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Inward Toward the World Tree...
Haft 4
© 2021 James LaFond
One wended inward into the deep recesses of the Forest Dark to avoid the vile intent of the elves, no less than to avoid the chains of men. As Elf-kind drank ork blood, Man-kind drank his sweat. An ork was twice as strong as the strongest of men and were valued as a beast of burden to build man's phony mountains and satisfy the godlike ambitions of man kings, as well as a slave or war, armored and chained together to form the vanguard of many a dark lord's host.
Dark Lords had one common origin—they had been men, one and all, who had striven to become more and had become something wickedly less.
Inward towards the World Tree Haft strode with his dying father over his shoulder. Jogging was rattling his bull-like father too much for him to bear.
It occurred to him then that he was already as strong as a bull ork and his stones had yet to drop. Father was so powerful—and apparently Mother so prime for one of her weak kind—that Haft was not simply half as smart as a human and half as strong as an ork. He felt the best of both—could almost speak as good as Mother when he put his mind to it and was near as strong as Father already. The shaman had said that he might be the best of both or the worst.
'The best. I am the Best. I should lead a war band against the elves and avenge Father.'
'Darn, I should have scalped the elves. But here I am, without proof of war claim, deprived by haste of battle fame.'
'I orked-up!'
'No, not an ork in The Forest would forget to lift a scalp.'
'I manned-up! Blast my human half!'
Father lolled and moaned in delerium upon his shoulder.
Something—some man, whistled ahead, as if it had followed him earlier and waited now. He paused and listened and it whistled up ahead with patience, not walking, not stalking, not even moving around, but seated he would bet, and a man for sure. Orks could not whistle, what with fangs and all.
This remebrance made him self-conscious, and he touched his upward jutting fangs. As fangs went, they were not much, straight and coming only even with the nostrils of his high-ridged and all too human nose. His downward jutting eye teeth were undersized as well—but at least he could not whistle like some goddamned human!
Upon the deadfall ahead, in a bit of a clearing, this being an old dead-fallen alder above which hung creepers and closed a canopy of drooping cedar, whistled a human voice and wafted its infernal smoke. It was one of those pipe-smokers, the ones called wizards that hexed an ork up so he was as buggered as if by any elf-spell.
But this was his forest and he would let no superstitious dread of the second-most brainiest race divert him from his course. He should kill it. But Father needed to be laid to rest before the King he served, hopefully before he left his last breath to waft up into the sacred palms of the cedars that towered so mightily about the World Tree.
There it sat, under a crinkled and pointed hat, smoking from a dragon-headed pipe, and blowing smoke rings into the air—polluting The Forest with its smoldering witch-breath.
His brain burned at the arrogance of this stooped old human, its hair white to grey its beard long, willowy and fey.
'Will I have such a beard—so light and fey? Or will my beard grow bristle-hound hard and wire strong what whelps will climb up the braids of while I sit the stump throne?'
The man looked up at him as he reached the mossy-floored clearing around the old deadfall and answered his inner thoughts, “Strong, I should think. A beard of black shot with red, roped like the very coils of serpentine dread.”
He stood stunned, angered at the invasion of his thoughts, his sire still moaning on his shoulder. And the man with its pale—almost elvish face, but blotched and malformed enough to ally suspicion, stood and held up a string of four elf-scalps, wan and fey and so much whiter than grey as to be clouds and stated, “Haft, Son of Smash of the Forest Dark, called Elf-Bane, you forgot your scalps.”
He then threw the scalps, to Haft, who caught them on his ax haft and there they crawled like serpents of magical make down the haft away from its cleaving end where an ax head should be mounted, and wove themselves around the haft just above his hand grip and the wizardly human soothed, “Now that is a haft to be proud of, Only your sire, among living orks, has taken more elf hair than ye.”
“Who are you, human?”
The elder man then stood and towered taller by a head than Haft, who was already as tall as his mighty father and declared, “I, Haft the Buck Ork, am Graft, Graft the Tween, your Grandfather.”
He felt the drool drip from the fangs of his open mouth and the man had him and continued, “I gave my youngest daughter to Smash to wife—your very mother—to satisfy a debt. It is no easy thing for a man to give his daughter to a beast like that that wanes across your shoulders. But to look at you, I feel my pride rise. You are no stupid brute, though I dare say you will have your father's strength when your stones drop. How is your mother?”
“I'm done wit mother matters! Out with it, Wizard—what a ye 'ave of me?!”
The man then seemed sad and tired all at once and sat back down on the dead fallen tree.
The man then knocked ashes form his pipe, refilled it with some dust got from the rim of his ghastly old hat, and drawled, as he puffed, “Only that you look to the health of your Father's folk as was our pact, that your Father's saving of my life from a dastard elf prince once upon a time who sought to drain my neck blood like a cup, would be repaid by your stewardship of his kind.”
“What?” drooled Haft, having not thought of much things bigger than speed skull stratagems in his short years.
To this the man stood to his full height and fairly roared in a scolding tone, “Boy, don't you ork-out on me! Even a folk so wretched as your Father's kind deserves more of its messiah than a daft and drool disbelief in his very purpose!”
Haft grew angry and trembled and the man stalked closer, blowing a ring of smoke around Haft's head and he commanded as does a creature used to being heeded, “Good, anger at the gods that have cursed both of your kind is a start! Now hear me, Haft, sit your Sire down here and now, against this tree fallen before it time like he, and get about the task of saving your idiot kin from what assails them—move!”
With those word's the man's face become as that of a dragon in dark rage and Haft set down his father and ran along the dead fallen tree and leaped over the rooty end of it to the path beyond without a backward glance, for he did not want to steal a glance as that which might steal his soul as sure as any thirsty elf.
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