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Any Orc in a Storm

A Curse of Seltemver story

Written by Salen

Coming out of the Storm

 
  The ship rocked on the massive waves and righted itself as the spray hit his slender elven face. He could see sunlight ahead, the sign that they were coming out of this supernatural storm once more. This was always the part that he dreaded, the 'where are we now' dilemma. He shouted orders to his crew, a finer bunch of orcs you couldn't find. "Tighten that line, Toth!" he called over the crashing seas around them, the wind whipping his short white hair about like a rowboat in a whirlpool; his brown longcoat wasn't doing much better in this storm.   "Aye capt'n. I never thought of that," the burly orc replied, more venom than usual in his deep voice. This trip had been a rough one, better than usual, but rough all the same. Their seventh since being cursed, the crew was getting downright depressed about ever finding a way out of this strange predicament.   The captain just smiled, knowing that at least this time they wouldn't have massive repairs to worry about. Let them get snarky for once, they deserved it. His crew, all orcs that knew their way around a ship like some know how to breathe, had followed him on his cursed journey for gods above knew how long now. Time seemed to be different every time they came out of the storm, and with strange worlds, it wasn't always tracked the same.   "Seltemver, are you going to take that from him?" The voice on his shoulder asked, his clawed hands digging into his shoulder as the ship rocked back and forth.   "Amonar, they are just vexed, let them blow off some steam," he told the imp on his shoulder. He knew that his friend was just as wound up as the crew, hating sailing as much as he hated violence. The imp wanted this curse to end as much as the orcs did, so they could all get back home. Not that Amonar wanted to get back to his home, he was just as cursed as the ship was.   "You know, for an elf you're a lot more forgiving than most." The imp said, closing his eyes as the sunlight washed over the deck of the Seahaven as the storm shut off like blowing out a candle. Then the cold air hit and they all knew they were somewhere else again.   "Yeah well my upbringing was a bit skewed." Seltemver shook the sea spray out of his hair and straightened his longcoat. He spun the wheel and brought them around, watching the seas change before his eyes. A 'huzzah' went up from the crew as they stopped rocking and settled into a more steady rhythm. "Amonar, fly up and see what you can see with those eyes of yours," Seltemver told his friend as he looked at his compass with skepticism. They were headed north when they left the last port town, now it seemed that they were headed due south, and it was obviously the far north, as large ice flows could be seen to either side in the distance.  
* * *
  Amonar flew up to the crow's nest, renamed Crak's nest for the small orc that usually took post up here, without arguing, which was astounding to any that would've witnessed it. Not that they would pay attention to me. Most of the crew hates me, and the ones that don't are afraid of me, he thought sadly. He thought of poor Crak, who was still in medical for a broken leg he got on the last trip through the storm. The red skinned imp settled down and folded his wings, peering into the distance and focusing his eyes to see what lay ahead of them. He could see impossibly far when he wanted to, a gift of his infernal legacy, and it was one of his powers that he didn't mind using; the others made him sick to even think about. He could just make out a large mass in his vision, maybe a couple hours due south.   "Land!" he called down to Toth, the burly orc that was Seltemver's first mate. Toth was the only orc on board the Seahaven that talked to him without disdain in his voice.   "How far Am?" the orc asked, using his nickname for the imp, his booming voice carrying across the deck.   How can they talk so good with those tusks in their mouth? he thought, before he answered; some things just mystified him in this world. "Maybe a couple hours? Is that how you guys say it?" Amonar just never got the seafaring lingo they used. He guessed it was fine because Toth just laughed and shook his head. He settled in and kept a lookout, just in case there were any ships that might see them.  
* * *
  Seltemver heard the call of land and smiled a genuine smile. They came out that time without too much damage, everyone in one piece, and land ahead. "Maybe my luck is starting to turn?" he asked the gods, as he looked up to the clouds ahead.   "Wouldn't that be a nice change." Toth said, coming up to the helm.   "Yeah well I'm not putting any gold on it."   "Seriously though Capt'n, how many times do you think we have to do this?" The worry in his voice plain to anyone with ears, never mind the ears of an elf.   "I honestly don't know Toth. You were there when that sea witch cursed me. Do you remember what she said? She said I was doomed to sail distant waters until we found a home." Seltemver looked right into the grey eyes of his first mate, wishing that he could tell them something different. He just couldn't.   "I do, and we all thought it was weird that she said you, then followed with 'we'." The orc stood by the wheel and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Yet we said it then, and it still stands. You saved us all from that bitch, so we are all with you until death...and beyond." The last part was said as Toth looked up at Crak's nest, apprehension furrowing his sloping brow.   "Yeah, I know most of you don't trust Amonar. Just know that the ship isn't my only curse, and he means no harm to anyone that doesn't try and harm me." Seltemver knew that his crew were a superstitious lot, and having a tiny demon on board was difficult. Some of the crew had warmed to the imp, though Amonar didn't see it; yet there were still some that gave the sign of Dava when he flew by.   "No, it's all right. That little guy has saved us time and time again, it's just how he did it that doesn't sit well with some of the crew." Toth nodded and walked back down to the deck, calling orders to the rest of the crew in preparation of land.   Seltemver watched him go with an odd sense of pride. They were a good bunch of orcs but if you had ever told him before all of this that he would be sailing with an orc crew, he would've laughed himself to death.   "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get it together." A stern voice said from behind him.   Seltemver jumped then laughed as a female orc slapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, I'm allowed once in a while you know," he said to the orc healer. Grunhilde was a huge grey skinned orc with long braids and a fierce smile. The best healer he had ever seen, she had a good eye and a bedside manner that could level a mountain. She got the job done though, and it still amazed him that she could channel the healing power of the gods, even a little. His upbringing had always said that was impossible. Of course it also said that all elves could cast magic, when clearly he couldn't. "I'll feel better once we get into town and find out where we are this time."   "You always say that, then you end up in trouble and we all have to save you," Grunhilde said, her tusky grin unnerving.   "That was one time...and she was a shapeshifter. How was I supposed to know?" They both laughed as the ship sailed on towards a fate that neither of them saw coming. What else was new.  

All Ashore that's Going Ashore


  Within a couple hours, just as Amonar had guessed, they came within view of the island; or more importantly, islands. There were two of them, separated by at least twenty miles of ocean. Yet as they came closer Seltemver could see a smaller island only about four miles away from the larger right hand island. He thought about heading there, yet he could see the waves crashing upon the rocks on either side. Anyone worth their salt could see the currents slamming together at the mouth of this little channel, as well as the rocks littered among the edges. It would be pure folly to try and sail through it. The Seahaven could probably do it, but it would take all the training of his expert crew to make it in one piece.   Seltemver spun the ship to starboard and aimed for the snowy shore near the mountains. They stood out like a triple monolith in the white expanse that stretched out before him and he wondered if he even had any fur cloaks on board. No matter, I'll just pick one up in port, he thought, as he angled the ship in quickly. He dropped anchor about two miles out, just to be sure the strange tides didn't pull the ship in too close, and saw the small port near the town up on the hill. Smaller ships were docked and loading something, and a huge ship stood even further out towards the channel like some sort of sentinel. The ships were unlike anything he had ever seen.   "Orcish if I'm not mistaken," Toth said, coming up to the helm once more. "Though that type of ship is like nothing I've ever seen."   "Good, It's not just me," Seltemver said, bowing to the first mate and indicating the wheel. "You're in charge until we come back and let you all know that it's safe."   "It's never safe."   "Hey our luck has to turn at some point Toth, have faith."   "Luck has nothing to do with it, you always kill people."   "He's not wrong," Amonar chimed in, grinning from long-pointed ear to long-pointed ear.   "You want to stay here with them?"   "Here's me shutting up." Amonar pouted and folded his little arms as Toth smiled wickedly.   "At least take Grunhilde with you this time, those orc ships might mean that she could help talk us into some good trade, and at the least she can patch you up," Toth said, trying not to laugh at his captain's face.   "Actually that sounds like a good plan, and this time I'll cover up in case this place hates white hair like the last place did." Seltemver clasped the arm of his first mate and walked off to get ready, silently praying that they could have a peacefully time in a world for once.   Hours later, as the sun was going down, Seltemver pulled the small boat up to the docks in the coastal town. He made sure he kept his hood pulled over his short hair and his hands inside of his cloak just in case. The cold didn't affect elves that much, yet even so he was feeling himself start to shiver. Amonar, of course, was perfectly fine as always. Grunhilde argued, but grudgingly came, if only to keep them out of trouble. That one had the imp laughing for an hour.   "I'll go on ahead and see what there is for shops," the orc healer said, her braids click clacking as she bounded out of the boat. Her huge battle axe hanging at her side looked almost as menacing as her tusky grin.   Seltemver nodded and continued to tie up the small boat, making sure the knot would hold before setting out. If he lost another boat he wouldn't hear the end of it.   "It's real quiet around here huh?" Amonar asked, looking around suspiciously   "Yeah, maybe we came at some festival or something? I don't know, let's catch up with Grunhilde and find out." He walked on, up the path, Amonar on his shoulder and his hand on his slim blade. He had left his longbow back on the ship, mainly because he couldn't hide it under his cloak. So if he needed range he was out of luck.   From the docks it was a hike up a long set of stone steps that wound back and forth up a stone cliff. About halfway up he could hear the distant cheering of a large crowd and smiled despite the unknown. It was good to hear people cheering, that meant they were enjoying themselves. Maybe this land won't be so bad, he dared to think.   At the top of the stair it opened up into a wide packed earthen road leading towards huge tusk-like bones serving as an entry arch. The houses that lined the dirt roadway were mostly stone and wood, decorated with tusks and other animal bones and hides. He was no expert, but it all looked orcish, much like the ships. There was no sign of anyone else in the street.   "I don't like this..."Amonar squirmed on his shoulder.   "You never like anything."   "True, true."   "You there!" A gruff voice called out from the far left. "Why aren't you at the auction?"   Seltemver glanced that way, still keeping his visage hidden under his cloak, and saw a huge green skinned orc dressed as some sort of guard hailing them. "Crap." He walked on, ignoring the guard and headed for the cheering. Maybe an auction would cheer him up? "headed that way now," he called back in an unassuming voice, trying not to say too much in the unknown land. Heck in one land Amonar had said the word mead and it put them under suspicion.   "Hey what is that thing on your shoulder?" the guard asked, closing the distance quickly.   "Why does everyone call me a thing!?" Amonar shispered —a word that Seltemver came up with for the way the imp could whisper and still seem to shout at the same time —   "Just my new pet." Seltemver called back, grabbing Amonar's mouth as he said it, knowing that the imp was going to protest quite loudly over that one. He looked and saw Grunhilde up ahead and whistled a two note shrill that would tell her he needed help.   "Ah there you are," she said as he neared, "and who is the handsome thing you brought with you?" Grundhilde's voice, normally gruff, had toned down to a husky pant at the sight of the burly guard. She walked right past Seltemver and Amonar and laid her hand on the guards shoulder, smiling her tusky smile with her deep grey eyes.   Seltemver walked on towards the crowd, looking back to see the guard clearly smitten with the orc healer and knowing that he would owe her big time for that save. He never noticed the crowd make up until he was amongst them, then froze. They were all orcs. Every last one of them.   "Mm mm." Amonar said under his hand that was still clamped down over his mouth.   Seltemver didn't say a word, he just backed up the way he came and took off down an alley behind one of the dwellings. As he came around the stone house and into what could only be called a garden, complete with dying flowers and frost covered grass, he saw a female elf tending the frozen soil. He had no idea what they could grow in this cold climate, but he was relieved that he had found someone that wasn't an orc. His elation lasted exactly three seconds, for as she turned at his approach, he could see the chains that bound her to an iron post not ten feet away. "Damnit. It just had to be slavers again didn't it," he said sadly. "Are you all right?" he asked, stepping closer and lowering his hood so that she could see his face.   The elf made some sign with her hands and shook her head as if in panic.   "She can't speak, you should know that," another voice said coming around the other side of the house. This voice belonged to a human man, roughly average height with short black hair. He too had chains on his hands, but wasn't tied to a post thank the gods.   "I have no idea what you're talking about," Seltemver confessed, "we have just arrived in my ship and have no clue as to where we are."   "This is Duoskar, in the nation of Harn." The human said, clearly expecting Seltemver to know what that would mean.   "Well, I don't know what that means but I do know that I hate slavery." He walked over and pulled on the iron post with everything he had, uprooting it from the ground and throwing it to the side. "How many of you are there?" he asked as he pulled his thin blade and slashed the elf's chains. His sword was enchanted to cut just about anything.   "You jest! There are over thirty thousand slaves on Duoskar alone!" The man laughed hysterically.   "Seltemver...we have to go." Amonar said weakly, fear creeping into his normally sarcastic voice.   "Well you are free to come with me and...what do I call you?" he asked the female that was rubbing her wrists. She moved her fingers again and he shook his head. "Silence, I'll call you Silence. He saw her nod and stretch her legs. "Now let's see if we can get to our ship." He turned and was about to go when two orcs came around the corner behind them, weapons clearing their sheaths.   "What is this? An elf?!" The guard charged as he said this, like it was the worst thing they could've seen.  

New Friends, Old Enemies


  Amonar flew up off Seltemver's shoulder, knowing confrontation was imminent once more. "Why is it, everywhere we go, people want to kill you?" he asked, his voice rising with every note; he hated violence.   "My winning personality?" Seltemver answered without skipping a beat. He slashed an orc with his blade and spun around another as they came at the pair.   "Yeah, that has to be why," the imp finished dryly; flapping his wings over to the elf girl they were calling Silence. He watched his master finish off both orcs and knew that they were in some very serious trouble this time. Thirty thousand slaves with orc masters didn't exactly spell Pleasure Island. He heard a deep horn blare, then an answering call from the sea as the huge ship started towards the Seahaven. Both he and Silence exchanged grim looks. "I think they know which boat is yours Seltemver."   "It's a ship, not a boat."   "Semantics."   "Look Amonar, a boat is..."   "You two are insane you know that right?" the man said interrupting them both with a raised brow.   Seltemver laughed, "Amonar, Toth knows how to lose a bigger ship, he'll head for that channel we saw and lose them in the currents. Let's make for the coast and free as many slaves as we can along the way, then steal a boat and meet up with him there."   "Did you say Toth?" the man stopped dead turning towards them.   Amonar had that bad feeling again, the one when everything goes to hell —metaphorically, thank the gods above — "Do I want to know why he is looking at us like that?"     Seltemver ignored him with practiced ease, instead focusing on the human. "Yes I did. He is my First mate...why?" Seltemver led them to the eastern side of the house and down a back alley as he talked in hushed tones. Wooden crates that held refuse of what could only be leftover food was in one of them, while foul smelling garbage was in the other. He slipped into another back yard while they talked.   "The The Nation of Toth lies to the west; they would surely help you if you know one of the great line."   Amonar flew over and hovered in front of the man. "What's your name?" he asked, trying to change the subject. He just wanted to get back to the ship and get underway once more. Any world would be better than this one.   "My name is Karel." And before they could tease him about his name they turned a corner and found more slaves.    
* * *
  Seltemver saw the three slaves, one elf and two humans, chained up to a similar iron post as they worked the frozen ground. They were dropping tiny purple seeds the size of a coin into the dirt and covering them back up. He was about to just yank the post out like the other one when two orcs came out of the back door. He drew Silence behind him protectively as he approached the orcs with his slim sword out, ready for anything. He wasn't ready for their response though.   "Oh! An elf. Mercy me Hammon would you look at him!" the female said, clearly not dressed as a guard, nor angry with him. If anything she seemed interested, like he was a toy.   "Never mind him Bernice, would you take a look at her!" The orc male said pointing behind Seltemver. He wasn't dressed as a guard either, in fact they looked just like farmers. He heard heavy footsteps behind him then and turned to see Grunhilde catching up with them.   "About time I found you. Did you see the ship leave?" Grunhilde asked as she came running up. There was blood on her hands and her weapon, a huge axe, was in her hands. She had clearly seen some sort of battle, yet there were still no general alarms sounding in the town. Odd.   "Yes, I did, we're going to try and get out of town and head to the coast near that channel."   "I see we've found slaves again? Can't help yourself can you?" Grunhilde said smiling then saw the farmer staring at her and frowned at him . "No I can't. I will let a lot of things slide, the gods above know that I'm not a good person, yet slavery is not one of those things." He sheathed his sword and gestured for Grunhilde to pull the post, then he turned to the orcs. "I'm freeing these slaves, I don't want to hurt you, but I will if it comes to that."   "Slavery is embedded into the very society we live in, where could you take them that they could be safe?" The orc named Hammon asked.   Seltemver noticed that his tone sounded like he was simply curious; puzzling to say the least. "I'm grabbing as many as I can and getting to my ship. Once we set sail, well, let's just say we kind of have this curse and won't be around here much longer after that."   "That's a unique way of putting it." Grunhilde said, taking the post and pulling it up in one heave of her muscled shoulders.   "Do you think we could come with you?" Bernice asked, looking back at the door of the house like they were being watched.   Seltemver stared for a couple of seconds before answering. This place was just plain weird. "If you want freedom from this slave society and don't have qualms about working for it, then yes."   "Bernice..."   "Hammon, you know we hate this, we just don't have the stomach for it," Bernice said, almost pleading with what had to be her husband. "And there are more of us," she said, turning to Seltemver and smiling. "I know of some of them that will join us."   "Well let's get moving, they haven't sounded an alarm yet, but they should any moment."   "They don't sound alarms," Karel said as he looked at the two orcs with apprehension.   "What now?"   "They just send runners ahead and let all the guards know that they want the gates locked down. They do have a sea horn though; when that is blown the entire region knows there's a slave revolt," Hammon said   "We're doomed," Amonar said, fluttering back onto Seltemver's shoulder.   "Well let's get going, it's going to be a hard run to the coast," Seltemver said, feeling that knot in his stomach when he started to worry, which wasn't often.    
* * *
  Captain Ulargth shouted at his men again, mainly because he wanted to shout at someone. He had known that sleek ship was trouble, but his commander had said to let it pass. Once the riot horn sounded he knew that that ship had caused the trouble. Rogue orcs from another nation had probably snuck in and disturbed the slave auction, but they would not get away. "Get those slaves rowing Hargen!" he bellowed at his first mate. Over forty orcs manned the sails and the many slaves down below deck worked their backs rowing as they turned towards the smaller ship. It was probably faster, but once the rowers got their rhythm, they would catch them.   "Sir they are turning towards the channel with full sails," Hargen said, amazement in his voice. "And if I'm not mistaken, I do believe they are preparing to fire upon us."   "Really?" Ulargth was shocked as well. A smaller ship would usually race for distance, rather than engage a larger ship...what was that captain thinking? "Well, prep the cannons and prepare to return fire when they close."   He peered at the ship in the distance and they were turning towards the channel, foolhardy to say the least; they would never make it past his ship in one piece. He felt the ship lurch faster as the sails were filled with the wind coming out of the west as he turned his own ship to match the smaller one, then he heard the cannon fire. "Incoming!" he yelled, watching for the cannon shot that was coming. It would not breech the hull, but if they targeted the deck he could lose men. He worried for nothing as the shots fell short, splashing into the water on the port side.   "Horrible shot that captain is right sir?" Hargen said, laughing at the luck. Then he lost his balance and grabbed the rail as the ship turned violently to port, heading away from the channel.   "Swing the sail!" Ulargth yelled, trying to figure out what happened as more cannon shot fell short on the port side as they turned. He watched the orcs swing the sails and try to right themselves to no avail. Then the smaller ship sailed by and ran for the channel, the ship passing out of range of the larger ships cannons. Captain Ulargth ran over and looked over the rail at the port side and saw the handiwork of this rogue captain. They had shot at the oars of the slaves! Until they stopped the starboard side from rowing, they would just head to port. "Stop the rowers!" he commanded, but it was useless. That ship would head into the channel, but they would probably ground on the reefs to one side or another, maneuvering those currents was difficult at best. He would catch them when they did. The large orc captain stomped off to see about replacing those oars and knew that he was going to be yelling a lot more now.  

Almost made It


  Seltemver crept along the side of the road, trying to keep his little group of freed slaves and odd companions quiet. Only the elven female they called Silence was doing what he asked, and technically she was cheating. They had found a slave transport on the way to the village that Bernice was guiding them to. If they could catch the guards by surprise, then they would have a better way into the village and a chance to grab a boat unnoticed. The transport was a large wagon, enclosed in the back with iron bars for a door. It was pulled by six huge horses and the six orc guards all walked, as one hooded orc drove the wagon from a seat in the front.   "Your hand..." Grunhilde said ominously to Hammon. He had laid his hand on her muscled shoulder again and by the look on her face she was ready to hit him.   "You are aware that she can probably pick you up and throw you right?" Amonar asked the hapless orc male named Hammon.   "Sssshhhh!" Seltemver moved his hand across his throat signaling them to kill the talk. Too late. Three of the orc guards were walking quickly to them and pulling their weapons. "Well, when the dark one rides..." Seltemver started, pulling his slim sword and stepping out of the bushes. So much for stealth, now they had to do this the hard way.   "...the only thing you can do is hold on and pray." Grunhilde finished as she pulled her axe as well.   "I'll just stay here and guard the slaves guys," Amonar said, hiding behind Silence.   Seltemver had no time for the imp as the three orcs broke into a run, their long pike-like weapons already swinging as they spread out to flank him. This might actually hurt, he thought, still running right up the middle of the group. He slid to his knees as one weapon came whooshing overhead and sliced with his sword, cutting the haft in twain, then spinning around to block another weapon. He took a cut on his side from the third, but thankfully their long weapons got in the way of each other in these close quarters. "I heard you chaps go to brutality school, they don't teach you how to actually kill or what?" he taunted, trying to get them angry enough to lose their focus. Clearly it worked.   One brute grabbed him in a meaty fist as another kicked at his side. He slashed the incoming foot, but the hand picked him right up off the ground with ease. An orc head came in like a flash, head butting him and sending his eye sight into a dazzling spin. "Well then..." he said, trying to get his vision to clear. He saw Grunhilde with the other three orcs, doing a slight bit better than he at the moment, yet even she had taken a fair amount of cuts due to the reach of those weapons. Seltemver brought his sword up and tried to cut the arm of the orc holding him, but didn't have the angle. He did cut the brute, but that only annoyed him. Okay, so this really isn't my day, he thought as the orc slammed him down on the ground, kicking the slim sword away from his loosened grip.   "Hey I think it's that elf from the slave auction!" the orc said to his buddies, stepping on Seltemver's back to hold him down . "Definitely not dressed as a slave that's for sure," another replied.   Seltemver looked up as Grunhilde swore, the orc healer was down and weaponless as well. Two of her opponents were down as well, but the third had her on her knees with his weapon at her throat.   "Amonar, little help here," he said, knowing that the imp would hear him regardless of the distance. Their bond came in handy from time to time.  
* * *
  Amonar winced as he saw the beating his friends were taking. Seltemver was one of the best swordsmen he had ever seen, and after over one thousand years, he had seen a lot of warriors. These brutes however were coordinated and well trained, despite his masters bravado. He was trying to keep the others hidden behind the bushes, but they kept crowding in to see the action. Then the battle turned ugly. Both Seltemver and Grunhilde were down, and solidly from the looks of it, and the big brute with the black hood was getting off of the wagon and pulling a huge curved blade.   "Amonar, little help here."   The imp flinched and wrung his hands together. He was really hoping he wouldn't have to do anything this time. It always made him feel...dirty somehow. In the end he saw that he had to or his bond would shatter. He was bound to keep Seltemver alive at all costs. If he died, the imp would be thrust down into the pits of the Hells forever; burning endlessly in torment until time ended. Not high on his 'Things to do' list.   He sighed and flew out of the bushes, closing his eyes and concentrating. He pulled his power up from deep within, knowing what he must do; he hated this part the most. When the power rose to the surface, he opened his eyes; eyes that now had a deep red glow to them. "Ackresh firan risal en shiran ea orkan!". Amonar said, his voice resounding across the open road for all to hear. The sound of it cowed orc and beast alike, the slaves backing up behind him and the orc in the hood dropping to a knee and bracing his hands on the ground for balance. Two of the orcs on Seltemver fled rather than face a beast that could've said those words.   The orc in the hood stood after a moment, looking at his hands; hands that were just on the ground. They were burnt and smoking. The next instant, flames roared to life under each orc; a pillar of flame that spread to nothing else and refused to be extinguished. Some rolled on the ground while others ran for their water skins, screaming for help and dying hideously in front of the group no matter what they tried. Even the ones that ran burned, the burning bodies laying among the dry grass and slowly going back from where they came.   Hammon threw up behind him and Bernice swore softly while Silence clapped. Karel just stared in stunned horror. Amonar flew back, head hung down and feeling sick.   "What did you do to them?" Bernice asked, holding her husband's hair out of his face as he retched again.   "I'm sorry, I had to save him or else," Amonar said, averting his eyes from them all. "He was cursed years ago for saving my life. The wizard that kept me cast it as he died, binding us together until one of us dies...funny story, I'm immortal."   "So what does that mean?"   "It means that he has to protect me until I die or he gets dragged back down to hell, roasting in the pits assigned to oath breakers and slavers. I hear it's not a fun place," Seltemver said, walking over with Grunhilde.   "But what happens when you eventually die? Like of old age or disease?" The female orc was clearly trying to get a handle on what had happened, but they weren't' helping at all.   "If he dies naturally, then I just go back to my normal life in hell, sans the torture and eternal damnation; so to speak." Amonar said, sniffing loudly to let everyone know he was upset; no one was noticing however. He flew up and landed on Seltemver's shoulder once more, his small tail wrapping around the elf's arm.   Grunhilde walked over and looked Amonar straight in the face. "Well I for one have something to say about this," she started, her voice stern and uncompromising.   He knew this was coming. Stirrings around the ship were already bad enough. This would make it unbearable for them to be around him. "I'm sor..."   She kept talking, cutting him off. "I think this little imp...should have my eternal gratitude." She patted him on the head and broke into a tusky grin.   Amonar physically relaxed and let out a tiny breath. Okay that one got me, he thought as loud banging came from the wagon. Silence was pointing to the slaves in the back and motioning for them to get over there.   "Hey, it looks like we have some more recruits for the boat Seltemver."   "It's a ship!"   "Potatoes, or whatever."   "You guys really do need help you know that right?" Bernice told them walking towards the wagon with Hammon in tow.   Amonar smiled and saw the road winding down to the coast and couldn't wait to be miserable on that boat, instead of being miserable around these slave orcs.  

Channel Running


  Seltemver sat in the back of the wagon and felt every damned bump. The orcs family was driving while everyone else pretended to be 'slaves' in the enclosure. The door was latched, but unlocked so they could exit quickly if need be. This way, upon minor inspections, they would be unmolested by the guards. Seltemver was covered in a heavy cloak — a mostly unburned one, taken from a fallen guard — and Amonar was curled up on his shoulder. The other slaves stared in open horror at the little imp until Grunhilde snarled at them; they then took turns filling Seltemver in on how slavery started in what they called The Shards   The gist was that the stars had fallen centuries ago and devastated the main land masses, fragmenting them into these islands. The orcs took the initiative to rebuild and enslaved the other races; the dwarves, humans, and elves. The dwarves were controlled by torturing their families, but he was curious about the elves. He knew that most elves had magic, so it confused him how they were enslaved so easily. That's when they talked about the horrible things done to elven children when they are born.   A stout dwarf named Morn talked as Silence hung her head, his long red beard stained by years of blood and dust. "You see, when they is born, the orcs wait fer about two tendays, then cut out the baby's tongue, burning the tip to stop tha bleeds." He said in a slight accent.   "Cauterizing it," Seltemver said quietly, that feeling in his stomach boiling its way up to his throat. How could they.   "Don't be knowin that wurd, but mebbe."   Seltemver couldn't wait to be gone from this horrendous world. He looked again at Silence, and indeed the other elves he had with him in the enclosure and held their steady gaze. "We will get you out of this nightmare, I promise." He hated making promises, he was no hero, but even he couldn't abide this. A real hero would stay and fight them all. Probably die doing it too, he thought to himself.   As the wagon started to slow, no doubt finally pulling into Largeth, Seltemver stood and pulled off the cloak, determined to make the orcs pay all the way to the docks. He had originally thought to sneak in, but who was he kidding; his plans never went that well anyway. "Does anyone want to back out? Now would be the time," he said, looking from free man to free elf, "It will get pretty dangerous from here until we sail out of the channel." He looked at the ragged faces amazed at what his fellow elves had to endure here on this world.   Silence stood and placed her fist inside of her other hand, then bowed. A sign of some sort, maybe fealty...or service. Then two others stood and repeated it. Soon they were all standing, all except the dwarf. That's when Seltemver remembered the dwarven control method.   "What about you Morn, will they kill your family?   "Heh, they all reda have, I was going to Largeth to be hung, so this is freedom fer me."   Grunhilde slapped the dwarf on the shoulder a little too hard, and laughed. "Well I for one will gladly swing my axe in your cause dwarf. I have never seen your kind in battle, but I've read about the grit and honor of your race."   Seltemver felt good about the imminent battle. "It's settled then. We will grab Bernice's friends that want to come with us, and then fight to the docks. Grunhilde and I will take point, then toss you back weapons as we find them," he looked to Amonar on his shoulder, "Just stay with me and you'll be fine. If you go off I may lose you in the chaos."   "Oh great, me right in the thick of it...I'll get maimed I just know it," Amonar said rolling his little eyes. That made some of the freed slaves laugh and break what tension was left. They all went out quietly once past the gates and headed to the docks, not even bothering to be quiet.  
* * *
  Bransh heard the clang of weapons and slapped his companion awake. "Hey something's coming."   "What'd you wake me for?"   "It sounds like fighting," Bransh said, pulling his halberd and stepping away from the gate. Guard duty here was just a formality, as no orc in his right mind would try and steal another orcs Slave Runner The penalty for that was loss of slaves and a public flogging. He hadn't gone more than ten feet before an elf came around the corner, fighting another guard and cutting his head clean off! "Margth, to arms!" he called to his companion as he rushed forward. This elf was different, dressed in a longcoat and good clothes.   "What the hell is on his shoulder?" Margth called, pulling his own halberd and moving up, "Is it a rat?"   "Seltemver, that orc called me a rat!" the thing said in a high pitched voice, screaming in fury.   Bransh faced a gorgeous orc woman with an axe and cute braids, her chest cut in various places with her armor half falling off. Her breast and entire right side lay exposed and he looked down as she laughed and swung her axe. Too late he tried to parry and took a cut across his right arm. His numb hand dropped his halberd and he fell back as Margth faced the elf.   Margth swung for the elf with a slow arc, bringing the weapon around quickly for a trip, but the elf hopped over it and slashed out with a slim sword. The blade took his arm clean off then the elf spun running him through. The elf with the strange pet kicked the body off his sword and smiled in his direction.  
* * *
  Seltemver walked towards the wounded orc and pointed his blade at his throat. They had done well, getting Bernice's friends and gathering up more slaves to take with them. The main gates were where the most of the guards were because of the lockdown, and the wagon got them past that. Those guards were undoubtedly on their way down here now with all the fighting, but they had a good head start. "So you get to be the lucky winner today friend orc," he said calmly, "You get to tell us which ship we can take that will make it out into that channel the fastest."   "That one. The Cutter."   "Well, he folded quick," Amonar said, a mix of sarcasm and fear pervading his voice.   Seltemver laughed and ran the orc through, pushing him aside and strolling through the gate. They had fought another ten or so orcs to get here after getting the other orcs and slaves, and had almost forty with them now. "Good, that saved us some valuable time, let's get the ship ready and start looking for the Seahaven."   With the orcs they had with them, and the slaves willing to help, they sailed out of Largeth just as orc guards stampeded the docks in force, throwing spears and firing crossbows; yet the Cutter was out of range.   "They'll be followin ya with those other ships ya know." Morn said, blood still dripping from his wounds. He was still holding a small spear they had given him and refused to let his guard down until they were far gone.   Seltemver grabbed the wheel and spun the ship towards the north, laughing into the spray from the canal. "Just look for another ship, then we can board and get out of this hellish place."   Amonar flew up to the mast and perched on the cross beams. "There Seltemver, hard to starboard!"   "You don't even know what that means," Grunhilde called up, making sure the other orcs were tying off the right ropes and sails. "Just point."   "That way," the imp said, pointing to the northeast.   "Huh, it was starboard. Lucky guess." Seltemver said, wondering if the little imp was finally learning. Then he saw his ship, running strong down the side of the channel, fighting the current and trying to lose the big ship behind it. "Amonar, I may need a favor."   "Oh this can't be good. You've never asked me that before." The imp flew down and landed upon the wheel as he corrected his course. "How bad is it?"   "We won't be able to dock with the Seahaven running like that..." he left the sentence open, knowing his friend would get it without him having to say it. He hated asking, but they wouldn't make it unless he did.   "Oh gods below, you want me to wreck that big ship don't you?" Amonar shrunk down, shaking and trembling.   "Please Amonar, it's the only way."   "Fine, but not for you...I'll do it for them," he said, pointing at the slaves that were staring at the oncoming ships with a mixture of awe and dread . "I'll still owe you..."   "No, that's not how this curse works. Just never ask this of me again." The imp flew off towards the bow and closed his eyes, spreading his arms out wide. He opened his eyes a minute later; that deep red glow staring at the ship behind theirs. "Ackresh wanar risal en krakon eo vessah tal!". Amonar said, his voice resounding across the open water for everyone to hear. There was a dreadful quiet, almost like nature was holding its breath. Within a three count there was a hollow boom under the water and thunder without sound. The big ship splintered, leaning slightly as its frame split asunder; water spouting up mixed with flame high into the sky. Orcs leaped from its sides as it floundered and sank quickly, almost like it was being dragged down.   "Gods above, I've never seen a thin like tha before," Morn said, finally resting his spear aside and falling to his knees.   They sailed towards the Seahaven and within the hour they were aboard, the Cutter left drifting. They sailed out of the channel, pursuit holding back at the horror of the demonic power that echoed throughout the channel, and the crew was never gladder to have their cautious captain back.   "I knew you'd take the channel," Seltemver said to Toth as they cleared the islands and headed back north to their fate.   "Oh you did? Why is that?" Toth asked, amused at the guess.   "Because I never would have, and you knew that when we saw it," Seltemver said, knowing that Toth would make an excellent captain someday. If only I can end this damned curse, he thought.   "You got me on that one. So where do you think we'll end up next?" the first mate asked, staring at the growing storm coming right at them. It never failed, once they sailed into an open sea, that storm came for them, sending them somewhere else.   "Honestly? I don't care as long as it doesn't have slavers," Seltemver said, looking out at his new enlarged crew. He threw back his head and laughed at the dark clouds coming for them. One more time into the dark, he thought, quoting his favorite book. Then they were in it and the ship was gone.  

Be Good or Else


  Orath walked down the hallway to her daughter's room, her heavy steps reflecting her anger at the child. She banged the door open and stepped inside, making her child dive under the covers. "I told you to go to bed!"   "I tried, but I can't fall asleep mommy."   "Granta, you don't want Seltemver the Wicked to come and take you...do you?" Orath said to the eight year old orc. She hated to use this on her, but it worked for the boys when they disobeyed. Sadly her daughter was a bit smarter.   "Mommy, he didn't really exist, that was centuries ago." The child said, peeking out from her blankets.   Orath sighed. Her daughter had grown more defiant as the years rolled on. This one was going to be trouble in her teens, she thought, feeling her tusks as she stared sternly at the young orc. "It was over seven centuries ago to be exact, and it still frightens me," she admitted to the young one.   "It does? Why?"   Sitting down on the bed she patted her daughter's knee under the blanket and had her sit up to listen. "Because Granta, no one knows where he came from, or where he disappeared to."   "But isn't that good? That he's gone?" The child struggled to find a solid footing for her argument, but at eight it wasn't going well. Then a spark showed in her eye. "Wouldn't he be dead by now?"   Orath smiled, anticipating this; after all, she had used this same argument when she was a child. "Well dear after all he was an elf, and they can live for a very long time." She saw the horror set in finally, realizing that she had seen elves that were said to be almost five hundred years old as personal slaves of their rich friends.   "But...but he wouldn't come back. He wouldn't. Would he mommy?"   "Well, legend says, that on nights like this, when the fog is thick on the Ebb sea, that his ship comes in from a storm looking for young orc slaves to sail his ship." Orath got up and tucked her daughter in tight, walking over and locking the window out of habit. "After all, he may live forever but his orc slaves surely die. Every so often he has to replenish them wouldn't you think?"   "I'll sleep mommy, I'm sorry!" Granta rolled over, fake snoring and shaking a little.   Orath closed the door after blowing out the lamp and left her daughter to think on that. That would keep her from sneaking out of bed to play in the toy room for a couple months at least. The orc mother shivered herself as she walked down to the kitchen. That story always got to her, especially as an adult. When she grew up she learned that it really was a true story and not made up just to scare children into listening. That was even worse.   "Everything all right dear?" her husband asked as she passed the living room.   "Yes dear, just a naughty child and a scary story," Orath said, smiling to herself. I wonder what ever did happen to that elf, she thought, as she made sure the back door was locked as well.
The End


Cover image: by Backiee.com

Comments

Author's Notes

This short story is based off of the Summercamp 2019 article Seltemver the Wicked It is the real happening of the encounter between the elf and the orcs of The Shards and hopefully brings to life both the land he arrives on, and how he feels about slavery. It's not my first story about this pirate type elf with an imp for a parrot, and it surely won't be my last. If you want to see my first story about Seltemver, Across the Wide Seas, see kyanite's website here:


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9 Aug, 2019 21:23

Hello!   I really enjoyed reading through this, the dialogue flowed really well between characters, each of the main ones were distinctive in their tone and mood. It was also interesting to see orcs portrayed on both sides of the conflict, I liked that they weren't all good or bad, and Grunhilde in particular was a good balance for that.   If I could suggest improvements, I'd say it would be interesting to see how slavery is actually used day to day, what jobs are the slaves doing and why are they so important to the orcs who have suppressed them. Just a few insights into that would really serve to push the main characters point of view, and writing how they react to this and then have them do something about it might be cool.   Overall, very well done, and I'm glad to see you'll be continuing to write stories about these characters in the future, I'll be keeping my eye out!

Salen
Michael D. Nadeau
10 Aug, 2019 16:37

Thanks! It was really hard not to get into the entire slave world, cause if I started I would go way over the limit on word count. For this one I wanted them to get in and out with just a hint at how bad it could be cause they were severely out numbered in this world. Glad you enjoyed it!

10 Aug, 2019 03:02

Really amazing story here. It really pulled me in as I couldn't wait to find out how they would get out of the situation. Each of the characters was amazing and made me want to see more of them in action. I'm not to good at critiquing as its something I still need to work at. So I really can't spot what could be improved. For now, just keep up the good work.

Salen
Michael D. Nadeau
10 Aug, 2019 16:35

Thanks! You rock!

17 Aug, 2019 21:45

Lovely read, can't wait to learn the backstory behind this little demon and this giant curse. Word count restriction is a shame, I'd read this novel in a heartbeat!

Salen
Michael D. Nadeau
18 Aug, 2019 13:35

I'm actually going to do a book of short stories of these two. The first one I did is up on Kyanite publishing's website under Featured Article (https://kyanitepublishing.com/kyanitepress/kyanite-press-online/) The word count restriction is actually what gave me the idea for the collection of short stories (similar to Simon R. Green's "Hawk & Fisher" stories) Thanks for liking this! you rock

22 Sep, 2019 20:09

A truly wonderful read. I cannot help but wonder what you could have done with it had you the opportunity to use another five or ten thousand words. Using the slavers was a great touch. Four and a half out of five stars!

Salen
Michael D. Nadeau
22 Sep, 2019 23:56

Thanks!