This is a Warcraft story that I wrote and have had sitting around. I've posted it a place or two, but I decided to post it here. I have not bothered to break it into chapters, so I hope people don't find it too annoying to read.

Contains virginity, human-orc sex, descriptions of violence.

The story is set in the time when the Orcs were in concentration camps, and later are released through the heroic efforts of Thrall.

It's a fluffy romance, with a twist-you have been warned.

When Orcs Cry Freedom

There were few things in Azeroth that couldn't be Healed with magic. Infections of the blood stemming from untreated wounds were among them. She called herself a nurse, because she was one of the very, very few people on Azeroth who worked to nurse back to health, those who were afflicted with the various maladies that magic couldn't Heal.

The orc lying face down and chained to the bed in front of her was one such case. His back, covered in a latticework of scars and fresh whip marks bore signs of severe infection. What infuriated her the most about the situation was that many of the whip marks laid across his back were fresh, cutting into severely infected old wounds.

Livid, she whirled on the man who had brought her to this terrible place. "This is not the kind of work I do! I absolutely will not save that man!" She stormed from the room. The orc in the other room lay near death, and she wanted nothing more than to let the poor, suffering creature finally escape into the safety of death.

"Lady, you don't understand. If he dies, the whole camp will revolt. We'd lose them all. And if that orc could get up, he'd happily rape and then strangle you. He's no angel." The soldier spat, stuffing his hands into his pockets and at least having the grace to look sheepish as she continued to glare at him.

"The best thing that could happen is for them to rise up and free themselves," she told him acidly. She got that look. Yes, the special look reserved for her kind… the horrifying orc sympathizers. Clearly, he was displeased to realize she was one of 'those' people.

Well, whatever happened, she would always feel that all people deserved to be free. She was, of course, helpless to create that situation, but she felt that way from the bottom of her heart. And the orc lying in the other room had only one chance at freedom—the terrible infection on his back.

And this, of course, was the most notorious of the detainee camps. The Warsong Camp held the most vicious, brutal tribe of them all. These orcs were renowned for being the worse of the worst. Brutal, vicious, a malignant cancer upon the face of Azeroth, she'd heard more times than she could count.

She heard this so often because it so happened that her father was third in command here. He was often quite verbose in letting her know that her soft heart was a terrible weakness, and how deeply disappointed in her he was. She wasn't supposed to be a Priest, she wasn't supposed to pick flowers and play with potions. She was the son he never had, and she was supposed to live up to his legacy. Naturally, later when he was sober again, he took it all back. Except the part about the orcs, of course. How his child had become an orc sympathizer, he simply couldn't fathom.

"Yer Commander Jabe's daughter, ain't ya?" the soldier asked. It was clear from his tone of voice that her father would make her do it if she didn't agree on her own.

"Yes, I am. But you'll have to kill me before I'll make that orc live to see yet another day of torture," she said coldly, voice imitating a frozen glacier with stunning perfection.

Speaking of the evil one himself, her father strode up the corridor towards her. "Well," he asked, "can you cure him?" His voice was strident and harsh as it always was.

"I won't. I won't even try." She said.

Her father heaved a sigh. "You won't reconsider?"

She shook her head. "He's better off dead than living with what you're doing to him!" she nearly shouted.

"I was afraid you'd feel that way. Come here, I have something to show you," he told her, and turned back up the corridor.

She was led up a small set of steps carved into the stone of the massive walls of the encampment. It looked down on a small courtyard where the prisoners were occasionally allowed 'exercise' if they were well behaved. Below them, there were six orcs chained against posts. The first two were men, the first man a young, healthy one. The second man was an elder. After them were two women, and then two children. As she watched, a soldier walked out into the courtyard. He raised a whip, and suddenly the whip slashed across the courtyard. It landed harshly, viciously, upon the first orc's back. The man simply grunted even as blood welled from the new wound on his back.

Slowly, methodically, he was whipped again. "Stop!" she cried out, agony flaring through her.

"We can't stop, Sophie, until you agree to save that orc downstairs. We'll whip one of these people every hour until you change your mind." Her father's cold, dispassionate voice told her all she needed to know. He was entirely, completely serious. Suddenly, Sophie was more ashamed than she'd ever been to be a human.

How often had she heard that these people were monsters? Yet which of them was brutalizing the other, whip in hand, simply for the right to continue to brutalize yet another man?

She turned on her father, and told him, "If you agree not to beat him again, I will try to save him." The whip fell again upon the man below, the vicious 'crack' snapping across the courtyard. "And for God's sake, stop!" she shrieked, unable to take the intentional infliction of pain any longer.

Her father signaled the man with the whip, and the courtyard fell silent. As her father turned away and started down the stairs, Sophie whispered an incantation and let the Renew spell whisper through the air to land on the abused orc.

Then she followed her father into the bowels of hell. It was only fitting, of course, to follow the devil into hell.

They argued outside the room where the orc lay chained, until at last Sophie told her father that she would kill the orc instead of healing him, if her father didn't agree to stop the whippings until he was fully and completely healed. It was the only thing that brought him to finally, angrily, agree. The orc inside the room wouldn't be whipped until the wounds were cleansed entirely of their infection. That was the best Sophie could accomplish, and by the time she went into the room to begin her ministrations, she felt exhausted and emotionally drained.

Sitting down on what remained of the bed beside the orc, she began to take stock of the situation. His name, she'd managed to learn, was Dogal. He was someone of importance to the clan; she thought perhaps a spiritual advisor of some sort. He was as big and well muscled as any orc she'd ever seen, though, so clearly their spiritual advisors lived very different lives from those of the clergy in Stormwind City.

The first thing she did was to remove the bindings that tied him to the bed. She left his arms dangling, but moved his legs into a more natural (thus comfortable) position. After he was more comfortably positioned, she began to wash him. Picking up the sponge, she carefully and slowly cleaned the crusted blood away to see what she had to deal with. The first thing she noticed was that the worst areas seemed to be concentrated on his broad upper back.

Opening the door, she sent the page assigned to her to go get specific ointments from her apartments. When he brought them back, she began to apply the poultice to Dogal's back. As she worked, she felt overwhelmed. The sheer suffering evident from these wounds was difficult for her to take. She tried to be as careful as she could, though a few times, even unconscious as he was, he moaned when she applied it in certain heavily lacerated spots.

When that was done, she took out a tinkered dropper, and began to dribble medicine into his mouth. She had done this many times, with animals and people alike, so she knew that if she did it slowly enough, he would swallow it, his automatic system simply thinking it was his own saliva. He needed a great deal of the medication, and it was slow going getting it trickled steadily and slowly into his mouth with the dropper.

Finally, though, she was done. She sat back, tired and filled with a strange remorse, as if she herself had inflicted only more pain on him instead of healing. She stepped to the door and sent her page to get books and various other medicinal supplies from her apartment, and parchment and quill to keep notes on the orc's progress. Then she turned coldly to the guard and informed him that she required a recliner to be brought, "not one of those military monstrosities, but a real chair."

Then, reluctant to do so, she clapped the restraints back on Dogal's arms and legs. If she didn't, she would likely not be allowed to remain in the room once the chair was brought and they saw that she had released him.

Soon, the chair and supplies were delivered, and she laid back in the recliner. It was mid-afternoon, but she was exhausted after all that had happened. She leaned back in the chair and made some notes about the general condition of his wounds, how much elixir she had given him, and the type and amount of poultice applied. Then she laid back and observed her erstwhile patient.

He had dusky greenish brown hide, and his face, facing towards her but crushed sideways into the bed, was anything but handsome. His unfiled tusks were blunt, rounded, and slightly pitted as if tiny chips had been beaten out of them. She shuddered, trying not to think about it. From his chin dangled an elegantly braided strip of beard, the rest was scruff that was obviously growing back from his inability, thanks to illness, to care for himself.

His coarse hair, bound in a topknot, and his beard were black, thick and warmed by soft red tones. His body was massive, powerful shoulders over lean but still broad hips, and legs like chapel columns. His hands were large, but well favored, with hard nails that had clearly not been filed in weeks, if not longer.

Her study of him reminded her that she hadn't undone his bindings, and she got up and did so. Checking the poultice, she noticed that already it had begun its work of drawing the poisons out. She was very pleased by this, and laid back again in the chair after making brief note of it.

Soon, sleep claimed her in its kind embrace, and she slept, unconcerned. Her patient was in no shape to move; even in the unlikely event that he shook off the effects of the elixir she'd given him.

"Look at me, woman," the deep, pleasantly resonant voice of the orc demanded, and Sophie looked up at him as she gasped for breath against the powerful hand that gripped her throat. Her eyes met deep green eyes, the color of spring growth nestled in amongst the brown of last fall's forgotten leaves.

"Please," she gasped, "I'm here to help you!"

"Why should I accept the pathetic 'help' of a human?" he asked.

"Because if I fail, or if you kill me, they will torture and kill more of your people," she said, her eyes pleading with him.

He dropped her then, and grunted. "That, I'm reasonably certain, is true. And of course, they want me to be conscious to enjoy their tender ministrations." His voice was bitter, an old anger running through it with the sharpness of tempered steel. He moved towards the bed, staggering and nearly dropping to one knee.

"Careful!" she said as she helped him to the best of her ability. At last, with him leaning heavily against her while she staggered and panted, she managed to get him onto the bed. She sat down beside him. "I'm just going to check the bandages, okay?" she said.

He looked at her, and she saw hate on his face, flashing through his eyes. "Don't ask me, you're the one with all the power here, do whatever you want."

Sophie laid her hands in her lap. "I understand your feelings, Dogal. But I am here against my will, also. We're both prisoners here, both of us under duress. I'm no freer than you are.

"When you are ready, tell me, and I will check the poultice." She got up and moved to the recliner, picking up her notes and making notes that he was mobile now and seemed to be in amazingly good shape.

A few moments of quiet passed, and Dogal finally grunted. "Do what you have to do, woman," he said, that deep voice thrumming through Sophie with the magnetism of a warm breeze on a cold spring morning.

She got up and came to him, sitting down behind him. Slowly, she removed the poultice. It had continued its work while she napped, but his movement had caused several wounds to reopen.

"Please, do try to be still," she said, "as you've managed to cause more bleeding by getting up like that."

"Whatever you say, Lady. Where am I gonna go, anyway?"

"My name's Sophie."

"Listen, woman, I don't care what your name is." His sounded impatient, angry, bitter.

Suddenly, Sophie felt very alone. Here she was, essentially a prisoner, trapped with a man who hated her. With her captor being another man who hated her. She was as isolated as a person could get, she realized, because even this orc had family and clan out there in that compound that no doubt cared for him. For her, it was herself and her father, and he blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, along with everything else in his life that was anything less than desirable. Which was pretty much everything.

She went to the basin of water and picked up a washcloth. Walking back to him, she saw his exhaustion. "Can you please lay face down again? It will make it easier to care for your back." Some of her emotion must have translated into her voice, because he looked up sharply at her. But he said nothing, and lay back down on the bed. No doubt, clothed as he was in only his underclothing, she knew it must be embarrassing for him. She had work to do, however, and couldn't allow that to deter her.

Working gently once more, she carefully washed every welt and open wound on his back. He never once complained, nor did any sound escape him, though she knew she had to have hurt him several times. When she was done, she set the basin of dirty water near the door, and opened it, keeping it only slightly ajar. Pushing the basin out, she requested fresh water. She waited in silence at the door until it came, then returned and once more cleaned Dogal's back.

Finishing that, she carefully reapplied the poultice. Her entire focus was taken up on the tasks she was performing, so that when she was finished and looked up at him, she was surprised to find herself the target of his silent, direct regard.

She knew what he was seeing. A plain woman, brown hair tied carefully back into a knot at her neck. Blue eyes with pale skin, and a perhaps over-generous curve here and there on her body- except for where it might have been attractive. She was, as many had seen fit to remind her, average in every way. She had made average marks during Priest training. Average marks at herbalism and alchemy. And she'd chosen an unusual profession beyond that, one considered by many to be even downright strange. Her appearance was average, her figure average, her intelligence- average. Her life, below average.

She sighed, and once more had the basin of water refreshed. When it was pushed back in, she came back to him. "Can you stay sitting up for a little while longer?" He nodded, still regarding her with that silent, direct gaze. Kneeling down in front of him, she started to wash him. He jerked away from her as her hand touched his calf.

"What are you doing?" he asked, his voice now harsh, guttural, as if he had nearly forgotten the human language.

"You must be washed," she said, surprised at his reaction.

"I wash myself, woman," he snarled, yanking the cloth away from her.

"I apologize," she said, "I meant no offense. It's part of the work I do, I hadn't considered I might offend you." She suddenly felt very awkward and silly kneeling in front of him, as well as small and vulnerable. She moved back to the chair, retreating there as if it were the last bastion in a terrible siege.

He bent forward and began to wash himself, but the action caused him obvious pain, pulling as it did at his back, and he sat up, a look of surprise registering on his face before he fell backwards and passed out. She got up and slowly moved towards him. He was dusty and dirty, and couldn't be allowed to stay dirty. Nor should he remain lying on his back, but there was nothing she could do about that right now without help.

She considered for a moment washing him anyway, but decided that under the circumstances, the most courteous thing she could do was to allow him the freedom to do it the way he wanted to. Even if it meant pain, it was some degree of freedom, all she had the power to grant. The right to make a choice or a request and have it followed was a small thing in other circumstances, but a major thing under these.

Eventually, he came to, and she sat back and said nothing as he, with a pained grunt, picked the cloth back up and started washing himself again. She tried not to watch, but found herself repeatedly distracted from the novel she'd had brought. He really had an amazingly attractive body, powerful and muscular.

She kept her head down and managed to focus on her book for a bit while he washed his chest and arms, as they were somewhat out of her view. Then he undid his underclothing, and began to wash himself there. She did manage not to stare, but surreptitious glances showed her that his penis was the same dusky greenish-brown of the rest of his body, his scrotum lightly sprinkled with the same dark black hair as his topknot sported.

She tried to force her thoughts back to the vapid novel about some girl cleaning out chamber pots and fireplaces, but couldn't help but glance up again. This time, she realized his penis was becoming erect. She'd never actually seen a man's erection before, though due to her work she'd cleaned many men.

"Are you liking what you're seeing? Will all your little friends be properly impressed by your tales of seeing a real, live orc cock?" His deep, resonant voice was mocking, derisive, even cruel. She blushed furiously, both angry and him and ashamed of herself.

"I don't have any friends," she told him, coolly and slightly defensively.

"Well, I'm sure you won't be telling your lover, so you'll just have to keep our dirty little secret, won't you," he said, still derisive, still mocking.

"I don't have one of those, either," she said.

"That's no wonder," he said, "you could work a little harder on looking presentable."

A thousand comments paraded through her head, schoolmates, soldiers, and others. Mousy little Sophie with her head lost in a book. How pretty she might be, if only she changed everything about herself. A tear slid down her cheek and she turned away. Painful memories surfaced and she fought to control the misery that enveloped her. She wouldn't cry in front of this man, she wouldn't. Not more than she already had, anyway, damn it! While he replaced his underclothing, she fought a battle for self-control.

"I'm sorry. You've been very courteous to me, more than anyone has in a long time. That was unkind of me," the deep voice was now gentle, even kind. "I think you're actually quite pretty, it just seems as if you try very hard to hide it."

"I don't need lies, Dogal, please just leave me alone." She choked back a sob, trying to get herself under control.

"Come help me," he said, "I need to lie down again."

Grateful to be back on an even footing, back in the world of medicine where she knew what to do and how to do it, she got up and went towards him. Instead of even trying to lie down, however, he grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap. She felt his intrinsic power as he held her there, ignoring her feeble struggles. She was afraid to struggle too hard, anyway, for fear of furthering his injuries.

"I told you that I think you're quite pretty. It's quite rude to call someone a liar," he said, his gentle voice causing his chest to rumble against her shoulder. For some reason, this made her want to cry again, and suddenly she was cradled against a warm brown chest. This unexpected kindness, from the most unlikely of sources, released the floodgates for her. She nuzzled into his neck and wept freely. She wept mostly for the little Sophie that she'd never managed to leave behind; the little Sophie who had been so mocked and hurt.

A few moments later, she remembered that she was sitting in the lap of a very, very ill man who needed rest and recuperation. She sat up, still sniffling some, and kissed him on the cheek, his rough, unshaven beard brushing against her lips. His hide was as warm and soft here, as it was on his back.

He turned and looked at her as she pulled back, and she met his eyes with a quiet smile. "Thank you," she said softly, almost whispering. "You really should lie down," she told him, still staring into his eyes. She was reluctant to get up, he was warm, comfortable, comforting… and something else she couldn't quite place.

He nodded, and released her from the arm that held her close. When she stood up, he slowly and painfully laid down on his chest again. "You've pushed yourself too hard," she chided.

"Don't mother me, woman," he said, but this time his voice lacked conviction. No anger decorated the edges of it, if anything, he sounded almost resigned. She looked over his bindings again, and by the time she was done reassuring herself that the further bleeding he'd done was minor, and replaced a few strips of linen and poultice, he was fast asleep.

She sat down on the recliner, and realized that it was rather cold in the room. She sent for two blankets, but then four when the lightweight military issue blankets came, clearly not enough to ward off the chill. Then she asked for his clothing to be brought, and was rather haughtily informed that he was wearing all the clothing he ever wore. She asked if this was by his design, or theirs. The guard shrugged, as if the question were meaningless. He caught the eye of the other guard and they both snickered.

Drawing up to her full five feet, five inches, she told the page to get her father immediately. With a cold, distant look at the guard, she shut the door. Just as the heavy door shut, she caught another snicker, "Haughty little bitc—" When the door shut, she leaned against it with a sigh. Another thing she'd heard all her life. How she was arrogant, and selfish, and demanding.

She shook her head, trying to relinquish the cobwebs of past memories. She would have to confront her father again in a few moments, so she quickly returned the restraints to Dogal's arms and legs, apologizing to him softly as she did so, knowing that he couldn't hear her. He was too deeply asleep to hear much of anything. Moving quickly, she returned to her seat, knowing her father would doubtless simply open the door.

Thus, she was surprised when he knocked, and she opened it and went out into the hallway to speak with him.

"You can't seriously want clothing for him?" her father said, his voice acerbic and harsh.

"Of course I want clothing for him," she said. "Everyone should have clothing!"

"Animals don't wear clothing," her father snarled at her. "What he's wearing now is for your benefit, not his." By this time, her father was shouting, displeasure giving way to adamant rage.

Trembling, terrified, she yelled back, "He's not an animal, he's a person, and he needs clothes! It's cold in there!"

If anything, his voice got louder, he was practically spitting at this point, "He barely qualifies as an animal, girl, he's a vicious monster, and you would do well to remember it!" He turned and went back down the hall, turning only to say, "Blanket's more than he deserves, and it's all he'll get." His voice and face carried that finality that told her further discussion would only end with a beating, at best.

Turning back, she did her best to ignore the smug, amused looks on the guards' faces. Moving into the room, once more she laid her head back against the door, and for the second time that day, tears flowed down her face.

"Don't cry for me, little Sophie," the rich, warm voice flowed over her. "I've been here a long time, I know what they think of me and my people."

She shook her head, and came over to release him again. "It's not right," she said, shaking so badly with reaction that she could hardly undo his restraints. "I'm sorry we woke you," she said, a bit of an afterthought. "I wouldn't tie you back up, but—"

"Sophie, I understand. If they knew you were releasing me, they'd post guards inside instead of outside."

Somewhat relieved, she nodded. She unfolded two of the blankets, throwing them over him, "It will only get colder tonight," she told him at his lifted brow.

"Yes, I know. I'm quite accustomed to the nights here," he replied.

"Well, if I've managed to offend you again, I'll put them back," she said defensively.

He reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her down onto the bed to sit beside him as she had done when she cared for his back. "I'm not your father, Sophie. I'm not difficult to please. The blankets are fine. You're fine. Everything's fine." His brutish face was solemn as he looked at her from his prone position. He patted her on the leg, his large hand intensely warm through her robe. "It's late, go rest. Everything's fine, really."

She slept fitfully for part of the night, until cold drove her awake. Having finally had all she was willing to take of it, she replaced Dogal's chains and woke the page, ignoring the two sleeping guards. They were different guards now, but she had little doubt that they were no better than the previous pair. Her page, grumbling and sending her cross glances, scurried to get the cords of wood and the metal brazier she demanded. Inside this cold, damp place underground, it was simply too cold.

When several soldiers came with the brazier and armloads of wood, she had a small argument with them. She couldn't use a full-blown fire, and she knew it, but she explained that her father demanded the prisoner inside be cured, but she couldn't do so in such a cold and damp environment. Cold was bad for the body, she informed them, and damp was a breeding ground for bacteria. Of course, they didn't know what "bacteria" was, but once enlightened, they dropped off their burdens and left looking distinctly squeamish.

Satisfied, she went back into the room she now shared, for better or worse, with an orc. Freeing him once more from his shackles, she fell back to sleep.

When their food arrived the next morning, a soldier's plate for her, and a disgusting gruel for Dogal, she sent the man away with the gruel. "A body cannot thrive on anything less than a varied diet, and if he dies because you gave him gruel instead of proper food, I'm not to blame for whatever my father, Commander Jabe, may do to you." At this, the man soon returned with three more plates of soldiers' rations, just as she had demanded. Perhaps she was demanding after all, she thought sadly.

But she wasn't being entirely dishonest. The man needed real food to rebuild his body, and whatever that disgusting gruel was, wouldn't do it. As she returned to the room, she found that he still slept quite soundly. His stubble was longer now, on both his scalp and his jaw line. Somehow, it seemed to add an air of roughness to him that made her turn away. She knew intellectually that he had killed, that he was a soldier, that he was far more powerful than she.

Yet some part of her rejected the idea of him as a monster, even if he was a killer. Somehow, she could see the men outside the door torturing people for the fun of it, but not him. She intuitively knew that he would kill swiftly and as necessary. She looked at him again and realized that she could never imagine him doing to someone else what her people were doing to him. He had every reason to hate her, but he held her while she cried and reassured her.

Shaking her head, having no idea when he would awaken, she decided that she would wash herself. She warmed the water left over from last night that she'd never used, using the brazier to heat it. Checking that he was still asleep, she peeled off her robe and her underclothing. Working quickly, she cleaned her lower body, and pulled the robe up to her hips as well as putting on fresh panties from her pack. Then she quickly sponged off her upper body to the best of her ability.

Next, she pulled her hair free, letting it fall down to brush the slightly exposed rise of her butt. Flipping it over, she knelt and washed it in the bowl of water. Standing still bent forward, she wrung it out, using the towel to take out as much moisture as she could. Standing upright again, it tumbled, wet and cold, down her back.

However, the act of standing up again after so much time bent forward caused her to stagger as she got a head rush, blackness closing in on her for an instant. "Whoa, easy now." His voice, with that strange combination of autumn and spring, washed over her as gooseflesh rose on her arms where his hands gently grasped her to keep her from falling.

Startled, she whirled, nearly losing the robe in the process. Grabbing it with both hands, she pulled it back up to her waist, only to realize that her breasts were now hanging free and exposed. Gasping, she let go of the robe to cover her breasts, only to feel red flow across her face as the robe fell. Mortified, she tried to cover breasts with one arm, and panties with the other, only to succeed at neither. She opened her mouth to speak, and then clapped it shut again. "I'm sorry, I thought you were still asleep," she finally said, her voice sounding tinny and shrill to her.

"Why are you so distressed?" he asked, genuine confusion on his face. "Are you embarrassed by your body?"

"Well, yes," she said, "but we, I mean humans, we don't usually get naked in front of each other, unless..." her voice trailed off, and she swallowed.

"I thought you said that you wash your patients. Do you do that with all your patients, then?" His eyebrows had risen incredulously towards his hairline.

"Of course not," she yelped, "that would be totally inappropriate!"

"Well, it's okay for you to see them naked, but not for them to see you naked?"

She sighed. "It's not really like that. It's different."

He shrugged, and then winced slightly. He bent forward, and a thrill of fear went through her for an instant. The guard yesterday had said Dogal would rape her if he got free, and she had ignored the warning. Maybe she was wrong about him, and he intended to... He stood up then, pulling her robe upwards. His tusk brushed lightly against the outside of her thigh as he stood up, swaying slightly from his illness. Gooseflesh arose in the wake of that feather-light brush of tusk against her skin, and she shivered.

"I'll eat while you dress, you're still cold," he said, clearly misinterpreting the source of her response.

She nodded, and swallowed, looking away, trying not to expose her inappropriate feelings for her patient, as well as her body. He moved away and sat down slowly, obviously in more pain today than yesterday. She dressed quickly, and then began to prepare the elixir that she'd given him the day before. Handing it to him, she said simply, "Please drink this. It will help with the pain, and will help you to recover quickly."

He accepted it from her, and seemed to consider for a moment, then drank it. Looking at her wryly, he said, "I suspect it will make me sleep again, won't it?"

She nodded, "It's very helpful to sleep, Dogal, it enables the body to heal itself much more quickly." He nodded, saying nothing more. "I'd like to clean your wounds again." He laid down on the sparse bed facedown and waited for her to begin her work again. By the time she was finished, he was asleep again.

Sitting back into her chair, she pulled her hair forward over her shoulder, and, starting at the bottom, began to brush it. "I'm sor—" His words were interrupted by her startled jump, the brush nearly fleeing her hand as she bounced it a couple times before reclaiming it.

"I thought you were asleep!" she yelped, heart racing. She looked up at him and once more met brilliant green eyes nestled in skin slightly more green and dusty than fallen autumn leaves. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"

"I was just going to say, I'm very sorry about earlier. My people have no such taboos about seeing one another naked, even if we're not lovers. I didn't realize you would be so distressed." His voice flowed through her like molten chocolate, settling into places that hadn't felt quite so warm since she was a young, silly teenager experimenting with herself.

"I understand. I was surprised, I certainly could have handled it better."

"Perhaps," was all he said. Then, "What are you reading?"

"Oh," she told him, "totally boring stuff, really."

"You didn't look bored when I saw you reading it," he told her calmly.

"Well, I was reading some stories, but I gave up on them and went back to the Treatise on the Use of Fungi in Medicine," she said.

"Maybe, when you're done brushing your hair, you could read some of it to me?" he asked.

"Oh, I could if you like, but really, I would be happy to read some of the stories to you, I'm sure they would be far more entertaining," she replied.

"Actually, if I were on my own in the world, I'd certainly select the book you're now reading over the tall tales," he told her. "I think we share an interest in the area of health and treating unHealable illnesses."

She fought not to smile delightedly at him, and utterly failed. "Okay," was all she said, but she unwittingly hummed the rest of the time while she brushed her hair. When she was finished, she looked up to see him apparently asleep again. Softly, she whispered, "Are you awake?" Waiting a few moments, she accepted with a degree of disappointment that he had fallen asleep for real this time.

Her hair now properly replaced, she settled in and read without him. She wasn't sure how long she'd been reading before she heard him stirring and groaning slightly. She looked up and watched him wake.

"Is the pain severe?" She needed to know, so that if needed, she could increase the dosage.

"No, my body is stiff, I would exercise if I had room," he responded, and she realized that she had overlooked one of the essential ingredients in health care. Snapping her book shut, she stalked out of the room into the hallway.

Five minutes later, she was confronting her father again. This time, she held out against his shouting and yelling. This was absolute medical necessity, she told him, and wouldn't budge. Finally, amidst threats and strident rage, her father grudgingly agreed to allow Dogal a short walk in the courtyard each day, during sunny hours. He would not walk in the rain, else the dampness cause illness.

A few minutes later, a taciturn, cold-eyed troop of soldiers appeared, banging on the door. Coming into the room when she opened the door, they released Dogal's bindings (she was glad she'd remembered to replace them- only because he reminded her), and led them both out of the room. She hadn't asked to go, knowing that her father would deny her simply out of obstinacy, so she was delighted by the unexpected treat.

Thus she was surprised when she was told that her father said, since she was so determined he go outside and walk, she could damn well go with him. When they were released into the courtyard, the same guard pointed upwards, showing her and Dogal the archers that surrounded them on the walls.

Neither of them really cared. They walked in companionable silence in the crisp, cool sunshine of the spring morning. Neither of them said a word, not wanting to be overheard, but they walked together around the posts of the courtyard, Sophie wincing when she passed them, seeing dried blood on them and sprayed out across the ground from beatings and whippings.

Regardless of these things, however, she was somewhat disappointed when their allotted exercise time was over. Still silent, she and Dogal were escorted back to their room (that was how she thought of it now), where Dogal was once more bound before the men clomped out of the room.

Sitting in her chair, she looked up at him and smiled. She was pleased to see him smile back. It was a look that could have been easily misinterpreted, his lips curling up behind his tusks in what closely resembled a snarl. But the sparkle in his eyes, the crinkles at the corners, made it completely obvious to her that he was smiling just as broadly as she was. "That was very pleasant," she said. He nodded, his smile broadening.

Standing up, she released him again, and sat back down. "Shall I read now?" He nodded, and she went on to read to him for hours. He asked many questions, stopping her at unfamiliar medical words. At last, she sent her page to get her schoolbooks, and she began with the most basic of them. He still asked many questions, and both of them were deeply enthralled with the material.

"Ah, even when I was in schooling, no one else seemed quite as interested as I was, they all joked that I was so gung-ho that I would probably end up giving up magic for science." She chuckled. "I'm not sure they were entirely wrong, I probably would have.

"I'm really enjoying this, thank you."

He nodded at her, "I am, as well. I've always had an interest in this sort of thing. I've taken my share of ribbing about it, too, so I know what you mean." He yawned then, "I think I should sleep now." Almost immediately, he was asleep, and Sophie decided to wait a while before ordering their evening meal.

The next day, she sent her page for shaving equipment. When he brought it, however, a lieutenant was with him, who informed her that she couldn't have the strop and razor in the room without guards. A simple stool was brought at her request, and Dogal was released and brought into the hallway.

He sat on the stool patiently, with his hands chained to each other and then to his feet. Four guards stood around, with an archer up each direction of the hallway. Sophie ignored them as she began to apply shaving soap to Dogal's head, working up a solid lather. Then, stropping the razor a few times, she began to shave him.

She felt his proximity keenly, as if he radiated heat that brushed against her skin in slight prickles. She tried to be very careful as she shaved him, but found that there were times she had to lean against his shoulders, he nearly too broad for her to reach over. She shaved and then wiped him, feeling the softness of his hide with each gesture.

By the time she was done, she found she was vaguely disappointed. She had enjoyed the simple action of shaving him, and although she knew her father had meant forcing her to do it to be a punishment for requesting it… she found it to be more the opposite- a highlight in the day.

Dogal was then returned to his room and strapped onto the bed once more. The guards left, except the customary two, these the same arrogant, spiteful men she'd encountered the first day. She began to clean up the shaving mess, something not really within her page's job description.

The first guard, who had sneered at her the day before, unexpectedly said to her, "So how about a shave for me? You can sit on my lap to do it, though." He sniggered, and the other guard echoed his laughter.

Sophie blushed, and turned away from them, not in the least amused by their 'teasing.' It was, in fact, more like spiteful barbs than teasing, and despite what teachers had tried to tell her in the past, she knew well the difference. These two men were being nasty to her. She rushed to finish up her cleaning.

"Hey, boy," the first said, "why don't you go get some lunch for the lady and the orc. Maybe stop and have a bite or two yourself, too." The page ran off, ignoring her telling the soldiers that she hadn't ordered lunch and lunch was some hours away.

"We ain't gettin no lunch for you anyway, toots," said the first, "we gettin some lunch for us, ain't we, Merle?" She whirled to face them, finding Merle and the first far too close for comfort, and stalking slowly closer, sneers on their faces.

"My father will have you whipped if you so much as touch me," she said.

"Yer daddy hates you. If yer stupid enough to tell him, he'll just blame you," they laughed nastily, and Sophie realized with a sinking feeling that they were probably right.

And the worst part was that the only protection she might have had was actually Dogal, who lay strapped down still in the other room. She tried to gather magic to herself, and realized with a sinking feeling that there were wards against magic all over the tunnels and rooms here. She could have cleared the nearest one, but for the fact that they were too far up the wall. She considered for a moment throwing the water from the shave up onto the wall to rid herself of the sigil there, but they were now between her and it as she backed towards the guards at the entrance some ways up the hall. She passed the door to the room she shared with Dogal, now backing further up the hallway, and broke for it.

Merle and his buddy were a lot faster than she was. She wasn't really athletic, never had been. She was studious, and although she kept herself in decent physical shape, it was nothing like the soldiers' level of fitness. She was slammed hard against the wall as she was tackled, "Get her, Jim!" Merle laughed viciously.

She was thrown to the ground face first. Jim grabbed her arms and yanked them cruelly behind her back, and she started to scream. "That's right, doll, bring the other guys down to join in the fun," Jim laughed, and let go of her arms, only for Merle to grab them and yank them up over her head. Jim, kneeling between her legs, started shoving her skirt up over her legs as she fell silent, realizing that it was probably true that the other guards would just join in.

Fighting still, she pulled and kicked, trying to get into a position to bite Merle.

"Oh," Merle laughed, "she's a feisty one!"

Merle twisted her arms down, and sat on them, then Jim handed him a leg, and then the other one. Now Sophie's legs were in an agonizing position, yanked up towards her head, while she fought to get her arms out from under the plate and flesh bulk of Merle. Jim jerked her panties aside, and laughed again. "I'm gonna make you squeal like a stuck pig here in a second, girl." He pulled his codpiece aside, and undid the lace on his breeches. Pulling his penis out, he grinned at her, and she started shrieking again.

Just as he started to lean forward, bracing himself painfully against her leg, a startling 'bang!' resounded through the corridor. The door to her and Dogal's room suddenly slammed open, somewhat ajar from its hinges, the top hinge pulled almost entirely out of the wall. Dogal roared out of the room and down the hall. Jim was yanked off of her before he could even react, and thrown bodily, plate and all, against the wall.

Merle let go of her, rushing towards Dogal, who simply grabbed the much smaller man in what might otherwise have been considered a hug. Plate armor squealed and shifted as joints in the armor gave way, and it was Merle's turn to shriek as metal bit into skin. Dogal let Merle drop, and for just a moment, Sophie caught sight of his face.

What she saw chilled her. Dogal had a strange, almost joyous grimace on his face. Murderous glee seemed to tinge his green eyes with red. He seemed oblivious to her, his entire focus set on destroying these two men who had gained a full-blown hate from him. He grasped the faceplate on Jim's helm and jerked suddenly, sending Jim to the floor without his helmet.

Dogal's foot met Jim's face with a sickening sound, and blood erupted from Jim's ears. When Dogal pulled his foot away, Jim's face was no longer recognizable. It was a mass of bone, blood, and torn skin.

Merle, in the meantime, had tried to scramble away, but Dogal grabbed him by a foot and dragged him back. This time, he simply plucked Merle's own sword from the scabbard and buried it in Merle's chest. A gurgle was all he was capable of as Merle's life drained away.

Dogal, as if his energy was spent on the brief battle, collapsed on the floor. Ignoring the other two, and the blood that now painted the hallway, Sophie ran to him, her skirts dipping in the blood of the two men who had just tried to rape her. Dogal was alive, but unconscious. She hoped that the blood on his back was theirs, but she knew with a sinking feeling that it was his.

She realized that at the moment, all she cared about was the fact that this was a major setback in getting him healed.

It seemed like hours, but it was actually less than a minute before soldiers began pouring into the corridor. Her father came rushing with them. She tried to explain the situation, but was only berated for believing 'that monster' tried to save her. He was trying to escape, and probably just figured that the two soldiers would stop their fun and try to stop him. Or worse, he probably wanted to do the same himself.

Sophie didn't continue the argument. It was little different than she expected, but at least he didn't try to blame her own near-rape on her. Bitterly she thought it was a step in the right direction.

The cuffs that had been holding Dogal had held out when he'd jerked himself free, but the chains had snapped. As such, her father ordered new chains, much larger this time. They were too big, unfortunately, to fit the cuffs, so new ones were brought. These had locks on them, instead of simple buckles.

Sophie's father kept her out of the room when Dogal was taken back inside. He was brutally beaten while she was detained outside, tears running down her face unashamed. When her father came back out, she screamed at him that he'd broken his promise, and he told her that he hadn't broken any promises. He promised not to whip the orc, but never promised not to beat him. He wiped his bloody knuckles off in front of her, and then told her, "Tell him not to try to escape again. Next time it will be worse."

As Commander Jabe stalked off down the corridor, even the soldiers seemed uncommonly disquieted. The two new guards ignored her entirely, and she went back into the room to survey the damage. Livid, she saw Dogal bloody and bruised, one eye literally swollen shut already.

She slowly and with much effort managed to drag the recliner over near the door. Climbing onto it, she wiped the sigil there off, scrubbing until it came clean. Climbing down, she began to Heal him. The infection, she could only treat with medicine, but the beating? That, she could Heal. And Heal it, she did. Then, pulling a pin out of her hair, she unrepentantly picked the locks on his cuffs, letting them fall to the floor.

Dogal had regained consciousness by the time she was done. He sat up slowly, flexing his massive shoulders. "Sophie," he breathed, his voice surprised.

She nodded, "They've gotten you some bigger chains, and—"

"And beat me, yes, I know. You Healed me?" He sounded incredulous.

She nodded again. "Yes. I haven't needed to before now, but since he," her voice was full of rage as she even spoke indirectly of her father, "has made it necessary, I cleaned away the sigil that prevents magic."

"But those sigils are made in permanent ink, they can't be removed!" his voice was shocked. "They are renewed every month before they expire, but once there, cannot be removed."

"That's not really true," she said. "They do expire every month. But ink that cannot be washed away is very expensive. Once you convince someone that they're permanent, you can stop making them permanent, because people quit trying. Dad tried to do it to me when I was a kid, but I was too stubborn and kept trying. It really pissed him off. He told me it was because I was too stupid to learn anything."

His mouth was agape now as he stared at her. "Do you know what this means?" he asked, his voice incredulous. "With that knowledge alone, I could free my people!"

She stared at him in surprise. "Oh, Dogal! I can help! I can make darts with sleeping potion on them to help take out the guards. I know where the armory is, and once the wards are removed, the armor will be magic again, so it will fit—"

"Sophie, you can't help me. You can't help us, or you'll never be able to return here again. It's simply too dangerous." He was shaking his head as he spoke.

Sophie sat down beside him, and turned his face to hers, her hand lingering there for a moment. "Dogal, once you remove the sigils and wards, my father will know I gave the secret away. No matter what happens, I will have to flee."

He looked at her solemnly. "You're right. Sophie, I'm so sorry, I can't just ignore this, it's too—"

Sophie stopped him by touching his lips with her fingers. "No, Dogal, you can't ignore it. And every day of my life, I've ached for the orcs and what my father and these soldiers have done to generation after generation of your people." She let her hand slowly slide away from his lips, and he caught it in one of his. He held it gently against his chest, and she continued, "If there's something, anything, that I can do to help free your people, Dogal, even if it costs me my life—and it probably will—I would walk through fire to do it."

Still holding her hand against his chest, he pulled her head closer, and kissed her on the forehead. "I don't know how I could have expected anything else from you, sweet Sophie," he said, his voice thick with suppressed emotion. He moved back then, his eyes meeting hers as he pulled away from her.

Knowing the moment was totally inappropriate, and she no doubt sounded inane and childish, nevertheless, she said, "Your eyes are like spring, and your skin is like autumn. Such an odd and beautiful contrast."

"Sophie…" he said, his voice trailing off as he looked at her. "You shouldn't look at me like that."

She blushed and looked away, embarrassed. He lifted her face up again with a gentle hand under her chin. He studied her face for a few moments. When he spoke again, his voice was thick once more, his breathing deep and somewhat unsteady. "I like it altogether too much, and as my culture is different from yours, I may misinterpret it…" his voice once more dangled, leaving the unspoken question in the air, whispering between them like a secret.

She felt warm again, responding as much to the deepening of his voice and his breathing as to her own desires. "I don't think you are misinterpreting it, Dogal." She felt suddenly shy, awkward, out of her element. How did one say these things? How did one communicate something she didn't even understand herself? Well, outside of textbooks, that is.

She felt his fingers at the back of her neck, and then her hair tumbled free. He curled his fingers in it, and she felt his cheek against hers. His voice, so deep and warm, whispered into her ear, "Are you sure about this, my sweet Sophie? You were just nearly raped, perhaps you're just reacting to that." She shivered as his breath feathered past her ear, and closed her eyes for a second. She'd never been surer of anything—even if she wasn't sure what she was sure of, except that she felt more for this man than any person she'd ever known.

She pulled back, and looked him in the face. Uncurling her fingers and touching his chest with the hand he still held there, she ran the other one along his jaw line, and across his warm brown cheek. Then, she smiled as she ran a finger up the outline of one dark, pointed ear. She watched that finger for a moment before returning her eyes to his. She held his gaze captive for a few seconds, her finger still tracing his ear.

Then she said, very simply, very softly, "Yes, I'm sure."

He growled and pulled her onto his lap—well, onto one of his legs, really. One large, warm hand traced a gentle line up her far leg, while the other wrapped in her hair and pulled her lips to his. Despite the difference in the sizes of their mouths, she found the kiss to be incredibly exciting. His lips explored hers, and she fumbled in trying to figure out what to do in response, settling for licking his lips and then chasing her tongue across his when he slipped her mouth open and began to explore there.

She felt fires burning in her chest and the pit of her stomach. Hot, aching, delicious fires that his touch and his kiss stoked to blazing frenzy. Her heartbeat roared in her ears, and she wanted desperately to feel his warm hide against her skin. Standing up, she unlaced the dress, holding his green-eyed gaze with her own blue one. She let the robe drop this time, without concern. She felt the usual embarrassment over her body, but hoped he would forgive her for her imperfections.

He stood up then, moving her back a bit so he could rise to stand in front of her. He reached around her and helped unlace the back of the small bodice she wore under her clothing. Then he watched as she slipped her panties down past her hips, letting them fall. She reached out, shyly, trepidatiously, and unlaced his loincloth.

When it fell, she reached out to touch him, and he chuckled. "In a hurry, are you?" he said.

Startled, she yanked her hand back and looked up at him. "I'm sorry," she said, heat flooding her face.

"It's okay, Sophie, I'm pretty sure it's a compliment," he said with another chuckle. It was a soft sound, kind and warm. She reached out again and softly took his penis in her hand. If she had known more about the experience, she might have felt some concern, but as it was, only curiosity and a gentle sense of delight ran through her. He was hot here, she noticed, even more so than the rest of his very warm body. Even here, he had hide rather than skin, but it was clearly very sensitive, reacting to her touch with a slight bounce that made her giggle.

Not realizing how inane she sounded until after she said it, she told him, "It bounces!"

He laughed, his laugh tracing lines of fire up from her belly to her breasts, and back down again. That chocolate voice, the delicious laugh, they both made her insides heat with a fire of burning desire. She understood the concept of what her body was deliriously requiring of her, but not the practice.

She was curious and unsure as she explored him, and was unprepared for the sensations released when his hands stopped brushing her upper arms and one slid over to gently grasp her breast. His hand, large as it was, covered only slightly better than half of the chosen breast, but in contrast to the cool room, it was deliciously warm. She gasped and let her free hand reach up to cover his, pressing his hand more firmly against her.

He growled and stepped closer to her, his penis now pressing against her, leaving a small trail of precum as it slid up her belly. He kissed her, one hand tangled in her long hair, the other still kneading her breast. She felt suddenly primal, as if some forgotten instinct had arisen in her. Her hand slipped around his penis, dropping to cup his heavy scrotum. Her other hand left his, to lay against his chest while she tried to exchange her attention between the kiss and the feel of his hand on her breast, and the delightful treasures she was discovering between his legs.

At last, both of her hands slipped down to explore him, her disengaging from the kiss to watch them. The pale white of her hands on his penis fascinated her. The greenish-brown of his hide deepened there, veins standing up slightly under his hide. She continued to watch herself as one of her hands slipped upwards, caressing the silky hide on his penis. His sharp intake of breath drew her eyes up to him, and she found he was watching her again, as riveted to her as she was to exploring his penis.

She blushed, "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"

He shook his head, his topknot brushing back and forth and the tips of his pointed ears bobbing slightly. "Your touch is fantastic," he told her. "You are so gentle and sensual." She blushed again, this time with pleasure at his compliment.

"I don't know what to do," she said softly, her voice quavering, "but you're very beautiful."

His eyebrows rose, and he smiled, a wry but tender smile. "I don't think most people would describe me quite that way," he told her.

It was finally her turn to chuckle, and she told him archly, "I don't think most people would describe me as pretty, either."

He ran a finger gently down her cheek to her jaw. "You're wrong, Sophie. When you're not hiding behind a too-large robe and a hair bun, you're gorgeous." She suddenly felt even more shy and self-conscious, and buried her face in his chest. He pulled her snugly against him then, tenderly running his hands up and down her back.

A moment later, his hands slipped down to her butt, and pulled her firmly against him. His erect penis pressed against her, still leaking in preparation for being inside her. He gently turned her around so that she was facing the wall and moved her the few feet over to where she could reach it comfortably. She reached out to press her hands against it as he moved back a bit from her. Then when his hand gently slipped down between her legs, it was she who gasped this time.

She realized that she was incredibly aroused, the realization made very acute by the fact that his hand slipped freely up between her legs, lubricated as they were by her own liquid desire. He stepped closer to her, and she felt his penis pressing against her left butt cheek as he leaned forward over her to kiss softly across her back while his hand changed to slipping in front of her leg, and back down to her wet folds. His other hand pulled her hair out of the way of his questing kisses, and then slipped around her rib to cup a breast.

She couldn't help herself, she moaned as he stroked gently between the folds between her legs, and she felt herself trying to hump against his hand. She was almost panting now, her body afire with sensations and desires she didn't fully understand yet, but that held both delight and frustration.

His finger found her clitoris, and she moaned again, lost once more in that sea of delirious passion. She floated there, rocking and moaning as she bobbed on the waters of desire. His hand took her to places she'd never been able to take herself in her fumbling attempts to understand what was happening. She sighed and arched backwards, had she known it could be like this, she would never have given up so easily.

She felt an urgency starting to build up there as he slipped his finger up and down, stopping to flick at her clitoris sometimes, other times simply suggesting something to her that her body understood and her mind simply couldn't be bothered to think about at the moment. The pressure continued to build, until she realized that it felt a lot like needing to urinate. She felt somewhat uncomfortable and tried to hold it back, but his questing finger continued to slide and tease and caress until she couldn't hold back any longer.

With a startled cry, she felt liquid gush, running in a stream down her leg. The pressure had felt so much like a need to urinate that she was flooded with shame, nearly forgetting the delight of the sensation as it happened. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to, I couldn't help it!"

He pulled her up slightly so that she was standing, leaning back against his chest. She felt him breathing deeply, quickly. "No, baby, it's okay," he said, his chocolate voice hinting of truffles or maybe Saturday morning éclairs. "It's female ejaculation, sweetie, it's perfectly normal. In fact, it's more than normal, it's very, very sexy." He kissed a trail down her shoulder, then up to her neck, tusks tangling in her hair slightly.

He leaned forward, his upper arm now crossing to the opposite breast and pulling her tight against his chest. He nudged her leg with one of his so that she put it up on the arm of the recliner. Then his other hand slipped down and began to tease her again. She moaned, grabbing his hips with her hands, pressing alternately against his leg and his hand, her hips swaying to the rhythm of his teasing, questing finger.

When she felt the pressure building, her breathing speeding up again, she fought it again, but his voice reassured her, "Let it go, baby. I want to feel your cum on my hand. I want to feel how much you love my touch." She sighed and gave herself up to the sensation of his body against hers, his finger flickering against her clitoris, and the warm feeling that his words drew up in her. Her hips bucked again as she released another gush of fluid, and his voice rewarded her, growling low in her ear, "That's good, baby, that's very good."

Then she was gently pushed forward again, and she felt him withdraw from her. A sense of disappointment flooded her for just a moment—only as long as it took for him to position the head of his penis against the softness of her folds. She felt him slide a few times; missing the mark because she was excessively slippery with her own lubricant. Then, he began to slide into her, and she felt a deep delight as he did so.

Until it started to hurt. She shifted and pulled away, and he pushed again, once, briefly. Then he stopped altogether, and drew out of her. "Dear god, you're a virgin!" his voice was sharp, surprised, and vaguely unsure.

She stood up, looking over her shoulder at him with a frown. "I told you I have no lover."

"Well," he said, "yes, but you didn't tell me you never have!" He was frowning, his face looking suddenly bestial and harsh. "Why didn't you tell me that before we started?" He was clearly frustrated, even distressed.

"Is it important?" she asked.

Now he went from frowning to outright scowling. "Of course it's important," he snapped.


"Because it's your first time. This isn't right, it shouldn't be like this," he replied.

"What's not right about it?" She was puzzled by his attitude, and waited patiently for his response, as he seemed to think about it for a few seconds.

"I'm an orc!" he finally blurted out.

"So? That doesn't sound like a very logical reason why this isn't right to me," she said.

He turned her around and stood holding her, looking at her. Her legs were starting to tremble, and she ached for him to come back to the place he had so abruptly vacated. "Please," she said softly, looking up at him in mute appeal, not even sure exactly what she needed so badly from him.

He then turned her around again, and told her softly, his voice once again laden with desire instead of distress, "This is going to hurt, baby, no matter how I do it. I'm sorry I can't help that."

"I know," she told him, "I've read the books, I know what to expect."

He sighed, "It's not as simple as they make it sound, it really does hurt." She just nodded, what more could she say?

He gently slid back into her, and she felt the sensation of fullness again. He gripped her hips, drew out a bit, and suddenly thrust into her with a sharp, abrupt motion. She whimpered in pain, closing her eyes as the tearing pain stabbed through her. He stayed still for nearly a full minute, as the pain slowly subsided. "Okay, baby?" She nodded, though she still felt pain.

He began to slip in and out of her again, this time rocking slowly, with long and smooth motions. The pain faded further, and she began to notice a new sensation flow through her. It was completely unlike anything she'd ever felt before, and she began to press backwards, meeting his smooth forward strokes, the pain forgotten in the wake of feeling perfectly filled.

Apparently sensing that she was comfortable now, Dogal began to stroke more quickly inside of her. His hips slapped against hers as he dove into her, his penis slipping easily in and out of her now that the only resistance she would ever give him was gone. She reached down between her legs with one hand, cupping his scrotum each time he slapped against her, feeling it bumping deliciously against the folds of flesh at her crotch that were now swollen, engorged with blood and desire.

Soon, she felt him speed up, and though it was her first time, she realized he would soon orgasm. The thought filled her with a sudden surge of hot desire, and she began to move even faster, using her body to urge him, as he had in words earlier, to show her how much he loved the feel of her.

When he did finally pull her hard against him, his penis throbbing inside her, she felt herself go over the edge of a different sort of orgasm than the ones she'd had earlier. Her body jerked as he released inside of her, her mind and her body both quivering with new and savory feelings as her vaginal tunnel gripped and caressed his throbbing penis.

He leaned forward again as they both subsided, and once more rained kisses on her back. Now it was sweaty, despite the chill in the room, though, and she knew she was a complete mess. Blood, sweat, and various other bodily fluids in copious amounts on herself and the floor. She was glad that she'd left her robe near the bed.

He pulled her upright and ran his hands over her body again. She smiled and chuckled slightly. "Thank you, that was lovely," she said. He looked at her as she twisted slightly so she could look up at him.

He cupped her face, brushing his thumb across her cheek. "Yes, it was lovely. You're lovely." He turned her to face him and held her close against him.

They cleaned up then, quickly, Sophie shivering. She reached for her robe then, and he stopped her. He laid down on the bed, and held up the covers, "Lay with me tonight.

"Tomorrow, we'll figure out how we're going to liberate my clan from this place."

She woke to a weight pressing down against her waist and a strangely pleasing ache between her legs and in her belly. She started, her mind momentarily frightened before full wakefulness dawned. Then she remembered, she was in Dogal's arms, and she was no longer a virgin. She reached up to stroke his arm, enjoying the soft and warm feel of it. "Good morning, sweet Sophie," his voice strummed a chord in her belly that tugged all the way down to her legs and up to her breasts. Her nipples hardened and she felt heat and liquid flare between her legs.

"Hi," she said softly, rolling slightly in his arms so she could look up at him. He was grinning at her, clearly pleased about something. She couldn't help but grin back. "What?"

His hand slipped down to where her crotch lay nestled against his leg, "Didn't get enough of me last night, huh?" he was grinning openly now, his green eyes lighting up with pleased amusement.

She blushed, but held his gaze. "I'm not sure I'll ever get enough of you."

He pulled her head into his chest then, "Ah, Sophie, what are we going to do?"

She sighed and snuggled against him the best she could in the slightly awkward position they held due to him being on his side and her tucked into him. "I don't know. But what we have is enough for me, for now," she said. "We'll let the future take care of itself. We have priorities, and as strongly as I feel otherwise, I know that this is far down the list of them." She looked up at him, "We have to get you and your people out of here. And then we have to find a place where your children and elders will be safe."

She didn't have to say the rest, 'so that your fighters can go liberate the rest of your people.' They both knew that included him, but they neither spoke of it. There was no need, really.

She turned her mind back to the process of liberating the orcs. "I had wood delivered the other night. We can easily use it to form some darts. I will have several tinkered droppers delivered, and I'll just make the darts the right size for the dropper tubes. I can't make any poisons, because there are a very few people who would know what I was asking for, but a sleeping potion would seem perfectly appropriate. A body needs sleep to heal, so if I weren't making sleeping potions, they'd think I was incompetent.

"Then, to the matter of cleaning off the sigils, we'll need water, but we'll need to carry it in skins. I should be able to get some purified drinking water without raising any eyebrows. I'll simply order an extra skin each time…"

Her voice trailed off. "What?" He was looking at her with a strange look on his face.

"You almost sound like you've got this all planned out," he said.

She nodded. "When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about freeing the orcs from here. I would free the horses and stampede them. Then I'd sneak inside while the soldiers were all chasing the horses. One of the orcs would pick me up and put me on his shoulders and I'd clean off the sigils. I'd pick the locks on their chains, until they were all free. Then we'd go to the armory—"

"So that's why I'm not still shackled," he said.

"Yeah," she said with a slight giggle. "Dad doesn't know about that one! I learned that for that purpose. Of course, as I grew up, I realized I'd never get to use it for its intended purpose…well. That's what I thought, anyway. But it did come in useful for sneaking out. Dad locked me in every night, and I snuck out to the library and picked the locks there, too."

He was grinning again. "Who would have thought that the sweet, unassuming little Sophie was breaking and entering every night," and he laughed, that warm laugh that she'd come to love so much already.

She shrugged. "I think it would surprise you just how much naughty there is in 'sweet little Sophie'," she told him. "Dad hates me for a reason, and it's not because I was a particularly well-behaved child. I wasn't."

"According to him."

"Yes, according to him," she agreed. He kissed her on the head. Then his hand began slipping back along her thigh towards her crotch, and she stopped him. "I must replace that poultice. I was negligent not to do it last night, and it cannot wait for anything."

He sighed and nodded his agreement. "Any pain?" she asked him.

"Yes, some," he said, "in the middle of my back." She knew he admitted it only because it would help her to treat his infection. She got up, and let him roll over. "If you're going to do this, and don't want me overly distracted," he said, "perhaps you should put your robe back on."

She giggled slightly, "Good idea." She dressed quickly, but watched him watch her as she did so. She paid attention to every nuance of his look, hoping to be able to tell if anything she did particularly interested or aroused him. When she was done, she sat down beside him and started carefully peeling bandages back.

As she got started, she was pleased; it did seem to be getting much better. But as she progressed, she began to realize that the exertions of the day before had taken a far greater toll that she could have imagined. Two of the worst cuts had begun to seep. The only choice she had at this point was to scrape and cauterize them.

Those sleeping potions would have to be used first, for him. Her heart sank into her shoes at the notion, flopping on the floor like a fish out of water for a moment before zipping back up to lodge in her throat. "Dogal…"

He heard the distress in her voice, "What is it?"

"The exertion yesterday made your wounds deepen, and spread the infection deeper into them, as well. I am going to have to scrape them, sew them, and then cauterize the rest. It's going to be painful, during and after. Worse, most likely, than the beating itself was." She was in tears now, berating herself mentally for not checking the night before. Her voice was strained and agonized as she said, rhetorically, "How could I be so stupid!"

"Don't blame yourself, Sophie. You didn't try to rape yourself, others are responsible for that."

"But I should have checked! I saw you were bleeding again, I should have checked it!" She was choked up and torn up at this point, hating herself for overlooking the obvious. He had been bleeding because he'd torn the wounds deeper, not simply because scabs had broken, softened by the poultice.

"I think if you'd had any suspicions that this would have happened, you'd have put everything else aside and checked," he told her.

"Maybe," she said grudgingly, as it was true, "but I should have thought of it."

"I see that human women are no better at logic than are orc women," he said, perfectly serious. He watched her studiously as she gasped and then scowled.

He grinned then, "I'm joking! If I'm ever going to get a joke in without getting hit for it, it's got to be now while I'm weak and helpless as a newborn calf," he fluttered his eyes at her, trying to distort his bestial face into a semblance of coyness. When he waggled his eyebrows at her, too, she couldn't restrain herself any longer and started giggling at him.

"Stop that, you look absurd," she said, and he then attempted what must surely have been meant to be a pout, but which looked more like indigestion. She giggled uncontrollably for a bit, then when she got herself under control, she finally said, "You're the one who's terribly injured and chained to a bed in a prison camp… but here you are comforting me instead of me comforting you." By now she was serious and sad again, touched by the irony of it all.

"Sophie," he said, laying his hand on her knee, where it rested warm and heavy and comforting, "you were right in the beginning when you reminded me that we're both prisoners, really. Neither one of us is free. The bars of my prison are more tangible than yours, this much is true. But Sophie, you're just as much a prisoner as I am, and you have been all your life. It's a small wonder that you understand and identify so well with us."

She sat and pondered for a moment. "You're right, I know. Still, it seems ironic to me." He nodded, saying nothing more on the subject.

"I'm going to give you a sleeping draught. While you're asleep, I'll do the work I need to do. If you're awake, the pain will be significant." Her voice trailed off as he shook his head.

"You can't, Sophie," he told her. "If you use a sleeping potion, I'll lash out at you and injure you in my sleep. Awake, I have control, asleep, I don't."

"I can use the chains—"

"These can't hold me, either, Sophie. Family, clan… that's what keeps me here. Not doors and chains. Your people are not the only ones that can support false conceptions, Sophie. Your father and those soldiers believe chains and doors protect them, but really, the only thing that protects them is their power over our families." His gaze was direct, and she realized on an even greater scale the true extent of her father's brutality.

"I almost killed him once," she said softly, terrified to say the words out loud, but feeling compelled to. She was sitting up and away from him and whispering. At first she thought maybe he hadn't heard her—hoped it, too. Then she felt a reassuring squeeze on her leg, and went on, still speaking softly, as if saying it out loud would make it even more shameful. "He was drunk, and he had beaten me again. I got a knife when he passed out, and I… I tried. I wanted to. I almost did. But I was afraid of what would happen after.

"And now, I'm responsible for everything that has happened since, because I didn't have the courage to kill him." A tear made its way down her cheek, falling unnoticed to the front of her robe and trickling down to stop at her heart.

"You couldn't have killed him, Sophie. His control over you is too strong. Mental chains are more effective than any other kind. Metal chains scar the body, but mental chains scar the soul. This is why my people can kill without just acceptance, but with genuine pleasure. Our souls are scarred, not just our bodies," he said, his voice also soft and quiet, as if to speak too loudly would scare her as it might a tiny bunny, nibbling at the grass. "The fact that you considered it, that you went and got the knife, is a testament to your resilience and your courage, baby."

She cried for a bit longer then, holding his hand. She cried for every orc who had been beaten by her father, every orc child starved or beaten to control her family, every orc woman raped by the soldiers… the list of those she'd failed by being too weak to act seemed endless.

And now, she would have to add to the weight on her soul by bringing her lover terrible pain in order to heal his wounds. If only she had acted sooner. If only…

Shaking off the regrets, Sophie returned to the terrible business at hand. For a moment they discussed the best way to do it, and he told her to complete the process entirely in one go. Spreading it out over several, he pointed out, would only prolong it and give time for the infection to spread. Grudgingly, Sophie agreed. The thought of the pain she was about to cause him, even with the pain relieving draught she gave him, made her cringe in empathic sympathy.

But it had to be done, and so she did it, working with as much speed and efficiency as she could. Pulling the small brand out of the fire once she had scraped and stitched the deepest ones, she cauterized the less severe ones. The infection was now gone, technically, from his wounds, but now she would have to fight the blood infection she could see starting to spread from the deeper wounds.

She was deeply concerned about the blood infection, and gave him an antibiotic before giving him a double dose of sleeping potion. He was (for him) pale and drawn by the time she was done, but he held still and let her work. She sat beside his head until he went to sleep, softly humming and stroking his shaved scalp, or running her finger up and down the curve of his pointed ear.

Once he slept, she sent her page for some materials. When he returned, she removed a large sheet of parchment and began to draw a rough map of the compound, and the surrounding geography. It took her several hours, much of them spent on the floor, before she was done. At last, she tucked it away, hiding it in the crook of the recliner, so that even if the recliner were moved it was unlikely anyone would find it.

She sent out for food then, weary but pleased with her progress on the map. She was pleased that the scent of fresh cooked food roused him (and delighted she'd actually gotten it fresh for a change instead of cold), but concerned when he seemed lethargic and in obvious pain. The lethargy she would have left up to the sleeping potions not clearing his system yet, except that they had a powerful pain-relieving component, as well.

Thus she couldn't dismiss the possibility that he was getting sicker and weaker, not better. Something was terribly off about this infection, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Any normal infection should have responded well to her poultice. The only thing she could think of was that maybe his physiology was slightly different from hers. The question nagged at her, though, below the surface of her mind, as she began making darts with the file she'd requested so that she could file his fingernails, else they scratch her when she was caring for him.

Several hours later, she had a tiny, neat pile of darts, and Dogal was stirring again. He seemed a bit better this time, but still exhausted and pale. Demanding (heatedly, when he tried to claim he was fine) that he stay lying on the bed, she spread the map out. When she did, and he asked what it was, she was dumbfounded.

"It's this place, Dogal. See, the center here is the mess hall, and there's the armory. It's insane that it's in the same building with the prisoners, but this was supposed to be a barracks. The cells where your people are kept were meant to be—"

"My god, that's devious. They've got us believing we're hidden deep in the bowels of a massive complex, but it's tiny!" He was clearly excited. "They lead us down tunnels, with several turns. After a while, it gets disorienting, plus they carry torches so that you can't see the walls to notice any sort of repeating dirty spots or knots in the wood or the like.

"And more than that, I thought we were underground, but this shows that we're just dug into the ground like a basement." His voice was filled with revelation, surprise, anger, and a sort of savage glee. She understood, to some degree. His mind had just been freed, and it would never be the same for him again. He knew now, and nothing could undo that.

She waited while he absorbed the knowledge. Finally, after looking the map over, he said, "So what's the plan?"

Showing him on the map, she laid out the plan from start to finish. "I've replayed it in my head many times, Dogal, I'm certain it will work. Partly because it's unexpected. There's no way that you could know the armory is here. They never let the orcs pass it, it's a forbidden area."

She pointed to one section, "The women are kept here," she pointed again, "the children housed there," another section, "and the elderly here. The men are here," her finger jabbed again at the map, "but, we'll need to release the rogues, who are housed in this area, all together regardless of gender." She pointed to the correct location.

"Why do we need to release them first?" Dogal asked, his brow furrowing.

"My skills are enough to undo chains, but most of the locks here are beyond my skills by far, especially the armory. Once we get the men and women armed, then we have a very real chance of freeing the rest. If we close and lock all the doors behind us, we should be able to get everyone freed before they realize—" She stopped and waited, he was shaking his head.

"I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. It was this simple all along. I never had any idea, and here you've been plotting this for years." He seemed genuinely stunned, as if his mind simply couldn't take it all in.

"Well," she said, "that's because only part of your clan is here. The rest are being held in another of the internment camps, and…" she trailed off, he was staring open-mouthed at her.

His voice was low, shocked, and filled with joy, "They told us they were dead. They said we are all that's left!"

He started to stand and she yelped at him, "No!" She pushed him back down, and continued, "if we're going to do this, you have to regain your health, and we have to finish preparations! You can't run off right now, no matter how much you might want to!"

He subsided, and looked at her. He heaved a sigh, "You're right, you're right. We'll wait, and plan." He growled then, this time an angry, menacing sound. "But soon… soon, I will be free, and those who have oppressed us will die."

He ate then, with her help. He trembled slightly as he accepted a roll from her, and she felt her concern deepen. She finally allowed a thought she desperately wanted to avoid to sink into her. He could very well die. And if he did, with his death would come the end of the opportunity to free his people.

When he finished eating, drank the draught she offered, and went to sleep, she cleaned his back again. The work she'd done earlier had helped, but the blood infection, though no worse, was also no better. She worked late into the night that night, preparing darts and then a way to easily access them without pricking one's self. Finally, her hands cramped and sore, and exhaustion pulling at her, she gave up and went to sleep.

The next morning, she woke up to the sound of rain on the thatched roof. Blearily, she rubbed at her eyes, feeling like her hands were coated in sandpaper. She looked up to see Dogal watching her quietly. "I thought I'd let you sleep, but it seems nature has other ideas," he said. "I think we've missed breakfast."

"I'm so sorry, Dogal, I didn't mean to oversleep," she apologized.

"It's okay, I can see that you've been busy. What can I do to help?"

She shook her head, "There's nothing, Dogal. I'm almost done, and you have to get every bit of rest that you can. I'm going to require your strength for this. My work is now, yours is yet to come."

He nodded, and watched her as she went back to work, this time altering some children's toys. These she'd gotten because she was bored, she claimed. No one questioned it. After all, how much fun could it be, cooped up with an orc all day? She looked up at him and grinned as the thought fluttered through her mind. It had been the most fun she could remember having in her lifetime. When she died tomorrow, she would have this memory to hold onto. She sighed and went back to her work.

Part of her knew she was dragging it out as long as possible. Just a bit longer with the man she loved, and she could die in peace.

More hours passed, and her hands once more began to cramp. At last, she gave up; sitting still and quiet, with the only sound the rat-a-tat-tat of rain on the roof of the compound. She studied Dogal again while he slept, and felt a powerful, overwhelming love for him well up in her. She knew she loved him, and since tomorrow she knew she'd give her life for him, she was content to accept that knowledge.

But she was deeply saddened by the fact that he would probably not be long after her for the grave. His wounds were simply not responding to her efforts, if anything getting worse. She was fighting with every ounce of knowledge she had, but simply couldn't seem to get the wounds to respond properly.

As evening approached, she carefully checked and rechecked all of her supplies. Everything was in readiness for the next day. She ran the scene through her mind over and over again, trying to ensure that she'd covered everything. Satchels of water, darts, even fog potions, and the toys… all were prepared. The real advantage to the fog potions was that she could figure her way around in this place even in the dark. The structure was remarkably simple, but with the right kind of efforts, she could place impediments in the path of the soldiers to confuse them.

She dozed off and on, checking Dogal and worrying when he didn't awaken for lunch. She decided to let it go, and let him sleep. Finally, she woke him in the evening for dinner. He ate voraciously, and she was delighted to see that he at least had his appetite. Then he sat up on the bed, and she realized that another of his appetites had also returned… which called up a corresponding desire in her.

But of course, there was the little problem of how to go about it. There was simply no way she was going to allow him to lay on his back, or to stand up again. She got up and walked up to him, fearing that they might have to forgo this one final pleasure. The thought choked her up. There had to be a way that she could show him that she loved him, though she couldn't bring herself to say the words, else he admit that he didn't feel quite the same.

"You may be feeling better from your rest, Dogal, but I'm afraid that's an illusion. Your back is only getting worse. I don't think we should do this, as desperately as I want to." She felt a terrible sadness wash over her, but also felt a fierce joy that she'd gotten to hold him and love him at least once before the end.

She stepped close to him and pulled him against her, ignoring the tusk that pressed against her belly as he turned his head and let her embrace him as he sat up on the side of his bed. She touched every part of him that she could reach except his injured back, memorizing textures, lines, and even his scent, reminiscent of fresh plowed earth.

"Sophie," he said, "why are you sad?"

At his words, she started to cry. "I think you're going to die, Dogal. I've done everything I can, but you don't have much time left," she told him, choking on a sob.

He held her silently a moment longer, then sat her down on one of his legs. He pulled her against his chest, and they sat like that for some time. "I think you're right, Sophie. I know you've tried, and I understand. I'm sorry that it has to be like this."

They held each other, until Dogal began to tremble. Sophie stood up and made him lay down again. He nodded and did so, his weakness upsetting to both of them for different reasons. As he went to sleep again, Sophie sent her page to go get some more herbs. She had another plan. Knowing that Dogal was dying, there was only one way to preserve his strength long enough for them to help the rest of his clan to escape this terrible place.

Finally, when she got the herbs, she made a powerful potion that would quell his pain, and lend him strength. Afterwards, he would fall into a weak stupor, but she had enough to make three of them, and two should be plenty to do the job. If they failed, they wouldn't need the third one anyway, and if they escaped, the third might give him the ability to survive long enough to find a healer from his own people to help.

Sleeping then, she waited for dawn, dreaming of skin the color of autumn and eyes the color of fresh cut grass in spring. She woke often through the night; some deep part of her fearing each time that he would be dead. But each time, he was alive, though when morning dawned, she found his breathing shallow and hoarse. She sent for breakfast; a last meal for the walking dead, she thought.

When it came, she woke him up, and told him about the potion. Grimly, he nodded. It would have to be done.

Gathering up all the work she had done the last few days, she sent the page to find an herb that would be very difficult to locate, hoping he would be gone long enough for them to complete their work here. Then she turned back to Dogal, who now stood beside the bed that she hoped neither of them would see again. The potion she'd made had restored him, but he was still nothing near full strength. It would have to be enough.

She rushed to him, and they once more held each other, just for a moment. Then they looked at each other, kissed, and resolutely picked up the bags of items she'd prepared. She donned the belt of darts, hoping that her skill was still up to the job. Then Dogal moved away, and she looked into his eyes as she screamed.

The door slammed open, but the guards paused, not running in as they'd hoped. It didn't matter, though- Sophie was prepared. She blew hard on one pipe, missed, and then in rapid succession, switched out two more loaded pipes. The second dart landed on one guard, the other on the second guard even as he started to retreat.

Dogal dragged the guards inside as Sophie swiftly removed the dart that had missed from the wall and returned it to the makeshift sash that held the rest of the darts. It was still useable, and thus she refused to waste it. When Dogal came out, they shut the door and locked it. He picked her up and placed her on his shoulder. She scrubbed rapidly at the magic-suppressing sigil, and they began to make their way down the corridor towards the mess hall.

The advantage they had was that the corridor was very dark, with only sparse torches around the area. This, of course, made it almost impossible for Sophie to see… but once they were out of range of the torches and they no longer clouded his vision, Dogal could see reasonably well. His night vision was superior to hers by far, in fact that was one of the additional reasons the humans used torches when leading them through the tunnels—to blind the orcs' night vision.

Soon, they were at the next batch of guards. Sophie focused, but the first dart went whizzing down the hallway, to be lost somewhere down the way. She tried again, and the first guard toppled. The second guard foolishly headed their way, and Sophie dropped him as well. She felt a passing remorse that they would probably die regardless of the fact that it was just a sleeping potion—for now.

But she had no time for regrets now. The wheels were rolling, and she was committed, for better or worse, to freeing the orcs. She followed Dogal down the hall, and two more times, she put guards to sleep. Each time, she carefully wiped away the sigils, rushing as fast as she could while Dogal held her on his broad shoulder.

He never uttered a single complaint, but she felt him trembling slightly as he held her, and she knew that he was still terribly weakened. Her weight should have been absolutely nothing to him, and the fact that it was enough to make him tremble even with her potion worried her heavily. But there was nothing else she could do. He, like her, had to simply do his best and hope it was enough to free his people.

They moved quietly down the hall, and reached the end of the second corridor. Just as Dogal started to look around the corner, two guards walked around it. What Sophie had thought was a stationary torch had been them pausing for a moment, she didn't know why. But as they moved again and turned the corner, the four stared at each other in surprise.

Dogal was the first to act, grabbing the nearest man by his breastplate and slamming him into his counterpart. The two men fell against each other with the sound of grinding metal. Sophie winced at the crash, but knew there was nothing to be done for it but try to take them out with brute strength.

She took one of the tubes out, and watched for an opening. When it came, she downed one of the guards even as they were disentangling from each other. The other guard turned to flee, and Dogal simply yanked the helm off of the sleeping guard and flung it, full force, at the feet of the fleeing man. Sophie blew another dart, and this man followed the other into slumber.

Silence fell, and in the ringing and dark silence, Sophie could hear her heart beating frantically. She tried to slow her hoarse breathing, as well, following when Dogal waved her around the corner. When they reached the rogues' cellblock, she realized that she'd overlooked one part of the whole process. She couldn't see what she was doing, and fumbled for terrifying minutes picking the lock.

At last, guided only by feel, she managed to unlock the ancient mechanism, and wiped the sigil off from over the door. They slipped inside, to be met with low, rumbling growls from the three men and one woman there. "What do you want, woman?" one of them snapped at her, until Dogal entered behind her.

"Dogal!" they said, as one, their voices filled with surprise and the joy one feels on seeing a dead friend suddenly alive before your shocked eyes.

"Shh," Sophie hissed, "we must hurry, we're getting you out of here!"

The woman hissed back at her, "Why should we trust you?"

Sophie looked at her, "I never really thought about that, and I don't have time to explain myself. Dogal trusts me. Can you trust him and his judgment?"

The woman stared at her a moment, then shrugged. "What have I got to lose?"

"You could die trying to escape. So I would say 'everything'," Sophie said seriously.

The orc woman nodded. "You're right. I'll take my chances."

Sophie wiped the sigils off of the other woman's cuffs, and picked one, once more wasting precious moments in the darkness. The woman simply took them away from her unceremoniously once she had finished it. "You're too slow." She picked the other one while Sophie went to the first man and cleaned his sigils. Soon they were all free.

"Norga, can you pick the lock on the Armory? You're the most skilled, aren't you?" Dogal asked.

Her low, but still feminine voice answered, "I don't know. We'll have to go check."

They moved down the hallway, and soon reached the two guards in front of the armory. Sophie once more missed on her first try, and Norga hissed at her, low and quiet, "Are you utterly incompetent? Can you do nothing right?"

"I got us this far, didn't I?" Sophie said, trying to keep the outrage out of her voice. She couldn't make out any more than the silhouettes of the people with her, but she saw the other woman's head dip.

"True, you have. Borgat there is best with distance weapons, perhaps let him give it a try?" Her voice had eased, as if Sophie had passed some sort of test.

Borgat accepted the belt as she passed it over, but then started to raise the first tube to his lips. Sophie grabbed his arm, pulling it back down, gaining herself a growl. "Breathe in first, then put it to your lips, or you'll suck in the dart!" she hissed at him. She saw him nod, and this time he did it correctly. The first dart, like hers, whizzed down the hallway.

But the second, and the third, fired in far more rapid succession than she could manage, landed true. Slowly, as if afraid that rushing might keep them from their goal, they moved down the hallway. When they arrived, Dogal once more lifted her up to clean off the sigils. This time, there were three, and she scrubbed madly, knowing that for sure two of them were either alarms or booby traps. She could only hope that there were none inside. Her father usually wasn't that thorough, plus he was cheap. His superiors might have done a better job, though.

She held her breath, letting it out only when the door squeaked slightly as it opened. Swiftly, the orcs dressed, finding gear that was acceptable for their capabilities—and needs. Dogal, with the others, donned mail armor, and Sophie found it strange to see him clothed. He considered spaulders briefly, but even the leather ones had sharp studs in them. Sophie would need a place to sit, and thus he couldn't use any of them.

He struggled painfully with the mail tunic, even with Sophie's help. Norga soon came over and helped. Within moments, he was ready, and they went on their way. Sophie followed close on the heels of Norga and Borgat, with the other rogue and Dogal coming up behind them. Sophie directed the way they went, until they arrived at the men's quarters. Norga made short work of that lock, as well.

Once more, Sophie cleaned off the sigils on the door. They slipped inside. A good twenty men lined the walls, sitting on the floor, to a man. Each was chained by their legs and wrists. As soon the small group slipped inside the door, the second one on the right lunged at Sophie. "Get out of here, human!" he snarled, his bestial face a mask of hate and rage.

Dogal, despite his weakness and injury, was in front of her before the other man could reach her. The two clashed, mail on bare hide. "Back off, Forgore," Dogal said. "She's helping us escape."

"Why would a human help us? She's leading you into a trap, you always were soft on the humans!" Forgore was snarling, his eyes fixed in the gloom on Sophie.

"You afraid of a trap, Forgore?" Dogal asked.

The other man subsided then, and waited while the rogues released the prisoners' bonds. When they reached him, he stepped up to Dogal again. The men faced each other, inches apart. "If she betrays us, I'll kill her."

"No. If she betrays us, I'll kill her myself," Dogal said. "But she won't."

Forgore looked at him for a few minutes, and then gave one curt nod. "Let's go, then," he said, now staring directly at her, warning clear in the look on his face.

They made their way from there back to the armory without mishap. Finally, they were able to move on to the women's quarters. There, Sophie waited outside with Dogal and a few others while Norga, Borgat, and a few others went inside to release the chains. Dogal sank the floor, and Sophie scrambled over to him, pushing even Forgore out of the way.

"Here, drink another, quick," she said, handing him the second potion. She was terrified; the first potion hadn't lasted nearly long enough.

"What're you doing, woman?" Forgore snapped, grabbing the flask out of her hand.

Infuriated, she snatched it back from him. She felt the orcs closing in on her, but held her ground. "He's weak, he needs this potion to get out of the compound. He was whipped brutally, and his wounds are infected. He's dying. This is the only way he's going to make it through this."

Dogal took the potion from her and downed it in two gulps. The orcs backed away slightly, and she waited desperately for it to kick in again. Finally, as women began pouring out of the room, their smaller tusks showing slightly white in the sparse light of the corridor, Dogal struggled to his feet.

This time, they moved fast, returning to the armory. The women dressed much more quickly than the men had, though there were maybe four or five more of them. Now louder, they tried to move as quietly as they could, heading first for the elders, who would at least know enough to keep quiet. Last would come the children, who would be attended, so it would be harder.

When they reached the place where the elders were being held, Sophie looked at Dogal, and knew he shouldn't be lifting her. Just as she was considering whom to ask, she felt herself lifted abruptly, and plopped onto a plate-clad shoulder. Fortunately, it was sans pauldrons. It was, surprisingly, Forgore who held her steady while she wiped away the sigil. When he sat her down, she nodded.

Soon, elderly orcs, men and women both joined them. Most of them weren't very old, only one man amongst them. He was frail by orc standards, and he had to be carried, his legs missing from mid-thigh down. One of the warriors picked him up and carried him without complaint, ignoring his hissing reprimands to leave him behind because he would slow down their escape.

Finally, the warrior grunted, "Shut up before I shut you up myself, old man."

Scowling, the elderly orc slapped the younger upside his head. "Don't you talk to me like that, boy!" he snapped. But Sophie noticed he fell silent after that. They picked up the children, and then per Sophie's plan, returned to the armory one more time. There, she picked up a shotgun, and began to lead the way.

About that time, earlier than she had hoped, they were intercepted. The changing of the guard came at the wrong time in her plan, thanks to her taking so long to unlock the doors and shackles. The guards didn't get very far, with a now fully geared party of orcs facing them, but they did take the time (unfortunately) to raise a cry of alarm.

Sophie shrugged. It wasn't how she planned it, but they could still make it. She handed Norga the fog potions and the modified firecrackers. Telling her how to use them, Sophie led the way to the horse corral. Moving up the ramp, she blinked in near pain as her eyes adjusted. She'd been in the dark so long she'd nearly forgotten it wasn't even noon yet.

Here was the biggest fear she'd had. The moment of real confrontation would be here. There were always soldiers around the horses, and as she emerged into the light, she saw that it was little different today. But it almost seemed as if the orcs behind her had been hoping for this.

Every orc behind her of able body rushed past her, children too. The fighters, men and women both, roared into the training field surrounding the corral, spilling like water from a too-tight faucet. Sophie's eyes followed Dogal, and she saw him engage a paladin. The paladin's swing missed the first time, and Dogal's newly acquired mace struck true, ringing off of the plate helm of the paladin.

Their weapons locked for an instant, and the paladin's shield contacted Dogal's head with a sick sound that echoed across the field above the other sounds of heated battle around them. Sophie, infuriated in spite of herself, Healed Dogal as she saw him stagger. He immediately rallied, and she felt through their attunement that he was back up to as healthy as he was before the blow. Meaning, still dying, but not as fast.

Dogal roared, "Honor and Glory!" and the other orcs echoed it. Orc roars erupted as they sensed freedom and indulged once more in their nearly forgotten blood lust.

Sophie saw another orc fall to one knee, and without thought, Healed him, as well. She saw children throwing stones, even the little ones recognizing the importance of the moment. Another orc, this one with three soldiers on him, staggered. Sophie Healed him, realizing it was Forgore. He surged to his feet and roared, then he laughed. "For freedom!" he bellowed, and the other orcs answered, rallying together.

Shortly, the tide turned, and the orcs had overwhelmed the humans. Now it was simply a question of finishing off the few who remained. Sophie ran to plant more of the firecrackers, and then asked two of the larger orcs to push down several of the boards around the corral. They fell to their job with clear relish, blood still fresh on their hands. Then, Sophie gathered all the orcs up, and had them create what amounted to a new fence. Then she spooked the horses.

The horses ran straight back into the firecrackers Sophie had modified to explode when stepped on. Immediately, they turned and stampeded out of the corral… and directly into the compound, directed by the orcs to head that way. Once inside, they stepped on vials of fog potion and more firecrackers. Roaring through the passageways, they screamed out their fear, running over anything and anyone that got in their way.

Bending down, she quickly spread straw in front of the door, preparing it properly for what was to come. Then when she was done, she followed the horses inside and shut the door. With a couple of the orcs helping, she spread the straw tight against the corridor walls, all the way to the front door, which was the exit they took.

There, Sophie drew up short. "Well, well, well, how very inconvenient of you," her father said.

Sophie drew up the shotgun and pointed it at him. She noticed he was standing under a sigil, and that his armor wouldn't withstand the blast. He laughed at her, and she knew why. She could barely hold the thing up. She dropped it and it fired, the shot going harmlessly off to his left by a wide margin.

"You couldn't kill me anyway, Sophie. You're weak and incompetent, always have been. I know you tried once, but you couldn't do it, because you haven't got what it takes.

"That's what made you so perfect for this. I intended you to fail at healing him. Then the orcs would revolt, and we could finally kill them all. But it happened too early, they were supposed to revolt after you failed at healing him. By that time, the reinforcements would have arrived. Since I sent you in to heal him, I could have shown that I did my best, but they still revolted.

"I had no idea you would help them. I should have known, though, shouldn't I. You with your bleeding heart, and a poor, dying orc. How could you do anything besides try to rescue him?

"Well, don't worry, sugar-pie, we're going to follow them, and slaughter them all. Then we're going to every other encampment, and rid the world of these vermin once and for all." He sneered at her, a triumphant look on his face.

Looking up at the sigil, Sophie considered for a moment, and then killed her father. Four brilliant flashes of Penance, and he died, a disbelieving look on his face. Standing under that sigil, he just as well have been naked, and Sophie knew it. She knew all the sigils they used, and that one didn't preclude her from casting on him, only suppressed all magic near it. Once into the area around it, her spell would be rendered useless, if she had used something that had to do its work over time.

But as it was, it made him weak enough for her to kill in four short, powerful bursts of magic that could do their work before dissipating.

Silence fell, and she felt a tear slide down her cheek. But she didn't pause past the moment he died, his corpse smelling of singed hair, burnt skin, and melted metal. Rushing up the ramp, she said, "This is the most dangerous spot, right here. They can follow us from here; they all have to pass through the compound. I'm going to stay here and hold them off." She picked up the shotgun again and toted it up the ramp. She laid it across the top of the bunker that marked the ramp. "GO!" she yelled at them.

They all stood there silently staring at her. "Lady," the elderly man said, "you can't even stay standing up using that thing. What good do you think you're going to be able to do?"

Her eyes snapped as she told him, "I can hold them off with magic. When that runs out, I'll use this! It'll give you a running start."

The old man shook his head. "No, I'll stay, you'll go."

A chorus of objections arose, broken for a moment as a soldier, coughing, staggered out of the compound. He died immediately, surrounded as he was by angry orcs.

The old man said then, "I'll stay. I'm a hunter; I can use that shotgun all day long and never tire. If I go with you, I'll just slow you down. This way, I'll die an honorable death. This way, I'll contribute something, and I won't die a doddering old fool. I don't need my legs to shoot a gun, and this is my chance to atone for letting my family be taken."

The orcs all nodded, and the warrior carrying him deposited him beside Sophie. The old man grabbed the gun from her, and echoed her earlier shout, his lips curling into a fearsome smile, "GO!"

Sophie shook her head, "No! I will stay, I'm human- I'll slow them down even more than you!"

She was grabbed unceremoniously by the same warrior who had been carrying the old man, and was thrown over his shoulder. The orcs walked away, the sound of gunshots echoing behind them. "Don't argue," the warrior said, "it's our way. We don't expect you to understand it, but you have to honor it." Then the orcs picked up speed, traveling away from the compound and into the heart of the Alterac Mountains.

Dogal and Sophie walked together, Sophie stealing repeated glances at him to watch for excessive weariness. She knew instinctively that even though it was pointless, he would want the final vial at the right time, so that he could go as far as possible with his people. He would die regardless, but he would go as far as he could, and she was determined to stay with him to the end.

She expected to be dead by now, so she felt oddly out of her element. She hadn't planned past the point of escape as far as herself. She'd meant to hold off the soldiers until… well… until that. A massive 'BOOM!' reverberated behind them, the orcs slowing to glance back. Forgore looked at her.

"Your work, I assume?" he asked.

She nodded. "I buried charges in that straw. It wasn't much, really, but when they came out and stepped on it, it started a chain reaction with the fog potions."

Another sudden, massive 'BOOM!' sounded from behind them, followed by several smaller detonations. She blinked and shrugged, "I don't know. Maybe explosives in the armory?" If that were the case, she wasn't privy to that information.

It seemed that everyone else was looking to Forgore for direction, so she told him, "I have a map, and some information. It's the best I have to offer as far as where you should go."

He looked at her, his bestial face inscrutable. "You're not going with us, then?"

She shook her head. "I'll stay with Dogal. He'll be able to go on a bit further with the last potion, but then he'll become catatonic for several hours. I'll care for him during that time, until he…" her voice choked up and she couldn't speak further, as if to say the words would cement them into reality. To her surprise, the big orc laid his hand on her shoulder and nodded.

"I understand," was all he said. She nodded, fighting tears.

"This map shows where orcs were last spotted. I think this is why my… why… why he," she stressed the 'he,' letting her anger speak his name in its own way, "wanted you to revolt. Technically, this camp doesn't exist. It's been expunged from the records for years. So if orcs are in the area, they wouldn't want them to find you."

He nodded and accepted the map, "This alone is priceless. We are completely out of our element here." She handed him the compass, then, and tentatively asked if he could use it. He shook his head, he was young, and had been in the internment camp almost his entire life. Such ordinary things were not within his ability.

She explained as they walked, orcs crowding closer to hear and learn. She explained the legends on the maps, and showed them the red circle where the orc camp might possibly be.

Then she was caught up by Dogal staggering. She quickly urged the potion into his hand, watching closely as he drank it. He was pallid, his normally powerful gait slow and shuffling, even after the potion took hold. She walked beside him and held onto his hand, desperate for these last few hours with him.

The group traveled for several more hours before the trek began to take its toll on Sophie. Her eyes were bleary, her back, her legs, and her feet ached abominably. She was staggering every few steps, so often in fact that she had abandoned Dogal's hand in fear she would worry him—or worse, topple him over.

She was watching the ground now, the snow dragging heavily at her hips and legs as she slogged through it in the wake of the orcs. For their part, the able-bodied adults were taking turns breaking the snow, and the rest were following after. It was slow going, and treacherous as much for the cold as for the dangers that might lurk under the snow.

But as she slogged onwards, she saw that they were approaching the ruins of the City of Alterac. It had been abandoned years ago, and she had hoped that they could make it by nightfall. It was a few hours before nightfall, but the bitter cold was starting to take its toll already on the children and the elders. And on Sophie.

In fact, although she could see the ruins looming in the distance, she began to realize that she wouldn't make it. She was falling now, and she could see the orcs slowly pulling away from her. She and Dogal were now at the rear of the group of children, with only the rearguard further back than them. Dogal was actually, to her surprise, better off than her. His larger frame continued to plow through the snow as he doggedly pushed forward, seeming intent upon seeing the group to the ruins at least.

Finally, Sophie succumbed to the inevitable. She fell, and struggled to get up. Her legs, worked to exhaustion and too cold to get the communication from her nerves any longer, would not bear her weight. She flopped for a few moments, helpless in the churned snow. Her tears froze on her face, as she told Dogal to go on.

Suddenly, without warning, she was scooped up from behind. She looked up to see, to her surprise, that it was Norga who held her. The orc woman nodded at her, then kept going, no more slowed by the slight human's weight than any of the men would have been. Sophie protested, but Norga simply ignored her demands to be left behind.

Time passed, and Sophie dozed, blinking in and out of consciousness like a colt running in and out of his stall, cavorting in the sunshine and the shadow. Dogal was there each time, until the last. Sophie shrieked when she awoke and he wasn't there, her mind swimming with the terrible realization that she had let him die alone, or at least without her with him.

A few minutes later, she realized that she wasn't alone, and that he was there, after all. She was now lying on the cold stone of a part of the ruins of Alterac City. A fire burned nearby, and the building, mostly intact except for parts of the roof, was packed with orcs. She calmed down as she noticed them all staring at her in shock.

The building was warm, so she knew that the fire had been blazing for a long time. She was glad she had prepared for it, but regretted that she hadn't been awake to tell them and to help prepare it. Soon, though, her thoughts wandered away from that as she was handed some meat. It was singed slightly and cold, but it was food.

"Sophie," Norga said, her voice low with concern. Sophie looked up at her, and saw what could only be sadness on the woman's face. "We must move on tomorrow. Neither you nor Dogal are fit to travel."

Sophie nodded. "Neither of us expected to survive past the escape," she said honestly. "You cannot stay, it's too dangerous. You must go on and find the others of your people, if they are truly here, as the reports indicate. Otherwise, you must find them, and I don't know where you would go to do that."

Norga nodded. "You've done enough, Sophie. You and Dogal will be remembered for all time by our clan. Both of you have done more than could ever be asked of you."

Sophie nodded, and when she finished eating the meat that someone had obviously killed and skinned and cooked, she laid back down on the cold floor. The last thought she had, as she slipped into sleep, was to wonder what Norga meant by her not being fit to travel. But she couldn't seem to find her way back to wakefulness to ask.

The next time that Sophie woke, there was sunlight streaming into the room. It was warm, and it was springtime. The scent of fresh turned earth hung in the air, sweet and heady. The strong scent was sweetened by the smell of flowers, an underlying current to the scent of earth. She thought she must be dead, and she was glad. Mainly because now she knew death wasn't so bad.

"Hello, little human," a voice said. She looked to her left and saw an elemental being. Stone and earth tumbled dizzyingly around, and she realized he was emanating the scent she was appreciating, as well as the light.

"Hello," she said, not sure how a dead person greets an elemental, or why he was there.

"You have done a good thing, Sophie. We have come to aid the one whose life you seek to save. He lies near death. He has been cursed, this is why you could not heal him." The elemental changed then, form shimmering into that of a blazing fire elemental, her body wreathed in flames. She shimmered and danced, her perfect body arching and swaying to the music of crackling flame. The air smelled sharp now, sulphuric.

When she spoke, she continued as if nothing had changed, as if she were simply completing his statement. "We will cure him of this curse. Then you must complete your work." Now the form shifted again, a warm breeze dancing in a whirlwind. The new voice seemed neither male nor female, but breathless and airy.

"We have visited the one destined to be the leader of his people. They have returned to the old ways." Another alteration, magic energies blossoming, swirling, dancing. A scent like burning metal and a strange electricity flickering along her skin, the presence of arcane power making itself felt.

"They must be preserved." A shift, salt water brine, an unfamiliar scent to Sophie, yet she knew it.

"You will assist him. He will learn." Another shift, back to earth.

The elements began to shift in and out, speaking continuously as if of one voice. Earth, "He will teach."

Fire, "Mentor."

Water, "Student."

Wild, "Master."

Then they were gone, their collective voice trailing off with, "Preserve."

Darkness returned, and she shivered until sleep claimed her again.

It was dark and cold, but peaceful. So very peaceful. She was floating on the ocean. She'd never been to the ocean, but she was sure that if she had been, it would have been like this. Well, maybe warmer.

She drifted, sliding towards the sun, where it was warm. She felt so peaceful, that she just wanted to drift closer and closer to the sun. She sought the warmth, letting go of everything else. No more worry, no more fear. Peace beckoned and she yearned for it.

Even Dogal was there. She heard his warm voice, it was in the sun. All she had to do was let go, and she would be with him. He was calling her, calling her home to him, "Sophie!"

So beautiful. So rich, his voice, so pure and beautiful, "Sophie!"

He was starting to panic, she could tell, afraid that she wouldn't make it to the sun to be with him forever, "Sophie!"

"Sophie, baby, wake up!" A ripple across the water, a splash of cold that didn't belong in this peaceful place. A pain rising in her legs, tingling through her toes. "Sophie! Sophie, you have to wake up!"

She didn't want to wake up. She didn't want to be cold. She wanted to join Dogal in the sun, and sleep forever in his arms.

"Sophie!" She lurched awake as his palm connected with her face. She gasped, her body suddenly shrieking in intense pain.

She tried to sit up, but found herself entangled in blankets. In blankets, and warm greenish-brown skin. "Dogal! You're alive!"

He gasped, his voice nearly a sob, "Oh, Sophie, baby, you're awake!"

"Yes." She looked at him, curious at why he was behaving the way he was. It was he who was dying, not her. "How are you feeling?"

He blinked at her, then threw his head back and laughed as he tugged her more tightly against him. "Leave it to you to ask that when you're so sick," he said.

"I'm not sick, just tired, too much walking," she said.

He shook his head. "You're sick, Sophie, very sick. If you hadn't enchanted the fire, we'd both be dead. It's evening again already. The enchantment is waning now, though, so I'm going to build it back up. They left us some wood," he indicated a pile near the doorway.

"No!" she nearly screeched. "You stay here, I'll build the fire."

Slowly, painfully, she left her warm spot curled in his arms near the fire (she couldn't remember how she got there), and rebuilt the fire before it could go out. She noticed that the wood smelled strongly of freshly turned earth and slightly of flowers. She wrinkled her forehead in thought.

Still barely able to walk, so sore from the day of walking into and then through the heavy snows that she could only move slowly and stiffly, she dragged her pack over to him. The others she had sent with the orcs, filled with supplies for their journey.

"Let me see," she said, indicating he should roll onto his belly. He did so, wincing. She peeled the bandages back. The blood infection was entirely gone. The other infection remained, but seemed improved. She was astounded, and for a moment considered telling him of her vision and the scents she remembered.

Then she shook her head. If someone told her that, she knew what she'd think. Someone was more than a tad delirious, mmm? She sighed and began to apply fresh poultice from the container she'd brought with her. "So, how do you feel?"

He pondered for a few moments before answering. "I feel better. I feel alive."

She nodded. She finally felt her power reserves slowly returning, as if the trek and her exhaustion had drained it. She cast a Heal on herself and one on Dogal. She felt much better afterwards, but still exhausted and in pain. What could be Healed, had been, she knew. The rest would require rest and normal measures.

Getting up slowly, she began to mark sigils along the inside of the building, along the floor. Dogal watched her as she marked the sigils, then laid pieces of the wood over them, until this odd arrangement circled the room. "What are you doing?" he wanted to know, his face curious as he absent-mindedly ran a finger up and down one tusk, as if feeling the pockmarks on it.

"They may find us here. This will give me a fighting chance. They won't be able to enter without compromising their magical armor. They won't be able to cast into this circle. I can cast out, though.

"Not, of course, that it will make a lot of difference. But I'm going to try, anyway." He nodded. She knew that, of anyone, the orcs (especially this one) would understand. No matter the odds, you have to try. If you're going to die, and they probably were, you had to die fighting.

She took the few firecrackers that she hadn't used outside with her, and buried them in the snow in a perimeter around them, and then found some branches that were brittle enough to be broken. Trembling, she buried them further in from the firecrackers. Anyone who tried to plow their way in would injure their legs or their horses' legs.

She went back inside and stumbled over to Dogal, who had fallen back to sleep. Realizing she had little choice, she got up and fed the fire, then finally let sleep claim her. She woke the next morning and reapplied the bandages, pleased to see that he was making significant progress.

She found the food in her pack and ate, waking him and feeding him, then giving him another potion to ease the pain and make him sleep. Exhaustion claimed her soon after that.

But around midday, they were awakened. One firecracker. Then two. Then the sound of human voices cursing.

They had been found.

She stepped to the entryway and stared out. The soldiers closed in on the building, and the leader, a man she knew as Lieutenant Winston, raised his hand to halt their approach. "Turn yourself in, Sophie. We know you helped them. It'll go better on you if you don't—"

He'd seen Dogal, who was struggling to get to his feet behind her, and failing. He couldn't help her. He was better, but still near death. Nearer now than before, of course.

"That's the one that you were treating, isn't it?" Lieutenant Winston asked.

"Yes," she said. "His name is Dogal. And I'm not letting you take him, or me."

She felt herself trembling, blackness dancing at the edge of her vision. She tried to hold herself still, to not betray weakness. She couldn't bluff her way out of it, but perhaps she could give them pause.

"Just let us have him, and we'll leave you here. You can live out your days in this place," he told her.


"No?" She shook her head and said it again, and he sighed. "Fine, Sophie.

"Brian?" The indicated man nudged his horse forward. "Can you take care of this?"

The mage nodded and dismounted. He seemed to draw power from the very air, and a sudden streak of air so cold that it was blue hurtled towards Sophie. She stood her ground, watching it dissipate against the ward created by the sigils she'd placed. Brian's face clouded with anger, and he began hurtling more of them, until Winston stopped him.

"I don't know how you're doing that, Sophie, but it doesn't matter. You can't stop us." He began to move forward then, drawing his sword and hopping off of his mount.

The other soldiers began to dismount, too, and Sophie, her power still oddly low, began to cast. Calling up Holy fire, she felt it dance across her skin and all around her. She released it to fly through the air, where it hit Winston, snapping and crackling with frenetic energy. Still, he kept coming.

Until a firecracker went off behind the group of soldiers. Stopping, he turned, "What was that—"

"Honor and Glory!" A swarm of orcs surged through the ruins. The leader, the single biggest orc Sophie had ever seen—many times over, roared it again, "Honor and Glory!"

The group behind him, rushing around and even over fallen stone walls bellowed it in response, "Honor and Glory!"

Then, as Sophie lost consciousness, the battle was engaged.

She came back to her senses as the battle was wrapping up. Blood coated the white snow, in some places making it pink while other places were deep red. Bodies, almost all human, only two orcs, littered the ground. Winston, lying not far from her, stared at her with sightless eyes, his head tilted backwards and his neck now just a gaping hole.

Sophie gasped and staggered to her feet as a hand fell near her, flopping and grasping for a moment as the nerves assimilated the fact that it was now separate from the brain that used to guide it.

Then the massive orc turned towards her. He towered over her, even though he was still several feet away from her. He stalked closer, and she stared at him, not daring to take her eyes off of him.

"We've come for you and the man you're hiding in that building," he said.

Something in his voice, a latent anger perhaps, made Sophie bristle. "If you intend to harm him, you'll have to go through me first," she said, feeling stupid the moment she said it.

He threw back his head and laughed, the other orcs following suit as they began to converge on her. "Oh? You're going to fight us all, little human?" he asked.

She started gathering Holy fire again, "I will if I have to," she said grimly. "I'm not afraid to die."

He sobered then, and looked at her calmly. "You know, I believe you. You'd try. You'd try, and you'd die, if it came to that."

She stood waiting, preparing, trying to think of any way out of this. It was the last thing she had expected. That his own kind would come for him, that his own kind would seek to destroy him. An overwhelming despair settled in on her then, and she felt tears start. It seemed that everything, the whole world, was against them.

"It's okay, Sophie," he said then. "My name is Thrall. We've come to escort you and Dogal, if he's alive. I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner."

Relief flooded her, and she sobbed as it winged through her. Then she promptly passed out again.

She woke to an unfamiliar voice singing an unfamiliar song in an unfamiliar language. She looked around; she was alone and lying on what could only be considered a cot. There were torches all around, making the room very brightly lit. One curving wall of the room was cave. The other two were curtains or sheets of some sort, through which she could see the silhouette of the woman singing.

"Dogal?" Sophie tried to ask, her voice squeaking strangely. Pushing a little harder, she tried again, "Dogal?" Her voice came out this time with a wretched squeal in it, but it cut over the singing.

"Well, hello, sugar. How's ya feelin?" The woman was elderly, her green skin wrinkled and her white braids peppered with darker gray. She wasn't stooped like most human women her age would have been, but instead stood upright and moved freely. Only her hands, gnarled like knots in a rope, and her hair and wrinkles betrayed her advanced years.

Sophie tried to answer, her throat closing as she tried to speak, dryness making it contract. "Oh, here, lovey," the woman said, and gave her a skin of unpleasantly flavored water to drink. "Gived us all a scare, ya did. Thrall come totin' ya in here, bellerin like a heifer. He gibs ya ta me and says he wunts me ta saves ya. Ya know how hard ya made it, girl?"

The woman held up her hand to stop Sophie from speaking. "Allays, they askin' fer dere man. He be in da udder room. I wakes 'im if ya wants, but seein' as ya just drinked some sleepin' drot, me think ya gonna be—" her voice trailed off as Sophie unwillingly succumbed to sleep.

When she woke again, she was still in the same room. Her voice still refused to work, as she tried to croak Dogal's name again. The torches were mostly unlit now, the room shrouded in a twilight-like darkness. "Sophie!" he was calling her name again, and she had a moment of disorientation, searching for the sun for a moment.

"Sophie, you're awake!" he sounded happy. He sounded healthy! She slowly turned her head to face him.

He looked to her in that moment, beautiful and perfect. She smiled, and when he smiled back, his face flooding with relief and peace, she felt her heart flip-flop in her chest. She reached out for him, and he stepped closer. As he did, she noticed that he was moving freely, without the stiffness or pain she'd come to expect.

To save her voice, she asked, "Your back?" Guilt ran through her that she'd passed out and neglected her duty to him, her duty to heal him and to help him.

"My back is healed. The infection was gone within four days of—"

"Four?" she croaked, shocked.

"You've been in and out for close to eight, baby," he told her.

"But I wasn't," she coughed, "sick." He frowned at her.

"Sophie, you were terribly ill. You were ill when Forgore and the rest left us. You were dying even then from exposure. You got pneumonia, too. Your voice may never recover."

She stared at him, stunned and unable to speak for a whole other reason now. She should have known if she was ill. She was just tired, that was all… "My voice?" she croaked, the sound rasping and bitter.

He shook his head. "You were very ill, Sophie. The cold, the exertion. It was more than your body could handle. We have hide, you only have thin skin." His face looked incredibly compassionate—if you knew how to read an orc's face. "What you did was nothing short of unbelievable. That you survived so long, and even took care of me while you were dying yourself, is just beyond what old Dagotha can fathom. Not to mention the rest of us."

Then his face smoothed, and Sophie saw the love in the leaf-green eyes and the autumn colored face that they nestled in. "Especially me, Sophie. You're a tiny little woman, but you have a mighty will."

Tears rose to her eyes at the look on his face, tickling at her heart from the surface of her eyes. She squeezed his hand, and he stepped closer to the bed. His other hand brushed her hair away from her face. "Thank you, Sophie. For freeing my people, for saving me. For surviving."

"You git yer arse out of dere! Don' you be in dere pesterin' my patient! You be whinin' at me ta saves 'er, day an' night… now yer be messin' wit 'er and keepin' 'er awake? Wot da mattah wit' you, boy?" Old Dagotha came hustling into the room, driving Dogal out, who rolled his eyes with the universal look of the long-suffering lover cast away from the bedside of his ill beloved by the wicked caretaker.

Even when he was gone, Dagotha continued nattering on. "Now, wot da mattah wit' young folk this days? Gots no sense, dem kids!" Dagotha growled sourly until the potion she coerced down Sophie's throat took hold—and probably long afterwards.

"Good morning." The voice was vaguely familiar, but it wasn't Dogal's.

She turned her head, "Is it morning?" Her voice ground painfully in her throat, dragging a coughing fit behind it.

"Yes," Thrall said, "it's mid-morning now. Dagotha tries to keep the light as close to outside in here as she can. She says it helps your body remember the rhythm.

"I've come to bring you outside for a while."

"Oh, I would love to go outside!" Sophie croaked, and started to sit up. Immediately, her head swam, and she sank back with a groan.

"You're not going to be taking yourself outside anytime, soon, ma'am," he said. "You've been sick a long time, and you're not recovered. Dagotha isn't sure to what extent you will recover."

He picked her up then, swaddling her snugly in a bundle of furs. He carried her outside, and sat her on a heavy, rough-hewn wooden bench. Children were playing a short way from them, and she and Thrall both sat and watched them in silence for a time.

"I understand that you killed your father," he finally said.

She felt tears start in her eyes and tried to suppress them. "I know it sounds terrible," she ground out past her rough throat, "but he wasn't always like that. Sometimes he was nice to me."

"Children can always find something to love, it's their way," Thrall said. His hand landed on her shoulder, gentle through the furs that bundled her. He patted her gently before withdrawing with a squeeze.

She sighed, then motioned towards the children, and the floodgates opened for her. She started crying, managing to croak between sobs, "I should… have… done… it… sooner." Thrall sat beside her on the rough wooden bench, silent and waiting.

When she gained control over herself, she said, "I am responsible," she paused for breath, talking being a difficult endeavor for her now, "for their suffering at his hands. For Dogal's. For everyone's."

Thrall sat quietly for a few moments, letting her consider her issue in her own way. Then he said, "I know what people see when they look at us, Sophie. We orcs are seen as monsters. We look like monsters, so we must be monsters. So they take our power, and they make it theirs.

"Then," he continued, "they shriek in horror at the terrible things they made us do."

He turned and looked at her, his gaze direct. "We bear our own responsibility for all of this. But a lot of that is shared with others. They take our children, and they teach them to be killers. They take our children, and tell us to kill, or watch them die.

"Life isn't as simple as 'don't kill, don't lie, don't steal,' Sophie. You love life and you seek to preserve it. You want to protect and nourish it. But not all life is good. Not every situation is the same.

"I've killed a lot. I was raised for that—for killing. I'm good at it. I'm so good at it that I terrify people. They look at me and see a beast, and they think that's me." He sighed and sat back. "And for a while, maybe they're right. Maybe I was one.

"But I made a new choice. Every time I face battle, I make a choice. I have to choose between lives. I have to set a value on every man or woman that I face in the battlefield."

He looked back at her again, his face sad. "Even with the best of intentions, Sophie, a person can do a terrible thing. But if you get the chance to do it again, you can make a new choice. That's what you did. But it may not be easy, and there are always consequences.

"Watch the children for a while, Sophie. It may not make killing your father hurt less, but it might make moving on from the pain easier, by knowing exactly what it is that you saved." This time he patted her on the knee and got up, the heavy wooden bench groaning at his movement.

Sophie sat in the sun, watching the children play, until he came back for her. By that time, she'd quit crying. "Thank you," she managed, when he laid her down again in her cot. He patted her hand and left, and she knew he knew that she meant that thanks for more than simply the trip outside.

Dogal came in shortly after Thrall left. He took one of the curtains down, and she saw another room there, complete with cot and a stump that served as a sort of end table. He pulled back the other curtain, and motioned two men inside.

The first man, his hide bright green, turned and bowed to her. She blushed and smiled at him. The second, with slightly lighter green hide, stopped and did the same. Sophie was embarrassed by their salutes, but also delighted. It was very charming, she thought. Dogal at first looked surprised, then pleased, and nodded at each man as they turned back to the duty he had called them to.

In silence, they picked up the cot and swept it from the room, Dogal with them. All three shortly returned with logs and tools. Rapidly, they built a bed frame. The hammering made Sophie wince at first, but she fast became accustomed to it. When they were done, they left again, this time dragging inside a mattress, which while it seemed fairly light, was bulky and awkwardly large.

Sophie watched these goings-on with interest. What were they up to? But the idea of a bed was appealing, so she secretly hoped it was meant for her. Though, of course, she would never have asked for such a thing, and she didn't need one nearly so large.

Each of the two men stepped outside when they were done with their part of the work, leaving Sophie somewhat alone with Dogal. He came over and unceremoniously picked her up. "This is our room now, and our bed," he told her, carefully lowering her into it. "If it pleases you," he added, his face a study in carefully masked hope.

She smiled, joy bubbling up in her and turning into laughter that choked her mid laugh and descended into a bizarre mixture of hilarity and coughing. She reached up to him, and he knelt beside the bed, bending forward to allow her to put her arms around him as the coughs seized through her. It couldn't dampen her spirits, though, and in some ways this prolonged the coughing.

"It delights me," she finally managed to force out, "as you knew it would—or should have known!" She smiled at him and tugged him close for a kiss.

"Oh, hold on, we're not quite done yet," he said. He motioned the men back inside, and they came in, obviously trying in vain to smother huge grins.

They took the other cot and left, before returning shortly with another rough approximation of an end table, and a wooden chair that closely resembled the bench outside. Then they brought another, larger chair. Turning to her one more time, they both bowed and said simply, "Miss Sophie," and left.

"Everyone has been very charming to me," Sophie said, watching him pull the chair close to her bedside.

"Sophie, not everyone is happy about harboring a human here, regardless of the fact that you helped us and are a fugitive. Thrall is taking it seriously enough that he has had guards set on this cave." He was looking at her seriously.

"Forgore," she said grimly.

He shook his head. "Actually, Forgore and Norga have been your two staunchest supporters," he told her. "They were there, they saw everything you did. They saw the risks you took and the labor you put forth towards freeing us.

"It's some of the older people in Thrall's clan, the Frostwolves, who have a deep-seated fear of humans. All humans. Thrall has a particular affection for a human woman, also, so this has been causing some friction amongst his clan. Since he returned from the wilds, he has been actively pursuing the old ways, ways that even predate most of them. He wants to preserve—"

Her look interrupted him. "What?" he asked.

"Preserve the old ways. That's what they said, they told me to preserve the old ways."

"Who?" his face looked concerned, and she was reminded of her own thoughts so long ago right after the vision she was about to tell him about. She would have considered herself demented, too.

"Maybe you should get Thrall," she said.

His eyebrows rose, but he got up immediately. "I'll be right back."

Soon, he and Thrall returned, and Thrall dragged the larger chair near her bed. "I'm happy to hear that you're feeling better," he said to her. "I was hoping to talk with you some more about the sigils at the camp, and some of your rather… unorthodox… methods of escape."

She nodded, "I'll be happy to tell you everything I can. But I would like to first discuss something that happened while Dogal and I were in the ruins alone."

Slowly, her voice groaning like a broken oak assaulted by a vicious storm, she haltingly told them the story of the elements. She told them about the gifts of wood and fire.

Then she clarified what she thought her father had done. He had insinuated that he knew she couldn't cure Dogal, and she explained that she believed he'd contrived to have a curse created that would mimic or intensify infection. In this way, he was able to prevent her from curing him. This insured that he would be able to tell his superiors that he put forth exceptional effort by even endangering his own daughter, in his attempts to cure Dogal. This, she explained, would have made their uprising look that much more reprehensible.

"Why," asked Thrall, "would the death of one man cause an uprising, when the lives of so many others would be risked by it?"

"Well," Dogal said, clearly uncomfortable, "some of the clan seem to see me as a bit of a spiritual leader."

Thrall sat back in his chair, his face pensive. Dogal and Sophie sat quietly, letting him digest the information. Finally, he spoke, "I recently returned from my own encounter with the spirits of this world. They have restored us to the old affinity we had before our people were corrupted. I learned what they had to teach, and have been seeking for someone to pass the knowledge to.

"Someone must teach the children and the clans. The spirits told me that this teacher would come to me, that the sign would be unmistakable. I had started to wonder, to fear that I had somehow missed it despite their assurances." He looked at Dogal then, a penetrating gaze, "But it had simply not arrived yet."

That evening, Sophie awoke to the bed shifting and groaning as Dogal laid down beside her. Turning, slowly, painfully, she snuggled against him. He held her close, and she thought that she could almost feel the world getting brighter around her, evening notwithstanding. For a bit, she laid against him, just soaking up the feeling, the sensation, of nearness.

Then her hand wandered across his chest, following the line of a muscle there. Softly, she kissed his chest, her body moving against his slightly, her hips rocking against his leg.

"Sophie," he moaned, "you're not ready for this yet, you need to regain strength."

She kissed him again, "You're doing better, right? So you do all the work." She leaned back and grinned up at him. His green eyes blinked in the gloom of the only lit torch, the light gleaming brightly off of tusks and dully off of hide. She ran her hand down the side of his face, feeling its smoothness. He'd shaved not long before, and she felt a sensual shiver run through her at the memory of shaving him.

"I can't wait until I can shave you again," she said, "but privately this time." She smiled into his eyes, and was surprised to see a sadness come over him. He tucked her head against his chest and kissed her on the head.

"Soon, I hope, baby. Soon." His voice was sad, too, bringing Sophie to feel sad herself. She'd reminded him of the prison, reminded him of a time when he wasn't free.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It was just a pleasant thought to me."

He nodded against her head, "No need for sorry. You're right, it's a delicious thought." His hand slid down her back, cupping her butt and pressing her more snugly against him.

Lifting her chin with one finger, he kissed her, his lips warmly and softly covering hers. Sophie didn't really know what to do, so she simply explored his mouth with tongue and lips. Of course, she had no idea that he had little more experience than she did. During their captivity, the orcs had been bred like animals, mating done at the behest of the humans and with an eye to 'improving the breed' with desirable characteristics such as muscular power, cunning, and obedience. And, had she considered it a bit, she would have realized that she was the first human he'd ever kissed or made love with.

So together, but with Sophie assuming that Dogal was far more experienced than she, they sorted out the odd differences. Soon, with some sorting and a fair amount of giggling, they managed to find a fashion of kissing that delighted them both. Dogal pulled back and they smiled at each other in a shared peace and happiness.

Slowly, he trailed his hand along her leg, watching his brown hand on her pale skin. "You're truly lovely, Sophie," he told her, still watching his hand trail across her. For her part, Sophie was feeling the hard planes of his chest, her own hand contrasting against the dark hide there as she watched it softly follow the sleek lines of his powerful muscles.

She looked up at him then, feeling slightly shy, "I've missed your touch so, Dogal."

He smiled at her, "As I've missed yours, baby."

Standing up and pulling the blankets off of her, he slipped her gown up over her head, helping her to get undressed. When he was done, she was trembling, her body already exhausted. He felt it, and rather than disrobing himself, he sat down beside her. "Maybe this isn't a good idea, Sophie, as much as I would desperately love to do it."

She shook her head and smiled. "Just give me a few minutes to recover, and you do most of the work. It'll be fine." Then she grinned wickedly, "It might even be good for me."

He chuckled then, and stood back up. He'd pulled all but his underclothing off before slipping into the bed with her, and now he removed that, as well. Sophie watched him, admiring the beauty of his body. His broad chest and powerful shoulders narrowed to a hard, muscled ribcage and then belly. His hips widened, the muscles there as powerful and defined as the rest of his body. Massive legs below that descended to the floor to be held up by feet as powerful as the rest of him.

She looked back up at him, and intellectually she knew her people would consider him ugly and think she was insane for her love of him. But when she looked at him, she saw the beauty in the curves of his body, the wisdom in his face, and the obvious love he held for her shining out of his eyes.

He smiled at her as she looked at him. She told him, "I like looking at you."

He stepped over to the bed; "I like looking at you, too, Sophie." Sitting beside her, he once more slid his hand up her body. Slowly, softly, he ran his hand along her hip, grazing against the soft flesh that protected her sleek, soft inner folds. But he didn't stop there, despite Sophie's indrawn gasp.

Instead, his hands sailed softly across the plane of her belly, caressing the soft curve of it. Then up her rib, to brush past the outer curve of her breast. He slid his hand down her arm, then, watching his greenish-brown fingers. Sophie watched his face, delighted by the intensity of his concentration. His touch was tender, gentle, and caressing.

His eyes rose to meet hers for a moment, and she saw a sparkle of laughter lingering in them, though he was obviously trying to contain it. "What?" she asked him. He shook his head, continuing his wandering touching, never quite touching the parts of her that craved his touch so much more than the rest.

"You think you're funny, teasing me so?"

Now the grin was almost breaking through. "No dear, of course not," he said, blinking in an orcish imitation of innocence.

"You're a terrible liar, Dogal," she announced, as if giving him a choice bit of important information.

He smirked at her, "Terrible? You seem awfully comfortable, being in the presence of someone terrible."

She tugged on his hand, trying to draw it where she wanted it to go. He ignored it as if she hadn't even tried, his touch implacably continuing its path back up her belly on the opposite side it had done before. This time, instead of down her arm, his hand followed the line of her neck, up to her cheek.

He smiled at her, serious again, as her hand made small circles on his thigh, her other hand caressing the forearm of the hand he was tracing up and down her body.

He ran that hand back down her body, grazing her breast again and making her arch and then groan with disappointment and frustration as he passed it. When he arrived at her legs, he softly pushed them apart, pulling the closer leg to a bend as Sophie tried not to worry about the fact that the leg wouldn't respond to her instructions to help him. She didn't want anything to detract from this moment. She could feel his touch, so she wasn't paralyzed. Just tired, surely.

She felt oddly vulnerable, lying there with her legs spread and him looking at her with an intense, lustful glow in his sun-touched leaf eyes. Having let go of his arm, she was holding onto the sheet now, her fingers curled tightly as she strained to feel his touch again. His eyes roamed up and down her, until he was looking into her eyes, as if to find himself there.

She felt his warm hand enveloping her calf, and then sliding up it. Then up across her inner thigh, the heat of his hand, the sultry vibrancy of his touch, making her moan with abandon. His hand slipped under her, lightly touching the curve of her butt, then, so suddenly that she gasped and arched, he laid his hand against the fleshy mound that protected the softer folds inside her.

He was watching his hand now, and she watched him, unaware that her hand now gripped against his leg, no longer caressing absently on it. He kept his hand there, and she felt herself throbbing against him, yearning for him to touch her more deeply, more intimately.

He didn't. Instead, his hand left, and her sigh was now one of lingering regret and frustrated desire. His hand, leaving a slight trail of her own dampness, slid up her body again, brushing once more past a breast, making her grind her teeth with frustration. She could do little to alter his course, as he'd already proven.

Finally, he touched her breast, but not the way she wanted, still. His hand slid across it, lifting it slightly, but simply passing over it. Moaning, filled once more with an inarticulate, deep desire, she gasped, "Dogal, please!"

"Please what, Sophie?" He watched her now, his face hungry, his eyes so intense that it almost frightened her.

"I need your touch, I need…" her body arched. She didn't know exactly, but she was burning with an inarticulate, immeasurable hunger, the hunger she saw echoed on his face.

At her words, he growled. It was a low, primal, ravenous sound that billowed up from inside him as he leaned down and took her breast into his hand, guiding it upwards so that he could suckle on it. He was gentle, yet fiercely so. His tongue was insistent upon her nipple, as it tightened and leaped upwards to satisfy his questing search for it.

His mobile lips and tongue worked on her breast, drawing it up, releasing it, curling around it, massaging it. These new sensations, new experiences, new feelings flooded Sophie with a chorus of singing and delicious feelings. When he moved to the other one and gave it the same treatment, she arched again, panting and desperate.

The touch she so craved had come at last, and instead of release under his hands, lips, and tongue, her desire climbed. She felt almost faint, but not from illness this time. She was almost overloaded with sensation as he touched her, and as she relinquished the sheet to grasp his head, feeling the smoothness of his baldness coupled with the coarse hair of his topknot as it curled over her arm, she felt the intensity of the experience increase many times over.

The feel of him, the sound of his growl, the clean masculine scent of him, the beauty of his dusky skin… he was beautiful to her in every way.

Soon, he moved onto the bed, her breasts feeling vaguely abandoned at the loss of his heat upon them. He took the far pillow and put it under her hips, lifting her legs against his chest and holding them there with one arm. Soon, he was sitting on his legs, one on each side of her body. Now, he could look her in the eyes as he slowly positioned himself against her.

This was what she wanted. She felt very tired, but yet the sexual desire overshadowed it, and she knew that this was what she wanted now, and had wanted so desperately the first time. To feel him nudging into her. And when he thrust into her at last, she gasped and panted. Yes, this was what she had been yearning for.

For Sophie, it was a perfect moment, that moment when he thrust into her, and filled her, and she fully understood herself as a woman, and him as her lover. That moment when he filled her and she understood all of the desires of her body and how they centered around that fullness that only he could bring.

It was this feeling, this understanding, the beauty and the passion and the joy of it, that brought tears to her eyes. Her desire, her love, her fulfilled yearning welled up and flowed out of her. "I love you, Dogal," she gasped, as he moved again inside her.

He looked up at her, and for a moment his face was dismayed. She shook her head and smiled, "Happy tears, baby, happy tears. You feel so magnificent inside me."

He smiled then, his brutish face almost glowing. He didn't need to say it. Sophie knew. And as she felt him moving faster inside her, his penis filling her vaginal canal so perfectly, she gave in to the knowledge and the feelings.

His thrusts grew faster, their bodies meeting with the sound of someone smacking their lips while they ate. But this time, it was a sort of music, a rhythmic and cosmic melody as old as time and just as powerful.

When he groaned and Sophie realized he was releasing himself inside her, she felt herself follow him. It was fitting to her, in that perfect moment, as wave after wave of pleasure washed over her, and her world narrowed to the feel of him inside her, the sound of his low growl as he orgasmed, and the contrast of his eyes against his skin, that she should follow him.

When it was over, he sat there for a few moments, still inside of her. She smiled at him, and he smiled back. Slowly, he slipped out of her as his penis softened, and she felt a vague sense of loss. Then he carefully moved away and let her legs down to the bed. Curling up next to her, he pulled her near, and the loss faded and was forgotten.

He turned her face to his, and she saw both love, and that same sadness there. "I love you, too, sweet Sophie," he said. She smiled. She knew it, but it was so wonderful to hear it spoken.

That bit of sadness bothered her, but exhaustion was more pressing than that thought, and she slept before she could form the question.

"Dagotha, what aren't you telling me?" Sophie asked the elderly woman the next morning when she came in with food.

Dagotha, with the face of a predator and the attitude to fit, looked like a doe caught in the light of a suddenly ignited torch. "Wot ya mean, girlie?" she asked, clearly trying to cover her discomfiture.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice that my legs won't respond when I try to move them?" Sophie asked.

The other woman looked distinctly uncomfortable as she began shuffling the blankets around Sophie, not meeting her eyes. "O' course you'd notice, girlie, wouldn'ta thot utherwise. Tain't stupid ja know."

Sophie's eyes narrowed. "Don't try to turn this around, Dagotha. Tell me. I have a right to know."

Dagotha heaved a sigh. " 'Spose yer right." She handed Sophie a skin of water, and Sophie refused it.

"There'll be no sleeping potions until after you've told me what's going on." Sophie crossed her arms, scowling at the older woman as menacingly as she could manage. Which, while it wasn't very much, seemed enough to send Dagotha out the curtains.

"I'll be back, girlie. Dogal's gonna wanna be 'ere an talk wit ya hisself." Sophie could hear her muttering all the way out of the cave, but not make out what she was saying.

Soon, she returned, not only with Dogal, but with Thrall as well, whom Sophie had begun to realize seemed to have a sort of leadership position in the group.

"Sophie," Dogal said, "we're not entirely sure what's going on. Dagotha didn't want to tell you, she felt it might possibly pass. She was hoping it would before you became aware of it past it being maybe just exhaustion."

Dagotha spoke to him in orcish, her voice now smooth, without the halting and stilted feeling she had when she spoke Common. Dogal and Thrall and she argued for a few minutes, their gestures obviously those of disagreement with each other.

Finally, sighing, Dogal said, "She says that you may have some damage to your brain from the cold."

Dagotha was scowling, "Recovah bettah when no worries," she grunted and stomped out of the room.

Thrall then said, "Sophie, I wonder if I could ask you some questions about the escape? Some of your methods are incredibly interesting."

She nodded. "Of course. Anything I can do to help, I'd be delighted."

"Well," he began, as he took his chair and Dogal took the one close to Sophie, holding her hand in his. "I'm particularly interested in what you know about the sigils."

"Oh, yeah. Well, there are two ways to disarm them, but one of them is highly dependent upon what kinds of magic you can manipulate."

Thrall leaned forward. "What do you mean?" He looked intense, fascinated.

"Well, there are various kinds of inks that you can use to create them. And depending on the basis of the ink, that's the sort of magic that can manipulate it."

"I don't understand what you mean. Sigils block magic, how can you manipulate them?" His brow was furled into a scowl of concentration. On such a massive man, it was rather unnerving, and Sophie glanced at Dogal nervously. At his reassuring squeeze, she continued.

"Well, you see, they can be tapped, in the same way that mana potions or various artifacts can sometimes be tapped. My father eventually started using permanent ink on the sigils in my walls, so I had to find a different way to disarm them besides cleaning them off.

"But the only inks he could find that were permanent were from the military—and they keep too tight a inventory on theirs for him to take that—and from the church. He started stealing some from the church and using that to make them. But that meant that no matter which sigil he drew, it had Holy magic in it.

"I figured out one day that I could just tap into it, and draw the power out of it. I tried it at the library, but the ink there is made out of plants, so it didn't work. It took me some work to figure out that it's because that's elemental magic, not Holy."

Thrall looked even more fascinated, if it were possible. "Can you teach us how to do this?" he asked, his voice eager, hopeful.

"Sure," Sophie said, "it's easy once you figure it out. Do it once and that's it, you've got it."

He left and shortly came back in with a group of orcs in tow. Some of them were quite young, adolescents really. Some were quite old, one so old that he had to be helped into the room. He was straight and tall, but shook as he walked in. He sat down in the large chair, and Thrall sat down on the stone ground of the cave.

Some time was spent preparing, bringing in some of the precious parchments Sophie had brought with her, and then a brazier, as the comings and goings had made the cave so cold that Sophie had begun to shiver.

At last, they were ready, though. Sophie started out by making sigils of various kinds and simply showing them how it was done. It was very easy for her, because as a priest, she was able to bless the ink herself, imbuing it with Holy magic.

Then she made more sigils, and had each of them try it on their own, passing out the small scraps of parchment to them. After several tries, most of them got it.

The elderly man, unfortunately, was quite disruptive, though, and Sophie found working with the others to be too difficult to do while he was there. He kept saying, "This be foolishnis. Cain't be done, I says. Nope, dun work dat way."

Sophie watched him for a few moments, and began to realize that he couldn't see the demonstration. His eyes were rheumy, clouded with white. He wouldn't be able to see what she was doing, even if she could do it right in front of him.

So instead, she said to him, "Care to try it another way?"

"Ain't tryin it no other way!" he snapped, "Cain't be doned!" He crossed his arms and glared. "Dun need no stupid humon tellin' me wot to do, neither!"

"Well, I know it's too difficult for you, so I won't ask you to try," Sophie challenged.

"Ain't nut'in that no human kin do what I cain't," he snarled, "easy, gotta be, if ye kin does it!"

She shrugged. "Well, no sense in you even trying, then. I mean, if you tried and couldn't do it, well, everyone would think you were dumber than a human."

He bristled, "Ye tells me, an' ye watch, me does it!"

"You sure? I don't want to embarrass you."

"Jes tells me, woman!"

"Well, try this. Imagine that it's a bowl of string. Now, stick your hand into the bowl of string. Can you feel the one that feels like a vine?" He nodded. "Okay, pull on that one, and imagine that it sinks into your hand."

He closed his eyes, and there was a sudden 'pop!' and a puff of smoke rose from the parchment in his hand. His face lit up, and he grinned, his left lip curling up over the broken tusk there. "See, I tells ya, ain't nut'in no humon kin do what I cain't!"

Two students helped him out of the cave, Sophie smiling at Dogal as he left. Dogal nodded, his eyes sparkling at her.

Then, Sophie explained that, the more complicated the sigil, and the more inks used in it, the easier it became to manipulate. As an example, she asked one of the warlocks to summon a demon and get some blood from it. When the warlock called the imp up, the imp crossed his arms, "This was not in my contract!"

Sophie reached down and patted the demon on the head, "You're a truly handsome specimen, aren't you?" The imp looked at her, and she pulled out a piece of paper. Fashioning it into a bird, she handed the capricious little demon the small parchment toy. Delighted at the offering, it allowed her to draw some blood.

Sophie used the vial of blood to make a shadow sigil, and then overlaid it with nature magic. When Thrall released the nature magic, the shadow magic puffed away, as well. The group was enthralled at the demonstration, and after a while, Sophie resorted to allowing them to make sigils on the floor with charcoals.

At last, Sophie fell asleep while they were still working on figuring out the various sigils. When she woke, it was evening, the curtains drawn. She ate the food that had been left sitting on the nightstand beside the bed, and fell back into exhausted sleep.

The next day as Dogal prepared to go out for his shaman training with Thrall, he told Sophie, "I have a surprise for you, if you're interested."

Sophie smiled, "A good one, I hope," she chuckled, though she could tell it was by the look on his face.

"The children are allowed to come in and spend some time with you, if you'd like," he said. "They've been asking after you since we arrived, and they all want to come in and thank their lady hero."

Sophie was genuinely delighted. She had always enjoyed the company of children, and was excited by the chance to spend time with them.

"Thrall made the point, and I agree, that you might want to see what it was all for." He sat on the bed next to her and kissed her on the forehead. "You took terrible risks, and it's about time that you got to enjoy the reward of it all. Or, at least," he said with a lecherous grin, "part of the reward."

She giggled and pulled him to her for a kiss. This time, there was no resistance, he came freely and returned the kiss with gusto.

"Nothing would make me happier than to stay here all day long and wear you out, baby." He was smiling, but slightly sad again. Sophie frowned. "But it's imperative that I train as quickly as possible. The humans have been encroaching closer and closer."

At the words 'the humans,' Sophie cringed. It wasn't his fault, but it was still painful to be reminded that they were, technically, at war with her own people.

He left soon after that, back a few moments later with a small gaggle of children quietly following. They came to Sophie, each one quietly coming to the bed, some with large and awe-struck eyes. They each came with a small gift, a stone, a crystal, a button, a feather… childhood treasures each one. Sophie accepted each with sincere gratitude and gentle thanks.

When they were done, Sophie asked if they'd like to hear a story. The chorus of yes's echoed in the small cavern, making Sophie chuckle. She told them the story of the boy who climbed a vine to heaven, woke a giant, and finally saved his family from becoming debt slaves. When she was done, one of the boys quietly asked, as if emboldened by the previous story, if she would tell them the story of her and Dogal and the escape from the encampment.

She reminded them that they knew a good part of it, but some of them didn't, they reminded her. And besides, they only knew what they knew, and not everything she did. This made perfect sense to them, and so Sophie agreed to tell them. But as she was going to begin, the boy once more raised his voice timidly. "Can you wait, please, until I come back?"

Sophie agreed to wait, and the little boy ran from the cave. Soon, to her surprise, orcs of all ages began filtering in. Even the elderly man from the day before came, demanding in his garrulous and strident voice that he should get to sit beside her while she told it, so he could hear.

Then even Thrall and Dogal showed up, followed closely by an entourage of shaman trainees of every age over 15 or so, it seemed. Once more, Sophie began to shiver, and the cavern sat in eerie quiet until a brazier was brought, the coals radiating heat for Sophie. Soon, the room fell quiet again, Dogal sitting beside her on the bed, the elderly orc beside her, and Thrall once more in the bigger chair.

Haltingly, in her gravelly voice, Sophie began to tell the tale. Dogal translated into orc for her, to make it easier for those who couldn't understand or who would find it easier. She spoke of the first moments when she saw Dogal, and the threat her father made. The orcs booed, their voices raised in grunts and anger. When they settled, she went on.

She told the story, omitting the lovemaking, but including the near-rape. Once more, the cavern dissolved in angry hoots and shouts. At her relaying Dogal's part in rescuing her, they shouted and banged on the floor of the cave, clapping and cheering. She told them how she feared for his life, and had to tell him that he was dying, and they sat quietly, gasping and wide-eyed, to a person.

She spoke of trying to figure out the practical aspects of getting them out, and how she had planned it since she was a child. This, too, to her surprise, was met with cheers and shouts.

When her voice tried to give out, she asked for a recess to eat and drink. Food was brought and passed around, and the orcs ate in place, calmly chatting in low, quiet voices.

After she had eaten, she picked the story back up, to the renewed quiet of the orcs. The escape from their room, and then the first attempt to pick the locks. They gasped and held onto each other as she relayed her fear that she might not get it, or might take too long, since it was dark.

She told about her first meeting with Norga and Borgat, then with Forgore, whom the orcs booed at and tossed small bits of leftover food at, to his laughter and embarrassment. She smiled at him, remembering Dogal's statement that he was one of her staunchest supporters now. She pointed that out, with a chuckle, and he looked pleased.

The story continued, until she told of the elderly Hunter, who she had learned was named Gormak. When she spoke of it, telling how he had given up his life for each and every one of them, the children cried (having not yet learned the stoic countenance of their elders), and most of the rest sat in reverent silence until she was done. When she paused after speaking of him, the elder beside her said something in orcish, and they all repeated it. They didn't shout, but they said it with feeling, with meaning, with awe and respect. Dogal translated, this time for her, "Honor and Glory!"

The elderly man said something in orcish, his rheumy old eyes looking at her with a direct gaze. He was crying, openly, without shame. Dogal once more translated, "You tell my brother's story with great honor. I thank you for that." She reached out and grasped his gnarled old hand. He cried harder, kissing it, and letting go. She waited for him to get himself under control before going on.

She talked about what she remembered of the trip, and how she feared for Dogal. Then she spoke of Norga picking her up and carrying her, gaining Norga slaps on the back and, in the way of the orcs, some friendly ribbing. Norga bowed her head, an acknowledgement of Sophie's gratitude.

Then she told the story of how she'd had a vision of the elements, and the room at large gasped throughout the telling, whispering sometimes in surprised and even awed tones.

She went on to speak of her first meeting with Thrall, and how she had feared he'd come to kill them both. There was general laughter at this, and Thrall took some teasing about being "a big scary orc," even the children joining in to make tusks with their hands and waggle them at the 'big scary orc.'

Sophie sent him a look of commiseration, and he shrugged with a slightly sheepish grin.

When the story was over, the room erupted in murmurs, people excitedly chattering about the telling of the story, the story itself, and what it all meant. One woman, who had been setting very near her, stood up and thanked her. "I am the keeper of our people's oral traditions. Your story will become one of them, told in your own way, in your own words." Sophie didn't know what to say, she'd never imagined such an honor being given to her. The woman smiled, "It's enough that you understand that it is indeed an honor."

Sophie once more slept before they had even left.

Sophie didn't know what time it was. She woke up and looked over at Dogal. Her whole body felt alive with desire. She wanted him, a deep-seated, driving need. He was sleeping though, and she couldn't bring herself to wake him. She was conflicted, burning with desire and beaten by her need to be considerate of her lover.

Finally, coming to a compromise of sorts, she slowly let her hand creep to her breast, feeling her own nipple beneath the nightgown he'd helped her slip into some hours ago. She thought how wonderful it had felt to feel his tongue, his lips, his hands on her. As her mind retrieved these treasures for her, she found her nipples eagerly pointing upwards, tightening in their own desire for his touch.

Softly, she pinched them, sucking in a breath as her body responded with a surge of heat and desire. Slowly, quietly, she let her hand slip down between her legs, the other hand still grasping her breast. Closing her eyes, she let herself float there in the throes of molten desire. Her fingers slipped past the fleshy mound and into her labia, parting the folds and finding the silken wetness there.

She stifled a moan as her finger slid up and down, feeling the inside valley, then each outside fold. She tweaked them between her thumb and forefinger, sliding up and down and enjoying the new and fascinating sensation. She was almost sorry she'd given up so easily in her youth, as the sensation flooded her.

Then she slid her fingers lower, letting her forefinger seek deeper, while her thumb continued to play with the folds of her labia. When it became awkward, she gave up with her thumb, focusing on the finger that was seeking deeper into the soft wetness. When she found her clitoris, completely by luck or random chance, it corresponded with her left hand's grasping of her nipple.

Involuntarily, her body jerked, and she stifled another moan. Her breathing sped up, and she began to unconsciously obsess about the idea of feeling him inside her again, as each hand continued its particular chosen function.

She gasped and started as her concentration was broken, "Would you like some help?" His chocolate voice was hoarser, deeper, and rougher than usual. She realized he'd been awake for some minutes, hearing and sensing what she was doing.

"Yes," she said, whispering it, her voice breathy and only slightly raspy. "You were asleep, I didn't want to wake you."

"I'd wake for your desires any time, baby," he said, moving towards her and kissing her deeply, passionately.

He slipped a hand down to cover hers, "Do what you were doing. I want to feel it, to learn what was making you respond so sweetly," he said.

Feeling very shy, she did, flicking her clitoris again. Then she squeezed her labia together again, up and down the outside of the folds, inside the vulva. This, she found to be immensely stimulating, and her hips rocked slightly in response to her own touch. She slid her hand down then, a finger seeking its way into her, and he took over the actions she'd just completed above, their hands clashing and dancing with each other.

"That's so very sexy, Sophie," he said. His face above hers in the gloom was softened, the slight light from the distant torch barely illuminating him. She smiled, shy and pleased that he was so attracted. His hand tangled slightly with hers, and she pulled hers away, basking in the feel of his touch on her.

She wished that she could move freely, to take him into her hands, to kneel beside him and touch him and love him the way he was doing for her. But she couldn't. So for the moment, she enjoyed his touch, groaning when his finger flicked across her clitoris the way she had done a few minutes before.

He kissed her for a moment, while his finger sped up, dancing and pressing against her clitoris and then up and down her labia with alternative firm and gentle movements. Sophie felt herself building up towards orgasm, and stopped him. "I want to do that with you!" she said.

He chuckled. "You can do it more than once, baby. Just enjoy it!"

So she did. She melted into the feeling of his hands, the scent of sex and him and her, and the soft glow of the torchlight on his face. When her orgasm flowed through her, it was with a jolt that jerked her body up, once, then twice. She felt herself throbbing there afterwards, the muscles there twitching deliciously in the aftermath of the powerful orgasm that rocked her body.

He pulled away then, kissing her first then back to her breasts. The heat just released from her belly flared up again, to her surprise. She arched towards him, curling her fingers around his head again, wanting to be closer, closer, ever closer. As if she could, if she clung to him tightly enough, become a part of him, or he a part of her.

She could feel his desire had peaked, as well; his hands were slightly rough, his breathing ragged. "I want you, Sophie. I want to be inside you," he told her, lifting up from her breast to speak against her lips before claiming those, also somewhat roughly—though not painfully.

"Yes," she said, a plea more than an agreement.

With a growl, he pulled the nightgown up and over her head, dropping it haphazardly off the side of the bed. Then, to her surprise, he flipped her over, not ungently, taking care to prevent her legs from tangling in the bedclothes. Then he grabbed the pillow from his side of the bed and slid it in under her hips. Now she was laying face down, her butt elevated into the air. He knelt over her first, then lowered himself to sitting on his heels. She could feel his butt against her legs, and his penis bumping against the rise of her butt.

He leaned forward, and gave her a reassuring kiss on her back, his tusks sweeping softly against her skin for an instant before he withdrew.

This time, he simply positioned himself and shoved into her without forewarning. She gasped and arched up towards him, her back curving downwards as if to give him better access. As he slid into her vaginal canal, she felt a powerful sensation of fullness. He was touching her differently inside now, yet it was just as erotic, just as arousing, and just as sensual as before.

He thrust into her, almost impatiently, as if his desire had overcome him and all that was left was a profound, even delirious need. She found it to be somehow thrilling and arousing to feel that he desired her so much that he was barely able to maintain control over himself. He was obviously still in some degree of control, because if he weren't, he would have caused her severe damage.

His thrusts were rough, quick, but deep and long. He was panting, as if the exertion of controlling himself were exhausting him. As he began to speed up, she could feel his legs contracting and releasing, and felt his scrotum slide up and down along her inner thighs. His hands on her hips were pressing her firmly back against him as he plunged in and out of her, his breathing and his pace speeding up.

Sophie tried to wait. She wanted to feel him orgasm inside of her first. But his rough thrusting, his urgency, and his obvious desire overcame her, and she felt herself fall into the abyss of pleasure. As she jerked, every muscle in her body jerking, he groaned, then growled, pulling her almost painfully tight against his pelvis, buried inside of her, and she felt him also spasm. His penis jerked and throbbed inside her, and she moaned with the pleasure the feeling brought, as well as the thought.

He leaned forward onto his arms, his forehead drooping onto her back. "Oh Sophie, I'm sorry, I should have been more gentle."

"I rather liked it the way it was, actually," Sophie said softly, her voice cracking on the last word, making her cough.

Suddenly she realized that she was incredibly exhausted.

When he slipped out of, and then off of her, she made no protest as he gently rolled her over and moved her back to her side of the bed. He chuckled as he retrieved his pillow. "Wet spot," he said, showing her the rather copious wet spot that indeed decorated the pillow. He threw it off the side of the bed; "I'll get it tomorrow."

They snuggled together, and Sophie immediately succumbed to the call of sleep.

Sophie woke slowly the next day, fighting her way to consciousness as through a haze or a fog. It was bright, and Dogal was there, so was Dagotha. They were speaking; she couldn't understand what they were saying at first, until Dogal noticed she was awake and switched back to Common. They both looked sad, but Sophie was too tired to ask what was wrong.

She ate quietly, still feeling tired and slightly confused. The food didn't taste right, didn't smell right, and she finally set it aside, uninterested. "What would you like to do today, Sophie?" Dogal asked. Sophie found that even breathing was becoming a bit of a chore, she felt so tired.

She thought for a bit, trying to make sense of the soup of thoughts rolling around in her mind. "I'd like to watch the children play," she decided. He smiled, but it was a sad smile.

"Okay, baby. Let's get you dressed." He dressed her, and she felt like a rag doll. But it was him, so it was okay. Then he picked her up, and he was warm, and strong, and beautiful. And he smelled oh, so nice.

He sat her down in the early morning sunshine, on the bench made just for her. Soon, sure enough, the children came out to play. They'd created a large place where there was ice for them to slide across, and Sophie laughed as they shrieked with delight. She watched them for several hours; there in the sunshine with the man she loved.

And it was there, with the sun kissing her face, watching the children and holding Dogal's hand, that Sophie died.

He knew when it happened. He looked at her, and watched her head slump forward, her eyes still looking for the children she'd saved. He picked her up and carried her inside again. There, Dagotha and Thrall were sitting in their own silent vigil, waiting for him to come back.

"She's gone," he said. He laid her down, and Thrall and Dagotha left. There, in the privacy of what had been their bedchamber, with only her sightless eyes to see, and her deaf ears to hear, he cried.

Finally, when he was done, he walked back out and sat on her bench. Thrall sat down beside him some time later, and together, as Sophie had done less than an hour earlier, they watched the children.

"I wish she could have had a better death," Dogal said. "It doesn't seem fair, somehow."

Thrall sat silent for a time, before he said, "I don't know, Dogal. She got sick fighting for something she believed in. She saved the man she loved. She saved a camp full of those who weren't even her people. She got sick saving these children."

Dogal looked up again, watching those children at play.

"She didn't really die doing her duty," he said.

"No, she didn't. She died going above and beyond duty. She saved a people not her own. She killed her own father to prevent their further exploitation at his hands. She trekked through the snow without complaint. She gave our people the key to unlocking the other prisons our people are held in.

"No, you're right, she didn't die doing her duty. But not every glorious and honorable death has to happen on the battlefield. She loved those children, and she loved you. She spent her entire lifetime figuring out how to free you.

"I'm not sure it's fair to begrudge her that her final moments were spent in your arms, and then in the face of the sun while those whose lives she helped shape for generations to come enjoyed the freedom that her death purchased for them."

Clasping Dogal on the shoulder, Thrall got up and left, the white wolf following at his heels.

Dogal returned to the cave, where he and Dagotha began to prepare Sophie's body. They gently wrapped her in strips of silk. Dogal let her hair down, so that it cascaded over the bed and to the floor. Gently, he picked it up and looped it over her shoulder; cutting off one long lock of it, which he would braid later and, though he didn't know it then, would die holding.

That evening, the orcs picked up her and Dogal's bed, and carried it out. They burned her there on the bed where she and Dogal had made love and where she had spent the final days of her life. In the brilliant flames, everyone there saw the elemental spirits as they alternated from one to the next. Fire, wind, water, arcane, earth… they all honored her in death as they had honored her in life.

She had died of the same malady her mother had died from, an inherited disease. Her mother died after Sophie's father triggered it in her by pushing her down the stairs when she told him she was pregnant. Sophie's had been triggered by exposure, which she'd nearly died from on the spot. Dagotha knew, because she'd been called to treat Sophie's mother, and her father had blamed Dagotha for not being able to save her.

Now, on the one hand, Sophie's family malady would die with her. But nearly so would the legacy of her gift to the orcs. In years to come, the humans repressed the story, disclaiming it outright and striking it from all history books. The orcs, ever rebellious and ever irrepressible, kept the story alive. Generation to generation, when the Warsong Clan was finally reunited and made whole once more, the story was an indelible part of their history.

Thrall would go on to free the orcs from the internment camps and to lead the entire Horde. The orcs went on to thrive, and shamanism after the old ways was returned to the people, and preserved for future generations of orc children.

That was Sophie's legacy. Denied by humans, protected by orcs.

Honor and Glory