The Last: Chapter Five

  • We were greeted at the gate by two Orc males—tall, covered in armor from head to toe, save their faces—and one female—about my height, with small teeth for an Orc. She resembled a Dunmer more than an Orc—her face strangely beautiful, with soft features and happy eyes, blue-gray like the sky right before a storm. She wore no armor; just a simple tunic and trousers made of leather, with fur-lined boots and gloves, and a cloak that was little more than a bear pelt, sans the head, draped about her shoulders. An ornate bow and quiver was strapped to her back, around the cloak, with a leather belt. She was a hunter—and a good one. There was not a single puncture in that bear pelt. She must have hit it in the head—the eye, as a bear skull is much too thick to be pierced with any normal arrow.

    Bjorlam knew her, approaching and clasping her arm, and she smiled.

    “Good to see you, friend.” Her voice was not as gruff as one might expect, but still had a bit of a growl to it. I wondered if she was, in fact, not of pure Orc blood—what if her mother was a Dunmer, perhaps. She and my Nord companion talked quietly, for several seconds before I was introduced. I pretended to not be able to hear.

    “Talan, of Hammerfell,” Bjorlam said finally, patting me on the shoulder. “Meet Gluzra gra-Yrahz, daughter of the Chief Kragg and his forge-wife.” Not half-Dunmer after all, it seemed.

    “A pleasure,” I said, genuine for the most part. Orcs were not uncommon in Hammerfell, and I was used to dealing with them. They respect honesty and honor, for the most part, and they tend to be rather amiable when one is honest. But some, perhaps Gluzra here, only gave respect to those she deemed worthy of it.

    “You are like Bjorlam, then? One of his pack?” She pulled at my sleeve, examining me as if I was a dead deer. It made me feel like biting her, to prove I was her superior, but Bjorlam noticed—probably smelled—my anger, and just slightly tightened his grip on my shoulder. Again, anger—this time at Bjorlam, for asserting some sort of authority over me. I tightened my muscles.

    “Yes, a new addition.” Bjorlam answered for me, keeping his firm grip on my shoulder. Upon hearing the lie, I understood. These Orcs were accepting of werewolves, it seemed, but would not be quite as friendly towards my kind. I relaxed. Bjorlam loosened his grip—we had wordlessly come to an understanding. Within these walls, Bjorlam was my superior. I wasn’t happy about this—but at the same time, I knew the guise was necessary.

    If Gluzra had detected our silent conversation, she hadn’t noticed. “Follow me,” she said, turning and leading us deeper into Gorbzghazur. Bjorlam walked ahead of me—again, part of the ruse. All of a sudden I felt a bit of joy. I frequently portrayed mortals—but I had never been a werewolf before. The idea was amusing, so I decided to have a bit of fun.

    “I’m starving!” I called out, almost growling. “Do you have any bloody pieces of meat I could eat?”

    Bjorlam pretended to be angry, but the humor was not lost on him—I caught a glimpse of a slight smile on his lips. “Shut up, Talan,” he reprimanded. “Be a little more pleasant to our Orc friends.”

    Gluzra chuckled. “It seems you wolf-bloods are all alike, after all.”


    We were treated to a feast of roast deer, ale, and an assortment of mushrooms. I had no problems keeping up appearances as one of Bjorlam’s pack-mates, eating nearly as much deer as him, and half again as many of the mushrooms—they were satisfying, even for mortal food. The Orcs that ate with us, however, ate gargantuan amounts of meat, and drank enough ale to make a mammoth tipsy. It was amazing that there was any wildlife left for them to hunt in the surrounding forests.

    The Chief, Kragg, was the largest Orc I had ever seen—a head taller than Bjorlam—and ate nearly an entire deer himself.

    “He would have eaten it all,” Gluzra, sitting to my right, told me. “If he didn’t hate the liver.” I found myself disagreeing with the Chief in that regard—the liver is the best part of a being; nearly a pint of blood could be found in the liver alone.

    We feasted well into the night. Bjorlam was as jolly as I had ever seen him, in the company of these Orcs, but I could not be happy. I would not be happy until I spilled the blood of every last Vigilant of Stendarr, and avenged my family.

    The beds we slept in that night were comfortable—made from the needles of the abundant pines found in the mountains. Bjorlam slept like a rock; he had had too much ale at dinner. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of the wind whistling through the trees.


    “A leather cuirass would be best,” Yrahz said to me in a gruff voice, measuring the width of my torso with the handle of her hammer. “You, wolf-blood, are a quick-fighter.”

    “How can you tell just by looking at me?” I asked, my uncovered head burning in the sunlight.

    “Mother has an eye for such things,” Gluzra responded. “She has tended the forge for many years.”

    Bjorlam gulped from a mug he had taken from the longhouse—water, this time—to help “quell this damn headache!” in his words. He sat on a wooden bench near the forge, wearing a cloth tunic and leather trousers, with heavy boots.

    “A man cannot be expected to wear armor with a hangover,” he had said. “It’s hard enough to keep my balance without a damn bucket on my head.”

    Yrahz finished measuring, and set to work.  It was fascinating to watch. She was the fastest smith I had ever seen, making flawless pieces of craft in nearly no time at all. In a mere four hours, she had crafted me a cuirass of the finest leather, reinforced in places with a weave of Orichalcum mail, with matching bracers and boots. They fit me perfectly—amazing, given she had measured with a hammer.

    “At least you aren’t squishy anymore,” Bjorlam chuckled, taking another gulp from his mug.

    “I made you this also. The roads through the mountains are cold,” Gluzra said, holding up a cloak made of deer skins, with a wide hood. It wrapped around my torso almost like a blanket, covering my shoulders and half of my chest, and was held in place by clasps that fastened to my cuirass. I was most grateful for that cloak, with its wide cowl. Cold was the least of my worries—the cloak was the perfect protection from my nemesis in the sky.

    “Take this, as well,” Yrahz said, holding up a sword—black sheathe, black handle, with a ruby in the pommel.

    I wanted to refuse. I had come to terms with wearing armor—but a blade? Was I truly so weak that I had to resort to the use of mortal killing tools?

    Again, Bjorlam surprised me with his apparent knowledge of my thoughts. “Our enemy is formidable, Talan.” Even hung-over, he had incredible insight. I accepted the sword.

    The blade was nearly as long as my arm; forged entirely from ebony. I was impressed my its relatively low weight, easily swinging it from side to side.

    “Stronger and lighter than steel,” Yrahz boasted. “One of my finest swords; It will serve you well, wolf-blood.”

    “You look like a warrior, at least.” Bjorlam said, getting up from the bench. “Thank you, Yrahz, for providing us with this equipment.” He reached for the purse at his waist, but Yrahz stopped him with a stern raise of her well-worn hand.

    “No payment.” She said. “You have already done enough for us, friend.”

    “It was only one bear, Yrahz, hardly worth a set of armor and a sword.” Bjorlam argued. He was genuine—not liking to leave debts unpaid. In Camlorn, I remembered, he had paid the innkeeper more for the drinks than she had asked; just because he thought she wasn’t charging enough.

    “That bear would have killed my daughter!” Yrahz persisted. “No payment.”

    Bjorlam reluctantly reattached his con purse to his belt. “Yrahz, you’re just as stubborn as ever.”