• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

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

Ratchis

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
Wow.

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.
 


Ratchis

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. . .
 

Ratchis

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
 

Ratchis

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. . .
 


Ratchis

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. . .
 


Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top