A peace-craving orc warrior quits his tribe and meets a fellow misfit, the giantess Raquel. A spin-off of Ryantherebel's Hayone Saga.
, Mouth Play Characters:
Brobdnignagian (51 ft. to 100 ft.)Shrink:
This story is for entertainment purposes only.
April 26 2010 Updated:
July 24 2010
For more on the Hayone Saga, see Ryan's stories Scapegoat and End of an Era.
While named after the co-author, the Pixis in this story is no relation to his own Sir Pixis character. This is a separate universe. Confusin', ain't it? ;)
1. Chapter 1 by Pixis
2. Chapter 2 by Pixis
3. Chapter 3 by Pixis
4. Chapter 4 by Pixis
5. Chapter 5 by Pixis
6. Chapter 6 by Pixis
7. Chapter 7 by Pixis
8. Chapter 8 by Pixis
9. Chapter 9 by Pixis
10. Chapter 10 by Pixis
Chapter 1 by Ryantherebel with a few edits from Pixis.
Between an Orc and a Hard Place
The very word conjures up images of barbaric, green, clammy skinned humanoids with animalistic faces, and jaws filled with dagger-like teeth. Creatures that roam the seas, and skies of Hayone in iron clad warships, pillaging villages, and slaughtering innocents all in the name of honor, and the chance for an eternity of bliss in the next life. It was because of these customs, among other reasons, that Djoland ran away from his own kind. He resided presently in a cave, and sat close to the fire he made out of some old rags soaked in his own saliva. Clad in cloths made of black velvet and steel, he sat up against a bronze trunk that was filled with the weapons of his fallen enemies, and up against the trunk was his trusty seven barreled shotgun.
He sat cross legged and was feasting upon the limb of a female Throx. While the creature's exoskeleton was at times difficult to bite through, it was nevertheless a satisfying meal. But the down side of eating these creatures began to rear its ugly head as Djoland began to hear a series of clicks and cracks behind him. He turned around slowly, and saw standing before him on a nearby rock a male Throx in all its wretched six foot six splendor. Its single compound eye glared at him, and it's arm-like forelegs were outstretched, with claws deployed. As Djoland began to reach for his shotgun, the creature's head followed him. Realizing it was waiting for him to make the first move, he backed away, and decided to appease the creature.
“If it's consolation,” he began, “Your mate was delicious.”
The beast roared and jumped at him. Djoland grabbed his shotgun, but as the Throx hit him, his index finger fell on the trigger, and all seven barrels fired at once. The Throx knocked the weapon aside, bared its mandibles, and began to close in on Djoland's throat. Djoland raised his fist and brought it down on the creature's compound eye. The beast roared in pain, and Djoland dashed for his gun. As he frantically reloaded the weapon, his eyes briefly fell upon the exit of the cave, and an idea came to him.
He turned around, and saw the now recovered Throx charging at him. Djoland started to run towards the exit, and as soon as he felt that he was close enough to it, he faced the Throx. As it lunged at him, Djoland backed out of the way, and hit the foul thing with the butt of his shotgun. The Throx stumbled out of the cave, and collapsed. It stayed that way for about two seconds, before it picked itself up, and faced Djoland again. It was then that a foot about fifteen by forty four meters in size came down, and crushed the Throx.
“Damn it,” said a female voice. “Boss, the bugs are back.”
* * *
Elsewhere, an attractive young woman with red hair rifled through a menu. She was clad in a simple green tunic, a scandalously short skirt, and a pair of calf-high brown boots. Intense, violet eyes drifted from the menu to the floor when she heard the squishy sound of the Throx's demise. However, the creature's end was of little concern to Raquel and she quickly resumed browsing the appetizers. After all, this lady was a hundred feet tall, and a Throx, as fearsome as it was, had barely the mass of her big toe.
For that matter, so did her date for the evening (though one surmises that it would be more concerning to her if he was in the Throx's place). Sir Pixitatonolous Karmantocoth the 75th (“Pixis” to his friends) sat in the palm of the giantess' hand as they waited for the hostess to seat them. Ostensibly, he was up there so that he too could read the sample menu Raquel had taken from a nearby pile. But in truth, the handsome elf nobleman was finding the view of her tunic's plunging neckline to be of greater interest.
“The Decapitated Dragon?” Pixis asked Raquel, wisely averting his eyes before she became annoyed. “What kind of name for a restaurant is that?”
Raquel looked down at her hand held lover and said, “Mom said that she wanted a name that would get people's attention.”
“Well it has my attention. I'm just no sure it's in the way she intended.”
“Oh, Pixis,” Raquel sighed, and walked after the giant hostess.
Pixis, half-expecting a sleazy pub was astonished to see how classy and sophisticated the place was. The floor of the restaurant was polished, the waiters wore red and white suits that were easy on the eyes, but what really caught his attention was that a series of box seats were embedded in the walls, and connected to them was a series of ramps where other waiters, composed of humans and elves, navigated along.
“Say, Raquel?” Pixis asked nervously. “Did I happen to offend you earlier or something?”
Raquel just chuckled.
Djoland reluctantly stepped out to examine his fallen adversary. The Throx was a barely recognizable lump of broken flesh and colorless blood. The sound of footsteps returned. Djoland quickly jumped out of the way and hid behind a table leg. As the feet came down, he shivered when he imagined what those monstrous appendages might do to him. Just another reminder of the perilous home he had chosen for himself.
When he left his tribe, Dioland had certainly not set out to live in the walls of a restaurant in the giants' homeland. But as he wandered the kingdoms, his orcish nature was met with fear, hatred, and prejudice in every village. Angry mobs and squads of soldiers deterred him in his journey. He was pursued by bounty hunters and others who thought little of adding another dead orc to their tally of conquered foes. In defending himself, Djoland had been forced to kill and maim a few of his attackers, which largely defeated the purpose of leaving the violence of the orcish raid parties behind him.
Thus, when he came to the extinct volcano where the giants resided, it was a refreshing change to be simply ignored by the citizens. Here, he was below their notice, free to eke out an existence scavenging for food left behind by the restaurant's patrons. The only hitch would come if they ever discovered his presence, for surely he'd be seen as a pest the same as any Throx or other vermin of the giants' land.
Suddenly, an enchanting smell crept up Djoland's nose. He turned to the direction the smell came from and saw, sitting on a counter, what his kind called, “the mother of all meat.” Dragon ribs. His mouth began to water. Without thinking, he rushed into the open, dodging all incoming feet that threatened to make him one with the floor. He leaped onto the side of the counter and began to scale it.
Raquel set Pixis down in his box seat, and then took her seat at the table.
“So what do you think so far?” she asked.
“I like it,” he replied, “but I've got a question. How long have these box seats been here?”
“They're recent,” said Raquel, “We started getting news that humans and elves would visit us, so Mom had these installed. She even hired some Elven chefs.”
“I see,” said Pixis. “Looks it's been working out well.”
He then opened his menu, and three seconds later closed it.
“That was fast,” Raquel quipped.
“I'm just that easy to please, I guess,” Pixis replied. “And I have soft spot for noodles doused in sauce.”
“That's nothing,” said Raquel. “You've never tried the ribs.”
“Ribs?” he asked.
“I'm not much of a meat eater,” Pixis replied.
“You're missing out on something,” Raquel persisted. “It is delicious to the point where its most likely unhealthy, and then there's the mashed potatoes that come with it. They are just-”
“Ahem,” a voice interrupted her.
The two lovers turned and saw two waiters, one a giant, the other an elf.
“I take it you know what want already?” The giant waiter asked Raquel.
She nodded, and said, “I'd also like some wine for us.”
“The best you have,” Raquel answered. The waiter nodded, and took her menu.
Pixis made his order to the other waiter, and the two attendants departed.
It took twenty minutes for Djoland to reach the top of the counter. The main drawback he kept encountering was the possibility of being spotted. After some planning though, he managed to get on the counter without being seen by anyone. Several slices of the meat were being placed on various plates. He approached the plate closest to him, and he charged at its meat, blind with hunger. Before he could of even bite it however, he found himself buried under a mound of mashed potatoes.
“Aw, bollocks,” the orc muttered. Or he would have, if not for the mass of potato in his mouth and the torrential downpour of gravy.
Chapter 2 by Pixis.
Djoland fought to free himself from the viscous mound of mashed potatoes and gravy but it was too late. In moments, a giant waitress had gathered up the plate and carried it to its destination. Djoland felt his bones rattle as the plate hit the tabletop with a crash. The orc laid there, stunned from the impact, pain shooting through every nerve of his body.
“Gods, but I'm hungry,” a booming, feminine voice said overhead. Djoland was still recovering when the spoon descended.
The huge metal utensil pierced the potato mash a few feet from the orc's body. With a wet slurping sound, it scooped a clump of potato bigger than he was out of the pile like a great shovel. His strength returned and Djoland tried to scramble away. But as he pushed himself up off the plate, his hand slipped in a greasy pool of gravy. Djoland fell and banged his chin on the plate, wincing and gritting his sharp teeth. The spoon returned, sliding through the muck and taking him with it.
Djoland felt himself rising at an alarming rate. The restaurant swept past him on all sides in a blur of motion. He caught a glimpse of red hair, flashing white teeth, and thick, pink lips before he was plunged into darkness.
Sliding through the mass of potato, Djoland's orcish eyes quickly adjusted to the scant amount of light. He found himself in the massive cave-like mouth of a giantess. Beside him, a row of sharp white teeth the size of stalactites violently chewed on the potatoes, sending flecks of mush to ricochet back at him. The floor undulated and rippled below like a restless beast, causing the orc to shift towards those gnashing teeth. As he landed on the lower row of the giantess' molars, Djoland's warrior instincts went into action. He barrel-rolled to the side, moments before the upper teeth came down in a deadly chomp. The enormous tongue tried to push him the other direction towards a second row of teeth, but Djoland was already rolling away.
As if it possessed a mind all its own, the tongue changed tactics. Refusing to be denied, the slippery muscle began to lift towards the roof of the mouth. Djoland and the remaining clump of potato were hoisted high until they collided with the giantess' soft palate. They then started sliding inexorably down the sloping tongue towards a yawning abyss below. As the orc approached the giant woman's throat, he realized with dread that she could likely swallow him whole. The small size of his body combined with the added lubrication of the mashed potatoes would cause him to slide right down that gargantuan gullet.
“Not today, girly,” Djoland muttered.
Reaching for his belt, he drew forth a line of rope with a three-pronged metal hook at its end. The orc warrior swung this grappling hook to the side until it caught on one of the colossal lady's back teeth. This he did not a moment too soon for a few seconds later, he plunged into the giant gullet. Djoland entered a freefall and felt huge muscles contract about his body. With a monstrous gulp, the giantess swallowed him alive.
Or attempted to, at any rate. Clinging tight to the grappling hook, Djoland only was drawn part of the way down her throat. He dangled on the end of the rope somewhere within the giant woman's esophagus. Below him, the darkness and the gurgling sounds of her body beckoned. The walls of muscle continued to squeeze around him and he was shaken by the sound and vibration as the giantess started to choke.
Raquel coughed and hacked violently when the small object became lodged in her throat. Her face began to turn blue as her air passage was blocked off. In his box seat nearby, Pixis could only watch helplessly.
“Hands above your head!” the elf called to her. “Oh, sweetheart, I told you not to wolf down your food so!”
Raquel grabbed her glass of water and began to guzzle it down, hoping to dislodge whatever was choking her. Inside her throat, Djoland held fast to his lifeline as a flood of ice water washed over him. The force of the sudden waterfall caused him to lose his grip and he tumbled downward once more. Djoland desperately grasped for the rope. He barely caught the end of it and now found himself dangling deeper still within the slippery tunnel. The water was gone now, washed down into the darkness.
Outside, Raquel's plight had been noticed by the restaurant's patrons, and the couple's waitress had quickly rushed to her aid. The other giantess stood behind her and grabbed her about the middle. With quick thrusts, she pulled upward against Raquel's abdomen until the obstruction came flying out of her mouth with a mighty cough. The tiny greenish shape tumbled through the air before landing with a splash in Raquel's glass of wine.
“Oh, thank the gods,” said Pixis. “Are you all right, honey?”
Slowly recovering, Raquel glanced at the wine with curiosity. She reached in with two slender fingers and lifted Djoland from the glass, dangling him upside down by his leg. Wine and potato mash dripped from his form as he struggled ineffectually in her grip.
“Release me, woman!” he growled defiantly.
“Bloody hell,” Raquel gasped. She brought the wiggling creature closer to her face and examined him. “It--it's alive!”
“No thanks to you, maneater!” the orc bellowed.
The dark-haired waitress leaned in closer and took a look at the upside down orc. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “What a hideous little thing,” she said. “I'm terribly sorry, miss. Your meal is on the house of course. I'll dispose of the pest for you.” She reached for Djoland with huge, manicured nails the length of his legs.
“Don't hurt it!” Raquel cried in alarm. She dropped the little orc into her palm and covered him protectively with her other hand. “It can talk! This is a sentient creature, not a bug! The poor thing was probably just hungry!”
The waitress looked at Raquel as if she'd grown a second head. But then again, this was the boss' daughter and she was not about to press the issue.
“Um, all right, miss, whatever you say. Just get it out of here quick before someone contacts the health inspector.”
Once the waitress had gone, Raquel lifted her hand to take a better look at the tiny creature. Light returned to Djoland's eyes and he glanced up at the enormous, yet strikingly pretty, cliff-like face of his captor. Long curtains of red hair hung on either side of the hand that cradled him, obscuring his view of the restaurant. A pair of violet eyes as big as his head regarded him curiously.
“What is it, Raquel?” Pixis called from his box.
“It's an orc!” the giantess informed him in surprise.
“An orc!” said Pixis in horror. “Should have listened to the waitress. Kill it, quick!”
“Hullo, little fella,” the giant redhead cooed, ignoring her boyfriend for the moment. “What were you doing in my mashed potatoes?”
“None of your business, jumbo,” Djoland spat. “Now, unhand me or I'll chop off your fingers!” He drew a long dagger from his belt and brandished it with menace. Raquel simply flicked this out of his grasp with her fingertip. It fell some forty feet to clatter onto the table below.
“You do that and I might have to bite off your arm, shorty,” Raquel said. She snapped her huge teeth a few inches from the orc's face. “Let's not forget who almost ate who here. Now, come on. No funny business.”
Djoland glared at the giantess for a moment before trying to leap off the side of her hand. Raquel simply reached out with her other hand and grabbed the back of his tunic. She dangled him in the air before her.
“Hey, what did I just say?” she chided. “Look, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here. Or, um, wrong tongue maybe?” She giggled. “My name's Raquel. What's yours?”
Seeing that he was going nowhere and that the giantess was not attempting squash him, the orc decided to play along. “I am Djoland. Formerly of Daggerclaw Tribe.” He slapped a fist against his chest in the old tribe salute, something he realized he would no longer be needing.
“Formerly?” Raquel asked, setting him back in her palm. One of her thin, red eyebrows arched prettily with the question.
“I am an exile,” Djoland explained. “A scavenger. I have quit the tribe to find my own way.”
As they continued introductions, Pixis had leaped from his box seat onto Raquel's shoulder. The elf stumbled slightly on the slippery bare skin and nearly plunged to the tabletop. But he managed to keep his footing and pushed his way through the wall of red hair to get a better look at what was happening.
“Raquel, why are you talking to it? Squish the beast at once!”
“Pix, what's gotten into you?” Raquel said. “This guy's not hurting anyone.”
“Not yet perhaps,” Pixitatonolous answered. “But he's an orc! Do you know how many elf cities have been raided by these barbarians? How many widows and orphans their kind has produced? They're monsters, Raquel! All of them! Vicious, warmongering brutes!”
“I see,” Raquel said, her brow furrowing in annoyance. “And I suppose all giants are violent, carnivorous ogres that storm the countryside and devour everything in their path?”
Pixis squirmed uneasily. “No, of course not, darling.” When her glare continued, he tried to defuse the situation with humor. “Though, um...you did almost swallow this fellow just now.”
“I expected better of you, Pix,” the giantess stated coldly. “Judging a whole species like that.”
“But Raqqy,” the elf said, exasperated. “He's an orc!”
“I am no warmonger,” Djoland barked, gruffly. “Quit my tribe to live in peace.”
“A peace-loving orc?!” Pixis cried. “Pull the other one!”
“What do you know of it, pointy-ears?” Djoland growled.
“More than you'd think,” the elf declared. Angrily, he began stomping his way down the length of Raquel's arm towards the hand holding Djoland. “My cousin Terranaculous and his family were killed in an orc raid! Your damned airships put his village to the torch! Dozens dead and left to rot in the sun!”
“Hmm. Probably Fangtooth Tribe,” Djoland stated simply. “Daggerclaw didn't use airships.”
“I don't care who it was!” Pixis was by now enraged. “They're all dead! And your filthy breed should be wiped off the face of the earth!”
“Pixis!” Raquel said in shock.
“If you won't squish this animal,” the elf lord announced, “I'll dispose of him myself!” Pixis leaped from her wrist into the palm of his giant lover's hand. Before Djoland had a chance to react, the elf had tackled him, knocking them both into a heap. With savage anger, Pixis repeatedly punched and kicked at the orc. Djoland snarled and clawed at the obnoxious elf, trying to toss his wiry opponent off. The duo wrestled back and forth across the giantess's hand, coming dangerously close to the edge more than once.
“That will be quite enough of that!” a voice boomed above them. Raquel reached down and seized Pixis in her fingers, lifting him out of her hand.
“You need a time out, mister!” she announced. Before the elf could protest, she turned him upside down and thrust him headfirst down her cleavage. Her tiny lover's legs kicked furiously but ineffectually in the air. Placing a hand over him, the giantess pushed down until the elf was swallowed up completely between her breasts. Satisfied for the moment, she ignored his ticklish squirming and returned her attention to Djoland.
“Now, where were we? Hmm...wait a moment,” Raquel said. She reached into her mouth and felt about with a finger. Moments later, she had extracted Djoland's grappling hook from her back tooth and pulled it out, offering it to the little creature.
“I believe this is yours.” The orc stared up at her warily, not certain what to make of the giantess's courtesy.
“It's all right,” she said. “I won't bite. Hard.” She winked at him and gave a charming giggle. When the orc still didn't take the rope from her, she set him and the grappling line on the side of her plate.
“Here. You must be starving.” Raquel tore a small strip of meat off one of the dragon ribs and set it beside Djoland. Eying her for a moment, the orc finally relented and dove at the succulent meat, tearing into it with his sharp fangs.
“Have all you want, little guy,” Raquel told him. “I know what it's like to be judged for what you are. When you're done, you can tell me all about this tribe of yours that you've decided to quit.”
The meat was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted. If he'd known it would be like this, Djoland would have gotten himself almost eaten a long time ago.
Chapter 3 by Ryantherebel.
“Chieftain, chieftain,” a young orc cried out in excitement. “The scout has returned!”
“At last,” Kroth said to himself. As he stepped outside his tent, the scout in question, named Amot, rode his bear to a halt in the camp.
“My lord, I think I've found where Djoland is now.”
“Excellent,” Kroth exclaimed. “The sooner we find him, the better. Now where is he?”
“A mountain,” Amot answered, “53 kilometers due west.”
“Alright,” said Kroth, “We set out in four minutes.”
“A word of caution, sir,” Amot continued. Kroth's excitement left him and was replaced with frustration.
“What is it this time?” he snarled. “Another human settlement to walk around, another battle that requires our patience? We have spent an absurd portion of this venture on waiting for local conflicts to subside, and maneuvering around obstructions.”
“Sir, I know you desire to have that indulgence but--”
“I don't desire it,” Kroth snapped, “I need it!”
“Sir, the mountain is occupied by giants!” Amot shouted. Kroth's demeanor changed again, this time to unease. He then answered Amot with a meek, “Oh.”
There was an unsettling pause, that lasted for six seconds before Kroth said, “Make that four hours.”
As Amot moved away, Kroth called out to him one last time.
“Amot,” he said.
“I apologize for my outburst.”
Amot smiled and said, “Don't dwell on it, sir.”
Kroth walked back to his tent. He tried to take Amot's advice to heart, but he found it impossible. The indulgence was just too great a prize to ignore, but there was more to it than that. He was a slave to the oldest piece of orc literature, the Laws of Combat, and in this case, the law was number seventeen, never enter battle that has no chance of success.
Raquel laid herself down on the grass with her new companion (plus his luggage) in hand. She set Djoland down next to her and turned her attention toward the night sky.
“What are we doing here?” Djoland asked her.
“I like to come outside here from time to time. I love looking at the stars. It makes me realize just how small I am.”
“You, small?” Djoland protested. “That's unusually humble for someone of your stature.”
“Well,” Raquel replied, “Let's just say that my kind has been through a lot.”
“I see,” replied Djoland.
“But enough about me,” she said, “I want to know why you left your clan.”
“Simply put,” Djoland began, “I was bored. There's only so much raping and pillaging one can ingest before it gets a little hollow and pointless. Not even the indulgences could satisfy me.”
“Indulgences?” Raquel asked.
“They're a sort guarantee that one will enter the next life. They used to be given out to individuals who performed honorably, be they a soldier or citizen. Now they're given out to anyone who kisses the asses of the chieftains.”
“If I didn't know better, I'd say your chieftains are a tad corrupt,” Raquel quipped.
“Indeed,” Djoland sighed. “Except one, Kroth. He is perhaps the most honest of the ten chieftains, and he's after me.”
“Duty,” Djoland answered. “He has an overdeveloped sense of duty. He's to terrified to question the will of the other chieftains, which is a damn shame because he's one of our finest military strategists.”
“Sounds like you have a lot of respect for him,” said Raquel.
Djoland nodded and said, “Indeed, but I'm more worried about bounty killers finding me.”
“Oh dear,” Raquel sighed.
“Yup,” Djoland replied. “It all started a couple years ago when I arrived in this small kingdom called Karthon. I spent four months living in the sewers, feeding off rats, and occasionally coming out to get something more satisfying which was usually consisted of me going through trash bins looking for something even remotely edible. It wasn't long before I was spotted by the local populace. I attempted to explain myself, but the king, an unpleasant bloke named Gunther, sent his soldiers after me. So it was back to the sewers for me.”
“Damn,” Raquel gasped. “And I take it that Gunther put a bounty on your head.”
Djoland nodded. “He hired a trio of them, to be exact. They spent weeks in sewers chasing me. Now, my fellow orcs and I are used to horrible smells, but the tolerance these men showed was just unbelievable, and their combat skills were exceptional.”
“How did you escape them?”
“Well,” Djoland continued, “I was lucky the kingdom was lousy at sanitation because I found a leaking oil drum and used my weapon to light it. One was caught in the flames, the other two I took on hand to hand. I didn't kill them though. Just wounded them bad enough to get out of the sewers and leave the kingdom, but that didn't stop Gunther from hiring more bounty killers. By the beginning of last year, I had at least forty hired guns hunting me. After a while though, they just vanished. I guess they all gave up.”
He then shook his head and finished with “Either way, I just don't fit in with the human world.”
“I don't think so,” Raquel responded. “I know a place where you'll fit in perfectly with humans.”
“Oh, please,” Djoland grumbled. “What you're talking about is impossible.”
“Trust me,” said Raquel. “I know what I'm talking about.”
Gunther had a reputation in his kingdom as a heavy sleeper. During his time in the military, he slept through whole battles, and was even captured in his sleep. This trait came back to haunt him when a foul smell crept across his nostrils. He awoke gagging, and as soon as his throat was clear, he realized he was not alone. The darkness of his chambers was slightly illuminated by a candle being held by a stranger. The light from the candle illuminated the left half of the stranger's face, and Gunther found that the stranger was a man he recognized.
“Lee?” he asked. “Is that you Lee?”
The stranger nodded and said, “It's me.”
“By God,” Gunther exclaimed happily. He recognized Lee's dark suit and even though he could only see one of his eyes, he recognized its distinct amber color.
“I thought you were--”
“Dead?” Lee interrupted. “Do I look dead?”
“Of course not,” Gunther replied nervously. “But what happened to your partners?”
A seemingly disembodied voice cried out with, “Don't worry, we survived.”
The voice's source came into the light revealing a slightly shorter man in a sharp suit, with neat clean hair.
“Ah, Hayden,” said Gunther. “What about Kane?”
“I'm here,” another voice called out. The voice's owner stepped into the light as well and while the blue and gray suit unmistakably belonged to Kane, his face was obscured by a steel mask, and he was also carrying a large and loaded sack. Gunther's concern slowly escalated.
“What's with the mask?” he asked.
“That's what we came to talk to you about,” Lee answered. “The three of us all suffered some pretty nasty wounds from the orc, and you didn't lend a helping hand.”
“I thought you were dead,” Gunter replied. “We all thought you were dead. We saw the flames coming from the manhole.”
“You could have tried to rescue us or launch a search party, but instead you seal up the sewers for six weeks. Six damn weeks of us consuming God knows what. I swear you must either be stupid, or incompetent.”
“I'd say both,” Kane snarled.
“I'm sorry,” Gunther protested, “I had no idea.”
“Then let me give you an idea,” Kane answered, and with that he removed his mask revealing a horrific, burned face. Gunther could do nothing else but recoil in horror.
“That's not all,” announced Hayden. He raised his black gloved right hand. He grasped the hand and removed it from his arm. Gunther screamed. His three tormentors laughed, but it was by no means an evil laugh. It was the kind of laugh one hears as reaction to an excellent joke, which made the situation all the more terrifying.
“It's fake, you fool,” said Hayden. “The same goes for my leg.”
To demonstrate, he pulled up the cuff covering his right leg, revealing an iron armature. Gunther then turned his attention to Lee.
“Well, what about you?”
Lee answered his question by bringing the candle closer to his face, revealing that where his right eye should be lay an empty socket.
“What do you want from me?” Gunther gasped.
“The money you owe us.”
“Of course,” Gunther replied. “Nine million gold. I'll just--”
“We don't want nine million,” Lee interrupted again. “Add three more zeroes to that number.”
“Nine billion?” exclaimed Gunther. “You're nuts! That would leave the kingdom bankrupt. I mean, after my people--”
“Your people can all go screw a horse for all we care,” Hayden snapped.
“That's right,” said Lee. “So, unless you want nice little disemboweling, I suggest you agree to our little arrangement.”
“Before I do any of that,” Gunther protested, “I have to know what the hell is in that sack.”
Lee chuckled, and said, “It's our competition.”
Kane then dumped the sack's contents, over a dozen severed heads, on the floor. Making things more horrifying was that Gunther recognized every single face.
“You should have stuck with us,” said Kane as he tossed the sack aside.
Gunther drew a small single pocket pistol from his trousers, and aimed it at his tormentors who, in turn, drew their own sidearms. Lee drew a black and silver revolver, Hayden drew a four barreled derringer, and Kane drew an automatic pistol. Gunther stepped out of his bed, and slowly made his way to the door.
“Guards!” he cried. No response. “Guards!” he cried again, and like before, no response. He then darted for the door, and exited the room in a flash, but as soon as he stepped outside his room, he stepped in something wet. He looked down at a large puddle of blood, and the bodies of two guards lying in said blood. Faced with this, there was only one thing to do. He dropped his pistol and ran for the nearest exit, stumbling over more dead bodies along the way, and with tormentors in pursuit.
It took him three minutes to reach the front door, and at first, he seemed to have made a safe getaway. But has soon as he opened the door, he was greeted by an army of at least fifty heavily armed men, some on horseback, some in armored vehicles. He stopped dead in his tracks, not knowing what to do. Just then, Lee's voice returned.
“So,” he said, “do we have deal?”
Gunther turned around to the trio, and asked, “Who are these people?”
“Mercenaries,” Lee answered. “Bandits, killers, folks who all want a piece of the action, and we're going to give it to them if you cooperate. If you don't, then this kingdom of yours will burn.”
“Fine,”Gunther snapped, “I'll get your money, ”
“And we'll bring you the orc on a silver platter,” said Hayden.
“Alright,” sighed Hayden. “Now, please, go.”
“You heard the man,” Lee announced. “Let's go.”
Chapter 4 by Pixis
Kroth led the orcish horde across the land, following Djoland's trail. The warriors rode on fearsome grizzly bear mounts or simply stalked the countryside on foot, untiring and unwavering in their goal. Djoland's abandonment of his clan did not sit well with his former sword-brothers and many bristled with anger and resentment. But they knew that with the traitor's death, their chieftain would be granted his desired indulgence by the high priests. His place among the ancestors in the next world would be secured.
At last, they approached the extinct volcano where the giants made their home. Kroth turned to his best tracker, a stoic old hunter in a tattered hood named Alvar.
“Well, man, what is it to be?” the chieftain said. “Must we take on a city of giants to find our quarry?” Kroth shuddered at the thought. His warriors were formidable but he doubted even they could survive such an ordeal.
Alvar held fast to the leashes of his barghest hunting-hounds. The massive black devil-dogs, full as large as young colts, growled deep in their throats and sniffed the air. They had learned Djoland's scent from a scrap of one of his old tunics and now sought for signs of his presence. Searching red eyes flamed brightly and the earth was scorched where the beasts' acidic slaver struck the ground. But they showed no interest in the mountain.
“He is not here, my lord,” said Alvar.
“Not here?!” Kroth raged. “After we came all this way? Where is that scout? I'll flay him alive! I'll – I'll have his guts for a belt!!” The chieftain tried to think of other suitably orcish phrases but he was tired and his heart just wasn't in it.
“Do not blame the scout, war-leader,” Alvar continued. “Djoland WAS here, but has now departed.”
“On the move again, eh? Well, he can't have gotten far,” Kroth reasoned. He stalked about, eying the surrounding hills and forests suspiciously. “Amot! Ready the troops! Once we pick up the trail, we'll continue the – GRAAAHHHH!!!!!”
Kroth's sentence died in a sudden howl for the chieftain had fallen into a depression in the earth. Picking himself back up, he waved off Amot's hurried attempts to help him and regarded the shape of the hole and the mysterious pattern at its base.
“Forefathers preserve us...” he muttered. “This is a footprint, unless I miss my guess.”
“Look, sir!” a young orc called from the trail ahead. “More of them!”
“Then it seems Djoland does not travel alone...” Kroth scratched his chin thoughtfully. Fighting a city of giants was a fool's errand. But fighting a single giant? Yes, he was fairly certain his men could do that.
Raquel followed the main roads of Hayone, weaving carefully between human settlements. The ground shook and rumbled with her passing, sending many of the towns' inhabitants to flee for shelter or leap to arms, fearing attack. When the people caught sight of the fiery red hair and those piercing violet eyes high above them, however, they recognized the giant that had helped defend them in times of war. Though still wary, some of the little humans stopped to wave to her or give a grateful salute.
Raquel had quite been enjoying the journey. Djoland sat upon her shoulder, chatting with her as they traveled and telling her all about orcish culture (such as it was). A trunk full of weapons, the orc's only worldly possessions, was stowed safely in a pocket of her tunic. The giantess found that she was beginning to like this strange, little outcast orc and she felt a certain kinship with his misfit status. Djoland, for his part, was warming to his giant companion as well, though not without some hesitancy.
Perched close to her neck, the orc had to admit it was...unsettling to be so close to a throat that had nearly swallowed him. And carrying on a conversation with the creature who'd almost done it was surreal, to say the least. Still, huge and imposing as she might be, Raquel was also pleasant in her way. If she were a bit greener of hue or had sharper teeth, he might almost find her attractive.
The only one of sour spirits was Pixis. He did not trust the orc and thought the beast should be slain at once or at least parted from their company. Still sequestered in Raquel's bosom, the elf periodically popped his head up into the light to voice his displeasure.
“You're making a grave error, darling,” he insisted. “Exile or not, traveling with an orc will bring us only trouble.”
“Your opinion is duly noted, Pix,” Raquel answered, using her finger to plunge him back down her cleavage once more. After a few altercations like this, Pixis eventually gave up and remained within her bodice, sulking. In time, the gentle bobbing motion of her chest as she walked began to lull the elf into a deep sleep.
Several giant-sized strides later (which Djoland estimated must have covered the length of the surrounding peasant farms), Raquel noticed that the road ahead was occupied. A few paces before their position, a group of men stood clustered about. They looked like ants from the giantess' height but with a curious squint, she tried to make out some of the finer details of their appearance. The dark hair and uniform of one in particular had caught her eye.
“Claude!” she cried excitedly.
“You know him?” asked Djoland.
“Aye,” said his giant host. “He's a friend.”
The orc shielded his eyes and tried to get a better look at the man. “Right surly lookin' fella, isn't he?”
“He can be a little...severe,” Raquel allowed. “Used to be part of a pro-human militia, the Stormgavair, until he had a falling out with his superiors. And met me, of course.”
“You do have quite an effect on people,” Djoland said.
Raquel squinted again and took another look at the little humans. “I don't recognize the others.”
The men said something to Claude that was lost to the distance and the rushing wind. But their point was clear when moments later, the three of them drew pistols and aimed them right at Claude.
“Oh.” Raquel covered her mouth in surprise.
“Think we should stop 'em?” Djoland was already trying to work out the best route down the curvy tower of the giantess's form to reach the ground.
“Actually...” said Raquel, smiling, “let's see how this plays out for a moment.”
At ground level a few (giant) paces ahead, the trio of robbers repeated their demands. Claude stood as still as a statue, impassive and unimpressed.
“Are ye deaf, boy?” the ring leader growled. “This road is ours. If'n ye want to pass, ye'll have to pay the toll.”
“This road belongs to King Tillinghast,” Claude informed him. “You are illegally extorting his citizens. Plus, I don't much like your face. It's off-putting.”
The robber king grimaced and his men cocked their weapons.
“Honestly, I may vomit,” Claude continued. “Were you born like that or did you lose a bar fight or something?”
“Kill him, lads!” the leader barked.
As the first shots were fired, Claude was already dropping to the ground, the bullets whizzing over his head harmlessly. A moment later, he had sprung back to his feet and grabbed hold of a robber's arm, twisting it back painfully and snatching his gun. The man cried out in pain and surprise. The second robber, though bewildered, had already trained his gunsight on this upstart enemy. But Claude had pulled the first man in front of him, with an arm around the robber's neck, and had him positioned as a human shield. He let loose several shots from the robber's gun, catching the second man in the leg. His opponent howled out a curse and collapsed onto the road in agony, blood gushing over the dirt.
Infuriated, the robber king drew his own weapon and fired a volley at Claude, caring little if he hit his henchman in the process. Claude simply released his hostage and flung the man at his captain like a sack of potatoes. In moments, they had both doubled over, though not before a bullet grazed the younger robber's shoulder. He screamed in pain but the leader simply shoved him away impatiently. He was fighting his way back to his feet when Claude kicked him square in the head.
The older man's head shot back with a crack and he fell to the road. His temple was bleeding and stars filled his vision but the robber king refused to go down so easily. He was fumbling for his pistol when Claude placed a booted foot on his chest, pinning him down.
“Yield,” he said calmly.
“Never!” the captain raged. At this, he spat directly in Claude's eye.
“Impeccable aim,” Claude muttered, unfazed. “But you are beaten.”
“To me, lads! Kill the damn bastard!” the captain declared.
“Screw this!” his minions answered. The pair of them were already crawling or hobbling away as best they could. One nursed a gash on his shoulder and the other limped pathetically, dragging a now useless leg, hastily bound by a scrap of his shirt. They were wounded and demoralized and, truth be told, had never particularly liked their captain anyway. Come to think of it, his face WAS rather off-putting. Downright ugly, in fact. They wondered why they hadn't seen it before.
The pair of thieves was pondering this when they realized that the afternoon shadows had deepened considerably. There was also a strange, leather-colored boulder right in their path when before, the road had been clear.
“Why, Claude,” Raquel boomed from the sky, after placing her booted foot just before the two fleeing robbers. “You've brought me a snack! How thoughtful!”
The giantess bent down and reached a huge hand towards the horrified men. Trunk-like fingers curled around their torsos and held them in a vice-hard grip. Before they knew it, they were airborne, being lifted up to the giant woman's massive face.
Raquel's tongue slid across her huge, red lips as she regarded her catch. “Hmm. A little scrawny but they'll suffice.” She opened her mouth wide and brought the robbers towards its vast, cave-like entrance.
The men shrieked in terror and squirmed in her grasp. “AHHHHH!!!! Have mercy! Oh God, no!”
Raquel slammed her teeth shut mere inches from the robbers' faces. She let them contemplate their reflections in the shiny surface of her molars before pulling them away from her face. “Mercy, eh? Welllllll... all right. But know you this – these lands are protected. By men like my friend down there and by people like me. We catch you robbing citizens again and this...” With her free hand, Raquel patted her belly. “...will be your jail cell. Get me?”
Wide-eyed, the thieves nodded fearfully. The giantess set them back on the ground in a heap and nudged them with her foot. “Now, beat it, little men!” Needing no further prompting, the robbers bolted for the hills.
Djoland stared at her with a sideways glance. “Would you have really...?”
“What, eat them?” Raquel asked. “Eww, no! But after your little mishap in my mashed potatoes, I guess it was just on my mind. Sure put the fear of God into them, didn't it?”
“Or goddess,” said the orc, once again in awe of his towering companion.
As soon as their foes were gone, Raquel knelt down to greet Claude more properly. The bold soldier was busy binding the wrists of the robber captain. “You let them go. Should have allowed me to arrest them as well,” Claude said.
“Let them scurry back to their buddies and spread the word that this part of Hayone is defended,” she answered. “By the way, it's wonderful to see you again, Claude.”
“And you, Raquel,” he told her, stepping into her offered palm. The giantess lifted him to eye level and Claude did a double take at the stranger perched on her shoulder.
“Claude, Djoland. Djoland, Claude,” Raquel said. Claude tensed at the sight of the orc and resisted reaching for his revolver. His Stormgavair conditioning still affected him now and then but since meeting Raquel, he'd learned to live by a different set of rules.
“I trust there's a story behind this,” Claude commented.
“A good one,” the giantess insisted. “But first, let's go find Tillinghast and turn Mr. Personality here...” She nudged the robber king with her index finger. “...over to the city guards.”
* * *
A short time later, Raquel and her little friends had made their way to the palace of King Tillinghast. They found the aging monarch speaking with an important guest out on an upper floor balcony. The second man, a powerful emperor from a nearby land, was in negotiations with Tillinghast. The king desired an alliance between their peoples.
“I tell you, if our kingdoms join together with the elf realm of Argena,” Tillinghast said, “the world will be that much safer. We need not fear devastation like the Stormgavair unleashed or further trouble from the orcish raiding parties.”
“I don't know, Tillinghast,” the emperor mused. “I have the finest airship armada in Hayone. We've always been able to defend our own well enough.”
Raquel sidled up to the castle and rested an elbow on the balcony, leaning over the two tiny men. The emperor gave a startled cry as the huge wall of her arm came down a few feet from his chair.
“Forgive the intrusion, your majesty,” she said. “I didn't realize you were entertaining.”
Tillinghast's face lit up at once. “Raquel! How lovely to see you!”
“You...you know this titan?” the emperor breathed in fright. His expression soon changed to anger. “So! Trying to scare me, Tillinghast? Seeking to strong arm me into this treaty, are you?!”
“W-What?” the king babbled. “Heavens, no, I--”
“Hrrm,” Djoland grunted from the giant woman's shoulder, where he sat beside Claude. “Raquel, this may not be the best time...”
* * *
Meanwhile, on a high hilltop, a one-eyed man watched the flame-haired giantess in the distance through a telescope. His lip curled into a smile when he saw the figure sitting upon her shoulder.
“That's our orc, I'd bet my life on it,” Lee told his fellow bounty hunters. “He travels with a giant, does he? Lads...I think this mission just got interesting.”
Chapter 5 by Ryantherebel.
The Emperor left the chamber with Rupert Tillinghast in pursuit.
“Wait,” cried Tillinghast. “Durant, please don't leave.”
“I'm not leaving,” the Emperor replied, “I'm just going to get some company and then we'll be in a better position to negotiate.” And with that, he continued walking.
Rupert walked nervously back into his chamber, and turned to his other visitors.
“Is something wrong, sire?” asked Claude.
“Seems like it,” Tillinghast replied.
Djoland hopped off Raquel's shoulder, and moved towards the distressed king.
“I speak for all of my friends when I say I'm sorry. We had no idea.”
“Thank you,” said Tillinghast. “You do realize how awkward it is to hear that from someone like you?”
“I know,” Djoland replied. “Also, I must say you have quiet the lawman.”
“He can be rough,” quipped the king, “but I can't deny that he can get results.”
“I do what I can do,” Claude replied. “By the way, is Pixis with you, Raquel?”
“Just a minute,” Raquel answered. She picked the still sleeping elf out of her breasts, and placed him on the balcony. She nudged him a couple times before he awoke.
“Where am I?” he murmured.
Claude responded by extending his hand, and helped Pixis up.
“I take it you slept well,” he said with a smirk. Before Pixis could answer, he suddenly realized what his friend was saying was an innuendo, and he quickly became defensive.
“For your information,” he began sternly, “I merely tolerated what she did to me.”
“Did you now?” Claude asked. But before Pixis could respond, he spotted Djoland standing next to Tillinghast.
“Uh, sire,” Pixis said nervously. “What are you – ?”
Before he could finish though, Emperor Durant walked back into the chamber along with a couple of armed escorts. Durant eyed Djoland, and Pixis, then turned to Tillinghast.
“More 'friends,' Tillinghast?” he grunted. “This is perhaps the most transparent form of blackmail I've ever seen.”
“If this is blackmail then what do you call that?” Claude asked while pointing at Durant's escorts.
“I call it a precaution,” Durant snapped.
“Sir,” Raquel announced, “no one is trying to blackmail you.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I was just looking for a home for Djoland here,” Raquel replied as her eyes fell on the orc.
“And why would an orc want to live here?”
“I'm an exile,” Djoland answered.
“An exile?” Durant laughed. “That's rich!”
He then looked up at Raquel and asked, “And what are you, royalty, I suppose?”
“Close,” Raquel replied. “My father is a senator.”
Durant fell silent, and then began to laugh nervously.
“You're joking,” he replied. “Aren't you?”
“She isn't,” said Pixis.
“Was I asking you?” snapped Durant.
“But I'm right.”
“I don't care,” Durant shouted.
“He's right,” said Raquel, “I wasn't joking.”
Durant fell silent again. He turned to his escorts, and said, “Return to the Dauntless.”
The soldiers nodded, and departed. Durant turned his attention back to Raquel.
“Tell me more,” Durant requested.
“There isn't a lot more to say,” Raquel continued, “other than that we have a parliamentary government, that does have its faults, but it works well enough for us.”
“I see,” Durant replied. “How did your kind create this government?”
“It's a long story,” Raquel answered, “but we basically went through dozens of violent revolutions and regimes until we finally got to where we are today.”
“Fascinating,” Durant replied.
He then turned to Tillinghast, and said, “I think I'll reconsider your offer. The orc, however, still worries me.”
“The feeling is mutual,” said Djoland. “It's not every day you talk to the ruler of one of the most powerful, and feared empires in all of Hayone.”
Durant smiled, and said, “Thank you. It's good too see that you now know your place after that little stunt you pulled.”
“What?” Djoland asked.
“Don't play dumb with me, orc,” Durant grumbled. “You had a whole armada of airships that was blown out the sky by just one of our airships. Does the Dauntless ring any bells?”
“It doesn't,” replied Djoland. “You're thinking of the Fangtooth Tribe. I was part of the Daggerclaw Tribe. We're all about naval power.”
“Ah,”Durant exclaimed. “I apologize for my ignorance.”
“So you trust me now?” Djoland asked.
Pixis, after being patient for several minutes, gave into his prejudice and declared, “Don't listen to him! It's trick, I think, I mean, I know it is!”
“Okay, that's it,” said Raquel, and with that she stuffed the elf back in her cleavage.
Claude let loose a small, but audible laugh, and asked, “Why tolerate such a 'cruel and unusual' punishment' when you can be trying to escape?”
“I have my reasons,” Pixis answered.
“I think I'm gonna go for a little walk and talk things over with Pixis,” said Raquel.
“Hey Lee,” Kane cried out. “Check this out.”
He pointed down to a gully outside the city where a small army had gathered. Lee focused his telescope on the army, and was surprised to see that the army was composed entirely of orcs.
“What are they?” asked Kane.
“More competition,” Lee grumbled. “Pack your things, men, we've got company.”
With that, he collapsed his telescope, and began to mount his horse. Hayden peered through a pair of binoculars and said, “You're making a big mistake, my friend.”
“How?” Lee fired back, “They're obviously looking for the same thing as we are.”
“But they can be of some use to us,” Hayden protested.
“How?” Lee asked again. “They're just a bunch of brutes.”
“With all due respect, Lee,” Kane announced, “I think we should listen to him. If we go up against them, we'll lose a lot of manpower.”
“Not to mention our lives,” Hayden quipped.
Lee, reluctantly dismounted from his horse and said, “Okay, Hayden, what do you have in mind?”
When Raquel found herself at suitable distance from the castle, she pulled Pixis out of her breasts and held him up to her face.
“You have quite the attitude problem today,” she grumbled.
“But you don't understand!”
“No,” Raquel interrupted, “I understand perfectly, and you're way out of line, little man.”
“Out of line, me?!” Pixis shouted. “ You're the one who wants be friends with that green skinned brute!”
“You know,” said Raquel, “Ii I didn't know any better, I'd say you're sounding a lot like Klaus.”
“Take that back,” Pixis snarled.
“Not until you cut it out with the orc hate.”
“Never, don't you remember what I told you about what they did to Terranaculous?”
“Yes,” Raquel answered. “But Djoland said that was different tribe.”
“How do you he's not lying?”
“How do you know he is lying?”
Pixis paused for about four seconds, and then blurted, “I don't, I mean, I just know.”
“Well,” said Raquel, “do I sense a bit of doubt from you?”
“Yes, I mean no, I mean maybe, I mean I have no clue!”
“Ah,” Raquel cooed. “I see that spending some time around him might have softened you up a little bit. Tell you what, if you promise to behave yourself, you'll go back to the castle.”
“I promise,” Pixis answered meekly.
“All right,” said a smiling Raquel. “I take back that rather incendiary comment.”
She then began to make her way back to the castle.
Chapter 6 by Pixis with some additions by Ryan.
Kroth and his horde were camped in the woods on the outskirts of the city. The orcs were restless. They milled about uneasily, itching for a fight, for blood, for retribution against the traitor, Djoland.
“Steady on, lads,” the chieftain grunted. “We strike as soon as the sun sets.” Though sunlight was by no means deadly to an orc, they had no great love for it. Their ancestors had been mostly nocturnal and it was in the dark and shadow that they felt most at home. Besides, attacking a city after nightfall added to the confusion and panic of its citizens. Easy plunder.
Kroth knew that his men would be at their best after sunset. But even at their best, taking down Djoland's giantess protector would be a challenge. No doubt a few orcs would lose their lives in the attempt and though Kroth had faith in his army, he had a sinking feeling that this would result in the most horrific defeat of his whole career.
The warlord suddenly sensed someone approach him. Kroth whirled about and saw three humans emerge into the clearing. Behind them was a sizable army of armed rogues. They were a ragged, motley crew. Each of them was covered in battle scars and sported false appendages or even none at all.
“Peace, mighty chieftain,” Hayden said. “We desire a word with you.”
“Indeed?” Kroth said, reaching for both his battle ax, and three barreled revolver. “Unless that word is 'Arrgh, no, don't kill me, Kroth!', I don't think I care to hear it. Guards!”
“You mean these fellows?” Kane chuckled, dragging several unconscious orcs from the bushes.
“Bah! Fine,” Kroth spat. “I'll take you on myself!”
Hayden stepped forward with hands held high to show he was unarmed. “I think you should listen to what we have to say. You see, we have common enemies.”
“We were contracted to hunt an orc deserter who...offended our employer,” Lee added. “But he hides behind the skirts of that towering ginger tart.”
“So I've noticed,” Kroth growled. “Your point?”
“Under the circumstances,” Hayden said, “we thought it might be prudent to pool our resources. There's no way the giantess can stand against our combined forces. And with her dead, the orc we all seek would be defenseless.”
Kroth considered this. Ally with humans? The thought was most unorthodox. But if it meant fewer of his warriors had to die fighting the giant...
“There is wisdom in what you say,” the chieftain muttered. “But I will agree only on one condition. I kill Djoland. I will have my indulgence.”
Lee started to balk at this but Hayden interceded. “Of course. Let me ask you this however. Do your high priests require that his body be...intact...in order to win the indulgence?”
“Orcs know each other by scent,” Kroth explained. “As long as there's enough of him left to identify, he could be carried home in small boxes for all I care.”
“I see,” said Hayden. “Then, we ask only for his head to show our employer. To prove he is dead. The rest is yours, O king. Do we have a bargain?”
Kroth eyed the bounty hunters warily for a moment, sizing them up. At last, he spat into his palm, following the old custom, and grasped Hayden's hand in a firm shake. “We do. Let me send a scout to find a way we can get in undetected.”
“Very well,” Lee replied.
Kroth was still uncomfortable with the alliance and as 21st Law of Combat stated, you should always be suspicious of your allies.
“Amot,” he barked.
“Yes, sir?” Amot asked.
“We've just made some allies. Find a way into the city that will shield us from their security. The she-mountain dies at dusk.”
* * *
With their debate (more or less) resolved, Raquel carried Pixis back into the city. The elf was still not quite ready to trust Djoland but he knew that he'd been behaving like a child. So far, the orc had not done anything to merit contempt. His desire for a peaceful life and, if not acceptance, then at least grudging tolerance seemed genuine. If Pixis could believe in a gentle giantess and that a formerly brainwashed bigot like Claude could turn over a new leaf, he had to at least give Djoland a chance.
Still, he secretly vowed that if the orc stepped out of line, he would receive elvish steel between his ribs.
Raquel stepped carefully around the tiny buildings and street markets of the capital city. The sun was setting in the west and the streets were mostly clearing out as the little human vendors packed up their wares and returned home. Most of them were accustomed to her presence by now after her aid in the battle with the Stormgavair. They recognized the rumbling tremors of her footfalls and knew to get out of the way as she passed. It was still a bit unnerving for the giantess to navigate a human city however. She wanted to return to the palace as quickly as possible before the light failed and the chance of someone being caught underfoot increased.
When she finally reached the castle, she found that King Tillinghast and his guests had left the balcony and gone back inside. Sidling up to the towering structure, the giantess bent forward and peered into several of the windows, seeking to find them. She felt like a girl inspecting an elaborate dollhouse. At last, Raquel noticed the king and the emperor sharing a drink in the great hall. Claude and Djoland stood nearby, also imbibing fine Hayonean ale.
“Very well, Tillinghast,” Emperor Durant was saying. “I will sign your treaty.”
“Excellent!” Rupert Tillinghast cried. “If I may ask, Durant, what was it that changed your mind?”
“Your giant friend,” the emperor answered. “I had always heard that the giants were brutes and monsters. But she was not at all what I expected. So kind and well-spoken and representing a parliamentary government no less! She is a fascinating contradiction. Such strength and power and fierce beauty combined with temperance and culture. I would like to learn more about her.”
“Methinks the emperor has a little crush,” Pixis whispered to Raquel. He had to stand on tiptoes and grasp the outer rim of her ear to accomplish this, hoisting himself up until his head was practically inside the concave hollow and his feet were dangling freely above her shoulder. It made him feel like a piece of living jewelry but such was the price of a shared moment with a giantess.
Raquel suppressed a giggle and leaned in closer to the window.
“If her people are allied with your own,” Durant continued, “then I believe my empire would benefit from a similar alliance. As you argued earlier, there is much that the peoples of Hayone can do for each other when working together.”
“Splendid, splendid!” said Tillinghast, beaming. He passed the treaty and a quill pen to his new ally, who signed the paper.
“Mind you, I'm not sure my people will be keen on the idea,” Durant added. “We have ever relied on the military prowess of our airships. Some may see an alliance with other nations as a sign of weakness. I shall have to convince them that this is the best course.”
“I have no doubt that you can do so,” Tillinghast told him. “If need be, we could have Raquel accompany you. She could no doubt win the people's hearts as she did yours.”
Durant took a sip of his ale tankard. “Say, where is the giantess anyway? She has been gone for some time.”
Raquel's face was by now pressed against the building, blocking out most of the fading sunlight. Claude looked to the window and saw only a huge violet eye and a wall of pinkish flesh where the countryside had once been.
“Oh, I think she's around, your majesty,” he said with a smirk.
Durant turned around to see what Claude was looking at and nearly fell out of his chair. The purple iris filling his vision was almost bigger than his head.
“God's wounds, woman!” he exclaimed. “How does someone your size sneak up on a body like that?!”
“Nice to have you on our side, Emperor Durant,” said Raquel, her dulcet voice vibrating the hall at such close proximity.
“Ah, Raquel, good to have you back,” Tillinghast told her. “Here, my dear, I've been saving this for you.”
He clapped his hands and at once, a pair of palace servants rolled an extra-large barrel of ale into the room. Raquel stepped back a bit and reached a massive hand through one of the larger windows to her right. The long, delicate fingers (each taller than a full-grown man) felt about the room experimentally, knocking over chairs, tables, and ornamental suits of armor. Djoland and Claude quickly backed away out of the path of the enormous digits, taking shelter on the other side of Tillinghast's banquet table.
At last, Raquel managed to wrap her hand around the ale barrel and pulled it out the window. To her amusement, she discovered that she had accidentally grabbed one of the servants along with it. The startled young man was trapped between the side of the barrel and several of the giantess' slender fingers.
The colossal redhead looked down at him quizzically. “What are you supposed to be, an hors d'oeuvre?”
The man's eyes shot open in alarm and he began to struggle in her grasp, trying desperately to get free. Raquel laughed and pulled him out with her other hand.
“Oh relax,” she said, bringing him towards her huge red lips. The servant was by now in a panic, convinced he was about to be devoured, but Raquel merely gave him a quick kiss on the top of his head. “I'm just funnin' ya.” She reached back in the window and set the man on the floor.
“Lucky bastard,” muttered the other servant, who had worked there longer and was more accustomed to the presence of the giant. His companion simply stared at him, somewhat dazed.
“A toast!” said Durant, raising his glass. “To a new era of peace and prosperity for all our peoples!”
As the others sipped their drinks, Raquel peeled the top off the ale barrel and lifted it to her lips, downing its contents in a single gulp. “Mmm, that's tasty,” she said, turning her head towards Pixis, who stood once again on her shoulder. The elf reached out and caught a drop of ale from the corner of her lips, bringing to his face to lap at it.
“Indeed. A good vintage,” he said.
“Eww, get your own,” Raquel giggled.
“Now then,” said Tillinghast, turning to Djoland. “What are we to do with you?”
The orc shifted uneasily where he stood, suddenly aware that all eyes in the room were upon him. “Wouldn't want to be a bother,” he said. “But Raquel seemed to think I'd be welcome here. I'm just looking for some place to settle down, to get away from all the senseless fighting and plundering of Daggerclaw Tribe. Got no taste for it any more. It all seems so meaningless.”
“Besides,” he continued, “Lord Kroth would have my head if I ever showed my face in the orc lands again. Can't go home again. But if you don't want me around, your majesty, can't say as I blame ya. I'll go.” The orc made ready to head for the exit, certain he'd be rejected once again.
“Did I say that, my boy?” Rupert Tillinghast asked, getting up from his seat. “Truth be told, I've never heard of a peaceful orc before but I don't rightly know you, do I? Raquel vouches for you so that's good enough for me. I'm sure we can find you somewhere to stay for the night. And in the morning, we can work on a more permanent solution. I believe there is some unsettled farmland in the northeast of the kingdom that might do nicely.”
Djoland blinked in astonishment. “Truly you are a just ruler, my lord.”
“It's the least I can do,” Tillinghast said. “If this is to be a new era of collaboration in Hayone, I suppose that must apply to orcs as well. Now, let us see to accommodations for the rest of you. Claude, you can take your usual room. Durant, you can have the finest guest suite in the palace.”
“Thank you, Rupert,” answered the emperor, “but I prefer to sleep aboard the Dauntless. It is like a home away from home when I am traveling.”
“Very well,” Tillinghast agreed. “Raquel, I'm afraid, er, you will have to sleep in the courtyard. One of these days, we shall have to construct a giant-sized guest room for you, I suppose.”
“Wouldn't want to bankrupt your treasury, sir,” the giantess told him. “The courtyard will do fine.”
“Good, that's settled then,” Tillinghast said. “Let us adjourn to our quarters and meet back here in an hour for a celebratory feast and entertainment. I have a good feeling about this treaty, my friends. This truly seems like the beginning of a new age.”
As the assembled folk departed to get cleaned up and take some rest after their journeys, Tillinghast turned to several of his palace guards.
“When the orc retires to his quarters, I want you to stand watch,” he whispered to them. “I trust Raquel but I do not trust orcs. Not yet, at least. Keep an eye on him.”
“Of course, your majesty.”
* * *
“Over here, my lord,” Amot called out.
Kroth, his army, and his new allies arrived at Amot's position. It was on the left side of city's defensive wall whose only visible entrance was a large sewer grate.
“We can get in through here.”
“Good thinking.” He then turned a couple of his men and said, “You two, remove the grating.”
“A sewer,” Kane sighed, “Why did it need to be a sewer?”
“Suck it up,” Lee grumbled, “and just stick to the plan.”
Twelve minutes later, the grate was off, and the invaders made their way in.
Raquel sat cross-legged in the open courtyard just past the palace walls. Pixis was sitting comfortably in the palm of her hand, held close to her face so that she could kiss his tiny features and make out with her miniature suitor. It was difficult for the couple to get much “alone time” in such a public place, however. They could practically feel the eyes of the whole palace staff upon them, watching from every window. Raquel considered turning her back on the castle but realized that she and the elf would merely be giving a free show to the city instead. With a dismissive shrug of her shoulders, she brought her tiny boyfriend closer and gave him a big smooch, almost engulfing his entire head in her lips.
“Feeling a bit exhibitionist, my love?” the elf asked.
“Let 'em watch,” Raquel said with a mischievous smile. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a large crowd gathering just outside the city walls. The sun had set by now and it was difficult to see them in much detail. But the giantess had the distinct impression that their gaze was fixed intently upon her and Pixis.
“All right, maybe it is a little distracting,” she allowed. “Look at them all. I'll bet they're selling tickets.” The redhead turned and placed a hand upon the wall, bracing herself and leaning forward to peer over the side. Before Raquel could say anything, she began to notice that the crowd was strangely enough, receding into the wall.
“That's strange,” Raquel whispered. She began to creep towards the shrinking crowd and was surprised to see that it was made up of orcs and humans. She crept closer, but then her foot came down on an old log creating a loud crack. A human in the crowd turned behind him and predictably shouted, “Holy crap!”
The rest of the crowd turned around, and started to move faster all the while firing their weapons at her. Raquel shielded her lover from the barrage of munitions fire. The gunfire subsided as the crowd finished entering the sewer.
“Are you alright?” Pixis gasped.
“I'll be fine,” Raquel answered. The wounds weren't serious but they did hurt quite a bit. Raquel then knelt down, and shoved her right arm into the sewer hole.
Kroth turned around and saw a massive hand begin moving towards his men.
“By the gods, keep moving,” he shouted.
“No,” Lee ordered. “We just need to stand our ground and concentrate our fire.”
“But she's got us pinned down in here!”
In response, Lee and his two comrades drew their weapons on Kroth. They held their pistols in their left hands while holding more exotic weapons in their right. Lee has a sawn-off lever action rifle, Hayden had a pump action shot gun, and Kane had a sub-machine gun that had a customized magazine.
“I suggest you listen to us my friend,” Hayden chimed smugly.
“Fine,” Kroth grumbled. “Everyone open fire.”
All parties fired at the hand. The bullets were not penetrating far into the flesh, but the sound of the giantess's groans indicated that they were harming her. Hayden at one point stopped firing his shotgun, and began to remove his prosthetic hand.
“What do you think you are doing?” Kroth bellowed.
Hayden ignored him and tossed his hand at the oversized appendage. As the two extremities touched each other, Hayden's prosthetic hand exploded finally driving the monstrous mitt out of the sewer.
“Ah,” exclaimed Kroth, “Talk about a hand grena--”
He stopped suddenly as he saw that Hayden's face was even more smug than before, and it looked like he was anticipating something. Kroth's mood quickly soured.
“No, I'm not finishing that train of thought,” he grumbled.
“Spoil sport,” Hayden chuckled.
“Cut it,” Lee snapped, “Let's keep going.”
Chapter 7 by Ryan.
Raquel pulled her her now bloody hand out of the sewer.
“Oh, dear God,” Pixis gasped.
“I'll be fine,” Raquel replied. “But damn, does it hurt. Come on, we've got to warn Rupert and the others.”
She climbed over the defensive wall, and landed with a loud thud. The vibrations of the impact were felt through more then half of the city, causing a sizable chunk of the populace to investigate. But as soon as Raquel saw them approach her she cried, “No, go back to your homes. Trouble is coming.”
The people began to talk among themselves nervously.
“Do as I say,” Raquel shouted.
As the crowd began to disperse, King Tillinghast and Claude came running out of the castle.
“What's going on?” they accidentally shouted in unison.
“We've got trouble,” Pixis announced. “There are trespassers in the sewers, and they're after Djoland.”
Tillinghast quickly turned to Claude and ordered, “Get Sinclair to organize a company of men at once.”
“Yes, sire,” Claude replied, and ran off.
“Are they orcs?” Rupert asked Raquel.
“Yes,” she replied, “as well as several several humans. To be honest, there are some things we haven't told you about our Orcish friend.”
“Well,” Raquel began.
Kane approached Kroth, and said, “Quick question, 'mighty chieftain,' how the hell are supposed to navigate this shit hole?”
“I will have Amot scout ahead for us,” Kroth answered.
Kane turned back to Lee and whispered to him, “It's bad enough that we're in a goddamned sewer, but why the name of all that is holy and unholy do we have be with these things?”
“Take it up with Hayden,” Lee replied. “Personally, I say try to be more patient. This will all pay off soon enough.”
“It'd better,” Kane snarled. “I'm already getting sick of looking at these Emerald Apes.”
Alvar, who was overhearing this conversation, chimed in by saying to Kane, “Watch your mouth. You wouldn't want to get on our bad side.”
“Wouldn't I now?” Kane asked. “Because so far I'm not impressed by your little operation you have here. Why didn't you take on that oversized bitch when you had the chance?”
“We could have taken her down with ease if your men hadn't start firing at her.”
“Oh, so it's our fault that you didn't get a chance to flex your orcish muscles, huh? You want to make something of it?”
“Do you?” Alvar asked.
“You have no idea,” Kane answered.
“Lee,” Kroth called out all of the sudden, “please keep this masked flunky of yours under control.”
“My apologies,” said Lee.
As he then took Kane aside, he asked Kroth “When will you send out the scout?”
“Right now,” Kroth answered.
“And that's what happened,” said Raquel.
“I see,” Rupert replied. “I'll have Sinclair organize a company of men to investigate. Also, I might instigate a curfew until we smoke the intruders out.”
“What about Djoland?” Pixis asked.
“Well,” Rupert sighed, “I didn't want to tell you two this but I'm little suspect of the orc. I currently have him under heavy guard.”
“But he's done nothing to you!” Raquel protested.
“I know, but I can't take any risks,” Rupert replied. “I'm sorry. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need get Sinclair.”
As the King walked away, Raquel sat on the ground, brokenhearted, and asked Pixis, “I was wrong, wasn't I?”
“I wouldn't say that,” the elf replied, “but you just can't expect his kind to get accepted into society.”
“Make another crack like that I'll put you in my southern cleavage,” Raquel bitterly quipped.
“Sorry,” Pixis replied. “By the way, we might want to do something about your hand.”
“I know,” sighed Raquel, “You got a knife on you?”
“Well, yes, but why?”
“I want you cut all around here,” she said pointing to her midriff.”
“You mean all of the cloth or just part of--”
“All of it,” she interrupted. “All round here.”
Pixis, unsurprisingly, leaped at this opportunity.
Amot felt strangely at home in the sewer. The dank condition felt no different than going through the swamps of Gurnal or taking a mud bath in a brothel. Even the smell was tolerable. It was only when he poked his head out through manholes that he felt uncomfortable, despite the fact he managed to avoid detection in the process. He tended to pick the manholes at random, trying to find a clue as to Djoland's whereabouts. He decided the check one more manhole before going back to Kroth. He picked out his final manhole and poked his head out ever so slightly. He was surprised to find that instead of a street, it lead to what appeared to be a cross between a small military base and an airfield that was right behind the castle towered above the rest of the city. But what really caught his attention was a humongous and heavily armed airship in the middle of a nearby runway. He then overheard a conversation between a couple of soldiers about an orc being kept in the castle.
At last, Amot thought to himself, I've found him.
Suddenly, a gruff voice came over a loud speaker.
“Attention all members of Company 892, assemble in the courtyard at once,” the voice bellowed.
“Oh no,” Amot gasped. “They're on to us.”
Chapter 8 by Pixis.
After Raquel's altercation at the sewer grate, the king's men were on high alert, searching for the intruders. The orcs and bounty hunters had fled deep into the city's subterranean depths but they knew it was only a matter of time before they were discovered.
Kroth was surlier than usual. He did not like having to retreat. True, the giantess had had them trapped in close quarters with little room to maneuver or fight. Retreat had been the wisest course of action. But orcs were not known for running from battle. And the bounty hunters he had allied with were now doubting his skill as a commander. The giant she-beast had hurt his pride and the chieftain swore that he would have satisfaction.
“Once Amot has found a usable route,” Kroth snarled, “we return to the surface and take the giant down. Flood the streets with her blood if we must. No one will stand between Djoland and our swords.”
Kane smiled grimly. “Now you're talking like an orc.”
The chieftain whirled around to face him, spitting angrily at his masked features. “Hold your tongue, human! What would you know of being an orc?”
Kane bristled and was almost ready to reach for his weapon had Amot not returned at that very moment.
“My lord!” the scout called to his captain. “The king's soldiers are scouring the city! And I found something else--something horrible!”
“Out with it, man,” Kroth ordered.
“An airship!” Amot shrieked. “The humans have an airship! Lord Kroth...we're outgunned.”
“Hippogriff shit!” bellowed the chieftain. “I'll tell you when we're outgunned! Has the airship taken to the skies?”
“No, my lord,” Amot said. “It's still docked but its crew is standing ready.”
“Then there's still time,” said the orc chief. “Lee, do you feel confident that your men could commandeer that airship?”
“With ease,” Lee boasted with a smirk.
“Then do so,” Kroth told him. “My orcs will make a direct assault upon the giantess and the soldiers. With an attack coming from multiple fronts, the city won't know what hit them.”
* * * *
Amot led the orcs through the sewer tunnel path that he had scouted and pointed out where the city's soldiers were patrolling. As soon as Kroth gave the signal, orc warriors burst from the manholes and sewer grates across the town, savagely attacking the king's men. The humans suspected the invaders had fled to the sewer system, but thanks to Amot's reconnaissance, Kroth's raiders knew exactly the right spots to emerge and ambush the soldiers from behind. The battle was soon begun in earnest with the two armies struggling against each other in the city's streets. Swords clashed, guns blazed, and men and orcs fell where they stood. The people of Tillinghast's realm cowered in their homes, listening to the fearsome cries of the invaders and the tumult of a battle that rapidly spread throughout the town.
As soon as the attack began, Durant began ordering the Dauntless crew for takeoff. Soldiers and crewmen rushed about the airship's corridors, firing up the coal-burning engines and drawing in the anchor. They thought to take the orcs by surprise with an aerial assault but instead found themselves under attack by Lee's bounty hunters. Dozens of brigands, rogues, and mercenaries swarmed onto the airship before the gates could be sealed. Durant's warriors were unprepared for this new enemy and barely had time to react. Orcs they had expected, but orcs with human allies? Men who turned upon their own kind to side with beasts? What treachery was this?
The swift brutality of the bounty hunters' surprise attack soon won them control of the Dauntless. Lee paced through the hull of the airship, where his men were tying up the surviving crew. His remaining eye practically twinkled when he recognized the ship's passenger.
“Emperor Durant, I presume?” Lee chuckled. “I believe I've seen your face on a gold coin once or twice. Oh, this is too marvelous. Such a ransom you'll fetch.”
“Traitor!” spat Durant. “Orcs are ravaging the city! And you aid them? If my hands were free, damn you, I'd--”
“Likely get a blister,” Lee shot back. “You royal types aren't much for fighting. But yes, I aid the orcs. For now. They're but a means to an end. Hell, we'll probably just kill them before this caper is through.”
“But Lee--” Hayden started to protest.
“Quit your sniveling, Hayden,” Lee told him. “There's only one orc I'm truly concerned with.”
“Djoland?” Durant asked. The bounty hunter's words had confirmed his assumptions about the invasion. And to think he'd begun to grudgingly respect that orc!
“That's the chap,” said Lee. “And now we have this lovely airship of yours to storm the palace with. They either turn Djoland over to us or we kill you and everyone aboard. Won't that be fun?”
* * *
As the fighting continued, Raquel rushed towards the city center, her rumbling footsteps shaking the houses to their very foundations. She was a beautiful and terrifying sight – supple curves and towering, athletic legs looming above the tallest buildings, long crimson hair flowing behind her like a dragon's tail. The giantess's mid-section was bare where Pixis had cut through her garments to form the makeshift bandage on her hand. This left the vast expanse of her belly and the sleek muscles of her torso exposed to all the world. With this tattered, half-clothed appearance and the frantic expression on her face, Raquel resembled some wild warrior queen magnified to staggering height.
Pixis and Claude rode in the cuff of the giantess's boot, pressed snugly against her shin. As soon as the battle drew near, the two warriors hoisted themselves out and slid down the leathery exterior. They landed in a crouch upon her instep before springing, catlike, off the toe section of the boot. The elf and human drew their weapons and charged into the chaos, seeking to aid their friends.
Raquel too was anxious to do her part in the defense of the city but her size proved as much a hindrance as an asset. With the men and orcs locked in such close combat, the giantess was likely to wound or crush as many allies as enemies if she dove straight into the fray. With a careless step, friend and foe alike would be squashed underfoot. Besides, Raquel found the use of violence against those smaller than her to be...unsportsmanlike and more than a little messy. She was a kind soul at heart and would prefer to avoid crushing the little invaders (not to mention Tillinghast's soldiers!).
With this goal in mind, the giantess dropped to her knees in the nearest open area and reached a massive hand carefully into the heart of the battle. From a distance, Raquel resembled a girl crouching before a swarm of battling beetles. She swatted at a few of the orcs with the back of her hand, not hard enough to kill but with more than enough force to send them careening away. When they ducked or dodged her blows, she began to pluck orc after orc off the ground, drawing them away from the beleaguered soldiers. With flicks of her trunk-like fingers, she knocked the tiny creatures unconscious or (in cases of extreme resistance) broke or fractured their miniature arms or legs, before setting them aside and reaching back into the fracas for more.
“Slimy little creeps,” Raquel said, grabbing a handful of orcs in her fist. “You're lucky I'm a gentle giant.” With a swift flick of her index finger, she gave her little captives concussions. “Well, more or less.”
Raquel continued to incapacitate the orcs, but chose not to kill them. However, she little realized this desire to show mercy might prove her undoing.
“Blood of the ancestors!” an orc swore as he stared up at Raquel's gargantuan form. Her shadow stretched full across the battlefield, blocking out the moonlight. “The she-monster's back!”
“Aye,” his compatriot agreed. “So why ain't we all toejam by now?”
“The giant's pullin' her punches!”
“A weak-bellied softie she is!” another orc declared. “C'mon, lads, we can take her!”
“Ready the grapples!” an orcish lieutenant bellowed. “Now, men, just like Lord Kroth planned!”
* * *
Djoland watched the invasion with distress from the window of his room. Down on the streets below, his former kinsmen and countrymen were slaughtering Tillinghast's soldiers. His jagged teeth gritted as he fought back the rage. It was always this way! Violence and death followed wherever he went! If it wasn't some ignorant peasant or bounty hunter fighting him, the attack was on those who gave him shelter.
Claws of the forefathers, why couldn't the world leave him in peace?!
Anxiously, the orc rushed to the large wooden trunk that carried his possessions. Djoland flung it open and searched through his stash of weapons. Kroth's army was here because of him and by the gods, he'd have to make it right.
“Here now, what's all this?” a palace guard said, hurrying into the room. “Off to join the war alongside your fellows, orc?” A second guard followed behind him, both men drawing their swords.
“I knew he couldn't be trusted,” the other guard announced. “Probably led the monsters right to our door!”
“Don't have time for this,” Djoland growled. “They're not here with me, you morons, they're here FOR me! Don't you see, Kroth wants me dead!”
The guards advanced on him with menace, weapons gleaming in the flickering torchlight. “Can't say as I blame him. I'm beginning to want the same thing. My city's burning, orc, and someone has to pay for that.”
“The only good orc's a dead one,” his cohort said. “Come on, Fergus, I say we gut him like a fish.”
Djoland stood his ground, a pistol in each hand. He didn't want to kill these fools but neither did he want to die. A clawed finger hovered over a trigger hesitantly.
Just then, a pair of orc warriors came bounding into the room. It seemed that Kroth's forces had made their way to the palace. They charged for the guards with their cleaver-like blades shimmering, their faces worked up into a lather of battle-frenzy. The two humans turned in surprise, too late to mount any sort of counter-attack.
A hail of gunshots rang out, the bullets whizzing past the guards to strike dead center on the orcs' foreheads. The brutish creatures slumped to the floor as the astonished humans turned once again. A short distance away, Djoland stood as stoic as a statue. Smoke curled from the necks of his pistols.
The guards were too shocked to respond as he walked past them. Djoland looked down at the bodies of the slain orcs, grimacing as he realized he had known them. These two had enlisted in Kroth's army the same year as he had. They'd been comrades and sword-brothers before Djoland grew disgusted with the endless raiding. Krelmar and Bjarn. Those were their names, he realized.
Djoland bowed his head and begged the ancestors to accept his former friends into the hall of honor. After a moment, he marched towards the door and turned back towards the stunned human guards.
“Well, are you coming or not? This city isn't going to save itself!”
* * *
Far below on the city streets, Kroth's warriors began launching their grappling lines at the giantess. Raquel was bewildered as an entire volley of ropes and hooks latched themselves to her arms and shoulders and tunic. Weighted hooks were caught on her clothing and flesh, pulling at her from all sides.
“Hey, what gives?!”
Raquel stood up awkwardly, dragging the orcs and their ropes along with her. She tried to pry them off of her but the orcs were far too numerous and too quick. Soon, there were ropes tangled over her legs, wrists, and fingers, curtailing her movements. The orcs bearing these lines spread out across the city square in two directions, tugging at Raquel's arms like tiny puppeteers. With all her strength, she pulled against them, lifting many an orc off the ground to swing wildly below her wrists. They dangled like sentient jewelry as the giantess flailed her arms and tried to shake them loose. Some fell screaming back to the earth but others held fast. In truth, it didn't matter if they could keep her ensnared for this was all but a distraction.
As Raquel struggled to remove the grapples from her arms, a new set of orcs charged towards her legs. They flung more ropes and grappling lines, looping them around the giantess's ankles. Unaware of this, Raquel took an absent step forward. She immediately lost her balance and felt herself wobble, then stagger, then fall.
Anticipating this, the orcs had already cleared the square. But the human soldiers were caught by surprise. They stared up in horror and awe as the giant redhead tumbled towards them. The shadows deepened as a curvaceous mountain of flesh, leather, and cloth descended over their heads. Soldiers scattered to all sides, seeking to avoid the giantess's collapse. She was no longer Raquel, their friend and ally, but merely a collection of colossal deadly shapes – a mountainous chest, a vast wall of stomach, a crushing juggernaut of pelvis or thigh.
The escaping soldiers were thrown to the ground by the thunderous shockwave of Raquel's impact. In fact, the whole city felt the vibrations as she made landfall. The giant redhead winced from the pain and tried to shake herself out of it. But the orcs kept flinging more grappling hooks onto her, climbing the ropes and scaling her form. They were soon swarming over her and surrounding her on all sides. Orcs bearing swords and spears and pistols positioned themselves at strategic points about her body.
“That's it,” Lord Kroth bellowed, watching his army with pride. “Slay me a giant, boyos!”
The Dauntless sailed overhead, its cannons firing a warning shot past the palace. There was a crackle and a hiss and soon Lee's voice could be heard projected by a bullhorn on the top of the airship.
“I bear a message for Rupert Tillinghast. The orc called Djoland will be turned over to me or this wondrous new ship of mine fire-bombs your castle and everyone in it. I repeat, we want Djoland. In fact, if you turn him over, we'd be more than happy to take these other pesky orcs off your hands. I was getting rather weary of them anyway. And the smell.”
Kroth stood on the top of Raquel's head, staring up at the sky in rage. “Why, that two-timing, scum-sucking, son of a wood gnome! You die this night, giantess, but I swear by all the gods, Lee and his pink-skinned cronies go next!”
Chapter 9 by Ryan.
Kroth turned around, and saw Djoland come towards him, with the trunk slung over his shoulders, wielding a water cooled machine gun, and with two human soldiers behind him.
“Let her go,” he ordered.
“Ah, so you've finally decided to show yourself,” Kroth said triumphantly. He then drew his revolver, and aimed it at the deserter's head.
“I'm not here to fight you,” said Djoland. “I'm here to negotiate.”
“Negotiate?” Kroth asked. “Well now, go ahead, but it will not help you.”
“Oh really,” Djoland replied. “Look above you.”
Kroth did as Djoland said, and looked at the airship hovering above the city.
“Like it or not, we're all in the same boat. Even if you do kill me, you'll still have that to deal with. Therefore, I propose a truce. If you help us, I'll give myself up to you.”
“An appealing proposition,” said Kroth, “but how do I know that you'll keep your word?”
“You don't have much of choice,” Raquel chimed in. “If we don't work together we will all experience what one of my schoolmates calls a horrible, fiery, explody death.”
“Bah,” Kroth grunted. “We don't need your help, right, men?!”
There was an uncomfortable pause.
“Right?” Kroth asked again.
“Something tells me you weren't prepared for something like this, huh?” Djoland asked.
Kroth didn't know how to reply. Any insults or counter-points he has in mind were rendered useless by the present situation.
“Fine,” Kroth grunted, “I accept this truce.”
“Okay, now that that's over with,” Raquel announced as she sat up. The ropes flew off her with complete ease.
“What?!” Kroth gasped. “You could have escaped at any time?”
“Yeah, but that wouldn't be as fun.”
“Well, well, well,” Lee sighed, looking at the now free giantess. “I can't say I didn't see this coming. Open fire.”
The Dauntless's cannons roared to life.
“Out of the way!” Raquel shouted.
Everyone below her scattered. The shells hit the ground with enough force to trigger off a fault line.
“Everyone,” Raquel cried out to the troops both orc and human, “Climb on me, now!”
They did as she said. The soldiers, along with Djoland, Kroth, Pixis, and Claude, climbed up to her head, shoulders, and arms. By the time they had settled, Raquel turned her attention to Tillinghast's palace, and she started to climb it. By the time she reached the top, the Dauntless began to face her, and get closer.
“What's she doing?” Kroth asked aloud.
“What she does best,” Claude replied. “Taking the problem head on.”
Raquel then jumped off the palace, and grabbed onto the Dauntless.
As the ship rocked back and forth violently, Hayden took control of the airship and managed to straighten it out. Just then over the com came the voice of one of guns for hire.
“Lee,” the voice cried out.
“We're being boarded. The giant has brought the orcs, and those soldiers with her.”
“Well then, what are you waiting for? Slaughter them!”
It was easier said than done however. The two armies boarded the Dauntless, guns blazing. Firefights were breaking out on every deck of the ship, and the corridors were slowly being drenched in rivers of blood.
“What the hell is going on now?” Durrant exclaimed out loud. As if being confined to his quarters by a bunch of cutthroats who were now running his ship, and were most likely forcing the poor pilot at gunpoint to keep flying, wasn't bad enough. Now it sounded like the orcs were breaking in somehow. Just then he heard a knock on the window. He turned around and saw an orc on the other side. The orc then punched through the glass, jumped through, and pulled out a loaded sub machine gun.
“Do you know how to use this?” Djoland asked.
“Then take it.” He then tossed it to Durrant, along with two spare magazines.
“Don't worry about your men,” Djoland continued. “Pixis, and Claude are in the process of freeing them as we speak, and if you see any orcs, don't kill them. They're on our side.”
“Got it,” Durant replied. He then blasted the lock on the door, and kicked it open. Finishing of an already dying mercenary in the process. He and Djoland then joined their comrades in arms.
There was a knock on the door of bridge. Not wanting to take any chances, Lee drew his revolver, opened the door slightly, and stuck the gun out.
“Wait,” a pathetic voice cried out. “It's me!”
“Who's me?” Lee snarled.
“Just let me in! I'm on your side!”
“Fine,” Lee replied. He opened the door all the way, and in came one of the mercenaries, looking battered and bruised.
“We're getting butchered out there, sir.”
“Hold your ground,” Lee ordered. “Hayden, I'll take control the ship. You take Kane, and put a stop to this.”
“Right,” Kane replied.
“Just a minute,” Hayden announced. He then turned to the pilot who was tied to his seat with the ship's docking ropes. Hayden took out the second “hand” grenade he had on his arm, and put it in the pilot's mouth, and turned a small dial on the hand's stump. He then opened up his false leg, pulled out a whip, and attached it to his arm.
“You're probably wondering what the hell I just did.” Hayden asked the pilot, who promptly nodded in response.
“Well,” Hayden began, “unless you keep this explosive in your mouth, it will go off. And now you're probably wondering why I would give this device such a feature. Well, why not?”
The three bounty hunters promptly left the bridge.
Djoland and Durant meet up with Pixis on the second deck of the ship.
“Boy,” Durant exclaimed, “are all my men free?”
“Yes,” the elf replied, “everyone is evacuated.”
“Good,” Durant answered, “but how the hell do we get off?”
“Follow me,” said Pixis.
He took them to the window nearest to Raquel.
“You can climb down her arm from here,” said Djoland. “Now, which way to the bri--”
Before he could finish, he felt something wrap around his neck, and pull him away. He then hit the floor hard, back first. Three familiar awful faces then loomed above him.
“Hello again,” Lee announced.
“Hold it you three,” Pixis snapped as he pulled out his pocket knife, and lunged toward Lee's throat. “If you want him, you're going to have to go through me first.”
“Same here,” said Durant, raising his sub-machine gun.
“Well,” said Kane looking down at Djoland, “you made some friends. Let's waste them!”
“Hold it,” Djoland snapped. He then ripped the whip out of Haydens socket, and joined his friends.
“I'm not going to have your deaths on my conscience. Now go,” he declared. “Get off the ship, and Pixis, tell Raquel to let go.”
“Do as I say! This fight is for me to settle alone.”
“Excellent,” said Lee.
Wait a minute, Hayden thought to himself. He then announced, “Shoot them!”
Hayden raised his shotgun and fired at Pixis and Durant. The two them jumped before any of them were hit, and within seconds, Raquel had let go of the airship. The sudden loss of excess weight made all those left on board lose their balance, and for the ship's pilot to lose more than that as the “hand” grenade was released from his mouth and exploded destroying the cockpit with him. With its maneuverability compromised and pilot dead, the Dauntless began to fall out of the sky.
The concluding chapter by Pixis. Thanks for reading!
In a panic, Raquel once again took hold of the plummeting airship, placing a giant hand on either side. Thick, tree-trunk fingers dug into the metal, forming deep grooves and gashes in the hull of the craft. Mighty muscles strained and the towering redhead gritted her teeth in determination. She feared it wouldn't be enough. The Dauntless was the finest and largest of the ships in Emperor Durant's fleet. As such, the massive craft was nearly as big as Raquel was. There was simply no way she could hold it aloft for very long.
“Raquel, what are you doing?!” Pixis shouted from her shoulder. Durant lay nearby, clinging tightly to the edge of the giantess' collar for fear of falling. The surviving orcs and soldiers were already making their way down her body towards the blessed ground they had not realized they missed so dearly.
“Djoland told you to let go!” the elf yelled at his giant-sized sweetheart.
“I can't!” she shrieked. “The cockpit just exploded, Pix! The pilot's dead! This thing is going to crash!”
“It's too big, Raqqy!” Pixis insisted. “It'll take you down with it!”
“No,” she said. “I can do this, I can--”
The red-haired beauty looked up to see Djoland standing in one of the ship's open hatchways. He held tight to the metal wall as the ship lurched and went nearly vertical but the orc remained stoic and calm.
“I can hold it, Djoland! I swear, I--”
“Let go, Raquel,” the orc warrior said. Behind him, Lee, Kane, and Hayden were regaining their footing in the tumbling airship and aiming their weapons for Djoland. “This is my battle,” Djoland told her. “I'll finish it, one way or the other.”
“Not on your life, greenie,” said the giantess. “We can't leave you.”
The orc drew his pistols and aimed them square at Raquel's fingers as they dug ever deeper into the hull of the ship. “Yes,” he told her. “You can.”
With a sharp bang and a flash of smoke, Djoland fired at Raquel's knuckles. The tiny weapons wouldn't do much damage to the towering giant, but at point blank range, the bullets stung. Instinctively, Raquel pulled her hand away in pain. As soon as her grip loosened, the Dauntless slipped from her grasp and began careening wildly away, flying over the city in an aimless arc.
The bounty hunters stumbled over each other and collapsed in a heap as the ship lurched. Lee picked himself up from the pile of bodies and smiled wryly.
“Very noble, orc,” he said. “Finally accepted your fate, have you? Ready to pay the piper?”
Djoland cocked his pistols and took a step forward. “Not at all. I plan to kill every last one of you, if I have to.”
“Sounds like a plan to me, lad,” Lord Kroth added, stepping from the shadows to take his place beside Djoland.
“Kroth?” The younger orc was astonished. “What are you doing here? Thought you evacuated with the rest of the army.”
“And let these pink monkeys get away after what they tried to pull?” Kroth snarled. “Not a chance. No one double crosses Kroth! Make no mistake, Djoland, you and I still have unfinished business. But I've other fish to fry just now.”
“Well, isn't this a touching scene?” Lee chuckled, aiming his weapon at the two orcs. “Saves me having to kill you later, Kroth.”
Standing unsteadily, Hayden tried to get Lee to lower his gun. “Boss, what are you doing? I thought the plan was to work with Kroth and his orcs. But then you turn around and announce we're going to kill them all?”
“We don't need them, Hayden! We have the Dauntless!”
The ship lurched again, causing the whole group to stumble wildly and fight to stay standing.
“We don't have shit, Lee!” Kane spat through his metal face plate. “This tub is falling fast! If you'd just gone along with Hayden's plan, kept the orcs on our side--”
Lee whirled about to face his masked partner. “I only went along with that idiotic plan because they could get us into the city and – presumably – take out the giantess.” He turned back to Kroth and sneered. “But you couldn't even do that right, could you? Typical, useless, pea-brained orcs! I'm sick of the sight of you. And I've no intention of sharing my kill with you. I want my prize.”
“Prize?” Djoland said.
“King Gunther's paying us good money for your death, Djoland.”
“That's why you've been bloody chasing me all this time?”
“That's just icing,” Lee told him. “Believe me, gutting you will be a pleasure. You took my eye. Kane's face. Hayden's limbs. But more than that, you took our pride. Humiliated us. And I will see you die for it. You and the rest of your ugly, maggot-ridden, pathetic excuse for a species.”
“Right,” Kroth growled. “That's it!” With a savage roar, the orc lord launched himself at the bounty hunters, fangs bared and claws at the ready. Startled but prepared for battle, Djoland followed close behind him. A crazed look was in Kroth's beady red eyes and he seemed ready to rip out Lee's throat. Unfazed, Lee trained his gun on the advancing orc and fired.
“No!” With lightning speed, Djoland flung himself between Lee and his former chieftain. With a sickening soft, wet sound, the bullet embedded itself in his side. Djoland's eyes went wide and he stumbled like a punch drunk boxer. Kroth stared at his unlikely savior, gobsmacked. Even Lee and the others seemed taken aback by this development. Half delirious with pain, Djoland managed a backhand swipe with his claw, knocking the pistol from Lee's hand.
“N...no guns,” the orc declared, throwing his own pistols to the side. “Face me...man to man.”
“I would,” Lee announced, “if you were a man. As it stands, beasts like you simply need to be put down.”
Reaching behind his back, Lee pulled a long, shimmering dagger from his belt and swiped at the orc wildly. He howled with rage and defiance, like a cornered hunter fighting back a tiger. Djoland backed away, dodging each thrust as best he could. With a free hand, he put pressure on the bullet wound in his abdomen but could not stop the rush of blood.
With a derisive grunt, Kane and Hayden left Lee to whatever fate awaited him. The bounty killers had lost faith in their commander and the whole foolhardy mission. They were ready to scrap the entire thing. Oh, they wanted Djoland dead, no doubt of that. But they weren't willing to go down with the ship to do it. Anxiously, they searched the halls of the Dauntless for an escape pod or a stash of parachutes. But by then, a fire had begun to spread through the corridors and debris from the explosion obscured their path.
As for Kroth, the old warrior held back, watching Djoland and Lee's death match with fascination. He wasn't truly sure whose side he was on anymore.
At last, the wound in Djoland's side began to get the best of him and his strength failed. As Lee swung the dagger one more time, the orc was a fraction of a second too slow. Instinctively, he held up a hand to defend himself – and the deadly blade sliced it clean off.
Djoland howled as a fountain of blood spurted from the stump of his hand. Overwhelmed by the pain, he collapsed onto the floor.
“Now we end this, orc,” Lee said with a smile. He raised the dagger high and prepared to thrust it into his opponent's chest.
Moments later, the ship rumbled violently as it collided with a bell tower on its wild descent. The Dauntless smashed through the upper level of the structure, sending bricks, masonry, and a shattered bell to rain down on the city. Lee was thrown clear across the room by the impact.
“No, no, no!!!!” he bellowed, as he slammed against the far wall. He winced and tried to get back on his feet. “I'm so close! I had him, I had him!”
Kroth rushed to Djoland, wrapping an arm about his shoulder and helping him to his feet. Blood continued to gush from his wounds, staining Kroth's tunic a deep red. “C'mon, lad,” the chieftain said. “We're leavin'.”
“T-too late,” Djoland muttered. “Nowh—nowhere to go.”
“Codswallop,” Kroth told him. “What's the first thing I ever taught you?” He turned slightly to reveal one of the ship's last remaining parachutes strapped to his back.
“Always have an escape route.”
Djoland was astonished. “Wh-where did—”
“I grabbed it the moment I got on this bird,” Kroth said proudly. Using his teeth, he tore a strip of cloth from his shirt and began to wrap it about Djoland's bleeding arm. “The rest have probably burnt up by now so we'll have to share.”
“You saved my life, boy,” Kroth told him. “I intend to square my debts.” Dragging Djoland to the open hatchway, Kroth held tight to him and flung them both out into open air.
Lee watched them disappear, screaming in rage. He looked up as Hayden and Kane returned to the main chamber.
“They're getting away, damn it! Where are the parachutes?!”
“They're gone, Lee,” Hayden said. “Burnt to a crisp or lost with the section of the ship that collision just claimed.”
“Damn it,” Kane shouted, slamming a fist against the wall. “What do we do now?”
Lee looked towards the open hatch where the orcs had vanished. Hate burned in his remaining good eye as the gravity of the situation became clear. He climbed back to his feet, dusted rubble from his coat, and let his anger melt into an unsettling calm.
“We die, Kane,” he said. “We just die.”
The flaming, broken airship crested the city wall, taking out a guard tower as it fell. Moments later, the Dauntless slammed into a hillside and exploded in a massive fireball.
Debris was flung in all directions and descended on the city and the surrounding countryside, a snowfall of ash and metal. A burning, half-melted rotor flew past Kroth as he glided downward in his parachute, Djoland held tight in his grasp. Soon, the cloth of the parachute had been set ablaze and the two orcs plummeted like stones.
Kroth growled at the approaching ground as if it were a final opponent to be met on the field of battle. Defiant to the end, he readied himself for impact.
But instead, the orcs landed with a plop on a soft, cushion-like surface, well before reaching the earth. Long, slender fingers curled around them protectively as Raquel held them fast in her hand.
Before passing out in shock and exhaustion, Djoland gazed down at the city streets. Semi-obscured by Raquel's shadow and scurrying carefully around her boot-clad feet, Tillinghast's soldiers and Kroth's orcs were rallying against the remaining cutthroats in Lee's army.
It was over.
* * * *
Hours later, Djoland came to in an elegant bed of linens and silk. His orcish instincts recoiled at such finery and he gave a sudden start. He was far more used to sleeping on roots and underbrush or the murk of a bog or sewer. Looking around him, he saw King Tillinghast at the foot of the bed, surrounded by Pixis, Claude, Durant, and Lord Kroth. Raquel stood at the window, her huge violet eye and wall of cheekbone blocking the remaining daylight.
“There's the lad,” Durant laughed. “Thought we'd lost you, boy.” Djoland looked down at his body and saw that his wounds were dressed and bandaged. He felt overpoweringly weak and wracked with pain in his side and his arm. But he was still alive.
“The invasion has ended,” Rupert Tillinghast said. “Master Kroth here has agreed to a truce and withdrawn his forces from the city.”
“Damnedest thing,” Claude added. “One moment, we're fighting the orcs and the next, they've turned around and taken our side against the mercenaries. Bloody weirdest battle I've ever fought in. I understand you and Raquel had something to do with that, Djoland.”
Behind him, the giantess blushed slightly and the others could practically feel her body heat emanating into the room.
Djoland looked up at Kroth who had a strange, almost beaming smile full of jagged teeth and tusks. It was a bit unsettling. “You stayed,” he said, quietly.
“Aye,” Kroth agreed. “Wanted to see if you'd pull through. The feud is done, Djoland. All these months I've hated and hunted you – and you still took a bullet for me. Ya done right by me, lad. Oh, you're still a deserter and a yellow-bellied, limp-wristed peacenik who ain't got the stones for this orc's army. But under the circumstances...I think we can let that slide just once.”
“But...what about the indulgence?” Djoland asked.
Kroth chuckled and drew something from his backpack. In his claw was Djoland's severed hand.
“Managed to grab a souvenir before the Dauntless went down,” the chieftain said. “I'll tell the high priests ya went up in flames and this is all that's left of ya. They'll give me that indulgence and me rightful place in the next world, by thunder. Or I'll have those pious old fools mounted on pikes by suppertime.”
Djoland laughed and immediately regretted it as pain shot up his side.
“Hey, orc,” Pixis called, arms folded across his chest. Djoland braced himself for another verbal jab from the elf.
“You did all right,” said Pixis. He looked away uncomfortably, still a bit too proud to meet Djoland's gaze.
“He certainly did,” Tillinghast agreed. “You helped save my city, Djoland. Now get some rest. That open farmland is still available if you want it once you've recovered. I'd say you've more than earned it.”
“Hear that, Djoland?” Raquel asked, her voice reverberating through the room. “Not bad for someone who was almost my appetizer a few days ago.”
“Yeah,” the orc said, laying his head back and preparing to sleep. “Not bad at all.”
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