Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Orc of Many Questions - Teaser Prologue


Prologue  

- Why Orcs Don’t Ask Many Questions -


I looked up at my father. His face was dark green, spotted with black, he had no hair, and his eyes were a fierce red, the colour of a white rabbit. I laughed at the thought and continued to stare, my eyes trailing along his white...

“Father, what do you call those things?”

“Tusks, and stop staring. A male might kill you for staring. A female would kill you for less.”

I lowered my head, looking to the pebbles beneath my bare feet for answers, scratching at them with my toe claws. They had none, so I looked back to my father.

“Why?” I asked, looking back to my father.

“Boy, you ask too many questions.” He swatted at me as you would an insect. I ducked under his big hand and he continued. “Thinking is not good for a child; makes your muscles weak.”

“But why?”

My father took a long, deep breath like as if he was starved for air, then opened his mouth and roared, covering me with spittle. He took a few short, fast breaths then straightened, the green blood slowly fading from the whites of his eyes.

“That is why,” my father said, giving me nod that said the reason should be perfectly clear.

I did not understand, but I nodded.

Then I decided that I had a better question anyway.

“...why do you have to go?” I asked, wiping the spittle of my last answer from my face.

“By the raging dead those jaws of yours never stop, do they?" My father sighed, a sound practically indistinguishable from his usual grunts, except that he lowered his head as he did so.

I smiled, sure that I would be getting a more favourable answer this time.

“Because, its autumn,” he said, throwing his hands in the air and gesturing around him as if the cool air would attest to his words.

I grumbled quietly for a moment. As ever, my father's answers only left me with more questions. Still, my father and the other adults had been gone from the village for nearly three months and I was not going to pass up this chance so easily.

I opened my mouth to speak, then, noticing the irritated scowl beginning to form on his face, decided to rephrase a little.

“How come you have to fight?”

This time my father smiled, and when he answered I could feel the hard edge of truth in his words.

“What is this?” he asked, pointing a fat, pointed nail at my stomach.

“My belly?”

“And what is in it?”

“Food.”

“That's right. Now, where did that food come from?”

“You?” I offered, grinning like a fool that knew he was inviting trouble.

My father swung again and again I ducked. This time I was a little too slow, or he was a little faster, and he managed to cuff me around the back or the head.

“Humans. The food came from the humans. Where do you think I have been all summer?! Fool boy.”

He reached down, grabbing at the once fine, now worn and dirty red silk of my shirt. “And this,” he said rubbing the thin fabric between his fingers. “Where did this come from?"

I rubbed the back of my head. I knew what he wanted to hear. “Elves, you brought me this last autumn.”

My father nodded, looking to the sky and letting out a sigh that said he was relieved to receive a straight answer. He reached down to his leather belt, easing his hand over a finely crafted steel battleaxe, its edge chipped and scarred from dozens of battles. “And how about this, my boy?” He drew the weapon, holding it still in front of his face as he examined the runes on the side of the axe head, as if he somehow understood them. It was a heavy axe, solid steel, though despite the weight his thick, knotted muscles easily kept it steady. “Where did this come from?”

I stared at the axe for a moment, my mind asking it to divulge its secrets. It soon became apparent that the axe was of this silent kind. “I don't know.”

“Ha! Not so smart after all, eh? That's good, I would not want all that thinking to hurt the rest of you.” He gave me a satisfied nod, as if I had was finally started behaving properly. “This axe comes from the dwarves. The dwarves make the strongest steel, and the strongest steel makes the best weapons.”

I nodded. “Then the elves make the best clothing? And the humans the best food?”

My father growled and swung again, luckily I was a bit further back this time and managed duck. “Again with the thinking! A young blunc like you should be using his energy to grow strong not-” He paused, his face growing a lighter shade of green as a flush of rage hit, his axe arm jerking the weapon around erratically. “-to think! Gah! I swear you will be dead before your even receive your breeding rights!”

I stepped back, eying the axe and readying to dodge or flee. Then the bright green glow in my father’s face started to fade and I relaxed.

“But yes you are correct...” he admitted. “The stubby fingers and thick heads of the dwarves make it hard for them to create anything delicate. They make good heavy weapons - maces and axes - and thick armour, just don't try to move in it. The humans have good harvests and make more practical armour, swords, and crossbows. The elves like speed and soft things, their weak fingers make the best for clothes, bows, and fine blades -”

“- so... what do we make?” I asked excitedly, interrupting my father.

I immediately realised my mistake, taking several steps back in anticipation of the erupting volcano. My legs were tensed and ready, waiting for the slightest hint of movement.

Instead my father grinned widely, an excited look creeping into his eyes. “War... we make war.”

I narrowed my eyes, then looked up as I do when I got curious. “So we don't make anything? I mean like you know, stuff.”

“Why make when we can take? We are not a race of makers.”

“But the stuff of the other races... what do we do when it doesn't fit?”

“Well the Mend-Ars and the Shape-Ars fix it. They make it fit.”

I grinned, my mind connecting the dots. “So... we are a race of fixers?”

My father's face turned bright green, a shade so so light that that his skin almost seemed to glow. I let out a chuckle, though my laughter was short-lived as my father came charging towards me, as mad and as dangerous as a raging bull.

I did not think that my father would intentionally kill me, but considering that he was running with an axe in hand I decided to err on the side of caution.

I shot off, like a hare or a fox or a sparrow, something agile and quick. My father wasn't the only one that the got irritated by my questions. I was good at running.

“Why don't we make anything?”

My father roared and continued to chase. I dodged to the left, catching my father flat footed, managing to avoid his hand and running axe, though as usual I failed to avoid all the spittle of his crazed shouting.

“Why do you take? Why not make? Why?” I asked calmly, facing down my furious father.

My calmness only infuriated him further and he charged again, dwarven steel in hand.

I knew I was playing with fire. I was smart, I knew that, I also knew that my curiosity made me stupid. I didn't care.

I should have.

I turned to turn to flee and my foot hit a stone. I began falling backwards, looking fearfully at the ground below me as if it the blades of grass were made of metal, my arms flailing wildly as they tried to fly me back upright.

My body righted itself and I turned my head back, just in time to see my father with his axe held high, the whites of his eyes bloodshot green and his muscles swollen with rage-blood.

This is why orcs don't ask too many questions. For all my brains I sometimes have a very short memory...

At the last moment a flicker of recognition cross my father's face and he pivoted, hitting instead with a massive backhand that sent me into the air and spinning. I hit the ground hard, my mind and body too stunned by the blow to do anything to lessen the fall.

My father reached down, picking me up by the hair, leaving my feet kicking in the air. His face only a few inches from mine he roared, once again bathing my face in saliva. “You want to know why we take, my wise little son?” He paused, bringing me in so close I could feel the heat of his breath on my face. “Or maybe you want to know why we kill?”

I quickly shook my head. No I didn't need that information. The truth is that I am pretty fond of life, my own in particular.

My father stretched his arm out, leaving me three foot away, too far to fight back. He turned his eyes to his axe and my eyes followed, then he dropped it and I let out a sigh, only then realising that I had been holding my breath.

Then he slapped me. Once, twice, then over again until me cheeks burned. I felt something explode inside of me, roaring from my stomach and spreading through my veins. I shot open my mouth and roared at my father, returning some of his earlier spittle as my sight was filled with a green haze. I kicked and scratched and clawed at him, screaming, cursing without words for my mind was empty, made void by the storm of rage.  

My father reached back and flung me by my hair. I flew through the air and hit the ground with a thud, landing as gracefully as a heavy stone. I struggled to my feet. I would kill him. I would bite out his throat and feast upon him. I would-

My father kicked me in the stomach hard, knocking the wind completely out of me.  Slowly my anger started to fade, as if my lungs no longer had the air to sustain its furious winds. I remained on the ground, closed my eyes and tried to focus on breathing.

“That is why we fight. Now you understand.”

I nodded feebly. “Yes, I- thank you... for your,” I paused, searching for the right word “for your wisdom, father,” I said, coughing between words as I tried to suck in air. It was a lie though. Despite my father's words of wisdom I was still confused. As usual my father’s answers only left me with more questions.

My father began nodding and folded his arms across his chest. He smiled down at me, his pointed tusks framing the edges of a toothy smile, obviously satisfied with the quality of his instruction.

This was a typical lesson from my father.

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