Long ago, the Rujarkian orcs established a foothold in the Desert of Ro and swiftly became a major force in the harsh environment.
When the Caliphs of Maj’Dul forced them to scale back their offense, many warriors chafed at doing menial chores. Some sought to escape the drudgery of their new existence.
When the sun was directly overhead, there was no place to hide. Relentless, merciless and strong, it beat down on the backs and shoulders of the those foolish enough to be out of doors.
“Sand,” spat Grengar. “We keep working like this, we’ll be bones and sand.” He shaded his eyes with the back of his work-roughened hand and cursing the sun. “Orcs should not be doing this work; where are the little ones when we need them?”
For many long seasons, the Rujarkian orcs had been able to take what they wanted, from wherever they wanted. However, the Dervs – the nasty, vicious sand dwellers – had been fighting back. The fury of their defense took the orcs by surprise and decimated their frontline troops. This left the orcs with fewer resources for the menial tasks such as hauling goods to and from their ships.
Grengar spat again before picking up the load of lumber and hoisting it unassisted onto his shoulder. There were few orcs with his size and strength. He had quickly gained notice amongst the Rujarkians’ leaders, but his temper kept him from being assigned to anything other than tasks requiring physical labor. It galled him, for Grengar wanted more. He wanted control.
Reaching the mill within the Clefts, Grengar dropped the load and stretched to his full height. “This work is for the inferior!” he bellowed impatiently, his voice echoing. “Why is a warrior sent to do the job of a thrall?”
“You are no warrior in their eyes,” said one of the woodcutters softly. He was one of the Dervin thralls, his ankles bound by chains to the table upon which he cut larger hunks of wood into smaller pieces. Grengar growled and lunged at him, but the Derv did not flinch. “Go ahead; killing me would make it easy. You wouldn’t have to listen to me then.”
“That’s why you serve as a mule for the Rujarkians?” said the Derv. His voice was low so that only Grengar could hear him. And though Grengar felt rage boiling within him, he knew that the Derv spoke what he had long felt in his heart – that the Rajurkian leaders were preventing him from reaching his fullest potential.
“You know nothing,” said Grengar. He too lowered his voice, his tone a mixture of anger, frustration and curiosity. “Who are you to speak to me? I am Grengar, scion of the Rujarkians and stronger than fifty terrorgores!” The Derv laughed quietly and said, “That explains why they use you as a beast of burden. My name is Ramakh. I am a leader in my tribe.”
Grengar’s eyes narrowed. “You seek release, Derv? You want your life to be traded for others of your kind? That is not our way. I should kill you for speaking to me uninvited.” He gestured as though to strike the Derv with a tightly curled fist, but let it fall heavily into the palm of his other hand instead. The Derv should know this already; that he still chose to speak with Grengar could only mean he had information to impart which could suit them both.
Pushing an oversized piece of wood to the ground, Ramakh indicated that Grengar should help him retrieve it so they could converse further without raising anyone’s suspicions. As they bent together to pick it up, Ramakh whispered, “I do not seek my own release, though that would obviously be attractive to me. I am seeking your release.”
“My release? What do you mean?” Grengar dropped the wood onto the table with a thud and scowled. “You’re right”, said Ramakh with a sigh, “You are being held back. I was not chosen leader of my tribe for my good looks alone; I have certain abilities and skills. I can read minds, even the minds of orcs.”
Ramakh gestured toward the table, which was littered with wooden curls and a variety of tools. “This is my physical skill: woodworking. However many dervs have more than one skill and my secondary happens to be mind reading. If you want to be free of the life of boredom… if you want to truly become the warrior you were meant to be… you should join with us. You would be a leader among the Dervs; you could put those who keep you in drudgery in their place.”
Suddenly, Grengar could see himself as he was meant to be: a warrior with a team at his command. The work of carrying wood to and fro was not for him. He nodded barely to Ramakh and grunted, “Hunh. What must I do?”
“Go into the Sinking Sands at dark. My tribe is to the west, look for the deep blue tents,” said Ramakh. Grengar shook his head. “If I go alone, they will slay me before I make myself known. You will go with me as a token. If you have lied to me, I will snap you like the back of a scorpion.”
As the sun set, streaking the sky above the cleft in blood red and orange, Grengar went to the thrall’s cramped quarter and grabbed Ramakh by the throat. “You! I have need of your service!” he barked, removing the shackles from Ramakh’s ankle and shoving him toward the door. Keeping his fingers at the back of Ramakh’s neck, Grengar hissed, “If you have lied to me, you will pay with your life: slowly and painfully.”
The unlikely pair walked quickly, purposefully toward the gate leading to Sinking Sands. Although the sun had finally set, the sands of the desert gave back the heat of the day. Ramakh led Grengar from dune to dune until they reached a narrow canyon and a small camp of Dervs. As they approached, a young woman ran forward, weapons drawn.
“Peace, Herra,” said Ramakh, throwing his arms around her and holding her close. “I am safe and with me is our new friend and warrior, Grengar. He has saved me and is worthy of our trust.” Herra glanced at the burly Rujarkian hesitantly, but then crossed her weapons and put them away. “I great the one who saved my husband,” she said before standing on her tiptoes and shyly kissing Grengar on the cheek.
Though it took time for the other Dervins to accept a former foe, Grengar proved himself time and again against the creatures of the wilds. And so, like other orcs before him, Grengar found himself amongst the Dervs who welcomed him as the mighty warrior he had always wanted to be.