by Savage Taurus
“Minion! Fetch me some water!” shouted Grand Shaman Gong’grok. The interior of his dank and musty dwelling stank of burning arcane substances, both exotic and mundane. The low flickering light illuminated his age worn tusks and the bones, feathers, and viscera adorning his shaman’s garments.
Tong’bok, an orc much younger in age, and less impressive in appearance, sighed. He’d long ago given up trying to get the shaman to call him by his name. “The official term is Acolyte,” he muttered under his breath.
“Back talk will get you sent back to your tribe, boy,” the old shaman grunted at him. Tong’bok cringed at the thought of the whippings and beatings he would endure if that were to happen.
“When am I going to get to learn about Earth Evocations?” Tong’bok asked hopefully.
“Earth Evos? What are you, some kind of faerie?” the shaman exclaimed as he backhanded Tong’bok in the face. “Blood Hexes are where the powerful mojo is. Earth Evos are useless. Who wants to study that nonsense?”
Tong’bok muttered under his breath, “I do,” as he turned around and headed out to fetch some water for his master. Just as he opened the door, a messenger appeared.
“Master Shaman, the Chieftain demands your presence in the great lodge,” the runner said. “An envoy from the Faerielands is here to honor the treaty.”
The shaman grunted, unimpressed. “You go and handle that, boy,” he said to Tong’bok, “-after- you get me some water.” The acolyte nodded and went about his task, as the messenger ran back the direction he came.
The chieftain’s lodge bustled with activity. Orcs came and went with an air of military importance. The surrounding palisade bristled with a thousand pointed stakes. They reminded Tong’bok of a writing implement he’d seen the scribes use sometimes. On either side of the large doorway stood two gigantic tusks. Supposedly they were from a dragon that the chieftain has slain, but Tong’bok was distrustful of rumours. Inside, Chieftain Grom’duul was on another of his long winded, yet barely comprehensible diatribes.
“Strength! Honor!” the chieftain shouted, his massive muscular frame sheathed in armor of iron and bone, as he sat on his throne, which was ornamented with the skulls of defeated opponents.
“Zug zug!” the crowd responded in earth shaking unison.
“Zug zug,” Tong’bok muttered with a defeated sigh.
A court herald stepped toward the chieftain’s throne and announced, “High Chieftain Grom’duul, I present to you Envoy Lunajoy Fezelwiggins, from Faerieland Junction.”
“Fairelands,” a tiny voice politely corrected the orc. The herald stepped aside to reveal a diminutive woman that came up barely above his knees. She had pink and blue sparkly hair, iridescent dragonfly wings that shimmered in the sunlight, and wore a gossamer shift. The small woman cleared her throat and confidently addressed the orc leader.
“Chieftain Grom’duul, I am here to honor the newly signed treaty between our two neighboring lands. As per the agreement, I will share and exchange knowledge of our craft with your own tribal prestidigitators.”
Grom’duul frowned at the little woman that used the big words. He composed himself and put on his diplomatic face as best an orc warlord could, and said, “Welcome, Miss Feather-whatsits, you will be working with our tribe’s shaman.” Grom’duul looked around the lodge. “Shaman. Shaman! Where’s my shaman?”
The young orc took his cue and stepped forward. “I’m Acolyte Tong’bok. Master Gong’grok sent me here as his representative.”
The chieftain waved his hand dismissively. “Fine. She’s your responsibility now,” he said, then turned his attention to his mug of ale.
Tong’bok approached the tiny envoy and said in a very stiff and stilted manner, “On behalf… of the Chal Khizzur clan…welcome to…the Chaddul Ro…outpost.”
Lunajoy smirked at the young orc and said, “You might want to practice that a couple more times, champ.”
Tong’bok rolled his eyes and muttered, “Whatever. Just follow me.”
The acolyte orc and the faerie envoy exited the great lodge and made their way down the path back to the shaman’s dwelling. Lunajoy flitted and fluttered beside Tong’buk, sometimes walking, sometimes skipping, sometimes flying. Tong’buk looked her up and down; well, mostly down, because she was so small, she was hard to see.
“So, what -are- you, anyway?” he asked her.
“I’m a sprite!” she said matter-of-factly, then screwed up her face at him and shot back, “What the hell are you?”
Tong’bok smiled. He liked her immediately. “So you’re from Faerieland Junction?”
“Fairelands!” she corrected, a little less polite this time. “It’s the neighboring realm. You’d think you all would know what it’s called.”
“Well, if it’s full of faeries, why isn’t it called Faerieland?”
“I don’t know!” exclaimed with exasperation. “You know, you still haven’t told me your name.”
“Oh,” he said with a bit of embarrassment, “Tong’bok.”
Lunajoy made a face. “Tonguebook?”
“Tong! Not tongue!” he said with irritation.
Lunajoy smirked at him. “Well, y’all have some weird-butt names. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
“If you can’t even pronounce our names, do you really think you can learn our mojo?” he asked the sprite.
She puffed up her chest and said, “You better believe it, bucko! I’ll have you know, I’m a Gold Tier Enchantress in the Order of Tink…”
“Alright, alright, alright,” interrupted Tong’bok. “Well, we’re here,” he said, pointing to the muddy lair of the tribe shaman.
“Master, this is the envoy from the Faerie..err..Fairelands. She’s come so we can exchange knowledge of each other’s disciplines,” the acolyte said as he entered the shaman’s den. “She’s a sprite. At least, that’s what she says.”
Shaman Gong’grok peered at the minuscule faerie with disdain. “You deal with that. I don’t have time for this nonsense,” he spat and then abruptly turned back to his studies.
“Well, that was rude,” Lunajoy muttered under her breath.
“Yea, he’s a real charmer,” Tong’bok nodded. “Come, we can talk in here,” he said as he led her to another room in the dwelling. He sat down on the dirt floor and Lunajoy flitted up beside him. “So, what do you want to know?” he asked her.
“Well, there’s rumors that orcs know really powerful Earth Evocations. I bet they’d line up perfectly with faerie enchantments. I think the synergy between those two disciplines could create something new and amazing. I’d love to learn some of those,” Lunajoy said with excitement.
Tong’bok sighed. “Yea, so would I. But all Gong’grok ever talks about are Blood Hexes.”
“Eeeeww,” Lunajoy said with disgust.
“Yea, seriously,” Tong’bok agreed. “I have managed to learn a few spells on my own.”
“Ok, let’s see,” she said encouragingly.
The acolyte drew some symbols on the ground in a circle, and then picked up some dirt in his hand. He focused his mind on the center of the circle and began chanting in an old orcish tongue that most had forgotten, and sprinkled the dirt over the symbols. After a little while, the soil began to quiver and shake. Small cracked formed and grew, and then rocks slowly burst up through the cracks as the whole area shook. Then, to the sprite’s amazement, a brownish-green shoot emerged between the rocks and grew into a twisty vine covered with thorns. It wound around and around, until it made a nest of vines and thorns.
“Not bad,” Lunajoy said. “It’s similar to what we can do.”
“Show me,” the orc said with genuine interest.
Lunajoy tossed a bit of faerie dust into the air. Where it came from, he had no idea. It sparkled and shimmered in the air until it settled on the orc’s head. She then snapped her fingers, and a clump of daisies sprouted right out of his skull. She picked each one and bound them together and presented him with a bouquet.
Tong’bok stared at her, unimpressed by her little prank. “Well, that’s useful,” he quipped.
The sprite giggled and beamed in feigned appreciation, pretending to take his mocking comment seriously. “Yes, I’m full of surprises. Now show me how you did yours.” She fluttered over to him and plopped down on his knee. He was a bit surprised at her moxie. She was dainty, but heavier than he expected, like a worg pup sitting on your lap. He had the urge to pet her, but resisted it.
Tong’bok showed his new faerie friend all the symbols and chants needed to do the spell. It was hilarious hearing her high pitched voice trying to imitate the guttural orcish sounds. She drew the symbols, sprinkled the dirt, and chanted in the same monotone sing-song way Tong’bok did; but try as she might, she just couldn’t make anything happen. Eventually, she gave up in frustration.
“So what happened to ‘I’m a gold tier blah blah blah’?” he asked her. “You can’t do squat, can you?”
“Can too!” she shot back. “I..err…just..um…oh shaddup! There’s got to be something that we’re missing. Doesn’t Gong’grok have books on this?”
“Yea, he does. But we can’t read them. That’s a big no no. Like really bad. Grand shaman is the most prestigious position in an orc clan. To touch his stuff without permission, the punishment is death. They take that very seriously. They’d chop off my head, and you…well, they’d just cleave you in half, I guess,” Tong’bok told her in a very serious tone, with no hint of jest.
“Well, what he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him, or us,” Lunajoy said with a smirk.
“No, seriously, don’t! We’d be in so much trouble. He’s not forgiving,” the acolyte said.
“Oh, ok, fine,” pouted the sprite.
It was getting late, so they decided to turn in. Tong’bok offered his spritely companion a pillow to sleep on. He was happy to have made a new friend. He didn’t have many here at the outpost, and it was comforting to have someone to share his thoughts with. He didn’t yet realize how dearly this new friendship would cost him.
“Tong’bok!!! Where are you, boy?” shouted the shaman. Tong’bok woke with a start. His heart was pounding. He knew he was in trouble, because Gong’grok actually used his real name. He didn’t even think the shaman knew his real name. The acolyte jumped up and ran into the next room, where Gong’grok glowered.
“Where’s my book?!” he shouted at the youth. “So you wanted to learn Earth Evos so badly that you took one of my tomes? I’ll have your head for this!”
“What? No! I didn’t! I wouldn’t!” the acolyte pleaded.
“Ah, so it was that faerie!” A light bulb lit up behind his eyes. “I knew she was trouble the instant I saw her. Well, we’ll find her, and she’s gonna pay for this.” Gong’grok stomped out of his lair and stormed up the path to the main lodge. Tong’bok followed in his wake, his heart and mind racing on what to do.
When they entered the grand lodge, the shaman shouted, “Grom’duul, that filthy little faerie diplomat has stolen one of my mystical tomes and run off!!”
“This is an outrage!” the chieftain bellowed. “We extend a hand of friendship, and this is how they respond? I hereby declare that faerie’s life forfeit! Find her and execute her at once!”
Tong’bok looked around. All the orc warriors were getting ready to go on a faerie hunt. He couldn’t believe he was about to lose his only friend so soon after he met her. His heart constricted in his chest. He knew he had to do something, but what?
“It was me!” shouted Tong’bok. “I did it. Lunajoy had nothing to do with it. It was all me.”
The chieftain leveled his fierce gaze on the young acolyte. “Fine. Guards, seize that boy!” he commanded. “Call the executioner. And find that envoy. I know she has something to do with this, no matter what this whelp says.”
The burly orc guards were on Tong’bok in an instant. He tried to struggle, but he was no match for their powerful grip. The crowd parted and a massive form lumbered into the center of the lodge. This orc was bigger than any Tong’bok had ever seen. He wore a leather cowl that completely covered his face, and an old rusty axe that could probably prop up a building. The guard muscled Tong’bok over to a large stump and forced him to bend over and rest his head on it.
He couldn’t believe this was happening. So this is how it would end? He thought of all the things he wanted to do that he’d never get a chance to accomplish. The executioner towered over him, testing the sharpness of his axe’s blade with his thumb. Not that it mattered. The weapon was so large, it could probably chop him in half, even if it was as dull as a spoon. Tong’bok wondered if his parents would even miss him. He caught sight of Gong’grok out of the corner of his eye. The shaman wore a smug grin as he watched his acolyte about to be snuffed out. All that time serving him, and not an ounce of compassion. The acolyte reflected on what a cruel world he had inhabited, if only briefly. He wondered what the afterlife was like for orcs who had betrayed their clan. Well, he thought, he would soon find out.
The executioner lifted his mighty axe over his head, and just when he was about to bring it down for the terminal stroke, a loud rumbling sounded all around him. The ground churned and then erupted as thick serpentine vines shot up and snaked around his legs, chest, and arms, freezing the axe in mid-stroke. The vines were covered in prickly thorns that dug into the orc’s thick hide. Try as he might, he couldn’t move an inch. All over the massive vines, rosebuds blossomed; and daisies sprouted out of the executioner’s ears and nostrils, with a pop, pop, pop that was reminiscent of a cork being pulled from a jug of orcish ale. All around the lodge, vines grew up and held everyone in place, even the grand shaman and the chieftain. All flowers bloomed everywhere.
“Get up, sleepyhead! Whatcha lying around for?” piped a familiar voice, and a tiny sprite appeared in front of his face, and flicked him in the nose. He tried to move and realized he was no longer being held by the guards, and could stand up straight. “I figured out what we were missing. We didn’t have the right ingredients,” she said nonchalantly. He just gaped at Lunajoy in awe. “I told you I was a Gold Tier Enchantress, didn’t I? You didn’t think the elders would send a neophyte, did ya?” she said with a wink.
“What did you do with the book?” he asked her.
“Don’t worry. I made a copy and put it right back where I found it. Come on. It’s time for us to scram. Let’s go.” She buzzed out of the lodge, leaving all the orcs tangled in thorny vines and flowers. Tong’bok followed her out.
He ran and ran, letting the fluttering sprite lead the way, until the wooden palisades of Chaddul Ro gave way to lush trees and foliage. There were steps of mushrooms on the tree trunks and millions of tiny lights floating everywhere like a swarm of ethereal fireflies. On the water, there were incandescent paper lanterns, and the round stepping stones were decorated with multicolored swirl patterns. Tong’bok was overwhelmed with wonder.
“So this is the Faerielands,” he said as he looked around at every detail.
“F…” Lunajoy started to correct him, but said, “ah nevermind, yea, whatever. Welcome home.”
“Home,” Tong’bok said with a pang of remorse. “I don’t have a home anymore. Or a profession. What will I do now?”
“Ah, no worries, buddy. I found you a new job,” said Lunajoy. “You can be my new apprentice.”
“Apprentice,” Tong’bok repeated the word. “I like the sound of that.”
“Great!” said the faerie, with a smile. “Here’s your wand.” She handed him an old faerie wand with a sparkly star at the tip, that had seen better days. He looked at it in horror. “Now, go fetch me some water, minion! Chop chop. Time’s a wastin’.”
Tong’bok chuckled. He knew he would fit in here perfectly.
Copyright 2017 Savage Taurus
The stench of Orc is … gag … ewwy if you are not an Orc yourself.
Filthy things, didn’t even make an attempt at cleaning themselves. She wet a paw and worked at a tiny patch behind her left ear.
They may not have the brains Chocolate Bacon gave a Dinkie, but they were often vicious, cunning, and … Fidget blinked for a moment .. that sounded a lot like some of the other races she had run into in the past.
“Hmmmmm” She munched thoughtfully on a piece of choccy.
Notorious for their eating … well … anything from dung to flesh; Fidget decided laying low whilst in this Orc territory was the option of choice.
There was however, one small bit of paradise — the immense beds of cattails.
What’s not to love about cattails?
But for some reason Fidget was un-naturally restless (even for her) here in Chaddul Ro, and she always trusted her intuition. So, thinking cheerful thoughts about spumoni and bacon, she moved on with a wistful backwards glance at the cattails.
(Image provided by author)