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Upon the Stump of the King...
Haft 5
That is where one sat enthroned on the carven chair once the greatest ax had been taken up, the bearded, hammer-backed ax of the Ork King.
The Great Space of Ork Kind was ringed by twenty mother trees, great cedars so broad about their base that it took more than five bull orks linking hands to encircle their flaring base. No mother tree was to be hollowed out for habitation. There was a problem with habitation and trees that orks had not figured out. So was the mystery of the carven throne, that the stump of the First Tree, long ago charred and scorched by a lightning bolt out of the sky, then shaped by crafty ork hands into a seat for their king was a place of bad luck.
Luck was real, especially in the ork mind. Anytime something happened unexpected, that was luck, falling good or bad depending on who that luck fell on and how hard. For this reason, the fury of Luck, the Stump of the Ork King, being the very residue of bad luck, had been taken up ages ago to divert the ire of the gods from The World Tree, hidden in Her Forest Dark.
It was Morning Drop, Hour of the Skull, about which he had forgotten due to the unforeseen demands of the still young day. The bucks of the second age grade stood waiting him to command them in the fifth speed-skull game against the bucks of the first age grade, within the muddy pit where such contests were had, under the eye of King Ork, who had been king when Haft was born.
King Ork was massive, twice as broad as Father, who was twice as broad again as Haft. About the King stood his five chiefs, all about Father's size, prime, bearded bulls of ork kind, wearing great wooden helms, wielding massive bearded axes, girded about their hips with leather and mail. Each girdle was made of soft dwarf-hide leather, armored with dwarf-forged mail. Dwarfs had the magic to make steel while orks could only make iron.
This was known to be a problem.
But as the wisest elders had counseled, 'It is what it is.'
So the axis of the ork world turned on its defining limitations.
Rather than take his place at the head of his age grade, he shifted his haft to his left hand, saluted them with his fist to his heart and extended his hand outward and upward open, palm down and fingers pointed like the blade of a spear at the place where the sun rose unseen beyond the Forest Dark. It was a spear that most orks wielded in battle against the evil kinds of the Outer World. Only the chiefs and the king hefted the ax. The ax was likewise used for dueling among orks. Hollowing one's tree for his wench and the whelps to be bred upon her and patrolling the Forest Dark, were also ax-tasks. But when ork kind were called to defend the forest margins, to sweep men and dwarfs and elves and hobbits from their adjacent haunts, orks massed with spears under their chieftains. So, when an ork saluted those of his age grade, he made the risen spear hand from the heart, stabbing at the life-giving and night-taking sun.
But Haft did not stop and take the leadership of his age grade band! He continued walking towards the King upon his Stump, seated within his charred throne, surrounded by the now glaring chiefs—none of whom tolerated him easily as they were all second to his Father.
The murmur went up!
Orks came from all around, creeping forth from their hollowed trees. The wantons of the first and second age grades, decked out in flowers and ferns and ripe to be made into wenches and be planted with whelps by the victors of this contest—which had always been the first age grade—were already assembled, including the many of both grades who yearned for him. Haft had forgotten that on this day, he had been fated to challenge beyond his age grade, to possibly wreck ork society—and, in time-honored orkish fashion, he had forgotten all about it.
'Blast, I orked-up! I forgot today was the biggest and best day to advance to the first age grade before my time!'
'Pretend you are not surprised to yourself—like you planned this.'
'Never mind, the wizard called you messiah!'
Haft's inner monologue was not betrayed with pondering long face or pause. He was ork enough to tramp right up to the King among his chiefs, senselessly confident in success, even as he tried to sort matters in his mind.
The murmur grew menacing and the age-grades gathered closer to hear what could be nothing other than blast-fah-mee!
'What in blazes is a mess-sigh-a?'
'Mah always said to figure on the root of a word.'
'Mess, one that makes a mess of an orked-up situation and thereby starts from scratch!'
Having figured out the root of all ork-woe and being fully confident that he had all the answers in his own hand, Haft, Son of Smash, called Elf-bane, strode up before the throne in a ring of hulking chiefs, glaring down from beneath beetle brows over braided beards jutted with fangs, gripping axes and spiked hand shields with menacing disfavor, and stopped, raised his haft overhead and passing it into his right hand, showing off the elf scalps and declared, “I have taken four elf scalps. I demand an ax in hand!”
The murmur of scandal rose all about as every ork gathered close to hear and King Ork rose in his ire and hammered the iron hammer-back of his kingly ax against the brass block of an anvil once stolen by the first Ork King from the Phony Mountain of Man.
Oh did it ring!
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