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The Tempering

by Shannon Lee Martin

Copyright 2013 Shannon Lee Martin

Smashwords Edition

The dungeons of King Grathulus III hadn't changed much since Groth had last been an unwilling guest. The only noticeable differences were the increased number of rats and declined quality of the rancid daily gruel. Groth was naturally curious and more than a bit afraid of the tortures they would surely inflict upon him for escaping his last visit; he was certain they meant to make an example of him, for why else had they spared only his life after raiding his village? It was rare indeed that anyone was excluded from being put to the sword during times of war, times when even livestock were slaughtered solely for the sake of blood. They were going to torture him. He was certain of it.

Groth stared at a rusted iron grate in one of the cold clammy walls that was almost identical to the one he'd loosened and escaped through during his last visit. It had been years ago, in his days of youth previous even to his apprenticeship as a blacksmith, that he'd been on a failed cattle-raid in a time without real war -- one could never say there'd been any times of true peace -- and thrown alone into a cell much like to the one he was now starving in. Fortunately, he'd been small enough to squeeze through so meager a space (he'd been much more narrow-shouldered in those days), and escaped whatever grim fate it was that had befallen his fellow raiders. Humans were a notoriously cruel lot, toward themselves almost as badly as they were toward orc-folk, and one could only imagine what savage horrors befell orcs unlucky enough to be captured alive.

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