The scent was overwhelming in Mike’s living room. The smell of his disease permeated Crag’s nostrils. He figured it was a scent he could at least learn to ignore. Orcs do not feel pity, but he did empathize with the feeling of weakness the Elder relayed to him the last time they interacted. Crag felt weak whenever he thought about his battle with Set’s army.
Mike asked Crag to come to his house before the dagorhir meeting. Crag thought it might have something to do with what Mike wanted to tell him before. Namely, why Mike was so happy to have met Crag.
Mike shuffled into the room from his bathroom and smiled at the man-thing. He sat on his leather couch as Crag sat on the upholstered chair. The Elder human leaned forward. “Crag,” he said. “I know what you are.”
Crag’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
Mike said, “I know you’re an orc.”
“What do you mean? I am a dwarf. You were the Dungeon Master,” Crag said.
“No, no,” Mike said. “I mean, really. I can tell. You aren’t human in any way.”
Crag was unconvinced.
Mike added, “Look, you don’t have to confirm or deny, just know that I know. But I have so many questions. I understand, it might be hard to trust a human, especially if we are natural enemies, which I don’t even know because I’ve never met an orc before. Just know, I will never tell anyone who asks if I know an orc, because you have got to be on the run from something to be here.”
Crag said nothing. Mike said, “Look, when you’re about to die, you take pleasure in everything you can. I have been a fantasy nerd my entire life so knowing that there is still some magic in the world, it makes me so happy. I have read all of the fantasy books and some books that aren’t necessarily fantasy and I always had a shred of disbelieve, but this… this….” He breathed heavily after the outburst. “This changes everything for me.”
Crag sighed. “I… suppose I should not deny it. I wouldn’t necessarily say I am on the run, rather I was forcibly exiled from my plane, Torxania.”
“So,” the Elder said. “When you said Legend of Torxania, that’s a real thing?”
“Imagining a battle as a dwarf is far less interesting than fighting as an orc. Nothing against your story telling, but I miss the blood thrown from an enemy as I cleave him with my axe.”
The Elder shook his head affirmatively. “I understand. It’s hard to measure up when you’ve fought for real.”
Crag relaxed back into the chair.
Mike asked, “So why are you here? How did you get here?”
Crag related the story of fighting Set on the battlefield and being transported in the middle of the battle to a parking lot and being discovered by Dionne. He left out the part about cutting Creepy Toby in half. He was sure Mike wouldn’t care. Mike might even enjoy a battle scene on his own planet, but Dionne warned Crag against telling anyone so they would not involve themselves with the crime.
“So,” Mike said. “You need to get back to your own plane and you don’t know how?”
“Yes,” Crag said. “Absolutely.”
“Mike stroked his long, brown beard. I have a lot of books, like I said. Maybe I can find something that can take you back home. Gods, Crag, you being here confirms everything for me. I feel all the energy rushing through me and I want to channel it all into something to send you back home. It feels insane, but it’s all true and I don’t know how to handle it, but I’m going to try.”
Crag’s grin was not scary this time, more of a friendly bottom teeth exposure. He was working on making his smiles less terrifying.
Mike looked at the leather strap on his wrist with the gold and glass medallion on top. There were two black lines moving inside it. Crag pointed at Mike’s wrist. “What is that?”
Mike said with a half-grin, “It’s a watch. It tells me what time it is.”
“Don’t you have a sun and a moon for that?”
“We do,” Mike explained. “Unfortunately, humans in this realm want more specificity than ‘I’ll meet you at moonrise’ or ‘come when the sun is highest in the sky’.”
Crag grunted derisively. “Sounds like more of an annoyance than a boon to your kind.”
Mike sighed. “It really is.”
A horseless carriage pulled into the driveway. Mike and Crag saw it from the window. “They’re here,” Mike said. “Let’s go meet them.”
Crag nodded. Mike stopped next to a door along one of the walls. Upon opening the door, it revealed a number of weapon-shaped items that Crag had never seen before. “Here,” the Elder said. “Take some of these out with you.”
Mike pulled out a few of the items and held them for Crag to take. Crag held out his arms like he was preparing to take a heavy load, but the items were lighter than orclings just learning to walk. The Elder piled item after item on Crag and emptied most of the small room. Mike, himself, took a few of the items and they left the house to meet the humans outside.
Kermit, Wrench, Fish and Minion stood with two males and a female Crag did not recognize, but figured he would get to know. Kermit and Wrench grabbed some of the items from Crag grinning. “Glad you could make it,” Kermit said.
“As am I,” Crag replied. “What are these… things… I am carrying?”
“Weapons to play dagorhir with,” Kermit replied. He passed some of the weapons on to the others, but swung one of them in his hand back and forth. “This one, for example is a sword. Here, you should have this axe.” Kermit grabbed an item that looked like a woodcutting axe in form only and extended it towards Crag.
Crag took it by the hard end. He swung it into his own hand. The “blade” part was squishy and rebounded against the blow to his hand.
“What are these made of,” Crag asked.
Kermit, Wrench, Fish and Minion went on to explain the basics of dagorhir. The weapons were padded with foam. The battles were fast and strength was less necessary than precision. If someone is hit in the arm or leg, they cannot use that limb. If they are hit in the body they die. If the opponent hits them in the head the opponent is disqualified.
Crag huffed affirmatively, vastly more interested in this game than Dungeons & Dragons.
The orc asked, “Where are Andre and Rant?”
Fish replied, “We haven’t seen them. They usually ride together and get here about the same time as we do, but who knows.” Fish paused. “They could be mating.”
The group, including Crag laughed. Another group showed up, pulling their horseless carriage behind and emptying of human males and females. The whole group went out to the nearby field and started swinging their weapons to warm up.
Wrench said, “Hey, Crag, do you want to spar?”
Spar was a word and concept Crag was quite familiar with. “Yes, let’s.”
Wrench said, “Don’t worry, I made all of these weapons myself, they should hold up. Don’t be afraid to swing as hard as you can, just not for my face.”
Crag huffed. “I am a trained warrior. I know where to aim.”
Wrench stood in an open stance with his sword up and held at a short angle away from his face. Crag was confident and his axe was lower than it might have been in an actual battle.
“Ready?” Wrench said.
“Ready,” Crag replied.
A carriage came in kicking rocks as it skid down the gravel pathway. Andre jumped out and behind him was Teej. Crag stopped and looked at his orc brethren.
Teej rumbled towards the chieftain and said, “Yor fater mortar, Hedyr! (Your father is dying, Chieftain!)”
Crag’s jaw clenched and he handed his axe to Wrench. He said to Teej, “Takkar mer fater, instar! (Take me to my father, now!)”
Crag turned to Mike. “I must go. There is trouble.” Crag got into the carriage with Andre and Teej and they sped away.