"Where is he?" the Gelding asked.
Mosella panted as she looked around the barren fields, the sky gradually darkening as night dawned upon them both. Moving a few strands of her hair, Mosella looked down at the three orcs accompanying her, all smothered in white tribal tattoos and markings around their bare bodies and sporting broadswords on their backs. One of them was tapping her foot on the ground while another one spat and folded his arms.
"Did they see him? Maybe we should go back—"
"Time's up," said one of the orcs, as he reached over and snatched the tarp off Mosella's wagon.
Like gears working through an automated system, one orc climbed onto the wagon and tore open the wooden flap. Another one clapped his hands twice and whistled for all the slaves to wake up. And the third one shouted something in a foreign language and waited impatiently in the dying, muddy fields. The three orcs accompanying the Gelding did the same movements simultaneously, opening up the wagon and pulling the slaves out posthaste. As the slaves all got onto the ground, the Gelding and Mosella kept murmuring at each other and looking around, trying to figure out what happened to the third centaur.
"Where the hell is Honson?" the Gelding asked.
An orc with light blue skin shook his head. "They missed the window; they're on their own. We gotta get these slaves outta here and head back before something goes awry. S'what our contractor told us."
"Dragons are here," said another orc.
Before Mosella or the Gelding could say another word, they heard wings flapping and saw two colossal winged reptiles descending from the sky. Both of them were dragons whose bodies were several meters long, almost big enough to knock down an entire two-story building. The centaurs backed away as the dragons landed, intimidated by their burly appearances and the smoke they were blowing from their nostrils. As far as they could tell, one dragon was a fire dragon with reddish-yellow scales, while the second one was a dark green dragon, most likely an earth or energy dragon.
"Where's the third centaur?" the reddish-yellow dragon asked.
"Missed their window. Take these slaves for now," said the light blue orc with tattoos.
"What about the third dragon?" the dark green reptile asked.
"Welp, it's just you two. The plan hasn't changed; head to Glordale, drop 'em all off."
"It's gonna take multiple trips," the green dragon snarled, blowing smoke from her nostrils.
"So get started and stop complaining."
The Gelding and Mosella looked around as the slaves scampered from the wagons. The centaurs were genuinely impressed with how fast the mercenaries worked. Most of them were able to guide the slaves onto both dragons with little force or without having to tell them twice. They didn't need to explain where they were going or how long their trip would be; all of them were just happy to be out of the breeding facilities. When the slaves were out of the wagons, the Gelding trotted over to Mosella and fidgeting with his fingers.
"We're going to be fine, Joccar," Mosella reassured him.
"You don't know that. This-this was a mistake. I shouldn't have let that damn orc persuade me to do this."
"Please calm down."
"How am I supposed to calm down?! Honson isn't here! He could be dead for all we know; he could be blabbing to the king about our entire plan!"
Mosella nodded. "Yes, it's possible."
"Then how come you aren't worried?! How come—"
"Joccar…I need you to shut up and look for a moment."
The Gelding stopped rambling and panicking and stared at the two dragons grumbling as they waited for half of the slaves to clamber onto their backs. Both dragons were able to carry a little over twenty slaves without having to worry about any of them falling off. In only a few moments, both dragons were loaded with slaves. As the six orcs remained on the ground beside the centaurs, the reptiles spread their giant wings and started to flap and ascend. All the slaves clung to the dragons' bodies as they gained altitude, but remained low to the ground so the freezing winds in the clouds wouldn't blow the slaves off. As they started to fly south and away from the nation of Kosslivo, the Gelding felt a peculiar sense of serenity washing over him. He stood beside Mosella and stopped going on and on about what could happen and simply witnessed what had happened, and what he and Mosella had accomplished.
"My fee," the light blue orc said, opening up his right hand.
Shurrmvin looked at the orc's grubby hand and snorted. "How do we know you won't betray us and rat us out to the king, Bernolz?"
"You don't. But if I don't receive payment, then your crew will be exposed. If I don't return to my tribe alive, your crew will be exposed. Pay me and make this transaction simple."
Bernolz blinked and waved his hand, expecting for Shurrmvin to give him his money. Grumbling, Shurrmvin walked over to one of the floorboards in his apartment and carefully removed it, revealing a secret compartment where he hid his belongings. The chubby orc pulled out a brown sack filled with coins and tossed it to Bernolz. He shook the bag a few times and listened to the coins clinking inside before nodding and blinking.
"Pleasure doing business with you."
"Do not be surprised if we call upon your services again," Harvon stated.
"You best hope you beckon me before the king does. I get the feeling he'd pay me more than a handful of coins to fight for him."
None of the orcs said anything as Bernolz turned around and headed for the door. Once he exited Shurrmvin and Harvon's apartment, the two leaders of the crew exhaled before looking at the other four orcs sitting on the floor waiting in silence.
"Explain," Harvon demanded.
"Explain what, Harv? We freed, what, sixty breeders? Maybe more? And from what Bernolz told us, it all went off without a hitch. Everything's fine," Jervow replied.
"The western breeding facility. What went off there?"
Hykler rubbed his bald scalp and grunted. "I already explained. I didn't have an opening; I couldn't get them out. There were forty soldiers in there having an orgy and they had three times as many soldiers patrolling the entrance compared to the eastern facilities!"
"So you say."
"The fuck does that mean?!"
Gendyl snickered and grinned. "Whatcha think it means, Hyk? Outta the six of us, you were the only one thoroughly opposed to the idea. You were the only one who struggled to kill all those soldiers in that platoon. You are the one who keeps crying like a bitch everytime we think about doing something 'immoral.' Admit you choked and be done with it!"
Hykler, fed up with the blue orc's accusations, removed a dirk from his back pocket and held it up to Gendyl's throat. "How's about I cut your goddamn throat and pull your tongue out through it?!"
Gendyl raised an eyebrow. "Is that even physically possible?"
"SHUT UP!" Harvon bellowed.
Hykler and Gendyl looked at Harvon and Shurrmvin. Aerotan bit her tongue as she squeezed her eyes while Jervow nervously kept tapping his fingers on the floor, hoping the situation wouldn't escalate.
"Hykler, put your weapon down! Gendyl, I know that Krun isn't with us, but don't sit there and take his place as the instigator in this group!"
Hykler slowly moved away from Gendyl and sheathed his dirk, while Gendyl snorted and frowned, ready to excoriate Hykler some more.
"I ain't instigating shit! I did my job! I helped free those breeders! I killed orcs who kept sticking their dirty cocks into all those innocent human beings! I did my part! So did Jervow! So did Aerotan! What the fuck did Hykler do?!"
Gendyl scoffed and folded his arms. "What did you two do? Maybe Hykler choked, but at least he was out on the front lines with us."
"We were in the snakes' den trying to figure out a way to kill all the serpents from the inside-out," Shurrmvin stated firmly.
"And did you find out anything noteworthy?"
"No," Shurrmvin admitted.
"If you have a problem—"
"Shut. The fuck. Up," Aerotan snarled.
Everyone stopped arguing with each other and stared at Aerotan as she stood up and started pacing back and forth.
"We freed breeders. We killed rapists and murderers. Innocent humans are alive because of us. End of story."
The other five orcs kept fidgeting and waiting for Aerotan to continue. She leaned against the wall as she took out one of her throwing knives and tossed it up into the air.
"Erm." Jervow blinked. "Were you gonna add anything to that?"
"Tch! What for? All this ceaseless prattle is doing nothing but getting on my nerves. And the longer we're here, the easier it is for someone to overhear us or come spying on us."
Aerotan looked down at Hykler and tossed the knife behind his back, striking the floor just a few inches from his body. The yellow orc yelped as he turned around and looked at the short-haired orc.
"The hell was that for?!"
"What did you do since you couldn't free the slaves?"
"I went to go pray with Lorrsh. What does that have to do with anything?"
"'Good'? Oh sure, it's good that Hykler was able to appease the great and powerful Lusagger. But heaven forbid he risk his life freeing slaves," Gendyl said in a smarmy tone.
"He has an alibi, Gendyl. More importantly, he's got a witness to back him up." Aerotan pointed at Harvon and Shurrmvin before continuing. "You two were in the castle; you couldn't have orchestrated the attacks."
"What does any of this matter?" Gendyl asked.
Shurrmvin closed his eyes and swore softly. "The king's going to question all of us," he grumbled.
"How do you know?"
"Trust me; I know. He's gonna come after me and everyone I'm close with."
"Which means you and I need to come up with some bullshit alibi to explain where we were, Gendyl. So do you, Jervow."
Jervow looked at Aerotan and Gendyl and cleared his throat. "I was…hmm. Um…I could tell 'em that—"
"You know what, it's better if we don't know," Aerotan interjected. "If we all have the exact same story for what all of us were doing, that'll make it look worse. Just think up something reasonable to throw off the king's suspicion and we'll be fine."
"Good enough for me," Jervow responded.
"Sure. We all know the king loves how unctuous I am," Gendyl said, grinning toothily.
"And are none of us going to bring up the lack of a strong stench in the room?" Hykler asked.
"Ah yes, good for you, Shurrm! You finally emptied out your chamber pot!" Gendyl exclaimed.
"Hyk means Krun," Shurrmvin said, rolling his eyes.
"He'll hold his tongue. Either the king will execute him or Psymarr will torture him to death," Harvon added.
"How do you know?" Hykler asked.
"Because he'd rather die knowing that the king would be joining him in Hell soon than expose the people who are trying to get Torgash killed."
"Anyone have anything else to add?" Shurrmvin stated.
None of the other orcs replied.
"Good. Off with ya then. Same as last time; just act natural 'til our next plan comes to fruition."
Hykler, Jervow, and Gendyl all nodded and got up from the floor, while Aerotan retrieved her knife and exited the apartment along with the other male orcs. As they departed from the room, Harvon growled and glared at Shurrmvin.
"Still think Hykler won't be a problem?"
"Forty orcs, Harv. Forty. And he said there were more guards outside."
"The facilities Jervow and Aerotan and Gendyl hit had guards outside."
"They had a guard. And most of the orcs inside were too drunk to fight back. You ever try fighting forty orcs fueled with adrenaline from an orgy by yourself?"
"We can't keep second-guessing Hykler, Harv. We can't keep doubting our own people—especially when we've already potentially lost one."
"Fine. I'll talk to Hykler."
"As in you'll socialize with Hykler, or you'll 'talk' with Hykler?"
"Depends on his response. I need to be sure—"
"We, Harv. You're not killing Hykler because you think he's gonna turn on us."
"I need to speak with him alone, Shurrm. I don't need you coming to his defense, and I don't need him thinking I won't kill him just because you're there."
"I'm not promising anything. But I give you my word, whatever decision I make will be for our benefit. Understand?"
Shurrmvin exhaled and shook his head. "Guess I can't ask for anything else from ya." He shrugged. "You do what you have to do."
He loved goblins. He loved how short they were, how everyone looked down upon them. He was enamored of their irresistible stench, their defiant, mischievous nature. And he adored how all of them were willing to betray each other for a single scrap of food. So when Psymarr discovered Krun had been captured and that he would hold his interrogation, he couldn't have been more exultant. The lanky rodent stood inside of his blood-strewn dungeon, staring at the goblin who was standing with bruises all over his body, his chainmail having been stripped from his body. Krun stared at Psymarr through his reddened eyes, his body still sore from his engagement with Bereesa. The goblin smirked at Psymarr and chuckled.
"Go on, rat. I ain't gonna scream," Krun dared.
Psymarr hissed as he approached Krun, limping his way towards the goblin as his thick tail dragged against the floor. He reached down and grabbed Krun by his ears with both paws, snatching him off the bloody floor and sitting him down on one of his operation tables. Krun looked down at the table, grimacing when he saw part of an orc's jaw with decayed teeth still inside the gums. Psymarr removed his grubby paws from Krun's ears and drooled, his yellow eyes glowing in the darkness.
"Lemme ask you something: you only doing this to stroke yourself? Let's be honest here: we all know you get stiff when you plant your blades into soft, succulent flesh. The thought of lacerating such frail, tender skin—"
"Be quiet, goblin," Psymarr snarled.
Krun giggled, scratching his chin with a single finger since his hands were bound together in front of his chest, restraining his movement. Psymarr raised two fingers and caressed the huge gash diagonally going down Krun's face.
"Who did this?"
Krun scoffed. "The king's bitch, who else?"
Psymarr let out a wet and raspy growl as more drool descended from his jaw. He limped towards one of the tables fitted with multiple knives and started to probe a few of them.
"I am in sssssshhhhhhhuch a good mood that…that I'll let you decide, goblin. Which one sssssssshhhhhhhhhould I use with you, hmm?"
"That saw there looks nice and rusty."
Psymarr grinned as he picked up the saw and limped his way towards Krun. "Saw it is."
Krun remained firm, sitting still and smirking as the repugnant rat stood in front of him. He held up his hands and promptly lifted both of his middle fingers, waggling them at the rodent.
"You can start with these if you'd like."
Psymarr grabbed Krun's trousers and started to undo them, causing the goblin to stammer.
"The fuck you doing?!"
"Hmm? Oh. You were implying that I ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhould start with your phallus, were you not?"
"Mm. Well then."
Psymarr kept pulling down Krun's trousers, causing the goblin to scoot backwards a bit. "Hey, hey, hey now—all right, let's hold up a second."
"You can torture me, but there's-there's no need to start with my crotch! C'mon now—I could have children someday!"
"You said you wouldn't scream. I'd like to see if your statement is true."
"…Will it hurt?"
"Not at all."
Krun shut his eyes and inhaled sharply. He waited for Psymarr to start cutting. As the goblin braced himself, he shuddered and heard the saw tearing through something thick and tough. But like Psymarr stated, he felt no pain at all. After only a mere twenty seconds, Psymarr tossed the saw on the table and giggled.
"…Shit. Really? Holy fuck—that didn't hurt…the hell?"
Krun's trousers were still on. However, the ropes that bound his feet and hands together had been severed. He curled his toes and moved his hands around before looking up at Psymarr's nasty face.
"Um. I miss something?"
"I know what you've done, Krun. I know you and Gendyl started the riot."
Krun showed little reaction. He shrugged. "Well, obviously I started the riot. But I don't know—"
"Don't," Psymarr hissed. "I know you were working with Gendyl Gynjyt. That is his name, yes?"
Flaring his nostrils, Krun folded his arms and said, "So what if it is?"
Psymarr growled deeply in Krun's face, causing the goblin to blench when he was blasted with the effluvium coming from his mouth.
"Thought ssssssssshhhhho. He's the traitor the king is looking for, isn't he? And he's got allies, don't he?"
"Maybe. Maybe not."
The rat licked his slobbery lips as he placed a paw on Krun's head and patted it. "Sssssssshhhhhhuch adorable creatures you are…just like us murids."
"I am nothing like you, rat."
"You goblins stink like we do. You're treated like trasssssssshhhhhhhhhh, as we are. None of you are major government offisssssshhhhhhals…and neither are we. And if your species went extinct, nobody would cry once you were gone. Same as us."
"So we have a few similarities. So what?"
"'The Masters gave the rat no bother; they jussssssshhhhhht sat down and ate. And then the Masters killed each other; the rat had a full plate.'"
Krun stared at Psymarr curiously as he started hissing and drooling to himself, curling the fingers on his left paw and looking at them as though they were delicate, nefarious instruments.
"I love that idiom sssssssshhhhhooooooo much…"
"Fuck's it mean?"
"Only we rats can value its meaning. But I'm curioussssssss, goblin…would you like a full plate too?"
"You know us goblins love eating."
"I know. Your response couldn't have made me happier. I just need you to do ssssssshhhhhhomething for me…"
"Wash your noisome clothes? Freshen your noxious breath? Get the fleas out your mangy fur?"
Psymarr grinned devilishly and picked up the rusty saw again. "Gimme your middle fingers."
Krun frowned and swallowed.
"How many?" the king asked.
"It's a rough estimate, but at least sixty. Possibly seventy," Bereesa answered.
Mernal cleared his throat as he scratched between his horns and wagged his tail. "Now Chorn, there's no need—"
"Casualties," he repeated firmly.
"Nearly thirty. Most of them were the trainees under Sollox and Vulxcon's supervision, sir."
Bereesa Torgash and Mernal Mynwort stood inside one of the king's personal chambers, watching as the barefooted dark orange orc kept pacing around on the floor. Mernal looked around the chamber and frowned, surprised at how spacious it was, despite there being little inside of it. There was no mattress or bed, like all the other chambers in the city. The floor was composed of hard tiles and stone, with the walls composed of brick. In the northern corner of the room was a glass door leading outside to the balcony that overlooked the entire city limits. Most of the king's auxiliary belongings were books he had neatly stacked in the corner, along with chains that were dangling from certain sections of the wall. Weapons and weights were lined up across the southern wall, most of which looked like tools he used whenever he fought in battles. As the minotaur analyzed the room, he kept coming across an assortment of dried-up stains all over the floor. The bovine smirked as he tried to lighten up the conversation.
"Ain't a fan of cleaning your bedroom, are ya, Chorn?"
The king shook his head. "This is far from a bedroom. I only allow slaves in here."
Mernal looked at all of the weapons and tools in the room and decided not to pry any further. Torgash, meanwhile, slowly curled his right hand into a fist and gritted his teeth.
"Where is the person who orchestrated all of this?"
"Don't worry, my King. Psymarr—"
"I am not referring to the goblin," Torgash snapped, interrupting his daughter.
"We won't know any more until Psymarr is finished with Krun, my King. You need to give him some time."
"Don't worry, big fella! We'll sort out everything soon enough! You just stay here and keep yourself preoccupied. I'm sure a big orc like you has got a lotta rage he needs to 'release,' eh?" Mernal said, smirking.
"In the span of two weeks, I've had traitors free slaves from my kingdom twice. I am in the middle of fighting a war that you started. The babies being born are coming out defective, and we've had to dispose of them. Many soldiers doubt my leadership."
Chorn Torgash walked over to Mernal, towering over the burly minotaur and growling sinisterly.
"And you say I should 'stay here.'"
The bovine snorted. "Coulda gone a lot worse if I weren't here. I killed most of them goblins—"
"And endangered our soldiers in the process. I caught the leader of the riot without killing him," Bereesa added.
"What matters, Chorn," said Mernal, "is that this shit ain't gonna fix itself overnight. You didn't expect me to find this traitor—or traitors, rather—in a mere day, did you?"
"I expected results. I expected you to spend more time doing your job, not fucking all the faggots in this city."
"I've only been fuckin' Kinshik and Ishmael—gimme some slack, Chorn."
Torgash snarled and started raising a fist, while Bereesa rubbed her forehead and interjected.
"The only reason why I was able to catch Krun was because Mernal was more than happy to use himself as a distraction. The only reason why we're closer to figuring out who started this riot is because I subdued Krun without killing him. And the only reason why we know that Illwotkot Sukolli may be a traitor is because Keeju spent her time sifting through records that you didn't bother to scrutinize."
The king backed away from Mernal and looked at Bereesa. "Say that again?"
"Illwotkot might be your traitor. All those human prisoners that were freed? They used to be breeding slaves. The others were citizens who spoke out against you. And we all know how much Illwotkot loves to spend his free time fuckin' the slaves."
"This city is filled to the brim with slaves. Why would Illwotkot risk his entire career and his life plucking a small handful from inside the castle?"
"Tainted meat isn't good, Chorn. Do you enjoy eating mutton that a dozen other orcs have chewed on?" Mernal asked.
"Illwotkot also is in charge of maintaining the breeding facilities and stationing guards there. It's entirely possible that he's kidnapping all these slaves for himself…maybe even starting his own regime pitted to begin your downfall. You've told the council a month ago that slaves were slowly disappearing and Illwotkot was only concerned about me 'interrupting' his fornication with them. And now suddenly someone breaks prisoners out of your castle and hits two of the breeding facilities? The timing fits, my King," Bereesa explained.
"None of this proves anything, now does it?" Torgash asked.
Mernal snickered and said, "Chorn, since when do you care about subtlety? Since when do you care about having proof?"
The king grumbled as he rubbed his beard and pondered for a bit. "…I'll speak with him. If I don't like what I hear, his head will be severed from his shoulders. I can guarantee you that."
"Good enough for us!"
The king grabbed Bereesa and Mernal and shoved them away so he could walk past them. As the king exited the chamber, Bereesa called out to her father.
"Also, my King, it would be beneficial if you didn't kill those guards who were on gate duty. They might know something too."
"Relax, daughter. I've no intention of doing so."
The king grinned devilishly as he slammed the door shut. Once he left the room, Bereesa shut her eyes and grabbed her head.
"Fuck…" she whispered.
Mernal jabbed Bereesa in her left shoulder and laughed. "Calm down there, Princess! You can let your precious 'conscience' rest easy. Your father ain't gonna kill 'em!"
"That's the problem."
He made sure to keep the chamber dimly-lit. He made sure not to tell any of the prisoners where they were going. All of them had been stripped of their clothing and were stuck inside of the stone-covered room with nothing inside except two torches illuminating the place. There were chains on the walls and floor, all of which had been used to keep the prisoners shackled. King Chorn Torgash stood inside of the chamber along with one of his royal guards, a burly red-skinned orc who had black stripes on his helm, unlike the other members of the royal guard.
"So there are…eleven of you. Hmph. Eleven orcs and half-orcs. Eleven soldiers trained by this orc himself…"
Torgash raised a hand and patted the other orc's spiky left pauldron two times before grinning.
"Eleven of you and not one bothered to use their most precious resource. Tell 'em, Captain Frinnok, what am I referring to?"
"The brain," the burly orc replied, his voice deep and heavy inside his helm. "How many times have I explained it to you?"
The eleven prisoners couldn't say anything. All of them had gags in their mouths and were blindfolded. One of them let out a muffled grunt while two others drooled all over their gag. The king paced around the chamber, looking at all eleven soldiers who were in charge of maintaining the eastern gates.
"Now don't worry—don't worry. You all made a mistake. It happens. It's understandable. Maybe one of you could've inspected the wagons' contents before they exited the city. Maybe one of you could've talked to the centaurs. Maybe one of you could've, at the very least, remembered which centaur had the wagons and double-checked to see if the council gave them permission to leave. But no, no—you all decided to just shrug and let 'em depart. 'Oh, it's just routine; you can go through.' Is that what you all said?"
One of the prisoners shook her head and mumbled something, but Torgash ignored her.
"'We're busy right now; we don't got time to search the wagons. Just dump the bodies and come back.' Is that what you all said?"
Another prisoner swore and drooled, grunting as he nearly pulled one of his arms out of its socket trying to break free of his chain.
"'You're freeing breeders? Good. Can't stand all the raping going on in the city. Go on through; we'll keep our mouths shut. Promise.' …Is that what you said?"
Now all the prisoners started to protest. One of them whimpered and cried beneath his blindfold whilst another struggled to spit the gag from his mouth, hoping that he'd be able to convince the king that he had nothing to do with the so-called betrayal. Nevertheless, Captain Frinnok and Torgash refused to listen to their protests, and none of them bothered to take out the gags.
"It's okay, everyone; it's okay. I won't make the same mistake that I made with the dungeon guards I ruthlessly slaughtered. All of you will be spared. You just need to be punished is all…"
Torgash held up a few fingers as he silently counted to himself and murmured a couple of numbers.
"Roughly sixty…yes. Captain Frinnok!"
"Yes, my King?"
"Which is better: ninety orcs or ninety days?"
"Mm…ninety days is a long time. But ninety orcs might kill 'em."
"We'll make sure they're healed properly if grievous harm comes to them."
"Ninety orcs then."
"I was leaning towards ninety days."
The captain of the royal guard and the orc king looked at each other for a moment before glaring at the eleven prisoners and grinning.
"Both," they said in unison.
All the prisoners started hollering again, their shouts still muted by the gag in their mouth. Torgash smirked as he turned around and slowly began to head for the door.
"Oh, and Frinnok?" Torgash asked.
"Yes, my King?"
"Be gentle. There's over a thousand orcs employed in this castle, and I doubt many of them enjoy mutton that's been chewed on."
Frinnok wasn't sure what the king meant by that phrase, but he nodded nonetheless. Captain Frinnok walked over towards one of the naked female orcs and pressed his booted foot down onto her back. As the captain started to undo his pants, Torgash left the chamber and shut the door, knowing full well that Frinnok would have a mirthful time.
"Go on, goblin. Tell him what you told me," said Psymarr.
Krun stood inside of the corridor where the cells where, meekly looking down at the floor as the king stood in front of the murid and goblin. Torgash folded his burly arms and growled.
"No witty and condescending remark this time? I'm disappointed, Krun," Torgash said.
"Fuck you," was the only response that Krun could think of.
Krun shouted when Torgash's right metal boot lodged itself into his solar plexus. He collapsed to his knees and started retching, struggling not to vomit up the food and bile simmering in his stomach. Psymarr held up his grimy paws and shook his head.
"Careful, sir. Krun's body is battered enough as it is."
Torgash looked at Krun's hands and noticed that his middle fingers were gone, and Psymarr had crudely cauterized the wound using either acid or a small fire. When the goblin got back to his feet, he took a huge breath and looked up at the king.
"Don't think…don't think this makes you better'n me. Don't think you've won this."
"My boot is on your throat and you're squealing for mercy. Tell me, how have I lost?"
Krun growled to himself and timidly looked out the corner of his eyes. He pressed his fingers together before stammering and rubbing his chin.
"Speak, goblin," Psymarr hissed.
The goblin shamefully shut his eyes and began to talk. "…It was six of 'em. All orcs and half-orcs. Five males, one female. They told me to organize a bunch of goblins together to start the riot. It wasn't my plan; they needed a distraction so they could attack the breeding facilities without anyone spotting them."
The king's eyes lit up. "Son of a bitch. Was one of 'em Shurrmvin Colmz? What about Harvon Mullok?"
Psymarr struggled not to grin to himself and kept a straight face, while Krun shook his head.
"No. They ain't had shit to do with it."
"Fuck! Who was it then?"
"Erm…Kreenux Horvlox. Ashtun Millox. Sys'nack Tunn. Um…Smorlog Tervuu. Pexxnox Wersovli. And, um…Ballox Nassmot."
Torgash narrowed his eyes as he stared at Krun. "Those are the orcs who orchestrated the attack?"
"Did I stutter, my Tyrant?"
Krun gagged when Torgash grabbed him by the throat and lifted him off his feet. He pressed the goblin's head against one of the empty cells and snarled as he got in his face.
"Oh good," Krun said, his voice strained. "Ain't this familiar. Smells like you still ain't tried eating centaur shit. Could seriously—ACK!—do wonders for that breath of yours!"
"Try me, goblin. I'm in no mood. One single syllable I don't like, your neck breaks. Understood?"
Krun thrashed his legs around but ultimately nodded as he gritted his teeth.
"Are you lying to me?"
"Then why the fuck would Ballox betray me? I've done nothing to wrong him; I've promoted him to maintain the construction of this city's defenses!"
"You fucked his mother. Heh…Ballox never got over it. You fucked her over and over again, and when you moved on to fuck another female, Ballox told me she took her own life. …Apparently she was very lonely; she thought you truly loved her. She just couldn't deal with believing how the king made her feel so special, only to treat her like disposable trash afterwards."
Krun grinned. "There it is…that right there. I bet you don't even remember her name. I bet what you did to her doesn't even matter to you. Face it, my Tyrant…lotta orcs in this country hate you. Ballox is just one of 'em."
The king processed what Krun just told him before he loosened his grip and let Krun fall to the floor. As Krun started to cough terribly and massage his throat, Torgash turned away and thought for a moment. He snapped his fingers and pointed at Psymarr, squeezing his forehead.
"What is it, sir?"
"I don't think he's lying."
"It's entirely possible that he jusssssshhhhhht found out about Ballox and spat out a name you wanted to hear, sir."
"No…about a year ago, Ballox came into the castle, acting all melancholy and shit. I found him in the architectural halls sitting in a corner crying to himself. When I asked what was wrong, he told me his mother opened her veins with a kitchen knife."
"And how did you respond?"
"Punched him and told him to get back to work. He never brought it up again."
Torgash growled as he kept squeezing his forehead. "It was one fuckin' orc. Who gives a fuck if the bitch killed herself? It's not like I cut her wrists open!"
"Of course not, sir. You just had sex with her, and then told her sssssshhhhhe wasn't worth your time."
Torgash glared at Psymarr, causing the murid to raise his paws as he smiled meekly.
"No judgment, sir, no judgment! But that is what happened…is it not?"
"So what if it was?! I'm not respon—" Torgash huffed and stopped himself. He shook his head pitifully and sucked on his teeth. "Don't matter. We found the traitors. They'll be executed tomorrow."
"And the goblin?"
"Kill him. I'm fed up with his mouth."
Torgash started to walk towards the stairs, only for Psymarr to stammer as he quickly jogged his way to the king, limping as he moved his filthy footpaws.
"I ssssshhhhhhtrongly urge you to reconsider, Torgassssssshhhhhhhhh!"
"No. This pestilence is responsible for killing my soldiers! Why should I spare him?!"
"Because he is still valuable to us, sir! Think about it! He gave up the names of six traitors and all I had to do was cut off a measly two fingers! He's all talk, sir; he has no spine!"
"All the more reason to get rid of him."
"You're misinterpreting my intent. If he could squeal that easily on these orcs, who's to say he won't do it for others?"
"He said it himself, sir. Lotta orcs hate you. Killing these six orcs won't do much of anything. But Krun is a goblin, a small critter who can fit in small crevices and has big ears. …You get what I'm saying?"
"You think I haven't considered this option already? We can't trust goblins; they're all sociopaths."
"As are you, sir. Yet you have an army following you."
"I'm not a goblin though."
Psymarr sighed wetly before continuing. "Then let Krun be your first test run! Don't kill him. Release him. Let him go back into the city…let him weed out other traitors in the midst. There are snakesssssss in your garden, sir. You don't kill them by razing your entire garden."
"You throw a bigger snake into the garden that obeys the garden's owner…yes…not a bad strategy, Psymarr."
Psymarr looked at Krun as he lied on the floor. He winked at him slyly when Torgash wasn't looking. Krun returned the favor before he went back to coughing and massaging his throat.
"Only problem with snakes is that they're unpredictable. They could very easily end up biting their owner, even killing them."
Torgash walked up to Psymarr, forcing the rodent to back away until Torgash had him pinned against a cell.
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"
"Of course, Torgasssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhh. That's why you hired me."
"Hmph. So this snake over here," Torgash said, pointing at Krun, "could be lying to me. What then?"
"Kill him. If we find out he's telling the truth, you'll be able to find more traitors. If we find out he's lying, you can mount his head on your bedroom wall. Either way, you win in this outcome."
"Yes…suppose that's true."
Torgash backed away from Psymarr and let out a deep breath. He nodded and smiled to himself.
"I'm beginning to understand how things work between you, Mynwort, and my daughter. All this conniving plotting sounds delightful."
"You don't know the half of it," Psymarr said, grinning toothily.
"You know what? I'm gonna join in on this scheming of yours. Perhaps it'll pay off in the long run."
"Is that sssssshhhhhho? And what are your plans, sir?"
"Later," Torgash said, as he turned and resumed heading for the stairs. "I'll inform you after the executions. Free the snake. Make sure he isn't harmed any further."
Psymarr nodded as he watched the king exit the dungeons. When he turned around and went back to Krun, he grabbed the goblin's right hand and picked him up off the floor. Psymarr slowly escorted the goblin out of the lower dungeons, all while the two of them grinned silently to themselves.
He knew he could do it if he wanted to. But it wouldn't accomplish anything. He wouldn't be reunited with his son or wife; he'd be sent to Hell for eternity. He wouldn't save Kosslivo; he'd just subtract one orc from a very long list of bloodthirsty soldiers. He wouldn't even be seen as a hero; everyone would say that he took the coward's way out. He wouldn't be surprised if someone urinated on his gravestone after his death—provided they gave him one. Still, Hykler couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he just slid himself forward just another six inches and fell off the wall. The yellow orc sat on one of the parapets on the colossal wall that shielding the entire city, which now had new guards patrolling the massive walkway. His feet dangled over the edge, and Hykler kept grumbling to himself as he plotted in his mind and felt the wind blowing against his body. He was curious if anyone would even see anything. The sun had gone down, and where he sat wasn't lit very well with torches. The yellow orc heard a few footsteps coming from his right and saw a green orc walking towards him. He was surprised when he spotted Harvon approaching him, his mufti consisting of brown trousers and an open black vest.
"Hey," Harvon growled.
"Hello," Hykler answered.
"Shurrm told me I could find you here."
"You've found me."
Neither orc said anything for a moment. Harvon grunted as he climbed onto the parapet and sat down beside the yellow orc, letting his bare feet dangle over the side. Both of them stared out into the horizon, imagining what the rest of the world outside of Kosslivo would look like with or without orcs running the country. Nothing was said for almost five minutes, and Harvon occasionally kept looking at Hykler, wondering what the yellow orc would do if he performed any threatening gestures. But eventually, Hykler raised his head and licked his tusks.
"You gonna push me?" he asked.
"I could," Harvon said, being direct as possible.
"But will you?"
"Depends on what you say."
"What do you want from me, huh? You want me to live under your boot instead of Torgash's?"
"I just need to know that you're willing to do what needs to be done. For yourself, not just for your country."
That caught Hykler off-guard. "Really? …No grand explanation that what we're doing will benefit the country? No bullshit reasoning that what we're doing is for the greater good?"
"Torgash killed your son. He killed my wife and my children. I'm not saying that what we're doing is only about revenge, but I'll feel much better knowing that my family's killer is dead and rotting in the ground. I'm sure you feel the same way."
Hykler nodded. "I do."
The two orcs paused when two guards came by holding lances in their hands. Once they walked past Harvon and Hykler, they resumed talking.
"You know why I didn't attack that facility?" Hykler asked.
"There were too many soldiers inside. It's frustrating, but understandable." Harvon exhaled. "Evidently I didn't come up with a backup plan. The fault is mine there, not yours."
"No. It was because Lorrsh was there. And for a brief moment…I remembered all the times we prayed together. Then I remembered all the other orcs I've prayed with. That's why I asked him to come pray with me; I just…I-I needed help, Harvon. I needed guidance."
"Did you find any?"
Hykler closed his eyes for a moment. When they were open again, they were misty with tears. "Yes…"
Harvon shrugged. "And?"
Hykler grabbed the parapet tightly and gritted his teeth. "I wanted to tell him, Harv. I wanted him to join us, to join our crusade. He's no different from us. He hates the king; he doesn't like that slavery is permitted in this country. He wants things to change."
"But he won't do anything to change it."
"He's…complicated, Harv. He knows Torgash won't change, but he doesn't want to betray his country by going against his king."
"We're not betraying our country. We're trying to save it."
"By killing our own brethren. By staging a riot that got young orcs killed. Some of those trainees were no older than ten, Harv. And they—"
Hykler stopped himself and rubbed his face. "What am I saying—you know all this already."
"Yes, I do."
"Harv…the point I'm making is that Lorrsh won't change his mind. He can't. He'd rather die for his country than kill his own brothers and sisters to overthrow a corrupt king even he does not enjoy following."
"Which leads me back to my original question: did you find guidance or not?"
Hykler couldn't stop himself. His eyes kept watering until tears ran down his cheeks. "We can't win, Harvon…either way leads to eternal damnation for all of us. But I just…I can't live in this country knowing that I could've done something to make it better, and I chose to do nothing. I can't live knowing that Lusagger is looking down at us all with shame."
Hykler sniffled and looked at Harvon, surprised to see that he was also struggling to hold back his tears.
"…You came to the same conclusion long ago…haven't you?"
"Why do you think I started all this?"
Hykler released hot breath from his mouth as he wiped his face. "Gods make sacrifices for their people. Lusagger did the same for us…so this country could exist. …I guess we have to do the same now."
Harvon blinked away his tears and sniffed before nodding. "Yes…we do."
Without saying another word, Hykler looked at his left hand, the same one that bore a scar on it from when he prayed to Lusagger the other day. He took out the same knife he used to slice his hand open with and looked at the same scar. Afterwards, he slowly slashed his hand open again, forming a new scar that crossed with the previous one, forming an "X" symbol. Hykler put his knife down before looking at Harvon.
Hykler extended his bleeding hand and smirked. "We good?"
Harvon looked at the blood dripping down his hand, taking note of how it crossed with the same scar used as a blood sacrifice for their god. Harvon took the same knife Hykler used, sliced his left hand open, and grabbed Hykler's bloody hand.