Snippet: Oruk Means Hard Work.

From my novelette Oruk Means Hard Work.


Elara, Princess of the Elves, has been captured by orcs.  Now their prisoner, she has been assigned to one of their women and given a thin pad and blanket to sleep her first night in their caves.

An orc woman woke Elara sometime later. “Grintak, olf. Jang oruk ven. Jang oruk ven.”

Elara curled into a tight ball in the thin blanket.

The orc woman delivered a swat to Elara’s backside that stung even through the blanket. “Grintak!”

Elara uncurled and poked her head out of the blanket. The air was chill and she wanted to go back to huddling in the blanket, but the stern expression on the orc woman’s face stopped her.

The orc woman held a bowl and spoon out to Elara. “Kurok shash. Jang oruk ven. Jang oruk ven mak.”

Elara nodded and took the bowl. “Kurok,” she said.

The bowl contained a strange soup or porridge. Small bits had a spongy texture and a slightly sharp taste. Mixed in with the bits were small pieces of strange meat. Elara did not like the taste but the porridge soon filled the hole in her belly.

When she finished, the orc woman directed Elara to where several orc children were scraping any leftover porridge into buckets and scrubbing the bowls and spoons with sand. Elara left the bowl and spoon with them and followed the woman to where several other orcs were working at large tubs.

Orcs brought in baskets of small, brightly colored bits and dumped them into the tubs, then others picked up large wooden mallets pounded on the bits.

The woman led Elara to one of the tubs, freshly filled with the colored bits, mushrooms and other fungus Elara could now see. The woman pointed to one of the mallets and said, “Oruk.”

Fearfully, Elara took the mallet and tried to lift it. It was very heavy. She winced as the effort pressed against her bandaged hand, sending pain shooting up her arm.

The orc woman grabbed Elara’s wrist and pulled it up, turning Elara’s hand to peer down at the palm. “Kek jang thok?” She peeled the bandage from Elara’s hand, then clucked. “Engthul.” She looked down at Elara and bared her teeth in an expression Elara thought was meant to be a smile. “Jang te engthul akkagh.”

Timidly, Elara said, “Jang te engthul akkagh.”

The orc woman laughed and nodded vigorously. “Jang te engthul akkagh.” She stood and beckoned Elara to follow her. “Azg bet.”

The orc woman led Elara to a small tent from which an incredibly ancient orc emerged. The orc looked at Elara’s palm and spread a greasy salve over it that stung but soon eased the pain, then wrapped a cloth around it. He and the orc woman conferred in voices too low for Elara to hear.

The orc woman nodded, then led Elara back to where the others were pounding the mushrooms and handed her a basket. “Jang oruk. Azg bet.”

Elara, carrying the basket, followed the orc woman out into the caves and began to gather the small mushrooms and shelf fungi that grew on the damp wall.

Throughout, the orc woman kept up a continuous chatter.

#

The work was hard, but not harder than Elara could bear. Before the basket was full, while Elara could still lift it without straining her cut hand, the orc woman took her back to where the orcs had been working at large tubs. She had Elara dump the bits of fungus into the tubs where other orcs pounded it with the large mallets. Then the orc woman led her back into the caves to gather more fungus.

After several such trips into the caves and back, the orc woman led Elara to a kitchen and gave her another bowl of the porridge she had eaten that morning and sat down next to Elara with a bowl of her own. After the meal, the orc woman took Elara’s hand and turned it palm up. She peeled back the cloth wrapping slightly, then shook her head. “Kek jang lug?”

Elara shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

The orc woman pursed her lips then pressed her thumb firmly against the cut, making Elara squirm. “Lug.”

Lug, Elara thought, that must mean pain. They were going to give her pain if she didn’t work; was that it? She shook her head.

The orc woman shook her head, then said again, ending on a rising tone, “Kek jang lug?” She moved as if to press her thumb against Elara’s palm again. “Jang lug,” the orc woman said. She released Elara’s hand and held hers up. “Jang shek lug.” The orc woman held her hands, palm up, to either side of Elara’s cut hand and said, “Kek jang lug?”

Understanding at last. The orc woman was asking if her hand hurt. Elara shook her hand and said, “Jang shek lug.”

The orc woman nodded. “Jang morg.”

Elara and the orc woman took the bowls to be cleaned and went back to collecting mushrooms. After more time working, they stopped to eat again. This time, in addition to the porridge, Elara was given small pieces of meat — Elara could not tell from what animal — and a small bowl of sweet pudding. She looked up at the orc woman on seeing this bounty.

“Bak nik te morg oruk,” the woman said. “Kurok.”

Food eaten, the orc woman led Elara to a set of pools near the bottom of the cavern. She shied back as she saw other orcs there, stripping their clothing off and wading into the pools. The orc woman, however, grabbed her hand and pulled, setting her firmly at the side of one of the smaller pools. The orc woman pulled her rough shift over her head revealing the thickset muscular body underneath. A moment later Elara almost screamed as the orc woman stripped her clothes from her, leaving her naked in the midst of orcs. Only the thought that no one would answer her screams kept her silent.

None of the other orcs paid any attention as the orc woman drew Elara into the pool. This time Elara did yelp. The water was cold!  Still, the orc woman pulled her deeper into the water.

Near the center of the pool the water was about knee deep. The orc woman stooped and came up with a handful of sand that she proceeded to rub vigorously over Elara’s body. After a couple of swipes, she let the sand drop and pointed to Elara.

Elara nodded and stooped to reach the bottom of the pool. Before her hand could touch the water, however, the orc woman’s hand intercepted it. She turned Elara’s hand palm up, pointed at the bandage wrapped around it and shook her head. She pointed at the other hand, then down at the pool.

Elara nodded again and proceeded to scrub her body with the abrasive white sand, keeping her injured hand carefully out of the water.

Crude bathing completed, the orc woman then led Elara back to the pad on which she had slept. “Nem nem. Jang oruk vek mak.”

Elara lay on the pad and wrapped herself in the thin blanket. She could not sleep. Instead, in moments, tears had soaked her cheeks. She was a slave of these orcs. That was what her life was to be, to be a slave. Nobody would find her here. She would live as a slave and she would die as a slave.


$2.99 in Kindle Store, free to read on Kindle Unlimited

Life among the orcs is hard.  So difficult and ubiquitous is brutal labor among them that “Veth oruk”/”Work is” is their most common greeting.  When Elara, princess of the elves is captured and enslaved by them that is the life she must learn to live, a life of hard, unremitting labor with no hope of rescue.

Work is.

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