[Out of the Frying Pan] The Story of Ratchis (Concluded 10/28)


First Post
[Out of the Frying Pan] The Story of Ratchis (Updated 2/10)

Hey everybody!

Ratchis here! Nemm has been telling me for months now that people have been requesting for me to re-post and eventually finish this (my background for Ratchis of Nephthys - my character in his "Out of the Frying Pan" Aquerra Campaign).

So, here is the first section - I will try to update every few days until everything is up.

I really look forward to questions and comments and Nemm and I will try our best to answer them.


The Story of Ratchis

My mother, called Garksh by the tribe, was born in a small hamlet in Derome Delem. Her family were peasants barely able to live off the land and steeped in the ignorance such a station in life usually brings. Their dowry was 3 turnips and a skinny goat. They were not picky when farmers from nearby plots came a’ calling.

The husband chosen was a dull-witted drunkard, born brain-damaged from his own mother’s drinking and whoring. What he lacked in culture and wit he more than compensated for with ox-like strength and white-hot temper. He beat my mother regularly though she was ever the dutiful wife. She was not overly bright herself and had been taught by her mother and pastor that loyalty to one’s husband was the same as loyalty to Ra himself. She would have literally died before leaving on her own volition.

As the years passed, mother had bones broken and her face disfigured from constant pummeling. The beatings had intensified as Deek, her husband, decided that their lack of child was due to mother’s whoredom (having been married when she was 13 and growing up on an isolated farm, this was a dubious claim at best). Deek’s drunkenness grew worse and worse, and finally, he was forced to take mother and leave his community due to his brawling and destruction of property at the local pub. Having heard of the claims of quick riches from the boom towns further inland, Deek set off with mother and all their worldly possessions in a small wagon pulled by an emaciated mule.

After a few weeks on the road, Deek and mother joined with a caravan of pilgrims looking for a new beginning as well. Their trail led into the mountains and all was well until a wolf attack caused a panicked mule to ride off a cliff holding much of the company’s warmest clothes. When the snows came a week later, an uncomfortable, dangerous situation became deadly. The passage became incredibly dangerous. Half the caravan was lost two days later in an avalanche. With the thick snow and plunging temperatures, the party had to take shelter frequently and this is why they were out of food more than a month from civilization.

Ra forgive them, the party did what they had to survive. As the weakest fell, the children died first, they were consumed to keep the rest of the group going. Five weeks later, mother came down out of the mountains. She had survived physically but the person she was, the person I would never know, was gone forever.

She wandered several more days until the smell of an animal cooking on an open fire drew her like a fly to honey. She walked into the armed camp and went to her knees by the fire. Curses of surprise erupted as orcs beat her down before she could grab a morsel. Then they laughed. The sight of her was not anything they had beheld before. She was human but she was much prettier than any they had seen before, the look in her wide eyes spoke of great strength and a warrior’s berserk courage. After a few quick words were exchanged, she was allowed to eat. She had not swallowed her last bite when they were upon her. Most of the tribe knew her that night and not once did she make a sound or appear to even notice what was happening.

She could not understand them, but she could understand what they wanted. She worked 12 hours a day at all manner of chore and never uttered a complaint. For her trouble, she ate table scraps and serviced several tribe members each night. Sometimes two orcs would fight over who would have her first. They never beat her because she always got her job done before someone noticed it needed doing. Eventually the hunters met up with the rest of the tribe and with the medicine man’s blessing she joined the other females. She had never been treated so well in her adult life.

Mother was able to rest the day I was born only because it was a difficult birth that took nearly 14 hours. Several times, hot-headed members of the tribe wanted to cut my mother’s throat to stop her moaning. The chief and medicine man would have none of it, and I was born into the world on a rocky crag, near the end of winter under a full moon. They named me Ratchis, orcish for pale runt.

As was the tradition in our tribe, I suckled at the breast of all the female orcs that were carrying milk. Mother neither paid more nor less attention to my rearing than she did to any other orc suckling. My first two years of existence were by far the most normal, accepted for a time as any young born into the tribe. This quickly came to a halt when I started playing with the other orc children a few months before my third birthday. I was clearly smaller than the others and thus was constantly the favorite target of all. Each day I would be tripped, punched and hit with sticks and stones; the older children would tell me about my mother, my mother the small, diseased, ugly human. I was still too young to understand much of what was said but the tone was unmistakable.

One day, I found myself staring at a leaf for hours, dreaming of what it had seen before my arrival. A playmate had ruined it and I cried and cried for my leaf. *Slap* Blackness and stars fill my vision as I stumble. Two close-fisted blows to the top of my head knocked my face down into the dirt.

“We are orcs!” said a booming voice above me. “We do not cry. I will beat the human taint out of you, or you will die like the pale, pathetic cur you are.”

Those were the last words Gahmkish, the weapon-master of our tribe, said to me for almost ten years. I took the lesson well. Strength was all I needed to make it in this world. Crying was for the weak. Worrying about leaves and flowers was for pathetic fae races and their evil immortality. I was orc and I needed to be strong, no matter how old I had to control my emotions so that I could embrace our greatest assets, hatred and anger. From that day forward, I was quieter but also more vicious. I watched the older boys play and introduced eye-gouging, knee-biting and choke holds into our tussles. Soon, I was the master ruling over the 2 and 3 year olds, beating those that did not contribute to my meals. I drew to me the largest and most aggressive children who shined brightly now that they had a keener mind to guide them.

As I neared my fourth birthday, I passed my mother as I had a hundred times before on my way to the sleep area. Suddenly, she lunged out and grabbed me.

“Gwar, Gwar, Gwar!” she sobbed uncontrollably. And then in a low voice, as other females began to drag me away, “I am so sorry! Love you; do you understand love? I love YOU!”

As I was dragged away to bed I could hear her unintelligible words.

When I reached five, I was the smallest of the children, male or female, but every child my age had a scar or mark or old, faded bruise that earned their fear of me. My day became long, with an endless line of chores all the day through. Eventually, it worked out that I would gather fruit when mother worked the grind, that I gathered wood while mother was stacking and that I brought water and roots for cooking while mother was in the kitchen. Mother was very fast and we worked together well.
Then, after three weeks, she said something I could not understand. With her knowing smile and the obvious good work she did for us, I felt warmth toward her and more than a little curiosity what she was trying to say to me. Our schedule became routine and after months, an amazing week came where. I could understand the words; no, I had been learning dozens of words over these weeks, I could understand the meaning. She spoke of the coming seasons and the hunt. At one point, she told of paying most attention at the killing blow, that was most often the difference between moose for dinner or a dead hunter. She also spoke of many concepts such as “Ra” and “family” and “love” and other things that I did not really understand. She would never force these concepts; just let them fliter though the air like frosted breath.

I noticed through the haze of constant work that many of my playmates were replaced with younger children. During the next winter I recognized in my meat what had to be smaller members of the tribe. I remember that we must be strong, and that we give all that we have, all we ever will be for the tribe. A great hunter by the name of Kurshtah slaid the chief still sleeping in his bed. Many praised Kurshtah for his cunning and none dared challenge him. This is how, right before my 7th year, we came to have a new chief.

More months passed and many skirmishes with a nearby Gnoll tribe left many of the soldiers’ armor and clothing in sore shape. It was a perfect time for mother and son to be cleaning down by the river together.

“Son, what I must say is how terribly sorry I am. You are my burning light but this life is good enough for me but, you deserve, ugh, you deserve the heavens. I had to tell you this and that I love you as much as any mother can love her son. And remember, I am proud of you and proud of who you are. Do not ever forget that you are human. My mind has been clearing for months but I trust such things not so I am saying it all in a crazy rush at one..” and she fell silent as a club crashed down heavily upon her head, knocking her to the ground in a heap.

I attacked the warrior’s knees trying to find a spot to bite deeply. A harsh stomp sent me back to the ground, seeing the stars .. then black.

I awoke with a start, my head throbbing. I was tied to a stake in the center of our meeting area. Mother was tied between two taller poles and a huge kettle cooked on terribly hot embers. The chief was there but he allowed the medicine man to lead the procession. All the medicine man did was dance about making noises, waving rattles and throwing powder about. After more than an hour of this, he nodded to the chief.
“We are of Gromsch and none shall threaten that for all. We will remove the foul spirits passed from mother to son or cut out both their hearts.”

And with a nod, another orc began to whip my mother with a cat o’ nine tails. It lasted an eternity but she never flinched, just stared at me with tears running down her face. Finally it was my turn and no expense was spared. A fresh whip was drawn and dipped in oil. *snap* And I screamed. Five more snaps and I could not imagine crying louder, waiting to rip out my own throat from the screams. A dozen more and I was barely conscious, eyes blinded with blood. Ten more lashes and I fell unconscious only to be snapped right back with a horrible burning and loud chanting. The wounds on my back were being splattered with molten iron. No more would I have a human back. I cried and screamed myself bloody raw. I passed out once more, praying I would die rather than be back in this place, among these monsters.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Jon Potter

First Post

I'm looking forward to finally getting the opportunity to read this. I've read about it several times and have been eager for an opportunity to actually read it for myself.

Thanks for reposting.


First Post
Part II

Mother tended my disfigured back for weeks, often crying over my wounded form but never once uttering a word in her native tongue. I know she imagined the worst if she were caught again. I cried from the pain, I cried at the mocking of the other children and I cried over the loss of the mother I had known for a few short months. In less than a month, I was sent back to my chores.

One evening, I was awoken by a commotion in the camp. Two of the younger male orcs were squaring off against one another.

Schmarsh turned his back on the other orc and yelled, “Here is my back! Attack me from behind as you are only good for!”

The other, Hortesh, ran in front of Schmarsh, weapon drawn. He plunged his axe into the ground and shouted back, “I am without weapon, prove your skill and strike me down while you have the chance! We know your favorite prey are the females and the young. They only hurt you a little!”

And then they growled, swaying back and forth, only a few feet from one another. Before my eyes could follow, Schmarsh had his sword drawn, and at the same instance Hortesh went for his axe, throwing dirt into Schmarsh’s face as he brought his weapon to bear. For almost a minute, the two brutes attacked each other viciously and skillfully. Eventually, they both lay dying, their eyes darting about in fear. The chief stepped forward and slit both their throats, claiming the best items from the dead orcs for himself. It went around the camp that Schmarsh was unhappy that Hortesh always defeated him in foot races.

Life was never easy in the rough, craggy peaks we called home but the weeks melted into months as I lost myself in the mindless routine of hard labor. Then the beatings began. The young orc males of the tribe were always encouraged to play rough and fight over what we wanted to get us used to the constant fighting that awaited us in adulthood. I had always done well against orcs my own age but apparently the chief had other ideas. Starting shortly after my 8th year, he encouraged the older children, even the near-men of 12 years of age, to have at me. He mocked my pale skin when a good, strong orc can only have swarthy coloring, and he had the children mock my mother causing my temper to get the best of me. Soon, I found myself in a constant state of exhaustion where life consisted of chores, beatings and never enough sleep. My mother’s eyes were always sad now.

That following autumn we had several rough skirmishes with the nearby gnoll tribe, but, as it should be, we only lost a few of the old and weak tribe members. It was during this time that my 9th year came, and my first rite of manhood took place. Young orcs below this age was not allowed to view the ceremony so I didn’t know what to expect. All of the male orcs of age stood in two rows with the medicine man and chief at the far end. Nervously, I noticed that almost all the orcs held sticks and they were smiling at me, which was a definite first.

The medicine man beckoned for me to come forward and I did. The first blow fell as I passed the third or fourth pair of orcs. I knew to run was to show weakness, and so I just walked forward slowly, letting the blows roll off me as so many before. By the time I had reached the chief and holy man, I could feel blood flowing freely from my nose and a cut on my back.

“Our chief believes your human pinkness will cause you to fail. I believe you have the strength needed. Do not move or make a sound or you will have failed and be looked upon as a woman of the tribe, good only for lowly tasks,” the medicine man said to me, drawing a long, sharp knife from his belt.

He placed the cold blade an inch above my right brow.

“Grumsh, who has sacrificed his eye so that his people may see, know now that Ratchis shall never forget your sacrifice.”

And with that, the knife flashed down my brow and across my eyelid stopping an inch below my eye. I did not move. I did not make a sound. I had passed the first test. Standing blinded by blood and not knowing if I would see out of my right eye again, I felt intensely proud and honored. This feeling easily doubled as the chief handed me my first hunting knife, which I hung prominently from my belt.

Though my life was never short on menial labor and harsh beatings, I was occasionally brought with hunting parties as a scout. I took to the job easily, and in only a few months I was brought out more frequently than orcs two or three years older than me. Moving far enough ahead of the others so that I couldn't hear their movement made me realize how stifling the tribe was. During one hunt I was almost a mile ahead of the party, I went ahead further and further a field the more often I scouted, leaning against an old pine that had known many winters, when a small doe crossed my path. I should have killed it myself or steered it back toward the hunting party or, at worst, followed it until an opportunity reared. I did none of these things. I felt the intricate lines of the old bark of the pine on my shoulder. The morning air was so pure and sweet. Watching it drink from a small stream I was overjoyed and horribly sad at the same time. It was so beautiful and so free. I then knew how suffocating the tribe really was. I knew I was different and that my brothers would cut me open and hang my innards from a wall sooner than recognize my uniqueness.

I wandered away, swimming in thoughts long lain dormant and repressed before they could interfere with my business of doing the right thing for the tribe. I wondered if others in the tribe had had similar thoughts. I thought about mother and what must be trapped in her head, and I wept. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried, but it was as though a cork had been pried aside, just for a moment, and the truth of my life in the tribe was revealed long enough to rend my heart. My vision was blurred with tears as I continued to climb along, wishing that I could just keep going and find a new life, or if nothing else that I would fall from the ravine down to the rocks below so that this mess could be at an end.

My wallowing in self-pity was interrupted by the unmistakable sounds of the hunting band. They sounded awful jolly, laughing and coarsely calling to one another. I collected myself and made my way in their direction. As I grew closer, I heard what sounded like an animal in distress. I hurried my pace down the ravine, entering a small, steep clear by the stream. My brethren stood around a doe, laughing and slapping each other while tossing the occasional rock at the poor creature. The doe had apparently been chased and fallen from higher up in the ravine. Both of her back legs were badly broken, one showing the bone. The entertainment was apparently coming from the fact that when the orcs threw rocks at it, it would struggle forward uselessly, spewing blood with its heavy breath.

I couldn’t take this. I shoved one hunter out of the way as I dived for the poor animal. I grabbed the top of its head with my left hand and its chin with my right and pulled, ignoring the sound of its neck breaking as best I could. There was a momentary silence and then the orc I had pushed aside delivered some hasty kicks. The leader of the hunting band laughed at me, and the others followed his lead, the kicks losing their ferocity. I was forced to carry most of the burden of the beast as well as clean it and cook it for the tribe when we returned.


I was still very young, but I had finally accepted that I was different from the rest of the tribe and that this was not an awful thing like I had been taught. I had handled weapons since I was a small child, but weapons training became more formalized at this point. The weapon master never spoke to me directly, but I learned much by following the others. Of course, physical punishment was swift and harsh when mistakes were made. I was good with a small sword as well as a spear, and my shooting did me no shame. When I started throwing spears though, the older orcs took notice. I was taken as a servant of Tarschkur, probably second only to the weapon master and chief in skill.

On my 11th birthday, I received the mark of the wyrm, a serpent-like, black tattoo going from my right wrist, up my arm, across my shoulders and back and down my left arm, wrapping around my left wrist.

“Let this mark of life tell all you are Darksh, and that your blood has seen the beast of vengeance that will someday rent our enemies asunder,” the medicine man intoned after my ordeal.

We traveled very far and very quickly to something I knew was important but had no idea what. Eventually we came to a round, flat plateau in the mountains near a large cave mouth. We set up camp at the outskirts of this flat area. A day later a different group of orcs, wearing reds and browns instead of our greens and yellows, showed on the far side of the clearing. Challenges were shouted from both sides, weapons being waved back and forth. I grabbed the nearest axe expecting to know real battle for the first time. I was terribly excited and scared to my bone. When I thought we would charge each other, my chief walked forward and clasped arms with a similar looking orc of obvious high standing among the other tribe. They spoke for a time and this new tribe set up camp on the opposite edge of the circle from us.

They were the Alshtugar and the others warned me to beware their evil magics. Their medicine man was naked and tattooed as a skeleton from head to toe; he sat mumbling and rocking to and fro, incense burning on his bald head. I was scared and amused to note that he made our medicine man more than a little nervous.

Before morning came two of our warriors and one of theirs had fallen to challenges. I could not understand why we fought one another when we should be fighting our mutual enemies, the gnolls to the north.

The next day, within an hour of one another, two more tribes arrived. The first were the Gutarsh, wielders of fine looking bows. They wore purple and black and obviously had some problems with the Alshtugar since they opened fire on them upon sight. Over a dozen orcs were injured on all sides and two Gutarsh lay dead though no wounds were visible. The Gutarsh cursed the Alshtugar medicine man, but he remained impassive and eventually relative calm was restored, with the Gutarsh camped on our side of the ridge. The second tribe literally trumpeted their arrival, which seemed to annoy all the other tribes. This group was larger than any other single tribe and consisted of flag bearers, trumpeters and long spearmen. Their colors were brown and gray, and they were known as the Caligshtun. They set themselves up in the middle of the plateau, their fancy pavilion tents causing more than one suggestion to burn them down.

The tension never left the air but an uneasy truce was obviously in effect.

Before dawn of the next morning, there was a commotion in the assembled camps as armored individuals emerged from the cave. The real commotion was caused by the 10’ tall ogre regaled in battle armor with a huge spiked club casually leaning against one of his mammoth shoulders. As these strange orcs came fully into the clearing I could see that they were like me. They were definitely half-breeds, and they were big. They all wore chain mail and breastplates and wielded two-handed swords and crossbows and pole arms. It was an impressive sight, and I was not the only one impressed. Not one orc moved to challenge them. These twelve heavily armed and armored orcs with their ogre held in check hundreds of their pureblooded brethren, at least for the moment.

“Brothers, I am glad to see you all. I am Scartesh, chieftain of what remains of the Kurgish. We were ambushed by another tribe that is here right now.”

And with that, a great murmuring went up and several spears from the Caligshtun were flung. This huge warrior blocked these weapons easily with his shield while the rest of his retinue remained calm. I found their countenance to be much more frightening than the most fearsome battle cry.

“Korsch! Face me Korsch!” the half-orc leader yelled.

A yelp from the Caligshtun camp answered back, and in the mayhem that spread among that group, it was clear their chief, Korsch, had had his throat slit in the night.

A large orc with a larger axe rushed toward Scartesh.

“I am Gutar, son of Korsch! Can you not see that I am not afraid of you?”

With a casual flick of his index finger, Scartesh brought down the face-guard on his helmet, drew his heavy-bladed sword and quickly moved forward. The fight was done in a few seconds with the younger orc bleeding out the last of his life at Scartesh’s feet. Several orcs that were near Gutar began to rush forward but were stopped in their tracks by the roar of the ogre, waving its club over its head.

“I will lead this tribe now,” Scartesh announced, and most of the tribe bowed their heads.

Messages were sent between tribes and the rest of this day was spent discussing and cursing what had occurred. During the dinner hour, Scartesh quieted the assembly to announce, quite casually, that our hunting grounds were not organized properly and that he would tell the other tribes where and when to hunt and how much could be taken out of a given area. I have rarely seen my tribe silenced by the actions of others but for the second time in one day, Scartesh managed such a feat. That night, when clouds passed over the moon, we skulked away from the council meeting like thieves in the night.

“We are Grumpsh’s chosen and will not be dictated to by that thish-toag. We will hunt in the northlands.”

A murmur rippled through the tribe as out chieftain had just announced we would be living off the land held by our worst enemy during the winter months when the northlands are nearly bare.

to be continued. . .


First Post
updated 5/22

As we slowly made our way north, I realized the beatings had lessened to the point where I was not fighting more often than anyone else near my age. Considering that I brought back the most food besides the hunting groups on my forays, it was not surprising. I had learned to follow the animals and to get close enough to take them down with a half spear. Also at this point, Tarschkur worked much more closely with me, showing me the best use of favored orc weapons. When we stopped long enough for our forge to be set up and the firehole dug, I spent hours with our smith as he prepared what I believed to be my own short sword. I loved the short sword almost as much as the half spear, for its speed and subtlety of use.

Finally, the sword was ready for the final preparation, the heating beating and cooling over and over until the blade was deemed worthy of an orc warrior. After days of shaping we neared the end. I felt a presence and turned to see the chief, the medicine man and Tarschkur. Standing directly behind me, Tarschkur gripped both my shoulders in his large hands and held me tightly.

“You will carry this physical reminder of your spirit’s bind with the warrior’s of the past and the warrior’s of tomorrow,” the medicine man said quietly as the blacksmith raised the red-hot short sword and branded its shape into the center of my chest. I could not keep silent but my scream of pain sounded like a battle cry, and there were gestures of approval as I was let to fall to the ground and contemplate my elevation in our society.

A few weeks later, we gathered together as a war band. I took a spear, my short sword and several half spears and followed along, having no idea what was happening. The only thing I did know was that we were looking for a fight. After a few hours we gathered together, more than two-dozen of us, in a small grove.

The chief gestured to his left and said, “Ratchis, you stay there, if anything gets past you, you will wish they had killed you first.”

And with that they were off. I took up a position where a natural trail formed, half-spear in hand. The sound of battle erupted suddenly, and I could hear metal clashing and orc shouts mixing with the telltale barks of gnolls.

A moment later one of those huge dog-heads was running right at me. When it was within 20 feet, I threw my half spear, grazing its thigh. I ran further along the path, hearing it close in on me. At the last possible moment I turned back and set my spear. It neatly impaled itself as hoped but instead of cooperating with my wonderful plan and dying, it continued to growl and bark and to try to chop my head off with its axe.

I cursed and yelled and pushed on the spear with all my strength. As the gnoll seemed to weaken, the spear broke and I narrowly avoided an axe swing that lodged in the tree behind me. With pure instinct, I rushed forward knocking the gnoll to the ground. As it scrambled to claw and bite me, I choked the life out of it. I looked up an instant too late to avoid a club crashing down on my head that flattened me.

Another gnoll stood there for a second hesitating between running and finishing me. Scrambling for my short sword must have been the deciding factor it as it ran off.

Dizzy and suffering double vision, I went after it. It must have been wounded in the battle since it was leaving a convenient trail of blood for me to follow. I picked up the pace and this nearly cost me my life. I was caught unawares again by the gnoll waiting for my approach. My natural reflexes resulted in my nose being broken rather than my head being caved in. As it approached, I drew my hunting knife and fought with two weapons.

A life of pain does have its advantages. I was able to block out my wounds and keep pace with the bleeding gnoll. As it slowed I could see the fear in its eyes. I hesitated and it fled. I stood for a second before deciding that it was the enemy and I would be dead if it got away. The second half-spear in its back took it down. When I got back to the fray, it was done, and my prayers were answered when the chief only paid enough attention to me to learn where the bodies were. I wondered about the bravery shown by warriors. The whole time I was confronted with these creatures wanting to kill me I knew fear like I had only known a few times in my life. I wasn’t bravely fighting for my people, but rather, I was desperate to keep myself alive.

to be contiinued


First Post
updated 5/27

That season was a constant struggle to find sufficient food and to kill the gnolls in any area we hunted in before a larger group learned of our presence. Despite all odds against us, we survived without much trauma. Before my 13th year, the medicine man began my tattoos. Eventually my arms would be covered with the story of the tribe on the inside and my own feats on the outside.

I also knew an orc female for the first time. She was about my age, and we were forced to stay in a tent for the night. I was not particularly happy with the arrangement, but I knew we would both be beaten if anyone checked on us and we were not copulating. I tried to be as gentle as I could. In the morning, mother looked at me for the first time in years. I don’t know whether the tears in her eyes were pride or shame.

The next year went by in what passed for relative harmony in my tribe. The approaching winter, however, was dreaded before it ever came as our medicine man saw bad omen after bad omen following the first snowfall of the year. These omens did not lie. The storms came fast and heavy as the season approached. Food became scarce, avoiding the gnoll bands got harder and harder as areas with anything to hunt got smaller and smaller. They knew we were there and our skirmishes grew more frequent and costly. I learned to poke through the thin ice to get at the fat fish below, and this supplemented the women and children who could not hunt for themselves.

In the middle of the winter, on one of my forays, movements through the brush near where I fished disturbed the natural silence I enjoyed so much. Slowly, I stood and silently made my way around the perimeter of our camp. What I saw made the blood in my veins freeze like no ice storm ever had. We had been surrounded by a huge gnoll war party, waiting for the signal to wipe us out.

I ran as quietly as I could toward camp. I was stopped in my tracks by a huge, vicious hyenadon used by the gnolls in war. It stared at me, growling silently. I stared back, unafraid. I could feel its tension, smell the excitement on its breath. I was calm and held my hands up and felt a connection with the animal I had never experienced before but one that did not seem foreign or strange to me. I extended my calmness with my gestures and by sharing with the beast’s empathy. Finally, it sat and wagged its tail. I pet it on the head and took off toward my people.

I got to the edge of the camp and realized warning the tribe could bring the attack immediately if I didn’t do it right. I quickly gathered some loose pieces of wood and walked into camp, trying to look like a young orc gathering wood. I calmly placed the wood in one of the piles and headed to my area. Once there, I was able to tell Tarschkur what was going on, and he gave me a look like everything would be okay. I felt a huge burden lift off my shoulders as he headed off to communicate my intelligence however he could.

An hour passed and if planning was going on, it was impressively covert. I could not see any change in the dynamics of the tribe despite the threat at least some of them knew about. Suddenly a battle cry erupted to the east of the camp. It was an orc cry but I could not see what was occurring. Right after this, gnoll arrows began to rain down on the camp. I grabbed one of Tarschkur’s shields, took my quiver of half-spears and drew my short sword. Avoiding arrows, I made my way to the edge of the camp.
I heard screaming and the sound of mayhem battle brings, but I could not spot the fighting from where I was. I continued to creep back into the drifts and woods obscuring the combatants and spotted the gnoll archers where I suspected they were. They hadn’t seen me yet so I used the opportunity to climb a tree. A height advantage such as the one the tree provided makes throwing half-spears even more advantageous than I usually found them. I had them scattering after four throws.

It was from this view that I saw the gnolls desperately charge into the camp. I scurried down the tree, leaping the last ten feet and hurried into the fray, trying to find my mother. The tribe’s flanking of the gnolls had ruined their ambush, but they swarmed us and all I could do was swing and parry and dodge until I was exhausted. The battle remained at a fever-pitch for maybe 15 minutes until we were chasing down any gnolls we could.

Immediately after, I rushed back to camp looking for mother. She lay where she was struck down, her head many yards from her lifeless body. I sank to my knees and wept as my tribe burned its dead and licked its wounds.

I did make sure to burn my mother myself. I was not taking any chance she would end up on my plate. The biggest loss as far as the tribe was concerned was the weapon master, Gahmkish. He survived but took a leg wound that got infected, causing him to have a severe limp. We had to move on and though he could have been carried easily, that was not our way. He was to be left behind to die in the harsh winter because he could no longer earn his own keep.

I went back and tried to help him walk faster so that he could stay close enough to the camp to be protected from wolves and other predators that never got too close to the tribe. He allowed me to help without uttering a word to me. His cold eyes would follow me wherever I went when near him, but that was the only communication that went on between us for the week it took the tribe to find another site to settle into as long as we could. Hunting was even poorer in the new area, and I passed up many a meal when I noticed less small ones in the camp. My fishing did help some and Gahkish got my share so he was satisfied.

“We fought many an ogre. We killed them, used their hair for fine pillows and used their skin for tents,” the old weapon master said to me a week or so after we had found the new camp.
And so for weeks, I would do my chores extra quickly, hunt and fish for as much food as I could, and half starve because there was no way I could feed the both of us adequately. The hour or two I spent with Gahmkish became the highlight of my day. He never spoke of anything else or thanked me for the food, but I got a different story every day. Soon, I noticed how pale he was. I wanted to make the fire bigger, but I didn’t want to attract wild animals or the attention of anyone in the tribe. As the weapon-master took on a gaunt appearance despite the healthy diet I provided, I knew the end was near.

I began suffering beatings again as my value to the tribe slipped due to all the time I spent with the old one. It is good for me that I was the most accomplished tracker we had, making up for my inexperience with near-unbeatable intuition. Thus, it was easy for me to back track and throw off anyone who got curious about how I was spending my time.

I arrived one particularly cold day to find that Gahkish had let his fire go out. He was gray and breathing with difficulty. I knew he was dying. I made my usual inane small talk about the day while he began one of his stories. He lost his breath several times and was eventually too exhausted to continue. I sat with him, keeping the hair out of his eyes and telling him what a great warrior he had been. He gripped my arm and looked into my eyes, a stern look on his face. His eyes though, they spoke of something else. I knew he was struggling for words our language did not possess. I gripped his hand and gave a slight nod. He passed on a short time later, still gripping my arm.

to be continued. . .


First Post
Over the next two years, we survived on our wit and skill, but there needed to be a better solution. Too many warriors began to talk openly of how we had become vermin living off the back of the gnolls. For myself, I felt more and more like a sleep walker, hating the tribe for being my prison but performing my tasks by rote, thinking it was the only world I could fit into. After much wrangling and two duels, the decision was reached to head south once more, and to find better hunting grounds beyond our orc brothers.

We avoided gnolls all the way into what was obviously the lands claimed by the other orcs tribes. A few days into the trek, a band of Gutarsh ambushed us, but they had underestimated our numbers and we drove them off, hunting down those who got away. Sights began to look unfamiliar, and the tribe celebrated the coming to the new land with a wild pig I spent an entire day tracking.

One night, I happened upon a flat plain that came out of the foothills, and on this plain were over a dozen buildings and it seemed that this was a village of some sort. Sheep grazed on the tall grass in a fenced-in area near the houses. However, I didn’t see sentries or weapon racks or even a smithy. I cursed my stupidity almost immediately, realizing that they could easily be inside any of those buildings. Then, I saw the second human I had ever seen. Obviously a small boy, he was coming out of a small shack no taller than a gnoll, and entering one of the large buildings with smoke billowing from its roof. I headed back to my tribe wondering what to tell them of my discovery. They would surely find this place on their own and then what? The joy of my discovery quickly faded to dread.

I did the practical thing and told of my discovery. I did not mention the sheep, and I emphasized the large buildings and how many soldiers could be fir into each. Most of my suggestions regarding the village were laughed at, and my stomach sank further when the chief told me he wanted me to lead him to the village so he could see it himself. The next dawn, I led the chief to the outskirts of the village. He looked at the fields and the flocks and the houses and nodded to himself, a satisfied sneer stretched across his face.

When we got back to the tribe, orders were barked. We were going to raid the village that very night. Other scouts were sent out to watch for human armies or militias that might make their way toward our target. When we arrived, I was to stay on top of the ridge and watch out for any who flee or any outside the village who might witness the assault. I almost begged the chief not to do this thing, but self-preservation won out, knowing that my words could not stop what had begun. I have no recollection of how I got back to the village that night.

I stood at my post and watched as the houses were ransacked, dozens of villagers were killed, girls and women raped. I thought at that instant my heart would burst, and I would just throw myself down to break on the rocks below. When the village was secured, even our women were brought in to carry away sheep. They took three girls no older than 13 or 14 and another five women back with them. I don’t know what would have become of me if my feigning disgust at the appearance of these human females had not gotten me out of participating in yet another brutality. None of these females had the stamina my mother possessed. They were all dead within a week.

I don’t know how I got through the month following the attack. I was despondent the whole time, but unless you didn’t do your job no one in the tribe cared how you felt or what you thought about anything. Somehow I kept doing my job well enough. Considering the huge excess of food and supplies we had, I didn’t have much to do besides make sure a human army was not around to wipe us out. If one had been, I do not know if I would have warned my people anyway. A few weeks later, the chief met with some greasy looking humans and traded many of the sheep away for a few shiny long swords and a couple of chain shirts for himself and his chosen inner circle.

We traveled further into the wilds for several months, and just when I began to wash the blood off my guilty hands, we started southward again, toward the soft, white underbelly of the human lands. I was seething; I hated their puny guts. Why did they leave themselves wide open for any to come and tear down all they build? Did they value their lives so little? If they did, why couldn’t I do the same?

I knew this was all a distraction from the fact that my tribe was the aggressor, we were the evil that skulks in the night, and I did not want to face that cold, hard fact.

The closer we came to the bounty of the south, the more distraught I became. I came upon another human settlement similar in too many ways to the first. There were armed and armored men about, but their defenses were pathetic in comparison to what the tribe could bring to bear. They also had sheep; I knew their fate and shuddered. I shivered so severely that I drew blood from my lip. Without thinking, I ran from that place. I ran and ran until I fell exhausted, and when I finally made it back to the tribe I did not mention what I had seen. A few days later, another scout brought news of the village I had visited. This time I was to go and watch key roads to make sure superior forces did not ambush us. The night before our attack I lay awake, cursing Grumpsch for letting me know the difference between right and wrong.

There is not much to tell of my day and evening watching inactive roads, while my mind’s eye saw the events that were taking place miles away over and over again. I thought about my soul on the way back to the tribe. I became convinced that Grumpsch was not the one that would judge me. There had to be a higher authority whose morality was not subjective but rather the true right and wrong. I so longed for an end to my imprisonment. I decided then I would go back to my tribe, look upon their hating faces one last time and throw myself upon my short sword.

to be continued. . .


First Post
The camp was alit with activity when I got back. I could hear the sheep almost a mile before I came upon them. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. There were perhaps twelve or thirteen humans, children and women only, chained together, huddled in the middle of the camp. They were stained with blood and soot but appeared to be healthy otherwise. The orcs were feasting and mating and getting drunk off the human spirits. It seemed I would be remaining in my prison of flesh for a few more days, at least.

I went about my daily routines, revitalized by a plan of action. I knew something strange was going on when the chief beat off any and all attempts by the others to get at the female humans. A few days later, I followed the chief and his bodyguards into a secluded ravine where they were meeting with human men again. I recognized a tall one as one of the men the chief met with after the first village was sacked. They were speaking orcish and what I could make out was that in a few days the tribe would trade the human captors for weapons and armor. I was very happy for a moment until I gleaned from the discussion that the human male viewed these people as property just as my chief did. I moved away from the ravine before they were done.

For the next two days, I again went through my usual routines, all the while racking my brain as to what to do. Then it was all made simple for me. One of the other scouts had killed a wild pig and dragged it into camp. With all the bounty the tribe had known lately, a spontaneous celebration sprang up. The male orcs drank themselves into a stupor, gorging themselves on food, sex and boasts. Thinking as I went, I traveled an hour from the camp, waited a few moments and then started running back at full speed.

By the time I returned to the camp, I was out of breath and covered in sweat. I ran into the middle of the tribe and began yelling about a band of orcs, dozens that had not seen before, heading toward the camp. Those that could, followed me as I ran back out into the woods. I kept them in view for a half mile or so and then slipped out of sight and doubled back to the camp. There were two orcs that had stayed behind who could still lift their head off the ground besides the females. I never liked either of them. Running up, I delivered a half-spear to the closest one’s back and tripped him with the shaft of my spear as I ran by him. The other turned quickly, but I was kicked him into a nearby fire before he could get a weapon drawn. I drew my short sword and finished off the first orc as he was standing up and then put the other down as he burned.

I noticed the cries of the humans now and looked over at their terrified forms. I grabbed the first women by her chain and led them away as quickly as I could, never looking back at my home, knowing I would never see it again alive. The humans did not have much to say, and I wouldn’t have understood them even if they did. They cried a lot and this grew annoying quickly, but I obviously had other things to worry about.

I made the group travel for hours, and we were dragging the smallest children by the time we came to a rest. I paced about nervously, gritting my teeth is a viscous whisper when a child would cry or a woman would try to speak to me. Did they not think my people were coming? I was becoming quickly convinced I had made a mistake, ruining my life for these people. It no longer made sense to me. I looked into their scared faces and remembered their peaceful land, and calmed a bit. Before they could even catch a breath, I had us moving again. I actually dragged the first woman by the hair when she kept refusing the go, but we were too far from safety to stop for long.

Several times in the night I imagined I heard sounds of the tribe closing in, but I never did see them. Finally, we came upon another human village. I allowed the females to run ahead, and they began knocking on doors and generally making a ruckus. I wavered between leaving immediately and seeing what their reaction to me would be. Then my heart stopped as the tall, greasy man that had dealt with my chief at the ravine emerged from one of the homes. I rushed forward, pointing at him. No one could understand my words and a huge commotion rushed through the village. Then, the man winked at me smugly, and I lost my temper. I was beaten unconscious before I could snap his neck.

to be continued. . .


First Post
When I awoke, I squinted at the bright sun beating down on my face. My arms were tied behind my back and I had a metal collar around my neck. I was kicked in the leg and pulled up by a burly human in leathers. He was fat but strong and pulled me up easily. The collar had a chain through it that connected me with about 20 humans, both male and female. The other end of the chain was locked onto the back of a covered wagon. The fat man climbed up on the wagon, grabbed the reins and, with a snap of his wrists, we were off.

There is not much to tell of the journey. I don’t know how long we marched for, but I was always tired and only half of us lived to see the walled town in the mountains that was our destination. When we entered, I was forced to my knees and my collar was removed. My ankles were chained, and I was led away from the others by the tall man and two guards. This place was much different from the villages I had seen. This place was much larger, with buildings everywhere. It was like being in a cave after a while, and I could feel the walls of the place closing in on me. The people were ugly and angry-looking in their course clothes and hurried attitude. I would have hated the place with all my heart even if I weren’t a prisoner of the tall man. Further in, I noticed that there many laborers fixing the roads. They were in chains and watched by many guards with crossbows. They had one thing in common; they were all half-orcs. I did not know what to make of this insanity, but my own fate seemed crystal clear at last.

My mouth started salivating at the scent of cooking meat as we approached a squat, black building with a wooden pig-head hanging by the front door. We stopped yards from the front door, and the tall man said something to the guards. They dragged me away as the man entered the building. I was brought to a filthy stable behind the squat house and throw down in maggot and feces infested hay. The two guards laughed and left me there. I lay there in shame for some time, thinking about the tribe and my mother. If this is what the human world is like, I had left the good people of the world behind. That thought brought me back to my current circumstances. Ignoring the stench and what was crawling on me, I had endured much the same during my chores when I was younger; I began to crawl through the hay. It was slow and terribly painful, but I swore to myself that no matter what would come of me I would never give up who I am. I would never stop trying to gain my freedom. I thought about the doe and the beautiful mountain streams that awaited me, redoubling my effort.

I was at the entrance to the stable when the guards returned. Laughing, they dragged me toward my new life. They brought me through the streets to a tall, redbrick building. Inside, I was unchained with three guards around me, holding crossbows. I decided at that moment, I would do anything to stay alive, and that if I ever did escape I would never take away another’s freedom. Better to kill someone than to strip them of their dignity. I let a strange old woman cut off my clothes, bathe me and shave me down. It was actually refreshing, and I at least felt some old dignity return to my backbone.

Afterward, I was brought upstairs and thrown in a small room, with a thick, reinforced door, locked from the other side. The next day, one shackle was removed from my leg and a longer chain now connected me to my bunk. With my hands tied behind my back, I was forced to eat leaning forward like a dog, but instead of this being another blow to my pride, I laughed at the fear the guards must feel for me if they didn’t even dare untie me for meals. The days passed, I made use of the stink hole in the corner of my room, and tried to see my mother’s face as though she were before me. Eventually, my doors opened, I was groomed once more, dressed in a simple robe, and led back out into the foul streets. We traveled past many stalls of merchandise and people yelling at each other, waving coins around. I was thankful when we came to a clearing with a wooden dais, tied off with rope from most of this market. The guards brought me inside, below the stage. I waited for hours in that stifling heat, sweating out all of my day’s water. The clamoring of the humans echoed down here until my head was throbbing.

Finally I was brought back out into the sun with two males and one female slave, all humans. We were approached and poked and prodded by various folk whom I gave no mind to. Let them see what it is they like; I couldn’t stop it anyway. I did notice the gasps in the crowd when my robe was pulled away. I am sure they had seen all manner of body alterations but my back must have been quite a sight in the sun. Glossy bright red, the obvious lines on my back muscle intertwined with green, black skin and the raw, metal-crusted meat that had settled in the deepest wounds from that day. Feeling like trouble, I stretched my arms up and back, stretching the muscle as much as possible, churning it with the scar tissue I knew was always a lovely sight. The scream from some well-dressed cow made me happy.

The tall man walked onto the stage, holding a stick. The crowd by the stage filled in more, leaving it packed with more people than there was space. The man said something to the throng, and they stomped their feet in appreciation. He walked up behind me, then to my side, pointing at me with his little stick. The crowd murmured their approval.

Then he was face to face to me and in a low voice said in orcish, “Do not do anything stupid my heroic friend.” He reached into my mouth and held it open for all to see, making me bend my head over for those in the first row. After this, the bidding began, and lasted what seemed like a long time. There was a great deal of excitement toward the end, and a short, bald man stepped forward with a bag of gold to claim his prize.

I was obviously purchased by agents of the city as I was put to work dragging the stones needed for the huge wall being built across a mountain pass. I was among perhaps a dozen more slaves, all large humans and half-orcs, and we worked at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. We were fed bread and water, with questionable meat thrown in once a week. The guards would beat any who fell behind, and the taskmaster would whip us indiscriminately just to remind us he was there. I was chained down to sleep and eat where I worked. The only time I saw anything but that damned wall was when two guards would lead me away and watch me answer nature’s calling.

Judging by the passing of the seasons, I worked for nearly a year. I was fed more and more meat as the time went by, and I realized I was the only one left from that original crew of slaves many months back. I finished my growing years, standing nearly six and half feet tall and ending up with a great deal of muscle mass gained from my hard labor. The sun covered my body in freckles. In this time, I had made sure to learn the language of my captors, remembering my mother’s words now and then. A day did not pass when I didn’t look for an opening to escape, but none came. It was enough for me to at least be thinking about it. I knew I had not given up on the idea of living my life free.

In the early morning hours of a day that should have been like any other day, a small force attacked the garrison near the pass. It didn’t seem very formidable but arrows were raining down all about the area. Eight men, dressed in simple leathers with small shields and spear, dropped down on the worker’s side of the wall. Even in the frenzy of melee, I could see how fresh-faced and young these soldiers were. Their people must have been quite desperate.

The five guards that were the regular complement for this area rushed forward to meet the invaders. The young ones had their spears set awkwardly but still managed to impale one guard before having their line broken. The guards took out two of the invaders quickly after that. The four guards squared off against four of the invaders who now drew short swords for close combat. The other two spearmen charged the taskmaster.

Swiftly, he sidestepped the man to his left and grabbed the spear away from the one on the right as though the young invader was a babe. He planted the spear in the back of the disarmed warrior, and in one flowing motion, threw a dagger into the other spearman’s throat. Maybe half a dozen arrows landed about us, and he leapt back to avoid them. I didn’t hesitate.

I threw my chain around his throat and pulled with all my might.

Despite the element of surprise and my speed, he got one hand between the chain and his neck. I crossed my arms and pulled with all my might as he tried flipping me over his back. I held firm though he was like a bucking horse. He was throwing himself every which way in a frenzied attempt to shake me free. He stopped and suddenly pitched back into a pile of stones, knocking the wind from me. He was pushing himself back up and I knew that would be my end if he did so. I kicked one of his legs, connecting solidly, sending him down to the ground hard. I was able to turn him around and get my knee in his back, finishing him off quickly. I grabbed the keys for my shackles and his weapon belt and ran off into the mountains.

to be continued. . .


First Post
I ran for hours until I came to clean stream thousands of feet above the hell I had left behind. I threw myself down and drank deeply. I lay with my face on the cool mud of the shore and thanked the spirit in these woods that I could sense as clearly as the designs on the back of my hand. In the weeks that passed, I hunted for my food and outfitted myself in animal furs, making sure to fashion a large hooded cloak so that I could hide my identity when needed. I always thanked the animal for its sacrifice and never took more from the land than I needed. I also fashioned a heavy walking stick that would serve well as a quarterstaff if needed.

While making my way through a particularly precarious ravine, I saw a human female sprawled on the rocks below. I rushed down and saw she was dressed in the rags of a slave. I was relieved to see she was alive and apparently sleeping. She was shivering so I covered her with my cloak and built a fire a safe distance away. I was stretching and exercising when she awoke. For a moment she didn’t know where was, but when she saw me she screamed and tried to scramble to her feet.

“No,” I said. “I was like you. Look!” I showed her the scars on my wrists where I had long worn shackles.

She hesitated, then sat back with a sigh, covered her eyes with one hand and cried. When she was done, I offered her my water skin, which she drank deeply from. I cooked a rabbit and she ate hungrily before the animal was much past raw. She then told me her name, Alice, and that she was from a small village whose name I do not recall and that raiders had come one night to her home and her husband was killed. She cried again and I waited for her to go on. Alice told me how she was sold to an old woman who had her do everything about her house. A few days ago, her owner had died of natural causes, and since Alice had seen where the old woman kept all her keys, she was able to get out of the house and away from the city before anyone was the wiser. Now that she was out in the middle of nowhere though, she was thinking that perhaps being sold to someone else in the city might not have been a terrible thing after all.

I told her that freedom is all we are promised when we come into this world, and if anything was worth fighting and dying for, that was it. I don’t know what effect my words had, but my offer to escort her to a safer area obviously made a positive impression. And so it was that I led this lone woman to a place of relative safety where she might be able to start her life anew. As the seasons passed, I helped six more former slaves make their way to freedom. It was not coincidence that I found them and inevitably I was seen by the enemy. A price went out on my head, and when I saw the grizzled mountain men making their way through my territory, I avoided them completely.

During the next spring I had to put down a buck that had been shot several times with arrows, but with no finishing blow. I wondered who could do this to an animal and not take the time to hunt it down to put it out of its misery. I laughed at my own foolishness, thinking of what humans did to one another all the time. The next day, I came upon a fox that was chewing its leg off to get out of a trap, and I put it out of its misery. When I found the hunters that were running amok in my land, I showed no mercy. I rushed into the middle of their camp, knocking the first hunter unconscious with a swing of my quarterstaff. The second came at me with a long sword, and we danced around their campfire a bit before I was able to deliver a telling blow, knocking him off his feet. When he tried to get back up, I hit him twice in the head, killing him.

The other human was tied up when he awoke. I pulled back my cloak and barred my teeth to him, eliciting the terror I was hoping for.

“Go back to the others, the other defilers and tell them these woods are theirs no more. And if you ever dare come back, I will skin you alive.”

I cut his ropes and kicked him in the rear as he ran off.


Things got more dangerous as more men made their way into the woods looking for me or perhaps other escaped slaves, but I always stayed one step ahead of them. On one of my daily patrols, I came upon a camp that I watched for some time to discern who these people were and what they wanted. They were a man and a woman, armored in chain, sitting about a campfire, speaking in too low of a voice for me to eavesdrop. I watched them for hours before deciding to climb a tree. After some time, I was almost directly above the pair.

“What do you want in my woods?” I shouted down as ominously as I could.

“I wasn’t aware they belonged to anyone, friend,” the man said.

“I would hope two travelers who mean no harm would be free to go about their business as they see fit,” added the woman.

“Aye, you are free to do as you will, but know this, slavers and their lackeys are not abided here. If you are just travelers, this is not a safe place,” I replied.

“I didn’t realize the danger. Perhaps you will see us somewhere safer?” asked the man.

I agreed to do so and came down from the tree. They were obviously not afraid of my towering form and made pleasant small talk as I led them along. In the days we traveled together, they did all of the talking, telling me of lands near and far. It was certainly not unpleasant listening to their tales.

Finally, around the dinner fire on the third night, the woman, Jetta, asked, “And what of you? How do you find yourself in this place?”

I did not know then what came over me but I spoke for hours, my story spilling out of me from the very beginning. It was almost an act of creation, as though finally sharing my story made it real at last. When I was done, Jetta had tears in her eyes and she nodded to Narcell, apparently her husband.

“Ratchis, we have not been honest with you. We came to these woods looking for you. The former slave that kept the area free, rescuing any slaves you could. We are friars of Nephthys. Do you know who she is?”

I shook my head no.

“She is the goddess of freedom and bravery,” Narcell began. “She was the wife to her brother, Set, the god of power and tyranny. She broke this bond as she seeks to break the bonds of oppression everywhere. Her rangers roam the land, much as you have, maintaining the integrity of nature and helping the enslaved and downtrodden.”

“Those that follow her path, her rangers and friars, are not popular among human leaders. It is similar to what I am sure would be your less than popular status among the orcs of this land,” Jetta continued.

“It was a former slave, Malar, who first spread Nephthys’ belief in freedom over all other aspirations, fending off Set’s abominations. We all answered a calling, friend. We do not seek to control anyone’s destiny. We take those, who out of love and a feeling of duty, seek to make Aquerra a place where one can make their own choices and decide their own fate, and give them the guidance set forth by the goddess. When given a choice some choose to be evil, but others never knew there was a choice."

“Those who are called are the most blessed and the most cursed of people. We are blessed with a clarity of vision that will not be blurred by the lies of man or the justifications of rulers, seeing bondage and tyranny in all its forms. At times, though, it may seem like a curse as those we love oft times reject us for trying to clear away the illusions, and those who we followed in ignorance now scorn our truths, seeing it as the threat it is to their cults of personality, their empires built on the bodies of the poor and the backs of the enslaved.”

“I do not know of this goddess, and if she is the spark in me, perhaps I would have been better served if she had stayed out of my life. I am not sure I like the complications and the loneliness I have known for too long,” I answered.

Jetta nodded, “I understand. Nephthys has blessed you, but she is the goddess of freedom; we would never do anything to cause you to do anything that was not exactly what you wanted to do with your life.”

Narcell stood and said, “We are not just here to see where your path will take you, friend. As you are very aware, great evil takes place in this region, and we have learned of a band of slavers that are responsible for much of the abductions that fills the land of Menovia with its ill-gotten labor. We need someone who knows this land well. Someone that can lead our allies and us over the unseen trails that will allow us to strike at these evildoers without anyone knowing we are coming until it is too late. Have we come to the right person?”

They had at that. I agreed to guide them where they needed to go and agreed to meet them at a crossroads I knew well in two days hence. I left them, needing much time to think about all I had heard and all I was feeling.

to be continued. . .


First Post
More Story of Ratchis. . .

I thought about my life and was shamed at my refutation of who I am while speaking with the friars. I may not have known of Nephthys, but I could not deny the feeling that I had been guided to be where I was. It could not have possibly have been Grumpsch that wanted me to do this work, and it would be arrogance to think I had the strength on my own to make this difference in the lives of those most ignored. One of the deer of the area decided I would make good company while it rested, settling down in the cool grass near where I was sitting. I watched it lay there in peace for hours and thanked the goddess for these moments of peace in the rough sea of life.

When I met with the friars at the appointed time, there were half a dozen individuals with them, all armored and equipped with bows. I was shown an inaccurate map of the area but was still able to pinpoint the location of the road where we would ambush the slavers. I led us to the ambush point in half a day and helped the friar position themselves and their agents so that we would be most able to take out the slavers while minimizing the danger to their captives. We all waited anxiously for over a day for the expected caravan to arrive.

When the slaver’s train came into view, bowmen on both sides of the road began firing at the guards at the front and rear of the caravan. As we planned, I waited for Jetta and Narcell to call upon Nephthys, and as they did I felt myself touched in a spiritual way like I never had before. When they were done, the friars charged the middle of the slaver’s retinue and I followed. We dispatched the lesser guards easily, but there were obviously more experienced warriors closer to the slave carts. One man, dressed in black chain mail and wielding a long sword was barking orders to others. We locked eyes and he came at me. Jetta and Narcell were occupied with several opponents each, and I knew I was alone for this fight.

He came in quickly with feints that I parried away. He began circling me to my right, moving in and out, drawing small wounds on my arms. I realized too late that he was too quick and too accurate for me. He beat away or absorbed all of my blows. I tried everything I knew about staff fighting but could never seem to land anything near a telling blow. I dropped my defense, taking a large risk in an attempt to get through his defenses once. This blunder cost me almost immediately. The fighter, noting my change in style, rushed inside my non-existent defense and ran me through. I went down immediately. I tried standing, but everything was numb. My vision darkened, and I seemed to be miles away from the swordsman who smirked at me, ready to finish me off. Somewhere in my swimming semi-consciousness I saw or heard a heavy blow fall on his shoulder. The look of pain and anger on his face swam before my vision several moments after it was no longer in view, the swordsman pushed back on the defensive by Jetta.

I realized I was weakly holding my large stomach wound, trying feebly to slow the flow of blood that was drenching my hands and then my arms. Somehow, I recognized Narcell running by me, and my head flopped in the direction he ran. He delivered a blow to the swordsman’s head that almost dropped the cagey warrior. Blood was running in the slaver’s eyes, and Jetta stepped out of the engagement with relative ease. She rushed to my side as soon as she was able.

“It’s alright, Ratchis. You serve the lady of freedom this day, and she is watching over you. In the name of Nephthys, I lend thee strength. Blessed is the downtrodden, fulfilled will be those who strive forever for freedom.”

As Jetta finished her prayer and laid her hand up me, her skin turned almost black and took on a visage that exuded so much love that I wept, even as I felt my wounds begin to bind themselves. Jetta was herself again almost immediately and half my brain wanted to chalk the vision up to blood loss. My intuitive, wiser half would not allow me to maintain that lie for long.
The battle had been won and the slaves freed. No slaver escaped our righteous wrath, and no one else had fallen in the skirmish. The magical healing had prevented my death and stabilized my wounds, but I remained very weak. Jetta and Narcell discussed who should stay with me until I was well enough to take care of myself once more. They had decided they would stay together until my question made the decision moot.

“If I come with you, would you teach me all the teachings of Nephthys?”

Jetta answered, “Any who consider the path of the friar are taught all doctrine so that they make an informed decision, made purely by one’s own beliefs and desires, rather than having any basis in ignorance, coercion or manipulation, no matter how well-meaning.”

I asked if I could make the journey with them, and they said they would be honored. I didn’t know where we were going, but it didn’t matter so long as I would have a place to learn the message once and for all. We traveled for nearly a fortnight, following a river for some time and then traveling by road for over a week.

Jetta and Narcell lived in a town called Nikar. It was carved out of a mountain wall, with a small tunnel to bring you inside. They lived in the middle tier in a modest home. We were near other houses and shops and everyone seemed to have a decent roof over their heads. Even the poor of the lower tier, working the salt mine or some other menial labor, were a lot better off than any but the elite in Menovia. It struck more closely how rough conditions were in the tribe. I began to debate in my head what the tribe would do if they knew they had a choice for a different life.

to be continued. . .


First Post
Nikar was largely made up of humans but there were significant racial minorities including gnomes, dwarves and halflings. These different races all seemed to live together in relative harmony, but, despite this, my large form still attracted unwanted attention. I always kept the hood of my cloak up when out in the town, and I did not leave Jetta and Narcell’s house very often except when I would leave the town to relax in a sparse woods a few miles from the mountain face.

The weeks passed slowly, and it was some time before I realized my training had begun. I listened to many stories and was encouraged to convey many of my own. I learned of Ra’s pantheon, Set’s betrayal, Nephthys’ struggles and Fallon’s ascension. I remember fondly the spirited debate we had whether or not the other god’s really were trying to exclude Grumsch and his people from the world. We agreed that it was possible though, if so, magnified many times by the orc god’s paranoia and hatred of Corellon. Jetta and Narcell were already the best friends I ever had, and I was happy to just be in their company, feeling wanted for the first time in my life.

I busied myself with chores around the house as well as cutting wood and gathering water. As the months passed, I grew more comfortable with my command of the common language of the land, as well in the town itself. I would often take strolls with my cloak left behind when the sun was strong enough. I was not warmly embraced but neither was I being chased from the town by an angry mob.

One fine spring day, Jetta informed that she and Narcell had business to attend to and that they might be away for as long as several months. I was saddened that they were going, but their faith in me to watch their home and possessions as well as the idea of making my own way in the town for a while heartened me. Jetta hugged me goodbye and kissed me on the cheek. I am not embarrassed to admit this simple gesture almost brought a tear to my eye. I wondered if holding in my tears for so long had made me more like a human woman than an orc in that regard.

The first few weeks passed pleasantly enough. I cleaned and kept the house in perfect shape while still finding time to enjoy the woods when I could. I repeated the stories of Malar every day. His tales were my favorite, and I knew I had to learn them, whether to impart their wisdom to another or to call upon their inspiration in times of need. It also helped me continue to improve my common.

Eventually, I grew anxious. I had too much energy and not enough release. I figured then that I could find something structured to do with my time while getting to know the citizens of the town a little better. Since the salt mine was on the same tier as the house, I headed there one morning before dawn to talk to one of the burly men I saw at the entrance of the mine each morning. I was too big to work inside the mine itself, but I got a spot as a stacker, loading wagons with bundles of salt ten hours a day.

For weeks, no one spoke to me, and then one day, a short, fat miner invited me to the tavern after work. I went though I stayed silent the entire time. I started going with the other workers a few days a week, drinking a little but never to excess. Though I never discussed it, they knew I was a half-breed. I was often the butt of jokes, but this did not bother me since the men spent much of their time mocking one another. When tales of the wilds or outdoors came up, they would badger me until I would tell some story or another from my days in the wilds. I often found myself leaving gaps in the tales because I did not think it appropriate discussion, but self-censorship was a small price to pay for the camaraderie I came to know.

One strange occurrence was the presence of a human woman who would watch me working several days a week. She looked to be neither young nor old for a human. She was as tall as many human males with black hair and a face I found fascinating. Working alone had a decided advantage, and I began to look forward to her “visits”. I assumed she was just fascinated with what I could possibly be, but the hint of supple form beneath her dress nearly made my head spin at times. On a particularly hot day, she brought me a water-skin. I thanked her and drank deeply. She introduced herself as Madeline. I told her my name and that I was pleased to meet her.

She continued to come by and would often speak with me a bit on my infrequent breaks. She almost always brought some water with her, and I was very appreciative of that.

“How can you stand working in this heat?” she asked me, her voice very much as I had imagined it.

“I am used to hard work. It is tiring but also satisfying,” I answered quietly, unable to make eye contact.

“It’s rare to hear that these days. I bet you need a home-cooked meal. Perhaps you would like to be treated to one at my house sometime?”

“I do not know,” I answered feebly.

“Do you think I am a bad cook?” she asked.

“No,” I mumbled. “It’s just …” I trailed off, having no good reason to name.

“So, it is agreed. I will expect you tomorrow evening,” she decided, giving me instructions to her place and making me repeat them back to her. I was terrified and elated at once.

The next evening I found myself in a two-story house in the middle of a clean, orderly neighborhood. Madeline instructed me to enter in the rear which I assumed at the time was due to my sweaty and grimy appearance. She sent me to clean myself as she set the table. I washed myself, upstairs in the house. I had never seen such opulence before. When I got back downstairs, a beautiful meal was laid out for us. I know my table manners did not impress, but we passed the meal in pleasant conversation. Well, it was passed with me listening to her monologues about various subjects, but I found this to be completely satisfactory.

We went into her sitting room, drank some sort of strong wine and talked for several more hours. She was fascinated by life in the wilds, asking for every detail of different places. As the room seemed to darken and my head swim from the liquor, Madeline came and sat in my lap. I froze as my stomach tied itself into a knot. My mind refused to contemplate this situation, and I don’t know how long I would have sat there if she didn’t kiss me. Suffice it to say it was some time before we reached her bedroom, and my disgust that came with my first experience long ago among the orcs was replaced with a stupidly blissful joy. I slept like a human baby that night.

Shouting awoke me.

“Get out of that bed you half-breed freak!”

Groggily, I looked up to see a thin man pointing a very large crossbow at me. Madeline was holding up her ripped nightdress in front of her nude form.
“Madeline, are you alright?” I asked, revealing my own naked form as I rose from the bed.

“How dare you use her name? You stay where you are, monster, before I end your miserable existence here and now!”

I didn’t know what any of this meant, but I knew I was in grave trouble when Madeline mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry.’

The small, cursing man brought me outside. He thought I had raped his virtuous wife, and I knew the time for arguing was not then. Instead of a constable, I was brought to a nearby tavern.

“Garrick, get out here!” the man called.

Garrick came out with several of his friends, and it was then that I heard Madeline’s story for the first time.

“I-I had brought him water … He looked so thirsty. I didn’t think he would take my generosity as a sign to vi-vi-violate me!” Madeline sobbed. We all heard real fear and real tears, but I knew they came from her fear of her husband’s wrath.
Garrick turned his back from me and then spun back, hitting me heavily in the side of my head. The other men that had come outside joined in and soon, I lay on the ground trying to cover myself as I was stomped unconscious.

. . . to be continued. . .

Jon Potter

First Post
So... What's worse the outright violence of the orc tribe or the subtle betrayals of the humans? That's a tough life, Ratchis has lead!
It's a very welcome surprise to see this thread resurface after so long.


First Post
The guy sure has had a tough life. I've been impressed with how 'good' he is in Nemmerle's story. I'm curious if that will be explained more.


First Post
updated 10/26

When I awoke, my arms were tied painfully behind my back and I was surrounded by what I can only describe as an angry mob. I sat up and was promptly kicked back down by Madeline’s husband. I watched from the ground as Garrick threw one end of a rope over the limb of a tree I was laying near. There were murmurs of approval and a call of, ‘Hang the monster!’ When the preparations were finished, I was roughly pulled to my feet, a noose was put over my head and I was made to stand on top of a barrel.

“Let all outsiders and miscreants remember this. We of Nikar will not be assaulted in our homes without retribution!” the husband of Madeline, apparently known as Karlton, proclaimed before kicking the barrel out from under me.

They had done a poor job of hanging; it isn’t as easy as it looks, and my neck did not break. My weight was doing a good enough job of choking the life out of me, spots clouding my blackened vision as my life slipped away. Without knowing what happened, I feel to the ground heavily, sucking air past my burning throat. I heard the telltale clatter of a heavy crossbow being loaded incredibly quickly.

“The next shot is in your eye, Karlton,” a booming voice announced calmly. “There will be no hanging today.”

I lost the rest of the angry exchange as I passed out.

I awoke briefly in a cell, a gnome woman wiping my brow with a cool rag. When I awoke again it was very dark in the cell and I was obviously alone. I lay awake for hours, occasionally rubbing at my injured throat. In the morning, a guard came and slid some bread and water under the bars of my cell. A hill dwarf that I vaguely recognized as the wielder of the crossbow from the day before was there as well.

“Thank you,” I managed in a weak whisper.

“Don’t thank me, just prolonging the inevitable if you are convicted of the crime you are accused,” he answered in his gruff voice.

I tried explaining my side of things but my throat would not cooperate. The dwarf shook his head at me with poorly hid contempt.

“Save it; I’m not letting you out whatever you say. We will arrange a fair hearing of some sort. Just so you know, I am Marno and I sit on the council here so justice will be served.”

With that, he was gone. I drank some of the water to soothe my throat but ignored all the meals brought to me that day. For the next few days, I got used to the unfortunate conditions I found myself in. At least my throat was healing, and I was able to eat dinner on the second night. As they always do, this awful situation was reduced to boredom and waiting to see what would happen next.

I was awoken the next morning by a guard. With him were Narcell and Jetta. They were filthy and looked exhausted. Obviously, they had come straight here when they got into town. I swallowed a painful lump in my throat at the comfort their presence brought me.

“Excuse us,” Jetta said to the guard.

“Come on Jetta, you know Marno would give me midnight-watch duty for 6 months if I allow you to be alone with him,” the guard whined.

Narcell was looking out the window and commented quietly, “Its okay Branick, we have never revealed the other secrets you have shared with us. You can trust us to continue to stay quiet.”

Whatever message Narcell meant to send, arrived and the guard quickly excused himself, assuring the couple that he was just a shout away.

“Ratchis, what happened?” Jetta asked as soon as the door closed.

I told them everything, much more than what the question was aimed at. I told them all I had done since they had left. I paused and then blushed through the telling of my meeting and of growing close to Madeline. Whatever might come, it was a huge relief to finally tell someone what had really happened. Jetta nodded when I was done and then stepped aside with Narcell.

“We believe you. We will get you out of here,” Jetta stated simply after a moment.

My mood remained light after they left. At least there were people on my side. I did not have faith in this town’s justice system, but I was confident Jetta and Narcell would see that I was given as fair a shake as possible. It was only a day or two later that a guard came for me. He had me cleaned and shaved, and then I was attired in a simple woolen outfit. My hands were then shackled together and I was brought from my small cell to a large Council chamber where several humans, two halflings, another dwarf and Marno were sitting at a long table shaped in a semi-circle on a dais. Guards stood to either side of the dais and there two sets of tables faced the dais, the area forming an ampitheater within the larger chamber. At one table sat Narcell and Jetta and at the other were Madeline and her husband. Karlton glared at me as I was seated near Narcell and Jetta, and Madeline did not even glance in my direction.

“We are here to determine the guilt or innocence of Ratchis, an unknown in our town, brought here by these friars of Nephthys,” Marno announced in a loud voice, making little attempt to hide his contempt.

... to be continued. . .

Epic Threats

An Advertisement