Velynne slowly re-read her orders. She was to report to an orc, named Gruth Bloodhand, who guarded one of the many tiers of protection for Fairbreeze Village. The Dead Scar, so close by, was a constant menace to the locals. The constant stream of scourge wore at their defences. The Sindorei– “blood elves”– were losing ground to the tainted ground.
Even the capital was divided, with the training academy on one side, and the rulers on the other.
Velynne was a student from the academy, and these were her first steps away from it. She looked up from her orders and sighed. Gruth Bloodhand was some distance away.
She hefted her bag and began to walk. The rumors she heard, about the orcs betraying her people, ran through her mind. Was this another orcish trick, or had the orcs sent someone to try to make amends for the wrongdoings of their now-forcibly-retired leader.
The young paladin took a deep breath, then began to walk. When she finally arrived at the fore of the defences, she blinked. The orc was the only one there, building up a wall of thick wooden stakes with his own hands on the easiest ramp up the sides of the Dead Scar.
His muscular back rippled, and strong muscles powerfully shoved the sharpened stakes into the ground.
He looked up, a scowl over his red eyes.
“Tell them to stop sending help.”
“No.” The word left her lips suddenly. “Tell me how I may help.”
His coarse voice was a rumble as he snorted and looked around. “Get more wood.”
As she gathered wood, she pondered. Why was she helping him? Her delicate brows furrowed as she grabbed a stick, and grunted at the weight as she stuffed it into the makeshift harness on her back. It would have to do.
The woman carried her load back and began to help him. The pair worked wordlessly until the wall extended from one side to the other, with only a small gap, big enough for an orc to stand in. “Now, go back.” He shoved some silver into her hand, and she glanced down at it.
“Tell me how I may further help.” Her question was blunt. “Even I can see that this wall will not hold the scourge back long.”
The orc turned his gaze to her. “It is not a permanent defence. Nothing is, here.” He looked toward the Scar. “Take your pretty self back to safety.”
“Not until I am satisfied with the defences. You will not last even a day with the walls in this condition!” She shoved her finger against the orc’s upturned button of a nose and pushed. He stumbled back satisfyingly.
“That is how long it needs to last.”
“Not good enough!” She jabbed his nose again, and he stumbled against the wall of stakes. “Fine. Get me clay– lots of it. Get straw, get metal, get me an anvil and forge.” He snarled, tucks displayed prominently.
With a swish of her hips, she turned and walked away, while the scowling orc watched her go.
Days of work, punctuated by the occasional undead attack, passed as the pair worked under the cool shade of the tall trees of Eversong. They shared dinners of roast lynx steak and spice bread, and drank Silvermoon’s cheapest wine– the best Velynne could afford.
At night, she slept with her back pressed against his, and morning found him wrapped about her, his body warm and strong as she pretended to sleep until he rose.
Finally, the defenses could be increased no longer. There were no more supplies, and all that was left was to wait for the next wave of attacks.
Gruth looked at Velynne as they ate. “You need to leave after today.” His voice lacked firmness. “There are orders for you to return to Fairbreeze Village.
The young woman frowned. “Orders?”
He nodded. “They arrived late last night, while you slept.”
The paladin frowned. “I see.” She glanced at him. “I shall write to you, then.
A slight brown tint colored his face, and he looked away. “I’m honored, but the letters won’t reach me.”
“Why is that?”
“I am going to die defending your lands.”
A heavy weight settled in her stomach. “I would rather you didn’t do the dying part of that.”
Gruth chuckled. “I would, too, but the odds aren’t in my favor, and I won’t abandon my post– not after we spent so long making it the strongest line of defence on this side of the dead scar!” His chuckle became a loud roar of laughter as his rough lips spread into a grin.
Weak laughter sprung from her lips, and although the day was eventful– filled with attacks by the scourge until nightfall, she remembered only flickers of it.
Night came, and they blocked the bottleneck with a thick ‘door’ of lashed-together logs. Velynne laid down first, close to the fire, and Gruth laid against her back, warm arm draped over her. The night escalated as they began to warm each other more, and by the time morning came, the two hurried to dress as the sounds of creaking bones began to emanate from the other side of the wall.
“Go to Fairbreeze.” Gruth grunted, same as any other request to her, and as she strapped her shield into place, she looked back at him. Already, tears stung at her eyes.
The paladin nodded. “Strength and honor.” It was an orcish saying, but she hoped that if he lacked one, he had the other in aces, and she would find him alive at another time.
The tears pushed out, and a weight filled her belly. She knew that orcish chant. Victory or death. She hurriedly walked away, shoulders stiff as she resisted the urge to wipe her eyes as she made her way through, cape pulled over her face as she began to pass through the other defensive lines, all manned by so many.
In her mind, she heard his fall. She saw the mass of scourge overwhelm him with sheer numbers.
It took all of her strength not to turn and run back to him, to protect him with her life.
She entered Fairbreeze village and turned immediately to the inn, where she spent her last silver coins– given by Gruth– to buy the strongest, foulest drink they had– and of course, it was orcish.