Sarlene's Touch Ch. 43byFuinimel©
Throndar raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun. The land he was travelling through was dry and dusty, and he had not seen a cloud for days. The occasional hardy bush or thorn tree broke the monotony, but this was not a good place for living.
Not that he minded, for Throndar was a barbarian, born and raised in lands not much less harsh than this, skills and reflexes honed in a dangerous environment, to become one of the greatest warriors in his tribe. That tribe was gone now, slain by evil sorcery, and Throndar wandered the world alone, a freebooter and mercenary in search of plunder and riches.
He was a tall man, standing six feet and four inches in height, but powerfully built, with broad shoulders and bulging biceps. Like all the people of his former tribe, he wore little, especially in the warm climate of this land, with leather boots, a wide belt about his waist, a loincloth of thick fur and naught else but his sword belt and a small bag of provisions. The hot sun glistened on his bare chest, his powerful muscles well defined beneath the lightly tanned skin.
"So, when is this set, exactly? I mean, when did it happen?"
"Hush. It'll all become clear."
Throndar's attention had been caught by a wisp of smoke on the horizon. It was there again, intermittent, but undeniably real. Shading his eyes, he could make out a collection of rocks near the source of the smoke. Some of them might even be buildings, although nothing grandiose. But who would live out here, and why light a fire in the middle of the day?
There was not enough smoke, he reflected, to be the signs of destruction -- a burned caravan, perhaps. No, he had stumbled across some other traveller, or a native of these desolate lands. If it was the latter, at least there might be water. But there might also be trouble, and Throndar walked towards the mysterious site cautiously, eyes and ears alert for any sign of hostility.
As he got closer he saw that what had appeared to be buildings were only ruins, simple stone structures that showed signs of recent fire damage, a few blocks of rubble lying nearby. They stood on top of a ridge, obscuring the terrain beyond from his current vantage point. Despite the fire damage, though, the smoke could not be from any great pyre; indeed, it seemed so pale and slight that he doubted now that it could even be from a camp fire. In fact... was it even smoke, or intermittent puffs of steam?
Throndar reached the top of the ridge, eyeing the ruins to make sure they were empty, and looked over into the land beyond. There was an oasis there, trees and greenery in greater profusion than he had seen in many days of travel, and, scattered amongst them, a few more ruined buildings and pools of open water. The puffs of what he was sure now were steam came from cracks in the natural rocks strewn hereabout.
He dipped his hand into one of the smaller rock pools. The water was warm, heated, perhaps, by some mysterious underground source. Which would explain the steam, but would the water be drinkable? The fact that there were trees and greenery here suggested it could not be too poisonous, but then, Throndar was not a tree.
The barbarian's keen eyes spotted a footprint in the dusty ground, and his hand reached for his sword, suddenly wary. Looking about, he could see more footprints. Some were made by crude sandals, but others looked to be bare feet, larger than those of most men, with splayed toes that the experienced tracker knew could mean only one thing.
He heard a footfall behind him, and whirled, drawing his sword from the scabbard in one swift movement. An orc was creeping up on him, wielding a scimitar, and dressed in patchy leather that would offer only minimal protection. It snarled, large yellowish tusks jutting from its jaws to give it a fearsome appearance, but one that held no fear for Throndar. He had faced orcs many times before, and always triumphed. He battered aside the creature's weapon with his own, slashing across its chest causing a deep gouge that made it hiss in pain. For a moment, its scimitar dipped, and the barbarian's next blow severed its arm at the elbow.
The orc let out an agonised high-pitched scream as it collapsed to the ground in a spray of blood. Suddenly, two more orcs appeared, charging towards the barbarian warrior as he readied his bloodied sword to take them on. He dodged the swipe of one scimitar as he slashed out at the other assailant, only for his blow to be parried. He ducked, spinning round to jab his sword at the first orc, receiving a satisfying grunt of pain as it bit into the creature's side.
The second orc's scimitar grazed against his leg, a minor wound, but one that could have been much worse. Turning to face it, he gave out a loud battle cry, and forced it backwards with a flurry of blows it was barely able to block. All its concentration on defending itself against Throndar's attack, the orc stumbled over an unseen rock, and that gave the human all the opportunity he needed to stab his weapon into the undefended greyish-green skin of its belly.
Turning with panther-like grace, Throndar brought his sword up and around at the injured orc now coming up behind him, the tip of his blade slashing up across its throat and bringing it down. He could already see more orcs springing up as if from nowhere, and could only assume that they must have been somewhere below ground when he arrived. His grin as he ran at them was savage, and soon steel was clashing against steel as the feral humanoids sought to take out the raging force of nature they had unleashed.
The orcs were skilled warriors, tough and resilient, but even though he was outnumbered, they were no match for Throndar's ferocity and killer instincts. Soon, there was but one orc left standing, with the others dead or dying at Throndar's feet, yet while the barbarian was bloodied, he scarcely noticed the pain from his few wounds.
The last orc, a slimmer and younger specimen than those he had already defeated, evidently saw sense and bolted. Throndar chased after it, leaping over the bodies of the fallen, and saw it vanish into an opening in the side of one of the ruined buildings. Not stopping to think, he followed it inside, eyes rapidly adjusting to the darkness as he found himself at the head of a stone stairway descending into unknown depths.
He reached the bottom of the steps, illuminated only by a glimmer of light from up above. At first he could not see the orc but then a snarling face appeared in front of him, reaching out of some hidden alcove. The space was too small for either of them to bring their swords to bear, and the creature had lunged at him with a dagger. He caught its fist before it could strike home and slammed the orc back against the cold stone of the passageway. They were face to face, the orc's breath hot against his skin, its yellow eyes staring into his, tusks slashing just inches from his skin as he met its growl with one of his own. They struggled for control of the knife, arms locked in a battle of strength, legs kicking out at one another with little effect.
Throndar was the stronger, and the orc hissed with shock as the dagger bit into its own chest. It tried to drop the weapon, but the barbarian was too quick, catching it and jabbing it between the creature's ribs, silencing it for good with a single stab to the heart. He released the orc, which slid down the wall, already dead as blood began to pool around it.
Throndar stood still, regaining his breath, coming down from the animalistic rage that had coursed through his body during the fight. Instinct had taken over, allowing him to leave a trail of carnage behind him without the distractions of more reasoned thought. Now he had time to reflect, and to wonder where he had found himself.
He was standing in a stone passageway, better built than he would expect of orcs, although whether they had had assistance or had merely commandeered it from some previous owner was unclear, and might always remain so. His eyes caught a glimmer of light from somewhere beyond, and he reflected that even orcs needed illumination to see, if not as much as humans did. There might be more down here, or they might at least have some loot taken from unwary merchant caravans, or from the previous occupants of the site, Either way, he had to explore the passage, and see where it led.
After wiping his sword clean, Throndar strode on down the darkened corridor, alert for any sign of further orcs. Soon he came to a fork, but the light came from only one direction, so that was the one he took. It rapidly became lighter, until he could see an archway ahead, the glow from beyond it steady and golden, perhaps the result of some sorcerous spell rather than true fire.
He edged closer to the arch, seeing nothing but a bare stone wall on the far side of the chamber beyond. But there was a sound, as if of someone moving out of his field of view. He raised his sword and leapt into the room, ready to strike.
He was greeted, not by an orcish yell, but by a feminine squeak of fear. The chamber was strewn with what had to be orcish bed rolls and provisions, but its only occupant was a human woman, cowering in the corner.
"Please don't hurt me!" she cried, holding her hands over her head, knees hunched up against her chest.
"You are a prisoner of the orcs?"
She nodded, stifling a sob, "they were going to kill me, I'm sure of it! Or... or worse. Please don't hurt me!"
"Fear not, fair lady," he informed her, "for I am Throndar the Mighty, and I have come to rescue you!"
"What, he actually talked like that?"
"Oh, thank you! Thank you!" she scrambled to her feet, a great look of relief upon her face.
Throndar could not help but notice that she was a well-proportioned woman, although slender and weak as civilised women often were. She had long black hair that contrasted sharply with remarkably pale skin and clear blue eyes. Considering her ordeal, her clothing was in remarkably good condition, a long black skirt slit to one side to show off a shapely leg, a tight bodice and a low-cut sleeveless top, also black, that displayed a most impressive cleavage. The orcs had not even removed the silver and emerald necklace that clasped around her neck. Perhaps they had not yet had time.
"How many orcs were there?"
"Eight, that I saw. But they might have fellows elsewhere, so we must leave quickly!"
Throndar realised that he actually had no idea how many orcs he had just killed. He hadn't exactly been counting, although he was fairly sure there had been at least six. Still, if they had any treasure, it was not here, so perhaps they should leave now, and he could decide what else to do once he had learned more.
"Very well," he said, "stay close to me, and I will deliver you from this place."
She quickly ran over to join him, and stared fearfully down the corridor that he had emerged from. There didn't seem to be any orcs there at the moment.
"Thank you, Throndar," she said, "I will be most grateful once I am free. Very grateful, indeed!" She placed a hand on his bare chest and leaned in close, as if to kiss him.
"There will be time for that..." he began, just as she threw a handful of white dust in his face. "What are you... uurgh..." Throndar felt his knees go weak as his head began to swim. He looked at the woman in confusion as the world span around him, his sword clattering from suddenly nerveless fingers. Seconds later, he slumped to the floor unconscious.
When he came round, Throndar found himself chained to a wall. The chain was a heavy one, tightly wrapped around his chest and secured by bolts in the wall, giving him almost no opportunity to move. His hands were bound in front of him by a smaller chain, and, even had he not been disarmed, there was little he could have done to fight.
He was in a high, domed, chamber, much larger than the one he had seen previously, and he was not alone.
The first person he noticed was, of course, the woman, who was smirking at him as he shook his head to clear it of the last of the magical drug. He had, he realised, been foolish to be so easily captured -- she had, after all, been in a far better state than any genuine orcish prisoner was likely to be. His eyes flicked from her to his sword, lying just a foot or so away, although it might as well have been a mile, and then to the other human standing with them.
He was a tall man, although not so tall as Throndar himself, and remarkably thin and pale. He was dressed in long black robes with a purple trim and decorated with arcane symbols that left his profession in no doubt.
"I see our prisoner awakes," said the man, "good work, Shelazzar, he shall be of most use to us tonight. Truly, the infernal forces bless our enterprise." He looked at Throndar, "know then, barbarian, that you are the prisoner of Yluk Tz'n'o Razht-Abar, the Renegade Sorceror-Deacon of Phleng!"
"Oh, be quiet. There's some important stuff about to happen."
"It as well for you, wizard, that I am bound, for I would slay you where you stand if I were free."
"And, yet, you are not free! No, you are my prisoner, and yet, with greater good fortune than you can know. For, tonight, you shall bear witness to my ultimate triumph! The ceremony is all prepared, as you can see, and tonight, the signs in the heavens shall be right for its completion, and the coming of..." he paused, dramatically, "The Presence!"
"What's that, then?"
"Oh, you shall see, Throndar the Shackled! You shall see."
Throndar glowered at the man, but there was little he could do at the moment; the chains were simply too secure. What he could see about him was certainly sign of some kind of evil ceremony. There was an altar in the middle of the room, with a wicked looking knife and a bowl of the sort that he feared might be used to collect blood. Lying next to those was a strange metallic sceptre, adorned with runes and sharp spines. All of these things were sign enough of evil intent, but the chamber also contained three orcs.
They were different from the ones he had killed, not least because these were all females. Perhaps he had killed off all the menfolk, and only their women now remained. But, in any event, they were trussed up as firmly as he was, arms and legs bound by heavy ropes and with leather gags across their mouths. All three of them looked as fierce and angry as their males had done; as well they might, under the circumstances.
Two, he noticed, were wearing short dresses of dark leather, decorated with crude tribal marks, and with necklaces of animal teeth around their necks. The other was, so far as he could tell, the youngest of the three, although her greenish skin and wild black hair clearly emphasised her non-human nature. She had clearly once been dressed as the others, but perhaps she had put up more of a fight, because her clothing was torn, her skirt missing and her upper garment hanging loose on one side to expose a saggy green breast. Her bound legs were held up tight against her body, hiding much of it from view. As she shifted slightly in position, though, Throndar realised with surprise that her hairy buttocks were bare, and she apparently wore no loincloth.
"Well, who can blame me?" asked the wizard, seeing the direction of his gaze, "A bound and helpless woman, especially one as proud and fierce as an orc? It is not an opportunity to be missed. Oh, you should have seen the expression on her face!"
Throndar caught the disgusted glance that the woman -- Shelazzar -- threw towards her companion, but apparently the wizard did not notice.
"But, I am told that you have slain all the other orcs at my disposal," Yluk continued, "which is a nuisance, but not as much as it might have been at this time. I could do with a new warrior, though, once this is over. I don't suppose you would consider joining me? I know something of your people, and know what oaths you would have to swear to make you honour bound to serve me, so do not think about pretending. But swear that loyalty, and you will be rewarded beyond imagining. What do you say?"
Throndar spat, "do you think I am stupid, wizard?"
"Well, the thought had occurred to me, yes."
"I will never serve one such as you!"
The sorcerer shrugged, "ah, well, it was just an idea. No harm in trying."
"The time approaches, my lord," said Shelazzar, speaking for the first time since Throndar had woken.
"It does, indeed," cried the wizard, "Let us begin!"
He raised his arms in the air, and with a gesture the light in the room began to fade -- there must have been enchanted light sources somewhere out of Throndar's view -- and then the domed ceiling began to ripple. The captive warrior looked up with amazement as the roof seemed to vanish, giving an unobscured view of a moonless night sky.
The sorcerer strode over towards the altar, and one of the older trussed orcish women. "Take her legs," he told Shelazzar, and together they lifted the orc onto the altar.
The green-skinned female was thrashing about, trying to kick with her legs and throw herself off the altar top, muffled sounds that might have been furious curses emanating from behind the gag, but there was nothing she could do. The wizard grabbed the knife, raising it above his head before bringing it down in a spurt of dark blood. The other two orcs screamed in outrage, as much as they could behind the gags, but soon the victim had ceased her movements, and Yluk began gleefully carving signs into her body before rolling the bloodied and mutilated corpse off the altar top.
The second victim's screams were, if anything, louder and more prolonged than those of the first. Even Throndar, who had never really thought of orcs as more than monsters, closed his eyes to block out the horrible sight. Shelazzar looked disturbed too, he thought, although clearly determined to see the act through. But Yluk Tz'n'o was cackling with delight as he worked, revelling in the slaughter he was causing. And Throndar could do nothing to stop him.
He opened his eyes again when an orange light began to shine on them, and he felt a warmth against his skin. A disc of fiery light had appeared behind the altar, silhouetting the pair of evil humans against its glow. It grew to about a foot across, pulsing slowly, and the barbarian thought he could hear the beating of a distant heart.
"The Presence comes!" shouted the sorcerer, "the portal begins to open!" He rolled the second corpse off the altar, "let us bring the third sacrifice!"
The pair grabbed the remaining orc, who seemed to be shivering, chanting something over and over beneath the gag, her yellow eyes wide with fright, but not screaming as the others had. Throndar could see now that she was, as he had suspected, naked from the waist down, the orange light making fresh scratch marks visible around her hips and breasts.
"Oh, I wish we had more time," the sorcerer told her as they laid her down on the altar, seemingly resigned to her fate, for all that her bestial face was filled with an indescribable hatred. "Who would have dreamed that orcish pussy could be so hot?"
He laughed mockingly, raised the knife, and brought it down.
The disc of light surged, growing dramatically in size, until it was several feet across. Beyond was nothing but flame, although some shape moved about within, too obscured, or perhaps too ephemeral, to make out any details. The sound of the heartbeat was clearer now, filling the room with its steady thrum.
"You have served me well," Yluk told his female companion, "for the promise of power beyond all imagining. Soon, the Presence will be here, establishing a reign of demonic power here in the material world that will last for all eternity. Demons shall walk the wastes openly, and I shall be its high priest, its chief servant, the most powerful and feared mortal anywhere on the surface of the world! And you, I have promised you so much in return for your unstinting loyalty."