Talberth had never slept more soundly in his life, but he awoke with a terrible ache, every muscle in his body felt like it had been pulled apart and sewn back together with twine. It was sometime before dawn, he lay upon a bed of fir branches with his pack was beneath his head. The night had been cold but dry and with a second layer of branches piled over him he had been warm as if he'd been sleeping in a bed.
The sky was purple, day would be coming fast but already the others were astir, all except for the orcs. Boss, Meatstealer and the surviving pair, Halfknife and Brokenhand, would have preferred to travel by night. They liked the dark; the day was for sleeping more often than not. Months had passed while they had been the giants' slaves; day was when the torches burned, when they worked digging the tunnels beneath the steading. Night was when they were locked in their unlit cells; they had not missed the sun.
"Time to wake up," Ivo gave Talberth's shoulder a shake.
"I'm up," he yawned. "How long did I sleep?"
"Five hours, a little more," laughed Ivo quietly. "You were out on your feet last night. You were asleep and snoring before Harald cut the last of the branches for your bed."
"I don't snore," muttered Talberth.
They ate a cold breakfast of half-cooked beef. Harald had found one steer that had burned longer than the rest, he hadn't mentioned the body of the giant he'd found roasted beneath it, avoiding any qualms that the others might have. The orcs had taken their own choice cuts, preferring their flesh raw or at most just kissed by the flames and nothing more. They were less squeamish than the others, a week rotting in a canvas sack just added to the taste for them.
"Which way now?" Talberth asked just before they set off.
The scorched beef had been passed around with fresh water from the spring.
"Muphlimm-umph," Ivo answered him then swallowed the mouthful of food he'd been chewing. "North, Harald's finding us a trail."
"He's back," Harold spoke up, pointing to the ranger weaving his way through the brush back up to where they sat. "I'll go get Ghibelline, he's keeping watch by the spring."
"Talberth, why don't you get those orcs moving?" Ivo asked the tall mage.
"They seem to listen to Ghibelline just as well," said Talberth.
"That was yesterday," Ivo replied, "they were just obeying the tone of his voice, they forgot he was an elf. Go on, they're scared of you, all the qualities that a leader of orcs needs."
"Since when are you an expert on orcs," Talberth said annoyed. He didn't enjoy his status with the orcs.
"Well this is a first for me," laughed Ivo. "But I know orcs, too well I know them, believe me."
"Well I've never had them on my side before either," said Talberth.
"Oh don't make that mistake," Ivo told him seriously, "they aren't on our side, don't trust them, if they think they can get away with it they'll put a dagger in your back, especially because they're scared."
"I don't trust them, I don't like them," Talberth replied heatedly, "I don't want them with us..."
"Easy there," Ivo said in a calm and friendly voice, "I agree, but they are with us for now. You are they best to deal with them. We need you Talberth, don't let us down."
"I'm sorry Ivo, I... I just needed more sleep," Talberth said quietly, "I'll go get the orcs."