In a night filled with screams, Guinney ran. But she couldn’t get away. Escaped orcs were everywhere. The green beasts had taken over the internment camp, killing guards, killing soldiers. Killing Guinney’s friends. Guinney’s husband fell before her eyes to an orc’s axe. The sergeant, close behind him, grabbed her husband’s rifle and tried to take aim, but the orc simply grabbed her by the neck and laughed as her bones snapped. The sergeant collapsed in a heap beside Guinney’s husband.
Guinney wrapped one hand around the large roundness of her belly, and she dodged around the corner of the barracks. She slammed headlong into a huge orc wearing black armor. Guinney froze. This was the orc who led the prisoners in their escape, who brought them weapons to kill the soldiers. As Guinney stared into his gray eyes, she could do nothing but whimper.
The green-skinned beast looked down at her big belly. Wordlessly he picked her up. Guinney heard herself crying like a wounded pup as the orc ran. He stopped at the fence surrounding the internment camp.
“Protect your child,” the orc said in thickly accented Common.
He lifted her easily over the fence, dropping her lightly on the far side. For a moment she stared blankly at the tall wooden fence. Then she heard more screams inside the camp, and she ran.
Night turned to day. Guinney didn’t know where she was. All she knew was to get away from the orcs. Her husband was dead. Everyone in the camp was likely dead. She must keep her child safe.
Sometime in midday something grabbed at her belly. One of the orcs had followed her from the camp. He threaded his big meaty hands around her waist to squeeze her to death. Guinney tried to pull his hands off, but she could not find them. She looked, but there were no orcs in sight. There was nothing but her immense belly and her dirty nightgown.
Guinney kept walking, but the pain came back. Perhaps the orc had vanished, like a rogue, to sneak up on her. She waited. She scanned the countryside but she could not find him.
The strange pain came and went for hours, leaving Guinney perplexed. There was pain, but no orc. After moonrise she found a small creek. She drank till her thirst was quenched, then washed her hands, face, and her dirty bare feet. Berries grew fresh by the creek and she ate her fill. Guinney sat back against a tree and felt calm. The pains had gone.
Suddenly fear engulfed her. The orc in black armor had lifted her away from the pain. He had thrown her over the wall where there was no pain and no screaming. He separated her from her husband and her friends. But a good soldier didn’t run away. She stayed till the end. And Guinney stayed, tensing her abdomen, holding her breath, willing the pain to return. Long minutes dragged past, but she finally won. The pain came back, and the orc in black armor faded into the night. He had failed. He could not keep her away.
Through the night Guinney endured. They all had pain. Her husband’s pain as the orc buried an axe in his chest. The sergeant’s pain as her neck snapped. The cook and the quartermaster and the major, all falling in pain to the crazed orcs.
As the pain grew, Guinney fell to her hands and knees, rocking silently back and forth. Pain was everything. She felt it as keenly as those who had fallen at the camp. Guinney hadn’t run away; she was with them. She felt pain, too.
Then a vast pain burned her. Worse than being shot. Worse than the time her arm was sliced open with a sword and the sergeant poured alcohol into the open gash to clean it. This pain was good. It held her to the others in a tight, unbreakable bond. She would never abandon them.
As the pain peaked, Guinney felt a warm wetness and a tug. She looked down. A small slime-covered creature lay on the ground. As Guinney stared, the wadded-up little being rolled to one side and mewled. In the moonlight she could see its large head, pointy ears, and dark slimy skin with an unmistakable green tint. It was a miniature orc.
Guinney fell back on her hip. “Where did you come from?”
The creature took a choking breath and let out a solid scream.
Then Guinney knew. This orc had followed her from the camp, unwilling to let her go. Worse yet, this creature was tied to her own body. Who in the name of the Light had done that? Her hands shook as she grabbed the unholy cord binding them and tried to rip it free. But it was thick and slippery and she could not get a good hold on it.
“You’re not going to kill me, too,” she hissed. “You may have killed everyone I knew, but you won’t touch me.”
The creature took another gurgling breath and screamed again.
“You’re a demon! That’s what you are!” Guinney tried to get to her feet but more pains made her double over. Guinney halted for a few moments, breathing hard. Her fair hair, now thick with dirt and sweat, trailed across her face. She forced it back and reached down for her round belly. But something was wrong. Her belly, so big she could no longer bend over, so hard her husband had balanced his coffee cup on it, had deflated. The full roundness was gone.
Guinney whirled toward the monster. “What did you do with my baby?!”
More screams came from the creature. Screams of those it had killed. The soldiers. The major. The cook. The sergeant. Her husband. And now her baby, too. Guinney covered her ears but she could still hear their screams.
Guinney crawled back to the infernal being. It was one of them. One of those demonic orcs that had slaughtered her friends. It would not shut up, taunting her with echoes of their cries. The orcs had shown no mercy in their slaughter. She would show no mercy, either. Weakly, Guinney grabbed the creature’s still-slimy leg and swung as hard as she could toward the nearest tree.
With a loud crack, the demon was still. Guinney let its body slip from her hand. She lay back beside the creek, panting. The orcs were gone, the last one dead by her own hand.
Finally the screams fell silent.