A MM Sweet Romance
“Orcs are the answer but what is the question?”
Elias is a priest at the Temple of the Divine Sibyl. When he becomes lost in the woods after his brother’s hunting party abandons him, it’s just his luck that he’d stumble upon an angry orc caught in a trap. Unable to stomach the suffering of others, Elias throws self-preservation to the wind and frees the orc. Then Gurrkk—that’s a name?—ends up leading him to safety.
Gurrkk finds himself rather smitten by the sweet, awkward human. He’s always been fascinated with his people’s sworn enemy, and now he has a life debt to fulfill to maintain his honor.
Hiding an orc among the temple’s crypts wouldn’t have been Elias’s first choice but Gurrkk is stubborn about leaving. As they learn each other’s languages and spend more time together, Elias realizes they’ve become friends… and maybe more. And when the dying sibyl gives her last prophecy, Elias knows it wasn’t chance that brought them together, it was the gods.
This is a sweet, ace romance, so no sexy times, but plenty of snuggles and cuddles!
Publisher: Independently Published
Tropes: Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, Interspecies Romance
Word Count: 53,000
Languages Available: English
Tropes: Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, Interspecies Romance
Word Count: 53,000
Languages Available: English
Elias stayed frozen, taking in the long black tunic cinched at the waist by a gold cord. The short sleeves were trimmed with gold thread, baring muscled arms. The stately garb struck Elias, making him wonder as to the status of the orc. Did they have hierarchy as humans did? The tunic ended around his knees, leaving the rest of his muscled legs bare. Also, this orc wasn’t of monstrous size, so he couldn’t be of the mountain variety. He was certainly taller and broader than Elias, but also leaner, corded with muscle, like that big cat Elias had spotted earlier. And his face was… not horrible. Brutish and sharp but not hideous or even ugly. Those illustrators of tomes really set out to depict orcs as the most horrific creatures ever to grace the earth.READ MORE
The urge to run made his palms grow damp and his breath to quicken. Not that he could run for more than a few steps before wheezing because he was so damn out of shape, and why the hell didn’t he train with his brother? I’m going to die, I’m going to die….
Then his gaze traveled down to the reason the orc was sitting on the ground and not eating his face. Vicious steel jaws had the orc by the ankle, piercing deeply into his flesh. The jaws were attached to a chain that was buried into to the earth. The fact the orc hadn’t freed himself meant this was one of the trick jaws. One specifically made for capturing orcs. The scoured earth around the chain proved that the orc had tried to dig himself free but clearly hadn’t succeeded. His ankle was a mess of torn flesh and caked blood, and only then did Elias notice the buzz of flies.
How long had he been sitting there, in pain? In fear?
Sympathy rose with anger not far behind. Elias and the orc stared at each other, and Elias found himself stepping closer without consciously deciding his actions. The orc growled deeper, eyes narrowed in warning. Elias stopped again, wondering what he was doing. This was an orc! The enemy! The beasts that kept trying to take their lands. Attius’s tirades whirled through his mind even as the battle songs about marauding orcs jangled in his memory.
He’d never joined in. He’d never had anything personal against orcs. He never thought one way or another about them. Fighting them wasn’t a part of his world. Most of his life had been spent ensconced in the Temple of the Divine Sibyl, which was safely behind fortified stone walls and separated from the general populace of the city.
He was sheltered and he knew it. To see such ugly pain in another living creature struck him to the core. That was one of the reasons he didn’t eat meat. He couldn’t reconcile killing just to feed himself when there were plenty of other things to consume if he simply looked.
At that moment, this orc was no different than any other wild animal caught in a trap. And would he let such a creature die so horribly? No, he would not.
Taking a deep breath, and with more courage than he would profess to have, Elias crouched before slowly pushing off his pack. He kept his eyes on the orc and opened the top flap before tilting it to show the orc that it only held medicines, plant samples, parchment, and ink.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said gently. “Can you understand me?”
The orc made no indication either way. He continued to growl and glare.
“I want to help you.” Elias took the one weapon he had, a long dagger, and showed the orc the blade before tossing it away. The orc stopped growling and blinked in apparent surprise. Elias shuffled closer on his knees, keeping his demeanor as non-threatening as possible. He almost snorted—as if a soft priest like him could be threatening. He kept speaking in low tones as he would to a frightened animal. He kept his pack held out in front of him, hoping the harmless items would convince the orc he wasn’t a hunter.
The orc’s large nostrils flared, and he squinted into the bag. He must have smelled the remaining apples, the plant samples, and the few healing ointments Elias carried with him everywhere. Elias set the bag within easy reach of the orc just in case he wanted to investigate. Then he took a good look at the steel jaws and winced.
The orc didn’t wear shoes, his sturdy, rough feet tough enough not to need them. His nails were more like claws, almost identical to those on his fingers. The trap would have been covered, and he’d stepped directly onto the triggering mechanism. The blades had barely missed his foot to cut into his ankle, probably scraping against the bones and tendons.
Elias took a moment to fight nausea.
“Damn. Once I free your leg it’s going to bleed profusely. I have to wrap it fast and tight.” He glanced up and met the orc’s eyes. Grim determination stared back at him and Elias blinked. “You do understand me.”
The orc merely grunted and grabbed the bag to riffle through it. With apparent satisfaction, he handed Elias the cloth wrap and dug his claws into the ground , jaw clenched, body braced. Elias took a moment to spread a thick blue herb mash on the cloth so everything would be ready when the orc’s leg was free.
Elias huffed and fiddled with the trap, remembering what Attius had told him. Once he found the small, hidden latch, he gripped the jaws and nodded to the orc. The orc grunted again and nodded back. Elias took both sides of the jaw and shoved them down, freeing the orc’s ankle. With a sound akin to a yelp, the orc yanked his foot away, and Elias let go, letting the teeth clash together. He tossed the jaws with disgust before wrapping the orc’s ankle, since he’d been right, and the blood did, indeed, gush. Elias managed to wrap the ankle tightly without much fumbling and tied the ends together, making sure it was secure. The herb mash should stop the bleeding and prevent infection as well as numb the area for as long as he kept it on. It was one of Elias’s own inventions.
While he wouldn’t call himself a healer, he enjoyed experimenting with all sorts of plants, and more often than not, he found success that the official temple healers eagerly accepted. The trick was remembering what he’d put into his concoctions in the first place. Hence the parchment and ink he carried with him all the time.
With a sigh of relief, Elias sat back on his heels. Then it struck him that the orc was free, and he had no clue if the orc would attack or spare his life in repayment. He caught his breath and wished he hadn’t tossed away his dagger, for what good it would do.
He could always try running. The orc might spare him if he proved he wasn’t worth the effort. He looked stupid when he ran.
As Elias was gibbering mentally, the orc was scrutinizing the wrap on his ankle and snarling at the steel jaws. He gingerly wiggled his wounded foot before staring at Elias.
“Well, that was… I mean. You’re welcome. I think I’ll just… you know. Um.” Elias slowly reached out and grabbed his bag, sliding it closer. He pushed to his feet, keeping an eye on the orc and tried to back away casually. He was sweating now, trembling with the grim reality of his situation. He didn’t quite regret helping the orc but wouldn’t his face be red if the creature attacked him, and his brother stumbled upon his corpse days later?
He tried to keep an eye on the orc while also retrieving his dagger. Unfortunately, his feet hated him, and he tripped and tumbled backward. He lost his grip on his bag and struggled to sit up, imagining the orc bearing down on him, fangs flashing, jaws gnashing. Instead, the orc continued to sit on the ground, staring at him with puzzlement. The orc probably thought he was the village idiot. He wouldn’t be wrong.
By the gods, at least he wasn’t laughing.
That was when their gazes met again, and there was only exhaustion in those black eyes, not a trace of the earlier hostility. The fact he wasn’t bounding away further drove home his fatigue.
“How long were you trapped in that thing?” Elias asked, wondering how much he understood. “You must be hungry. Hell, you must be starving.”
Elias pushed to his knees and rummaged through his bag. He took out one of his last precious apples and held it up. The orc made a face. Elias frowned.
“Hey, this is a perfectly good apple. But fine. Let’s see what else… jerky?” Elias pulled out several large strips. “How the hell did jerky get into… Attius. That jerk.”
Well, it would prove fortuitous. The orc perked up, ears and all, and he sniffed the air like an eager puppy. Elias swallowed a laugh at the image. He tossed the strips underhand and barely half made it to where the orc was sitting. Gods, he was pathetic.
The orc ate with gusto, not at all perturbed that most of them ended up on the ground. He tore, chomped, swallowed, inhaling all of it, not ashamed to scoot over the grass to snatch the rest. All the while, he made sounds of appreciation. Elias proceeded to eat his perfectly good apple.
He took a large swig of water from his waterskin before tossing that as well. If it wasn’t for the orc’s reflexes, he would have smashed the poor guy’s face. Once again, the orc didn’t appear phased by his ungainly throws and chugged the rest of the water.
Elias sighed. No good deed goes unpunished. Hopefully there was a river nearby. Or better yet, home.
Then the orc shoved to his feet, hopping slightly to keep the weight off his injury. Elias’s heart jumped, and his stomach tightened as he also stood, braced for anything, yet knowing he was a dead man if the orc chose violence. The orc stared at him intently before limping closer. Elias’s palms were sweaty again.
First, the orc handed back his waterskin, then he smacked his fist against his chest a few times before saying, “Gurrkk.”
Elias blinked. “‘Gurrkk’?”
The orc nodded before pointing to Elias with a lifted eyebrow.
Oh. Right. Names.
Gurrkk was a name? It sounded like the sound someone would make when choking on a too-big piece of white cake. Not that he’d know. Ahem.
Elias mimicked Gurrkk’s chest-pounding and said, “Elias.”
Gurrkk squinted. “El-i-as.”
Elias smiled at the heavily accented voice, appreciating the effort. “Eli. You can call me Eli.”
“E-li.” Gurrkk nodded.
Then Gurrkk lowered to all fours and tucked his wounded leg close to the other. The tunic stretched over his back and his… err… posterior. He looked over his shoulder and met Elias’s eyes before jerking his chin in the direction he was facing. Then he trotted off, as comfortable on all fours as if he was a dog or bear. Elias contemplated his miniscule options. Gurrkk hadn’t shown any aggression since they first met and had even introduced himself. By the gods, he might just get out of this damn forest in one piece.
Elias frowned before squinting at the sky. “Was this my sign? Seriously?”
Well, he hadn’t been specific.
Gods and their strange humor.
He shrugged on his bag and sheathed his dagger as he hurried after Gurrkk. Elias suspected that Gurrkk could go faster if he wanted to but he kept a steady pace for Elias’s sake. Elias wasn’t sure if he should be ashamed or grateful. Sweat made his curly brown hair stick to his face, and he was panting by the time the gushing and burbling of a river met his ears. The trees thinned, and Gurrkk led him to the Sun River. If he followed it south, he would eventually arrive home. He sighed in relief. Gurrkk hobbled right up to the river and shoved his face into the water. Elias snickered and knelt to fill his waterskin.
The orc would be all right. They were hardy folk.
“Keep your wound clean,” Elias said despite the language barrier. “Don’t take off the bandage for the next two days, at least, and keep it dry.”
Gurrkk lifted his head and stared at Elias, dripping water. His ears flicked back and forth. Then his gaze shifted to something beyond Elias and he growled. Elias spun around at the same time the blare of a horn echoed over the area, followed by the shrill barking of dogs. He knew that horn. He knew those dogs. His heart leapt.
“Attius.” Gods be praised, he was saved! Then his stomach dropped, and he spun back around to look at Gurrkk. “You need to leave. Now. That’s my brother’s hunting party, and he won’t stop to ask questions. Go!”
He pointed to the forest before standing. Gurrkk pushed to his feet, keeping weight off his wounded leg. He gripped the cord of a necklace Elias hadn’t noticed before and pulled it over his head. Without a word, Gurrkk slipped the cord over Elias’s neck. At the end was a good-sized tooth of, what must have been, a large mountain lion.
“What…?” Elias tried to take it off but Gurrkk stilled his hand. His palm was rough and cool. Elias froze and their eyes met once again.
Then Gurrkk spoke, slowly and firmly. “Debt.”COLLAPSE