A Bugbear whose name translates as "He Makes a Garden"
Nidishchii’ (Lives near pines) and Da’akeh’itsini watched over the flocks of the White River people. Nidishchii’ taught Da’akeh’itsini how to salt, scrape, cure, and stretch a sheepskin. Together they layered the skins into a padded coat to protect Da’akeh’itsini from the axes and arrows of the orcs. Using the skills he had learned, Da’akeh’itsini made gauntlets, a cap, and breeches to match.
Shah-mah’tsah’nih (Grandmother), Da’akeh’itsini’s grandmother, made the tough thread used to sew the coat. Before she sewed, she wove finger spells with the thread, and sang the pictures she wove. On the front she wove the cold north wind. On the left she wove the rays of the setting sun. On the right she wove the songs of the morning birds. And, on the back, a sea breeze from a southern sea. She told Da’akeh’itsini that he wouldn’t get lost as long as he wore that hide coat.
Necklace of Wolf Claws & Teeth
Da’akeh’itsini hates wolves. When Bigishii’dibÈ (His cane is for sheep) taught Da’akeh’itsini to be a shepherd, he let the young bugbear deal with a wolf on his own. He had only his own claws and teeth and he was nearly killed, but he managed to get the wolf in a headlock and to break its neck.
Pouches for Herbs
Shah-mah’tsah’nih made a special bandolier for Da’akeh’itsini. It has waxed-leather pouches for the herbs he collects.
A scattering of snowflakes twirled down through the dark lace of pine boughs that obscured the gray above. Patches of snow littered the forest floor. Winter’s dead calm lay upon the northern woods. What little breeze there was carried hints of burned wood and carrion. A pile of branches shifted. Needles crackled beneath it. Further up the hillside, some good distance away, a wolf howled. From the surrounding hills a chorus of howls responded.
The pile of branches was silent and motionless. Just a typical mass of sticks, needles and other debris. Da’akeh’itsini hoped that was how the orcs would see it. He wrinkled his nose as the wind shifted, bringing the acrid scent of burned flesh and hair. There were shouts in the distance. A crash of branches. A snarling whirlwind of fur, fangs, and fury tore through a nearby clearing, bounding through a patch of snow, and leaving a swirl of ice crystals dancing in its wake.
The shouts were closer now. Resolving into words. Sharp commands. Bitter retorts. Defiant curses. Obscene threats. Orcs. The goblins of the northern woods had no love for the orcs. Since the glorious age of the original invasion from Gob’lien, when they had fought against the Orcrish’a Paderiki, the conflict had been brutal. So desperate were the Aremonians of Orcrish’a Paderiki to defeat the horde from Gob’lien, that they remade themselves with mighty magics and savage eugenics programs into the coarsely efficient race that became known as the “orcs”. The debased descendants of the two races battled over the centuries, and the empires of Gob’lien and Orcrish’a Paderiki were mostly forgotten. Yet they battled still. Tribes of savages fighting for territory in the wasted forests of the Great Vivaldarian Wilderness of Northern Ampara.
More wolves. A snarling pack drove through the stand of pines. Da’akeh’itsini had drenched his fur in tansy oil mixed with fleabane, and pennyroyal, a concoction he normally used as a mosquito repellant in Summer. He hoped the oil would hide him from the wolves. It appeared to be working. Hiding from the orcs was another matter. The bugbear curled his nearly seven-foot frame into as tight a ball as he was able and waited, breathing as slowly, and shallowly as he dared.
Shah-mah’tsah’nih wove the strings with nimble fingers for one so old. The stories they told flashed by too quickly for Da’akeh’itsini to read, but his grandmother sang the names of each form as it resolved and unwound. The strings were wound of sheep’s wool and seemed to glow as Shah-mah’tsah’nih wove them. There were many wolves. And whoshiyíshi, the bent tooth, the peoples’ word for orcs. Arrows. Axes. Fire. Shah-mah’tsah’nih’s weaving told a bad story to come for the White River people. Many warrior-scouts of the White River people had died fighting orcs before the Winter had come. Usually the orcs rested in the Winter, sealed in their strongholds drinking, singing, and making steel. But this Winter they fought on. There was no rest for the White River people, and the hills were not safe for their sheep because of the orcs’ wolves.
The lesser goblins fled, scattering as they so often did when defeated by the orcs. But the Baah’Akagi Bee’Hoh-grahn, the bugbears, fought on as best they could. Stealthy ambushes. Traps. Burning the orcs’ supplies. Finally there were no more warrior-scouts to send out. Shah-mah’tsah’nih’s weavings said the orcs were coming to the valley, and that the people must scatter. Da’akeh’itsini was too young to be a warrior-scout, though he could look one in the eye. A bugbear need only look at his eye-teeth to know. So stubby! Go and gather wool, boy!
But Shah-mah’tsah’nih had taught him a thing or two. The boy knew herbs. And he could blend a few. Use their essences, grind seeds, crush petals and leaves just so. He could make some medicines. Some poisons. And some little miracles for extra strength or sharp senses. These lessons from grandmother he learned well.
An orc stopped ten paces from the pile of sticks. It held a red axe in one hand and one of grandmother’s story strings in the other. A collection of bloody bugbear ears dangled from the story string. The orc called out a short command and a wolf barked in answer, from up on the hillside. The orc turned to the sound and began striding towards Da’akeh’itsini’s hiding place. It passed close enough to the bugbear that he could see a gray-furred ear on the story string. He knew then that Shah-mah’tsah’nih was dead.
Tsii’yisch’ilii (Curly hair), his mother, had died when he was born. The birth, and the Winter had been too much for her. Shah-mah’tsah’nih and his father, Chii’adika’i (Red gambler), raised the boy. Chii’adika’i owed many of the White River people debts. Shah-mah’tsah’nih and Da’akeh’itsini were often put to work to pay off these debts. One day Chii’adika’i was caught stealing from the silversmith. To make it right, Chii’adika’i had to go into the mountains to help get ore for the silversmith. This was hard and dangerous work. The mine was run by lesser goblins who used many slaves for the digging, and didn’t care too much for their safety. For months Chii’adika’i brought ore back to the silversmith. But then he stopped coming back. It was left to Da’akeh’itsini and Shah-mah’tsah’nih to make peace with the silversmith.
Da’akeh’itsini looked at the severed ear. He wanted to cry out in anger, to release the pain in his heart. Instead, he swallowed the cry. He did not breathe. He waited for the orcs and their wolves to leave. Through the cold night he listened. The orcs made camp in the valley. They sang and drank and, with the help of their wolves, devoured all the sheep of the White River people. At last they slept. Da’akeh’itsini went to the river and plunged in to hide his scent from the wolves. He let the icy water carry him away from that place and did not look back.