Throg sat wearily before the assembled tribe heads, the night before a monster had come from the dark, and slain three tribes before dawn had broken, seven more before suddenly disappearing late in the afternoon all that was left was the sword laid out on the ceremonial cloth before him. “It was a black skinned demon of iron born, like the legends the old ones speak of in hushed murmurs.” Gado the leader of gravel foot tribe spoke, if the beast had not vanished when he did the gravel foot would have been the eighth tribe lost, by right the blade was theirs. “Then did you see it? Old man Gado? This demon of iron, who slaughter our fellow tribes, and disgraced us so deeply?” Javik of hookclaw was as blunt with words and as inept in controlling his anger as he was skilled with a blade, and adept at skinning his prey. ” No he did not, but I did, and his words are mine.” Cripa, a large female red ork, her muscles well defined on a wiry frame, looked at the head of hookclaw without fear. And that irked him, it irked him beyond measure. “Do all cave dwellers speak so freely to their betters?” As Javik spoke Throg already raised his hand, the blasted fool however always finished what he started, and unfortunately that included his sentences. He needed to regain control of the situation, and he needed to do so fast. Cripa meanwhile seemed intent on antagonizing the somewhat smaller ork, as she deliberately strode towards him arms spread as if to challenge the man. “Enough! Cripa, back now. We need no more dead today.” With a shrug the female complied.”We should retreat to the birth-lands.” The suggestion went in against most of their respective natures, as you did not become a tribe head without a thirst for blood and battle, but for the first time no one considered immediately disputing Fell’s idea, or claim it cowardly, then again for the first time they had encountered a demon of iron. Or maybe not, after all, there were stories about the demons. “I believe we may yet win even if the creatures have somehow joined with iron demons, there are after all many tales our elderly know of these demons of iron.” The assembled heads stared at him, not understanding the reason the war leader would bring that up right now. “So they may know also a story where one dies!” Laughter rose from the group as all the heads, save one, burst out in joy. Gado knew better. He had in fact seen the demon fight, he knew better than thinking they could bring one down, let alone it’s friends on the wall. Cripa frowned when she noticed the mood of her leader, but being his second in command knew what it meant, Silently the gravel foot tribe snuck out of the meeting, by the time they would be missed they would have been long gone, and the votes would exclude their tribe, exempting them from adhering to the outcome. It was a lowly strategy, but it worked, and gravel foot were nothing if not practical. And getting killed because of someone else’s stupidity was far from practical.
“Why did we leave? ” Cripa’s question was a simple one, and would easily be seen as an insult by any lesser ork, as it stood the black ork before her merely frowned his massive brow, his eyes seeming as two shards of flint in the coal black leather of his face, and answered. “The walkers disappeared, I think finding why and where is a better idea, maybe they found entrance, maybe we can rally the tribe, and sneak after them in the coming dark, maybe then hide out the idiot fighting. ” As per usual her father had thought it all through, and as per usual he had chosen to hide his thoughts from the other tribe heads, deliberately setting them on a different path, although she was not certain of the second part, until the corner of his mouth wrenched upward, giving him a twisted leering visage, she always imagined her father smiled the same way snakes would, if they could. “What is it Cripa?” She shook her head, and glanced at the cloth she had tucked into her belt, the long knife within had killed her brother and sister, it was hers now, even if she had not asked permission to remove it from the war leaders tent. Gado saw where her eyes darted and chuckled dryly. “You will just kill whoever wants to take your new knife from you. I know you my child, you do not fear them, nor should you.” She nodded, her father did know her well, and she him. So it was in silence, and without objection that they entered an empty tent, changed clothes, and continued their journey, repeating the little ritual several times before arriving at the place where the walkers were last seen.
The stench was, in a word, rancid. And it disturbed Cripa greatly that it, in fact, made her hungry. to the left a funeral pyre provided smoke, and the sickening sweet smell of burning flesh mingled with the stench of rotting meat to create a bouquet of a malodorous magnitude the likes of which she had not experienced before. However the smoke was useful, as it provided cover, beneath which the two carefully maneuvered across the corpse field, until they saw it, fifty paces from the corpse field’s edge, a small hole in the earth. “It might be a cave, but I doubt they would have stayed inside so long if it was.” Cripa nodded. “Or maybe they fell through.” Gado sighed, his daughter had suffered a particular fear since her earliest days, the fear of falling through the world. As such she had avoided any holes that she could not see the bottom of. ” We will see when we get there, crawl low, we don’t want to be seen.” He already started crawling when Cripa kindled an all new fear in his heart. “Dad, what if the hole is the demon’s home, and he came slaughter to punish us?” He swallowed hard, but kept moving, partially because he did not know, partially because he was driven by his curiosity, but mainly, because he felt the earth beneath him tremble.