Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena



Livia wondered, idly, what was going to kill her. She was hoping for exposure; it was less uncomfortable than thirst, which was the other option.

The battle had been over for nearly three days; the losers had presumably run away somewhere, and she thought the winners had camped near the battlefield, but they had left with the sun, and there would be no more efforts to find survivors.

It was a stupid way to die; she had been trying to bandage a fallen warrior; a steam golem had passed nearby, and something had blasted it. The defunct metal monster had fallen on top of Livia and her charge, killing him and pinning her, unconscious, against his body. She had awakened in the darkness and screamed herself hoarse, but no help had come. With daylight she had managed get her canteen to where she could sip from it, and when it was empty, she had also found the dead soldier's canteen, but all of the water was gone, now. She had slept and shivered through three nights, but doubted she had the strength for a fourth. She found herself wishing to feel the sun on her face one last time, but to do that, she had to be out from under the golem, and that wasn't going to happen.

"Nine bleeding hells," a gruff voice said, and Livia was suddenly wide awake and as alert as her situation allowed. "Whatever killed this thing punctured the boiler, and it exploded. The main engine and the control mechanisms are ruined." It was an ugly voice, deep and guttural and distastefully accented.

"Sorry, Boss," a squeaky voice answered. "It's the best looking wreck on the field. There really wasn't much to choose from."

"It isn't your fault, Cob," the gruff voice said. "I just wish I could find one of these things that had been immobilized without being utterly destroyed."

"Help!" Livia croaked, as loudly as she could.

"Did you hear something?" the squeaky voice asked.

"No," the gruff voice answered.

"HELP!" Livia croaked again.

"Somebody called for help," the squeaky voice said.

"Here!" Livia shouted. "Under the golem!"

"Unholy flatulence," the gruff voice said. "You're right, Cob. Derrick! Pick up this metal thing and throw it away." There was some general scrambling, the approach of heavy footsteps, and then the weight of the golem was suddenly gone, and Livia was blinking in the brightness. There was a crash as the wrecked golem found a new resting place; Livia cringed, and tried to look up at her rescuers with little success. "Pick it up by the collar, Derrick; let me see it."

Livia found herself dangling rather painfully from something large that had clamped itself on the back of her shirt. She was facing an orc in amazingly grubby conjurer's robes; an imp sat on the body of the dead soldier and stared at her.

"She's skinny, Boss, but we could get at least one decent meal out of her," the imp said.

The orc glanced at the imp and scowled. "We do not hunt sentients for food, Ichabod. Particularly when there is plenty of pre-killed meat to be had," the orc answered, and then turned back to Livia. "But there is still the question of what is to be done with you. Ignoring you and killing you are the same thing, I think, and I am not really inclined to charity."

"Prisoner," Livia croaked. "Have rights..."

"No," the orc growled. "You aren't, and you don't. I am not at war with anyone, and no one is at war with me. You are a wounded animal I have found in the road, and I should either ignore you, or put you out of your misery." He stroked his chin in thought, and Livia felt her eyes close; she was too tired to really care. "Derrick, set her down gently. Cob, get the girl some water."

"Derrick" set Livia down with something against her back; Livia summoned the energy to turn her head, and found that it was a bone golem, and she was leaning against its shin. She wondered if she should be further frightened or horrified, but didn't have the strength to care.

The orc knelt beside her, and helped her swallow some water. "Look at me," he said in his awful voice; Livia focused on him, and managed a nod. "I do not practice charity. The only reason I would bother to save your life is if you were a member of my household. The only way for you to be a member of my household is as a slave. Do you understand that?" Livia managed another nod. "If you want, I will leave you alone; if you want, I will give you a mercy stroke right now. Or you can become my slave, and I will heal you and keep you as well fed and cared for as I can."

"Could I have some more water?" Livia said softly; the orc gave it to her. She looked up, and realized that the orc had several companions, including an Atlantean brass golem. There was a dog a few feet away, and Livia thought that it was filthy, until she realized it was rotting. All of the orc's companions, except the imp, were dead. She looked at the orc, and then the imp, and back at the orc; there was something in his eyes... "Livia," she said. "My name is Livia."

The orc nodded. "I am called Scrounge, of Clan Grimm," he said. "Does this mean you accept the bargain?"

Livia nodded. "If you expect me to eat human flesh," she said weakly, "you have to make sure it is really well cooked, or I will get sick."

"I have heard this of humans," Scrounge replied.

Livia took another swallow of water, and closed her eyes a moment to savor it. "And if you expect me to have sex with you," she said, "I can guarantee you will enjoy it more if you are kind to me, and if you bathe occasionally."

Scrounge's eyes widened, and then he smiled; it was a hideous orcish smile, but there was warmth in it, somehow. "I will try to remember."

Paul Haynie
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