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The Woodhaerst Raids; For anyone interested!
Topic Started: May 29 2015, 11:52 AM (174 Views)
Elena
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Gavreila picked her way through the piled bodies that scattered the woodland floor. There was a caravan of merchants waiting for her to come back and tell them that the roads were clear and safe to travel- but given the carnage around her, she doubted she could say so honestly. She hoisted her heavy mace and rested it across her shoulder, pausing to survey the damage.

There was a broken wagon with its upturned wheel spinning idly. There were burn marks on the surrounding trees and bodies. Many of the bodies, Gavreila noticed, were orcish or half orc. There were two humans in the mess- one of whom appeared to be a priest, judging by his robes, and the other a merchant woman. Her last moments of terror were plastered plainly across her face. Gavreila grimaced and looked away from the body.

The wagon's horses had been cut loose. There had been two of them, as far as the warrior could tell, but she was no ranger and could not be certain of her guess. It appeared as though the band of orcs had all been slain. She paced around the battle ground, inspecting the area for signs of escape. The only tracks she could find were those of the horses, and one set of heavy, bloody boot tracks. Anyone else could have been riding or too light footed for her to detect.

She turned back the way she had come, and something crashed out of the trees behind her. Immediately she swung back around, using the momentum of the movement to propel her mace off of her shoulder and directly into the face of a waiting goblin. The creature shuddered once and fell to the ground, dead. As if in answer, a howling, cawing sound came from the surrounding trees and Gavreila found herself in the middle of a second ambush. She was glad she'd left her charges behind.

---

Gavreila returned to the merchants sporting a black eye and several cuts and bruises. One of her ribs felt broken, but she did not seem concerned. "The way is clear," she half growled, as a young healer scurried forward and laid his hands on her side. She ignored him, letting him do his work but not stopping in her approach to one of the three wagons. "Let us move on at once," she continued, "Before they have the chance to gather reinforcements."

This area of the woods had, for the past five years, become inexplicably inhabited by less savory races. It was becoming quite difficult to trade between the surrounding towns, and many merchants and townsfolk were doing their best to simply scrape by. There was plenty of work for adventurers and warriors in these parts.

They would reach the town of Woodhaerst in two days at this pace, given no further interruptions. Gavreila fully intended to take that time to heal. She clambered up next to the chubby merchant driving the wagon and leaned back with a heavy sigh. He did not seem to mind her presence, though she stunk of sweat, travel, and orc blood.

Two days.
Edited by Elena, May 31 2015, 09:45 AM.
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Drekesh Bloodfist marched steadfastly along the road. He often travelled alone, especially in places like Woodhaerst. Normal people were warned against such dangers as Goblins and Orcs, but Drekesh often heard these warning second hand. Not many felt it necessary to warn a Half-Orc like himself of the dangers of his own kind. Half of them thought he was in on this conspiracy of the 'lesser races' and avoided him.

Personally however, Drekesh found that fighting his 'own kind' was a challenge he simply could not avoid. Besides, they were more likely to pick a fight with him anyway. Drekesh did not honor any of the traditional Orcish culture. He did not fight with bone and wood, but preferred steel. He did not use an oversized weapon with jagged edges or spiked clubs. He preferred to use his hands - augmented as they were by steel gauntlets, outfitted with nasty looking blades. One thing he did enjoy, however, were the Orcish bows. He had one of his own on him at all times, an imposing weapon.

Granted, many of his own kind seemed to appreciate the brutality of the gauntlet weapon, and never minded dying by it. That was an honorable death to them. What escaped Drekesh was how they thought attacking caravans was honorable. In fact, he had just moved on from the site of a rather vicious ambush. He had been too late to save the cleric or the merchant woman - but he hadn't been too late to destroy a wave of bloodthirsty thieves.

Drekesh had wanted to do a proper burial for them.... but firstly he didn't know the faith of the cleric, and he wasn't religious himself. Secondly, what better warning for more caravans coming this way? No doubt there were more coming.

Every once and a while he could hear distant battle, but he kept plodding onward. If it was behind him it was no longer his affair. After long, he had a camping area set up along the major route, designed for caravans and wagons to pull off of the main road. If those victorious made it out alive, no doubt they would stop there.

Drekesh readied his own things by a campfire. He unloaded his new horse (Waste not, want not) of the few possessions he carried. There was a pack with several days of dry provisions, some feed for the horse, and several furs he had amassed for trade in town. If travel was difficult in these parts, he assumed hunting and trapping was as well. He had a pack of dried jerky as well that he hoped to trade.

Dusk soon followed. He had his new horse tied up and grazing, and he was sitting on one of the logs pulled to the firepit as a bench. He had long, thick black hair, puled back from his face in cornrows to his shoulders. His ears were flat and pointed, studded with piercings. He wore panels of hard leather armor on his chest, and two snug pauldrons on his arms. He wore thick leather travel boots and britches, with a thick fur belt. He was a wide shouldered half-orc with a grey green tinge to his skin, and the bulk of muscle that was common to his kin. The humanity in him accented itself in his face most of all, softening the rough lines that were classical to an Orc. His under bite was less pronounced, but the bottom teeth still protruded in a threatening fashion. His eyes were deep set and his brow was pronounced, but he had an innate air of intelligence in his face that was hard to miss.

In the dying light, he took the time to clean and sharpen his gauntlets. He didn't look up as the caravan approached. HIs bow was leaning beside him against the fallen trunk, in easy access, but he made no move towards it.
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Gavreila's charges were pleased to find the campsite that night. They had pushed hard that day, with their warrior companion insisting that they move as quickly as possible through the enemy-thick forest. Gavreila was not worried about the campsite, and felt no need to investigate before their arrival.

She was, however, surprised at the sight of a half-orc warrior, apparently relaxed against the trunk of a tree on the edge of the camp. Jumping down from the wagon, she reached for her mace and approached the half-orc, inspecting the area around them carefully.

He was alone, it seemed. Orcs and goblins were not known for their cleverness, and as far as she could tell- would not be able to set up an ambush so carefully. Her shoulders relaxed and she addressed the half-orc in his own tongue.

"Are you alone? My companions and I are weary and would appreciate sharing your fire."

She did not care for orcs or their kin, but she also didn't care for needless killing. If she could make camp here with this stranger- who had arguably done nothing wrong- she would do so. Her companions in the background fidgeted nervously. Even the horses seemed uncomfortable with the half-orc's presence. For two straight weeks, his kind had been nothing but the enemy.

She was a tall woman, with broad shoulders and medium brown hair- which was currently matted with sweat and gore. Her blue breeches were stained with blood, and her face was smeared with dirt. She would bathe when she found a river or got to town- it was not on her list of priorities. It was hard to stay clean in her line of work.

Though not as heavily armed as Drekesh, her spiked mace glinted wickedly in the firelight, and several jagged knives decorated her belt.
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Drekesh Finished a long swipe of his soapstone down the top side blade of his gauntlet. A brief momentary inspection while the woman was talking, and then he looked up at her. He gave her the measure-up and then looked past her as he thought. One thing other then perhaps his intelligent demeanor that he received from his human mother were his eyes. HIs kind were usually in the brown to murky brown category. Drekesh's eyes were dark, yes; but they were dark blue.

Unusual, knowing Orcish. Convenient if useless in these parts. Not like my kin usually listen to talk. He chose to respond in kind, his own language rolling gracelessly off of his tongue and between his teeth like growls and grunts. Beastly would be a proper description. "Plenty of room at this site. Be my guest." He gestured around the site to finalize the welcome so the people behind her could see. As an afterthought he jutted his chin at her, "Creek 40, 50 yards." He pointed off the trail and slightly more east. He'd more then likely get his use out of the creek later on when they slept or early morning before they rose.

With that he turned his attention away from the woman and continued his sharpening. His weapons he liked to keep immaculate. His gear he liked to rub off anything larger or chunkier then bloodspatters. (Kept scavengers away when he was sleeping.) Lucky for him, people didn't frequently question an Orc with bloody armor.

Drekesh kept the caravan in his peripherals as he worked, making note of their condition. Their wagons seemed unamrred past normal travel wear, and the people looked nervous but not traumatized - which meant they probably hadn't lost anyone yet. Drekesh also couldn't see any more warriors in their party - which meant they had been very lucky, or this woman was very good - or more then likely, they were very lucky that this woman was very good. He gave the woman another once-over look after his assesment had concluded.

Nice mace. Dwarvish maybe? They love their clunkers. He snorted softly to himself with the thought and stood.

He rolled his shoulders and pulled off the leather pauldrons. He stood at a modest 6'10" by Orc standards, and there was a chance he was over 300 pounds worth of muscle. (This was a routine he had when he had to share a campsite - show off so people left him alone. It tended to make a lot of humans uncomfortable, seeing more skin then they had to.) Next Drekesh unfastened the leather of his chest piece and he strapped them all down onto the saddle of his horse within easy reach. The gauntlets and Bow he would leave close to where he slept. He looked very much the part of an Orcish killer.

As was common with his type, he healed rather quickly. However, he also scarred very well. His back and arms and chest were a testament confirming the theory. It spoke of both reckless abandon in battle (To which his people were well known) as well as the blatant disregard for pain.

That done, Drekesh pulled a leather vest from his bag and settled down by his log again, deciding to take this time to wax his bowstring. As he worked, he pulled out a hunk of jerky and absently chewed.
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The woman stared down at the half-orc for a long moment as he spoke to her, looking him up and down. He was dangerous, that was for sure- but Gavreila wasn't entirely convinced he would be a danger to her party. She glanced east as he pointed and nodded curtly.

She could definitely use a wash, but... She turned back to her companions without another word to Drekesh. She couldn't imagine they would be pleased with her going to wash and leaving them alone and unprotected with a strange half-orc present. But the half-orc was clearly not hostile to them, insofar as she could see.

As violent and bloodthirsty as orcs and goblins were, half-orcs could lean either way. This one had wicked looking gauntlets and a well crafted bow, for sure. But he was also not part of a larger band, and that meant he was probably not from these parts.

"I'm going to bathe," Gavreila informed the party matter-of-factly. In common her voice was still thick and low, like slow-moving tree sap. She also gestured to the path that Drekesh had informed her of. The merchant spluttered and made a protest, which Gavreila ignored. If she didn't get them safely to the town, she didn't get paid- but she wasn't overly worried. Two of the girls from the party, and the merchant's wife took the opportunity to bundle clothes together.

They would bathe as well- after all, it was safer with Gavreila than away from her. This left four men, the merchant himself, and three boys ranging in age from 8-14. The youngest seemed fascinated yet terrified of the half-orc on the other side of the camp fire.

The entire group kept their distance from the half-orc as Gavreila led the other women down the path. The set up for their camp was comical, with small tents all placed in a half circle on their side of the fire, granting Drekesh far more room than necessary.

Occasionally, the boys would stop what they were doing and stare at their companion. They were all from a small town originally, and though they were used to seeing creatures such as elves and dwarves passing through, orcs and goblins were well known for violence and chaos. They weren't to be trusted.
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Drekesh watched the warrior leave with the other women. Surveying the rest of the people, he tallied them up in his head. As he passed over the children in his count, he noticed one staring, and curled one side of his mouth up in a smirk. It could also have been a snarl. The kid ducked away behind the wagon - for the moment. Drekesh chuckled.

He finished off a bit of Jerky, and set his senses towards the path and the woods. He had all right hearing - human average, which was low by Orc standards, but he had better sense of smell then humans did, and his eyes were much better in the dark. As he reclined, he spotted some slow movement just past one of the wagons. Grunting, he got to his feet and moved around the fire. One man had an armful of wood and he hastily dropped it to get out of his way.

Drekesh ignored him for the moment and made his way to the three boys who were conspiring just on the fringe of camp. When they saw his approach he was already maybe five feet away, and their eyes went wide, but to their credit they held their ground. Drekesh eyed them briefly, and then his arm snapped out to a branch, clasping around the neck of a dark scaled serpent. The youngest boy yelped.

A squishing pop and the serpent was still. Drekesh nodded at the boys like he just got a peace offering from them, and then he returned to his side of the campfire, watched by at least a dozen eyes. He methodically skinned and gutted the snake, sticking the rest on a spike and leaning it against the fire to cook. He chuckled to himself.

If only Orcs were as easy to deal with.
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Gavreila bathed quickly. While the other women seemed quite content to have a thorough scrub, she was already pulling her damp clothes back on. Her hair stuck to her face, but now it was with clean water instead of blood- and she smelled much better. Impatiently, she crossed her arms and watched the other women, who seemed to notice her eagerness to be done with this and return to the camp.

Their travelling companion was nothing if not efficient. The women made their way back to the camp without incident, to find four of the tents completely set up and a larger than necessary stack of firewood placed on the edge of the camp. Gavreila scowled at the pile- she didn't like to make fires too large in what she considered enemy territory. If it had been up to her, there would be no fire at all.

The merchant man waddled to greet his wife and gave his bodyguard the most flustered of greetings. He had been sure the entire group would be eaten by this... monster. He feigned worry for the children, but Gavreila walked away from him before he could voice his full concerns. She rummaged in a pack in the back of the wagon and withdrew two apples, a hunk of bread, soft cheese and a thick slice of cured ham. The merchant was a wealthy man, enabling the warrior to eat well on the road.

Silently, she picked her way towards the fire and sat between the merchant's camp and the half-orc. She didn't seem to be paying attention to anyone else.

One more day... she thought.
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Drekesh, once the snake was up and slowly cooking, he sifted through the innard until he found two pearl sized sacs. By the time the warrior had come to sit a little closer then he expected, he had them seperated from the others, and boiling in a small tin cup propped up in the fire. He liked to extract the poison from some snakes and have it on hand. Who knew - maybe there was a market for black asp poison where he was going.

When the snake was done he pulled a strip off and munched on it absently. He wrinkled his nose at it. How his kin could eat these day and night was beyond him, they were rubbery and bland with an aftertaste of a sort of dead animal rot flavor. He furrowed his brow and let out an aggitated grunt. When he looked up, he saw the 8 year old boy standing somewhere between him and the warrior woman, eyes wide with an overwhelmed sense of hero worship.

He was mostly facing the woman, so for now Drekesh pretended to ignore him. The boy swallowed a dry lump inhis throat and pointed to the Mace. He'd tried to ask every day since their trip began - but it took a lot of effort to talk to a hero. He asked, "Yer mace.. where... wheredyougetititsreallycool." He breathed.

Drekesh snorted with amusement, and covered it by hacking a lunger and spitting it into the woods at his back. As he turned he noticed his new horse. Ears flat to his head, eyes rolling nervously. Drekesh took a liesurely sniff of the air and turned back to the fire. He smelled... wood. soft mosses. Some of the woman's soapstuffs. The fire. The sweat from the men, the horses, the blood.... blood?

He turned his head and took another sniff, waiting for the breeze - where was the breeze....

Drekesh stood up and a hand darted up and out towards the boy. The lad yelped in surprise and bolted as a black shafted arrow went through Drekesh's hand at least half way. "Orcs and Goblins!" He snarled in Human, breaking the arrow and yanking it out as howls began to form in the woods around them.

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Gavreila sat with legs crossed, her mace across her lap and glinting in the firelight. She munched on her sandwich contentedly, hardly paying attention to the people around her. When the boy spoke, she eyed him accusingly. She didn't mind children, no- but she had been surrounded by this family for far too long and would be quite pleased when their journey was completed.

Slowly, her mouth curved into a smirk and she finished the last bite of her sandwich. "I won it." She paused for a moment. She could either tell the boy of the tourney in the slaver's pit during her brief stay in the Ardglass desert or the more honest version of her gambling match with a dwarf near Coalfell pass. She knew which one would be more impressive, but she doubted the boy had ever heard of slave fighting, let alone understood it. She considered him lucky.

Before she could expand her answer, however, the half-orc nearly lept to his feet. He was quick for being so large, she thought. But she was just as quick, and was at her feet in an instant. The arrow pierced Drekesh's hand almost completely, the head dripping with his blood. Gavreila grabbed the boy around the collar of his shirt and threw him to the ground. The rest of the merchant party followed suit, many attempting to hide under the wagons.

The young healer hurried towards Drekesh, hands already glowing. Before he reached them, however, another arrow pierced his shoulder. He fell with a cry and Gavreila spun to meet any attackers. She didn't think the healer would die from his wound, but he was certainly exposed. The young lad was attempting to crawl towards the healer, probably to check if he was okay, but Gavreila placed a heavy booted foot on his back and pressed him back into the dirt.

"Be still." She growled, and he went limp.

The horde was larger than the one she had dealt with previously in the day, and she found herself glad that she wouldn't be facing it alone. She should have waited to bathe, though. As her mace struck the skull of the first goblin to cross her path, blood splattered across her face. So much for being clean.
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Drekesh snarled when the obvious healer was hit. He would no doubt be the first target. Orcs, when in battle, were intelligent. He dove for his horse, who reared in fright. Drekesh whipped his gauntlets off of the beast, using it for cover. (He didn't like making attachments to horses. They were too... expendable. And Orcs liked to eat them. Go figure.)

Habit bred speed, and he was armed (literally) in moments. He wasn't armored, but he would have to make do. Blood trickled down his arm, and more arrows thunked into the wagons as they attempted to reach the people clamoring underneath. He pointed at his eyes then thumbed over his shoulder, past the horse into the woods at the warrior woman. He hoped she got the point.

His night visionw as better, and he certainly didn't want to be in her way. He took up his bow on his back and lashed the quiver to his hip then dissapeared into the trees as more goblins emerged to fight the warrior woman.

He was aiming for the Orcs. They were the brains of these raids. And the archers. The first one he found easily, and with one firm punch , Drekesh gutted him from nasal to collar, using his other hand to grab his bow and fling it into the brush. The Orc spat insults at him, calling him traitor as he gurgled his last. Drekesh ignored him and moved on, slinking through the brush. The second went down with a splatter of brain matter. He added the arrows to his collection. He estimated three more archers - he would have to go around.

He reconsidered when he saw several goblins yanking a screaming woman out from underneath the far end of the wagon. He snarled, and charged from the brush, grabbing One goblin and hurling him back into some of his emerging comerades. He skewered one on his left fist and then flung that one away too, coming down with both hands crossed to the third goblin who didn't even have time to flee.

An arrow thunked into Drekesh's shoulder and he grinend toothily. He didn't say anything to the woman as she squirmed back under the wagon in tears. He broke off the shaft of the arrow and marched into the woods towards the arrow's point of origin, and encountered a snarling Orc that was ready for him.
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Gavreila grunted as her blows landed, her teeth showing in a silent snarl. There were many goblins, and none of them seemed very well trained. Even when disarmed they would approach with mindless rage. Alone, goblins were cowardly creatures, but in packs- and with orcs at their backs, they were relentless.

On managed to cling to Gavreila's back, rocking her back and forth as she swung her mace into his companions. She staggered back into a tree, half blinded as the monster's claws scraped her face. Both her own blood and that of her fallen foes trickled into one eye and she closed it tightly against the sting. Goblin blood was one of the most foul things she'd ever encountered.

Gavreila growled like a feral cat and slammed her head back into the creature's face. It could not escape, pinned as it was between her in the tree. It went unconscious and slid down behind her. Mercilessly, she crushed its head with her heavy boot and waded back into the fray.

The horde was amassing around the wagon now, and that was where she was headed. The goblins seemed to be ignoring the prone forms of the young boy and the healer. They were covered with the blood of the dead, and in the confusion the orcs had assumed the goblins had killed them, and the goblins had assumed they were already dead. But it wasn't over yet.

Still the bodies came on. Until the clearing was thick with the stench of the dead, and it was impossible to take a step without touching a corpse, the onslaught did not waver. Gavreila's arm was growing tired, and she had what she assumed was another broken rib. Her ankle twinged every time she put weight on it, but there was nothing she could do about it.

The half-orc had stalked into the trees after rescuing the seamstress- a young woman only recently employed by the merchant's wife. Her initial reaction was to assume he had fled- but after seeing his skill with his gauntlets in the campsite, she understood that he was merely seeking out the orc leaders and archers- something she was thankful for, as fewer arrows volleyed into the fray.

The enemy was few and far between now, and Gavreila cut down every last goblin who failed to escape. She hit her knees next to the young boy, who was shivering wildly- with a goblin's corpse across his back, and another's dead eyes peering back into his. She placed her hand on his shoulder and he jumped.
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Drekesh finished off the last of the archers with near silent ease. His gauntlets were wet with their blood, and any leaders would probably smel it and flee. He counted on that, but even after the archers were slain, he picked up one of their discardedbows, notched an arrow and managed to get one arrow into the back of a fleeing Orc. it would be enough to bring him down as he fled. Good enough.

He returned to the camp, several more arrows being deposited into Goblins who had somehow evaded the woman's mace - or had pretended to be dead until they could run off.

The campsite was a carpet of goblin bodies. He scanned the wagon - no losses so far, but that healer... He stalked towards him and with no hesitation, he broke the shaft of the arrow and yanked it out head first. It had already gone straight through - the man was rail thin. He cried out and promptly feinted. Drekesh chuckled, shaking his head. "Not used to getting wounds then. Heh." He used part ofd the healer's own robe to tightly bind the wound to stop the bleeding, easily moving him to an upright sitting position.

Drekesh left him like that and looked over towards his own thing.

His horse was dead. Poor thing lay on the ground with one whole leg missing - fleeing goblins no doubt, when they noticed the arrows weren't coming. He grunted, and began removing his things from its back.

He'd tend to himself after his things were properly acounted for.

With a laugh, he picked up the now burned skewer of snake. He took a bite and laughed some more. It was actually better that way. His gravelly chuckling broke the silence of the camp and he munched away.
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Gavreila pushed the body off of the boy, who immediately shot up and towards his parents and siblings, who were shaking just as hard as he was. The warrior rose to follow, picking her way over the bodies with determined strides. She stopped next to the healer, who Drekesh had just finished bandaging. It did not appear that the arrow had been poisoned- a blessing as far as Gavreila was concerned. She bent down and hoisted the smaller man up, resting his arm over her shoulders and dragging him the rest of the way to the cart.

She hoisted him up into the seat and let him fall limply into a reclining position. Then she turned to view the rest of her charges. There was blood on almost all of them- she grimaced when she noticed the merchant was almost completely clean. He had been the first one under the cart. Despite the gore on their arms and faces, none of them seemed to have sustained any injuries whatsoever. If it hadn't been for the half-orc, she was positive they would have lost at least half of the party.

She glanced at the horses- only two of three remained. One was still dancing wildly, eyes rolling at the stench of bodies around them. The other one seemed to be a very stupid horse, however- or very smart. Either way, it merely huffed at the air and stamped impatiently. The third had bolted, and was probably already dead.

She turned to Drekesh, who was chuckling merrily at his burnt snake. Despite herself, she felt a grin spreading across her own face. The rage of battle was beginning to wear off and she was practically tingling with left over adrenaline. She placed one hand on her side and let herself have a bit of a laugh. The number of bodies on the ground was ridiculous! And the fact that a half-orc had helped her slay his kin was even better.

She approached, limping now, but not showing any discomfort on her face. "My name is Gavreila," she said, extending the hand that was not grasping her mace. "You fight well," she acknowledged, nodding.
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Drekesh finished off the snake, and dropped his makeshift spit into the fire. It crackled and popepd as he removed his gauntlets. He let them fall beside him and then got to his feet. His left hand wasn't bleeding as freely, and his shoulder seemed to have slowed as well, but his whole left side was slick with blood.

Luckily he shook with his right hand, and he clasped Gavreila's hand in a firm shake. "Drekesh Bloodfist." He clenched his left hand and chuckled. "Makes sense now." He muttered in Orcish.

He resumed sitting, and pulled one Gauntlet into his lap so he could wipe the majority of the gore off of them before he looked to pulling goblin bodies off of the camp grounds. He jutted his chin towards the carnage. "You aren't bad either. For a human." He half grinned at her with a chuckle. He was speaking Human now, and it was a surprisingly clear dialect. (One reason he spoke Orcish often. It helped him be understimated in several ways.) When he spoke it, it was as if the act itself brought out someof the more human aspects of him - the blue in his eyes, the angle of his cheekbones maybe, his posture.
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[ *  *  * ]
Gavreila banged her mace on the ground a couple of times, shaking loose any gore or fabric that might have lodged there. Clipping it to her belt, she turned to her charges. She was sure they would not want to camp on the bloody ground here, but the sun had already set, and at least the bodies of the dead would be a warning to any others who contemplated attack.

She pointed at the three younger boys and gestured for them to come towards her. "We have to clean up our mess," she informed them matter-of-factly. "Carry what you can and pile it just outside of the camp. No wandering off and no slacking." The merchant's wife looked livid that Gavreila would dare make her precious boys do such lowly, disgusting labor- but did not speak up.

Gavreila set an example by hauling the first body at her feet to the edge of the camp. She would have preferred to burn them- keep away the carrion birds and prevent sickness. But they would move on in the morning, and setting alight a pile of bodies this large was sure to bring more trouble- if it didn't burn down the forest entirely.

She returned immediately for another body, and the youngest boy determinedly grasped another- only this was just an arm. He fought back his sick and carried the arm to the two bodies Gavreila had already piled. The gruesome task would take a while, but it had to be done before Gavreila would let anyone but the healer sleep. He couldn't help them even if he wanted to.
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[ *  *  * ]
After his weapons were mostly clean, he too set about dragging the carcasses away. Drekesh carried two at a time mostly, heaping them in the same general area as the ones Gavreila had dragged. There were at least two dozen little goblin corpses.

It was well and truly dark when they finished, and Drekesh finally pulled his horse off a short ways into the woods. When he returned, the young boys looked hagagrd and tired, any adrenaline they had long since worn off. He humphed softly, and gave his pile another once over. The cup with venom was still bubbling away. Peering at it, he decided it still needed an hour or two to get to that pasty gel consistancy.

Looking around, he declared, in Orcish for Graveila to translate if she wished, "I'm washing up." He nodded over at Graveila, and took up his spare clothes and leathers. Then he marched into the darkness. As he arrived on the bank, he took out a trinket he had purchased months ago - a small cylinder of glass, that when shaken emits a soft, almost cave-moss green light. It didn't bother his vision at night, but it would light a small area for... well, humans.

He assumed that some of them would want the opportunity to wash of before climing into their tents to sleep. When that was carefully set on a rock just at the edge of the creek, he stripped down and gave himself a thorough rinsing. His left hand had a hole in it, and his Shoulder - oh, well.

Grunting, Drekesh reached over to his boots and pulled out a thin knife heh ad tucked into the lining of it. While he stood waist deep in creek water, he proceeded to cut a vertical slash over the hole where the arrow went in, and wheedle the blade in so that it was as pressed up nect to the imbedded arrowhead as he could get it. Then he dug his fingertips into his skin with a snarl and a grimace, and when he had a piece of the shaft in his fingers, he puleld them both out witha sclorch.

Drekesh growled, flinging the arrowhead downstream. At least it hadn't been barbed.
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Many of the caravan did indeed wish to wash. Unfortunately, they also had no desire to be alone with Drekesh. Even the merchant himself gave Gavreila a questioning look. The women in the party, however, showed no interest in partaking in a bath with a half-orc. Despite him saving their lives, it would be inappropriate for them to be nude anywhere near a man, let alone a half-orc male.

Humans had strange qualms with nudity. Qualms that Gavreila had never understood. She would have been perfectly happy to bathe again, but she knew that she could not leave half of the party alone and unguarded after such a raid. She scowled and clambered into the seat of the wagon, shifting the healer until he was sitting mostly up. He was slowly regaining consciousness, but was probably too weak for a proper bath.

The youngest lad- who had asked about her mace, was already following Drekesh into the woods- much to the distress of his mother, who called after him helplessly. "Well go after him!" She told her husband, who started off sullenly. This whole trip would be a giant drain on coin, he thought to himself. The damages to his property alone would cost a great deal of silver- and Gavreila had more than earned her wage. He was glad she had not agreed to his original payment idea- where she would have been paid for each enemy slain.

Slowly, the rest of the men and boys in the party followed Drekesh to the creek for a good scrub. They all needed it. Gavreila and the women would take their turns after, and they would all get what little sleep they could before moving on the next morning.

---

The night had been remarkably quiet. The healer had slept soundly, and awoken feeling much more himself- and surprisingly capable of completely healing his own shoulder. He tended to Gavreila and Drekesh's more severe wounds, but still did not have the strength for healing all of their scrapes and bruises- even less so now that he had to split his strength up between the three of them.

As the cart was finished being loaded, Gavreila turned to Drekesh. "Where are you headed?" She gave him a look up and down. He was larger than her, and more muscled- he had to be to bludgeon people with his fists like he did. He would be a valuable companion. "We're on our way to Woodhearst, if you'd like to join us."

The merchant went completely purple and spluttered incoherently for a moment. He stomped purposefully over to them and planted himself firmly beside Gavreila, staring her down. "Absolutely not!" His voice was high and grating, and Gavreila glared down at him. "No no no! I won't have it! I've seen enough orc on this journey to last a lifetime. I won't have one at our side for the rest of the trip! What if he's signalling them? Telling them our position?" He huffed.

Gavreila glanced sideways at Drekesh before responding. "Your wife would be dead if it weren't for him. You have no right to limit his use of the road either way." She turned away from the merchant again, ignoring his further incoherent protests. "Think about it."

She turned back to the caravan and patted one of the horses on the neck. The young woman sitting next to the healer on the cart turned around and waved at the merchant. "Come on, father! We're ready to go!"
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Drekesh's face remained totally neutral when the merchant intervenes. She shot Graveila a sympathetic look at the sound of theman's voice, but otherwise did nothing. When the man fianlyl turned to go away, he nodded once at Graveila, and without a word he took up his supplies over one shoulder and moved to stand obnoxiously close to the wagon with the young lad in it. He poked his headout and gasped before retreating back inside and yamemring on.

Drekesh smirked and started walking a bit ahead to keep out of everyone's hair. The day progressed with little interferance, and Drekesh's pace was long and steady. He didn't speak to anyone, and he sat just out of range when they pausedfor Graveila to scout ahead - but he always tossed her a nod to let her know that he would stay back and watch.

According to the talk from the people behind him, Drekesh noted that it wouldn't be too much longer until they reached their destination. For that he was glad - he was tired of carrying around all these furs and provisions. His shoulder ached, but thehealer was very good.

When approafched, Drekesh had only allowed a little to be done. His kind healed quickly as it was, and if the healer himself or the woman - Graveila - needed it, they were better off.

When the lights began to dim around them, he hung back to catch Graveila in conversation, he spoke priamrily in Orcish. Made the others uncomfortable. "Close enough to keep pushing, or are we going to camp? Never been this way before."
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Gavreila appreciated Drekesh's audacity to stand so close to the wagons. She smirked, knowing at least one small boy who would be thrilled at getting to see the half-orc so close. It was hard not to hate orcs and goblins these days, even Gavreila struggled with it. But Drekesh had a strong humanness to him- despite the tone of his skin and the protrusion of his jaw. It was probably his eyes, she thought.

As the sun began to set, the merchant stopped the horses. Gavreila stopped next to Drekesh and crossed her arms, responding to his question in kind. "Normally I would push on," she said, "But Woodhaerst has started closing its gates at nightfall since the goblin raids started. Not to mention how frail these people are." She gestured at her charges a little bit too bitterly. She'd been on the road with them too long, and still wasn't used to the company.

The boy popped his head out of the window of the lone carriage. "Are we stopping?"

"Yes, boy," his father replied sternly, beginning to unload the camping supplies from the wagon. "Help us unload." The boy looked a little dejected, but hopped out of his seat as ordered.

"We'll reach Woodhaerst in the morning, lad," Gavreila felt the need to reassure him, in human. As annoying as her charges had been, she could not fault the boy for his eagerness. She was just as ready to be done with the trip as them.
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Drekesh nodded, accepting the decision without qualms. In Orcish again, so themerchant hop[efully couldn't understand (As it was clear he didn't.) "I'll watch first. I need less sleep." He gave her a nod, but didn't wait for a response.

Instead, he moved over the second wagon where people were unloading. In a gap made by too few strong arms, Drekesh interjected himself by assisting one of the women pass along a bound up tent for assembly. He passed it to the first pale-faced man he saw and awaited the next bundle as if he had always beenhelping.

It brought him no little amusement to see the sputtering merchant grumble by. When the tents had been assembled, Drekesh took up his customary spot by the fire and chewed on some more jerky. When Graveila went to take watch, He would go out and hunt something small for him to eat later. For now this would suffice.
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