Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest is dropping into bookstores in only a couple of weeks. It’d be super awesome if the A. Lee Martinez Action Force could do whatever they can to get people excited about this book. To help you out with that, let’s continue the posts about the characters of the story. I’ve previously covered Helen and Troy, and while they are the title characters, there is one other guy worth mentioning.
His name is Nigel Skullgnasher, and he is an orc.
Like most things in the story, my goal was to create a modernized version of the more traditional orc archetype. Since the world of the story is an alternate fantasy version of our own world, this revolved around asking myself two very important questions. Where did orcs fit in this world? And where would they fit today?
The orcs of history were very much like the traditional model. Brutish, war-like, and given to conquest. While they’re exact origin is deliberately undefined, they originate from the Russian steppes, a harsh climate that bred a harsh race. From there, they spread out in war bands, always seeking to conquer or ally themselves with conquerors. Basically, if there was a war in our world, there was a war in this world and orcs fought in it. Probably on both sides. Because ancient orcs were such a belligerent group, they were generally disliked by every other nation and race in the world. Their Us versus The World attitude was basically true because they made it true, and as such, they never managed to achieve much on their own, aside from squashing the empire of Alexander the Great (who is only known as Alexander the Macedonian in this world) in one of their more effective moments.
Fast forward a few thousand years, orcs are mostly past their savage origins. Like most everything else, they’re more civilized, and while the carry forward certain traditions, they’ve pretty much abandoned any pretense of conquest. Not that they had much to begin with. They were mostly in it for the glory, which is why a proper orc nation never developed. The modern orc is usually just a regular Joe with a few strange customs.
Nigel Skullgnasher is such a modern day orc. He is an accountant by trade, going through his mid-life crisis. On his weekends, he rides with The Wild Hunt, a group of weekend warriors who mostly just ride out of town and back again to feel as if their lives haven’t left them behind. Nigel isn’t especially happy with his life, but that has less to do with his orc-ish nature and more with the ennui a lot of people feel at a certain point.
Nigel isn’t looking to change everything, but he would like something, anything, to change. And so it is when the orc god Grog comes to Nigel and charges him with assassinating a pair of mortals, Nigel reluctantly accepts the mission. Not that he has much choice.
“Uh huh.” Nigel took a drink, belched. “You do know I’m an accountant, right?”
“I was not aware of that,” admitted Grog.
Nigel’s conflict stems from the life he has versus the life he would like to have AND his modern civility versus his orcish instincts. The guy just isn’t happy with things as they are, but he also isn’t too crazy about killing anyone, despite what might some might assume from his heritage. It’s a conflict we all have to deal with, in one way or another, but it’s what drives Nigel through the story and defines his actions and character.
It’s just not easy being an orc in a civilized world.