as though the gods of battle would exact justice for Krunk’s betrayal, but lying face-down in the mud beneath the crushing weight of the tomukh warrior was not how Krunk, son of Kurzug of the Fireblood Clan wanted his life to end.

The effort was painful, but Krunk rolled the body of the slain orc off of himself. The numbness in his arm was subsiding and his shoulder throbbed as though it might be broken. Krunk recognized the iron-capped tusked face staring at him with lifeless eyes, even though he had never learned the orc’s name. The old veteran had told Krunk less than an hour ago that strength was in numbers, an ironic lesson that was not lost on the young orc. Had the woman or he fought alone against the bull orc, neither would have had much of a chance.

Through the clatter of weapons and armour, Krunk could hear the gruff voice of his Boghul issuing orders for retreat mixed with a barrage of profanities. At last the orcs had recognized defeat and were withdrawing. It appeared that the battle was over, though Krunk had no doubt that the few orcs that had survived would be back sooner or later. The very fact that the humans were defending the little farmstead would only make the orcs want it that much more, though Krunk was not certain there was anything of value to be looted in any of its three dilapidated structures. A bugle sounded again and immediately healers came forth to tend to the wounded. Others began removing weapons and armour from the dead. The archer who had retreated into the smaller farmhouse came back out and began salvaging arrows from the ground, taking care to separate the orcs’ arrows from those of his own people. Everybody with one exception seemed oblivious to the young orc sitting in the mud desperately trying to pull his spear out from underneath the bull orc’s corpse.

A man’s voice shouted from behind, but the only words Krunk understood were “orc” and “dead”. An armoured foot came down upon the shaft of Krunk’s spear just as he succeeded in freeing it Krunk looked up to face a tall Crusader knight in brightly polished armour carrying a very ornate longsword. His hair was almost blood-red and he had narrow, squinty eyes and a peculiarly hawklike nose. As the man reached to draw his sword, the woman came hurrying to the orc's defense, shouting at the man in the human tongue. The man glared at Krunk, resheathed his sword with disgust, and uttered something under his breath. Though Krunk understood only three words of what either human said, he knew that the woman had saved his neck for the second time that day. Gripping his injured shoulder, he abandoned his broken spear and stood up.

“Come with me. You need a healer.”, spoke the woman in orcish as a murmuring arose from curious onlookers. She then proceeded to lead him toward the biggest of the farm’s three buildings, The armoured man followed right behind as if intimidation would be required to convince Krunk to visit the healers. The archer ceased the salvaging of arrows and followed too. “You fought well... Krunk?”, she said, speaking his name timidly. Though she mispronounced it badly, the orc just nodded and said, “Yes, my queen.” He had never heard a non-orc speak his language before but quickly was growing fond of her strange accent and habit of adding extra words when they were not needed. “You call me Theodora..not Queen.”, she told him as they walked past the cook-fires where men were already tending two large black cauldrons. “Yes, my queen”, he answered as his mind wandered to thoughts of a hot meal. He had heard that the lizard-men of the Great Swamps ate the flesh of their captives, but had never been told any such stories about the Taltain humans. He was hungry, but he knew he would never be hungry enough to want to taste orcflesh.

Unlike the hay barn, the main farmhouse still had its thatch roof intact. Its sturdy fieldstone walls were old and green with mildew from the rains. There was a door at each end and several small windows with wooden shutters along the side. A plume of smoke rose from a tall chimney at one corner of the house. Krunk believed that the man who built it must have been a very important members of his clan to have earned such a large and permanent dwelling.

Standing at the doorway, Krunk could see that the main room was crowded with people. The two priests were hurrying back and forth among the wounded as an older female in long blue robes weaved her way through the chaos with a basket full of bandages. “Better you wait here.”, said Theodora to Krunk. “Yes, my queen”, he responded as she went inside to speak to one of the priests. The archer and knight both waited outside with Krunk. Though he was now part of her clan, he suspected that most of the humans still did not like or trust him much, especially the armoured man, whose squinty eyes stayed fixed on him the entire time Theodora was away.

After half an hour had passed, Theodora came back out with the elder of the two priests, a tall but stout man who was in no way gentle in resetting Krunk's shoulder but did not appear to begrudge being asked to do so. Krunk tried several times to ask the priest when he would be given a new spear and armour, but realized that the priest did not speak orcish nor did he comprehend Krunk’s attempt to speak the Taltain tongue. In spite of the language barrier, the priest carried on a lively conversation with the orc, upholding the reputation the humans had among orcs which earned them the name mongkele or ‘never-stops-talking’. Krunk listened and pretended to understand by giving an occasional nod, a charade which made the archer laugh but clearly infuriated the knight.

Meanwhile, Theodora had gone to the cooks to find something for Krunk to eat. She returned with a wooden bowl full of stewed turnips and potatoes, which Krunk happily devoured. The healer-priest frowned and shook his head. Theodora only added to the orc’s confusion by explaining to him that the soup had not yet been blessed. Never the less, Krunk thanked her with a resounding burp of gratitude and passed the empty bowl back to the priest so that the bowl might still get its due blessing. The knight, who the priest called Eduard, watched with contempt.

Finally the archer spoke up, asking Theodora to translate a question into orcish. “Gerome wants to know how many years you have lived.”, she asked Krunk. “Ten and three.”, he answered, a fact that the archer seemed surprised by. When it came Krunk’s turn to ask a question, it was revealed that Gerome was in his twentieth year and still had not even one wife, a fact that Krunk found equally surprising. Gerome then asked to see what was in the sack tied round Krunk’s belt, but neither he nor Theodora were curious enough to actually sample the fistful of green nuts nor the two strips of cured meat of questionable origin .

The questions and answers continued for the next two hours. Theodora appeared to have a sincere interest in mundane orc life, such as how meals are prepared, the arranging of marriage and naming of children, and the weather in the steppe. Krunk told her about his four younger brothers and two sisters, the small circular shelter made of animal hide that his family lived in, how the floods took his mother’s life, and how his father taught him to hunt.. In return, Theodora told Krunk all about her grandfather’s estate in Racheau, how her older brother was killed by pirates while travelling by boat to Taltos, and how she spent most of her later youth in a place she called a school reading books so that she could follow her brother's path and become something she called a Chronicler.

“They are like your lore-keeper.”, she explained to the orc before beginning a long and awkwardly translated discourse on the subject. From what Krunk could comprehend, Theodora had learned all she knew about the orcs' language and culture from books written by other Chroniclers. Krunk listened, recalling his own childhood. When he was a young boy, a bhasamagh,, he would often join the other children of the clan and listen to stories of great battles and heros told by an ancient white-haired orc who was known only as Tahu-Tahun, or Rememberer-Of-Years. The old orc never owned a book, and had probably never seen one except among the looted treasures of the goblins who overtly coveted all-things-human. As a drum banged the rhythm, he would chant one of his epic tales exactly as he had first heard it so that the more attentive children soon learned the words and could chant along with him. Such an enormous mentally challenging task as preserving the clan’s oral history was a duty to which few orcs aspired to, but all warriors were taught the importance of protecting the Rememberer. Apparently the order of knights to which Eduard belonged had been created to safeguard the Chroniclers.

Gerome’s questions were mostly about weaponry and armour, much to Krunk’s disappointment. He had not spoken much about home or family since he had joined the Reven, nor had anybody else asked him to. Krunk offered the archer his crumpled shoulder armour in trade for the archer’s hatchet, but the archer’s translated reply was a polite, “I already have one.” Krunk was fairly sure that had not been Gerome’s actual words, but Theodora knew the unwritten rules of how to make a trade. No orc ever refused a trade without a valid reason, even if the valid reason was not entirely true. The armour had belonged to some other warrior before it had been given to Krunk by the Boghul. It fitted him poorly and by Krunk’s own deduction had not been much protection for its previous owner either. He did not begrudge the archer in the least for keeping his axe.

His spear, however, was given to him by his father upon his return from his last successful hunt. It took him and seven others to slay the great nhoolyan, and two of those seven were killed trying. “Now you are ready to be a warrior”, his father had told him; words Krunk had once believed and wished to believe again. It was as good a spear as any bull orc hunter might have. Its shaft was of the finest hardwood and had no visible knots or cracks. The spearhead was made for Krunk’s grandfather many years ago and bore the wyvern rune, the mark of the Fireblood clan.

“My queen not want me fight with empty hands”, Krunk protested loudly, pointing his finger at Eduard. “He broke my spear! I want his sword!” Theodora hastily translated Krunk’s subsequent threats and taunts, but the man was unresponsive to even the most crass slanders Krunk could deliver. Frustrated by Eduard’s unwillingness to answer his insults as was customary in such quarrels, Krunk spat at him; but the provocation was more successful than Krunk had hoped for. Eduard’s face flushed full crimson with rage and he reached for his sword.

At that point, it was no longer a dispute between equals. The man, though just a human, was far better equipped than Krunk. Not wanting to chance letting the man draw his sword, Krunk wound back his good arm and caught the knight with a hard punch to the chin. Theodora shrieked as Eduard reeled and fumbled with his scabbard as if he was drunk. Gerome nocked an arrow, but not quickly enough. Krunk rushed at the man, grappling him around the waist and throwing him completely off balance. More spectators gathered to watch the fight. With the weight of his armour now working against him, the knight stumbled backward with the orc still clinging to him. As both fell to the ground, Krunk rammed his head into Eduard’s chest, knocking the very breath out of him. The gasping man tried to defend himself, but had apparently never learned to fight unarmed the way Krunk had as a boy. The orc poured on the punches while the horrified onlookers watched their champion take a beating. Theodora ordered him to stop, but Krunk chose to ignore her. He had made a mistake and he knew it. He had, as his father often warned him against, grabbed the wolf by both ears. He wished the fight would end, but did not know how to end it except by killing the man, which he knew his queen would never allow to happen. Then something heavy struck him from behind and he fell into sleep.

When Krunk came to, his injured shoulder and the back of his head both ached terribly. His hands were bound tightly in front of him and his feet had been loosely tied to prevent him from running. The crowd was still gathered but they were silent for the most part. Eduard seemed unharmed except for two blacked eyes, a cut across his cheek, a bleeding nose and a swollen jaw. Krunk had failed earlier to notice that the priest was carrying a heavy mace, but now he was sure who it was that had hit him from behind. Theodora and Eduard were both engaged in an intense debate with a very tall man who Krunk assumed was one of Theodora’s subchieftains. Finally a verdict was reached and the encircling crowd parted, allowing Theodora, Gerome, Eduard and the priest to escort their prisoner away from the farmstead. The archer carried a coil of rope over his shoulder. The orc knew all about the humans’ various methods of execution. Being hanged as a prisoner was not how his father would have wanted him to die, but it less cowardly than being shot in the back while running away.

“Your life is not in my hands this time. I am no queen. I must do what Lord Marius says.”, she explained as they reached the old hay barn . “I am sorry, Krunk.”

“I sorry too. Now not a good time to die.” was Krunk’s solemn reply. He walked the rest of the way in silence thinking about the afterlife. He had been taught to fear his gods. They, like the people and land they created, were often vengeful and capable of great wrath. He only knew Theodora’s god to be merciful and protective, but one god could not be strong enough to protect Krunk from the many gods he had turned his back on.

They walked beyond the hay barn and up the small hill to the old lightningstruck tree. Gerome nocked an arrow and cast his watchful eyes in the direction from which the orcs last attacked. Meanwhile, Eduard took the rope and tied his prisoner to the trunk of the tree, “Lord Marius believes you cannot be trusted. He says you should be left for your people to judge.”, Theodora explained, her voice betraying no pity for the condemned orc. “Do you have anything else to say?”

It was a fate worse than hanging, beheading, or any other Krunk could think of. Orcs had no use for traitors or cowards and their punishment for such crimes were imaginatively cruel but inevitably led to death. Krunk shook his head, closed his eyes, and prayed for any god who would listen to help him.

After a long silence, Krunk opened his eyes again to see the priest and Theodora frantically trying to loosen the cords that bound his wrists and ankles. Meanwhile, Gerome took his hatchet and chopped through the ropes that tied him to the tree. Finally,. Eduard laid his hand on Krunk’s shoulder and spoke while Theodora translated. “He says he will still not give you his sword, but he will let you go free.”, she told him. “He says Aurellius is not yet finished with you.” Nothing Krunk had ever been told about the humans had prepared him for what was happening now. Though he understood them even less, he was learning to like them a lot more.

With a quick word to Theodora, Gerome sprinted off to the other side of the stone wall and returned with the two halves of Krunk’s spear, which he presented to Krunk along with his own hatchet. Eduard smiled, laughed loudly, and then spoke once more, rousing more laughter from the priest and Theodora.

“He says you better go now before he remembers he does not like orcs.”

Feeling a new sense of purpose, Krunk shouldered his shortspear, hefted the small hatchet and spoke his parting words in Taltain.

“You all in Krunk-clan now. I not let no-body hurt you.”

Beyond the farmstead, Tagarthos’ hills and caves were crawling with Isiri, walking-dead, dark-dwarves, vampires and murderous bandits, as well as Yaragath and a few other unenlightened orcs. It would be a difficult job for one young orc making war against all of them, but Krunk had faith in the words of his father and the guidance of his new god. Though the heroic deeds of Krunk, son of Kurzug would never be recorded in any book, this day would mark the beginning of Krunk's own Reven.

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