Next installment in Retribution. It's the longest chapter so far, but hopefully it's got enough action to not get boring. Let me know what you think.
Valsh had one of his scouts lead me to where the Goran was holed up. Turns out it was right in the middle of the village of a rival clan. Orc villages are interesting places. They’re all laid out in a similar fashion. There’s usually an earthen barricade surrounding it topped with either a wooden fence or wooden pikes protruding from the wall. This village opted for the pike version. Inside of that the huts are usually arranged by rank in the clan. The lowest members live at the edges of the village in the smallest huts. Usually young, unblooded warriors hoping to gain glory in defending the village from attack live there.
The next layer will be the merchant caste, the ones who make weapons, armor, food, and other things to keep an army and a village moving. Orcs are pretty much all fighters, but there are things that must be done to keep things moving.
After that comes the seasoned veterans and their families. This will be the biggest part of the village. The vast majority of the clan falls into this caste. These will be some of the largest huts because orc warriors tend to have more than one wife and hordes of children. Only thing an orc likes as much as fighting is fucking and they do a lot of both. Sometimes they do both at the same time. Orc women are…feisty. Don’t ask me how I know.
Finally at the center of the village will be the feasting hall, the hut of the clan shaman, and the home and hall of the War Leader. All three of this building are huge. If I were a betting man, I would put the Goran and his acquisitions in the feasting hall. Seems obvious to me, and orcs aren’t the most creative thinkers on the known worlds. Obvious would be the safest bet. Not to mention that by the time an attacking force got that far into the village, IF they got that far, there’d be plenty of time to slaughter the captives. Since scouting the village beyond learning the guard rotation isn’t really necessary, I guess that will be the first thing I do.
Oh, there’s one other thing all orc villages have in common. They are all designed to defend against a mass assault. The thought that someone might sneak in under the cover of darkness and slit their throats while they sleep never even enters their minds. Their sense of honor would never allow it. Personally, I’m just as happy to sneak in, put a mother fucker down, and sneak the hell back out again. That’s why I have been so successful here. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t really even have to try that hard. Just stick to the shadows and be aware of my surroundings. They just…don’t…get it.
It takes me all of about twenty minutes to find my point of entry. Orcs are all huge so their fortifications are built to stop orc sized things. I found a human-sized gap pretty quick and had the timing of the guard patrols clocked shortly after. Once it’s dark, I’ll be in their camp without any of them even knowing I exist, or at least that’s my plan.
I make my way back to my hiding place in the brush about a half mile from the village and settle in to wait for night. While I’m lying there, I run through the scenarios of what I am planning to do. If those pups are in the main hall, it’s gonna be bloody getting them out. I’m not here to fight a war. I’m here to gather intel. If Valsh wants those squalling little shits taken out of there, he’s going to be the one to do it. I’m just after the Goran and whatever information I can extract from his little armpit brain. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll give Valsh and his people any information I gather on defenses and what not, but as for standup face-to-face combat…fuck a whole bunch of that noise. That’s for him to handle.
Somewhere around mid-day I started getting a little restless. Time to get up and move around. I have to piss anyway. I’m not holding a sniper position so no need to do it in a bottle. I stand up and walk about twenty yards from my hiding place. I’m rounding a rather large tree to take care of what needs taking care of and I find myself face to face with the biggest goddam spider you can imagine. This thing is about the size of a really big dog or a really small horse. Valsh warned me about these things. Venomous as hell and aggressive to boot. Like I said before, this world is a gloriously brutal place and everything on it is designed to kill everything else.
What I couldn’t afford right now was to get bitten. I don’t have time to go home to recover and get back here while this is all going on. Once that thought finished going across my brain, my long dagger was in my hand and headed towards the critter’s cephalothorax. Spiders’ anatomies are a little off from what I usually kill, but I’m pretty sure this will be the right spot. Luckily I realized he was there before he decided I looked tasty, and this win went to me. That being said I didn’t take my eyes off of those finger-length fangs until it had curled up and quit twitching.
I did what I came here to do in the first place, and once that was done I went back to my kill. I’ve eaten spider back on earth. It tastes surprisingly similar to crab. I hadn’t planned to eat on this scouting mission, but hey never take an opportunity like this for granted. I might need the calories before this is all said and done, so I take off one of the legs to take back to my camp. Hell, they’re as long as mine and as thick as my forearm. I also cut a piece of the exoskeleton off of the back of the abdomen to keep as a trophy. First giant spider I’ve killed. I think that deserves commemoration.
I get back to my camp and start a fire just like I was trained back in Boy Scouts. The flame is only about the size of the flame from a can of sterno which makes it consume very little fuel and produce very little smoke. It’s plenty hot enough to cook the meat on this leg though and in short order my belly is full, and yes, it tasted like crab meat. If I had only had some garlic butter…there are somethings I do miss from my life back on Terra.
Once my meal is done, I put out my fire and lie back on the grass. I still have a few hours until night fall, so a quick nap is in order. I pull detritus from the jungle floor over me and settle in. I sleep light even when I’m at home, so I’m not too worried about something sneaking up on me while I’m out. Best to be as fresh as possible when I’m sneaking about.
A short time later the sun goes down. You know when it happens in the jungle without even having to see it. The sounds start to drop off as the predators come out to do what predators do. No one want to attract their attention. I wake from my little snooze as it happens. I’m just another predator ready to go out into my element. Night in the jungle stirs something in my hindbrain that really makes me want to hunt, but tonight is about stealth. In and out as quietly as possible and get back to Valsh with what we need to get what we both want. Time to move.
It doesn’t take me long to cross the half mile or so back to my chosen point of infiltration into the village. They’ve lit torches along the barricade, but I planned for that when I picked my spot. There’s a nice shadow from a tree that they left too close to the wall. So I use that shadow and the gap in the pikes to slip in unnoticed and start making my way to the center of the village.
Once I’m past the patrols on the exterior wall, there’s really nothing between me and the great hall. Consequently I really have no problem stealing all the way to the back wall of the hall. The building is made of baked mud bricks and wooden planks. I’m pretty sure I could hear a mouse fart through the walls, but there’s nothing coming through. You’d think a gathering of twenty or thirty orc pups would make some kind of noise like sobbing or even defiant little orc roars. There’s nothing though. Not a peep comes out. Gotta risk a peek, so I pull up to a window ledge and peer over it trying to not present enough of a target to catch an arrow.
The place is completely empty. What the hell?
That’s when I hear a roar that could only have been issued by an angry War Leader, so I drop into a guard stance and scan my surroundings. Ok, it wasn’t aimed at me, so I relax and start to make my way to his hut...quietly.
Just outside of the War Leader’s hut I can hear the argument clearly. The Goran, the War Leader, and the shaman are have a spirited discussion about the hostages. Luckily for me they are speaking a common tongue I am familiar with. I guess the Goran hasn’t leaned orc.
The shaman is advising that they set them free to try and recover some of the honor he sees them as having lost. He warns that the gods may choose not to side with them should battle come. Interesting. If the battle comes, the shaman may not feel the need to defend his War Leader. The Goran is arguing to just kill the whelps and be done. He says that their whole purpose was to provoke a conflict and that will surely happen anyway. I get the feeling he’s tired of babysitting a bunch of young orcs. I can’t imagine that is an easy job. The War Leader will not hear of slaughtering pups, but neither is he in favor of releasing them. He sees an opportunity to raise them as warriors for his own clan once the Valsh’s clan is gone.
He finally slams his hand onto something, and I can hear it smash under the force of the blow. That pretty much silences the whole room. He orders the shaman out with instructions to go read the omens regarding the battle he is sure is coming. Then he orders the Goran back to where they are holding the pups. This is my opportunity to find out where they are, so I grab a dark corner and wait for them to leave.
The Goran leaves through the main gate with an escort of two orc guards. He doesn’t look happy about it either. The trail is easy enough to pick up once I’ve made my way back out of the village. They have no reason to be stealthy, so they’re not even trying. I, on the other hand, am doing my damnedest to be one sneaky sonofabitch.
About twenty minutes or so out from the village we come to a cave. Must’ve been the Goran’s idea to keep the pups outside of the main village. Although why you’d give up the defense of the village escapes me. Oh well, all the easier to take it back. I can’t imagine the War Leader would put more than a handful of his warriors out here and probably young ones at that.
A quick recon of the area confirmed my suspicions. Only one way in and it’s guarded by a couple of warriors who are barely more than pups themselves. This really isn’t even fair. Time to go get Valsh and let him be the hero of his people…again.
I lead Valsh and a small contingent of his warriors to the cave where his pups are being held. After a brief but spirited discussion I convince him to let me pave the way for his people. I know how the Goran work, and if he sees the situation falling apart, he’s just as likely to kill the pups as not. While I don’t do rescues, I also don’t see the need for unnecessary bloodshed…especially if I’m not getting paid to shed it.
After I settle my party into a spot just over the hill from the mouth of the cave, I stalk off into the underbrush to do what I do. I take a spot off to the right of the cave and start scuffing my feet around and snorting like a hog in rut. I can hear the two young orcs arguing. Soon one of them rounds the corner where I’m hiding. One of my daggers takes him in the throat preventing him from making a sound, and the other goes in just at the base of his skull. I give that second one a twist and scramble his cerebellum. He goes limp like a rag doll, and I lay him quietly on the ground. I’m glad they’re young warriors. I would never have been able to handle guiding a full grown orc down quietly.
I ease up to the corner of the outcropping that forms the mouth of the cave and crouch down into a sprinter’s starting stance. I’ve adjusted the grip on my daggers so they’re pointing back in my hands. I count slowly down from five, and when I hit zero, I take off at a dead sprint. The young orc looks up when I round the corner exposing his throat.
I ram a dagger through his throat between his esophagus and spine. It holds firm, and I use it to swing up and onto his back. As soon as I settle, I plant the other dagger firmly into his left ear. He falls forward, so I pull both daggers free and tuck into a roll. I come to my feet just as Valsh’s warriors come through the underbrush. The two in front are newly blooded and have never seen me work before. They just kind of stand there all slack-jawed as Valsh steps into the clearing.
He sends one of the group to carry the corpse into the underbrush. Now it’s their turn to help me. My new companion yells into the cave in orcish sounding like he’s in dire need of help. It only takes a couple of calls before we can hear the Goran headed our way stomping a cussing the whole way.
“You incompetent imbecile! You know I don’t speak your primitive tongue! Didn’t you listen when your chief was telling…”
His words fall off abruptly when he steps into the light and sees the damn-near seven feet of greenish muscle waiting for him. My buddy grabs the Goran by the face and bounces his head off of the rock around the entrance, and he goes limp. The orc drops him, and I tie him up. We signal the rest of the group. When they arrive, they head into the cave to pull the pups out.
My new best friend and I each take a guard and prop them up beside the cave entrance using some branches we cut down from some nearby trees. The orc scarecrows aren’t going to fool anyone for long, especially if they come very close, but a casual glance from a distance made by a passing patrol should be ok. We don’t need a permanent ruse. We just need it to last long enough for us to be well and truly the hell out of here.
When they finally come back out of the cave, I noticed that Valsh has a bloody nose and a small cut just under his right eye. I glance around and notice that several of the others are scratched and bleeding as well.
“Were there more of them in the cave?” I ask.
Valsh grumble/chuckles and shakes his head. “No, the pups were waiting in ambush for that little bastard to come back.” He puffs out his chest and continues with obvious pride in his voice. “ They jumped us before we knew it was coming.”
Heh, no wonder the Goran was so eager to be rid of them. I turn to look and now I see that his clothes are torn in several places, and he is covered in a lot of small cuts and scratches. Note to self, never volunteer to babysit for an orc.
Valsh turns to the pups and gives them instructions to stay close and keep quiet. He uses a tone that lets them know it’s serious, so they all nod. He then turns to one of the warriors and orders him to carry the Goran. Once all of that is seen to we take off through the jungle at a trot. Well, they trot, but I damned near have to run to keep up. Luckily I’m already used to running in this jungle, and I got the chance to eat a ton before we set out. I should have the gas to get me back. It would be embarrassing to be carried into the village on the back of one of Valsh’s men.
At some point during our run Valsh turns and looks at me. There must’ve been a look on my face as I was calculating the caloric requirement to make it the rest of the way to his village because he reaches into his pocket and tosses me a piece of dried meat of some sort. He follows that with some kind of bar made of various nuts and berries all mashed together. I give him a nod of thanks and scarf it down while I continue to run. About five minutes after I finish it, I have to take a pretty good pull from my water skin. All of the dried shit sucked the moisture right out of my gut. I should be good for the rest of the way back now though.