Of all the beasts that stalk the wilderness, none are more feared than the orcs. They're bandits, and vicious soldiers in the cause of dragons, and evil warlords. The tales of orc attacks are so commonplace that there's no need to repeat the specifics here, instead I invite the reader to consider a question. In your travels, in all of the stories of orc attacks you've ever heard, in all the paintings of orcs in battle, in all the plays at the city theaters, I ask you this.
Have you ever, even once, seen or heard any mention of orc women?
This was the question that got stuck in my head for days, until I became overcome with curiosity, and dedicated my time to solving this mystery. There must be orc women, of course, orcs are flesh and blood, and the male must have the female to reproduce after all, but where could they be? Do the women stay hidden away at camp, or do they lead completely separate lives, and get together only to mate? Do female orcs even look like male orcs? I surely didn't know, but I was keen to find out.
The obvious first step would be to go up to an orc and ask him, but, as many a commoner has sadly discovered, if you talk to an orc he will expect coins or food in return. If you give it to him, he will expect more and follow you home, and the next thing you know, you've got an entire orc camp set up on your front lawn, keeping you up all night with war drums and demanding beer and pastries every Friday night. No thanks, I told myself. I'll find another way.
Obviously, more subtle methods were needed. I didn't know it at the time, but this would be a much longer quest than I had originally expected, full of danger, smelly liquids, and sore aching feet. But enough of that, on to the first attempt.
Part 1, Pursuing Krugugk
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to know if the orcs kept their women inside the main camp. Finding such a camp was the hard part since orcs were a nomadic people and had no permanent villages. My first idea was to locate an orc and then follow him home, up into the mountains, where orcs were said to live. If I was lucky, I thought, there would be female orcs at the camp, and I, Larius, could be the first to document it!
There is a fertile valley, down the road from my village, just west of the foothills, that has a number of farm-holds. In the old days, the community suffered regular orc attacks, the stone towers and palisade are from that time, but thankfully, there's no longer a need for such fortifications, since years ago, the orc tribe and the farmers had come to an agreement that benefited both man and orc.
The way it worked was that the farmers provided regular payments of food to the tribe, and in return, the orcs agreed to not eat people who were well-liked in the community, and even then, only to eat the unpopular on special occasions such as Orc holidays.
This farming valley was the obvious place to start, since many of the locals had passing knowledge of where to find an orc, and I thought someone might be able to point me in the direction.
I set off from my hovel one morning, reached the valley in the afternoon, and lucky for me, or so I thought, there was news that an orc had just visited the farmers to threaten a bloody war. The visit went normally, with the farmers agreeing to share a portion of the harvest, and the orc agreeing to put off the bloody rampage until the next summer, but the news that I was interested in, was that the orc was headed toward the mountains, and if I was quick, I might catch up to him.
This particular orc, that I followed, was a huge, one-eyed, grizzly-haired beast who locals called Krugugk Truzugz, which in Orcish means something like, 'He who chews on the furniture.' Krugugk had a level of sophistication uncommon amongst his kind. He spoke common, and even bathed occasionally. His chief must have recognized these refined qualities since he made Krugugk into the tribe's head spokesman and extortionist.
That day, I followed Krugugk stealthily as I could, intent on finding the main encampment, without being seen, or gods help me, digested. I kept my distance, but always stayed close enough that I could see or hear the orc as he lumbered up the narrow trail.
Nothing eventful happened until we came to one of the last farms, before the trail ventured into the forest. It was a meager farm, just a small log house, a barn full of fresh-cut hay, several brown milk cows grazing in the far pasture, a noisy chicken coop, and a group of pigs, soaking in their mud wallow, just on the other side of the fence, on what had become a sweltering summer afternoon.
Krugugk stopped in the middle of the trail, and I hid in the bushes, without delay, just in case he had caught my scent. I peeped out between the leaves, after a moment of holding my breath, and I saw that the orc was stripping off layers of stained cloth, throwing off furs, and greasy red leather armor, and pitching all that stuff down in a pile beside the fence. Then Krugugk stepped over the top rail of the farmer's fence and into the hog pen on the other side.
The pigs reluctantly crawled out of their wallow. Krugugk didn't want company anyway, with yellow tusks jutting out of his mouth in a horrible wide-lipped smile, he sank into the brown water up to his chest.
Of all the days, I swore, why did Krugugk have to take his yearly bath now? I waited for an eternity, as he scrubbed and grunted and thrashed about in that mud hole. The mud-bath seemed to break up his own encrusted filth so that green fumes bubbled to the surface and made the pig pen stink infinitely worse. With their heads hung low, the pigs could only watch. I've never seen such depressed looking pigs, their wallow had been forever spoiled.
Just then, the farmer came walking up the path behind me. I reached out of the bushes and grabbed his arm. He was startled. I tried to keep him quiet, but he must have taken me for a bandit.
He broke free from my grip and ran toward his farm. I had no choice but to chase after the man, trying to stop him before he could disturb the orc, because if there are two things I know about orcs, it's that: 1) You don't feed them, and 2) You never disturb an orc taking a bath.
But it was too late. Krugugk sprang up to his feet with a furious growl, shaking filthy water off his bristly fur like a wet dog. His single yellow beady eye narrowed and focused on the farmer and myself running up the path. Shocked at the sight of the naked enraged orc, the farmer tried to immediately reverse direction, and I slammed into his back. Both of us tumbled to the ground.
We had just untangling our limbs and were scrambling to get up, when something streaked through the air with a high-pitched noise, and violently impacted a tree, shaking a sturdy tree limb just above our heads. I looked up in horror at Krugugk, standing astride the wallow raised up to his full height, thick muscled arms extended overhead, huge callused hands gripping something, pink?
"Run!" I screamed to the farmer. "He's Throwing Pigs!"
What happened next was a bit of a blur. I've always found it hard to put into words. Just pray to the gods that you are never in a wild scramble for your life, being chased by a wet naked orc!
While lesser men might have fainted, a seasoned adventurer like myself, has keen instincts that take over in a time of danger, and I'm fairly quick on my feet, which helps.
It was late the next day, an hour before sunset, when I made it home. It had been a long humiliating walk back to my village, with curious people all along the road coming out to watch me pass by, as if they didn't have anything better to do than bother me with questions.
'Larius, why's your tunic ripped off?'
'Larius, what happened to your leg?'
'Larius, why do you have a pig shaped welt on your back?'
At that moment, I really hated those people, but in the interests of civil village life, I mumbled something about falling off a horse, and limped on down the road. Sometimes a researcher's life is not as glamorous as the public thinks. Sometimes it's downright painful and depressing.
It is true that I failed that day, but I still remained determined. A capable explorer doesn't let a little setback stop him. Soon, I promised myself, I would strike out again with a new plan, a better plan, with fewer dangers, and definitely no flying pigs.