Part 18: The Smell of Success
I had no choice but to wait for the arrival of my orc bride, since escape was impossible. A hundred orcs waited outside the Big Chief's tent, eager for the opportunity to get me down, and sniff me. Only the fear of Krugugk kept them outside the tent.
I don't care to describe what it was like inside the Big Chief's tent other than to say that I remained fairly drenched in his slobber most of the time, and even when he let go of me, he still watched me in a drunken way with half closed eyes.
To get my mind off the nastiness of the situation, I focused on learning everything I could about the upcoming wedding. Though orcs didn't have a written language, they did make artwork, rough pictographs that told important stories. The Big Chief had a large bleached and tanned hide of orc skin, apparently, that was put in prominent location inside the round tent, and the hide had red paintings of several crude figures that I took to be some kind of orc family tree.
One time when Krugugk was getting sleepy, I pointed and asked about the paintings. It turns out I was right, each figure was a member of his family. Most of what he said about his relatives was obscene or irrelevant- intoxicated orcs don't tend to make for good conversation, you know, but I did learn something very useful.
Krugugk was a married man. He had married the daughter of the previous big chief, the one that he had recently killed, and skinned, but the important news was that he had married the chief's daughter just as I was about to marry his daughter. So in talking about himself, he also let me know about the requirements for a marriage to the Big Chief's daughter. The first is that the orc warrior must prove himself to the bride and the second requirement is that the groom must present a gift of great value to the Big Chief.
I wasn't exactly sure how I was supposed to prove myself but the gift requirement really got me thinking. I had something that I badly wanted to give away. If I could just find the stone jar, in time. I knew that the orc women would soon arrive at camp.
Part 19: Return of the Orc Women
The noise coming from the forest was getting louder. The camp had been in an uproar since the predawn hours, every orc warrior knew the women were getting close. Sticks cracked underfoot, tree limbs twisted and snapped as the creatures approached I watched as previously fierce orc warriors slinked about camp like beaten dogs- if orcs had tails they would have been tucked securely between their legs. Krugugk waited outside of his tent. He was the only orc who didn't look terrified, he merely looked nervous.
A scout emerged from the forest, running and looking backwards over his shoulder from time to time. He ran right up to Krugugk and commenced groveling, begging for help, and hiding behind one of the Big Chief's legs like it was a thick furry tree trunk. Krugugk kicked the scout off his leg. The Big Chief focused all his attention on the trail, his tusks clicked together with the anticipation he must've felt.
Then, I heard voices, high pitched, and sharp as knives. Louder and angrier, the howls filled the air. Words spoken too fast to comprehend mixed with indignant snorts and pig-like squeals, and then, as I stood beside the Big Chief, the first of the orc women reached the clearing!
I wish I had the illustrating talents of my father, because I don't think words can possibly describe the scene that unfolded. These orc women charged into camp in a fury. They were every bit as large as the males but a good deal meaner, and most definitely louder! They were clad in brightly stained fur dresses, colorful necklaces, and shiny medallions dangled from their thick muscular necks, their snub noses were pierced with silvery rings and animal bones, long braids of coarse hair dyed the most peculiar bright colors flapped vigorously behind them as they stormed into camp.
I watched as one orc woman spotted a warrior who had lost his nerve and was attempting to sneak away. She moved with frightening speed to intercept the poor orc, grabbing hold of him, beating and lecturing, and pulling his hair. The warrior begged and groveled, then he let out a horrible squeal as she wrapped her big red-painted lips around his right ear, and bit down hard, all the while continuing to pummel the poor guy with her two free fists!
This sort of thing was going on all over camp, as a brutal orc woman would grab a male orc, beat him severely, and then drag him off, either into a hide-tent or into the forest. This must be how orcs mated, I realized! Though it was hard to concentrate on my research with the camp absolutely filled with horrible shrieks of pain and lecturing in every direction. Then I noticed one of the orc women walking toward the Big Chief and me!
Krugugk was a charmer, that was clear to see. His wife blushed crimson as he put the silver chain of a necklace over the yellowish fur that covered her powerful neck. The locket was made from the tip of a pig's snout with a sizable ruby socketed in each nostril. It was obviously expensive though I couldn't say it was stylish.
But the gift was, evidently, perfect for an orc woman. She batted her horse-like eyelashes, eyelids smeared in purple paints fluttered seductively at Krugugk, and then she jumped up into the Big Chief's strong arms and began smacking big sloppy kisses along his scarred jaw. What followed, was too disgusting to put into words.
During all this wild activity, I thought it was my chance to find the stone jar, and possibly escape, but then, just as I turned to retreat away from the Big Chief and his mate, I heard the most terrifying words behind me.
"Me Fluzfluz! Me take you now!"
My bride to be had wide intoxicated eyes. She too, was under the influence of the love potion. I tried to flee, but she grabbed me up like a child and took off toward the woods. The howls and screams of the poor orc men all around camp got even louder. While I bounced about, tucked in an iron grip, under Fluzfluz's furry orange right arm, I remember a single moment of clarity. I realized, right then, that I had the mystery figured out.
The orc warriors weren't hiding their women away in some distant location. They were hiding from their women! That was why orcs had no permanent settlements, why they were always on the move, invading new lands, constantly going to war. It all made sense!
Part 19: Pre-Wedding Celebration
When morning came, I was able to pull myself from the arms of sleeping Fluzfluz and go to find the Big Chief. My goal was to talk him into letting me retrieve the things that had been taken from my camp.
I couldn't help but notice all the bruised up orc men around camp, some missing clumps of hair, or scratched up something awful. I felt their pain. I, myself, was limping badly and suffering from other problems that are best not discussed, but the Big Chief was in high spirits and he gave me everything I wanted. My mule was grazing in a pen on the far side of the camp, apparently not eaten because it had absorbed some of the smell from the love potion. I was relieved that she was in good shape. My mule and I had been through a lot together.
The Big Chief took me to my belongings, that had been stored in an orc treasure chest, beside the Big Chief's tent. The chest was a huge sturdy box, made from oak timbers as big around as me, with a massive lid that was held shut by a slab of rock, so heavy that Krugugk himself was the only orc who could lift it.
While the Big Chief grunted and used his enormous brawn to remove the boulder, it occurred to me, that a treasure chest like this wouldn't be safe around men. Several men would've worked together to lift off the rock and rob the treasure chest, but orcs by their nature are not cooperative. Even if one orc got the idea of using teamwork, it would only be so he could cheat the rest of the team out of their fair share of the treasure. Of course, all the other orcs know that, and so, the treasure stays in place since an orc would rather nobody get the treasure, if he couldn't have it all to himself.
Later on, after dark, I was able to present the cursed stone jar to the Big Chief during a pre-wedding ceremony. The proceedings took place on a square platform built of logs, that was at the center of a wide circle of eight bonfires, and for some reason, everybody had to be naked during this part of the presentation, including me.
With all the orcs there, watching, I had to climb up a split-log ramp with the female orcs to either side groping at my exposed body while I pushed away their fingers, and clutched the stone jar in my other arm. I climbed onto the platform stood in front of the Big Chief and his wife, where the ruling couple were seated on waist-high heaps of furs.
Krugugk and his wife got me down and sniffed me again, in the midst of about a couple hundred naked drunken orcs, all of them no doubt, wanting a turn to sniff me too.
I was sadly used to this humiliating treatment, and so I endured the indignity until Krugugk and his wife were finished. Finally, I was able to wiggle free and put the orc's attention on something else. I grabbed up the stone jar and held it high above my head. Telling the orcs, as well I could in Orcish, how this was an item of big, and strong magic.
I told Krugugk all I knew about the jar, including a description of the little monsters inside. I had also used a string to tie a parchment around the Decanter, with clear visual instructions on how to open it, in case the Big Chief forgot what I had told him while he was intoxicated on my fumes and orc wine.
Let me remind the reader that to be rid of the jar's curse, someone else had to willingly accept it, while knowing it was cursed. Since the Big Chief understood the language of men, I was able to describe the strange contents of the jar and the compulsion a person feels to keep the stone jar with them at all times.
Even with the love potion's intoxicating influence fading, Krugugk didn't seem a bit worried about a curse, gladly accepting the gift, and even rewarding me with a big cup full of some kind of strong dark wine, and then he threw me onto the floor and held me down, while another witch-doctor type orc gave me a special tattoo that was said to be a great honor amongst the tribe. I won't share the details of the tattoo except to say that it is unusual in design and located somewhere on my body that I don't intend to show in public.
That night, there was a great celebration, with much dancing, fighting and drinking that special dark wine. Readers will expect me to say how disgusting the wine was, but the fact is, that the orc-made wine was quite good, bold and spicy with aromas of leather and black fruit, darkly delicious and complex, with a hint of oak and raspberry. But anyway, it was the night before the scheduled wedding, and so, I watched, and waited for my chance. In the predawn hours, while the exhausted orcs slept, I made my move. I crawled out of the camp on my belly and ran for my life.
Part 20: Back to Camp
An orc war-band tracked me down and captured me late the next day. They bound my hands and put a rope around my neck and marched me back to the main camp. The potion's effect was all but gone. The war party treated me like any other captive, prodding me along at the tip of a spear. I fully expected to be killed or worse when they got me back to the camp.
Krugugk, I thought, must've realized I had tricked him into taking the cursed jar. I optimistically hoped the Big Chief would just smash me with his club, quickly putting me out of my misery. I was soon to find out. Several orc warriors got up from whatever they were doing, to watch me march through the camp, toward the Big Chief's tent.
The guards stopped outside, cut the ropes that bound me, and prodded me forward. I decided to meet death with as much dignity as possible. I ducked my head under the pigskin flap, trying to avoid touching the snout and ears, and then I boldly stepped inside. I expecting the Chief to crush me right then but he didn't. Instead, I heard the sloppy sounds of eating. I opened my eyes to see Krugugk seated on a pile of furs, just finishing his meal. He didn't look angry at all.
"You back!" Krugugk shouted. "Good!"
"Uh... Yes, Big Chief Krugugk." I said. "I certainly didn't mean to leave your beautiful daughter before the ceremony..."
Krugugk waved a huge paw dismissively. "Bah, you too weak to marry mighty Fluzfluz, you no survive second night!"
I was way too sore to argue that point, but I did get the slightest hope that Krugugk might let me live, if I was careful with my words.
"Though I am terribly disappointed." I replied. "I see the great wisdom in your words Big Chief. I would also like to say that I regret getting your warriors drunken on the fumes of that potion."
Krugugk's thick rubbery lips pulled back into a terrible smile. "You good smell!" he growled, chuckling. "Better smell yesterday, better smell two days ago!" The Big Chief's eyelids closed as he took a long breath, as though reliving the memory in his head. "Aaahhh, good sniff."
"Uh... Yes, well, I'm afraid that the smell is going away. You see," I explained. "I don't usually smell like that. But I would like to say that I'm terribly sorry about the stone jar. I am, of course, prepared to take it back."
There was a flash of anger in Krugugk's beady yellow eye. "You give magic bucket! You no take back magic bucket!"
"You like it?" I was quick to adjust. "Of course, the magic bucket is yours to keep, Big Chief. I am just surprised that you like it so much."
"Mmm... Krugugk like." I just noticed that had the stone jar craddled between his furry tree-trunk thighs. The Big Chief held the lid of the stone jar with his left hand as he spoke.
"Krugugk much like magic bucket! But Krugugk want more! Tell Krugugk how get more!"
It took me a while to understand him but after he explained the situation I knew just what to do. Krugugk was fascinated by the jar but one jar apparently wasn't enough for the Big Chief. Krugugk wanted to know who gave me the jar, and I was all too eager to draw a detailed map, with instructions of how to get to the Wizard Pittsnoggle's tower.
Krugugk was so pleased with the map that he didn't even smash me. In fact, his mood was so good that I had permission to collect my mule and belongings, and leave his camp in peace.
I took one last look at Big Chief Krugugk as I left his tent. Krugugk reclined back on that thick pile of furs holding the map I gave him in his left paw, and with his other hand he concentrated on picking a chunk of raw meat out of his teeth using a long, pointy shard of broken monkey bone.