tagSci-Fi & FantasyStorm and Stone Ch. 01

Storm and Stone Ch. 01

byTheLordWinter©

Author's Note: Version 2. Fixed a few errors I caught and made some minor additions for clarification. As before, all mistakes are mine.

*****

He was not on Earth anymore, and he knew it five days ago. Five long, hot, humid, oppressive days. That was how long he had been carted through what he could only describe as a primeval sylvan landscape, in a fucking cage! Carted by humans, of course, down a road on the outskirts of a dense forest of oak and other majestic hardwoods so massive that they would challenge the great redwoods of Earth for supremacy, but that wasn't what made this so surreal. No, it was his companions in this medieval cluster-fuck that made him wonder why he ever took up spelunking in the first place. Two humans, three coal-skinned elves, a bald and tattooed dwarf with the most intricately braided waist-length beard he had ever seen, what he guessed was a gnome who wore goggles that magnified his eyes to comic proportions, and half a dozen orcs... yes, orcs!... the tusks and olive green skin were impossible to miss. The orcs were in irons so constrictive they could not fully stand upright if they tried. Even that did nothing to hide their massive, muscled frame. I'll bet they're gruesome in a fight, he mused. They were not the only ones in chains, however. The three elves were bound in rather strange cuffs that completely immobilized their hands. Everyone wore rags except for him. For some reason, he had been left in his t-shirt, jeans, and hiking shoes. Behind him in the caravan were at least two additional cages full of yet more captives. Further surprise at his situation was quashed by the fact it was a prison caravan.

Why did that damn cave have to be so close to his house, anyway? It teased and nagged his mind until he finally grabbed his gear five days ago and headed out to investigate. Everything went just fine. Until it wasn't. He was walking down a tunnel with his feet on solid ground, then they weren't. None of it made any sense. He just tumbled into an endless and empty void, his screams of terror the only sound. Then the light came back and he continued to fall. The light grew in size until he could just barely make out green grass as he tumbled. The last thing he remembered was wondering whether he had reached terminal velocity. Then he woke up... in a goddamn cage! He just could not get over those bars. He had never gotten so much as a speeding ticket at home, but somehow it was illegal to fall through a cave floor to wherever the godawful fuck this place was and land here unconscious.

He hoped that they would lock him up somewhere he could talk. His only attempt at conversation since he first woke up here had earned him a thump with the butt of a sword by one of the mounted guards along with the warning that he would be gagged if he spoke again. He failed to miss the strange looks he got from the rest of the captives after the blow. He almost asked what was wrong with them, but thought better of it... the knot on the back of his head smarted enough. At least the two of the elves were female, and they were every bit as beautiful as the fiction from his home described. His eyes widened as he finally realized why they were all in those strange hand-shackles... they were mages!

The man was shaken from his thoughts as a rapid thump began to radiate through his backside from the floor of the cage, followed by a commotion in the forest at his back that sent panicked birds in every conceivable direction. His fellow captives sat up, alert, and began to cast their eyes around in search of the source. They didn't have to wait for long. A lone deer darted out of the forest and down the road to the rear of the caravan as a bone-chilling roar resonated from the trembling woods and a hulking gray beast that made the orc captives look like dwarves in comparison broke through the treeline in a dead run with its earth-shaking footfalls. It barely paused long enough to tear a half-grown oak from the ground by its roots and hurl it at the leading squad in the caravan, then charged into the fancy carriage that rode right behind them. That was when he heard the cheers from the chained orcs. They began to chant a single word... Kord. They recognized this thing. This was a rescue! An ORC rescue! Oh shit. That thing must be an ogre! The man groaned and fell back against the bars of his cage as chaos erupted around him. The ogre had the entire caravan in utter disarray within moments, and now a great gout of orcs in jet black heavy-plate armor erupted from the woods to take advantage of the chaos.

All the prisoners cheered now as the ogre started to smash the cages one at a time while the orcs engaged the guards. When he saw this, the man dared hope that things were not so dire as they had first seemed. That was until the ogre ripped his own cage apart and an orc thrust a black shortsword into his right hand and roared a warcry in a language he could not understand. He looked down at the blade in his hands and considered his time as a Renn Fair fighter, it was lighter than the rattan weapons he was used to, but appeared to be made of steel. Hmm, he thought, this just might work.

"Fuck it!" the stranger said, and bellowed his own warcry before he charged into the fray.

The orc who armed him chuckled at the small human's enthusiasm, but that chuckle died in his throat when he saw the man's first opponent die much faster than he should have. These were skilled warriors of the Vaszul Empire, not some puffed up jailer from the average city-guard, but the man had an unorthodox style that took them all by surprise. The soldier opened with a thrust at the stranger's gut, but the blade found only empty space; the man had evaded to the soldier's right. The stranger's sword-arm was already raised, and he rewarded the soldier for his effort with a high-outside parry across the visor of the soldier's helm. The unusual attack surprised him long enough for the stranger to use the momentum from the bounce to carry the blade into an overhand strike against the back of the soldier's right leg that practically ignored the plate greaves he had on and nearly sheared his leg off at mid-thigh with the follow through. It didn't end there, however and the human brought his arm up into a counter-clockwise circle as he stepped left and struck out to the right with the sword; the blade took the soldier's head from behind before he could finish the fall from his maimed leg.

"Holy shit, I did it!" the man shouted.

That got the attention of a few other troops and the stranger quickly found himself surrounded by heavily armored men. The fight was on.

"Fuckin' figures." he muttered as they went on the attack.

As Captain Grokan tag-Gurog nug-Trazzak surveyed the chaos, all was well. His forces had dispatched or captured most of the soldiers. A handful still resisted, however, and his eyes were drawn to a strangely dressed human who fought without armor. And he fought like a demon. What started as three-on-one, had escalated to six-on-one, and the stranger fought as though they stood still. He was a blur of odd movements and strikes that came from unexpected directions, and the soldiers just could not cope with his attacks as he dispatched them one by one until only two remained. The orc's eyes widened as the human dropped his sword and offered the final two a feral grin, then started to... take off his pants?

The stranger had noticed that his remaining opponents wore no headgear. He had long ago realized that they were too slow to keep up. With just the two left, it was time to have some fun. He grinned at the asshole he now recognized as the one who bashed him in the head his first day. The stranger threw his sword to the ground and ripped the buckle from his belt. It separated into a pair of brass knuckles that he slipped onto each hand with feral glee.

"Let's see how you feel about bashing innocent strangers now, fuckstick..." the stranger growled.

He launched himself into the first soldier and wrapped him up at the waist. Before the bewildered fighter could comprehend why he was being hugged, he was hoisted onto the stranger's shoulder and slammed to the ground with such force that his vision was overtaken by a flash of white light and sparks and left him unable to breathe. Then the punches came. The stranger sat astride the soldier's waist and began to hammer his face with punches. Every swing of his torso brought two blows, a backhand followed by a haymaker. The soldier thought that his attacker had ran out of breath when the stranger paused in the assault on his face, but quickly realized it was only so he could shift his attacks lower. He helpless soldier could only grunt in pain as every blow left huge dents in his armor and cracked or broke still more bones.

The soldier's partner raised his weapon to stop the onslaught by this insane human, but thought better of it when he found the eyes of every idle orc in the chaos suddenly locked on him. The Captain shook his head slowly and patted the crossbow that hung from his hip. The soldier sighed and tossed his sword to the ground, then tackled the human off his battle-brother, who could only watch in broken horror as the stranger gave his compatriot a one handed shove from atop him that sent the soldier sprawling. The savage human delivered a bone-crushing punch to the man's cheekbone and dragged him to his feet as blood poured from the wicked cut left by the brass knuckles on his now-ruined cheek.

The orc captain was stunned. The stranger had pulled a pair of cleverly hidden cestus from his belt and proceeded to brutalize the first man. Captain Grokan had never seen such speed and power exhibited by a human before. This stranger tossed heavy-armored opponents around like toys. The great orc could not hide his surprise when he watched the stranger hoist the remaining guard into the air for what he thought was going to be a backbreaker, but instead brought him upside down and hopped. When the man dropped into a one-legged kneel, all became clear. The the stranger dropped the soldier straight down onto his extended knee, and the man screamed in agony as his left collarbone was annihilated. The stranger dumped his prey onto the ground with all the consideration one would give a stone in the road and turned away to rise to a knee and catch his breath.

"Bash a man for talking again, motherfucker. This ain't elementary school, bitch" the stranger muttered as he rose up and kicked the screaming man again for good measure. He screamed louder.

The man looked up from the fight and drew a deep breath, then exhaled as he took a quick look around. It was over. Whatever the purpose was here today, the attackers had succeeded, and he had managed to help. He hoped that would count for something, as he had no intentions of going back to a cage, especially now that he was aware he could fight back. A big orc with a long black beard and wild hair down his shoulders to match, in lightly gilded full-plate armor now strode toward him from the fringes of the battlefield. As the massive creature reached him, he offered up a gauntleted hand to the stranger and a big smile split the toothy maw. The man hoped it was a smile, anyway. The stranger looked at the offered hand for a brief moment, then tucked the knuckles into his pockets and returned the greeting.

The orc spoke first.

" Thanks for your help against the Vaszul, stranger. I don't think I've ever seen a human so fierce, nor one who fought so strangely. Come to think of it, I've never seen one so uniquely clothed, either. I'm Captain Grokan tag-Gurog nug-Trazzak. From where do you hail?"

The stranger chuckled. Orcs from Earth fantasy were not very bright and quite savage as a rule, so the civility and intelligence on display by these creatures was refreshing. He offered the captain a nervous smile.

"Arawn Stonebrook. Uh, yeah, about that fight, I... didn't... really expect that little bit with the sword to work. I use that style in pseudo-re-enactment contests with wooden weapons... real medieval armor, though. I just didn't want to die, so I gave it a shot. As for my home... judging by the beautiful stars you have in the night sky here, I'd say it is somewhere very, very far away. Earth and the Sol system might not even be in the same galaxy as... uh..."

"Terrock..." the orc offered, Arawn smiled and nodded.

"Terrock, thanks. Nice name. Hell, for all I know Terrock could be in a completely different universe."

"I did not understand a word of that... and if you are not from this world, how in the hells can you speak common?"

Arawn felt the adrenaline surge from the combat begin to fade and guided the orc to a crate and took a seat.

"Sorry, that was my first live battle, the rush is leaving me. Guess I'm blooded, now, huh?" Arawn gave a nervous chuckle.

The orc smiled and waved it off. He pulled up a crate for himself and that began an hour long conversation as Arawn explained the fundamentals of the decimal system, distance measurements, planets, stars, planetary movements, galaxies, what he knew about how he got to Terrock, and the SCA. By the time Arawn got halfway through explaining about the mock-wars, the festivals, how it was all based on historical practices and customs, and the trial by combat for kingship of the various fantasy kingdoms across his homeworld... he had acquired an audience. When Arawn paused to take a breath and gather his thoughts, an orc that shared his cage took the opportunity to speak up with a question.

"My name's Nudjik. I saw the soldier hit you through the bars of our cage for talking, he meant to draw blood but none flowed. If you only trained for mock-fighting as you say, how can you be so tough and formidable?" the orc inquired.

"That's a good question..."

Arawn thought for a moment, then pointed at one of the human captives that had been rescued.

"He's about my size and build. Pick him up, then pick me up. That might give us an answer, I'll explain afterward, either way."

The orc gave him an odd look, but the human did seem to be confident about this. The other human protested, but the captain smoothed it over and the orc did as the strange human had requested. Then he lifted Arawn and placed him back on the ground and shrugged.

"About the same." he told Arawn.

"Well shit. There goes my theory."

Captain Grokan lifted a brow at the man.

"Oh, sorry..." Arawn chuckled, "I thought the gravity on Earth might be heavier, but apparently that is not the case. I would have been at least half again as heavy as the other gentleman because my muscles and bones would have been much more dense due to the gravitational difference. I would have been harder to hurt for the same reason."

"So where do you think it comes from?" the captain inquired.

"I... don't know. My bet was on gravity. Magic, maybe? We have no magic on Earth, at least not to any appreciable degree." he confessed.

"I see," the captain grunted. "A mystery for another time, then. I need to get these louts moving or we'll be sleeping under the stars tonight. We can discuss this more over tonight's meal. I see that your clothes did not fare as well as yourself in the battle. See the healer for any wounds large or small, we cannot have them getting infected out here. She'll have the possessions the Vaszul took from you, as well."

Arawn nodded. The captain stood and stretched his back, then drew a deep breath and began to bellow orders.

"Alright, you lot! Hop to it and get those hands to work! We're camping here tonight and I want to eat before the moon comes out to dance! Get this mess cleaned up and get the cooking fire started."

*********

Camp had finally been pitched and the smell of food wafted through the air. Cleanup was complete and the bodies had been disposed of in a magical flame that barely left any ash. All that remained was a pile of armor that had been removed from the bodies before cremation. Everyone finally assembled around the central fire for the evening meal after the prisoners had retrieved their possessions from the caravan's storage wagons. Arawn noted that the rest of the captives seemed to have gotten what he guessed was their original belongings back as well, in the interim. The dwarf was in a rather impressive suit of spiked armor, the gnome was dressed in leather clothes that would have looked at home in a steampunk setting, and the elven ladies were garbed in fine red gowns trimmed in gold and adorned with beautiful dragon themed embroidery all about. The lone male elf was suited in ornate leather armor and a bow was strapped across his back. The healer, an elf, patched up the handful of minor cuts he received in the fight with some bandages and healing herbs, pronounced him fit, and surprised him when she returned not just his hiking pack but his phone as well. He seated himself near the fire with the pack between his feet, Captain Grokan joined at his right and Kord, the ogre berserker, sat at his left. Supper was a pleasant experience. He was presented with a bowl of stew that proved quite tasty, he saw a lot of Earth vegetables in with a meat he could not identify, and he considered how so many things seemed to be the same as his home. The orcs here were far from the savage brutes he had read about back home on Earth, though. As he worked his way through the bowl of venison stew, yes... he asked, he found himself amazed at the innocence he found in this world after only five days in a cage. Sure, he had fought a savage battle today, but Terrock was uncorrupted by the chaos that dominated Earth The achievements both wonderful and terrible, they all took something from the soul of his home that he wondered if it would ever get back. Not here, though, this world was pristine and he found that he dared to hope he was stuck here. Beside him, Captain Grokan finished his bowl of stew and placed it between his feet. The orc stared into the fire for a moment then spoke.

"Arawn, you said earlier that your fighting style was not based on true swordsmanship. Do you not use swords to fight your wars?"

Arawn gave the orc a rueful grin and shook his head.

"Keep that up and I'm gonna start to think you're psychic, I was just thinking of home. No, we haven't used blades to fight for hundreds of years."

"Then what do you use?"

Arawn sighed... "Guns, bombs, airplanes, helicopters, tanks and other armored vehicles, ships, submarines, missiles, chemicals... even diseases" he spat the last word, he abhorred biological warfare.

The elves were sat to the right of Captain Grokan, and one of the females took an opportunity to join the conversation. Her voice was rich and womanly, and caught his attention immediately.

"I am Amevina Avrile'autur, my brother Vorsah, his wife Ke'line, and I shared your cage." Arawn nodded his acknowledgement and she continued. "While I find guns and bombs distasteful, they, and disease are known to us. I share your sentiment on diseases as weapons, however. What do they do on your world, spread plague detritus through enemy streets?" she asked.

He found himself attracted to this she-elf, her elegance and poise, combined with that voice drew him in like the proverbial moth.

"It's a lot worse than that, unfortunately. The humans of my world have discovered ways to create diseases of their own. We've become so advanced that some of us think we are gods, but if our ancient legends are to be believed then we are like children to some who have come before us. By your standards, and I don't mean this as an insult, we actually are. I'd wager that you lose a fair bit of women to childbirth alone whenever healers like Kem'erra are not around to keep things from going awry, and that's not even counting bacterial infections and viruses. We eradicated the most lethal form of the pox completely on my world. Now we turn diseases into invisible weapons, and make bombs that can kill millions of people with nothing more than a cloud of gas."

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