Animus Lost

On Lessons Learned

“Oh, so the Ivory Tower was completed in the forty-eighth year, okay.” Archibald hungrily turned the page of the book in his lap as he mumbled under his breath to himself. He’d managed to find a history book he hadn’t read yet, and convinced the Prior in charge of the library to let him read it out in the courtyard. The big oak tree made a surprisingly comfortable reading spot, and Archibald was happily entertained while Vera and Celeste were busy with their duties. He was so enamored with his book, he didn’t notice the Redriver twins approach.

“What are you reading, orc?” Archibald looked up to see Mikka standing over him, her brother Morgha standing a bit behind her. They were true children of warrior orcs, already made of little other than muscle and sinew, despite being a full two summers behind Archibald. They’d arrived at the abbey a few days prior, and Archibald had already taken an intense dislike to them. They’d been left in the Abbess’ care while their parents took some kind of mercenary job. Both of the twins had thrown a fit that they didn’t get to go with their parents—had Archibald known he’d become the outlet for their frustration, he’d have thrown a fit too.

Archibald used his finger to mark the page, and closed the book. “It’s called ‘The City of Stone,’ and it’s about Tyrant Idari’s founding of Koth during the second age. I’ll be done soon, if you’d like to borrow it.” He didn’t know why he bothered trying to be nice.

Mikka laughed at his answer, and turned to her brother. “So he does respond to being called an orc after all. You owe me your dessert tonight.” With a cruel grin on her face, she turned back to Archibald. “You know, since your parents are both elves.”

Archibald could feel his pulse rising, but tried to ignore it. “I was adopted. My birth parents died when I was a baby.”

Mikka completely ignored his response. “If you can even call them parents, that is. I mean, you prance around in robes and read books all day. Where we come from, orcs train their children how to fight before their fifth birthday.” Morgha chuckled at his sister’s jibe.

Heart now pounding in his head, Archibald stood up and nodded his head at the two children. “Have a good day, if you please. I have things to do.” He turned on his heels and walked away, but made it only a few paces before Mikka shouted at him once again. “You know, in the Ebonmarsh, it takes a man and a woman to make an orc. I guess two ladies is all it takes up here in the north.”

Archibald didn’t want to fight it any more, and the frenzy felt so good as he let it take over. His blood ran hot as fire and cold as ice all at once, and his vision went crimson. He turned to face the twins, and even though he saw Mikka’s mouth moving, he didn’t care to listen to her any more. His gaunt, frail frame swelled in size, and he could feel his muscles straining, aching against his bones to strike. To hurt. To kill. He pounced on Mikka with all the fury he could muster, and savagely punched and kicked at her tiny frame.

It was several seconds before he realized he was losing.

It was true that he’d embraced the dreaded orc frenzy, but so had she. And, unlike him, she’d practiced, trained in how to use it. She was a trained killer. He liked to draw maps.

The fight didn’t take long, really. When Mikka let her frenzy subside, her knees and knuckles were bloody and raw, and she winced a bit as she stood up. At her feet laid Archibald, battered and broken, bleeding from multiple places along his face, arms, and chest. And as she walked away, she delivered the wound that hurt more than any of his cuts or broken bones.

“Don’t call yourself an orc again, Archibald.” She called out. “You haven’t earned that right.”

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Kissarai Arikiba

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