The flap to the tent ripped open surprisingly easy.
But then, Vizri didn't expect much from a human.
The dim light in the tent did nothing to hamper his vision. Orc eyes were designed to be useful in the dark tunnels that spawned their ancestors as well as the bright sunlight in which the multitudes of humans dwelt.
It was a good thing his eyes adjusted so quickly because almost as soon as he entered, he had to duck to the right as a pale blur flew at him from out of nowhere.
He shifted his weight and gripped his ax but something, some odd instinct made him stay his hand.
Unlike the confusing humans, Orcs always followed their instincts. So he gripped the hilt of the great weapon strapped to his back and instead traced the blur with his eyes.
It was a human, a small one. At least it looked human. He inhaled deeply, his nostrils flaring, and nodded. It was human, small ... wounded.
He was deciding if he should just put it out of its misery when it turned and snarled at him.
He could not stop his brow-hair from rising as he stared at the pitiful creature. Although it never showed in his expression, this delighted him. This tiny thing behaved in an appropriate alpha-type manner. It was refreshing.
The small thing looked underfed and wild as he glared at him, its small chest heaving as its eyes tracked rapidly around the room, looking for an escape route while keeping him firmly in view.
He tilted his head to the side and relaxed his stance as the small human snarled again.
There was a table between him and the small human, so he decided he had time to test a theory that had been raging along the lower courts of his chiefdom for years. Were humans intelligent beings, capable of instinctual thought or were they just evolution's joke?
He moved forward and unclasped the human weapon, a sword, from his side. He had meant to bring it as a present to one of his wives who loved trinkets like that, but now it would do well to serve a purpose.
If the small human could pass his test he would not put it out of its misery. If it actually reacted in the correct instinctual manner, then he might take it home as a pet and spare its life. One of his thirty-seven wives might like an intelligent toy to fetch and carry.
The sword was laid on the table and he stepped back to watch the creature's reaction. When it just stood there, glaring at him, eyes still darting around the tent, he reached into another pouch at his side and withdrew a small-jeweled dagger. He had taken it from the treasury of the human in charge and thought that it could be bent and pounded into something useful, like a bit of jewelry for one of his wives or his consort. He moved forward and laid that on the table as well.
Still the small creature didn't move, but its eyes were darting back and forth between him and the weapons.
Finally Vizri unwound a heavy steel bolo from around his waist, dropping that beside the dagger before he stepped back.
There, he had given the creature three options. He would wait and see if it was intelligent enough to realize he had given it a choice.
As he waited, he examined the pitiful thing, noting the difference between human and Orc. It had none of the advantages nature had given the Orc for survival, which led many to speculate that humans were Nature's big joke.
It had thin skin, which he could see blood pumping through its veins. Its ears were rounded and placed on the side of its head, not sharply arched and placed on top so they could easily pick up the sounds of enemies approaching or sneaking around. It had no claws for defense, no horns for intimidation, and worst of all, it had no protruding lower tusks. How could it properly mate if it could not gore its female into ecstasy?
Humans were a strange breed that had managed to grab a foothold in the Orc territory. They were annoying and curious, but not considered very dangerous by some. But according to Vizri's philosophy, any creature that was smart enough to try and establish its own territory within the borders of a greater Chiefdom was worth keeping under control.
He dropped his internal musings when the creature finally made its move. As expected, it went for the largest most flashy of weapons on the table. It went for the sword.
Vizri sighed and reached for his ax prepared to deliver a swift death to the stupid creature when it flung the sword at him.
Instinctively, his eyes followed its path as he stepped out of its way, his right arm already behind his back on the hilt of his upturned ax, when he felt the blow.
He looked down and for the first time since he and his consort picked out their first wife, he smiled.
The small human had used the sword toss as a distraction. While he was occupied with stepping out of the path of the poorly flung weapon, the small creature had grabbed up the dagger and slammed it into his side.
It was what he got for underestimating a creature he had argued on several occasions not to underestimate.
Of course, Orc skin was too tough for a mere human blade to penetrate...
He looked down at the small human and the sinister smile that spread across his normally stoic face made what was left of the angered red flush on the human's cheeks fade away.
Curious, he decided as he watched the new color rush in the human's face nearly seconds after it paled.
Orc skin came in several shades of dark brown to black, rich and beautiful earth tones, nothing like the pale imitation of land the human's possessed. He had a feeling that you could tell what a human was thinking by the color its skin turned, a decided disadvantage in battle.
But this human, instead of running away in fright, tried to jab the dagger in harder, its snarl even more pronounced, before he released the hold on his axe and gently swatted it into a pile of furs he assumed passed for a bed.
Uncouth creatures, human were, he decided.
But this one... This one was different.
It glared at him from the pile of brown fur, its nearly white blue eyes showing hostility and a small amount of fear.
"Your name?" he finally asked, watching as those eyes widened and a strange look came over its face.
"N-Name?" he stuttered, obviously not expecting him to be able to speak in the human tongue.
He grunted his assent. The Orc language was more about tone and force when you spoke. The language was a complicated series of grunts, clicks, and growls that were more straightforward than the lilting sounds humans used for words that danced around a topic. Frankly, several human languages were easy to understand and his warriors were required to speak several of them before they were deemed fit for battle. It would not do to have your enemy shouting orders to change formation or to pass along information in battle that you could not understand. They used the knowledge of human language to their advantage in several decisive battles and held their abilities closely to themselves as a major battle secret. Therefore very few humans knew Orcs could understand human.
"Name, small human," he leaned forward, delighted when the snarl came back to the human's mouth and all traces of fear fled his eyes.
Vizri blinked as the small human spoke. Maybe his knowledge of this particular human dialect was not complete. The small human was named for a cheap and easy being of no honor or breeding?
"Whore," it snapped, rising to his feet, standing tall before the greater might of the Orc warrior. "That is what they call me."
"Curious," he muttered, gesturing for the creature to approach him.
It smelled young, he decided, looking it over. It was dressed in a few leather rags that tied around its waist and hid almost nothing. Its long blond hair was braided and beaded with several bells and colorful balls, like it was some exotic toy. On its wrists and ankles were jeweled cuffs, and of all things a leather collar around its neck, like it was some beast of burden.
Reaching out, Vizri gripped both its hands and spun it around, noting the bruises and what appeared to be lash marks on its back.
The small human began to scream and kick when he did that, biting at his hand and kicking to pull itself free.
Vizri liked its reaction. It lost its scant clothing and Vizri discovered that the creature was male, a small male. Maybe it was not fully grown, but one could never tell about humans. Some of them were excessively short. But it ... he was fighting even in the face of a greater challenger. And its instincts seemed to be sound, even if it lacked the biting tusks and the tearing nails that would injure him.
His plans solidified in his mind, he hefted the small human male in his arms and carried him out to where the remaining humans were herded.
There were the amused grunts of his warriors as he carried the spitting fighting creature toward its contemporaries, but they gathered around to see what was happening.
Vizri didn't stop until he approached the most elaborately dressed and jeweled human, therefore the leader.
When he stood before the gaping creatures, he tossed Whore into the snow at their feet.
"Whore?" he asked, and suddenly the dark expressions on the human's faces lighted considerable.
"Yes, whore!" the man exclaimed, stepping forward, pushing his own people aside as he made his pleas. "Whore. Please, take him; take what you want. Just let me and my people live."
"So, you would give the life of one small human in order to protect yourselves?"
The human looked shocked at his grasp of their language, but he quickly overcame that, smiling and nodding.
"Yes! Yes, take him! He's a strange one, nothing but a whipping boy and a whore."
"So, you would sacrifice this small one," Vizri snorted, chewing on his bottom lip with his front teeth, a sure sign of irritation if one was familiar with Orc behavior. "You would easily give up the life of one of your own in order to save yourself?"
"He is useless!" The human snorted, sneering at the tiny human who had so impressed him. The small male glared back and spit on the ground at his feet for good measure. The leader looked as if he would like to deliver a kick to the small one, but continued to babble instead. "He is nothing."
"Yet, he is human." Vizri continued.
"But a worthless one!" the man insisted. "He is not strong or wise like my brave sons," the man insisted. "He is not of my blood. He is a thing to do with what we will. And I will him to you if it will save me and mine."
"But ... is he not one of yours?"
"No! Take him! He is more than his weight in value if his life spares mine."
"Begin the slaughter."
The human gaped at him clearly not understanding the command. "But ... but the whore..."
"Did not offer me his body or your lives to spare himself some hurt." He stepped forward, disgust clearly on the planes of his body as he snarled down at them. "Yet you, who are supposed to be leader here..."
"I am! I am the leader!" the man insisted. "It is my right to give him to you!"
"And thus it is not fit for your weak blood to exist on this land." He stepped back, his hand on the human's head. "You would sacrifice one of your own for the sake of your own weak offspring? You would give one of your own away to save yourself? You should have fought for him. You should have done anything you could, fought any battle, to save each and every one of your kind. Each life is precious, human. And as a leader, each one, any one is worth dying to protect. Yet you are offering one of your own to me? To save your own miserable lives? I cannot allow such weakness to perpetrate. "
Turning to his men, he ordered, "Slaughter him and his sons ... and the rest of this -- this human trash." He gestured to the people who hid behind the leader. "Not one of them stood up for the one they named whore. All their lives are forfeit. Slaughter them all and burn the rest. Nothing of them deserves to remain to mar my land in the future."
There were screams of protest and one of his warriors reached out for the whore, but Vizri stayed his hand.
"No." He shook his head as he watched the human leader fall to his knees as the blood of his people stained the snow red. "Not this one."
He looked down at his little captive and snorted in amusement as he spit in the snow at the leader's feet once again.
"This one shows honor, despite what these others of his kind have done." Then he lifted his arm and showed his second the hole in his side where the dagger parted the material of his tunic. "If he had skill, he may have broken the skin ... a little."
His second looked impressed. "This one?" he grunted in Orc.
"Follows his instincts."
The second in command stared at the small human and smiled as the small human snarled at him, ignoring his nudity and the cold of the snow. He bared his human teeth and growled.
"Impressive," his second nodded and turned to the kneeling human.
Both Vizri and Whore watched as first the man's sons then the leader himself were beheaded, their bodies tossed into a blazing pile of debris that his warriors had already started.
The small human watched as well, no trace of weakness, disgust, or even righteousness, on his face. He just stared, observed, and learned.
As the stench of burning human flesh filled the air, Vizri turned to the small human and grunted. "Rotic,"
The human turned to look up at him, his eyebrows raised. There was still no fear in his face, no disgust at the bloodshed of the slaughter, and no shying away from death. He showed neither joy nor anguish at the leader's demise.
"Rotic?" he asked, looking confused.
"Your name. It's Rotic."
"Rotic," the small human exhaled and nodded, his eyes still curious as he looked at the death all around him and the one being who probably had shown him more courtesy than he had in his whole life.
"Rotic." Vizri grunted. "My first ... son."
A look of joy filled the small human's face before a blank look filled his face. But his eyes, his eyes were filled with untold joy.
That same blank look was on his face when Vizri wrapped him in a fur and settled him on the front of his six legged riding beast, though his odd pale eyes glittered with joy.
It was a successful campaign in Vizri's mind. He had wiped out the largest infestation of weak humans in his lands, he gained wagons of furs and metals, and he gained his first son.
This day had not been too bad at all.