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A Stronger Hold

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“It will bring much glory for clan for you to marry Chief Yagarz.”

The very idea made Durash scoff, “And how will simply ceding and agreeing to be the wife of some slow-witted chief bring honor to Malacath? He values strength, not weak will and subservience. I would think, good mother, that you would want more for your daughter than that. I see I am wrong.”

The older orc woman was fairly vibrating with fury, “How dare you question the will of Malacath!”

“This is not his will! Malacath blessed me with skill and speed beyond any chief I have ever seen. I have killed giants, trolls, and even brought a dragon to its knees and you think that I should be prize for some male simply upon virtue of my sex!? Any man who had shown half as much strength would have been made chief, not tribute!”

Her mother’s sneer was an ugly baring of teeth, “You bite your tongue, girl, or so help me you will be banished from this tribe!”

The threat hit Durash like a bucket of cold water. Her eyes widened as she looked at her noble mother snarling like a beast, no semblance to woman who had once raised and cared for her. Was she so stuck in tradition that she would forsake her own daughter for virtue of tradition?

She supposed she had her answer. If she was willing to so relegate herself due to the bounds of tradition, there was little hope she’d want differently for her daughter.

Durash had watched how her forgewife mother was treated as the third wife to a lazy chief. Her mother was a handsome woman, but no delicate creature fine of features and dark of attitude as the chief’s first. She had seen how she had always been less, forced to wait behind the pampered first woman, stunted in her accolade and neglected in her pleasure. This was no life for her. This tribe, any tribe, was not with forsaking her gifts and relegating herself to a life wasted in weakness. She was stronger than that, and she would prove it.

“Then I will gather my things. I leave in the morning. And Lagat is coming with me.”

Lagat had long been her companion in the hold, near her own age, the orcimer girl had been taken in by the hold after she had been dropped off as a babe outside its gates. They had been inseparable since then, if she left, she knew Lagat would follow.

Her mother snarled, tossing the hammer she’d been using far away into the dirt. “If you leave you’ll take nothing from this tribe, and you most certainly won’t lead Lagat off with you on this cursed path!”

Durash had enough of her mother, and of the arrogance of the whole tribe. She was strong, and no one, not even her mother was going to stop her. “Then stop me! I will take my things, and my friend, and anyone who wants to stop me are free to challenge as they will.”

Snarls and swears followed the young orc woman as she pushed open the longhouse door, moving to her bed to throw open her chest and begin to furiously pack her things into a knapsack. Snarling she pulled on her armor, carefully kept beneath her bed, only to startle as a gentle hand brushed against her tense arm.

Durash reared up at first, ready to unleash her wrath at the intruder, when she spotted the gentle eyes of Lagat her closest companion. “Durash, what happened? Why are you packing your things… did the chief say something to you again?”

“No, no, Lagat, it wasn’t him. Not this time. It was mother. She wants me married to some second rate chief off in the Rift.”

Lagat’s gentle hands fluttered on Durash’s forge-hardened shoulders. “Oh Durash, oh no… I’m so sorry.”

Durash shook her head, “it doesn’t matter what she wants. I’m leaving, and you’re coming with me. We’re starting our own stronghold, with me as the chief.”

Her friend stumbled back, stunned. “What? Durash we can’t. It’s forbidden, there’s no way the other strongholds would accept us. No woman is chief, it’s unheard of.”

“So you refuse to come with me?”

Lagat snorted and smacked her shoulder, the change was abrupt, but still made Durash smile. “Of course I’m coming with you, I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

Durash laughed, that was the Lagat she knew. “Not really, but we’ll make it up as we go…first wife.”

Lagat went still abruptly. She would have chuckled at the look of shock on the other orc’s face if she wasn’t so anxious of her reaction. Durash had been looking with increasing interest at her old friend for a while now. But she’d never acted on it before. Lagat was beautiful, bright, and all those things that made for quite a prize of a woman. She knew many of the tribe’s men has their eye on Lagat, the law of Malacath had kept them back, but she had seen their interest. Durash was not really so delicate and fine a beauty, and she had little indication to hint at Lagat’s temperament. But Durash wanted her, Malacath did she want her.

The silence was deafening, and Durash was starting to shore up her defenses as she readied for the increasing possibility of rejection.

“You’er not just teasing me… you mean that?” Lagat questioned urgently, her pale eyes searching.

“Of course, I’d never joke about something like this.”

“Then of course Durash. For the love of Malacath, you’ve been my best friend for practically forever. I can’t turn you down now. And… I like you. Of course you’re the only one I’ve ever wanted.”

It embarrassed her, but Durash was infinitely relieved to hear those words. Her impatient hands finally put down the pack and Durash turned to wrap her arms around that more slender form. She was stiff for a moment, but then Lagat embraced her back and Durash melted against her. She savored the feel of those curve pressing into hers, the slighter orcimer’s warmth, her regard. It was enough to made one giddy, but there was still business to be done.

Reluctantly she released her, going back to packing her bags. Distantly she heard Lagat gathering her possessions, and just the sound of it made her smile.

They’d just finished pooling their things when she heard heavy boots on the wood plank floor. She didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. The chief, her father. Durash braced herself with the bag slung over her shoulder, gaze turning to the looming form of her chief snarling with deliberate impassivity. Her father’s disapproval was nothing new, and Durash had no intention of backing down now.

“You are not taking Lagat with you!”

She had to laugh, of course he didn’t care about her leaving, it was Lagat he didn’t want to go. Honestly, she shouldn’t have been surprised, she’d noticed the way her father had started looking at her dear friend, ever since she’d started to visibly mature. The man didn’t care that Lagat was almost the same age as his own daughter, he only cared for his own interests. “I am, Father, and we are leaving.”

The Chief grabbed her arm, his gauntleted fingers digging in and tusks flashing as he growled, but Durash was not going to be manhandled. She shifted and drove her knee right into his gut, doubling him over before drug him up again by that flashy tail of hair, her dagger at his throat. “You’re not going to try and stop us. If you do, it will be a challenge, and then we’ll see once and for all if you’re really worthy to be chief.”

When the man was done panting like a scout on their first run, he was growling. She let him sit up a bit, but that didn’t mean the blade came away from his throat. There was darkness reflected in her eyes, and she knew there was no coming back here after this. Good.

“Everything alright here?” Lagat’s voice purred from behind her. The sound distracted her, and Durash leaned back. She hadn’t even realized her knife was pressing so hard into her father’s throat until she saw the line of red that was sluggishly welling blood.

“It’s fine, we’re going Lagat,” Durash snapped, her challenging gaze never leaving her seething father. She didn’t trust him with her back, not for a moment. She took Lagat’s bag as well, and the both left under the hard gazes of the entire stronghold. The other orcs grumbled, swore, and cursed them as blasphemous when they left, but none were brave enough to try and stop them. That said enough to her about their assembled cowardice. They would make a better hold, a stronger hold.