After the celebrations for our little victory, Tinytusks turned to his inner self for, I am not sure, seven days? As for what was on his mind, there could be but one thing: what to do with the loot, including the two captives.
It was an easy time for the rest of us —save for the added chores that our two captives meant— it was all eating and lesiure. For me it was a time of swiming, fishing and playing to find treasure. Oh yes, I still played back then whenever I had the opportunity to do so, alone, for there was nobody my age at the warband.
It might sound weird to you, but I remember that week as a full life of fantasies. Autumn brings to the Orc Hills a paradise of green and gold. The grass is infused with light and the streams shine as they difuse themselves under the sodden ground. Water never abandon the winds: mist to showers, the sun remains the servant of the clouds.
I turned fifteen as the our little vacation ended. I told nobody for I judged my age had protected me from some treatment. That day fed me with melachonly, for all I had lost before, and all I expected to lose. I could see myself in the pit next winter. This is how it was to happen: I would fall sick, keep working until I would fall, face first, into the snowy mud. I'd spend my last days in the hut alone, by a faint fire and then I would sleep away to the Lands of Ash, for the goddess would not care for me.
I was planning my last words when Tinytusks ordered a few of us to join the retinue. We were setting off to present the entire loot to the King so our monarch could take his share. Of course, everyone knew our chieftain was planning how to help the King to take a most prudent decission. None of us guessed the extent of his boldness.
Udachi was not our destination this time, but Gwrdar. Gwrdar, much larger and richer than Udachi, was the residence of the King from the end of Summer to the middle of Spring, once the floods from the thaw had subsized enough that travel was again safe. Then the King returned to his birthplace for the better months of each year.
But I would not get to Gwrdar, then. Arriving at the village where the orc kid hoisted me up the first time, Tinytusks hired the captives, me and the mules to the Lord of Wetti. It was time for the late harvest and there was plenty of work for three slaves, and our chieftain would get a few marees from our sweat.
The captives were made to work and live in the stores, never allowed to go outside. My luck was merrier, as I worked in the fields, dawn to dusk, under the constant rain. And, I was happy, most of the time, when the orcs left us alone. The goblins, and so I did, took it all as a game, and now I was among goblins of about my age, boys and girls, and I could learn new jokes, often the hard way. Brisa, the mule, was with me at all times, and she made friends with the goblin kids faster than I did.
Above all, I loved the rain. I could make some sort of excuse for my love in that, in human lands, a merciless sun had made me beg my late boss to stop. But rain works on me a tender magic that fills me with life and joy.
Days passed by, and all was going well. I made friends with the goblin workers, and even had a soft crush for a girl of green skin. But we didn't get an centi beyond a kiss, because my chieftain would return and I would leave, perhaps for ever.
The captives escaped!
I was amazed to find out, one morning, that the captives were missing. They had never been allowed to leave the hall and I had seen them working chained so I saw no reason that they would be allowed to sleep unrestrained. Unless, of course, —that was my first guess— they had bribed someone with promises of gold. They were employees of a wealthy company and had probably the means to tempt any orc or goblin. Still, once free, they had no incentive to keep to their words, and if I teenager like me could see that, a shrewd goblin could not fall for it. So, what was it?
The orcs formed a search party, but none of the goblins had any faith in that. They were going to the Yeik a land so wild and empty only a ranger would attempt to cross it. Besides, orcs are abysmal at scouting and living off the land. That's why you'll almost never see an orc warband without, at least, a small contingent of goblin scouts. At the time, however, they said they needed all of us to get the harvesting done and we should be quiet if we knew what best for us and thankful that the Lord of Wetti had cared to explain.
Two days after that, the search party returned defeated, but careless for the fate of the escaped slaves. That amazed the goblins as much as I was, for their escape was a breach of honor. The Lord of Wetti would have to make apologies to our chieftain, a goblin. An orc would rather die that confess his shortcomings to an inferior, and here they were, acting if they had lost a pebble.
Trouble, oh trouble, oh deadly trouble
Tinytusks returned that very night ahead of his retinue, much in haste and much in worry.
Zalky, my boy, wake up, the plan has gone wrong!
What plan, chieftain?
Just come with me, we have to get the captives back before…
He stopped himself at that.
The orcs organized a second attempt at the Yeik soon afterwards, and with two dozen goblin
scouts this time. The rest of our retinue had arrived meanwhile, enough for
our chieftain to doodle a new plan.
We'll take the raft and paddle home.
If they have gone south to Recuervos we may still catch them up in our own swamp.
All our goblins agreed to this. Some observed that once they reached
dry land a goblin can never catch up an adult human in a race, and the mere
thought of that outcome made them pale with fear.
I would only learn the reason for it on the raft. It had been Tinytusks
idea that the orcs would make it easy to
overhear that our
chieftain would hide the money under the ruins of a human temple
near Sadford, close to the human borders. Furthermore the plan involved
an orc getting so drunk as to
forget to chain them up for the
The intention was that the captives would return with a search party to recover the lost gold, but there, a horde of orcs and goblins would be waiting for them. Prisoners, perhaps by the dozens, would end up at the service of the King, the Lord of Wetti and our chieftain. That, and, of course, other loot: wagons, horses, mules, good weapons, better armor, tools, tents, food and so forth as small armies need to sustain themselves.
Of course, for this to work out, the King of the Orcs had to prove it. Yet, the whole idea had not amused the King one bit. I guess, partly, because Tinytusks had failed to realize the gold he had seized would never be enough for the humans to set up an expedition of that sort. At best, they'd pay a goblin or two to do the work for them. Tinytusks found himself under an ultimatum, either he recovered these two slaves for the King or he'll find himself under bondage.
Lost in the swamp
Luckily, after a few days we found the escapees lost in the swamp, hungry, confused and almost relieved that we had found them. The local mosquitoes, midges and worse had not spared a centi of their skin, and in whole they looked so miserable that even I felt for them.
Nobody was happy, though. Beyond the third day, on our way to Gwndar, this
time with the complete loot, Tinytusks did not disguise his anger.
deals with me as if I already were his slave. Rats! We shall not suffer
this again. That sentence, and many more to the same effect, he repeated
over our journey, but on meeting the King, he meekly delivered the loot
and kept whatever the King allowed him: one of the slaves and 8000 marees.
But then the King had a last, let's say request. Derodriel, the elf, the one who had recorded my enslavement, had mentioned my name to the King. The slave wanted an apprentice who would help him with his records and start a school of clerks. This was the great dream of the King of the Orcs: to have a proper state, just like humans had, and be respected beyond his borders. And so, among false smiles, I was delivered to the King, borrowed until the coming of next year's thaw.
Tinytusks withdrew with clenched fists, rightly fearing that the king
had no intentio to keep to his word. His words of departure to me were
Learn and grow,
be loyal to me and I will find a way to repay you twice in kind.