After a long march through the day the orcs put Elara, young princess of the Elves and now their captive, in one of the tents, tied hand and foot, where she drifted between fitful sleep and groggy waking. In the morning they fed her again, more meat and some kind of spongy bread, took her out to relieve herself and left her under the guard of one of the shorter orcs while they struck the camp.
Finally they struck camp, packed the tents and ropes away and extinguished the last coals of the fire.
“Azg!” the orc guarding Elara said.
“Azg, yourself,” she said looking up at the orc.
The orc grasped her shoulder and pushed. “Azg.” He pulled at rope that poked from his pack. “Azg shek tak gorug shet.”
“I don’t understand you! I don’t speak orc!”
The orc stared at her for a moment then walked a few steps. “Azg.” He pointed at her. “Azg.”
Tears welled up in Elara’s eyes. “I don’t want to ‘azg.’ I want to go home. Can’t you let me go home?”
The orc waited while she cried, terrible in his patience then pointed at her once more. “Azg.”
Sniffling, the last of her hope dying within her, Elara walked.
For three days they walked, each night’s stop being a repeat of the first. On the fourth day, before the sun had reached its zenith, they reached a narrow sinkhole. At the rim of the sinkhole iron spikes protruded from the rock. To these the orcs tied ropes, the free ends of which they dropped into the dark.
Elara barely had time to scream as one of the orcs wrapped a hairy arm her around her waist, grabbed one of the ropes, and leapt into the darkness. Her breath caught in her throat as they fell, stifling her scream. The rope hissed and smoked as it slipped through the orc’s hand. She kept expecting him to let go of the rope and the two of them to plunge to their deaths but their descent slowed. By the light of the dwindling circle of sky above them Elara could see the orcs descending other ropes.
A yelp burst from Elara’s throat when the orc carrying her hit bottom with a painful thump. He released her and Elara sat on the damp stone floor and moaned. It was dark. The only light came from the sinkhole far above them. She could see that they were in a cavern but its size was lost in the murk.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Are you going to kill me?”
The orc bared his teeth and pointed. “Azg.”
Tears running down her cheeks, Elara got up and tried to walk in the direction the orc had indicated. She had not gone three steps before her foot caught in a rock unseen in the gloom and she fell, bruising her cheek painfully since her hands were still tied.
The orc grunted and grabbed her arm with a calloused hand, a hand still hot from the descent down the rope, and pulled her to her feet. She could then feel his hands working at her wrists. Shortly, the ropes around them fell free. The orc stood back and pointed again, “Azg.”
Untied now, Elara could possibly run, but where could she go? “Azg,” she said and walked in the direction the orc had pointed.
A tunnel led from the large entrance cavern. Elara stumbled along in the dark guided by the orc’s hand on her shoulder.
As she walked, she began to see deeper shadows in the gloom, then more detail. There was light in the cave, not much but enough to see. Streaks of soft light glowed from the walls and ceiling of the cave.
The orc removed his hand and simply pointed the way. When the cave branched the orc said nothing, simply grunted and pointed. Mutely, Elara followed his directions.
A brighter light marked an opening ahead of them. As they approached, Elara could see that the light came from fires in a larger cavern. Many small tents dotted the cavern floor, each with a small fire before it.
The orc directed Elara to the center of the cavern where a smooth area formed the floor. A larger fire burned in a pit in the center of this floor.
When they reached the fire, the orc took Elara’s wrist and lifted her hand high over her head. “Arnak te gimbtul!” he shouted.
Other orcs, tending cooking fires and other tasks looked up at that.
“Arnak te gimbtul!”
The other orcs started to gather around the fire. “Arnak te gimbtul.”
From somewhere several orcs produced drums and began to beat a complicated rhythm.
Numb with fear, Elara follwed as the orc led her to the fire. She screamed when the orc drew a long dagger from his belt and held it, point up, in front of her face.
“Arnak te gimbtul” he said, then in a quick stroke, drew the point of the dagger across her palm. Her hand burned as the dagger carved a bloody furrow across it.
Still holding her firmly by the wrist the orc pulled her hand and held it over the fire so that blood from her hand dripped onto the burning wood. He held her there for a few seconds then released her hand.
Elara stared at her hand transfixed. Blood continued to well from the cut and ran down her arm. Her hand hurt. It throbbed. But she was still alive. They had not killed her, not yet.
The orc knelt in front of her he reached out with one finger and almost gently tapped her in the chest. “Bak te gimtul gem.” He said more then but Elara scarcely heard him. She did not understand anything that had happened since being taken from her home. She stared numbly at her captor as another orc placed a folded piece of wet cloth against her hand — a cloth that burned as it touched the cut — and bound it in place with a leather strap.
The orc led her from the fire to one of the larger tents and pointed at a thin blanket and a small pillow. Nodding, she rolled herself in the blanket. Lying there, she cried herself to sleep.
That’s it for now. Look for the novelette soon from Amazon. In the meantime, you might enjoy some of my other fantasy, including The Hordes of Chanakra
Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.
Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!