Crag got out of bed slowly. Crag sniffed at the air. He didn’t smell anyone else in the house. Andre and Niya were probably at school. Dionne was probably out grocery shopping or doing some other errands. Crag had the house to himself, but he didn’t know what to do.
He stood from the bed and slipped on pants. He didn’t bother with a shirt. He wasn’t cold. He was hungry and wondered what he could put together he wouldn’t be able to ruin. Maybe tree blood. He didn’t know if he could pull off pancakes. He stepped carefully through the house toward the kitchen and opened the door.
The strange characters on the different items in the cold cabinet. He should really think about learning to read this world’s version of Common. He grabbed a bottle that looked like the one Dionne used for tree blood. He carefully took the top off and tried to pour it into his mouth. He saw the liquid inside move toward the tip, but nothing.
There was a knock on the front door. Crag’s attention snapped to it and he growled. The bottle forgotten laying on its side on the kitchen plateau. He moved to the door, ready to attack whomever it might be.
He unlocked the door and opened it to find Arnie.
“Hey, man,” Arnie said. “Is, uh, Dionne here?”
Crag said, “No. She was not here when I awoke.”
“Oh, bummer,” Arnie said. “Hey, uh, I actually am here to see you.”
“Why?” Crag asked.
“Can I come in?”
Crag stepped back from the door and Arnie brushed past him. Arnie said, “I know I was kind of weird at the funeral. It felt really awkward.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you ever had a secret that only you knew and you wanted to share with everyone else, but couldn’t, for whatever reason?”
“No. Orcs do not keep secrets.”
“Well, maybe not where you’re from, but around here....”
“What do you mean?”
Arnie paused with a deep breath. “I’m your brother. Goor was my father.”
Crag didn’t know what to say.
“My mom was one of the dancers at Louie’s years ago. Goor had just opened the place. They fell in love, or whatever orcs call it and they got together. She died after I was born, so Goor took me in.”
Crag was skeptical. “You have a comparable build, but half-orcs typically have small tusks.”
“My mom got them pulled when I was a baby. I keep them hanging from a string at my house.” Arnie looked away from Crag. “I’ve been around various orcs who have been transported here by Set, but I never thought I would ever meet anyone from my own clan. That’s why I was so aggressive with you when we met. I had high standards. But I know that you’re brave and strong. I hope that we can become friends and brothers.”
Crag offered a hand to Arnie. They clasped hands. Crag said, “Maybe if I find a way back home you’ll come with me and I can show you our home world.”
Arnie smiled. “I would really like that.” After a pause, Arnie said, “Hey, you wanna go get something to eat? My treat.”
“Certainly,” Crag said. “I cannot figure out the bottle of tree blood for the life of me.”
Arnie walked into the kitchen to see the bottle on its side. He picked it up, looked at the top, then between his pointer and thumb pulled at the top again. He turned the bottle spout down and brown liquid eased out and onto Arnie’s finger.
“A secondary protection. Ingenious,” Crag said.
Hours later, Crag knocked at Mike, the Elder’s, door. Arnie’s confession helped bolster Crag’s mood significantly. Sure, he’d lost his father, but he’d gained a brother and the secret to tree blood.
Crag said, “I’d like to give the game another try.”
The Elder said, “Everyone’s out back. Join them.”
Crag walked around the house to intense fighting happening with twenty or so humans. Kermit faced off with Wrench. Kermit’s strikes were faster, but Wrench was much more efficient in his movement.
Rant faced Minion. Minion was slow, but he had a shield with his sword and kept the plucky Rant at bay, but she tried hard, she wielded two foam swords.
“Hey, buddy!” Fish, in light leather armor, approached Crag. “Do you want to have a fight?”
“I...,” Crag started. “I have never fought like this before.”
“It’s really easy. I’ll show you. Grab a weapon. Maybe that big one, since you’re such a big guy.”
The sword Fish pointed to had a red handle and pommel. Crag swung it around with one hand. It was as tall as Crag, but much lighter than his axe had been. Fish had a shield and a sword with a blue and green pommel.
Fish explained the rules of striking and defense quickly to Crag. The rules seemed simple enough.
Fish said, “If I get a little aggressive, I apologize beforehand.”
Crag nodded. “Aggression during battle is usually encouraged.”
Fish raised his shield and sword. Crag brought up his red sword with both hands, as instructed. With two hits from his red sword he could destroy the shield. Should be no problem.
Crag grunted and swung the huge sword at Fish. As he did, he yelled, “Red.” Fish blocked the strike, but the force of the blow knocked him back. Fish stumbled, but grinned. “Good hit.”
Crag cracked a terrifying smile. Fish rushed in, diverting the next “Red” strike and calling, “Green” as he stabbed Crag in the chest.
Crag looked down at the stab. “I’m dead?” he asked.
“Yup,” Fish said. “Typically, when someone dies in battle they give a scream and fall down to denote the death.”
Crag nodded and loosed a roar that stopped everyone fighting in their tracks as he collapsed to the ground.
Fish looked around at everyone staring. He laughed. “That was great! Okay get up.”
Fish was much quicker than Crag and with more experience with the dagorhir rules, more often than not Fish killed Crag. Crag’s death screams turned into Orcish swear words as he grew more and more frustrated.
“I’m starting to enjoy killing you, Crag,” Fish said. “The words you’re coming up with are awesome.”
Crag grunted. “Do not get used to it. I am a master on the field of battle. I will begin winning soon enough.”
Fish switched to wielding two blue/green weapons to make himself faster. Crag swung his red sword, but Fish rushed in side Crag’s range with a “Green” strike. Fish bridged the gap of smile and smirk, saying, “Master, huh?”
Crag’s pensive face was almost as terrifying as his smile. The two stepped back from one another. Thoughts clouded Crag’s head. He wanted to fight to clear his head, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t help, but think about the loss of his father, and how his father hadn’t even bothered to tell him he had a brother. Things like this wouldn’t normally have bothered Crag, but for some reason....
Crag and Fish squared up again. Crag held his red weapon in front of him, moving back and forth, ready. Fish feinted to the left, drawing Crag’s weapon, then struck with his other sword hitting Crag twice in the arm. The first strike was to “take” Crag’s arm, the second to deliver the killing blow.
Playfully, Fish said, “You made it seem like you were better than this. I’m a little disappointed.”
Crag roared and swung his red sword one-handed and struck Fish in the arm. The blow threw Fish five feet and to the ground. People watching rushed to Fish’s aid.
“No, no,” Fish said. “I’m good. My fault. I got a little mean with teasing.”
Crag huffed. He immediately felt bad for knocking the young man down. He offered Fish a hand up. With Fish on his feet, Crag said, “That was poor form on my part. I apologize.”
Dusk drew close and many of the dagorhir fighters were collecting their weapons.
The Elder asked, “So, how did you like the game?”
Crag said, “It was humbling. Fish was a good teacher. I feel bad for that last hit.”
The Elder said, “I hope it helped you work through your issues.”
“Yes,” Crag said. “I feel a little better.”