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Maddox

A Druid and an Orc

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Green potato leaves dripped from a recent shower and the earth was dark brown, almost black. Stray strands of grass poked up from the earth, they would soon be pulled out and discarded for mulch or compost. There was noise ahead. Angry voices, accusations. It reminded Maddox of past baseless accusations and of torches and pitchorks. He paused to look towards the sound and chew on his lower lip from indecision.

It really wasn't his place to intervene. Maddox did not know this area, didn't even know the name of the nearest town or village. He was simply passing through. Let death and life, and hate and compassion wheel from one to another without intervention.

Or not. Maddox grimaced at himself and strode off towards the sound. He didn't pick his crossbow from his back, or unhook his mace from his belt. A group of farmers ought to recognise that Maddox was someone of ability and means. Though the full extent of his ability would not be visible.

Maddox launched himself over a fence and finally saw a knot of farmers, their woolen tunics were not thin and ragged. The farmers themselves appeared well fed. Maddox lengthened his stride to see who had earned their ire.

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They didn't listen to him.

At first he thought it could be that he was speaking a different dialect of the common tongue or perhaps his accent was too heavy for them to understand? But no, they understand. They just didn't want to listen to him. 

His hands were raised up defensively as he blocked as many rotten vegetables and rocks thrown at him as he possibly could. He could have killed them. In the past, he would have heard their screams and pleads for mercy. He would have slain them all. Ate their flesh in a blood rite and used their skins as pelts for the leather parts of his armour. Now? He only wished for peace. For understanding. He still retained his height, the deep scar down what could have been an attractive face and the greyish skin. 

"No! Please.... I want to trade!" He explained loudly. "I, I have brought you.. some, arrgh! some... grain for the approaching winter! I want to help!" 

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The voice that protested did not speak with the same accent as the rabble of farmers that surrounded it. The rotten vegetables were bright and gleaming under the fresh sun. The rocks were dull, their undersides damp as if they had been picked up from the ground after the rain that had dribbled on his makeshift stick and leaf tent last night.

But wasn't this interesting? The spirit that lived within drove them and defined them. It was nature's will that they be precisely as that spirit dictated. In Maddox's experience, that spirit was partly bound to the creature that moulded it and so all species were defined by some trait or other. And yet, here was an aberration. An orc that ought to be destroyed for rejecting it's nature to slaughter, or protected for it's transmutation? Like a caterpillar that transmuted into a moth.

Maddox grabbed the backs of two farmers and wrenched them aside by the backs of their tunics.

"Stop now," Blades of grass reached towards him and roots - some of them potatoes - pulled themselves out of the ground. Tiny roots, but the potatoes were precious, some of them still green, bitter and poisonous.

"He will come with me."

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The voice caused him to stare openly. It was so calm. The crowd all seemed surprised by the antics of the stranger, it was not common to see an orc -- and it was even less common to see someone defend an orc. D-did the potatoes come out of the ground? Magic, it was not uncommon for the orcs, although he had a wariness towards magic users due to causing pain the past. His eyes narrowed with mistrust, defensiveness, hostility. 

No... this is not you.... be kind.... 

"I.. I will go with you," He said. Orcs had their own hierarchy among themselves. Defeat and captives were never treated well. Their warrior culture was a way that protected them, brought pride and honour to them. Yet.. it was twisted... corrupted. Whispers of spoils of war. He stepped forward before being shoved roughly. His hands rested on Maddox's shoulders and chest. If he could have blushed, he would have, and his eyes were cast downwards and bit his own bottom lip so hard that it had begun to bleed. 

He could have ripped their fucking heads off. Easily. 

No, this is not you anymore. Walk away. Go with the stranger..... 

To be helpless as an orc was shameful. Disgrace. Dishonour. 

He still could not bear to look at him. 

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A green potato flung itself through the air, trailing clods of wet earth behind it like a rapidly unraveling banner. It hit the farmer who had pushed the orc on the chest. Maddox peered around the orc, his hands had automatically snapped out to catch the orc. He had one brow raised, expression ripe with one question for the farmer. Was that really necessary? With a bit of effort, Maddox invited the other vegetables back into the earth to slumber, grow and fatten with the earth's goodness. They slunk back into the earth to do what they were told, returning to their natural state.

Now he had this aberration literally in his hands.

Maddox looked up at the orc, and recognised a softer emotion in the orc's mauled features. The eyes that did not look back at him with pride won by so many battles and death wrought upon the living. He wondered if the averted gaze hid conflict between nature and whatever it was that had altered the orc in this way. Making him into something so wildly unfamiliar to Maddox.

"Come now friend. You are foolish to approach these farmers and expect peace." The corners of Maddox's mouth tightened in the suggestion of humour. He pointed at the orc's cut lip.

"Dab that. You lot," Maddox lowered his hands and dodged around the orc so that he now faced the farmers. "Go back to your farms. Your potatoes will grow still."

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Friend? 

He did not realise that he had been bleeding. His hand reached up and touched his bottom lip, looked at the dark coloured blood and rubbed it between his fingertips. The sight of blood was strange now. How much had he spilled in the past? Deep down he felt like a fool. He had been driven from his clan, loss his station, and now even petty little farmers required him to be defended by a stranger. 

It is the right thing to do.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...." They grumbled, frowned but the magic had caused them enough concern to slowly back away. Muttering curses and threats under their breath of what would happen if they returned. All empty threats. Finally, the last of the farmers turned around to leave to go back to their huts with a distinctive. "Ya know, I could have taken them." Said by one of them during the retreat. 

The orc felt ashamed. 

Do not feel shame. Thank him. 

"Thank you, I.. appreciate what you have done for me," He said honestly. Fanged teeth bared in an attempt at a smile and when he realised what he did. He stopped, closed his lips and half covered his mouth with his hand. Ask him his name. Introduce yourself. "What is your name? I am Ghâsh-ash of the Bloodlord clan." He answered, although.. he had been stripped of his clan but old habits died hard. 

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Maddox chuckled after the farmer's remark and glanced up at his new friend. The aberration to the natural order. The anomaly that aroused his curiosity. The chaotic element that now stood with his hand bashfully over his mouth and made pleasant small talk in a field owned by farmers that wanted to kill him.

Maddox reached up and curled his hand around Ghâsh-ash's hand, dragging it down and manipulating it so that they shook hands. Once and then twice. Maddox released Ghâsh-ash's hand. It felt thick and calloused, unfamiliar. It occurred to him that he had never touched an orc before, except in violence.

"I am Maddox of the Circle of Spores. Come we should leave before they force us to be violent." Maddox stepped away and started walking towards the woods. A place of darkness, rebirth and secrets. "Tell me your story."

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He had seen handshakes before. It was a strange gesture. The orc was careful not to dig his claws into Maddox's hand. Once he removed his hand, he paused and stared down at it. Flexing his fingers. That was good.... a sign of friendship. Companionship..... Do not be scared. 

He nodded and hesitated when he saw the woods. There were strange beings who did not like his kind who resided here but the forest had also been a place of refuge. Safety. Peace, even when he had none. Still.... 

"Over a year ago, my life was normal... I was the leader of my clan and would lead raids, took slaves and sacrificed captives to the dark gods," He said, shame in his voice and lowered his head. Both feeling shame for his actions and for the shame itself. These things were normal for his kind. "I was with Clawash, my mate, she," He smiled with love, affection and respect. "She is ferocious. We were talking about what camps to raid during the summer. The Dread Master was sending out his emissaries to bring all the clans under his command." He said, at this he growled and continued. "Clawash said, "Keep your faluke worduk avo yourukelf, flagit beaumn.  Kulknej ayh noav kneeleruk.  Tell your maukavas kulknej nauk-jecav naj-ri uavaverpak!"

Again, he smiled at the memory with love and pride, and then the reminder of what was lost. Then remembered there was a chance he would not be understood. 

"Essentially, stop lying me down believe you. Our clan does not obey and we want nothing to do with him. And, some other, less than polite things....." He smiled, or tried to but instead the smile made it look like more of a sneer. 

"We rested and then I had a strange dream. That dream changed everything for me."






* Keep your false words to yourself, foul being. We are not kneelers. Tell your Master we reject him utterly. I will decorate my house with your spine, castrate you and slaughter your family. 

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"What was the dream?" Maddox had listened to the tale with his head tilted. He navigated the uneven ground with ease, the littered earth being floors far more familiar to him than the civilised grounds of paved roads and packed earth. Above them against the sombre sky were birds. They cried and wheeled, conducting their own business of food and territory.

"That it would change you from something typical to something atypical?"

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He thought he had nothing left to lose. 

"I heard a voice that I did not know yet," He placed his hand on his own heart, "I knew here. She told me that our kind were broken, tortured, torn from our grace, mutilated so much that even our children will forever be marked by our suffering. My ancestors were taken and refused to give any pardon or sway. They were cursed with potions, images," He said, growled in frustration and a raging feeling of helplessness.

The voice was silent in his mind. 

"We changed. Morphed... forever spoiled and doomed to do to others what happened to us." 

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