The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. The half-orc Kaaer’dár’shín tribe has been at constant war with their Osther-Oc cousins for centuries. This short tale tells of but one small skirmish between the two tribes. The orcs never consider that the Kaaer’dár’shín possess a Beastlord's Rage that should never be underestimated...

Part I

hree pairs of eyes watched the orcen camp carefully. Amidst the tall grasses lay three figures unmoving. A cool breeze wafted over the grass blowing it to and fro. One of the prone figures carefully moved a hand up to clear a clump of dirt under his nose and then moved it back down to grip his dagger sheathed at his side. The man beside him glanced over with pale gray eyes and nodded once. The third figure, a female with her hair tied back in a black leather cord, also nodded. But the middle figure, the leader, shook his head. Not yet.

The small orc camp provided an easy target for the watching Kaaer'dár'shín. The three Hunters were led by a noted veteran warrior named Tusk by his people. He favored wearing the tusks of the woolly boar arranged upon a leather cord around his neck that signified his prowess as a hunter. And it was well earned for the woolly boar were dangerous creatures when cornered and difficult to kill due to their extraordinary stamina and tough hides.

The Kaaer'dár'shín and the orcs of the Osther-Oc had been at war for some number of seasons and the Hunters took it upon themselves to destroy any orc encampment they could find. Fortunately, it appeared to Tusk that these lazy orcs cared little of the dangers of the wilds around them. They were focused on their food and that gave the watching Kaaer'dár'shín the element of surprise.

The activity in the camp was slowly dwindling as the orange sun settled behind the horizon. The Light Father would soon be asleep and the Night Mother would awaken to cast her pale light upon the world. Soon, when her comforting blanket of darkness settled, the strike would come.

The six orcs in camp settled around the flame and began to eat. A small animal carcass hung over the flames by a large branch that had been stabbed through it. One orc held it aloft, carefully turning the meat. The sizzling of the flesh could be heard and the smell drifting off of the meal threatened to make the stomachs growl of the three watching figures in the grass. However, the orcs had no inkling that their meal would soon be rudely and violently disturbed.

A large and brutish orc paced impatiently around the cooking fire and grunted angrily at his comrades. He waved a fist in the air and stomped his foot upon the ground. The cooking orc hissed and finally brought the meat out of the flame and tore at what appeared to be a leg with his bare fingers. The heat didn't seem to bother the orc as he quickly chewed on the meat.

The impatient stomping orc chuckled and took a swipe at the food but was stopped by another orc. This orc stood taller than the rest and was adorned in a heavy vest of woolly boar hide and pants made of dark lizard leather. He roared and spoke in rapid Kh'omchr'om, the harsh, gutteral orcen tongue. The other five orcs grimaced and backed away. Nodding in approval, the leader orc took his choice piece first, taking his time tearing off a piece, before giving over the rest of the meat to his hungry companion.

The leader orc moved to sit down on the ground. He picked up his heavy sword, a crudely forged jagged blade of steel and impaled the ground with it. He sat beside the quivering weapon and ate. The other orcs divided up the meal and sat amidst their belongings to eat.

The three warriors watched as the orcs devoured the animal and also watched as Father Light gave way to the darkness at last. The insects of the night chirped and the breeze became colder. Only the sounds of the crackling campfire and the slurping and crunching sounds of orcs eating could be heard.

The time had come. Tusk, huddled in the grass nearby, gave his silent signal and his two companions crawled backwards and to the left and right. The woman, called Fangas, and the male, called Talok, were veteran warriors along with Tusk and all three were keen to make the orcs suffer. The Beastlord would have his trophies this night. The leader gripped his bow with his left hand and reached behind him to take an arrow with his left. His long, nimble fingers found an arrow and slowly slid it from its sheath.

The lead orc's head jerked up and around. Tusk paused and tensed for several moments. The orc growled warily and resumed his meal. The others seemed not to notice. Tusk resumed his action and had the arrow in hand. He brought up his knees in a low kneeling position. The grass still covered him, but his head and shoulders were visible against the night sky if someone were to look at him at just the right angle. The orcs, however, were busy eating and paid no heed.

From Tusk's left and right, the other two archers also prepared to release their arrows upon the unsuspecting orcen camp. But, it was the lead archer to fire first. He aimed for the biggest orc and drew back his bow string. His left eye squeezed shut while his right eye looked down the arrow shaft. The big orc's head was right in his sights.

The archer felt an ant crawl up his leg and sweat burst from his brow and fell slowly down his forehead. The breeze was no longer cool, but felt warm. The odor of the meal smelled strong and right as his stomach finally let loose a growl, did his arrow let fly. Tusk's companions similarly drew back their own bows and loosed their arrows. One of six orcs fell immediately as an arrow punched through its throat with a cloud burst of blood.

The orc leader gave a start at that moment and jerked aside just before the arrow punched through his shoulder armor and pierced his thick muscles underneath. Tusk did not want to waste any time drawing another arrow, as the element of surprise was now gone. He dropped his bow, leapt to his feet and rushed forward, with his blades leading the way.

Part II

Tusk rushed forth, his left hand held his hand axe while his right hand gripped a curved dagger. Confusion was what he counted on and confusion was what he got. The orcs yelped and dropped their meals, each one clumsily reaching for a weapon.

Tusk came in fast at the leader, his blades crossed before him. The orc war chief, known as Oktra to his men, paid no heed to the arrow sticking from his shoulder. He brought up his own wicked looking blade and parried Tusk's dual attack. Tusk's axe swung low catching the orc's sword and in one semi-circular movement, the orc swung the axe away and met the dagger coming for his throat with his thick leather bracer.

Tusk spun to his left, knowing his initial attack came to nothing and danced backwards out of the orc's way. The orc growled and stepped to his left in a defensive position. He saw his attacker and sneered. His deep voice uttered one word derisively:

"Ulg'tack!" Half-breed.

Tusk's own lips curled into a war cry at the sound of the blasphemous name and he charged again. Oktra brought up his blade to block the hand axe swing he was expecting, but was surprised when a second attacker drove the pointed end of a short spear into his left flank. It was Fangas.

Fangas buried the spear deep into the orc leader's side. Blood flowed freely from the orc's wound. He shifted and grabbed the spear's handle, tugging it away from Fangas's grip. His sword cut the air upwards in a swift swing that surprised Fangas and even Tusk could not stop the swing from driving up his comrade's front, biting deep into Fangas's belly and chest. The woman's Tsor-Shotak hide breastplate offered little resistance to the mighty orc's swing. Oktra drew back his blood stained weapon as the half-orc woman collapsed in the dirt.

Tusk rushed for the spear still protruding from the orc's side hoping to drive the weapon through the orc and finally slay it. Oktra screamed and swung for Tusk's head, his face contorted in rage and battle frenzy. Tusk ducked below the swing and found the spear and pulled. The orc's desperate swings came slower this time as more blood poured from the wound. Tusk pushed the spear further in and finally the orc had had enough. His eyes blinked rapidly as the life left him and he dropped to the ground, his might sword falling over the camp fire creating a cloud of sparks.

Tusk had no time to relish in his victory as a shriek of pain from Talok came stabbing at his ears. The other half-orc was struggling with two wounded orcs on the ground. The orcs had Talok pinned down with one orc bringing his arm up and down, repeatedly driving a dagger into Talok's chest and left shoulder. The second orc held Talok's legs to keep him from kicking out.

Tusk made a quick glance around the camp. Four orcs lay dead, including the leader. Of the six, only these last two remained, giving Tusk the confidence that no more needed to be dealt with. He shouted a battle cry and jumped into the fray and tackled the dagger wielding orc first. He brought up his axe to cleave the orc's head in two when the second orc kicked and caught Tusk's head with his boot. Tusk saw a flash of white before him and felt a wave of pain wash over his body. He felt his left cheek slam into the ground and a large hand grab his hair and pull up.

The half-orc gasped in pain. The two orcs gathered around Tusk and the now dead Talok. One of them grabbed a handful of Tusk's hair and yanked upwards. The other orc reached around with a dagger to slit open the half-orc's throat with one stroke. Death had come.

But then, something happened...Tusk's vision was filled with red and his voice bellowed a deep roar. His soul had found the Rage and the battle was about to turn...

Part III

The orcs started in surprise as their victim suddenly roared aloud. The momentary confusion was enough for Tusk to twist himself sideways to his right and bring his elbow to slam into the orc's stomach. Tusk felt the pressure atop him lighten and it allowed him to come to his knees and roll forward. The dagger orc tried to thrust forward and catch Tusk's escaping leg with the weapon but he swung and caught only air.

Tusk gasped and scrambled over a large mound of grassy soil and rolled down the other side. His breath came in ragged intervals and his vision was unfocused and dim. The moon overhead seemed to grow larger as he stared up at it. But the rage grew deeper.

Another deep moan escaped Tusk's bloody lips. He heard the two remaining orcs whispering to each other on the other side of the mound. He knew that they were considering their next move. Probably to surround him and finish him off.

The orcs grunted in agreement once their plan was in place and picked up some fallen weapons. The first took Tusk's fallen spear while the other took their leader's sword. They nodded to each other and circled the mound knowing that the half-breed dog was bleeding on the other side waiting to be slaughtered like the prey he was.

The spear orc came around and focused on the dark shape crouched low to the ground. His mouth turned into a feral grin, his yellowed teeth protruded over his thick lips as he savored the kill he was about to make.

The sword orc saw his comrade in the dim light. The campfire illuminated both of them but as the approached Tusk's prone body, they became enveloped in the mound's shadow.

With the heavy blade over his head, the orc prepared to bring it down to cleave Tusk's head off. But he never got the chance as he felt an immense heavy weight slam him into the ground. The half-breed's body moved so quickly that the orc never saw him pounce. The orc opened his eyes and gasped in shock. He saw a mouth full of sharp teeth come at him and close around his throat. The last thing he remembered as his mortal life slipped away into the ground was a bloody maw holding bits of his own flesh...

The spear orc saw the sudden attack and panic overcame him. He screamed and no longer cared for the half-orc he was about to skewer. All he saw was the beast ripping the throat from his comrade and he fled as fast as his legs could carry him.

The orc felt the wind in his face but for a moment before he hit the hard ground as the weight of the beast held him down. He felt the hot breath of the animal and wondered how the half-breeds managed to call a pet to help them. He remembered briefly how the half-orcs that they so despised had developed a kinship with animals and wondered how many beasts they had under their control. Obviously, this was one of them...

Craning his head around to glimpse behind him, the orc saw the beast standing over him. It was a large cat, probably an wild mountain cat. The cat sniffed and dug its claws deeper into the orc's back eliciting a yelp of pain from the orc.

The cat growled and the orc felt pressure on the back of his neck and his body went rigid. Pain flared over the orc's body as his spine was snapped by the cat's powerful jaws. He, too, bled profusely like his comrade and as he felt his own life seep into the soil, the cat moved off and around him. The orc's last moments were staring at the cat as it moved in front of him...

The beast stared back, eyes glaring with burning hatred. Eyes, strangely familiar, almost human. In his last moment, a memory dawned on him, but he never lived to rejoice in his discovery.

The cat moved off to be enveloped by the shadows, leaving eight dead bodies behind...

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Short Story written by Azhira Styralias View Profile