Katan-Jeet took a look at the elf’s bandaged ear. The flesh around the wound was red and the scab oozed a yellow puss. Jeet shook her head. “Cut be bad. Needs cleanin’ ‘n herbs.”
“Can it be saved?” She asked the massive Ogre.
Jeet shrugged her shoulder, “Yeah, I thinks so.”
Grum wandered over to where Lilly was sitting on the rock. “Hey elf gurl. Where you gets dis?” He had the black fighting knife out of its sheath.
She looked down, looking an Ork in the eyes wasn’t the best way to stay healthy. “A friend gave it to me.”
“She say ‘ere she gots it?”
“From someone who fought in the War of Orkish Aggression.”
Grum laughed, he knew the elves misinformed their citizens, but he hadn’t ever talked to one before. Even though he had been just a young whelp back when the Blighters united to fight the invaders, he knew the truth. “T’was de war o’ Alliance Invasion.”
“Your people started it…”
“If dat were true, why ‘den were most dem battles fought in de Blight eh?”
Lilly didn’t have an answer, she hadn’t finished school. “Why do you care about a knife anyway?”
Grum put the knife back in its sheath. “Ours guard capitan gots one.”
Jeet interrupted Grum by punching him in the arm. “Grum! Shuts yer mouth! Why is you tellin’ the prisoner all dat ‘eh?”
Grum rubbed his sore arm, “Why care you eh? We is gunna eats the Gurl right?”
Katan and Jeet looked at Lilly and the Ork, “Grum gets yer rump outta ‘ere!”
Lilly had heard stories of Orkish cannibalism. She had always told herself they were just stories meant to scare children into forced obedience. “Be good or we’ll feed you to the Ogres!” was one of the sadistic lies parents told their offspring.
Katan-Jeet noticed a tear welling up in the girls eye. The massive Ogress knelt down and Katan whispered in the elf’s ear. “Hey, ya may be un filthy elf, but ya also be a woman. We no let dem touch ya. An’ Rah-Ka no like us eatin’ people.”
Lilly sniffed, “Thank you.” If anyone could protect her from this band of grubby Orks she figured it was an Ogress. “Who’s Rah-Ka?”
“Rah-Ka, cursed be ‘is name, be de father o’ de Blighters.” The ogress put her palms together and bowed her head. “We prays to ‘im.”
“Oh he’s your god?”
“One of ‘em. De most great.” Jeet said, being the Magus she was more in touch with the spiritual side of things. “What’s yer god? Aint it de Big Mother?”
Lilly nodded, “Elorin, The Eternal Mother, looks down from the stars.”
Jeet looked around, finding nobody in earshot other than her body sister Katan, “Well Lilly, yous keeps prayin’ to yer mother.”
Lilly nodded, she hadn’t really thought much about Elorin, but now would probably be a good time for some divine intervention. Lilly hadn’t been a regular worshiper on holy days, Jezbell her mother had usually been too busy “working” to take much time to teach her daughter about the Goddess. Lilly had learned mostly on her own to pray when she was being hurt by her mother’s rougher visitors.
The Ogress crushed up some foul smelling herbs in a mortar and pestle, added a few drops of water making a sticky green paste that she smeared all over Lilly’s ear. It hurt, her large stubby fingers weren’t delicate but after a few minutes her ear went numb.
A few minutes later the little band moved out. Lilly was lost but the Orks didn’t know that, she figured she could lead them halfway across the wasteland before they would become suspicious. Thankfully they had retied her hands in the front so she would be able to catch herself if she fell.
After dumping out all her belongings and stirring through here few meager possessions they made her carry her own water, and personal gear, minus the weapons. The large Ogre Gral-Nog carried her bow and knife. Maybe she would be able to sneak away one night when they got careless and steal her gear back.
The crimson sun beat down relentlessly like it always did in the Blight, Lilly’s olive skin gave her some protection from the sun, she was glad they let her wear her wide brimmed reed hat. Putting it on had been painful but she would rather have it than burn later.
For a couple of hours they scrambled over the rocky terrain. A couple of times Lilly fell and bashed her knees on sharp rocks.
“Quit yer fallin’ gurl!” Gral-Nog said as he set Lilly down on her feet.
She held up her hands, “Cut my hands free and I’d balance better.”
Nog shrugged, “Sure why nots?” and he reached for their workers knife.
Gral shook his head, why was his body brother so dumb sometimes? “Nog? Ya dung ‘ead! Ya cuts ‘er loose ‘n she can slit yer throat!” He reached over and smacked his brother’s head, which was the one part on their body where he wouldn’t share the pain.
“Owww, whadda do dat fer?”
The two heads argued for a while, until they agreed to untie the girl’s hands because they didn’t want to carry her.
They crested a scrub covered hill, the fierce breath of Rah-Ka whipped their faces. Grum looked down in the empty valley, a huge salt flat stretched all the way to the horizon where a few faint mountains bumped up out of the cracked land. He turned to Lilly, “What in dem hells be dis?”
“Umm… maybe we took a wrong turn at the stunted tree back there.”
The dark green Ork grit his teeth, “Yous don know where we is goin’ do ya?”
She hesitated long enough for the Ork to know anything she would say was going to be a lie. “I… just… you know how it is out here in the waste, it’s confusing.”
He back handed the elf knocking her to the dirt.
Katan-Jeet roared, she moved her girth faster than seemed possible for one so large. “Grum you thinks yous so tough beatin’ on a lil gurl? Eh? Wanna pick on me?”
Two angry ogress heads inches from ones face was intimidating but Grum summoned his courage and stood his ground. “She be leadin’ us de wrong way!”
“Mistress Katan-Jeet, it’s alright, I don’t know where to go.”
The ogress looked shocked, she reached down grabbed Lilly by the pack straps and hauled her to her feet. “Yous been lyin? Why?”
The elf bandit stared at the dirt on her boots, “I… I thought if I didn’t you all would slit my throat and eat me.”
Jeet lifted the girl off the ground and whispered in her ear. “I gives you my protections and dis be how yous repay? Bloody lyin?”
Her stubby fingers clenched pulling Lilly’s pack straps uncomfortably tight. “You lies mo an’ I let’s dem eat ya. Ke tah?”
“Ke tah.” She replied.
Gral-Nog looked out across the desolate salt flat, crossing that would mean death despite their experience living and working in the Blight. The magus head turned to the others. “So ‘ere we goes from here?”
Wonky plopped down on top of the hill. “I is tired, when camp?”
The ogre ignored the lesser creature. “Maybe we’s follow dis here ridge down de canyon?” Nog pointed away from the desolate valley.
It was slow going, if it wasn’t flat in the Blight, it was jagged, steep or broken. The red sun dipped low in the sky lighting the salt flats on fire. Lilly paused to take it in. There was so much nothing stretching as far as the eye could see. It was harsh but strangely beautiful.
“Keeps movin!” Gral said as he almost ran over the much smaller bandit.
“We ain’t no lord, juss simple farmer.”
“Wait you’re not professional soldiers?” The Elf girl looked up from under the brim of her wide conical hat.
Gral shrugged, “De Ork-Kin no keep standin’ army.”
“Wait are you saying the Alliance’s elite professional army was defeated by a bunch of farmers and blacksmiths?”
The propaganda she had been exposed to her whole life had painted the Ork races as vicious killing machines with no feelings, and no culture. They were said to be a malevolent force that threatened all peace loving races.
“Why did… we attack your people then?” Lilly asked.
Nog bit his lip, “Now dat be sometin we no know. Some says it be bout dem artifacts. Yous people wants dem.” He said as he held up the strange knife. “Dis no made by Ork, o’ Elf, o’ men. De writin’ be wrong.”
Lilly brushed a lock of black hair out of her eyes and continued down the rocky slope. It was slow going but by nightfall they had reached the bottom. They made camp against the rocks near a dry stream bed. Lilly wondered how long ago water flowed here. This place was so dry it seemed like the air was trying to leech the moisture out of her body right through the skin.
The massive ogress approached Lilly. “We can’na let ya runs away in de night.”
“Where would I go? I’d die out there.”
The ogress shrugged, “Juss ’old still.” Jeet the magus said as she closed her eye. Lilly watched as she entered a trance like state, her fingers moved grabbing invisible things and manipulating them.
“What’s she doing?” Lilly asked the other head.
Katan grunted, “Me body sister be weavin’ dem lines.”
“Weaving? Like a Magus?”
The warrior head nodded, “She good wit dat.”
She remembered what Raquel had said about her ability to weave. Was it possible that Lilly the daughter of a Dream addict could become a Magus? Only the nobility were ever taught in the ways of the lines. She peered closer at her sausage like fingers all eight digits pulled and twisted, pushed and turned, manipulating unseen lines.
Katan noticed the girl watching, “I know not how she do dat, but she closes da eye. Maybe elf gurl need ta close dem peepers.”
It took Lilly a moment to understand what the ogress had said; once the thought registered she closed her eyes and saw nothing. For a while all she saw were the insides of her eyelids. The elf bandit was about to give up when she saw the faintest spark of amber light. As she concentrated it grew into a short strand that drifted slowly across the blackness. It moved and joined a much larger host of different threads. They were being pulled and twisted, looped and tied.
Then she saw a green thread that seemed to come out of her own heart. Startled she opened her eyes.
“Did ya see dem?” Katan asked.
Lilly put a hand over her heart but felt nothing, “Yes… but, I don’t understand.”
“Ye kin ask me body sister, when she done.”
As if on queue Jeet opened her large eye and blinked a few times. “You was watchin’ me?”
“Did you see dem lines?”
Lilly bit her lip, “Not at first, but why was one coming out of my chest?”
Jeet cracked her mouth into a toothy grin, “Ah well I aint gonna reveal all me secrets dat easy gurl. Lemme say dat you be ensnared.”
The ogress knelt down, “You be tied ta us. Try runnin.”
Lilly backed away from the ogress, unsure what she was trying to do but when she waved for her to move Lilly did. She made it a dozen paces away until she found her leg rooted to the ground. She tried to take a step but her feet wouldn’t obey.
“What did you do?”
Jeet laughed, the deep rumble made Lilly uneasy. “Like I says you threads be tied ta us. Come back now.”
“But I can’t even lift my feet how could…”
“Bah! Move yer bum gurl.”
Her feet moved on their own despite Lilly’s desire to stay rooted to that spot. “How?”
“Is all in dem lines, an’ how dey be weaved. Is all I be tellin’ ya.”
All through the night Lilly found she couldn’t sleep despite being exhausted. Every time she closed her eyes she would see the thread coming out of her heart and disappearing in a blurry mass of lines over by the ogress.
When she tried to pull on the line she found it was stuck fast. She couldn’t make out the weave on the other end, it didn’t make sense. Lilly was outside her element, she had no idea what could be done with weaves but it intrigued her. Raquel said something about knowing enough not to kill herself, and that scared the elf girl a bit but she had to know all she could about this new mysterious world of the Magus.
As she was examining the blurry weave the ogress made she “saw” a new bright blue thread. She turned and followed it as far as she could walk tethered to the sleeping ogress. She stepped around the two little Gobs curled underneath a ratty blanket, until her legs wouldn’t let her go any further. She closed her eyes again and found the line, it joined with other bright threads and disappeared.
She opened her eyes and in the light of the twin moons knew the lines were disappearing into the hillside only a few paces away from where she stood. Then she noticed the slight gap between two rocks, it had to be a hidden tomb or cave.
She sat down at the edge of her tether closed her eyes and focused on the blue threads again. They floated like sticks on a calm lake shifting slowly with the motion of the water. Whatever they were these lines were much brighter than the ones the ogress had used.
She sat probing the lines when someone inside the cave spoke, startling her.
“Hello who’s there?” She asked the darkness.
The unknown voice said something new this time, “Guten Abend junge Frau Ich scheine in einer Höhle stecken. Könnten Sie mir helfen?”