Perhaps Not

[Scene: Noon, the scene of the rockslide.]

[Pigmakesh]
The little orc was sniffing through the rubble on his hands and knees. His sensitive nose picked up the unmistakable scent of elf, mixed with human and horse, and from the traces he was able to figure out what had happened. The rockslide had injured some of them, that was certain. The elf had been knocked over the cliff, but they had somehow managed to haul her back up. Probably a rope of some kind. He sniffed a peculiar smell-pool not far from where the elf had been rescued. It seemed to be a horse variant of some kind, although he wasn't sure. Whatever it was, it had a strange, almost pleasant feel to it. The orc picked up a small, interesting-looking rock that carried some of this new smell on it, and placed it in his pocket. Then he found a comfortable boulder and perched himself upon it and gazed down at the valley below.
He felt tired. They had been raiding up and down the valley for some time now, and all the murdering and burning had saddened him. He didn't like it when things died. He didn't understand why all of the other orcs seemed to think it was fun. The humans and elves and dwarves all lived in nice cozy homes and got to raise animals and farm and grow pretty things in gardens. It seemed like fun. But orcs never did that sort of thing. All they ever did was steal or burn or take what other people had. That did not seem fair.
The little orc sighed. He wished he could be an elf or a human or even a horse so he could sleep in a nice comfy bed or even in a barn filled with warm straw. Usually he slept on the ground with his tattered old blanket wrapped around him and his favorite rock for a pillow. He was always cold because the other orcs made him sleep further away from the fire. They only let him live because he had a good nose. He felt lonely.
[Groch]
As he neared the rockslide, the orc chieftain gripped his axe tighter, ready and waiting for the occasional survivor they stumbled across. He broke into a slight chuckle, his lip curled as he sighted the rocks before him.
"His magic has its uses, to be sure...but who exactly did it get this time?" Groch thought to himself as he moved closer, scanning for victims. His eyes grew angry and he growled slightly, not finding among the rubble. Up ahead he spied the young orc, poised as if searching but unmoving. "Daydreaming again," he thought with disgust. Groch walked up to him angrily, his fist lashing out and catching him across the back of the head. "Well, if they are not here, where did they go?"
[Pigmakesh]
The blow sent Pigmakesh sprawling off the rock and knocked his horned helmet from his head. Scrambling up, he fumbled for his helmet a moment, then turned and faced his commanding officer and saluted nervously.
"Sir, beg to report, sir! There, uh, they seem to have left, sir. Party of seven, sir. One elf, female, probably a mage, sir. Two human females, four human males. Four or five horses, sir, and....and...." He hesitated, somewhat at a loss for words.
[Groch]
Groch listened impatiently, his eyes wandering from the tracker to the rubble. Inwardly he growled, annoyed at not finding the group here as expected. He turned back towards Pigmakesh, taking note of the party described. As he trailed off, Groch's eyes darkened. "Well, what is it? Speak up!"
[Pigmakesh]
"Well, sir," Pigmakesh said, "I...I think they have some kind of strange horse. It smells different from the others. Sort of magical, but I'm not sure. Don't know what it might mean, sir."
[Groch]
Groch sneered slightly. "A magical horse...perhaps they flew out of here then!"
He turned away, taking a deep breath, smelling nothing that he would not have expected. He thought to himself, "I wonder what it is the tracker is smelling. It's lucky for him that his nose is so good, or else..."
He turned back to Pigmakesh, glaring angrily. "Well, magical horse or no, they had to move away from here. So find them!"
[Pigmakesh]
"Sir! Yes Sir!"
The little orc perched his metal helmet on his head and scrambled out of the way. It only took him a moment or two to pick up the scent trail of the strange party that had avoided the wizard's trap. He reported the find to Groch and began leading the orc patrol down into the valley.
-------------------------------------------------
[Scene: Tyria, half a day later]
Groch glared up and down the street angrily, then back up to the building in front of him. He turned to Pigmakesh, "You're sure they went in here?" he asked. As the tracker nodded, Groch growled a bit, waving him off. "You, keep sniffing around. I'll take care of this."
He stomped through the door and up the stairs, glaring at a few idle men who were milling around. As he reached a door, he threw it open, charging through. Groch gave a slight sneer to the person seated before him. "Well, Captain?"
[Captain Beya]
Captain Beya looked up sharply from the stack of payroll records she had been checking. In a frosty tone she asked, "Did I not make it clear, Captain Groch, that you are to knock and announce yourself before entering my office?"
[Groch]
Groch sneered at the human seated before him, stepping backwards into the doorway. He banged his fist against the open door several times, shaking it against the doorframe. "Oh Captain Beya, do permit me the honor of joining you?" he bellowed loudly into the room.
[Beya]
Beya gritted her teeth but let it pass. "Enter, and state your business."
[Groch]
Stomping through the doorway again, Groch spoke gruffly. "We found a rockslide along the trail. Thought we'd find them in the rubble, but they managed to survive and move on. My tracker followed the party here."
He leaned forward against the desk. "So where are they?"
[Beya]
"I can hardly tell you that without knowing who you're talking about. How many were there? Mounted or on foot? Humans, orcs, or purple-spotted dragons?" Though she spoke coolly, Captain Beya had a hunch she knew what he'd say.
[Groch]
Groch growled inwardly, thinking to himself, "She is harder to deal with every day, I swear..."
"Well, *Captain,*" he continued, emphasizing the title. "I regret to inform you that there were no purple-spotted dragons among them. Party of 7, human with one elf, mounted...although the tracker insists that one of the horses is magical in some way..."
[Beya]
Beya frowned. "That could be the party that came through here earlier today. Said they were headed for Abydos." She rubbed her chin, thinking hard. "Magical horse, eh? I want to talk to this tracker."
[Groch]
With a quick glare towards the captain, Groch stomped over to the window and pulled it open. He stuck his head out and bellowed loudly, his voice echoing through the city. "Pigmakesh! Get your lazy butt up here, NOW!"
[Pigmakesh]
The little sniffer orc had been eyeing the contents of a deserted toy store when he heard Groch calling for him. Sighing quietly, he hurried across the street, tripping only once on a stone. He stood as straight as he could and saluted, knocking his helmet off in the process.
"Sir! Yes, Sir!"
[Beya]
"Come here, Pigmakesh," said Beya sweetly, knowing it would infuriate Groch. "Your captain tells me you detected magic in this party, something about the horses. Can you tell which horse or what kind of magic?"
[Pigmakesh]
The little orc retrieved his helmet and held it nervously in front of him as he spoke.
"Well, Ma'am, I'm not sure exactly what it was. It definitely was a horse, if you take my meaning, but not, at the same time. It smelled as if some kind of, well, spell or something, had been placed on it. I'm not sure which horse it was. Not the one the elf-lady was riding, or the one that the human who liked to eat sesame oil was on. I'm sorry I can't be more accurate...."
[Beya]
"Thank you, Pigmakesh. You've done a fine job."
[Groch]
Groch sneered silently, his face scrunched up and mockingly mimicked the words with disgust. With a glare towards Pigmakesh, he bellowed, "What does it matter what kind of a horse they were on. Just dismiss us so we can go after them again. Which way were they headed when they left?"
[Beya]
"Control your enthusiasm, Captain Groch," snapped Beya. "You know the rules as well as I do. Nobody attacks anybody without permission from Hathor."
[Groch]
With a growl, Groch cursed inwardly but knew what the captain said was true. He glared at Beya. "So exactly are we supposed to do now?"
[Beya]
"We wait and see what they do. The patrols will keep me informed of their movements."
[Groch]
Groch growled, glaring at the captain. "Wait and see? *This* is the great plan you have for us? Captain, let us go after them. We can end this rather quickly...for them at least."
[Beya]
"Hathor is meditating," Beya replied coldly. "When he speaks to me, I will tell you his orders."
[Groch]
Groch growled and threw his arm up in a mock salute, snapping his heels together. With a quick turn he stormed out the door, pausing only long enough to shove Pigmakesh aside.
[Beya]
"Dismissed!" Captain Beya shouted at Groch's retreating back.
[Pigmakesh]
The little orc stumbled backwards as his commanding officer shoved him aside, once again losing his helmet. He hastily retrieved the fallen helm and saluted Captain Beya before doing a clumsy about face to follow Groch outside.
[Beya]
Beya turned back to the stack of payroll records and reached for a pen. With great satisfaction, she scratched a tick mark next to Captain Groch's name and made a note: "Docked three sparrows for insubordination."

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