The Crossing

Part 4: Thraku Dug

Written by Gor'bladz
Illustrated by T'berog

For the first time in quite a while, the storage caves were alive with activity. Typically, these caves sit dark and unused except for brief visits by crafters collecting or storing supplies. Now nearly the entire Clan was rummaging around in boxes and crates, barrels and bags, pulling out supplies and packing them away again in backpacks and slings.

A large cavern off to the side served as the central staging area. At first glance, everything looked like a swirling chaos of orcs running about randomly. Close observation revealed that there were actually four separate groupings of orcs. On one side of the cavern, the Ghaashblud tribe was gathered around a fire pit. Nearby the Drae’hai were spread haphazardly around a large stack of barrels. On the opposite side of the cavern, furthest away from the light of the fire, the Buurz’traga tribe crouched. In the middle of these three groups were the peons and gruntees. Periodically a grunt or a nob from one of the three tribes would yell at the gruntees, who in turn would yell at the peons, who in turn would scamper off into the storage caves and return with some requested item.

One such peon emerged from a tunnel staggering underneath the weight of several crates of bottles. He had the crates stacked one on top of the other, and they shifted and swayed precariously as he teetered back and forth and wove his way through the crowds of other orcs. After a somewhat roundabout route, he made his way over to the Drae’hai tribe and set the crates down with a thump.

One of the grunts of the Drae’hai noticed the peon and let out a shout. “Dere lat is! Agh lat got da bodduls! Hoowah! Drag dem ober heer to dis barrul!”

The peon wiped his brow and dragged the pile of crates over to the grunt. The grunt pulled the bottles from the crates and began filling them from one of the large barrels that were stacked in this corner of the cave. “We nub gruk wut kinda drinkies dere guing to be where we guin. Da Drae’hai guin make suur dat we nub die ob thurst when we get dere. Yub yub. Clomping, eetin, agh drinkin. Dat wut guud for Shadowclan. Dere always tings to clomp, and if lat clomp sumtin lat kin eet it. Dat just leeb drinkin, agh me taken kare ob dat rite now.”

The grunt began to make a stack of the filled bottles behind him. The stack never got very large because as soon as another Drae’hai grunt would spot the bottles he would come over and grab some. Pretty soon nearly all the Drae’hai grunts’ packs and pockets were making sloshing noises as they moved about getting ready. In fact, several of the Drae’hai themselves began to make sloshing noises, and more than one grunt came back to place empty bottles back in the crates before grabbing some more full bottles.

The bottle filling grunt was already on his second bottle (“Kwality testing!”) when he opened up a new crate and found not empty bottles with small pouches packed in sawdust. “Wut!? Dis nub bottul! Dis dum buum dust. Wut lat bringin me dis fur? Gu take dis ober to some Ghaashblud grunt. Dem like dis tings.”

The peon quickly shoved the full bottle he had just filched behind his back and smiled broadly up at the grunt. “Yub yub! Rite away!” His stuck the bottle in his belt, lifted the crate of pouches over his shoulder, and made his way over to the Ghaashblud tribe. Most of the tribe was over by fire pit where there was some sort of ceremony going on. Some orcs were chanting and a nob was tossing something into the fire. A couple of orcs were off to the side sticking things in backpacks. The peon approached one of these grunts.

“Speshul delibery! Box ob stuff fur lat! Guud tings for grunts!” The grunt turned around and scowled at the peon, but his face brightened once he saw what was in the crate.

“Dere me box of buums! Me been luukin all over fur dis! Me thawt me was going haff to leeb dis behind. Ey, get ober heer, peon! Where lat find dis?”

The peon had been attempting to sneak away while the grunt was distracted with the crate, but he quickly jumped back and tried to explain himself. “It wuz in a pile of boxes of boddulz…”

“Oh, now me gruk. Drae’hai. Bah! Dem get into dere drinkies and den dem nub gruk wut dem duin or where dem putting stuff. Dem nub gruk wut reely importunt.” The grunt sat down with a thump and put a burly arm around the peon. With the other arm, he began loading the pouches from the crate into a backpack.

“Lat see dem orcs ober dere by the ghaash pit?” The grunt pointed to the Ghaashbluds by the firepit. The peon nodded and squired uncomfortably in the grunts grasp. “Dem gibbin offerings to da ghaash. Da Ghaashbluds is strong, and we gruk da powur ob da ghaash! We use it, agh study it, agh lurn how to clomp our enemies just like the ghaash burnz up a pile ob wuud. Da way ob da ghaash is da way to viktoree. Heer, lemee show lat how it works…”

Once the peon realized that he could not escape the grunt’s grasp he changed tactics. He managed to work the bottle he was carry out from behind his back and was about to take a swing. The grunt grabbed the bottle from his hand and poured out about half the contents, much to the peons distress.

“Ey, stop lat bawling, and pay attenshun! Me tryin teech lat sumtin.” The grunt grabbed the last pouch from out of the crate, poured its contents into the bottle, and then shook it up. He looked around the cave until he spotted what he was looking for, and then he gave the peon a little wink. “Watch dis!”

Over by a stack of bags and crates, someone had shoved a lit torch into the wall. The grunt reached his arm back and flung the foaming bottle at the torch. BOOOOM! When it struck the torch, there was a terrific explosion. The bags apparently held flour, and then erupted into a tremendous choking cloud of white powder.

“Har har har har! Dat wuz grate! Lat see dat! Har har har… uh oh.” The grunts laughter died on his lips as the flour began to clear and a large hulking shape emerged from the cloud. It was a heavily armed orc carrying a sputtering torch and wearing the uniform of a Ghaashblud nob. He was covered in white from head to toe, and he scowled through the haze as if looking for something.

“Ummm, me need to gu find sumtin. Heer, hold dis.” The grunt tossed the backpack of pouches on top of the peon. The weight knocked him to the floor. By the time he could crawl out from underneath the large pack, the grunt was nowhere to be seen, and the ghostly white nob was standing right over top of him.

The nob stared down at the peon for a moment before his face slowly drew into a wide beaming smile. Rather than being reassuring, the smile only increased the peon’s dread. “Ey, lat packing tings up? Dat guud! We need more hard working peons! Lemmee help lat out wit dis pack.”

The nob plopped the backpack of pouches onto the peon’s shoulders and then pulled the straps excruciatingly tight. “Hmmm, luuks like lat got some more ruum in da pack. Heer, letz see if we can finish fillin it up.” The nob grabbed up a few things that were lying nearby and tossed them into the top of the pack. A bag of flour, a water skin, a couple of torches, and a bedroll quickly filled the pack to brim. The peon began to sway back and forth under the dual influences of the weight of the pack and the fact that he could barely breathe because of the tight straps.

“Dere lat gu! All full! Well, maybe we can fit ash more ting in dere…” With that the nob picked up the charred and smoldering remains of his torch and jammed it down deep in the pack. With that, he spun the wide-eyed peon around and gave him a forceful shove. “Gug’ye peon! Hab a nice trip!”

The peons staggered a few short steps and began frantically running around in circles trying to get into the pack that was on his back. He could not reach inside of it, and the straps were too tight to get the pack off! The frantic peon spotted a water barrel over by a dark corner of the cave and took off squealing towards it leaving a thin trail of smoke behind him. He had nearly reached it and was about to make a leap when his backpack exploded, lifting him off his feet and flinging him to the far side of the cave.

The peon landed with a nice squish thump and rolled for a short distance before coming to a halt flat on his face. The bag of flour and the water skin managed to cushion the explosion just enough to keep it from killing the peon, but not by much. What little bit of hair that remained on his head was matted with grayish wads of dough. Thin wisps of smoke curled up from the blasted remains of the backpack that was sting clinging to his back by one torn strap. The blast reduced the torches to splinters, hundreds of which were now sticking out of his rear and the backs of his legs.

After a moment or two, the peon slowly propped himself up on his elbows. His eyes rotated this way and that and finally came to rest pointing in roughly the same direction. He started to roll over and sit up, but the splinters in his rear quickly discouraged that idea. The peons painfully staggered to his knees and looked around. At first, all he could see was stars. When those cleared, he realized he was kneeling right in front of an orc sitting cross-legged in the shadows of a large rock. Little could be seen of the orc other than two large staring eyes.

Buurz’traga. The peon knew who this orc was without even having to see him clearly. For the most part the grunts of the Buurz’traga tribe were normal appearing and not much distinguished them from other grunts of the tribe. It is not until you really look at them close that you start to see that they were a little different. A little strange. A little disturbed. A little crazy. The place you usually see it is in the eyes.

“Lat habbin a bad muun, peon?” The grunt shifted a little but otherwise did not move. The peon briefly thought about running somewhere, anywhere, maybe even back to the Ghaashblud nob. However, all he seemed capable of doing was staring into the cold yellow eyes of the Buurz’traga.

“Lat purty lucky, peon. Lat mite nub tink it rite now, but lat will lurn. Pain iz guud. Pain teeches lat tings. Dere plenty tings wurz den pain.” The orc made a slow rattling noise in his throat. It took the peon a moment to realize that the grunt was chuckling.

“Lat guin need sum guud lurning to get lat reddy for where we guin. Most orcs nub gruk wut waitin fur uz in da new uzg. But some ob us got sum ideerz. Derez a cuppul ob ways to see wut waiting fur uz in da komming muuns. Lat just neeb to gruk where to luuk. Da signs are dere. Signs in da dark…”

The grunt began to make the same rattling chuckle again. He reached a long gaunt arm out and clapped the peon on the shoulder. This seemed to break the spell, and the peon managed to take a couple of steps backward. This caused him to bump into a rock and drive a few splinters a little further in. The peon yelped and the grunt chuckled again.

“Me tink lat hab got enuff lezzuns from da pain dis muun. Gu find sum ash tu dig dem splinterz out. But get tuff, peon. Get tuff. We got ash hard rode ahead of us…” With that the grunt leaned back into the shadow of his rock once more and disappeared except for his yellow staring eyes. The peon took one last look at him and scampered off in search of some bandages.

Flaming Peon

Click above image for the full size illustration.

Continue on to part 5.

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