Orc Enclave (a).
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Around an hour after Zuko declared that they would be leaving, he and BroBob were approaching the closest of the Orc Districts – at least when traveling from the Order’s HQ. As they drove, BroBob looked as though he was once again being troubled by something, and once again, Zuko noticed.

 

“Worried about being in a Division which could cause trouble for you with your former superiors?”

 

“Huh? N-Nah, not really. Although this Division business happened entirely too quickly, and Brometheus is still trying to process all this. Like, last night, he went to sleep as a third rate Technician who was treated like dirt by practically everybody. Now as we speak, Brometheus is the second-in-command of a special Mage Division which has about as much power and authority as high ranking Squad could wish for. It is a little overwhelming.”

 

“Well at least you have a basic idea of what is required. There is nobody more suited to do the job than you.”

 

“Bullshit! There weren’t any other candidates! You’re just saying that to make Brometheus feel better! Besides, Brometheus knows better than anyone that being in this Black Robe Division thing is for his own good.”

 

“Then what is the problem?”

 

“….the Archmage told me to try and keep you away from the Enclave.”

 

“He what?”

 

“He said that you weren’t familiar with anything, and would probably end up ruining things if given the chance.”

 

“Hmph, that old bastard… what does he know? How were you going to keep me away from the Enclave?”

 

“Brometheus has no idea… maybe drive you around the Orc Districts until we find that Orc?”

 

“So leave it to chance?”

 

“Pretty much.”

 

There was a brief silence in the vehicle, before BroBob glanced at him.

 

“So, you told Brometheus that you would explain how you knew that guy was an Orc.”

 

“Oh yes, I did. Tell me, what do you know about the origin of Orcs?”

 

“Nothing, really. I once read some bullshit that they used to be Elves or some shit, but who would believe that?”

 

“That bullshit is true, actually.”

 

“Yeah, I thought that was – WAIT, WHAT?! ORCS ARE ELVES?!”

 

“Used to be Elves – they used to be Elves.”

 

“No fuckin’ way!”

 

“Yes fuckin’ way. A long time ago, Elves were a war loving people, with all the different ethnicities vying for supremacy. The Sun, Moon, Night, Rain, Wood, Sand and High Elves all clashed frequently in bloody battles that often left the landscape as scorched and as damaged as the Elves themselves. Despite the intense and seemingly never-ending warring period, there were more than a few leaders within each of the Elven Sub Races, who later became known as the Seven, which sought peace, harmony and unity amongst all Elves, and these charismatic leaders managed to find each other, and lead detachments Elves, with every type of ethnicity represented, to search for land to call their own. Their search brought them to a mountainous area which while infested with all manner of creature, possessed land so fertile that they decided to take the risk and clear the area they sought to settle down in. After a fierce battle, and the loss of lives, they were able to claim the land and began working and living on the land. Despite having achieved this, and having created something of a small utopia for all Elves to live in, the leaders, who were mostly former military officers, felt as though skulking away as they did was not right, and they sought to find a way to bring more willing Elves to their settlement. Just as they had decided to go back to their respective homelands, a mysterious Elf with skin as dark as night appeared before them, telling the leaders that his King had devised a way of uniting all Elves, and that he sought an audience with them all.”

 

“Damn… did they go?”

 

“Of course they did. They deliberated, they debated and eventually decided despite this emissary looking somewhat suspicious, he too was an Elf, and that if there was an Elven King who sought peace, they owed it to not only the people of their settlement, but to all Elves to at least go and hear him out. So as women, children and the elderly remained, those who were able to ride a tamed beast and hold a weapon set out to go speak to the emissary’s King. After a surprisingly short journey, they found themselves before a majestic Kingdom which was carved out of an absolutely dreadful looking mountain range.

 

“Yo, where were they?”

 

“In the Kingdom of the Drow – Dark Elves. They had hidden themselves away and refused to engage in the war, and due to the strategic position of their Kingdom as well as their natural combat abilities, it would have been suicidal for anybody to try and take them out. The King of the Drow met with the seven Elven leaders, informing them of a benevolent deity from another Plane of Existence known as Raeksha; The God of Life. This deity was apparently so hurt and moved by the current plight of the Elves, that she forced herself to travel to this Plane in order to try and save them.”

 

“Don’t the Elves worship gods related to their name or some shit?”

 

“Exactly, which was why there was resistance when the Drow King told the Seven that if they converted and prayed to Raeksha, they would receive blessings and assistance to quell the flames of war and hatred between all Elves and end the era of war. The resistance was insistent, and they all refused to hear another word of it. They thanked the King and decided to leave the next morning, however that night, the Seven all had the same dream; a dream in which they saw a vision of what they assumed was the future. Of all Elves, living in harmony, tending fields, practicing Magic, and pretty much a vision of what they had achieved, only on a grander scale. As if the image could not get any better, they heard the sweet voice of Raeksha, telling them that they need not abandon the gods they already worshipped, yet only ask for help.”

 

“Yo, did they?”

 

“Well, the next morning, after consulting with each other, they approached the King and described the dream they had the night before. Despite there being just a bit more resistance, eventually, the first of the Seven broke and decided to pray to Raeksha just once. After he folded, it was like a procession, and even though the reluctance continued, they all knelt before an alter and prayed. They were addressed by the same voice from their dreams, and instructed to drink from a goblet that suddenly filled with a clear, sparkling liquid which appeared to be flowing from thin air. As the warm, comforting voice filled the Seven with a sense of hope and comfort, they all drank from the goblet.”

 

“What happened next?!”

 

“Chaos. Power welled up within the Seven, power that they could not handle. It changed them; it morphed them, made the fair, beautiful Elves that were slight of build into large, hulking brutes. Tusks grew from their mouths, their flesh ripped as their muscles rapidly expanded, they grew taller and they turned into what we now know as Orcs. Under the watchful gaze of the Dark Elf King, the Seven and all of their companions all became Orcs. It took absolutely no time at all from the first Orcs being created, to them propagating and spreading. They took the goblet with them, and after forcefully turning the Elves back at the village into Orcs, they set about capturing and forcing Elven women to bear their offspring, growing in secret until they had the numbers to launch an assault on the Elves.”

“H-Holy shit…” BroBob exclaimed, unable to say anything else as they got closer to the Enclave, with the scenery and infrastructure slowly changing to indicate how they were far from human territory.

 

“Oh wait; I have yet to tell you how I was able to tell that my attacker was an Orc. Well, much like Elves can be instantly recognised or differentiated by looking at the angle of their ears—”

 

“It’s the fuckin’ same for ORCS, because they’re all jacked up Elves with roid rage!”

 

“I have no idea what you said at the end there, but you catch on quickly. That crazy bastard’s ears revealed that he was a Grey Orc to me.”

 

“A Grey Orc? What Elves produced Grey Orcs?”

 

“Drow.”

 

“What?!”

 

“The emissary who first approached the Seven drank from the goblet during the transformation. He drank more than any of the other Elves, thus becoming the most powerful of the Orcs.”

 

“D-Damn…”

 

“The irony of it all is, the conquest of the Orcs forced the Elven Kingdoms to band together and form united front to repel and take the fight back to the Orcs, so if we are being honest, the Drow King was not lying and he actually delivered on his promise. That however was lost on the Elves, and the Dark Elves became the hated enemy of all other Elves.”

 

“And how do Orcs feel about them?”

 

“How would you feel about one responsible for the birth of your race? I mean, Raeksha is still the god they worship, and the savage nature and boiling blood is something they still possess to this day. Dark Elves are friends with nobody, however if a war were to break out, they would more than like be allied with Orcs.”

 

“Shit, bro… that story was hectic! Brometheus is feeling all kinds of shit right now.”

 

“That is all well and good; however I would ask that you focus on the road...”

 

BroBob did just that as he tried to digest the Orc Lore he had just been slapped with. He looked at Zuko, who had been sitting quietly since doing all that talking, looking as though he had something else on his mind.

 

“What is it now?” Zuko asked.

 

“Brometheus was just wondering how you knew all that shit.”

 

“I used to read a lot when I was injured and unable to move. Growing up, that happened very often. Nothing more to it.” He said with a slight shrug.

 

Before either man knew it, they were driving towards an absolutely massive wooden fence and gate. The closer that they got the gate and fence, the more imposing they became and eventually, they pulled right up to them. There were two large specimens of Orc standing guard in front of the gate, they neither looked impressed nor particularly thrilled to see Brometheus Bob’s car pull up. It stopped, and after a little bit, the two men stepped out of the car and slowly approached the guards.

 

“Let me do all the talking.” Zuko said without looking at BroBob.

 

“Isn't that how we been doing things to this point?”

 

Just then, the massive and crude head of an axe smashed so hard into the ground, it split and shook at the same time. One of the guard Orcs had swung his axe into the ground, and was looking at the two men.

 

“You seem to be lost – turn back before something bad happens to you.”

 

He said this in the standard Orc language, which flew right over BroBob’s head.

 

“We are not lost, Orc; we are here to see the War Chief.” Zuko responded.

 

The Orc raised an eyebrow as surprise washed over is pronounced, statuesque features.

 

“A human that understands our native tongue? How surprising. You two appear to be from that Human Order… we have been informed that unless that City Lord is with you, we are not to allow a single human within our land.”

 

“I see… I come however, bearing news of one who bares Blood of the Reviled.”

 

“You what?!” The other Orc guard asked as his face also warped with surprise.

 

The two men looked at each other, before the one with the axe in the ground looked towards a guard tower and made a quick hand gesture. The guard in the tower did the same to an Orc in a different tower, and so on, until after what felt like an age, a different signal made its way back to the guards. They both eyed Zuko in silence for a bit, before the one pulled his axe out from the ground and placed it on his shoulder.

 

“We have been told that you can go in; only you though – the fat one stays here or goes back.”

 

The Orc looked at BroBob when he finished the sentence, so the former Technician knew that something had been said about him. He looked at Zuko, who nonchalantly translated what was said word for word.

 

“No fuckin’ way!” BroBob protested. “There’s no way Izano is going in there without Brometheus! No fuckin’ way!”

 

The Orc guard suddenly looked at BroBob with an intense scowl. To his credit, Brometheus Bob stood his ground, scowling right back and even adding a snarl for good measure.

 

“Huuuuuh?! You got a problem muthafucka? You want some of this?!”

 

Zuko gently placed his hand on BroBob’s shoulder, which immediately made him calm down a touch.

 

“Stand down, Brometheus.” Zuko said calmly. “You should go back to the Order. I will go in there, go speak with the War Chief, and once I am done, I will call for you.”

 

“Whoa, what? You can’t expect Brometheus to just leave you here, bro. He ain’t doing that!”

 

“If you wish to remain out here and wait, so be it. I cannot guarantee that I will leave this place today, which is why I suggested you go back. I will tell you when I am finished.”

 

“Hmmm….” BroBob said with folded arms, and a scowl directed towards the guards for good measure. “Brometheus doesn’t trust these guys. Also, you don’t have a damn phone – how are you gonna call for a bro?”

 

Zuko looked at Brometheus for just a second and with just a bit of a flourish, BroBob suddenly felt something entering his body from his shoulder. Whatever it was that was being injected into his body made felt hot and filled his entire body with warmth and a sense or feeling of power. He looked at his shoulder and saw Zuko’s hand there. As he tried to look up at Zuko’s face, the sensation ended and the hand was removed from his shoulder.

 

“W-What the fuck was that?!” Brometheus Bob asked.

 

“I gave you a portion of my Mana.” Zuko stated simply. “This method of communication that I use searches speaks directly to the Mana inside of a person – no matter how miniscule an amount is there. Giving you my Mana will allow me to communicate with you regardless of how far apart we are from one another.”

 

“Shit, is that true?”

 

Zuko didn’t respond as he just stepped towards the guards and nodded.

 

“Open the gate and lead me to the War Chief.”

 

The guards looked at him and nodded back at him, before one of them let out a high pitched whistle. Moments later, the ground started shaking as the giant twin gates split and moved further and further apart. The guard who whistled before let out a different whistle, immediately after which, the gates became still. The sight of the spiked, metal fortified wooden poles moving, and then stopping had BroBob somewhat captivated, but that didn’t last all that long as he watched Zuko just walk towards the gap left by the open gates.

 

“I will contact you when I am done. Until then.”

 

Zuko powered his way into the Orc Enclave, with one of the guards walking with him. Next thing, the gates began moving towards one another, and came together with an earth rumbling and ear shattering bang. BroBob just stood looking there, staring at the gate and sighed.

 

“The Archmage told Brometheus to keep him away from this place… and now, Izano is in there on his own… Brometheus hopes the protection that comes from his promotion will protect him from that old man as well.”

 

As Brometheus Bob hopped into his car, Zuko was busy walking behind the guard who had become something of an impromptu guide. He led Zuko to his large mount which was a known as a Tusker, a large horned and tusked herbivore that had been bred for generations by Orcs.

 

“Climb up.” The Orc said to Zuko.

 

After slowly walking around the beast, seemingly looking it over, Zuko crouched down and leapt up into the air, deftly landing on the large saddle like extension on the Tusker’s back. He landed and sat down with his legs crossed all in one motion, and looked down at the Orc guard.

 

“You are just full of surprises, aren’t you?” The guard said as he climbed onto a different part of the saddle.

 

As they set off, it was as if Zuko had crossed the threshold into a completely different world. The high rise buildings, cars and technology of the city had completely disappeared, and he was now confronted by a completely different place with a different way of life. As the Tusker thundered its way down the middle of the wide path, Zuko looked around and observed the vast landscape that surrounded him. On either side of the path, there were tall, beautiful crops that swayed gently in the wind. At first, the golden wheat plants were all that could be seen, and after close to twenty minutes, gold suddenly became green, as corn fields suddenly became the dominant crop. Riding right through all of the crops was quite the change of pace for Zuko since arriving in Glory City. Once they broke through the crops, they entered an area that was predominantly used for growing vegetables, with rows and rows of cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkins, spinach, and so on. In between these lines of vegetables, Orc workers tended to the vegetables, pulling out weeds and maintaining them. Orc workers were not much bigger than the average Elf, however they all possessed the trademark tusks and hard faces of their larger, battle focused brethren. The men were dressed in simple furs, by and large had something smoking protruding from their mouths, and nothing else. Women were also dressed in simple clothing which was more akin to something one would find in the city, with traditionally designed and coloured dressed and matching head wraps. Small farm houses broke the monotony of the fields, and the houses were little more than large huts, roofed with thatch, and adorned with horns, furs and all manner of traditional Orc decorative designs.

 

“This must be quite the shock for one such as you, eh Agent?”

 

“Not necessarily.” Zuko said with a shrug. “I more or less lived in places similar to this one for a large portion of my life.”

 

That was it on the part of conversation between the two men, and that was just as well, because they had come across a cattle run. Orcs mounted on horseback were rounding up vast numbers of cattle, some of which were Tuskers, whilst the others appeared to be regular cow like animals. As the guard made his way past them, the Orcs on horseback gave a hand signal and a bow as a greeting of sorts, which was reciprocated. Much like the workers, those on horseback were dressed in simple furs; however the furs used were of finer quality. Some of the men even wore what could be considered regular clothing from outside the Enclave. The guard and Zuko continued along their way, and the huts with small, private gardens that dotted the rolling hills, complete with large pots on fires and Orcish women stirring those pots, made Zuko feel as if he was looking at an interactive painting. Soon enough though, the huts turned to houses, houses to compounds and then the pair entered what for all intents and purposes was a town. There were suddenly a lot more Orcs of a similar size to the guard, dressed in similar light fur armour. The buildings, while by and large the same design, were now much larger in size, cleaner, far better maintained and even had manicured gardens. There were communal eateries, there were drinking holes, there were places that provided goods and services, and there were a whole host of Orcs walking on the streets. The smell of grilling offal, the sounds of hawkers peddling their wares, and the sight of colourful items and buildings took Zuko in, up until he was pulled out by the Orc.

 

“We will be going straight to the War Chief’s manor.” The Orc stated before pointing off to a large compound which was visible in the distance.

 

“Understood.” Zuko said with a nod.

 

A little while later, the near hour and a half long journey approached its end as the Tusker reached the gates of the War Chief’s manor. It was called a manor, however even from the outside; this appeared to be a compound the size of a small village. There were guards standing in front of the gate, and they were clad in armour that was far grander than what Zuko’s guide was wearing. It was made from metal as opposed to the fur he was in, and they appeared to be far more serious than the more common guards.

 

“This is the one who claims to have knowledge of one of them.”

 

“The War Chief sent word to let you in.”

 

The gate then opened, with nowhere near as much grandiosity as the main gate, and after entering, the guard stopped in what appeared to be a Tusker stable of sorts.

 

“We will be walking to the main house where the War Chief is waiting.”

 

The two men dismounted the beast, with the Orc gently petting and rubbing a horn, before setting off with Zuko just behind him. The grounds of the manner were immaculate, with the grass, the shrubbery and the trees all manicured and perfectly maintained. Flowers and water features were also dotted around the grounds, however as much as there was the beautiful side to it, there were reminders of the aggressive nature of the Orcish people all over the place. The hanging skulls of slain beasts, the still blood stained weapons that hung above the doors of some of the larger buildings and houses. Groups of Warriors clad in different types of armour ranging from light to heavy and everything in between sat around burning fires. There were young Orc boys, clad in simple furs and skins on standby. It would just take a glance from one of the Warriors to cause one of the boys to run to one of the massive wooden barrels, use a small bucket to scoop up whatever liquid that was in the barrel, and run over to which ever Warrior looked in his direction, before pouring what was in the bucket into a large, clay drinking bowl. Large, hand carved pipes smoked away with the embers of whatever tobacco mixture was in them, and the more elaborate the armour of the Warrior, the more elaborate and larger the pipe. They would all eye Zuko and his guide as they walked through the grounds, with women in the houses peeking through cracks in the curtains. Children who were too small to be on standby played with animals that looked too wild to be as tame as they were, as well as with each other. The walk to the War Chief’s private residence within the manor took a further twenty minutes and nigh on two hour journey came to an end as they walked up to a collection of large buildings which were the grandest of them all. Orcish women who were dressed in beautiful clothing as well as well dressed, slimmer Orc men were busy tending to things on the property. Zuko was becoming weary of the stares he had been receiving; however it felt as though those would be coming to an end.

 

“Is this the one here to see the Chief?” A tall, but slim Orc with long, plaited hair and surprisingly gentle facial features and white tusks asked.

 

“Yes, Third Chancellor.”

 

“Alright, I will take him from here. You are released back to your post.”

 

“Yes, Sir.” The Orc guard said before looking at Zuko. “Be seeing you.”

 

As the guard eagerly disappeared, the man referred to as the Third Chancellor looked at Zuko and bowed his head slightly.

 

“My name is Doh ka Ntsimbi, Third Chancellor of this Horde and advisor to our Lord War Chief himself.”

 

“Izano Zuko, Agent of the Order… that is all.”

 

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Brother Zuko.” Doh said with another bow. “Let us go see the Chief; he has been awaiting your arrival.”

 

Zuko simply nodded, and followed the Orc who led him to a large hall, which had two men stationed in front of its doors. They immediately moved to open those doors the moment Doh came into view, and saluted with gusto as he and Zuko walked in. The hall was filled with Orc Warriors, all brandishing absolutely massive and heavy weapons of fine make with the kind of ease that boggled the mind. Closer to the front of the hall, the sound of deep growls made the floor vibrate, and the sources of the growls came into view as three massive, jet black Dire Wolves bared their ridiculously long teeth. The largest of the Wolves was seated next to what could only be described as a throne, on which an Orc was seated. He was an older looking man, who was clad in heavy armour, a multi feathered black cloak, and a simple headband with a jewel of some sort in the centre, denoting his rank. On his right side stood three Orcish men, clad in heavy armour of fine make and all with similar looking headbands to the one the War Chief had on as well. On his left, were two women; one of them so old, bent and gnarled, she looked as though she had been soaked in vinegar for entirely too long, then left to dry in the baking hot sun immediately afterwards. Her grotesque looking hand held firmly within its grasp an ancient looking wooden staff which had a multitude of streak like grooves running all along the shaft, a giant blue crystal which was crudely fastened to the top of the shaft, and what looked to be scorched feathers tied to it as well. Next to her was a tall woman who was clad in Orcish Chainmail. She was the first woman Zuko had seen since entering the Enclave that was wearing armour, and even had two medium sized swords on her back. Her hair was plaited, and despite being an Orc, her tusks were almost the size of regular teeth, and her face was decidedly attractive. She was scowling for some reason, and that was all the detail Zuko could take in before the booming voice of the tall, grey haired War Chief spoke.

 

“Are you the one who claimed to have knowledge of one of the Grey?” He asked; the grip on his massive Warhammer tightening.

 

“Indeed I am, War Chief.” Zuko said with a slight bow of the head.

 

“You speak like the Orcs of the Abyss Clan.” The Orc remarked. “It’s annoying.”

 

“Unfortunately, I am still recovering from severe wounds to my neck and throat, Chief.” Zuko stated as he finally flipped his hood down, revealing his skin and bandages for the first time, drawing a collective gasp from almost the entire hall.

 

“What kind of monster survives wounds like those?” Somebody whispered from the group behind Zuko and the Third Chancellor.

 

“I see.” The War Chief said.” Very well, speak – what do you know about the one you claim is Grey?”

 

It is not a claim, War Chief – it is the truth. Last night, whilst conducting an investigation, I was confronted by and if we are being honest, beaten by a man with ferocious strength, speed and endurance. Despite his complexion not really giving anything away, I am absolutely certain that he is a Grey Orc, and that is why I am here.”

 

“You came here to report that you were attacked by some random person, and suspect he is an Orc?” One of the young men to the Chief’s side chided.

 

“Actually…” Zuko replied, directing a momentary glare at the Orc that had spoken, before looking at the War Chief. “Truthfully War Chief, I came here to ask you personally if you knew or knew of this man, and the organisation that he may represent.”

 

“You came here to ask me questions?” The older Orc said with a glare of his own.

 

“That is correct, Chief. I know this might be going against protocol; however this is of utmost importance. So much so, that I even request a private audience with you.”

 

There were a series of gasps of shock that echoed throughout the hall, as well as expressions of extreme shock as this stranger came in making bold claims, before requesting to be left alone with their King. Cries of protest, curses and general signs of disapproval began to fill the hall, with some even demanding Zuko be cut down for his insolence. The cries only lasted for a moment, before the thundering voice of the War Chief shut everybody up.

 

SILENCE!!!” He boomed, and everybody did exactly that. “You there, you seem serious enough about all this so let me ask you, how do you know the man who attacked you was Grey? How can you be so sure?”

 

Without wasting a moment, Zuko suddenly raised his hands, his forearms crossing in front of his face as his hands rested alongside each ear. He then pointed his forefingers at a certain angle, bending the tips and mimicked the shape of Momoh’s ears. He held the position long enough for the War Chief to recognise the shape, before pulling his hands down, quickly grabbing a fistful of his cloak, raising it to and wiping it across the rags covering his mouth, and then presenting the side that did the wiping to the War Chief. He did both of these things at speed, and once they were done, the War Chief stood up, unblinking eyes staring directly at Zuko.

 

“Follow me.” He stated simply, before walking off.

 

Everybody who was in the hall watched on in stunned silence as Zuko just nodded and waited for the old Orc King to walk past him. Once he did, Zuko followed along, with the four younger Orcs and even the Third Chancellor in tow. Soon after the small group left the hall, the protests from the Chief’s entourage could be heard clearly, however no rebuttal was given, and they were allowed to speak as they did right until they reached the Chief’s private house. Just then, the sound of the bottom of the Warhammer being driven into the floor below quieted down even the loudest protest.

 

“Be quiet, all of you. This man and I shall be entering the house and speaking in private. We are not to be disturbed until we emerge from the house. Have I made myself clear?”

 

The silence the War Chief received in response was taken as confirmation, and he beckoned for Zuko to follow him into the house. There were a great many sculptures, paintings and wall hangings decorating the interior of the house, and eventually, they reached an empty room. The War Chief roared three words, before servants brought in two chairs and a small table. After setting everything down, they were dismissed with a wave and closed the door behind them. After the Orc had taken a seat, he gestured for Zuko to do the same and exhaled slowly.

 

“So… you are one of them, are you?”

 

“That is correct, Chief.” Zuko said with a nod.

 

“Despite all of us having been educated on how to receive you and yours, I am unsure of the protocol I am supposed to follow.”

 

“Please do not worry yourself about such a thing, War Chief. I too must have flagrantly trampled on your very own protocols.”

 

“HA, that certainly is the truth.” The War Chief said with a chuckle. “I have yet to receive your name.”

 

“Ah, apologies, my name is Izano Zuko.”

 

“Hmmm… Izano Zuko… Zuko… that’s a good name, a strong name, and the name of an inheritor.”

 

“Well, I was my father’s only child, after all.”

 

“Would I have heard of your father’s name, Zuko?”

 

“I highly doubt it, War Chief. Circumstances led my father to lead a life of obscurity; very few knew him and even fewer knew of him.”

 

“I see.” The War Chief stated as he crossed his arms and looked directly into Zuko’s eyes. “Now, let us get to the reason you are here.”

 

“Of course… I am unsure of whether or not you are aware of what has been happening beyond the boundaries of your land; however allow me to speak as if you are not. Recently, there were attacks on Agents belonging to the Order – all carried out by those who were of mixed heritage. I carried out an investigation that drove me deeper and deeper towards Non-Human Districts. It was upon stumbling onto a significant clue that I was attacked by the Grey Orc, and that made me think that the leader of the Orcs in the city might be able to provide some information.”

 

“…I see. This Grey Orc, do you think he was able to detect or sense what you are?”

 

“Absolutely not.” Zuko said with a shake of the head. “He was too caught up in the euphoria provided by combat.”

 

“Alright; ask your questions, Zuko.”

 

“Are you aware of a coalition or association of Non-Humans gathering within the shadows with the intention of toppling this Human led Empire? Then, do you have any knowledge at all about the Grey Orc that attacked me?”

 

The War Chief sat in silence as he appeared to be contemplating how to answer Zuko’s questions. Surprisingly enough, the answers came quickly, and they came with a smile.

 

“I was made aware of something like this coalition you mention, however I do not know much about it. I was informed that there was… somebody recruiting Orc Warriors of ability who live beyond our walls to their cause. Even though this started a number of years back and when last I heard, it was still happening, I thought very little of it, because fighters of Orcish heritage are highly sought out as hired muscle or as mercenaries. That, and Orcs that live outside our walls are not our concern. About your second question, I know absolutely nothing about the Grey One that attacked you.”

 

Zuko listened to the War Chief’s answers, and before he could ask a follow up question, he was hit with a question himself.

 

“I have a question for you now, Zuko. Assuming that you are acting on behalf of Humans and their Empire, why are you involving yourself in this? Talentless and fragile as they are, humans overstep their boundaries and see themselves as those who uphold the law, those who dole out punishment, and as those who rule. The strongest Human Mage is inferior to the strongest Elven Mage. The strongest Human warrior is inferior to the strongest Orc Warrior. Any example of the strongest Human will always be inferior to a Non-Human counterpart. The only reason we lost the war all those generations ago was due to us lacking numbers, and them having Technology to assist them. If there really is a group attempting to rid us of Humans, why stand against it?”

 

“Family is just the damnedest thing, is it not?” Zuko said after a prolonged silence.

 

“Family?”

 

“I hear everything you say War Chief, I really do… however this has absolutely nothing to do with sides or races, or anything even close to that.”

 

“Then what is it about, if you don’t mind elaborating.”

 

“...somebody I cannot refuse asked me to assist when the time came, and it seems the time has arrived.”

 

“So you are willing to become the enemy of all Non-Humans in Glory City in order to help this person?”

 

“Without the slightest bit of hesitation or trepidation.”

 

“Because you promised this person?”

 

“Because that person is my precious family.”

 

The War Chief looked at Zuko in silent contemplation. It looked as though he was sizing Zuko up as well, with his gaze often times resting on the burn scars. The silence lasted for longer than Zuko would have liked, however the massive smile that made its way across the Orc’s face hinted at good news.

 

“Zuko, you will stay here as my guest.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“During your stay, I will send people to try and collect information about this shadow group, and the Grey One.”

 

“Stay here?”

 

The War Chief then stood up and powered his way out of the house before Zuko even knew what was happening. By the time he made his way out, the old Orc was booming orders to those younger Orcs that had been flanking him. When Zuko’s presence was noticed, the War Chief spoke.

 

“Ah, allow me to introduce you all; these three are my sons, Stixx, Voh and the eldest of the boys Kwanda.” He said as he looked at the men. “This here is my princess and my eldest child, Zamah. Everybody, this is Izano Zuko and he shall be staying here as my guest – greet him properly.”

 

The four Orcs all saluted Zuko with a greeting reserved for respected guests and the like. Immediately after they greeted Zuko through gritted teeth, the War Chief continued bellowing out orders.

 

“Voh, find the largest Tusker from my personal herd, round up the usual suspects and together with them have it prepared for we shall celebrate Zuko’s arrival with a feast. Stixx, you are in charge of overseeing the cooking of everything non-meat related. Send out transport to fetch the women in the villages and have them come and assist us as per usual. Kwanda, you are in charge of watching over everything and are to serve as my eyes and ears, however only report major things.”

 

“Yes, War Chief!” The Men said before dispersing, with Kwanda gesturing for Zuko to follow him.

 

Zuko nodded and looked at the older Orc, nodding at him too, before walking off after Kwanda just as the War Chief told his daughter that he had a special task in mind for her. Zuko walked just behind the Princes of the Enclave, who were having a quick planning and logistics meeting as they walked, with Kwanda clearly in charge. The meeting was brief, the orders were clear and soon enough, and the two younger brothers split and disappeared in two different directions. Zuko, who was still following Kwanda, noted with keen interest how the chain of command within this Royal Family went. Kwanda then looked at Zuko with a face the hinted at him being friendly, yet eyes that suggested the complete opposite and forced himself to smile.

 

“Please follow me, Izano Zuko. I will set you up in a spot that will allow you to watch how we in the Nkunzi Horde throw a party!”

 

The friendliness displayed by the Orc was so painfully forced; Zuko just nodded quietly and continued to follow. After a few more minutes’ worth of walking, the two reached a hill which had a bench, and small, open structure with a thatched roof.

 

“This is a vantage point that gives one a clear view not only of our slaughtering grounds, but the fires the women use cook – in fact, it allows one to see everything clearly.”

 

“Very impressive.” Zuko said with a nod.

 

“It truly is. When we were kids, we used to come up here and just watch over not only the grounds here on the manor, but the entire Enclave as well; we are at the top of the tallest hill within our boundaries after all.”

 

“It is incredible how untouched by technology and modern infrastructure this entire place is.”

 

“Yes, that certainly is true. What’s even more incredible is how we have managed to not be completely eradicated by our Elven brethren in the neighbouring Enclave.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Oh, nothing really.” Kwanda said, seemingly catching himself before he said too much. “I guess I just meant that they were quicker on the uptake than us.”

 

“I see…”

 

“Anyway, are you able to divulge what you and my father discussed back in the main house?” Kwanda asked, blatantly fishing for information.

 

“You may hear all about it from the Chief directly. Also, seeing as he was the one who asked you all to leave, he should be the one to decide whether or not to tell you.” Zuko responded with a shrug.

 

“Good point.” The Orc conceded. “Forgive my being rude, but I must take my leave of you as my duties require me to be hands on. I shall have liquor and something to smoke brought up to you shortly. Please have a seat and watch.”

 

Kwanda nodded, and quickly disappeared down the path they took to get up there. Zuko sat down on the bench, and looked down at the various clearings and designated areas down below. Soon enough, the earth shaking sound of a Tusker crying out filled the area and it was pulled into the slaughtering grounds, which were quickly filling up with Orc Warriors. They had discarded their armour, and were clad simply in traditional fur waist pieces. As the massive beast resisted and boomed in defiance, the sound of incoming footsteps from the side caught Zuko’s attention as a fairly large contingent of Ogres entered the manor grounds. Pure, full blood Ogres were truly behemoths, with the smallest one standing at seven feet, and weighing as much as a small Tusker. Their hairless, custard coloured bodies were masses of ripped flesh, and unlike their Orcish brothers, their faces weren’t all tusks. They had softer features despite their brutish size and build. They too were dressed in traditional furs, and carried weapons so large, they looked as though they were meant to be shot out of a cannon. One of the larger Ogres suddenly noticed the Tusker becoming a handful for the Orcs trying to rein it in, and without even a word of greeting to the Orcs in the yard, quickly made his way over to raging bull. Moments later, two massive hands firmly grabbed hold of two massive horns, and a struggle ensued, with the Ogre digging his feet into the ground below. The sheer power the beast possessed was mind boggling, however what was just as mind boggling was the fact that the Ogre quickly managed to stabilize his feet, and bring the beasts’ charge to a halt. His grip on the Tusker’s horns tightened as he let out a roar, which prompted the Orcs and other Ogres to roar and cheer themselves.

 

“It sure is getting rowdy down there.” The War Chief stated with a laugh, while sitting on a throne in his private perch.

 

“War Chief, please.” The Third Chancellor pleaded. “I ask again, is it really wise for us to not only host an outsider, but throw a party and have a feast, particularly in the current climate?”

 

“Do you think something is going to happen, Doh?” The old Orc asked with barely any concern.

 

“The chances of something happening, especially with this much activity and hubbub are high, in my opinion.”

 

“Maybe so, however I am determined to help that man.”

 

“Why, my Lord?!”

 

“Perhaps because of Ancient Treaties agreed upon by our Ancestors? Maybe a sense of duty? Maybe I just like him.”

 

“Are those valid reasons to expose an outsider to our internal troubles?”

 

“Certainly not… however, that man, as young as he appears to be, possesses a kind of strength and freedom that I wish I could develop, even at this stage of my life.”

 

“A type of strength and freedom?”

 

The sound of roaring coming from the Tusker and Ogre broke the two Orcs out of their discussion, causing the Third Chancellor to look down below.

 

“As usual, Khonza’s brigade possesses almost deity like strength. It appears the beast is ready to be slain; has Zamah been given the Spear yet?”

 

“Zamah will not be slaying the Tusker, Doh.”

 

“What?!” Doh said as his eyes grew large for a second.

 

“I have given her a special task that only she can accomplish, so the slaying of the beast falls to another.”

 

“You can’t seriously mean….”

 

As the Third Chancellor’s words trailed off, back at the other vantage point, Zuko was watching what was going on below before the sound of multiple footsteps approaching him quite rapidly. His head slowly turned and he saw a group of women getting closer to where he was. The women on the flanks were carrying barrels of liquor and light snacks, and the ones in front seemed to be carrying some fabrics and such. When they reached Zuko, they suddenly set the barrels down behind him, and went about the task of setting everything up. The women were like a whirlwind and in minutes, a decorated table with a plethora of finger foods, bowls with different types of locally brewed liquor and an assortment of flowers and such adorned the table. There was a lavish seat next to Zuko, and it was decorated with the fabrics that came with the women. Moments later, another team of Orcish women appeared, however unlike the previous team which while dressed immaculately, was still clad in servant clothing, they were dressed in far more elegant and expensive looking clothing. They were in the traditional style of the Sky Orc Clan, and the design reflected as much. In the center of the group walked Zamah, the daughter of the War Chief. She was dressed in a stunning traditional dress, complete with matching accessories, and a grand headdress that sparkled even in the dwindling light of dusk. As the group reached Zuko, he stood up, nodded a greeting at Zamah and once she sat down, he did the same. The absolutely sour expression on her face led Zuko to believe that she was not happy to be there, and Zuko immediately looked down below at the Tusker and Ogre below.

 

“…I see.” He said, thinking that he was speaking to himself.

 

“What exactly do you see, Izano Zuko?” Zamah said with scowl and a snarl.

 

Zuko looked over at the woman, and then the women in her entourage, before sighing and shrugging.

 

“I see many things, Princess. However right now, all I see is a bunch of faces and despite all of them being hostile, one of them in particular looks as though it wishes to slit my throat right where I sit.”

 

“Oh yeah? So what if it does?”

 

“Well I would dare the owner of that face to try it if they like.”

 

The women all suddenly perked up just a bit, their combined body language suggesting that they were far more on edge than their hostile looking faces suggested.

 

“That said, the owner of that face does not seem to have the weapons that hung from her back as if part of her body, so I would really like to suggest that she calm down and lower her level of hostility because like I said before, I see what is going on.”

 

Zamah looked at Zuko for a prolonged period, before taking a deep breath and looking down at the scenes below.

 

“Elaborate.” She said, sounding less combative despite still being about as receptive as a bear trap.

 

“You were introduced as the eldest child of the War Chief… yet you are up here instead of being down there. All I had to do was observe things briefly to realise at the very least that your role…”

 

Zuko paused as he suddenly looked at all the women who appeared to be Zamah’s ladies-in-waiting. He then looked at Zamah for a few moments, before looking back down below.

 

“There are too many eyes staring at me, and too many ears listening to me. Dismiss them”

 

The indignation on the faces of the women was apparent for all to see, and even Zamah appeared to be irked by Zuko giving out an order as if he owned the place or something. She glared at him in such a way that Zuko actually felt her gaze, like a thousand ants crawling on his skin.

 

“Hmph.” Zuko snorted. “Glaring at me with such hostility…”

 

Just then, the sound of cheers and whistles boomed out from below as Kwanda appeared, dressed in ceremonial looking Orcish armour and carrying a massive spear in one hand. The cheers and whistles got louder and louder as Kwanda got closer to the Tusker and Ogre, and eventually developed into song singing his praises. As the praise singing became more and more boisterous, Kwanda raised the spear above his head which garnered even more noise from the Orcs on the grounds. He reached the Tusker and positioned himself around its neck. It was still struggling to break free of the Ogre’s monstrous grasp, and after a few seconds, the spear was held in both of Kwanda’s hands and positioned above his head as he prepared to strike. As this happened, silence descended on the group of men and after a prolonged sense of stillness, Kwanda's arms swung down with immense force. Within the blink of an eye, the head of the spear was on the ground, and blood started spraying from the Tusker’s neck. It did not even make a sound, because moments after the blood started spraying, the beast’s body split from the neck down, and the massive body toppled and fell onto its side with a loud, earth rattling thud. The Ogre then thrust the decapitated head up into the air, and the Orcs and Ogres all erupted into a massive cheer, and then into song once more. Kwanda didn’t even stay long to lap up the adoration and support, just turning around and walking off.

 

“Oh wow.” Zuko said, sounding rather unimpressed. He then looked at Zamah and her entourage who were all glaring so hard, his eyes grew to be golf balled sized. “I highly suggest that you and your servants calm down or at least look away before your hostility is detected by people it really should not be.”

 

The seriousness in Zuko’s tone suggested that he wasn’t being facetious as he had been when he was speaking earlier. Zamah looked at Zuko, saw the look in his eyes, and quickly looked at her group.

 

“This man isn’t lying, ladies. We need to calm ourselves down.”

 

“You need to make yourselves less conspicuous.” Zuko interrupted.

 

“Who asked you? Who do you think you are to come here and—”

 

“I repeat, if you wish to speak, dismiss the women.” Zuko insisted.

 

“And what makes you think I want to speak to you at all?!”

 

“I can hazard a guess as to why you have been stationed here with me, dressed as you are, accompanied by your sweet smelling women and fancy drink. I can also tell you that there are people in the trees behind us, keeping a keen eye on what is happening here. They likely cannot hear what we are discussing or adequately see what we are doing, however due to you Orcs having a complex language of hand signals; it would not be difficult for any of these women to relay messages to whoever is hidden within the trees.”

 

Zamah’s glare and scowl both intensified as Zuko spoke, however her face eventually softened a touch and she took a deep breath. She remained silent for quite a while, before speaking loudly.

 

“Leave us.”

 

“But Princess!” One of the women protested.

 

“It’s fine! What’s this person going to do to me while here in our stronghold? Besides, what if things were to progress as the War Chief instructed? Would you all stay and watch? Give us some privacy – now.”

 

There was a tone in Zamah’s voice that hinted at her having no patience for any defiance. The women in her entourage all saluted with a hand gesture that seemed more suited to soldiers than dainty women, but they did it for but a moment, before leaving Zuko and Zamah alone. Once they had moved far enough away from the two, Zamah looked at Zuko.

 

“Are you satisfied, Izano Zuko?”

 

“So…” Zuko said as he looked down at the men, who had strung up the Tusker and had been working hard skinning it. “…your position as the oldest has been taken by another, while you are forced to entertain a stranger. That must really sting.”

 

Zuko got no reply from Zamah, only an intense scowl. He ignored the glare and continued speaking.

 

“This is how I suggest we do this; we sit here, we watch the festivities, we eat, we drink, and once everything is over with, you escort me to my domicile where I will go to sleep. You sleep in a different bedroom, and the spies will report to whomever they answer to that we spent the night, and you did your duty. How does that sound?”

 

Zamah’s eyes baulked for a second as she digested Zuko’s rather simple plan.

 

“This is a very simple plan, Izano Zuko.”

 

“It is… but do you have a better one?”

 

“I can’t say that I do.” Zamah admitted. “Why are you even willing to do this?”

 

“Because I believe that the strong should be able to decide their own fates. It took but a single glance for me to see that of the War Chief’s children, you are the strongest – or at least, you might be. Yet here you are, forced into prostituting yourself for reasons you likely have not been told, all for the sake of duty.”

 

“This is the first time we are speaking, but you already have this annoying tendency of talking as if you know everything. You need to stop doing that.”

 

“Was I wrong in my assessment of the situation then, Princess?” Zuko practically snorted.

 

“Why are you still here, and what did you and my Father discuss?”

 

“Just as I told your brother, it was the War Chief who told you all to leave us alone, so it is his decision whether or not to tell you what was discussed at a later stage.”

 

“That doesn’t work for me. Tell me what you spoke about.”

 

“I told you that is not my place.” Zuko said as he looked at Zamah with something of a glare. “That said, I am not totally unsympathetic to your situation. What I will tell you is this; an investigation is what drove me here.”

 

“That’s right; you are an Agent… although you’ve already said that. What’s the investigation about?”

 

“Attacks on Agents of the Order by Non-Humans.”

 

“How many attacks have there been?”

 

“Two – one on Mages, the other on Knights.”

 

“And while investigating that, you had the encounter with the Grey Orc?”

 

“Precisely.”

 

There was a lull in conversation as the smell of grilling meat filled the air. The roaring flames from multiple fires also illuminated the rapidly darkening sky. The silence lasted until some Orcs arrived with different cuts of grilled meat, still hot and steaming. After some faffing and such, the Orcs left the two alone, with the meat on a small table that was placed between the bench and the fancy chair Zamah was sitting on. Without missing a beat, they started eating the meat; all the while not looking at one another.

 

“All that liquor is just sitting on that table behind us.” Zuko stated.

 

“It sure is.”

 

“If we are to make this act of ours believable, somebody should be pouring some liquor.”

 

“I agree… but you sent all the servants away, didn’t you? Who is there left to pour liquor?”

 

Just then, the two grabbed the same piece of meat and this caused them to look at each other for the first time in a while.

 

“I got my hands on this piece first Princess, so if you do not mind…”

 

“Excuse me, but I happened to get to it first. Besides, even if I hadn’t, this is the food of my people; I should have first preference.”

 

“Food of your people? That beast was slain in my honour! My claim to this meat is stronger than yours!”

 

“If that was the case, you would be down there as an honoured guest, yet you're up here in the darkness!”

 

“I am an honoured guest! Why else would I be granted a private audience with the War Chief, and even be invited to stay for as long as I need to?!”

 

“Honoured guest you may be, but I am the eldest child and Princess of this Horde! I should get the meat!”

 

“A Princess who has been forced into entertaining me as the honoured guest! Release my meat, woman!”

 

The servants and ladies-in-waiting that were supposedly dismissed had also hidden themselves within the trees and were listening intently to the bickering pair.

 

“What is going on here?” One of them asked.

 

“That man said they would pretend to be enjoying each other’s company or something, yet not only has the conversation been minimal and the atmosphere been awkward, but now they’re bickering over meat… meat!”

 

“Shhhhhh!” A third said. “We were supposed to be far enough away that we couldn’t hear what they were talking about.

 

The sound of barely contained sniggering bounced around the trees; however it all died down when the next thing happened. The piece of meat that was source of the bickering seemed to tear in half, leaving each of them with relatively equal sized pieces. With that having been sorted, they reverted back to silence, eating as the sounds of singing and general merriment began to fill the air. With the booze flowing and plentiful, and pipes being smoked, it didn’t take long at all for the drums to be dug out as well as the dancing to begin. Huge war drums that were usually hung on the side of War Tuskers were banged with the kind of vigour that only war and inebriation can bring. The harder the drums were banged, the louder the singing became, and the louder the singing, the harder they all danced. Each Orc Clan that made up the Horde had its own way of living, with different dialects, different traditional dance, slight differences in cuisine, in artwork, and so on. So during this most festive and boisterous of evenings, each Clan was displaying its own heritage. Meanwhile back in the darkness, the meat was finished, and silence had descended on the pair again.

 

“I’m thirsty.” Zamah said, breaking the silence.

 

“As am I.” Zuko responded.

 

“Good. While you're up there getting yourself something to drink, pour me one as well. Be quick about it.”

 

“Be quick about it? Excuse me Princess, but have you not mistaken me for somebody else?”

 

“Somebody else? Like who?”

 

“Like somebody who lives to serve and cater to your every demand.” Zuko practically snarled as he looked at Zamah.

 

“I don’t really care about that.” Zamah said dismissively. “You’ll be up there anyway, won’t you? Pouring me a drink won’t kill you.”

 

“You and that bitch from the Order seem to think you can talk down to me as and when you please… It would be good if you would stop doing that.”

 

As Zuko said this, the air around him changed just a tad, however it was more than enough for Zamah to detect, causing her to grin and look in his direction. She was then met with eyes that made her shudder a bit, and instinctively reach for her swords, however her own eyes baulked a bit when she remembered that they weren’t there. The moment was quickly interrupted when both Zamah and Zuko heard a noise and looked down between them to see all the bowls filled with the various types of alcohol and glasses propped up on a table that had just been put there.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Huh? When did this all get here?”

 

The two stared at the table for a bit, before Zuko set about pouring himself a drink.

 

“Wait, what are you doing? Don’t just pour yourself a drink the origin of which you don’t know!”

 

“This assortment of goodies was obviously bestowed upon us by the mythical Orcish Forest Fairy.”

 

“The Orcish what?! Don’t just make up Orc folklore as and when you please!”

 

“What are you talking about?” Zuko asked as he examined what appeared to be whiskey in the glass. “How can the Princess of a Horde not know about the legendary fairy?”

 

Zuko, who had already created something of a parting between the bandages wrapped across his mouth, then took a sip of the drink and had such a content look on his face that it was visible through the bandages. Suddenly, the sound of pouring liquor caught Zuko’s attention, and looked over to see Zamah pouring herself a drink.

 

“T-The Forest Fairy went through the effort of bringing us these drinks. It would be rude not to drink.”

 

“Damn straight.” Zuko said as he took another sip of his drink.

 

Back in the trees behind where the pair were now drinking, Zamah’s attendants were all chuckling and giggling as quietly as possible as they watched on.

 

“It took the Princess no time at all to go along with that fairy story!”

 

“She must really have wanted that drink!”

 

As the giggling continued, Zuko set his glass down on the table and looked at Zamah for a bit.

 

“You looked better earlier.” He said rather vaguely.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You looked better with the swords on your back.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“This dress does not suit you.”

 

“Are you saying that I don’t look feminine enough to wear this dress? Or are you holding me to whatever standard of femininity you hold other—”

 

“The dress does not suit you because it was forced upon you.” Zuko said in an effort to stop the tangent before it began. “The armour and the swords suited you better because you chose to wear and wield them. This dress is pretty and everything, but it is painfully clear that you would rather not be wearing it.”

 

“Hmph.” Zamah snorted as she poured another drink.

 

“When did you finish the first one?” Zuko asked.

 

“The first what?” Zamah retorted somewhat angrily.

 

“No, forget about it.”

 

The pair sat in silence again as more food was brought, with not only more meat cooked in various ways being presented, but a bunch of sides that ranged from pumpkins, root vegetables, a dish comprising of dry beans and corn, cooked down until soft, and all sorts. The passage of time seemed to float by without Zuko paying it much attention, and once those who had brought the food departed, Zuko cautiously picked his plate up.

 

“It has been far too long since I last ate like this.”

 

“You’ve eaten food like ours before?”

 

“Of course – I spent a large period of my youth travelling through the lands that those of the Empire refer to as the Savage Lands. I particularly enjoyed those days wandering through the semi-arid region known as Ntsizwa.”

 

“You travelled through Orc Country?” Zamah asked as she threw her head back and gulped whatever she had poured into her glass.

 

“I did.” Zuko replied as he eyed both Zamah and the plate of food cautiously. “We used to eat like this whilst enjoying the hospitality of the largest Horde there.”

 

“What was it like?” Zamah asked while sipping on a drink Zuko had not seen her pour.

 

“Impressive. Orcs are people of war, and the eponymous Capital city is a sight to behold – it is like a monument to war. The ridiculously tall and thick walls, adorned with shields from every battle ever engaged in, the ancient and ethnically accurate buildings of each Orc Clan, the vast fields of crops… it is like this Enclave, only on a ridiculous scale… and that is precisely why I spoke of your role as the eldest child being passed down – because I have witnessed firsthand the role an heir should play.”

 

The awkward silence between the two made an appearance for but a moment, before Zamah broke it.

 

“…so why aren’t you eating? If you love our traditional dishes, what’s stopping you from eating?”

 

“I just realised that the food might have something sprinkled on it to take whoever eats it out.”

 

“Oh please, you think yourself so important that we would try to kill you?”

 

“Not at all… I think that you are important enough to have your food poisoned, and I might be unlucky enough to have accidentally taken your plate.”

 

Zamah looked at Zuko as she set her glass down after consuming even more alcohol. Zuko was absolutely flabbergasted at just how much booze this woman could drink and not even bat and eye. The sound of pouring and glugging was surprisingly audible in spite of all the noise and music coming from down below. A few minutes of intense drinking later, Zamah suddenly stood up and looked down at the still seated Zuko, who had the drink that he had been nursing in his left hand.

 

“Izano Zuko… let’s go!” Zamah barked.

 

“Huh? Go? Go where?”

 

“I was supposed to have taken you on a tour of our Enclave. Let’s go.”

 

“Yes, well, I am perfectly comfortable sitting here—”

 

Zuko suddenly found himself being lifted off of his feet, and that sent his plate flying. Zamah had grabbed a handful of Zuko’s cloak and hoisted him into the air with the kind of ease that not many people had managed to achieve.

 

“Shit! Not good!” One of the women in the bushes screamed, yet whispered at the same time.

 

“The Princess is drunk!”

 

“What do we do, Fairy?! You’re the one who put the booze there!”

 

“Fuck if I know.” The woman referred to as fairy said with a shrug. “For now, we follow them and monitor the situation.”

 

“SO, down that way is where the Gold Clan stays.” Zamah bellowed as she pointed down a street while dragging Zuko behind her.

 

It had been about ten minutes since the tour started, and Zuko had yet to figure out a way of getting the War Chief’s daughter to release his cloak without tearing it.

 

“Do you mind letting go of my cloak.” Zuko said as he took a shot. “Tan’Rhaka will kill me if it gets damaged any further.”

 

“Tan’Rhaka?” Zamah asked as she stopped walking. “Who that?”

 

“Not important. What is important is that you let go. I can walk by myself.”

 

Zamah’s vice like grip eventually loosened and Zuko pulled his cloak away from her. He was then subjected to possibly the worst tour he could possibly experience, as Zamah dragged him through empty back alleys that smelled of urine and such. Due to virtually everybody being at the party at the War Chief’s manor, Zamah and Zuko were able to move with relative freedom. As Zamah barked slightly slurred and incorrect facts about the houses and such, it finally dawned on Zuko that she was inebriated.

 

“I wonder if the monstrous strength that you just displayed was due to your… happiness.”

 

“Happiness? What are you talking ab—wait, are you saying I’m drunk?”

 

“Aren’t you?”

 

“Absolutely not!” Zamah protested as she got in Zuko’s face.

 

He looked down at her, and apart from slightly tired looking eyes, there was no hint of her being drunk in the slightest. The smell of her breath however was so strong; there was no way that she wasn’t at least tipsy. Zamah was silent as she stared and glared into Zuko’s eyes for what felt like forever, before speaking again.

 

“Earlier, you said I was the strongest of the Chief’s kids, didn’t you?”

 

“…yes.”

 

“Well, remember how Kwanda had to use both hands to decapitate the Tusker?”

 

“…yes.”

 

“I can do that with one. So don’t attribute anything to my having had a few drinks.”

 

“A few?”

 

“Yes, a few!”

 

Zamah then stormed off, heading towards another alleyway when Zuko suddenly sensed the presence of at least two people approaching them at rapid speed.

 

“Zamah!” Zuko called, but she just continued to walk until she suddenly saw two large figures appear before her.

 

The fluttering of their black cloaks really the only sound that could have alerted her of their presence, and before she knew it, a weapon that appeared to be a pair of what appeared to be short spears was thrust towards Zamah who despite her level of inebriation, was able to evade, twisting her body to her left as both spear heads darted into the space vacated by Zamah’s torso. The spear closest to her suddenly changed direction and followed her to the left, rising as it aimed for her neck. Zamah quickly ducked beneath the spear and as she tried to dash away, she was unable to generate the necessary momentum as the form hugging dress she was wearing severely hampering her mobility. She managed to twist her body once more, even though the tips of the insanely serrated edges of the spear not only tore through the material of the dress, but also into her skin. Before she could react to that, the other spear was making a beeline for her head. Before it could reach her, a foot stomped down right in front to her with half a body shielding her from any further attack. As she looked up, she saw the cloak of the one she was giving a tour to flutter as the ones of her attackers did. His fully extended arm came down with force, crashing his forearm into the shaft of the spear and actually bending it. The arm that did the damage was then raised as Zuko turned his body to now face whoever it was that the spear belonged to, and after cocking his arm back, he unleashed a blow aimed directly at the assassin’s chest. The bent spear was raised just in time, and as Zuko’s fist hit its target, the spear ran interference and provided some protection from the blow. That said however, there was enough force behind the punch to send the attacker flying back, before crashing into something concealed by darkness. Zuko’s still extended fist then swung around in an effort to catch the other attacker, however it was evaded with some strange looking movements and within an instant, separation between the two pairs was created.

 

“Hmph.” Zuko snorted as he lowered his arm.

 

Zamah on the other hand took advantage of this brief lull and quickly pursed her fingers before dragging her nails across the dress she was wearing. The sound echoed for as long as it lasted, and Zamah stood up after grabbing a handful of fabric. She then pulled on it, ripping it completely off before standing tall at her full height. She then kicked her heels off while simultaneously removing her headdress and tossing it on the ground next to her heels. As she did all this, Zuko stood directly behind her with his arms extended as an angle from his side, Mana pulsing out from his body ever so slightly and making his cloak flutter a bit, and a serious glare in his eyes.

 

“Is that cut okay?” Zuko asked as he glared into the darkness.

 

“Not even worth mentioning.”

 

Zamah said this as she spat on the ground to her left, rolled her neck and just appeared to ready herself for an attack. With Zuko standing behind Zamah, leaking enough Mana to cause small stones and such to float and swirl around him, and Zamah having finished her stretches and standing in her butchered, blood covered dress, also looking primed to strike. The two of them actually looked quite imposing and intimidating as they stared in the direction of their attackers.

 

“You didn’t need to intervene – I could have handled those two Trolls.”

 

“Big talk for somebody who is bleeding.” Zuko snorted. “You were about to get skewered.”

 

“I was about to dodge and then rip them apart.”

 

“No you were not.”

 

“Yes, yes I was!”

 

Just as the bickering was about to get worse, the impending sense of danger suddenly snapped the two out of their debate and forced them to be ready. As if instinctively, Zamah darted off in the direction of the Troll that had wounded her, following the scent of her own blood. That left Zuko to deal with the other Troll, which ran towards him with the strangest, most disgusting looking movements one could imagine. It had its hood up as it charged him, and moments later, the glint of a spear head alerted him of the incoming attack. Zuko stomped both of his feet on the ground and burst forward, tilting his head to the side and dodged the spear. As he entered attacking range, Zuko launched a series of attacks, swinging and thrusting his extended arms and stomping on the ground frequently. The Troll evaded practically every single attack that Zuko threw at it, twisting and contorting its body in such a way, it appeared as though its bones were made from water. To his credit though, Zuko was also parrying every single attack away with absolute authority, threatening to break the second spear as well. As Zuko battled with his foe, Zamah was busy tearing into the other Troll. Even without her swords, she was overwhelming her would be assassin, who tried attacking with the bent spear, but Zamah slipped the attack while whipping the bit of torn dress around the spear head. The cloth was wrapped tightly around the jagged and long head, and Zamah pulled on it, yanking the Troll towards her and twisted her body, generating momentum before launching a kick directly into the tall, slender figure. Despite having to force it just a bit, her foot reached the Troll’s neck and the resulting crack was loud enough to distract both Zuko and the Troll he was fighting. Immediately after landing the kick, Zamah brought her foot down and instantly launched a kick into the Troll’s side, which also resulted in an insanely loud crack that once again drew the attentions of Zuko and his sparring partner. Zamah then let out a roar as she swung her fist towards the Troll’s head, which was falling lower and lower due to its legs being limp. The punch was so unbelievably hard, that the sound of something exploding violently boomed all throughout the collection of Star Orc Clan houses.

 

“…eh?” Zuko said, absolutely stunned.

 

The Troll that had been fighting Zuko was gone, and instead of finding the pulpy, mushy remains of the other Troll, all Zuko could see was the destroyed pavement, and the powdered remains of four houses. His eyes were absolutely baulking with disbelief, and as he slowly turned his head to look at Zamah, who just scoffed as she spat on the ground again.

 

“Fuck… they got awa—”

 

Zamah couldn’t finish what she said as she keeled over and started vomiting profusely. Zuko just stood there, still flabbergasted, as he watched this insanely powerful woman vomit all over the floor.

 

“…well fuck.”

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