It was the deep, chilly pre-dawn dark of early
spring, and the great white moon was
setting in the western sky. Orcmar was silent, and had been for nearly a
day and a half: the Shadow Council had imposed curfew on the rioting
city, and in rational self-interest, the rioting city had obeyed.
Curls of smoke still drifted up from the slum canyons. Down in them,
hungry families and wild-eyed gangs huddled the night away in doors,
afraid to fall asleep in case the rioting started up again, or bored,
restless, waiting for word to go out that the curfew had lifted.
In a wide, oblong, sandstone room, built into a cliff in one of the
canyons, lay seven orcs, in various stages of sleep. A bulb dangled from
the ceiling, casting a dim light over the room.
The back wall of the small room was made of rough sandstone, and a
word, “HORSE,” in Common, was scrawled across it in red paint. Under the
word sat a single, awake, olive-green young orc named Reltir. His eyes
drooped. In his lap was a folded, burlap blanket.
From behind the mud-brick wall came a sudden shuffling, followed by a
muffled shout. Reltir snapped alert, his eyes flickering with
excitement. He rolled over, poking the thicker and darker-skinned orc
that lay asleep to his right, next to a bucket of crusty mortar and a
mortar blade. The other grunted, shaking his head blearily and bearing
his teeth at Reltir. Reltir nodded his head towards the mud-brick wall,
and the other orc’s snarl turned to a toothy grin.
Reltir rolled back and sat up, listening at the wall. There was more
shuffling, then the sound of something rubbing over the wall, then
scraping at it. The orc smiled. Then, for a moment, behind the wall was
Without warning, something enormously heavy impacted the wall,
sending loose mortar dust cascading down and away. Reltir grabbed the
burlap blanket and scrambled to his feet, backing away, a look of alarm
on his face. The other orcs looked over, alarmed as well.
There was the sound of hooves scraping against stone, and then the
wall shook again. Long cracks appeared, running between the bricks. The
orcs flinched, and began getting warily to their feet. The biggest,
broadest orc, the leader, looked impassive – he smiled lightly, and in
the silence that followed the second impact, he began chanting the red
word painted on the cracking wall: “Horse, Horse, Horse,” he chanted,
quietly at first, and the wall shook again. The others began joining
him, and the chorus of husky orc voices crescendoed – “Horse! Horse!
Horse!” – and then with a yell the rough mud-brick wall with the word
scrawled across it in red burst asunder in a shower of mud-bricks and
mortar dust, and coming to a halt in the midst of the rubble, with
nostrils flared and fire in his eyes and completely naked, stood Horse
the Bull. The orcs cheered wildly.
“What the hell is this about?” he yelled, snorting, at no one in
Reltir stepped forward to Horse and bowed. “That was ridiculous,” he
said admiringly. He handed the burlap blanket to the bull, who accepted
it dumbly and wrapped it around his waist. The blanket had a green hand
painted on it, with a red slash across its palm.
Relkir continued, more formally: “Horse,” he said, “you have woken up
in the cold womb of your new life, and with strength and cunning –”
“Mostly strength!” piped up one of the others, and the orcs laughed.
“…and with strength,” continued Reltir, “you have birthed yourself
into the light, into your new life as a soldier of Thrall’s Revenge. My
name is Reltir, and I am Thrall’s soldier. This,” and he turned to the
orc whom he had awoken before, “is Kalga.” Horse looked about, the fury
on his face fading to bemusement. He smiled uncertainly.
Kalga stepped forward, holding the bucket of mortar and bowed. “I am
Kalga, and I am Thrall’s soldier. You are Horse: a babe in swaddling
clothes. Thrall’s babe, and Thrall’s swaddling clothes. Your task now,”
and the orc paused. “Well, your task is to rebuild the wall you just
destroyed. That’s a lot bigger of a task than it usually is.” The other
“I don’t get it,” said the bull.
Kalga grinned and pointed, past the rubble and through the gaping
hole in the wall. Against the far wall of the small chamber behind it
lay a candle, a match, and a small knife. “The idea of the stone womb is
to seal you in despair until you find the tools. You're supposed
to cut your way out, a brick at a time,” said the orc. “Took me all day,
when I did it.” He handed the bucket over. “Didn’t take me
as long to rebuild, it, though.” He smirked.
The young bull accepted the mortar. He looked down at the pile
of rubble, then back at the wall he had demolished. He turned around.
“Can I get some breakfast?” he said, a little petulantly. “I’m
“Breakfast is for the weak,” growled the tallest, broadest orc, the
The bull sighed, then knelt and began pulling rough mud-bricks out of
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