It was after we had slain the last living Orc that we finally had a chance to explore their far-off cities. It surprised the hell out of us, because they weren’t supposed to have cities.
We’d been fooled by thousands of Orc encampments. We assumed they were nomadic, not merely by choice, but because they lacked the technology, the organization, the math for city planning and organized governance.
Towards the end of the fight, they unveiled war machines of extraordinary sophistication. We figured they’d been supplied by the Necromancess or some other wizardly foe, but now we recognize that this was simply one of the parts of a hidden civilization we’d never expected.
There weren’t many Orc cities, and each was well-hidden. But as our cavalry hammered across uncountable miles of formerly unknown territory (unknown by us, anyway; the Orcs had lived there for millenia)—far at the edges of those strange stretched of land, we began to find the Orcs’ true habitation.
They had emptied out the cities before we arrived. All Orcs fight, and so there were no weak or infirm left behind for us to deal with.
(Or, at least, so said our advance guard, without looking us in the eyes. We chose to take them at their words; what else could we do?)
We found, within these metropoli, not simply culture, but a level of intellectual sophistication beyond anything we had expected.
The libraries! The Universities! The museums! …oh, many of those things were so blood-splattered that it was difficult to make everything (a mystery!) (And there was human blood, too—”We have no idea what that is,” said our Generals.
And it was obvious, undeniable, what the truth about Orcs really was.
I could recount the statues and art of the City itself, the beauty of its design. I could point to their ingenious mechanisms, their clearly-organized society, but the basic conclusion was as simple as it was inescapable: The Orcs had a level of attainment and progress next to which, by our own rubrics, we were pure barbarians.
And we had slaughtered them all.
Each of us showed remorse in the manner which suited us best. Many took to Orc wine (which turned out to be subtle, fascinating, and of surpassing quality; of course, there would be no more when it ran out; we’d burnt their vineyards.
Some wandered the cities aimlessly, gazing hollow-eyed at numberless wonders.
Some simply left, going nowhere but away.
I did as I always do. I lost myself in books of Philosophy (this time, that of another species!)—which has always been my comfort.
And I discovered a curious thing.
Having gained every sophistication, the Orcs had, in the main, abandoned it.
Philosophy brings nuance, and nuance brings uncertainty, and uncertainty brings discontent.
Orcs eventually rejected the understanding that they, themselves had created, for a gory reasoning that life is at its clearest at live/die, kill or be killed.
It was breathtaking ugliness midst all this nearly-celestial beauty. I write this from a very tall tower made of what seems to be shimmery glass; the actual material must be something sturdier, but it still won’t hold out long. They’ll find this piece, written painstakingly in their own tongue. Perhaps they’ll chose to feed it to the fire, or tear it to shreds; but I hope the Orcs keep it. This is a fervent letter of thanks:
In the end, we were not the destroyers of something lovely; in fact, we, ourselves, will have been destroyed by a vengeance so vicious and overwhelming that it is familiar; in this very foreign place, it is the wind of Home. In their own way, Orcs are as human as we are, Gods damn them.
Here’s my novel, “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN“.