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Outward from the World Tree...
Haft 2
This is the direction one wended to find the Elfbane. Only one ork kept the forest margins against the vile trickery of elves. It was well known—among orks most of all—that the more orks put their minds to a problem, the bigger the problem loomed. It was better for one and all to leave something so tricky and sneak-prone as elves to the keenest mind of the kind.
So outward, away from the World Tree, Haft jogged in search of the ork second only to their king, Elfbane, his Father. He would normally have snuck along the river-bottom ways, past the hobbit hovels. But he had already hunted there at dawn, bagged Mah's new pet—and no hunter retraced steps in enemy territory. It was well-known that the humans routinely raided the hobbit hovels for slaves. It would not do to “ork-up” his big day by being the dumb ork that left sign and then followed it again to be bagged like so much meat.
Haft followed a little-worn boar-path, a way he had never wended before—something was afoot...no, something was awing!
Haft froze in his tracks, quivered with superstitious awakening, and stopped in mid-stride like a picture of a running man—no an ork, he was the quickest, swiftest, runningest ork ever to charge across the speed-skull court... His human half had nothing to do with his prowess. Mother was merely the vessel of his arrival, the seedbed from which he had sprung and her weakness and slavishness of kind contributed naught to his powers.
The willows by the creek-bed whipped in a wind that did not blow.
The swaying trees above stalled at attention like sentinel poles dressed to drink the day's rays...yet to be noticed they stood still and afraid.
He breathed as slowly as the sun passed unseen above the Forest Dark.
The beat of unseen wings could be gently heard.
A shadow passed the great fallen tree beneath which he had been striding when the sense had come.
The soft beating of the invisible wings passing between the soaring boughs matched the fluttering shadow cast upon the mossy sward before him.
His human half reasoned that the thing was not there.
His ork half knew that something invisible cast that shadow, a shadow-caster in flight, the evil thoughts of elf-kind that preceded their vile deeds embodied in the realm of Middle Earth, where the evil gods planted life as striving soul seeds, souls that would wax and wane and provide the thirsty fiends of heaven with their needs. But before a soul could be drunk by the fiends of heaven, elves sought to feast before the gods, to lap the blood of the living.
The wake of the shadow-caster was cool to cold, announcing its hunger as it seeped by above.
Haft shivered. Did the gods know he was taking up the ax?
Did they send the shadow-caster or did the elves bring it?
Did the gods race to feast upon his unique essence? Was he the infant hobbit, salted and basted and roasted within the yule sow to appease the winter moon?
Was their a special delight to feeding upon the failed soul of a mixed-breed thing?
Was it true—as ork faith proclaimed—that all of the gods were vile, that they were, every grinning one of them, soul eaters?
Or did the humans know it true, that one of these gods was good unto the living and the rest but his foils and servants—the world to grow better the longer it spun?
Humans were obviously fools. But the foolish were right in their weird way... and so they were today.
Ahead of him a shadow moved, a shadow come to life as in the shape of an elf, stalking along the boar-path,a hunter who should have had him if not for the chill laid by the shadow-caster.
It was an elf, pale and underfed...hungry.
The elf did not see or hear him, intent on something up ahead, some desire yet to be fed. For the elves were blood-drinkers, pale-faced things like humans without the pink undercast kept alive with draughts of blood swigged from the wounds of their prey. Elves were like gods that stalked the earth, those beings that drank of life before life was called to its end. Elves were vile in the here and in the hereafter.
He stood still yet, until all sight of the fleeting elf faded in the distance and the evergreen spears above once against whipped in the outer wind and the willows down by the bank hung wan and still.
'I am afraid—frozen in fear! How can I be the son of Elfbane?'
A chill ran down his spine.
'Coward stripes on my back? Doubts in my half-formed soul? Am I malformed and doomed?'
A fire rising from his belly met the chill mid gut and melted it to mist, and with a guteral snarl Haft paced forward, crouched and cat-like. His ax-haft unweighted as yet with a blade, rocked easily in his flushed hand hungry for the guttering life of a blood-drinking elf, its owner of a sudden thirsty to abolish all doubts from his mind.
'Elves stalk the Forest Dark—they violate the place of wintry green with their unnaturally sallow sheen!'
He could taste his righteous hate, both sides of his being—the free ork and the slave human—knowing instinctively that there was something worse than ork barbarity, something more vile than human bondage; and that something was elvish depravity.
'Kill!'
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