Or maybe it could.
Since the little conversation we had with him the other day, I've made a point to get to know Antonio. He doesn't seem that inclined to speak up the majority of the time, content to listen to us yell at one another over the campfire or while climbing the Stalk of Rodentia. I've made an effort to draw him into the chatter, but he's not receptive.
Today was a rather harrowing struggle up the Stalk. The air has become thin, the wind very windy, and we're all extremely cold. Grylock, who keeps complaining of his aching joints, surmises that we would have been to the top long ago in fairer weather. In the final throes of winter we've been forced to cope with a sometimes-treacherous path and the fatigue of wading through accumulated snow.
I question my decision to bring my son along. It was, as they say back home, fuckingly boneheaded. Or maybe they don't, but I rather like that saying.
We take breaks every hour to avoid mass buildup of fatigue, and we'd just stopped for one when the wind hit the Stalk with a particularly vicious gust. Everyone else was resting in the snow; I was still on my feet, peering down at the land. The gust pitched me forward, and with nothing to grab onto I flailed -
- and my pants filled with poo as I caught a glimpse of Rodentia, so far away that I couldn't even see fire -
- and a big arm looped around me from behind and lugged me to safety. I landed on its owner's lap as we collapsed into a heap of snow.
I peered around, teeth chattering. "Th-th-th-thanks."
Antonio stared back, face as blankly pleasant as ever. "Iz no problem. You zmell of fecez now."
"Whew, does he ever." Grylock covered his nose. "Gotta learn te control yer bowels, Dragomir, or I'm not going anywhere with ye from now on."
Everyone laughed, though nervously, as I scrambled away from Antonio. He gave my butt a light slap, which, under the circumstances, I thought was a brave move. I discretely changed my pants, threw the old pair off the side of the stalk, and returned to the group to share a light dinner of cold apricots. Delicious.
While Fynn demonstrated his fledgling magical powers to Grylock, Logan, and Jeffrey (he can conjure lights in different shapes!), I sat down beside Antonio and offered my hand. "Thanks. For, uh, you know. Keeping me alive."
The orc looked at my hand a moment, then shook. His tight grip crushed my fingers. "Iz no problem, I zay. You eazterneze are over polite."
"Well, you saved me. I figure I should be grateful. Else you might not grab me next time."
The orc laughed. "You vill your pantz again and perhapz I vill not. Be happy I am not my zizter, ya? Zhe cannot tolerate ze ztink of poo. You vuld have vallen a long, long vay."
"I'll keep that in mind." I shook my hand out. "What's your sister's name?"
"Antonia." Antonio grinned. "Lizanna, when zhe adopted uz, zhe give us ztage namez. Ve keep zem for our own. Better zan original namez."
I swallowed. Yep, brother and sister. "What're your original names?"
Antonio whistled out a long, guttural string of musical toots and blats. They sounded more like the beginnings of a symphony than language. His expression didn't change once, so I couldn't tell if he was pulling my leg or not.
I waited for him to finish. "... I'll just call you Antonio."
The orc bellowed out another laugh. "I get zat often."
We talked a while longer, though Antonio remained largely silent on his past. All I managed to wiggle out of him was his time as a gypsy - adopted, raised as a boxer (another telltale sign), and ultimately separated from his sister when she went off to join a professional boxing league. He hadn't seen her since. Anything before Antonio's gypsy days remained carefully confidential, and eventually I gave up asking.
As the team gathered up their things and prepared to move again, I wrapped up the conversation as best I could. "You must miss your sister."
Antonio shrugged, adjusting his bandana to cover his pointy ears. "Zometimez. But zhe made her choice, und I only hope zhe iz happy."
I bit my lip. I figured it wasn't the best time to tell Antonio about his twin - but I also didn't want to drop the idea entirely. "But, uh, what if... like... what if she's in trouble? You must worry for her a lot. Even if she is a boxer."
"Zhe can take care of herzelf." He pounded his fists together merrily. "I vuld know. Zhe iz juzt az good a fighter az I, und ve vuld not let up our training. I have no reazon to panic."
"But..." I waved my hands around in the air, as if conjuring up wild ideas from pure fiction. "Say, uh... say she... like... turned into a werewolf, or something... something random... wouldn't that get you worried...?"
Normally when Antonio smiles his mouth remains clenched shut. This time, though, he bared his teeth in a feral grin, and his eyes creeped open. "Zat vuld make our reunion battle all ze more interezting, no? If zhe vere a verevulf. I vuld relizh zuch a combat."
I gaped at him. Eventually, his face settling back to normal, he cuffed my arm, laughed, and strode away.
I think he wanted me to take that as a joke.
Not so sure.
Orcs are weird.
Dragomir the Wanderer