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another beautiful day in the neighborhood

Squeals of laughter erupt from Jessie and his sister Maya as they suddenly burst out the front door of their small cottage to the playfully cursing shouts of their mother and father shooing them off for Jessie’s big day.
Yesterday was his 12th birthday marking him as a young adult ready to take on more responsibility around the house. His first duty his father set him towards was to see his sister safely to his grandmother’s house on the other side of town for a new dress. It wasn’t a very big village by any means but with over 150 people living here and more coming in everyday they were starting to come up in the world.

Jessie had dirty brown matted hair that always seems to have a stray piece of straw in it from his bed and was tall for his age and starting to hit puberty. His voice was getting lower every day and he had even shown his sister how well his mustache was starting to come. What did she know anyways about what a real mustache looks like? He put on his good shirt for the visit that with only 2 patches and even took a bath. (unfortunately) His sister Maya wore a much dirtier and patched home spun dress that had seen better days. At 5 years old she hardly had a care in the world as she ran from bush to bush looking for flowers, weaving in and out of the few neighbors good naturedly calling out for her to slow down she had that wild free spirit unchained by the worries or cares of tomorrow.
Straw colored hair ran down to the middle of her back as she moved nimbly about barefooted. Her smile was always so infectious and regardless of what mischief they found themselves in, her genuine smile could melt even the most granite of hearts. Maya always seemed to get her way and today was likely to be no different.

Jessie loved his family and life was good. Dad mended shoes and mom has a thriving candle business made with local honey from their family’s bee farm just outside of town. Finally, Maya slowed down enough for Jessie to grab her hand as they walked and he started whistling a ditty as he was wont to do. Admiring the day and the treats he knew gma would have ready for them when they arrived Jessies smile broadened.

“Jessie, I want to pick some flowers for gamgam” Maya says as she looks sweetly up at her big brother.

“Sure sis lets swing by Mrs Jeans and see if she has any leftover flowers from yesterday we can have.” he replied.

“Not old flowers…” She wines, “I want fresh ones from the field!”

Rolling his eyes he adjusts his stride and veers off the road to head out of town. Their family owned several bee hives and over the years had planted a large field of flowers the bees used to make their honey. Over the years they had tried experimenting with different types of flowers to make the best honey and turned out have quite the knack for it. Currently his parent were talking about expanding on their apparently developing green thumbs. Sounded boring.

They head out of town and jessie strikes up a tune as they walk the path that leads to out of town to a larger village several miles away. The forest around their village was starting to get overgrown again. The local lumbermill had burned down last year and they were still in the process of rebuilding it. The mill family was working around the clock but they had to eat too which meant working on local farms part time as well and splitting their days labor. Maybe Jessie could help them for a week or so now that he was older he thought to himself.

Before he knew it they were to the path to their families bee farm from the main road. Jessie always appreciated how full of life the woods surrounding their village always was as they went deeper into the forest. Often his friend Greg and him would come out and hunt for squirrels and rabbits to bring home and whatever wild vegetation they could find. Greg’s father is a ranger and one of many of the village elders in charge of protecting their town and would often take them out foraging and showing them what was safe to eat and bring home. Jessie had always harbored secret hope of one day being able to train with the local militia and then move into the rangers, he had always felt more at home in the forest surrounded by nature than in the village. His dad had promised to talk to Greg’s father about some potential formal training in forest lore when he came back from his latest hunt. He was supposed to be back earlier in the week but often his trips could keep him out for weeks if he was tracking a particularly nasty predator, Jessie just had to be patient.

He was so wrapped up in his own musings that he didn’t even notice how quickly they arrived at the bee farm until his sister’s hand slipped out of his as they walked.

“C’mon slow poke! We need to hurry before gam gam gets worried about us.” he looks back and says.

He notices Maya looking towards the glade with a confused look on her face as she slowly raises her arm to point.

“What’s wrong with the bees” She asks as he turns to look.

Strewn about the clearing was their family’s precious beehives smashed and strewn about like a tornado had come through destroying everything it could touch. With an anguished groan Jessie runs to the closet one to examine it with his little sister latching onto his arm as he rushes over.

“What the… Looks like a bear got into them but there’s still tons of honey in these comb’s!” reaching down he lifts one of the bigger ones up off the ground to inspect and notices something on the ground below it. Picking it up and turning it over in his hands he cant quite make out what it is.

“What’cha find brother?” Maya squeaks “Looks like a giant weird spoon”

Turning it over in his hands he inspects it closer, about a foot-long piece of yellow tarnished bone of some kind possibly but you can tell where it had fractured and broken off from another piece. The bone had been chipped and polished at the end into a rough scoop and worn down through frequent use. Looking down at his feet he lifts his left boot and finds the what appears to be the other half. Slowly he reaches down and gingerly picks up the piece and tries fitting the two ends together. With morbid certainty he starts to fit it back together turning it slowly, a sever look of concentration on his face.

“Got it!” he exclaims as it finally fits back together and to his surprise notices Maya is right. It appears to be some sort of utensil made of bone about 1’1/2” long. As he stares turning it over in his hands a large green hand easily 4 times the size of his reaches over his head from behind him and engulfs Jessie’s own hand and the bone tightly. Jessie cant help but subconsciously note how normal sized the utensil seems compared to the larger hand gripping his.

“Ey der cub, I see you found mi favorite glob shovel.”

Jessie freezes and turns his head around to look behind himself. Suddenly he is glad he had stopped to piss behind a tree before they got here as the blood inside his veins seems to freeze and his heart skip several beats. Unfortunately his sister had not.

“Skahun! Damn cubs! Did your parent not teach you where to piss? Well its not on da Kurg I can tell you that much!” He steps back holding his hand to his nose and releasing Jessie.

Jessie drops the bone and it falls back into two pieces as he turns and takes an involuntary step back, taking in the figure standing before him for the first time.

Before Jessie stands a massive figure clothed in a robe of deep forest green from head to foot. The robe seems made of rich material, but he carried no outward sign of weapons or packs. He towers over Jessie and his sister as she cowers holding tightly onto his arm, he had to be at least 7 feet tall! As Jessie looks closer at the strangers robe he begins to feel light headed as he notices the robe seems to shimmer with shapes and words swirling in unknown patterns along the length of the robe barely noticeable to his eyes in a darker shade of the same color just below the surface of the cloth. Where his eyes playing tricks on him?

The figures cowl was drawn up and with the sun high above head all Jessie could make out from inside the black depths of the hood were two fiery orbs that seemed to glow with an intensely amused light as they took in the two children. As jessie tears his eyes away from that evil gaze it wanders to the apron tied around his waist with its tattered rope and festooned with a mind boggling amount of trophies and bizarre items some of which caused his eyes to hurt even to glance over them and a large pouch that gave off a funny odor that reminded him of his Uncle Michael.

“Ah…that’s too bad cub, you broke Kurg’s favorite glob shovel. Now I’m going to have to find another one. You have no idea how attached I was to that particular one.” he says as he looks over at Maya.

*grunts* “Hrm, now this one might have what I need” as he starts to reach over for the young girl.

“NO!” Jessie yells snapping himself out of his stupor. “Leave her alone!”

Jessie grabs Maya by the arm and pushes her behind him fully placing himself in between the two. Jessie knows he has no chance against whatever monster this is but he can’t help his instincts to protect his little sister and see her to safety even if it means his own life.

“Ho ho! You got guts cub! And I don’t just mean the tasty kind! Uki, you bring me a new glob shovel and we can call it even. No harm, no foul” as he is talking, he reaches his hands into a pouch and pulls out a handful of something and begins muttering under his breath waving his other hand towards the two children.

The hairs on Jessies arms begin to stand up on end and he starts to realize why the orc smelled so familiar, he was a mage the same as his Uncle! He was just starting to wonder if their moment to flee had already escaped them when the muttering finished with a small chop of his hand as he finishes his spell and mutters something about a… bloodgod? under his breath. Suddenly a feeling of bliss comes over Jessie and his sister as he looked down at her.

“There we go little cubbies, that better? I cast a spell to help refresh you from your long journey here. Now why don’t you run back home and bring old uncle Kurg back a new glob shovel? Can you do that for me?”

“Do you mean that funny looking spoon?” Maya looks up at him in her sweetest melt-your-heart-if-you-have-one smiles and nods eagerly.

“Yub, that’s what I mean. A spoon.” Kurg replies.

Eager to help his uncle Kurg especially since he had broken his old spoon Jessie turns to Maya to grab her to leave when he notices something in her hand.

“What you got there sis?” he asks curiously. It appeared to be some sort of shiny gemstone of some sort that appeared black at first glance but as he looked closer notices it is actually a deep crimson.

“Uncle gave it to me for mom for the spoon! It’s warm and so pretty! I love it and love it and love it! Let’s hurry up and show mom!” she shouts as she turns and bolts off past the towering figure back the way they had come.

“Maya wait!” he shouts as he runs off after her.

As the two children fade off into the distance a shadowy figure emerges as if from thin air.

“What do you think you are doing brudder? Dem cubbies looked well fed which meant we would be well fed! Maybi we could keep just the small one? Fer a snack? Awl that was here was honey! Nub farmers! Honey iz fer elves and pushdogs! Nub fer urkz!”

Kurg glances over as his brother hefts his large heavy crossbow adorn with small skull trophies from various animals and even shrunken human heads onto his shoulder. While Kurg towered over humans his little brother Mul’Grat was a head taller still with immense muscles bulging over every inch of his frame. Covered from head to toe in ring mail that seems cloaked in a dark shadowy haze that sticks to his arms and armor like a second skin. He moved with the grace and sureness of a forest predator at the top of the food chain, his eyes seeing only prey.

Kurg rarely travelled alone anymore, the mysteries of the arcane had taken him over countless lands and villages. He has always travelled and stayed near the horde, even when the will of the Bloodgod had forced him to leave his brothers behind at times. This new land so far has seemed fat and ripe for further expansion for the Bloodclan and if what he was hearing was correct, even some of the other orcish clans from other lands had found their way to this promise land of blood and shinies.

Kurg slowly draws back his hood as he watches the spot in the distance the children disappeared at. His skin has the crinkled worn look of old leather, a long scar traveling from a corner of his jaw line down below his robes his head devoid of hair. Wrinkles and crows’ feet adorn the corners of his eyes, impossible to tell whether from genuine laughter or malicious glee. His ears decorated much like his belt with an apparent disregard for any sort of cohesion but instead an emphasis on leaving no space unpierced and decorated with various trophies and magical trinkets. Similar items are attached to a necklace and even a bracelet made of various types of teeth can be seen as he lowers his arm back down. Menace and evil intent seem to pour from him now that his hood had been drawn back and his face splits in a giant mirthless grin full of pointed teeth as tusks protrude several inches from his mouth.

He reaches down and picks up the broken femur he had been using as a spoon and tosses it up and down in his hand absently.

“Nub worry brudder, mi have a very good feeling about these cubbies. Dem found mi lost spoon after awl. They deserve to be rewarded and what better prize den mi favorite bluudstone? Dem stones are a part of mi after awl, so mi can always find dem anywhere in the lands.”
“Although…maybe you are right…. Maybe we shouldn’t wayt for dem to come to us. It iz gettin pretty late after awl...” he nods slowly saying. “Round up da other urkz and lets go see if dem oomies have anything fer mi tu make a new glob shovel with.”

As he finishes talking, he tosses the bone to the ground and throws back his head releasing a blood curling howl into the surrounding forest.


His brother immediate follows suit and soon after in the distance faint mimicking howls can be heard mixing in with the growing war cries of many orcs….
Strider stands in the corner of the room looking out the window at the smooth waters. D'Artagnan looks up from the report, "Did they see you?" Strider looks over his shoulder and grins confirming what D'Artagnan already knew. "This could be the reason they resisted our inspection of the new fort, although we later confirmed there were no captives. We can only assume the worst. Send word to all Rangers, we must regularly patrol this region and put down any Orcs found. Unfortunately yet another clan has been unable to resist human flesh. The threat will be met with Steel, the Pathfinders go to war on yet another front." Strider nods and departs without a word while D'Artagnan wonders if the wars will ever end.
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