The woman approached the large tree in the center of what was once a village that had been razed to the ground. Displeasing the agents of Izrador carried a heavy price in these times. She pressed a hand to her swollen belly and looked into the sky, letting the drizzle of rain soak her face. In another day and age she would have been counted among the most beautiful of women. Now she limped from weary feet, her hair was matted and infested and no smile touched her lips. Cautiously she crept closer to the tree where the dead hung from its branches like macabre ornaments. She moved quicker now least she be caught by things to dreadful to name that would come to feed on her neighbors. Hands working quickly she stripped the tiny body hanging from a low branch. Shoes, homespun mittens, burlap shirt all disappeared into a bag the woman carried. Her gaze slid over the swollen face of the child refusing to see. When the work was done she limped away from the tree, her bag full. Her child would be clothed.
The three had become something of friends over the last few days of captivity. For whatever crime each had committed they were to be sold as slaves for the logging camps. Naked and huddled together against the cold during the night the lithe woman named Nara had been grinding down a bit of bone she had managed to hide from the orcs. She assured her companions that she would be able to use it to open the locks of their chains. The huge northman and slight but muscular Erelander assured her in hushed whispers that they would be able to bring the orcs down. It was a plan born of desperation, escape would be nearly impossible the best they were hoping for was to die free. On the thirteenth night Nara used the bone tool to pick the lock on her chains, she had one hand free and was working on the other when she was discovered. The beating was severe, leaving her bloody and bruised Elen and Sevnson offered what aid and comfort they could.
On the fifteenth evening the orcs stopped for the night in a small village. For the first time in weeks the three had blankets and a hot meal provided by sympathetic villagers. In the morning before they continued the orcs discovered, or were told, of an Elf that was being hidden by the village. Hiding one of the fey is a crime punishable by death and the village should have been razed to the ground. The orcs though, without a legate, to oversee them made a deal of their own. They would only take half of the villagers to sell into slavery and the remaining would pay an extra twentieth of their yearly tribute to the orcs. The elf Essiria Wildheart would have to die though. The orc commander was cruel and petty and he was still suffering from the embarrassment of Nara having nearly escaped. So he gathered the villagers in the town square, picking out half to sell to the logging camps. He had Essiria and Nara brought before him Essiria was shoved down into the mud face first. Nara had an axe roughly thrust into her hands and she was ordered to behead the elf. She hesitated the commander then gestured to one of his soldiers who picked up a small boy by the hair and pulled out his sword. The commander was yelling at Nara to kill the elf and threatening to put the whole village to the sword if she did not. With a scream Nara swung the axe down beheading Essiria. The commander grabbed the axe and backhanded Nara sending her sprawling into the mud and blood nearly nose to nose with the head of Essiria. Nara spotted something shiny in the mud still attached to the head of Essiria she scrammbled to her feet picking the object up and cupping in her hands. When she had a chance to look at it she discovered that Essiria had been wearing a simple gold and silver necklace in the shape of a tree. She hid it from her captors.
Just two days out from the logging camp the orcs were ambushed, out of the trees came a dozen elves. The battle was fierce and bloody, no mercy was granted on either side. The humans were quickly unchained and the orcs stripped of valuables. The leader of the elves was very sympathetic to the plight of the humans but could offer no succor. They were given what rations could be spared and sent on their way, except for three that lagged behind. Sevnson, Elen and Nara engaged the elves in conversation, when Nara showed them the necklace she had taken from Essiria one of the female elves threw Nara to the ground and straddling her demanded answers at the point of a dagger. The conversation was heated, fueled in part by the distrust of everyone by everyone. When things had calmed down they learned that her name was Diassa Wildheart and she was Essiria's sister. Though saddened by the capture and murder of her sister she did not blame Nara nor her friends. The three friends were given what supplies the elves could afford and told of a village a couple of days journey. The village of Koln they were told that perhaps they could find friends there.
Continued in Orcs do not like music