Chapter 39
The Mark of Cain

Foothills of the Pendragon Mountains, Pendragon

Cain woke up disoriented and sick to his stomach. Only when he looked at the crude dressing on his hand did he remember what happened. He was about to be killed by that wretched, treacherous sicarius when this hulking, malformed Orc appeared before him raving about Abel as his father and then snatching Cain away from the battlefield.
The Orc carried him for days, first crossing the Grey Plains into the northern forest, then taking him up to the hill country at the foot of the mountains. Exactly to what end he had been brought all this way was not so clear. The Orc almost never answered him whenever Cain would try speaking to him.
His leg still pained him too much to walk well, so escape was not an option and the Orc was never far anyway. Even if he could somehow escape the Orc, where would he go? If his army had not been thoroughly routed yet, would they still recognize him as their king? Not likely. His only leverage was his name but now that would be black as pitch in every corner of the land. He had no wealth with him to go live in comfort in some foreign land. He was as good as dead.
Knowing there was no future for him, he called on the Orc to kill him many times. It did not matter if he demanded or pleaded, whether he tried taunting, cursing and baiting the Orc to finish the job. Most times the Orc just ignored him. For all his fury when he first appeared, the Orc was not so easily provoked to anger.
Speaking of the Orc, he returned bearing a small bundle wrapped in leaves. He set the bundle down in front of Cain. In it were the carcasses of voles or some other small rodent that had been skinned and gutted, along with a cluster of berries.
"Eat," the Orc said.
Cain knew better than to refuse. At first, he went several days without eating, but as he started to get weak from the hunger and broke out in a fever from his wounds, the Orc went so far as to chew the food and feed it to him mouth-to-mouth. Needless to say, that was enough to end his bid to starve himself to death.
There was not much meat to be had on the voles, but the goal seemed to be to keep him alive yet never sated.
"Why bother with all this?" Cain asked wearily, and not for the first time. "Just kill me. Get your revenge if that's what you want."
"Vengeance is the Lord's," the Orc replied. "Besides, if I killed you, yes, you would die in your sins and your black soul would go straight to your father the Devil, but you do not know your sins. I will see that you do."
The absurdity of this monster being made into one of Abel's fanatics would have made for a good jest in merrier times. Cain could remember the priests giving their sermons about the Goblins and Orcs being the spawn of the Devil back during the days of the war. Did this Orc know about that with all his pious mouthings in the manner of those who would condemn him just for being born what he was? It was madness... or perhaps just stupidity.
"If there is a Hell, what makes you think a monster like you won't be joining me?" Cain asked.
As always, his barbs were ineffectual. He had said much worse to just as little effect.
Ignoring what he said entirely, the Orc replied, "You will be as the proud King Nabuchodonosor, brought down from his high place, given the mind of a beast and made to live among the beasts. But it will not be seven years for Cain. No, it shall be seven times seven for the kinslayer and the blasphemer. Your sins are many and so the years of your penance will be many."
Seven times seven? He did not think he could survive seven days out in the wild, much less fifty years. Had he even seen a man live past the fabled threescore and ten? It did not matter much. So long as the Orc was his jailer, these hills were his prison, and he would like as not go mad before any of that would change. So this was the price of a brother's blood...