The screams on the battlefield had quietened, though the odd moan still pierced through the fog that continued to gather as day became night. A few battle orcs wandered the killing fields, finishing off those who remained alive, while the rest began the march on in pursuit of the fleeing horde. There would be no rest that night, not while a man still breathed air. They would see them all put to the sword. Remorseless, pitiless, these were the ideals they embraced, matched only by their insatiable lust for blood.
Of the orcs who lingered on the killing fields, only one was not engaged in annihilation. His sword was sheathed and he knelt beside man after man, digging through their purses and other belongings. There was little of worth—a few coins and rings that might have value—but the orc had no interest in them. He was not possessed of a lust for shiny baubles as his human cousins were. These things were of no consequence for someone who had put his faith in the gods to carry him to the greater beyond on the wings of savagery.
His name was Bijshk, Second Born of Buuwl the Fourth Sectatrian, Killer of Men, Ravisher of Women, Singer of Lamentations. He fervently believed in the new age the gods had promised. That they were harbingers of doom for all those—men and elves—who had cast their less favored cousins from the warmer and sweeter domains of the earth. Leaving them only hollowed out mountains, frigid and unwelcoming, or deserts where nothing could grow and no water could be found.
The privations his kind had suffered had made them unbreakable and unforgiving. They would see themselves triumphant, standing upon the bones of those they had vanquished. They would wipe the world clean and make it anew in the image of the gods. Those who had summoned them forth from the hidden darker places where they had waited until their time was upon them.
It was now. Bijshk exulted in the triumph of all his brothers.
The finger bones of those he had killed clinked around his neck as he knelt beside yet another human. This one was still alive and groaned as Bijshk dug through his pockets and things. The orc paid him no mind. He was of no consequence in the dawning new age and would not live to see the morning.
Bijshk was looking for one thing in particular. It was here somewhere upon this field, he was certain. The gods had spoken to him and him alone. He would remain here all night if need be, in the fog and growing dark, searching every body that remained until he found what the vision had showed to him. An orb, small, perhaps chained around a man’s neck, or hidden away in a purse. An orb of power the gods needed. Bijshk would find it and bring it to them and be rewarded for his valiant service.
As he rose to his feet to leave, the dying man stopped him, grasping his arm with more strength than Bijshk thought he still possessed. The orc shook himself free and stood to go.
“Wait,” the man said in a weak voice. “You would not deny me a last request.”
“I would gladly,” Bijshk said in his rasping voice. “The dominion of man is at an end.”
“Perhaps it is so,” the man said, his eyelids fluttering. “In that case, what I ask is of no consequence to you. It is a small thing, I assure you.”
Bijshk made to draw his sword and end the man’s life, but some stray thought stayed his hand. The touch of the gods themselves, he would say later.
“I want you to take this,” the man said, when it was clear that the orc was not going to speak. He held out his hand and within it was the orb. “It is a thing of power, though of no great power. It has helped me through my days and someone should posses it when I am gone. It should not be lost to these killing fields.”
Bijshk wanted to leap for the orb and seize it, but he resisted. Why would the man simply give it to him, this orb of power, which the gods themselves had tasked him with finding? He had to know that it would signal the end of the age of man if they should lose possession of it.
“Why are you giving this to me?” Bijshk said, taking the orb gingerly in his hand.
“I have just told you.”
“I do not believe you,” the orc sneered. “The gods spoke to me of this orb. They told me to find it. With it we can bring about the end of the age of man and usher in a more righteous age. Why would you just hand me your kind’s doom?”
The man gave a sad laugh. “It was the orb speaking to you, not your gods. It possesses no great power, I can assure you. Did it keep me alive?”
“Lies. The gods spoke to me.”
“Believe what you will,” the man said, closing his eyes. “It is your burden to carry now.”
A look of peace came over the man, as if he could at last welcome the end which was so near. Bijshk determined not to let him go so easily into that eternal embrace. He knelt down and grasped him by the throat.
“Speak. What do you mean burden? I have been chosen by the gods. What power did it grant you?”
The man’s eyelids fluttered. “It gave none. It’s purpose is it’s own. When it was done with me it ensured that I would find a new keeper for it. That keeper is you. I wish you well.”
Bijshk did not let the man say anymore, choking the life from him while he studied the orb. It was warm in his hand, but otherwise showed no signs of life. Though it was too dark now to discern its color, even with the keen sight of an orc for his native night, he recalled from his vision that it was a dull amber that glowed red. It did not glow now and thrust it into the cloth purse tied to his belt, giving it no more thought.
He had a long journey ahead of him. The fog swirled around him and a cold rain began to fall. He got to his feet and peered across the valley. The stars and moon were obscured above but he had no trouble seeing the remnants of the horde of man, all perished now. His fellow battle orcs were already making their way from among the dead to follow in the tracks of their glorious army, to finish their triumphant destruction of the horde. The dominion of man would be ended by morning and Bijshk, Second Born of Buuwl the Fourth Sectarian, would be there to witness it. He would join his brothers and sing lamentations to the glorious fallen, who had died to usher in a hallowed new age.
But he did not follow his brothers from the valley. Instead he turned and went back along the road that had brought the orc army here. It was some time before he was even aware of what he had done. By then he did not question the decision. He walked through the night without stopping and dawn saw him witnessing the rise of a new world. In his mind the orb glowed red.
In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…
If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon