tagSci-Fi & FantasyIn Love and War

In Love and War


Chapter One

The occupation of Sandman's Point had reached it's seventh year before the King saw fit to try and retake the desert town. Rachel supposed it was partially due to the town's strategic unimportance. Rumor had it that the Bloodmaw clan had taken it for the sake of having something to brag about than out of need of territory or slaves. That meant that the town had not suffered horribly from their new masters, though Rachel would have been hard pressed to say that she preferred them. Her parents died in combat when the orcs took the town, and ever since she had been the one to raise her sister Sophia. Rachel supposed she should have been thankful that Sebastian Bahn was willing to hire her after they were conquered, but she had become sick of the job since the orcs had started eyeing her developing chest line. Many of the better looking women in the town had been forced to serve the Bloodmaw clan as whores, or taken away to parts unknown. Rachel often feared that the same fate would befall her, but worked in a tavern serving them anyways.

The possibility was especially strong now, since the Bloodmaw clan was determined to hold onto Sandman's Point as a matter of honor, and reinforced their numbers with the addition of three hundred warriors, for a total of four hundred orcs in the town. Many of them had bought weapons from a young orcish merchant who sat in the corner of the tavern. He was a rough looking individual who watched her thoughtfully with a pair of golden eyes and demanded that she refill his drink with more frequency than his bladder could have possibly wanted. The orc's stare made her uncomfortable, but he was a gentleman compared to some of the grunts who would often grope her as she made her rounds.

"So what's a pretty girl like yourself doing at a watering hole like this?" One of the grunts asked as she brought him and his friends a pitcher of beer. He spoke in the orc tongue, which she had learned bits and pieces of through the years. She was not quite fluent in their guttural language, but she could get the general gist of what they said, although she doubted what she was hearing was as polite as she translated it to be.

"Just making a living," she answered cautiously, stumbling over a few of the words.

The orc laughed and gave her right buttock a firm feel. "Come with me, and I'll see to it that you make a better living elsewhere."

Judging by the laughter his comment raised, Rachel surmised that there was some dirty joke in there that she missed, aside from the offer to become his slave. Fortunately, she was spared from having to give an answer by the merchant, who pounded on his table and ordered more beer. She flashed an apologetic smile to the soldier and his friends and quickly left the table. However, orcish grunts were not known for being weak willed and Rachel found him waiting for her just as she came out of the kitchen with another tankard of beer for the merchant.

"What'd you say, eh?" He asked with the smell of hard liquor on his breath. Rachel tried to step around him, but he grabbed her by the wrist almost hard enough to break it.

"Waitress, my beer!" The merchant demanded swiftly upon seeing the altercation.

"Take your beer and go to hell!" The grunt yanked the tankard out of Rachel's hands and flung it at the merchant, covering him in beer. "Leave the women to the real orcs, fucking non-com."

The merchant looked shocked at the attack; insinuating that an orc was a noncombatant and thus unfit for fighting was one of the worst insults that they could imagine. For a moment he looked like he might have risen and started a fight, but then his eyes met the floor in a gesture of submission. He wrapped his heavy cloak around his body and silently finished off the beer in front of him.

Emboldened by his display of aggression the grunt holding Rachel lifted her up and slammed her down on a table, knocking away several dirty plates and glasses in the process. His rough hands tore her bodice apart and make quick work of the shirt underneath, revealing a pair of well formed breasts. He took one in each hand and began fondling them, loudly describing the feeling to his companions, who cheered him on and gathered around to watch the spectacle unfolding in front of them.

"Let me go!" Rachel yelled in embarrassment, doing her best to wrestle with the soldier. It was a futile attempt at freeing herself as he was much stronger than her, but she could not bring herself to lie back and give in to him, even after he gave her a firm backhand that made her see spots. When she regained her vision, she noticed that he had moved on from her breasts to her skirt, which was then ripped from her body to expose her long legs and the black underwear that stood between him and his objective.

Rachel renewed her struggles and managed to give her captor a kick in the head while they were distracted admiring her body, but she was soon seized by all of her limbs and held down as the grunt's fingers slowly traced their way up her leg and to her panties. She gave a cry of rage as he played with the elastic band, pulling it up and letting it snap back against her skin. Rachel fought back her tears at the fact that the long dreaded day had finally arrived, vowing to remain strong even as they defiled her.

"Oh fuck it," the merchant sighed, drawing a broadsword from under his cloak, which gave an unnaturally sharp ringing sound as it emerged from its scabbard. The soldier assaulting Rachel barely had time to look behind him before five pounds of steel smashed into his forehead and spilled his brains out over the table.

Rachel rolled to the side in order to avoid the gore and quickly dropped to the ground. She took cover under the table as the other grunts realized what had just happened. The orc in front of her drew a sword from his belt, but the merchant quickly kicked the pommel and sent it flying back into the scabbard so far that it became stuck despite the orc's best attempts at freeing it. The merchant whirled around to parry a blow from another soldier's axe, freeing both the weapon and half of an arm in the process.

The axe landed in front of Rachel and she quickly grabbed it and tripped a grunt with it as he circled around the table to reach the merchant. She tried to hit him with it, but she was unfamiliar with the weapon and it ended up being kicked out of her hands. The grunt swung wildly at her with his own axe, but he fumbled the weapon in his hands and it ended up cutting into his thigh. Blood shot out from a severed artery and he bled out within seconds from the self-inflicted wound.

There was silence in the tavern as the merchant stood in the center of a ring of dead bodies, constantly looking around for more enemies. Rachel became mindful of her nakedness and covered herself the best she could with the tattered remains of her shirt.

"Fuck," the orcish merchant said again. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, I wasn't supposed to do that."

He seemed to have forgotten about Rachel as he checked the windows to make sure no one had noticed the fight. A hail of arrows flew into the room in response; clearly, someone had seen him.

"Fuck," he said again, with a resigned look on his face. The merchant took in a deep breath and charged straight into the wall of the tavern. The wall gave way before him and he burst through the solid timbers and showering several very surprised grunts with rubble. A chaotic melee soon followed between the merchant and an orc patrol ten members strong, where he went about carving his way through them to reach their sergeant. The two dueled for several seconds, with neither coming out on top, until the merchant became fed up and rammed the sergeant with his shoulder. The orc went flying across the street and impacted against the side of a cart full of hay. He steadied himself against the cart, ready to continue the fight, but a dagger swiftly emerged from the hay and caught him in the neck.

The hay was tossed aside as a woman stepped out of the cart. Rachel would have considered her attractive if not for the telltale signs that she was a tiefling; curled ram's horns on her head an a prehensile tale wrapped around her waist. What was such a creature doing in her town?

"What did you do?" The tiefling yelled as she pulled an oak quarterstaff out of the hay.

"I'm sorry, it just happened!" The merchant responded.

"Well I hope it was worth it, because you've just woken up the entire town!"

"Fuck!" The merchant said again. "Do we pull out or what?"

"Can't, they've probably got us surrounded by now."

As if on cue, another patrol rounded the corner with weapons drawn. The tiefling calmly waited until they came within range before mercilessly raining down blows with her quarterstaff. Their leader began to cast a spell in response to the melee, but a cloud of glittering particles appeared around his head and blinded him. His magic went wild and shot off into the night air, leaving a purple streak of energy behind.

Rachel picked a cloak off of a dead orc and wrapped it around herself before peering out of the tavern wall to see who had blinded the patrol leader. There was a lithe figure quietly weaving spells on the roof of the blacksmith's shop across the street. The mage focused on disabling the enemies rather than killing them, perhaps out of an attempt to avoid collateral damage; Rachel had heard bards tell tales of mighty wizards who could level cities with destructive magic and had no desire to see that scenario play out in her town.

A light flared behind the two fighters and another patrol of orcs rushed at them. Rachel bit her finger; it looked like the three would soon become overwhelmed by the sheer number of the enemy. Then she noticed that the orcs were not giving off their customary war cry. In fact, it sounded like they were running away from something.

Fire spouted from the back of the group and briefly illuminated a man in a suit of armor with two large tanks strapped to his back. Metal hoses ran from the tanks to under his arms, where they ended in nozzles. A steady stream of fire issued forth from the tanks and roasted the slower members of the fleeing patrol alive.

"I take it you are all well?" The armored man asked with a stiff, mechanical voice when he reached the others "It seems that we have been discovered. I believe our chances of making it out are minimal given the that we would have to fight our way through several hundred orcs; might I suggest we take the opportunity to press our advantage and eliminate their command center in the town hall?"

"Might as well," the tiefling replied. "Though I wouldn't expect to take them by surprise now..."

The four quickly vanished into the night, making their way north to the town square and the mayor's office. Rachel drew her knees to her chest and wondered what the next day would bring. Long had she awaited the day that a bright knight in shining armor would come to free her town, but if the king was finally trying to retake it, who were the people she saw? The kingdom did not employ orcs and tieflings, and magic was frowned upon by the aristocracy.

"Rachel! Rachel!" The sound of rapid footsteps filled the air as a girl's voice cried out for Rachel. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Rachel quickly responded, rising from the ground to meet her sister.

"I'm scared; I heard shouting and saw the fighting..." Sophia said. " Rachel, what's happening?"

Rachel went over the events of the evening in her mind. "I'm not sure... where's Sebastian?"

"I think he's hiding," Sophia replied. "Can we... would it be ok if we went up to our room? I don't want to be out here."

"Sure we can, darling." Rachel hugged her sister and took her back to the safety of their room upstairs as explosions started to shake the tavern's windows.

Chapter 2

The two girls stayed in their room all night and well into the next day, afraid of venturing out into a town which still experienced periodic outbreaks of violence. Smoke rose above the rooftops of from several places; the square, the marketplace, and the old mill on the outskirts of town. Rachel passed the time by telling her sister the old stories and fairy tales that she had heard from wandering minstrels long ago when travellers still came to Sandman's Point.

It was a difficult task remembering what she had heard so long ago, but Rachel managed to keep Sophia entertained for hours as the sun crept higher and higher. The sounds of battle gradually faded and was replaced by an eerie calm. Then, sometime after noon, the quiet covering the town was broken by the sound of iron-shod horses marching into town.

The girls peered out of the windows to see over a hundred cavalrymen riding into town, bearing the flag of the Kingdom of Acarta and the King's standard, a green griffon over a bronze shield. Slowly, other windows opened as well, and citizens began to cheer their liberators on as the soldiers rode towards the town hall. Sophia flung open their window, while Rachel hurriedly pulled out an old flag with the monarchy's coat of arms on it so that she would have something to hang out of the window. The flag fluttered merrily in the breeze as if were waving to the soldiers.

Sebastian was ecstatic about Sandman's Point returning to the Crown and hurriedly cleared away the dead orcs from his tavern. The hole in the wall was covered by a painted a sign offering free food and drink to any soldier. Seeing the damaged wall made Rachel think of him; what had happened to the orc? He and his companions had fought off an entire regiment of Bloodmaw grunts; surely they were working for the Crown? But polite society had long shunned orcs, tieflings, and mages...

As if to answer her questions, the merchant from yesterday carefully stepped through the doorway, with a hood covering his face

"Hey," he greeted. "Sorry about the, um, hole in the wall. I can pay for it if you want."

"Oh, there's no need for that," Rachel smiled. "We was thinking of adding a breakfast nook there anyways."

"Good, good... I'd hate to be in more trouble than I already am," he laughed. "Can you make me something to eat? I could use a something after last night."

"Sure thing." Rachel called out to her sister in the kitchen for a large rare steak and some beer before showing the orc a seat. "So, uh, I hope you don't mind me asking, but who are you?"

"I'm Bjorn Foehammer, of the Bonesplitter clan," he replied, tucking a napkin into his blood soaked collar.

"That's a human name," Rachel observed.

"There's plenty of humans where I come from," Bjorn shrugged. "And you are?"

"Rachel. I live here with my sister." A bell in the kitchen rang to summon her. Rachel left to attend to her business and quickly returned with the steak. It had not taken much time to cook, but she supposed that was the point of rare meat. Bjorn certainly did not mind; on the contrary, he dug into it with great relish, right up to the point where the tiefling kicked the sign through the hole in the wall and stormed into the tavern.

"Now that we've a moment," she said, "Will you mind explaining to me just what was going through your head last night?"

"C-Corporal," Bjorn stood up hastily, not even pausing to remove the napkin, and saluted her. The tiefling simply glowered at him until he continued.

"A patrol was getting out of hand so I stopped them, and one thing lead to another..." His ears flattened against his head as Bjorn tried to explain himself.

"I don't care if they were going to burn the inn to the ground," the tiefling growled. "Your orders were to observe and report. Get it through your thick head - we need to be subtle."

"Hey, lay off him!" Rachel found herself defending Bjorn. "He stopped them from raping me!"

The tiefling looked her over disdainfully. "Kid if it was a choice between that and my team dying - which is what nearly happened - I'd toss you to the wolves any day."

"Kathryn, that would be dishonorable!" Bjorn protested despite her withering glare.

"Being a mercenary' isn't about honor, it's about doing the job you're paid for. We were supposed to be reconnaissance. Idiot."

The woman made a rude gesture at Bjorn and abruptly left the way she came, leaving Rachel and Bjorn alone in the tavern.

"Wow," Rachel said after Kathryn had gone. "What a bitch."

"Don't be too hard on her," Bjorn mumbled as he took a halfhearted stab at his steak. "Her girlfriend's been in a coma for nine hours now. Some bastard got her in the back with a poisoned arrow."

Bjorn played with the remainder of his steak without much enthusiasm before offering it to Rachel. A serving girl like her seldom got the chance to enjoy rich food, so she accepted without hesitation. He cut out a portion for her and pushed it to one side of his large plate. The two ate in silence for a while before Rachel decided to resume the conversation.

"Think she'll wake up?" Rachel asked.

"Eventually," Bjorn replied. "Aiva's pretty hard to keep down."

"That's good to know. I'm glad none of your friends died on account of me." Rachel said. "So what brings ya'll to this town?"

"The idea was that I'd spy on the orcs for a while, while selling them cursed weapons so that your army would have an easier time retaking the town." Bjorn explained. "Speaking of which... what did you do with those I killed yesterday?"

"Soldiers took them for disposal," Rachel replied, hungrily wolfing down the bits he cut out for her..

"Good, they'll know not to play around with the gear." He finished off his steak quietly and sat back in his chair, still downcast. Rachel did not know much about Bjorn's tribe, but from her experience, orcs loved to talk about themselves..

"I don't believe I've heard of your clan before," she said in an attempt to cheer him up.

"Not surprising," he replied, with the ghost of a smile around his lips. "We live in the Southern Wastes. Have been there since... about the time this world was born, really."

From what Rachel knew, that had to have been at least fifteen thousand years. "A long time to live in the snow."

"Probably why I jumped at the first opportunity to leave," Bjorn joked. "My cousin - I have this famous cousin - had friends in a mercenary company and arranged a position for me. It sounded like a great way to see the world, so I signed up and here I am."

"Well I think you'll do great," Rachel said. "Rescuing damsels in distress is a how a lot of heroes get their start."

"I'm glad you think so," Bjorn chuckled. "Maybe I'll try joining a group of paladins next. Seems like we'd have more in common."

Rachel would have loved to stay and laugh with him, but several soldiers rode up to the tavern in search of a good meal. She politely excused herself to attend to them, but told Bjorn that he could stay as long as he wanted. He took her up on the offer and sat there, drinking steadily as the afternoon turned in to evening.

Around dinner time, a red-eyed brunette not much older than Rachel wandered into the tavern. Her steps were somewhat unsteady, as if she were drunk, and she wore mage's robes; Rachel guessed that she must have been Aiva.

"How's it going?" Aiva asked, helping herself to a pitcher of Bjorn's beer.

"Not bad. Glad you're ok," Bjorn replied bashfully.

"Eh, so am I. Could use some entertainment, though. What do they have around here besides alcohol and sheep?"

Well, Aiva seemed nicer than her tiefling friend, Rachel thought. She walked over to the table and introduced herself.

"Oh, you're the one Kat was telling me about," Aiva sounded amused as she said it. "I'm sorry for what you had to go through."

"Are you referring to the orcs, or your friend?" Rachel asked, still resentful of the tiefling's attitude.

"Both, I suppose," Aiva shrugged. "Are you ok?"

"I'll live," Rachel replied. "So, you're looking for something to do?"

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