A short story follows concerning the orc Mal, as detailed here and his friend, the narrator. It is somewhat silly, but please read and enjoy. Like all my stories, feel free to comment and criticize as it pleases you. All attention is good attention.
There are some people who can look at a group of well-armed brigands and feel nothing but a vague sort of distaste, a disappointment that so many folk would have united in such a failing of life choices. Mal appeared to be such a person, his heavy jaw creased in a distinct frown, his brow ridge lowered, making his small eyes almost disappear in shadow. He was wide-shouldered at the best of times, muscles piled upon muscles like some kind of rough muddy golem, clay crudely slapped into a mannish form, but now he bristled bigger, swollen and brutish. Fear appeared to be a foreign concept to the man.
I, on the other hand, am not so blessed. I was embarrassingly startled, making a noise that a lapdog would dismiss as a bit unbecoming. The motley crew, a handful of humans of various shades, made no mystery of their intent, flashing weapons to catch the light. I saw a long knife and instantly my stomach rebelled, clenching tighter than a unpaid whore’s grip on a man’s fruits and making every strangled breath taste of bile.
I detest violence in all its forms, hardly from any moral principle or another, I simply have a great deal of trouble surviving my physical repulsion away from the acts. The mere thought of pain and suffering makes me distinctly uncomfortable and I avoid doing so whenever possible.
Which makes my choice of career somewhat unlikely, but needs must.
Thus I was moved to intervene when Mal reached for the handle of his weapon. Normally the orc preferred a great two-handed maul, tossing aside foes hither and thither like a great grey-green wind. But we were traversing the winding, narrow streets of Evermore on an errand and an orc armed with such a weapon would, firstly, send the upstanding citizens into such paroxysms of terror Mal would hardly be able to walk two steps in a row without being interviewed by an overzealous guard. Secondly, the blasted maul would have to swing through me if Mal were to use it in half the alleyways we were marching down. So, he instead reached for a hatchet, which to my eyes, was not much of an improvement. I stepped ahead, bravely putting my body in harm’s way.
‘Gentlemen, you gave us such a fright appearing from the gloom like that!’ I said, hand pressed to my chest. I’ve always said I belonged on the stage, an opinion sadly not shared by many critics. And acting troupes. Nor many innocent bystanders. Apes, one and all.
They looked understandably confused, one, a large local fellow if my eyes didn’t deceive me, even going so far as to look down at his knife to check as if it was still there. It unfortunately was.
I leant towards them, one hand pressed back against Mal’s hard chest, as if trying to keep him away from the bandits.
‘I fear you have made a grave error this night. Perhaps you have seen us, and noting our class, believe us to be targets for your predation.’ I grimaced and with theatrically disappointment sighed and shook my head. ‘You wish to purloin our fine things, jewelry and purses, but all you will find here is ...death.’
I flashed them with my eyes, a look of despairing horror painted across my face. That one was very easy to do, for I presumed that if they lost interest in my performance that’s just what I would be facing.
‘Look here-’ started one, lifting a rough and dirty finger to my attention. But not finding any point at the end of it, I quickly interrupted him.
‘Five armed men against two, that’s good odds you were thinking amongst yourselves, no need to deny it, it is as plain to me as the hunger in your eyes. And yes, if my friend here was an ordinary knave this might be true, he might be cowed by your virility and lethal assemblage. And yes, there are some villains who might knock you about for the contents of your purse, perhaps even kill you for it… and presumably you gentlemen are of such a gender.’
I paused, allowing them a moment to deny the charges, but none seemed inclined so I bowed at the neck, and turned slightly to better present the figure of Mal to my audience.
‘My friend is more savage than even that. For he will pull a blade across your throat for no better purpose than to check that the edge is still keen.’
Mal was no fool and played his part perfectly, which admittedly was quite simple for a fearsome looking orc such as himself. All he had to do was raise his hackles and sneer, displaying his uneven tusks and better letting his horns catch the light.
It was one of the few times that I was pleased that in High Rock at least, there are more stories about the orcs than there are orcs to confirm or deny them. It was not difficult for these vulgar men to believe Mal relished in brainless slaughter.
‘I,’ I said, slipping slightly to one side, so the gentlemen could better see the thickness of Mal’s wrists, the well worn grip of his hatchet and bruised and gnarled nature of his knuckles. ‘Do not wish to see you harmed for a simple error of judgement. Live and learn I say! But my friend...’ I shook my head. ‘He does not say much of anything but when he does it is normally along the lines of “Fools taste better after a little beating.”’
That might have been a step too far, the bandits rearing back at the idea of the orc feasting on their warm innards. I did not dare glance back at Mal, but I sensed that even he was giving me one of his looks. I have a weakness for the dramatic, an urge which has yet to find a devout following despite submitting no less than three manuscripts to four separate publishers.
Their spokesman, a handsome fellow of Redguard descent, sliced his hand through my words. ‘Look, we just want the documents you’re carrying in that there satchel. Toss them over and we’ll hear no more of people eating people.’
A twist! These were not your common breed of blackguards, come a’fishing for shiny coins and bolts of silken underthings. There should have been none in the city who knew of the waxed leather document case and its contents but ourselves and our employer and yet… here they stood, five gentlemen of dubious reputation with knowledge they had no business knowing.
I turned to give Mal a questioning look. He and I share a sort understanding, the kind of understanding endangered by a mutual respect and affection. Often times we will communicate by mere glances and a simple language of eyebrows and quirks of the lips.
Once again he completely missed the point of my very clear instructions.
While I was trying to say: Ho there friend, looks like this job we took upon ourselves on the assumptions of simplicity and ease has taken a turn towards the complex and mysterious. Who could know of our instructions? And how? We should converse on this topic in great depth, get a handle on things before we make any sudden and irreversible moves that could lead to injury, or worse, death. For now, I shall handle these unsavoury sorts with my silver tongue, good looks and quick wit.
He took to it mean: Go forth and conquer, brave and handsome Orsimer and oh my, what large hands you have… or some other equally foolish battle cry.
He pushed past me, hatchet already in his hand, yelling in a throaty roar that if I had not heard before, would have probably slipped whatever grasp I have on my body loose. I quickly gave myself a field promotion to the rank of general and withdrew to safe position to observe and thus command the engagement. Not to mention clutched the satchel protectively to my stomach.
The thugs revealed themselves to be mostly incompetent, not coming to meet Mal’s charge, letting their shock at the sudden change in tempo to pin them in place. It was only when the edge of his hatchet buried itself in their leader’s forehead that they moved, as one recoiling back. A completely understandable reaction, what any well adjusted human would do, but again, utterly the wrong one.
It only allowed Mal the space to kick the Redguard off his axe and turn to the next. He cut around him in wild sweeps of his long arm, not in any real attempt to kill anyone, simply to drive the offending attackers back. Unfortunately for them, despite his best intentions, he did accidentally kill another of them, an unlucky nick across the neck. Three of them remained standing, one with the growing red bloom of a wound on his chest. I decided that this was the perfect moment to aid my companion, and emptied my stomach noisily and messily onto the cobbles, distracting at least one of them.
So really, it was only two against one, and those are no odds at all for an orc. I’m pleased to say he didn’t have to kill anyone else, though the fleeing thugs did not think to offer any sort of grateful look my way as they dashed away.
Mal was holding a paw against his forearm and it took me a moment to notice the bubble of hot dark blood through his fingers. Fortunately I was feeling a lot less queasy at that moment and was able to rip a length of cloth from his shirt for him to bind over the wound. The man was basically held together by my attention really.
He wanted to spend some time rooting around the bodies of the fallen for some clue to their origins, but I quickly convinced him that such an exercise would be futile. It was hard to get the words out between the dry heaves, but I am sure I made myself clear and we hastily moved on. Even in this, one of the less salubrious areas of Evermore, with filth on the streets and creaking, leaning tenements, it would do no good for an orc to be found with two murdered bodies, no matter what story we might tell. Even my goodly nature and reliable Breton heritage would have been unlikely to help matters with the guard. For some reason I have the burgeoning reputation of being something of a “miscreant”, to put it in the words of a magistrate.
The rest of the evening went mostly without incident. We delivered the documents to wizened old man at the appointed place, in return for a sheaf of papers closed with a wax seal. I was mightily tempted to break the seal just to find out what was so worth trying to hurt me, but Mal wisely urged restraint upon me. And he was holding the papers.
Our employer was best pleased with the results and we were duly compensated for our heroics. It was however, mutually decided that Evermore was perhaps not the welcoming opportunity it had first appeared to be. There was the small matter of leaking lips that our employer wished to deal with and it was agreed that our skills would be better served elsewhere. Not Elsweyr but outside of Evermore at the least.
We will depart from the city tomorrow morning. Heading towards a cave in the mountains to the North apparently.
More adventures may follow!