A man leaned against a tall pine; sweat ran down his face and dripped on the ground ferns. He gasped, trying to fill his lungs. The man even spared a few seconds to pull at the ropes that were knotted around his wrists. His reprieve was short-lived. The men chasing him were closing in once again. They would catch him, he was certain of that fact. He had been living on prison food for the past few weeks, and simply did not have the strength to run much longer. However, he was determined not to make it easy on his pursuers.
He headed deeper into the forest. The prisoner’s heart dropped as he heard the howl of an abyss hound. The giant dogs were bred as pets by the orcs of Locwood. He knew that he had been travelling in that general direction; had he already gone that far? The hound had found his scent. There was no longer any sense in running, so the man sat down and put his hands on his head.
The abyss hound stormed through the small green foliage and started barking at the prisoner. It circled the man until a group of three orcs appeared. They wore studded leather armor with the goat insignia of Locwood clearly showing on their arms. Each orc was armed with a shortbow. They also had shortswords strapped to their hips and shields upon their backs.
“Wat we got here?” asked the orc, who was obviously the leader of this tiny band. The abyss hound gave another howl. One of the orcs leashed the giant dog, and the beast calmed. The prisoner did not say a word. He was paralyzed with fear.
Just then a group of four humans burst into view. Three wore chain armor, while one wore plate with a plumed helmet. They all carried longswords and shields that were emblazoned with the pine tree symbol. “That man is our prisoner,” called the plate armored human.
“No,” stated Grug, the orc leader. “My prisoner!” He grabbed the man by the hair and yanked him up. The prisoner winced, but kept still and quiet. The other two orcs laughed. However, they readied their swords and shields.
The human leader took off her helmet and spread her arms; showing no aggression. Her name was Amy, and she knew that this situation could be very dangerous. “This man escaped from our prison yesterday. If you look on his left wrist, you will see the “V” branded there.” The other three humans kept their swords drawn.
Grug harshly grabbed the man’s right arm and turned his hand over. “I ain’t see nuthin.”
“Try the other arm,” Amy tried not to demean the orc.
“Still nuthin,” Grug stated without even looking again. The three humans took a few steps toward the orcs, but Amy held up her hand to stop them.
“This prisoner is to be brought back to Pinevale for trial. He is a criminal, and we ask that you allow us to return him so the he may receive what he deserves.” Amy was being very careful; a wrong move could send Locwood and Pinevale back to war.
Grug, like Amy, did not want to be responsible for starting a war. However, he could not allow the human female to dictate his actions. He would not allow himself to appear weak. “He ‘deserves’ his freedom. He escaped your jail.” The orcs could sense a fight coming, and the hound sensed the rising tempers as well.
“Are you not going to give us the prisoner?” Amy asked. She was willing to give the man over to the orcs if it would save a fight.
“Split him with ya?” Grug suggested, as he pulled a large knife from his belt. The prisoner went limp in the orc’s strong arms.
“No!” Amy shouted, which sent the abyss hound into a fit of barking. The orc was having a hard time holding the dog back. “No,” she said more calmly. “Keep him. He is your responsibility now.” She nodded to Grug in concession.
The orc leader was glad that the female had backed down first. He returned her nod, slightly.
Amy had to listen to the grumblings of her fellow guards all the way back to Pinevale. She knew that she had made the right choice; perhaps not for that day, but for the days which would have followed. Amy would be able to sleep soundly that night.
The orcs laughed at the retreating humans. They called the female weak, but Grug knew better. Sometimes walking away from a fight took more strength than drawing your sword. No, Amy was not weak; not at all. Grug understood, even if the others could not.
“Thank you,” the prisoner stated as he grabbed Grug by the leg. “Thank you, so much for saving me.”
“Oh, you.” the orc leader mumbled. His mind hardly registered the movement as he drove his knife into the prisoner’s skull. Too many other thoughts had erupted in Grug’s head to even care about the man. It ended up being a long walk back to Locwood.