Durge Knucklebone was an orc like no other. He looked at his world and he wondered why. Why did destruction constantly follow his people? Why were they so hated? Wasn’t there another way? Durge believed in the idea that orcs could be something more than self destructive brutes but ideas among the orc tribes are a dangerous thing. So Durge kept his thoughts to himself and continued to feign the joy of rape and murder. All the while waiting for his opportunity to slip out of sight to avoid having to take part.
Durge was a feared warrior, deadly with an axe, of the Stonecleave tribe that roamed the western coast of the Brolg wastelands. As his head count among the tribe’s enemies grew so did his position among the Stonecleave warriors but skill in battle could only hide his true feelings for so long. Durge had a keen wit but the continued absence of a prominent warrior during the division of spoils soon drew attention.
The knock at Durge’s door came at a late hour. Not expecting anyone, he approached, axe at the ready, “Speak your business!” The knock came again, this time with more intent. Tiring of the game Durge threw open the door ready to cleave the first person he saw but stayed his hand as a young fair haired human girl was flung at his feet. Omagh, the most feared of the Stonecleave Warlords, stepped in followed by two of his men, “Durge, once again we are victorious and again the fruits of your conquests go to others. I am here to see that you are given your just reward.” Omagh kicked the woman with such force that she skidded several feet towards Durge’s bedding. Omagh’s eyes burned into Durge, waiting to see his reaction. Durge was no fool and realized immediately what was happening. He knew that failing to behave as expected would lead to his death and that of the girl. As Omagh looked on, and to Durge’s great shame, he acted as was expected an orc warrior of the Stonecleave tribe.
Wrought with guilt over what he had done Durge swore that no further harm would come to the girl but knew that appearances had to be kept up. In those rare moments where she was in public the young woman was “slave” or “meat” but in private she was “Sarra.” Weeks passed since Sarra was given to Durge and in that time she managed only a handful of words. Durge did everything he could to express his deep regret for what had happened. His words were kind and soft, especially for an orc, and when he had to touch her he did so with a gentle hand. Durge made sure that Sarra wanted for nothing as she was given the best food, by orc standards, clothed in fine, albeit stolen, garments, and kept hidden from sight. However, his kindness was always returned with cold blank submission. Sarra seemed to be waiting, even praying, for the end. As much as Durge wanted to keep Sarra safe and redeem his honor, the stain of their first night was fated to bleed through to their very last. Sarra revealed to Durge that she carried his child. He knew that the violence of orc child birth would likely kill Sarra and that when she died the child would be taken to be raised by the women of the tribe. He considered returning Sarra to Merethil to be with her people but worried that the long journey back to the human kingdom would undoubtedly kill a human woman carrying an orcish child. Nor did he want any child of his to be raised as a savage by the tribe. Durge had no choice but wait and prepare as best as he was able for the birth of their baby.
As Durge watched the child grow inside Sarra he prayed that it would take after her, a girl more human than orc. However, Durge’s line was strong and her belly grew as an orcs would. As the child grew Sarra wilted, becoming weaker with each passing day, until she finally collapsed, large amounts of blood pooling beneath her.
Durge wasted no time summoning Guul, an old crone of an orc who the other females feared but all looked to when children were born. Hobbling into the hut with another bloated orc, the crone looked up and down Sarra’s body sniffing and prodding. “This ones dead.” She said hoarsely. “We have to gut the wench!” Gonk, the other obese orc, screamed excitedly. Grabbing his axe with every intent to strike, Durge could barely contain his rage. “An axe wont save the whelp you fool! Fetch me a knife!” Guul barked at Durge not realizing the peril she was in. Taking a deep breath, Durge thought of his child and mustered the will to restrain his axe. He stood and watched as Sarra was butchered so that his daughter may live.
Yanking the wailing child free of her mother the crone held her aloft by a single foot, “Look at the size of that! Shes a breeder that one!” Struggling to her feet Guul shoved the baby girl into a dirty knapsack and made for the door. Durge, seething with anger, slammed his axe into the frame of the door blocking the old crone’s exit. “Give me my child.” Durge spoke faintly but his voice was so deep it couldn’t help but resound. Guul cocked her head and glared at him through slanted eyes, “This one is not for eating warrior!” Durge grabbed the vile woman by the throat and shoved her against the wall causing the bag holding the baby to fall free. Gonk fled from the hut as Durge growled at the crone, “Whatever I need you will provide!” Still holding her by the throat Durge hurled Guul through the front door and into the mud outside.
Durge pulled his daughter from the filthy bag and awkwardly tried to cradle her. “I swear, I will kill anyone who tries to harm you. Sveta…” Pulling a long piece of cloth free, Durge fashioned a sling and tied Sveta tightly to his back. He could hear the rantings of Guul and the grumblings of a growing crowd outside. Sliding a sword into his belt, Durge wrenched his axe free and stepped outside.
“Give me the child!” Guul barked still struggling to breathe. Another warrior stepped out pointing, “Look at the powerful warrior!” Durge began to slowly walk forward as the orc continued to scoff, “What next? Will the mighty Durge try to suckle the half breed…” Before he could utter another word, Durge spun around and sent the blade of his axe through the neck of the warrior. His head rolled back but was still attached by a flap of skin that caused it to dangle freely as thick orcish blood sprayed like a geyser into the crowd. Three more orcs, blades in hand, charged. Durge lowered his shoulder and threw himself into the first sending him off balance into another. The third orc swung his scimitar wildly but managed to slash deeply into Durge’s thigh. Off balance, Durge brought his axe around and hooked the ankle of his attacker planting him on his back. Durge pinned the orc to the ground, holding his boot to it’s throat and readied his axe. Another orc rushed recklessly as Durge, still holding his stance, snapped his axe outward finding its mark. Teeth and fang shattered as the axe cleaved deep into the palate of the orc slamming him to the ground, blood gushing from the mouth and nose pooled rapidly beneath.
By this time a dozen orc warriors began to cautiously circle as Durge stood ready. The crowd was silent, some looting the corpse of one of the slain. Still bound tightly was Sveta who remained silent during the battle but clung tightly to her father’s back. Durge could feel her grip and with it any fear he had of dying was also crushed. Pointing his axe, Durge singled out one of the orcs and laughed. “I will have your head next!” The warriors were shaken and looking for someone to make the first move. Laughter suddenly broke the tension as Omagh, towering in stature, easily pushed and shoved his way to the front. “Put your blades away maggots! Durge has earned his prize!” Omagh turned to the women and roared, “You filthy slime! I should see you all gutted on pig poles and left out for buzzards!” Crying and blubbering the orcish woman huddled together pleading for mercy. “You will do as my lieutenant commands!” Omagh gave a slight nod to Durge and unsheathed his sword. “Tend his wound and fetch milk for the whelp!” Turning to Guul, Omagh pressed his blade to her throat. “You come with me.”
That night Durge carried Sarra and Sveta into the wastelands. Not wanting Sarra’s body to be defiled more than it already had, Durge decided that she should be cremated. Wood was scarce so he took her to one of the many volcanic vents that dotted the Brolg. As the lava slowly took Sarra, Durge thought of Sveta. He wanted a future for his daughter but, as a half-orc and a girl, he couldn’t imagine more than oppression and sorrow. There had to be another way.
Sveta grew up fast, as orc children are known to. She was an eager and willful child who Durge often indulged. Never far from Durge’s side, Sveta went everywhere with her father, even into battle. By the time she was 7 Sveta even fought at her father’s side rather than ride on his back. Physically, she took after her father, powerfully built and quick. However, her blonde hair was entirely Sarra’s.
Now, more than ever, Durge avoided his tribe’s celebrations. He knew that as a female, regardless of age, Sveta would be the target of advances by other orcs. Though Sveta desperately wanted to join in the orc debauchery, she spent the majority of her youth watching orc revelries but never being allowed to participate. Father and daughter often argued the point leading to fits where Sveta would throw destructive tantrums but Durge would only laugh and calmly tell her, “That is not our way.”
Sveta rarely disobeyed Durge but after years of listening to the Stonecleave celebrations she decided that her father never forbid looking. The tribe was celebrating the complete destruction of their greatest rival, the Ergoth Mountain orcs. Many slaves and piles of spoils were taken in the attack and the roar from the triumph rattled their hut. Slipping through a loose board, Sveta’s heart raced. “I killed at least one in the battle, I deserve to see,” she thought to herself. The night air was unusually chilled while a full moon and starlit skies gave Sveta a clear path. As she crept closer three orc revelers spotted the young girl and quickly cornered her. Startled at first Sveta turned defiantly and faced them. “Leave me alone or I will have your heads!” she barked at them. The orc warriors laughed and began to shove Sveta between them. Reacting quickly, Sveta buried the heel of her foot into the groin of the nearest attacker. As the orc wilted Sveta clawed at his eyes before the other two were able to act. Refusing to back down, Sveta sprang forward at the remaining warriors but they were ready. The first orc, a burly figure more wide than tall, grabbed her by the throat and slammed her shoulders to the ground while the other orc tore at her clothes. Sveta was dazed but continued to rake at the arm that pinned her when suddenly blood poured in a thick stream covering her face and blinding her. The orc arm that held her still squeezed her throat but fell to her side. The burly orc shrieked and fell into a heap holding the bloody stump where his arm was once attached. The other orc, a scrawny long faced wretch, looked up just in time to see Durge’s axe flash and bury deep into his collar killing him without so much as a whimper. Durge roughly snatched Sveta by the arm and without a word returned home.
Durge knew that he couldn’t watch Sveta at every moment so he devised a plan that, he thought, would keep the other orcs away from his daughter. He stopped bathing her and continued to encourage her many physical activities that she participated in. As a child she didn’t care one way or another if she had to bathe and soon began to stink badly. While orcs are not known for their hygiene the aroma that surrounded Sveta was becoming intolerable even by orc standards. Durge even contributed to the fragrance by adding fish heads and other rotting foods to her bed as she slept, slipping them out before she awoke.
By the time Sveta was 11 years old none of the orcs would go near her. However, Durge knew that by her 12th birthday she would be given to a warrior regardless his status in the tribe or what she smelled like. Durge’s entire life had been filled with risk. Whether by death in war or at the hands of his tribe, Durge knew that every day was a battle that had to be maneuvered and conquered. Desperately wanting a better future for Sveta, Durge believed that the time had come for another gamble.
Emboldened by constant victory, Omagh planned another raid that would take his warriors far north into the Hobgoblin lands of Hirkona. The plan was bold and the distance safeguarded the tribe from Hobgoblin reprisals. When Durge learned of Omagh’s plan he felt the time was right for a bold move of his own. Merethil, Sarra’s homeland, lay to the north east not far from Hirkona. Slipping away from the war band would be simple during the confusion of the march. What to do with Sveta once they reached Merethil is what truly worried Durge.
The orcs had marched more than 150 miles north before Durge, who had been hoarding food and water for their escape, was ready to leave. Durge waited until Omagh ordered a daytime camp before making his move. Most of the warriors were asleep in their tents and those that weren’t struggled to see in the bright daylight of the north. He still had not told Sveta of his plan and did not know how she would react to leaving the Stonecleave. Her entire world had been the tribe but the protection of her father had always masked the peril she was in. With Sveta sleeping against his back, as she had done so many times as a young child, he took his few meager belongings and left the Stonecleave camp.
Durge had run for several hours before Sveta began to stir. The sun was still high in the west with hours of daylight left but Durge wanted to push until nightfall putting as many miles between him and Omagh as possible. Sveta shielded her eyes from the sun while yawning, still not realizing what her father had done. “Why does Omagh leave so early?” Sveta, groggy and annoyed, protested. “Plans changed.” Durge said bluntly. Startled, Sveta sat up and glanced around, pushing against her father. “Where are we? Where are the warriors?!” Struggling free, Sveta fell hard onto the stony ground but quickly scrambled to her feet. Durge, flush with sweat and breathing hard, stopped but made no move to gather his daughter. Sveta turned sharply looking for signs of her tribe but saw nothing save the ash and stone of the lifeless Brolg.
“Where are we?!” Sveta shouted in a panic. Durge gazed at the blue sky and rolling clouds above. “Look at it Sveta. Have you ever seen anything like it?” Falling in a heap, Sveta, clutching handfuls ash, wept. “What did you do?! I want to go home!” Durge moved to his daughter and squatted next to her. “Sveta, there is another way.” Durge spoke softly trying to lift his daughter. Sveta punched and kicked her way free, her tears now replaced with rage. Standing defiantly, Sveta pushed Durge with every ounce of her strength sending him staggering back. “What way?! Why can’t you be like Omagh?! He is strong and not afraid! Why do I have a coward as a father?!” Durge launched himself at Sveta but stopping just short of striking her, their eyes no more than a fingers width apart. “Child you know nothing! Do you wish Omagh were your father?! Was he there last year at the feast of spoils? Who was it that kept you safe? He would have had a dozen warriors take you a dozen times over that night! Who is it that has taken countless heads to keep you safe? You are a fool if you think that was the only time that blood ran to shield you from that fate.” Fear covered Sveta’s face and her words twisted in her head unsure how to respond. Durge closed his eyes and placed his hands on Sveta’s shoulders. “Omagh…the tribe, would take you away and give you to another warrior. If that happened there is nothing I could do to protect you from them and that is something I cannot allow.”
Durge and Sveta rested together, their backs resting against a large boulder. Durge did not speak but offered Sveta a small morsel of food and a swallow of water. Looking up, Sveta stared at the sky. Billowing white clouds moved north east carried by strong warm winds. The sky was a rich blue that she had never seen before closer to the volcanic spine of the Brolg. “It hurts my eyes.” Sveta said softly, squinting. Durge smiled, “Best to get used to it now.”
As they left the Brolg Wastes behind Durge was struck by the vast green plains and trees, he had never seen so many live trees. On their third day of walking the pair came across a slow moving creek. The water was clear and fresh, nothing like the sulfurous pits of the Brolg. With the orcs far behind Durge felt the time had come for a change and scooped up Sveta, tossing her into the water. “Time for a bath daughter!” Durge roared with a haughty laugh. Sveta rose from the water gasping for air, the filth of hundreds of missed baths clouding all around her. Durge quickly waded into the water while Sveta floundered. Reaching out, Sveta thought her father would bring her to shore but she found herself thrust back underwater with her father’s huge hands vigorously scrubbing the muck from her hair. Once Sveta’s warm blonde hair was free of the mire Durge held her up. “Let me go!” Sveta barked, still coughing up water and swinging her fists. Durge ignored her and gave Sveta a quick sniff. “Ugh! Still foul!” Before she could say another word Sveta was dunked again. The scene repeated itself several more times but it seemed as though the rank odor that Durge had used to protect Sveta from his tribesmen had become part of Sveta and no amount of washing could remove it. After finally giving up, a waterlogged Sveta was allowed to make her way to shore. She was furious, and waited for Durge to climb out of the water before she drove her knee into his groin sending the hulking orc back into the water. Humiliated, Sveta spent the next two days in silent defiance refusing to acknowledge Durge in any way.
Once Sveta began speaking again she took every opportunity to remind Durge that he tried to drown her. Durge ignored her knowing that Merethil was drawing near. He had never raided into the human kingdom but Omagh had and he feared that the humans would greet the orcs with swords rather than words. Still, there was the part of Sveta who called these people kin and they were her only hope for a better life.
Weeks had passed since they left the Stonecleave camp. For Sveta, the trip was monotonous and boring but Durge was increasingly on edge. He had forced Sveta to travel by day to acclimate her eyes to sunlight. While very little time passed before Sveta could walk freely in the light, the sun’s rays tortured her father and each night brought welcome relief. The daylight not only burned his eyes but also brought on powerful headaches. At times, the pain forced Durge to collapse beneath a tree or in high grass where he could do little more than hold his head and vomit.
The sun was high in the east and brought with it sweltering heat. Durge wore a threadbare rag over his face to shield his eyes from the punishing daylight as he staggered forward, concentrating on putting one foot ahead of the other. Stinging insects swarmed around the pair adding an extra dimension of misery. Stumbling a moment Durge righted himself with Sveta’s help. “My head, I can’t see.” Durge’s voice was raspy and his enormous hand clutched his forehead. “Father, rest over here. We can rest a while.” Sveta led Durge up a slight incline where an old oak towered providing ample shade. Durge collapsed under the tree while a warm breeze washed over him. Sveta pushed his pack under his head and grabbed their waterskin. The skin had been empty for days.
Sloping steeply down to the east Sveta spotted a dense green gully. “Water…” she muttered between chapped lips. Sveta pushed all thoughts of thirst, hunger, and pain from her mind and sprang down the hill. Bursting through the undergrowth, Sveta crashed into the pond, guzzling water as fast as she could inhale it. Her moment of relief halted by the snort of a horse and the mumbling of voices. Startled, she looked up to see a human camp. A number of horses were tied in a line at the water’s edge and their riders were staring directly at her. Sveta’s stomach sank as the soldiers drew swords and moved to cut off her escape. “It’s a girl!” A young brown haired squire shouted. “It’s an orc you half wit!” barked the boy’s overweight master. Sveta didn’t speak their tongue but wasn’t afraid, standing defiantly. Another human, a tall man, bearded with short sandy hair, stepped into the water. His heavy mail coat and tunic were emblazoned with red griffons on a field of white. In one hand he held his long sword, a fine piece of steel with an etched pommel that mirrored his armor’s heraldry. With his free hand he snatched Sveta by the hair pulling her head back. “This is no orc, not entirely. Orcs don’t have blonde hair. What we have here is something that should not be!” The soldier yanked Sveta back violently and pushed her underwater. Sveta clawed at his arm and struggled to land a fist. Laughing, the soldier placed a knee on her chest and looked at his comrades.
Another human, older, with gray in his beard and experience in his eyes grabbed the soldier by the shoulder. “Roderick let her up! She has done you no harm!” Roderick’s eyes flashed with disapproval. “The sight of it offends me Baragund. It would be a mercy to all of us to end it’s miserable life!” Roderick snapped sharply. The momentary distraction was all Sveta needed. Reaching up under his mail coat Sveta grabbed her attacker by his manhood and crushed with every ounce of her strength. Roderick screamed in tones that Sveta never thought possible coming from a man. Pushing him off she rose from the water grabbing his sword that had fallen free. The other’s roared with laughter not noticing that the young girl had armed herself. Sveta leaped forward driving the blade into Roderick’s groin, he grunted, his face twisting with pain. Baragund grabbed Sveta and pushed her towards the water’s edge. She toppled back but refused to release the sword, the weight of her body wrenching the blade free and staining the water with blood. Baragund looked back only his eyes moved past Sveta and were fixed on an enormous orc whose chest heaved with many quick breaths while his hand clutched a worn and notched battle axe.
Grabbing Roderick, Baragund waded through the water towards the opposite shore. “Orcs! Arm yourselves!” Some scrambled for shields while others made a run for their horses. Durge grabbed Sveta and pushed her behind him. “Meet me at the tree! Go! Now!” Sveta, still holding Roderick’s sword, raced through the tall prairie grass back up the hill.
Durge slowly backed out of the gully while two soldiers rushed forward swords in hand. Baragund pulled Roderick over the back of a horse and turned just in time to see Durge back away. “Hold! Don’t pursue!” The two soldiers didn’t heed Baragund and pushed forward. Wearing heavy chain armor, the first soldier became tangled in the undergrowth, stumbled, and fell forward at the feet of Durge. With a loud hack Durge’s axe split the human’s skull spraying blood, bone, and brain. Durge was still weak and struggled to lift his axe to meet his next challenger. His blade, also bearing the same heraldry as Roderick’s, slashed across Durge’s ribs before the orc could ready himself. Staggering to one knee, blood poured down Durge’s left side covering his leg and staining the ground. Resting the tip of his sword at the base of Durge’s neck, the human smiled revealing gnarled teeth. “No quick death for you dog. Now get up!” Durge didn’t move, his head hanging low. “Get up I says!” The tip of the sword dug deep into Durge’s shoulder, sending more orcish blood rolling down his back. Durge still didn’t move.
Suddenly, Sveta exploded from the tall grasses and in mid air swung Roderick’s sword. Eyes wide the soldier froze as the blade connected with the bridge of his misshapen nose, cutting cleanly through to the back of his head. Sveta tugged at the blade but it had become lodged tightly in the bone. With the sounds of the other soldiers drawing near she quickly tore the tunic of one of the corpses and wrapped her father’s wound. Together, they moved into the tall prairie grass and back up the hill. After reaching the crest of the hill, Durge collapsed at the tree where he had been resting before. Sveta crawled back and spied down the hill watching the humans as they collected their dead and rode away east.
After night fell Sveta skulked back down to the gully. There she found her waterskin and filled it. Looking across the pond Sveta noticed the area where the humans had been camped. They had fled in a hurry leaving a half eaten loaf of bread and a blanket behind. Looking north Sveta spotted a faint glow. Staring at the lights she clenched her fists hoping that more humans would come. She wanted to kill them all for harming her father but soon realized that the lights were not moving. Moving back up the hill Sveta never took her eyes off the lights. Her rage was boiling over and her every thought was bent on punishing the humans.
Sveta dropped the water and bread at Durge’s side and checked his wound. The bleeding was slowed but the blade had slashed deeply between two ribs. “Look father, there.” Sveta’s voice cut like a dagger as she pointed to the north. “I am going to get some medicine and food.” Durge could see Sveta’s agitation as she tried to wrap the wool blanket around him. Throwing the blanket off, Durge used the tree to pull himself up. “We both go…together.” Durge drew a long drink from the skin as Sveta hesitated, looking back north. “Father I can do this! You are hurt…” Durge glared angrily at Sveta. “Don’t challenge me girl. We stay together!”
Though wounded, Durge moved with renewed vigor, bolstered by fresh water and a night sky. Jogging forward, the prairie grass soon gave way to fields of vegetables and fruit trees. In the distance a series of simple stone fence lines separated the fields from two large stone buildings with oddly curved roofs. The largest of the two buildings had a long cobblestone path leading up to a stone stair, the base of which elevated the structure above all others in the area. At the top of the stairs a series of columns rose to the outer edges of the curved roof and circled the exterior of the building. The top of the stairs ended with a circular entry with no door. Several large banners, covered in unusual symbols, hung around the opening. While the smaller of the two buildings was plain and unadorned, the larger building was painted bright red and covered in manicured bushes and flower boxes.
Durge moved slowly into the well lit courtyard outside the buildings. Sveta moved closely behind, staring in wonder at the enormity of the building. In the center of the cobblestone yard a massive brazier burned brightly. As Durge hobbled closer he could see many figures gathering at the windows and door of the smaller stone structure. Dropping his axe, he took a few more steps forward before falling to his knees. Sveta rushed to his side and watched as dozens of humans, the likes of which she had never seen before, poured forth to get a closer look. Each of them wore a simple robe tied at the waist by a belt and their heads were shaved. Some held long wooden poles at the ready while others seemed to argue with others in their group. Durge scanned the faces around him and realized that nearly all of them were children no older than his daughter. Once again, Sveta could not understand their tongue but her father, who was holding one hand up, was able to muster a few words.
Moments later, the crowd grew silent as an aged human, with narrow eyes and wrapped in yellow robes, walked slowly to the front of the crowd. He wore his white hair in a single long braid that was draped in front of his left shoulder. His beard was thin but long and came to a point on his chin and around his neck lay a single strand of wooden beads. At each of his sides and walking slightly behind him were two other humans, much younger than their master but still long in years, dressed in similar yellow robes. Durge had not spoken in the common tongue since Sarra died and the words were coming slowly. “Please…help.”
One of the master’s escorts stepped to his side and glared at Durge. “Grand Master Xu, they are beggars. Worse yet, they are orcs! Send them away.” Durge, his wound bleeding again, struggled to rise to one knee and pounded his chest. “I want nothing from you! Help my daughter, help Sveta!” Sveta heard her name and realized they were talking about her. Her eyes began to dance between her father and the humans. The escort leaned in towards Grand Master Xu, his eyes now fixed on Sveta. “The orc no longer wishes the burden of parenthood. We care for orphans. This orc is no orphan.” Walking around Durge he knelt down and lifted the orc’s axe. “Grand Master look! Blood covers this axe. These orcs are dangerous, savages without a conscience. We brought the children here from Ohtar to escape war. We can’t allow an orc to stay here and risk the lives of our students.”
Surrounded by children and hearing her name again Sveta quickly realized what was happening. “Father what are you doing?” Durge looked at his daughter, tears welling in his eyes, and embraced her tightly. Sveta fought her way free and began to weep. “No! We stay together! You said it!” Durge pulled Sveta close again. “Listen to me. You can be safe here. This is the way we have been searching for.” Durge stroked Sveta’s hair away from her face. “Someday I will return for you and we will be together again. There is no life in the Brolg for us and the humans will kill us both if they find us. You can be safe here.” Sveta was weeping uncontrollably as Durge failed to fight back tears as he spoke.
Grand Master Xu listened to Durge’s words and heard the love in them. Moving to Sveta’s side Grand Master Xu placed a hand on her head and smiled at Durge. “Fear not, she will be cared for and kept safe.” To Durge’s surprise the Grand Master spoke orc. “Master Cheng.” The escort who had argued to banish the orcs bowed to the Grand Master. “Yes, Grand Master Xu.” The Grand Master smiled and lifted his hands to the night sky. “Balance Master Cheng, through compassion and mercy we find balance.” The Grand Master paused and helped Sveta to her feet. “Master Cheng, she will be your student and…I think you will be hers.” Master Cheng’s mouth was agape but he bowed and took Sveta’s hand.
As the monks led her away she looked back one last time at her father. Grand Master was tending his wound but he was still too proud to lie down. Years later, Sveta began to realize how great an orc Durge was. He defeated every challenger, conquered every threat, and found a new way when no other orc would even dare to dream. All for the love he held for his daughter. All for Sveta.