The Littlest Orc: A Bedtime Story
Once upon a time, when the world was young, the lands of men fought with the Orcish horde in one game sequel after another. In the midst of these turbulent times, one night when the moon was high and a pre-dawn mist filtered through the hills and reeds, a very unusual Orc stepped out of the barracks from where he'd been summoned.
He carried an axe just like his monstrous brothers, and although he had the same green skin and patchwork armor, he stood less than a third of their height and had oversized hands and feet. He was The Littlest Orc.
Right away the bigger Orcs laughed at him. They called him stumpy or patted him on the head. They said he could wear a +1 ring of dexterity as a crown. And when he swung around his tiny little axe, they just pointed their meaty green fingers and laughed.
That very morning, though, all of the Orcs were called together by the great Shaman. He announced that they should roll out the great big drums, for war was at hand. A great human army was attacking from the North! The big Orcs all screamed and whooped, for they knew that war meant one thing and one thing only: Glory and Loot! (Orcs don't count very well.)
They waited with anticipation as the Shaman assigned the different heroes to their tasks. Ugn-Grub would lead his horde down the valley of the dancing stream to flank the humans from the West. Blorg-Grup would take the mighty Orc siege engines around the great Northwest passage to hit the human encampment from the flanks. Zorg and Blood-Bags would team up to take out the rock golems guarding the sacred treasure within the ruined temple of Bhleem. And Grug-Gabesh would lead the main force of the horde to meet the humans head-on.
As the Orcs all grunted and hollered, the Shaman heard a tiny squeak from the rear of the crowd. He held up his clawed hand for silence. The Orcish horde parted to either side and at the end of a long column of warriors stood The Littlest Orc, raising his chubby little hand. "What about me, sir?" The Littlest Orc asked, blinking his big brown eyes.
At that, the great big Orcs all laughed and thumped their axes on the ground with glee. "You're The LITTLEST ORC!" they hollered. "You're no bigger than a baby human! You should stay here and kill mouses!" The big, mean, jeering Orcs all pointed their big bony fingers at the tiny little Orc and laughed so hard that they showered him with gooey spit.
The Shaman, though, looked carefully at an old scroll he'd reserved for just such an occasion. "According to this ancient legend," he said in a gravelly voice, silencing the crowd. "Up upon the hillock far to the South, seven whole gold pieces are stored inside a tiny treasure chest, along with some sort of artifact. This treasure is guarded by--" (and here he paused and took a deep breath, for effect) "-- a level 1/2 Blanket Monster!" He folded up the scroll and shoved it absently back into his robe. "Ordinarily the seven gold pieces wouldn't even be worth the trip but hell, who's gonna miss 'im? GO GET THE BLANKET MONSTER, LITTLE ORC!"
The big mean Orcs thought the mission was almost as hysterical as its hero. They whirled their axes high in the air, banged on their drums, and laughed until hoarse. The Littlest Orc felt the need to announce his acceptance of the task, and he struggled to find the words to say. "Don't you worry, sir," he squeaked proudly. "That vicious Blanket Monster is as good as dead!" At this, the big Orcs broke all pretense of military decorum and fell face first in the dirt, rolling about with peals of laughter.
But The Littlest Orc was proud to serve his horde, and ecstatic that he was trusted enough to be given his own solo mission. He set off immediately to find his mount. Naturally, he was too small to ride a wolf as some of the other Orcs did. Instead, he rode off to battle on a small Persian kitten.
Many grueling hours later, The Littlest Orc found himself staring at the den of the horrible beast he had been chosen to slay. It was nestled in-between the roots of a smallish but regal maple tree. Empty peanut shells were scattered about the gaping maw of the tiny cave, proof that it had once been occupied by dangerous squirrels. The Littlest Orc pulled his tiny axe out of his little belt and held it before him, fearfully. "Come out, foul beast, and meet your maker!" he bellowed as loudly as his little lungs would allow. He paused awkwardly. "I mean, your unmaker," he added. "I think."
With a puff of lint, the horrible monster emerged from his lair. It was the dreaded level 1/2 Blanket Monster, a horrifying golem knitted together in ages past by insidious old witches who would sew such monstrosities together when they met on weekends before Bingo. It was fluffy, the Blanket Monster, an animated blob of warm snuggly downy blankets. The Littlest Orc reeled back from the horrifying comforter, while his mount -- who was allergic -- sneezed.
When the beast lunged forward for its dreaded warm snuggle attack, The Littlest Orc found within him a new power. He swung his axe and connected! For many seconds the battle raged, and for an instant it almost looked like the hero would suffer a warm, cuddly death. But instead, The Littlest Orc drove his mighty axe home and the beast soon lay shredded at his chubby little feet.
Panting from exertion, The Littlest Orc stepped forward and unhinged the chest that was coiled within the downy heart of the soft beast. The contents shimmered within and dazzling light played across the Orc's little face. Seven Gold Pieces! Just as the prophecy foretold! And, next to the treasure, a piece of swag unlike any The Littlest Orc had expected...
No, really, not even I was ready for this.
It was a +24 Mithril Gauntlet of Egregious and Near Instantaneous Irrevocable Unholy Destruction. It glowed with an unearthly light and pulsated with ancient power emanating from the unspeakable runes scrawled all over its surface. What was it doing there? Why did a blanket beast guard it? Was it some sort of bug in the program? Not even I can tell you, but there it was. What can I say?
Unfortunately, the giant gauntlet was far too big for The Littlest Orc. He put his hand inside and it barely filled a finger. He could sort of carry it if he wrapped his entire arm around the wrist, but when he tried to mount his kitten this way, the two of them toppled over like Fred's car in the closing credits of The Flintstones.
In fact, the only way he could manage to carry the gauntlet home was to put it over his head -- the whole thing. The great glove came down to just below his waist and the big giant fingers naturally curled into a fist under their own weight. Although The Littlest Orc couldn't see a thing this way, he somehow managed to get on board his kitten and the two of them set off for home. It's fortunate that the kitten knew her way, since The Littlest Orc's arms -- one inside the pinky and one inside the thumb -- were of little use.
While this great adventure was happening, not all was going well for the rest of the Orc horde. Ugn-Grub had been decimated by Dwarven snipers in the trees, Blorg-Grup's siege engines had been ambushed and destroyed, Zorg and Blood-Bags had been reduced to a reddish-green paste, and only Grug-Gabesh stood between the raging allied army and the defeat of the great Orc people.
The Orc armies rushed to regroup at the gates of their village, a desperate last stand against the rush of mighty human opponents. They burrowed into their hovels and fought savagely for every inch of turf, but Grug-Gabesh knew that only a miracle could save them.
Suddenly, from the hills, a most curious sight! A Persian kitten strolled through the underbrush, bearing on its back a gauntlet. Even more astonishing, the gauntlet leapt off of the cat's back of its own accord, for it had tiny little legs and big feet all its own. The shimmering clenched fist walked -- rather, waddled -- right into the battlefield, blindly stumbling around the feet of the combatants, until it butted right up against the shin of Grug-Gabesh himself. Surely, it was a sign!
Grug-Gabesh picked up the Gauntlet but discovered that there was no way to put it on, because the wriggling feet were apparently attached and something was inside it.
Undaunted, he grabbed the gauntlet and held it by both feet, then swung it around his head and started hitting human knights with it. Wherever the gauntlet struck, lightning shot from the sky and obliterated all that it touched. Great arcs of fire and gore spewed out from the giant metal fist as Grug-Gabesh whirled it to and fro. Amidst the noise and carnage, you could hardly hear the tiny owches and oofs coming from within the weapon.
The miracle turned the tide of battle, and soon the Orcs were on the advance. Then the humans turned and fled, their broken army scattered to the seven hills. A mighty roar rose from the throats of the triumphant Orc warriors! But who was the hero?
A circle formed around Grug-Gabesh as he set the gauntlet to the ground. It wobbled unsteadily, then plopped down onto its butt in a cloud of dust. The great Shaman stepped forward. "To what do we owe this miracle of battle?" he asked.
Grug-Gabesh stepped on the little feet, then yanked the gauntlet up into the air, revealing -- well, you know what the gauntlet revealed.
"The Littlest Orc! It's The Littlest Orc!" the Orcish horde shouted, pointing and screaming with joy. Grug-Gabesh looked down at the dizzy little Orc on the ground, then up at the glove he held in his meaty green hand. "No no," he corrected them, pointing. "It was the gauntlet."
And the Orcs all agreed, not being very fluent in causal relationships. "The gauntlet! The gauntlet!" they hollered gleefully. Beating their drums, they carried the gauntlet aloft and gave it a royal reception. They even carved a statue of it and, for generations, worshipped its image.
But was The Littlest Orc upset? No, no he wasn't. Not at all. The Littlest Orc wasn't concerned at all. Truth be told ... he couldn't remember much, having been banged around inside the gauntlet like a bean in a maraca. He didn't remember that he was the real hero of the battle. More importantly, he couldn't remember anything -- not even the fact that he was so tiny!
Which is why, two weeks later, he nearly suffocated inside a pair of pants.
One strange side-effect of his amnesia was a curious mortal fear of blankets that The Littlest Orc couldn't explain.
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