dark outside and I hadn’t been here long enough to judge when sun rise would
have been. What had woken us was not enough rest, only the Elders knew how we
had been able to keep pushing ourselves along our journey but the number of raised
voices outside the Long House.
under attack or attacking something else but as the vail of sleep lifted I
realised it was the sound of excitement.
again. A huge Northlander, dressed in grey shaggy furs strode in and went
straight for where Urut, beyond all belief was still drinking with Strike.
of us, Strike at table, me as close to the fire that I may as well had been on
it and Korra still interrogating song smith.
hospitality. One of our hunting parties from the coast has returned.” He said
smiling. An Orc smiling was an unnerving sight, all the Orcs I had previously
met had tried to kill us.
more excitement inside. The doors are thrown open and in came a number of Northlanders.
In the middle of the precession, between two of them was a pole, balanced on
their shoulder. On the pole, lashed with rope was a very large sea turtle,
about half the size of a man, as wide as two.
in front of Urut who looked at it hungrily. Turtles who never looked happy
anyway, looked a sad sight upside down, flippers moving, its head gasping in
vain attempt to right itself. With the commotion its arrival caused, Korra and
I guessed that this must be something of a rarity. Strike, already knew this
and looked as hungry as Urut.
smile of the drunk.
then you will know the true hospitality of our village and that the old ways
are still important here.” Urut said slurring a little. It was said the Orcs
were a hardy breed but seeing him next to Strike only confirmed it.
age and wisdom of this animal almost glowed from its eyes. As the hall
congratulated the hunting party on its catch, their mouths watering in
anticipation of the great feast I listened to it speak, to Humans it was just a
prolonged squeak but to those gifted to hear their words I could hear its
everything to live they need to eat, for them to eat something else must die.
like there was any specific ritual.
suffering in the flames.” Korra explained for me.
fine. No one’s gona argue.” Strike shrugged and reached over for the never
emptying drinking horn.
mind. She didn’t seem to care that she had been captured and offered no
resistance when I touched her mind, bringing her a little peace.
they don’t have language as most understand it there is no fear that they have
offended another as the insult would be fought out then and there. They do not
have the layer upon layer of regrets, worries, hopes and dreams and as they do
not have words that other races use to communicate she showed me pictures and
laid a large clutch of eggs on a shore and that she had not manage to bury them
before the hunters took her. Leaving the clutch exposed would mean they weren’t
incubated properly and were vulnerable to predators wandering along finding a
not being able to complete her task she could not ensure their survival.
Well what more did I really expect?
had been an experience. It seemed that the aim was to fill the tankard as much
as possible then throw it in your face, spilling nearly all of it and
swallowing what you caught in your mouth.
Strike and Urut have both not stood up for some time, not trusting their
legs to support them.
unsteadily he put his arms out onto the table to stop him swaying too much.
Seeing me communicating with their meal had upset him for some reason.
wildly, only just managing to include me in the gesture.
trying to mimic them with her flute, in due course coming up with a piece of
music she named the Song of the Turtle.
Strike began to rant but the alcohol fuddling his brain wouldn’t let him think
of the right words.
reached for the drinking horn before sitting back down and spilling most of it
refilled his tankard.
any other race, alothugh I would dare anyone to say this. Their warriors and
hunters were mainly male but there were females who had no doubt had to prove
they were twice as good all the time. So while the men were out hunting,
raiding, fighting and generally having more of an exciting time the women folk
were expected to stay at home where they would cook, clean, sew, raise the
children into the next strapping generation as well as tending to the fields,
livestock, and make sure that world didn’t fall down around their ears.
that any edge you can hold over an enemy is an edge to hold onto. They had a
Chief of the Gods, Oden his wives, a Lady of their dead Hel, and a number of
questionable linage others that somehow frequently came back round to being
related to Oden in some way.
being given his gift of sight into other realms while Freya gave magics of all
kinds to the women. As far as Strike was concerned that all women were full of
witchery and as he was explaining this he got very passionate that all women
would put a spell over the men of one kind or another. Something told me it
wasn’t to make cheese, to make the bread rise or casting a blessing when
putting out the hearth for the night that he was talking about.
Strike to continue but from the way he filled his tankard and sat back down I
had to believe that was all the explanation I was getting for the time being.
smell of the roasting meat made my mouth water long before it was ready to be
served but when it was the meat was indeed delicious and it was easy to see why
there had been such celebration when such a large one had been found and
Northlander, slightly more armoured than the hunting party, possibly on guard
duty. Still wearing thick grey and white furs but underneath was the shine of
chain mail armour holding a spear with a simple helmet, created for function
not beauty with nose guard the only protection on the open-faced helm.
over Strike, the only one near enough to hear listened with mock disinterest.
the pass, the Rugorim is making his way here with a strange host of men, the
like of which I have not seen or heard of before.”
to him. Although he is an Orc, he and Strike had been drinking none stop, it
were as if they had just heard that the drink would disappear if not downed
for our village to lend aid and forces to this alliance of which he spoke
before.” His words now slurred. He waved an unsteady clawed hand at the two
figures, swimming into one and back again.
Urut was slurring quite badly now, shouting as the inebriated does when trying
to be quiet, and not succeeding.
the harsher places of the world, where others fear to tread? What need of we
for allies and what of these strange men you say he has with him? Pah, I do not
care for the Rugorim strange men! Let him come and I will give him the same
answer!” The Chieftain emphasized each argument by slapping his hand on the
“Yes Chief, do you have any further
We will at least offer him what hospitality we can, as the old ways demand of
us.” It sounded like he hated the idea but could not argue with his ancestors.
talking to the guard, it did occur to me that he was possibly trying to be a
little more larger than life with the Red Hand Strike drinking next to him, who
was showing his agreement by shouting hear-hear! From time to time.
getting so drunk that it was near to incapacitation, He had enjoyed the turtle
meat, some mead and the glowing warmth that has enveloped the room from the
hearth finally had its effect on him. Leaning back on a pile of furs he had
fallen asleep, I though he was on some sort of vision quest until I heard him
snoring soundly his walking stave leaning up against the wall if he had need of
it. His richness of years showing in the lines of his face.
at the reason for alcohol an uneasy feeling begins to creep over me. It was not
a tangible thing, I couldn’t really put my finger on it but the feeling did
take me back to where I first came across it, the corrupted area of the jungle
on the Mainland. Nature was out of balance, but I couldn’t localise it, just a
faint feeling but it was getting stronger. Rubbing my forehead I glance around,
seeing Orrick lying with his eyes open now, he looked up then about him,
yes or no.
of them heard it too.
loud enough for him to hear.
starts laughing, only those influenced by drink found it funny.
us to feel it.”
door trying to grab his attention before he left, he turned to her.
something like her but at the same time not?” She said pointing to me, I had
grudgingly pulled back my hood to speak with Orrick, I felt very conspicuous
and it felt like suddenly all in the Long House were staring at me. As warm as the
layers were and effective for disguising my vine like dreaded hair, sharp
features and pointed ears I could not hear anyone through the thick furs.
the outer guard. I simply came here to deliver the message as I am the
like Orcs but they were taller, they stood more upright.”
there.” Strike whisper could be heard across the hall.
something important and circled back to Urut.
they fought the same way they carried on in the Hall, all mouth and not much
else I wasn’t confident.
nervous, she always seemed to state the obvious when uneasy.
Strike was beginning to give the impression he was looking forward to it.
almost all night, Korra had been exchanging stories with him and I had found
someone who also felt the moods of nature and it was a pleasant change to
having explain myself constantly to those who could not. Neither of us wanted
to see him killed by Strike.
What I didn’t say was that the images I had shared with the turtle I would
probably be able to find it. It was not that I didn’t trust Korra but I at
least wanted the next generation to have some sort of chance. I didn’t trust
others not to raid the nest once I had completed my promise. It would mean that
I would not get a great amount of sleep but I had rested already and I did not
want to break my word.
if I were with you. Therefor I shall remain here.” Korra seemed to relax.
get used to the night light.
the images in my mind I was able to find the beach
quickly. I guessed that it would not take as long as I thought and I would be
able to get back to the Long House in time to rest.
sand beneath my fur wrapped feet glittered brightly in the moonlight. The
chunks of ice that had broken free bobbed not too far off shore, almost glowing
white against the inky black water. This wintertime beach was lonely and almost
frightening but long ago I had found happiness in solitude. I watched the sea.
It was flat and smooth, like the obsidian rock that pushed its way to the
surface in the Jungle from time to time.
like white jewels.
in fact crumbling earth coated in shimmering frost that tapered down into the
black, icy water.
if she was in the middle of burying them before she was found and taken away.
something. The ocean suddenly seemed angry, water crashing onto the shore. Then
I realised that something was emerging from the water.
least five times the size of a jungle bear, its black dagger like claws
scrabbling to gain footing on the frosty ground, water pouring off around it.
was acting it hadn’t spotted me yet.
threatening as possible and continued with my task.
instinctively and let out a raucous raw, pawing at the air to prove its
was not hopeful that it worked.
instinctively reared up as it had not expected me to be there.
black nose. I become conscious that it had been lured here by the scent of the
about half of the eggs and bury them somewhere else if I sacrificed the other
half to keep the bear uninterested in me. It was a little regrettable but at
least some of the eggs had a chance.
bear reached the nest. It snuffled at me experimentally before diving into the
rest of the clutch up to the bridge of its muzzle.
of the eggs, fulfilling my promise.
than full. I was not human but after my little encounter I felt the very Human
need for a large drink.
of the village. The dull glow of the fire swaddling the slumbering warriors in
were very nearly, still conscious. What I thought was dream mumblings was Urut
was trying to tell Strike of another war story but the drink was winning.
refills and bouts of quaffing, stained with the food and drink of the feast before
I managed to find a half filled tankard wedged into a hole made into the wood
of the table to stop them spilling over.
Staring deeply into the flames, occasionally rubbing his hands together before
holding them in front of the fire to keep the cold at bay while Korra slept
soundlessly beside him.
fire now embers and ash from the lack of fuel. The One Eye watched the patterns
intently before agitating the cinders again.
something between worry and concern, I was not skilled in the art of scrying
and thought it best to say so.
after seeing Rugorim with the demon child was a white pearly sightless orb that
stared at nothing.
Life is never clear I feel a great change stirring in the branches of the World
Tree. The Leaves of Knowledge are disturbed and fall in waves at this strange
and unusual time.”
strange, unusual and disturbing things.” I began our tale of when we were in
the woods and first encountered the walking tree with the bloody hand nailed
saw. It was a black hand, a hand of darkness. A hand almost as black as pitch
or as the night itself. ”
that we found someone else to speak with about magicks.
pitch, the hand had three fingers. Each of the fingers were men and they
stretched out like a shadow over the land. Where one shadow touched the land I
saw people as you are but not as you are. Where the second touched the land I
saw creatures Orcs, like my Chief. But they were not Orcs, they were Orcs that
walked and carried themselves like men.” Orrick continued, forgetting our
beyond their power to do it to other creatures as well.” I interjected.
strange shapes, men that were not men. Their eyes were hard like stone…”
describe what he had seen. Was it because he didn’t know the words in common
tongue or was it that hard to believe his own eyes.
Mainland. Their eyes were as hard as diamonds.”
said, trying to put him at ease.
in gemstones, what little I know about them I know from my time in Axehome and
the Mainlands in the travels of my youth. But these three fingers on this hand,
these men were all part of the same whole, clenched into a fist that engulfed
the land in darkness and then I awoke. And that was when I felt the disturbance
that we spoke of earlier.”
Chieftain, Ragnar. I came upon him in a vision by accident. I was trying to
find why the balance had shifted and when I was confronted by him he tried to
kill me.” I said after a pause, making sure he had finished speaking this time.
about it. Although I have never seen them myself I have heard stories of those
who due to great crime or greed had been denied a place in the afterlife and
were forced to walk the world in pain, lasting until they were put out of their
misery. If what your friend says is true then by killing Ragnar he has released
him to go on to whatever waits after this life and has done this world a great
what Strike has told me. I believe what you say, just as I believe what he
our people and we are not petty, we are not greedy. We take what we want but
only what we need. We are not cruel, we are survivors, we are not murderers. We
believe that if we follow these ways then we will be granted a place in the Halls
of Battle that we call Valhalla. The hereafter where we feast and battle until
the world ends and the World Tree falls. We believe that those who do not live
by our principals will be denied a place and they will be force to stay outside
the spirit world, in the cold of this world. Knowing that they are dead and
they have been denied everlasting glory of the afterlife, there is no greater
punishment or sentence that we could put upon someone’s head than to be forced
to walk this world in the rot of your own dead body knowing that your own sins
have lead you there.”
and ran leaving us to deal with what is left of this world. I believed I was
the only Elf until I saw a vision of another Elf, who I recognised personally
trapped in darkness.”
not wanting to interrupt us she waited until there was a lull in convocation.
Creatures of fire and stone who taught the first men to make metal and how to
forge weapons. But our legends tell us that they are long gone from this world,
they all disappeared into their holdfasts below ground.” The One Eye answered.
Mainland.” I left out that I may have lead the Stone Defenders to the
conclusion the wall was under attack.
will be in need of our strength tomorrow.” Orrick said stifling a yawn.
up, bringing my furs tighter around me while Orrick hunkers down in his pile of
furs and Korra settled back in her own. Our souls joining those already asleep
in the void.
people going about their daily tasks of the morning. The hunger inducing smell
of bread being baked drifted through the still, cold air.
walked out of the Long House. The air was crisp giving the light a power that
made things look more real, as only a winter morning could do.
previous hunts were being skinned, gutted, and prepped for cooking in the open
air while their skins were tanned in a hidden part of the village, near to the
midden with an odour powerful enough to shun anyone with a sense of smell. Outside
one of the huts the shell of the giant turtle was being fashioned into a
sticks for weapons, dressed in leather tunics and leggings with light furs to
protect them from the chill. I felt cold just watching them and huddled further
into my furs.
two of them got into last night made me never want to touch Human or Orc fire
with his hand.
the pain in his head. I had become very weary after the key at the inn bit me.
Smiths rhythm beating something against the anvil lead strike almost straight
almost white hot form here a young, well defined lad, who from his muscle development
had started work as soon as he could reach the anvil. The apprentice was
pumping the bellows and feeding the fire for a tall man who, from his trade had
the body shape of a parsnip. His chestnut hair and beard hung in two plats tied
with leather to reduce singing. The
Smith was holding a spear head with pinchers on the anvil, battering it into
shape before plunging it back into the flames. Once the metal was the colour of
straw he plunged it into a bucket of water by his feet.
getting like ants under my skin warned me to go no further.
the communal huts so with what I had learned about Northlander life he must
have fair amount of prestige.
outside a place that literally made my skin crawl I went to look for Korra or
from his work.
that the man thought he would snap the thin sword if he squeezed it too hard,
although Strike was a Northlander by blood this was not the usual double handed
broad sword that the Blacksmith was used to creating and maintaining.
would break it. There seems precious little metal in this.”
stone.” Strike replied.
peddle with his foot, the stone turned. Sparks began to fly as the Smith dragged the
blade slowly and with care across the revolving stone with a scraping sound that
could put your teeth edge.
Blacksmith finished the job.
shaving a patch of skin clean on his forearm. Satisfied with the freshly ground
blade he handed it back to Strike.
back still resting on the anvil.
to repair his armour. Stepping out of the forge Strike felt compelled to look
out over the horizon. The white, hostile, open ground he could see a unit of
men, roughly a dozen, being escorted towards the village by men dressed
similarly to the guard who delivered the message last night. Strike looked down
at his dyed left hand before watching the troop again. At the front of the
group was a gnarled, hunched snaggletooth Orc, all Orcs that Strike had come
across before were slightly hunched but this one was weighed down by the weight
of years. Wearing a winter wolf pelt to shield him from the cold, the skull of
the wolf on his head, its upper jaw covering the Orcs face. Walking behind him were
roughly a dozen or so that looked to Strike like Orcs but walk more upright
like a Human.
were swords that were bigger than the double handed board swords of the
Northlanders, in the other large metal rimmed spiked shields that would easily
cover Strike. These creatures were very disciplined Strike could see that from
even as far away as he was. Every step was as one with the others of the group,
they marched as a single unit unlike the typical warriors of the Northlanders,
who, in battle were all seeking out their own glory. The clank of armour as
they walk as one echoed across the village loud enough to penetrate the thick
stone walls of the main hall.
hearing this noise in the Long House she voiced her opinion.
will go out there to support Strike.”
shields and weapons and stepped outside.
all see the black armoured column, the deformed old Orc holding an equally
twisted staff at the head.
communicate with the spirits who dwelled within.
this uncertain interval. I was answered with a vision although I did not
gnarled staff used by the Orc to help him walk.
years, almost sounds half way between a scream and the creaking of the most ancient
trees of the Jungle, nothing like I had ever listen to before. For a moment I
had the sensation of falling forward into a large pot or cauldron or pit beneath
me, seething with something unnatural.
shoulder and I realise I am not falling but seeing something, not sure if it is
past, present or future. A cry of pain and fear escapes from my lips as Strike
held up his hand and understood that the time passing in the vision had no
effect on the rest of the village. Strike kept his hand raised but turned his
head to see me about to fall forward then being steadied by Orrick.
hypnotic tones washed over me, but instead of the calm her voice usually brings
makes me feel a lot worse, her chosen song reminds me of my people who use to
be here, that I was the only survivor of the massacre of our jungle home and I
begin to get the feeling that I was unworthy of the journey I was undertaking. However,
her melody was seen to have the opposite effect on those around us, Urut, a
couple of his men and Strike, who have been suffering this morning from the
revelry of the night before suddenly visibly shook off its affects and stood
stopped in front of Strike, still holding up his hand. Leaning on his staff he
held his own hand up and the Orc Men still in tight, lockstep formation came to
a halt in unison.
this village.” The Rugorims’ voice was deep and as twisted as the rest of him.
I settle to be the advisor of the Red Hand as I was, I should be thanking you.
You did me a favour by removing my previous alliances. It was his death that
freed me to see a greater vision of the future, why would I settle for a Red
Hand drenched in blood when the Black Hand can give us so much more?”
foot tall Black army behind him.
simple illusions. In that case they would certainly not be capable of harming
anyone and there for are of no concern.” The Orc said with a lopsided sneer, his
left lower tusk tooth protruding over his lip.
I believe is the best for myself and my kind.” He gestures not only to the Orc
men behind him but the long sweep of his hand, encompassed everyone in the
Strike who followed his gaze to where Urut was standing.
addressing Urut, Strike temporarily forgotten.
what I had promised. I said I would return with proof and give him a second
chance to align himself with the Black Hand with the coming rulers of this
world and for him and his men to embrace their heritage, to unite the two sides
of our souls.”
Urut addressed Strike as they approached the Long Hose.
distain to The Rugorim.
don’t think I will ever get used to.
over to Orrick who is holding his head. Whatever is affecting me is also influencing
and his troop, Korra and Strike trail into the hut.
begin telling Orrick what I saw.
boiling, seething full of hatred, fear, anger.” I pause, trying to find enough
words to explain my distress. “It began to take hold of me to the point of when
I felt you grab my shoulder and stopped me falling in. I only saw this vision
after focusing on the top of TG staff where a blackened hand nailed to it.” I
gibbering at the One Eye.
not familiar to me, it is odd. It is like the natural powers that my brethren
wields has been turned back in on itself.” Orrick struggled to explain.
once balanced. Whichever side the valance has shifted and needs to be
table with his army with Urut, Strike, Korra and six of the Orc Chieftains warriors
standing at the other.
began. Taking out what Korra recognised as a coin from the Mainlands. The Face
of King John V on one side with the royal crest on the other. Holding it up The
They are both different sides of the same soul.” He flips the coin into the
middle of the table.
unite these two halves of our soul to created something greater.” He said
indicating to the seven tall, armoured Orc men behind him. “These, my Dark
Orcs, my Black Orcs are only the first. All of us could embrace this side of
our heritage, there would be no one on the Mainlands who would be strong enough
to stand against us. We would form a force like the legends of old, the raiding
parties of old. We would sweep all before us. There would be none powerful
enough to stand in our way!”
them to be.” Strike argued.
Unless you count the piffling towns clinging to the outskirts of the Mainlands.”
The Rugorim answered.
look a weary mother would give a demanding child.
me?” Strike shouted over the Orc.
waiting to be struck down “And yet they remain silent. As they have done for
are scattered to the sides of this Long House, then I would continue my
discussion with the Chief of this village. I am sure they would see the wisdom
of joining our cause. Making them stronger, taking what they want. For is that
no the way of the Northlanders? We become stronger, we do survive. Making
ourselves part of our lands. We make ourselves colder, stronger, more fierce
than the soft men of the Mainlands and we TAKE what we desire!”
You don’t have to…blend them. They can be as one and yet still be different. It
is just no one has yet taught them to fight as one.”
be the case surely it would have happened before now?”
notes in the shadows not wanting to miss out an important stage of her saga.
made a unexpected claim.
it not these hands” He said holding up gnarled, callused, scared talons hands “that
fashioned it into a great working? A working which the Gods themselves would be
envious? You say that only the Gods can create life? Then by your words I must
indeed be a God for I have created life!”
You denounce our ways.” Said Strike, his voice not raised once in the debate.
they take it. That is what we have always done!” He hissed the last sentence, Strike
must have been getting to The Rugorim, “All I am doing is thinking on a larger
scale. I am not satisfied with simply sailing out, raiding a few coastal
villages and then slinking off back to our own lands like some beaten cur!” The
Orc comprehending his frustration and clearing his throat changed the tone of
his voice. “With the support of people
like this,” He continued gesturing to Urut’s village and the men around him.
“We could take this world and make it a new kingdom. Based on the ideals of the
Northlands we could sweep aside the decadent men and the weakling of the
said this out loud.
dignify her with a response.
and so your opinion is not relevant.’
is not our way. I come here seeking
an army against your and indeed Ragnar’s dark plot.”
aside for one who poisons his way into leadership.”
seen before on a shark.
have no say. And I will deal with my own exclusion from Valhalla. When the time
comes. Sometimes the world needs an utter bastard.”
speak to the Chief.”
join us or will you die?”
word “As I have told you before, we need no alliances with outsiders or you’re
Black Magics. We are the people we are meant to be. I agree with what the Red
Hand has said. We have always been one people just because we are different
does not make us different people. We do not need your Dark Magics nor do we
wish to be part of your plans to control this world. We have the lands we were
born to have.”
commanded whirling round to the nearest Dark Orc-man, as he spoke the ancient
orc banged his staff on the ground and in the blink of an eye vanished in a
puff of black mist.
metal rimmed spiked shields low to the ground, their swords aimed at the enemy.
slits on a castle, letting in the maximum amount of light and vision with minimum
exposer neither Orrick nor I could see what had happened within the walls of
the Hall. A heavy weight dropped from my stomach into my feet when out from
under the door a mist of black soot drifted out. I watched it hug low to the
ground and slowly drift off away from the village.
out of the Long House.
with comparatively little effort kicked the table that stretched most of the length
of the room to one side, with the toe end of his armoured foot, blocking the
stepped forward and slashed the double handed sword, with one hand towards him.
The floor being cleared before the attack Strike easily stepped back out of
range of the blade.
against twelve of them.
covering nose, slit for mouth, riveted onto body so not exposed at neck. Searching
quickly Strike saw his point of entry.
slit, up into the fleshy part of his jaw, the blade glinting inside his open
mouth. He had no intention of stopping until he hits the back of his skull.
in to attack, the Dark Orc grabbed his head in shovel sized hands and squeezed.
creaking and moving under pressure. Now he knew how an apple felt when it was
being pulped for cider.
song smithing not fighting. Using the cover to her advantage she stabbed the Dark
Orc-man crushing Strikes skull in the leg in the hope of distracting him enough
to let Strike go. Well it definitely annoyed him.
same casual attitude of swatting a fly, sending her flying backwards hitting
the far wall with enough force to crack a couple of ribs her neck snapping
back, slamming her head at the same time.
Northlander way of taking as many out as possible before they died; as the
first Dark Orc-man turned his attention on Korra another stepped forward
swinging a strange sword down towards Strike, who was still on the floor. The
unusual weapon that could only be described as flat bar of metal, straight the
whole length of the blade. At the top of the weapon was a spike protruding from
it, used to snare an oncoming horseman and pull him to the ground but if held
backwards it would increase the pain inflicted and increase the chance of killing.
Since the pressure was released from Strikes skull the darkness began to ebb and,
seeing the oncoming attack, he managed to roll out the way avoiding being
cleaved in two.
in the first Dark Orc-man. Scanning the scene quickly Strike found his quarry
and watched as he pulled the blade from his face and threw it to the floor, Urut
was wounded and five out of his six warriors still stood, he had managed to
kill one of the enemy by stepping into his attacker and thrusting his blade
deep into his ribcage. In the tangle of his fray he had watched one of his best
men fall under the blade of one of the Dark Orc-men. Instantly he knew who his
next target would be
retreating mist that was now far beyond the village wall, heading inland.
muscles formed, bunched and knotted. I could feel my face shrink and become
flatter, black velvet fur bursting through my skin, covering my new but
familiar form of a mountain gorilla.
table lodged behind it, clearing the way.
to Urut, his warriors and the remaining Dark Orc-men it came as quite a
raised. There were four Dark Orc-men closing in on Strike who was on his knees.
Korra was slumped over by the far wall, leaning against it, from the battle I
could see that the Dark Orc-men were absurdly stronger than any one we had come
across before. I leapt at the nearest one, a Dark Orc-man sliding a rapier from
his lower jaw. As he tossed the weapon aside I landed on his back and tried to
unscrew his head by his ears; it took more effort than I had expected, even in
full plate armour, but I finally succeeded in turn his head round the other way
with a loud crack of gristle.
must be extremely powerful, I tried to think of an animal whose form may be
more useful here, the Dark Orc-man dropped onto its knees then with the weight
of my gorilla form still bearing down on it, fell face forward. However,
unbeknown to me a second dark warrior had moved behind me and I was only aware
of this when I felt the crushing pressure of his armour clad foot thud onto my
back, a searing flash of burning pain stabbed through my back and out of my
side. I looked down to see the glistening red point of a sword protruding
through my flesh.
battling their own opponents, ducked several blows, dived on his rapier,
scooped it up and rolled to his feet in one fluid movement.
and with great effort she dragged herself up and unable to find her instrument
started drumming a beat with the hilt of her dagger and started singing of the
ancient warlike prowess that was the basis of all the Northlander songs she had
heard at the great feast, hoping that they would inspire us to fight longer and
harder while healing us at the same time. The saga was of a great warriors who
fought a great ancient dragon, overcoming the odds with great courage and faith
in their fellows. She was never wrong with her song of choice.
the strength to continue, and enabling Strike, Urut and his fighters to hear
the call of the warrior; I felt my attacker pulling his blade out my flesh and
the great force that told me his foot was still on my back, preparing to
decapitate me. With the strength of the warriors song still surging through me
I pushed forward onto my palms, arms locked straight and pushing off with my
legs I let my weight fall slightly into my arms before raising my feet to where
I thought the Dark Orc-man’s stomach would be mule kicked him. The harmonious melody of Korra’s war song had
healed me but kicking upwards had torn the freshly knitted tissue and I felt
the pull of my natural form.
had done that to Strike it would have put him through the wall. I decided it
was time to take a chance. Strike, re-energised, ran at one of the Dark Orc-men,
sword raised, the warrior saw the oncoming attack and brought his shield up as
a counter attack, smashing the riveted metal rimed edge into Strike’s jaw, picking
him up off the floor, I could only watch as he sail backwards, stretcheded full
length before hitting the far wall. His limp, unconscious body slid down the
far wall, blood gushing from his mouth.
attention sang louder; her healing, compelling tones took effect just as Strike
took his last breath, his back arched as his heart beat once again, fighting
for air that a moment ago would not come. A Dark Orc-man, hearing the rousing
folk song grabbed Korra’s leg and dragged her to him. With a loud nauseating
crack her ribcage crumpled under the weight of his boot.
ago she had pulled Strike from. She was suffocating. Her vison darkened, tinged
red at the edges, feeling herself slipping from this world.
nothing. Looking around Korra was in the Long House but empty of people. The
table and benches were where they were placed before the encounter. Everything
monochrome and muted. She listened, on the cusp of hearing was the sounds of
the battle but there is nothing to see, the hall was empty.
and look down. Her chest was concaved and on the front of her tunic a red stain
was growing; looking up Korra saw a woman clad all in black with a shroud
covering her face, standing silhouetted in the door of the Long House. The knot
of terror in her stomach rooted her to the spot, the woman raised her hands to
lift her veil. One of her hands was pale white, smooth and slender, the other belonged
to something from Korra’s nightmares, rotted, blistering, putrid shredded flesh
that was the colour of curdled milk mottled
and mouldering, falling from her fingers and forearm showing glossy white
hands, one side of her face was a beauty to behold, dark hair fell in soft
curls framing her face. The deathly pallor somehow making her more beautiful. One
kind eye glittered with mischief, her skin smooth and porcelain like with full
red lips that curled up in a smile, the other the stuff of nightmares, half her
hair was gone the lines in her skull crackled along the surface, beneath her
ravaged scalp her face was smooth white bone. Her teeth grinning as only a
skull could. Korra stood still, immobilised with fear.
realm. ” When she spoke there was another voice echoing hers, as if it was
repeating the words that the woman had just spoken. It was much deeper, almost
snarling, a bestial voice. “By right, I can claim you. But since you are not of
this land I will give you a choice. You have until the rising of the moon to
send an innocent soul in your place or when that moon rises your soul will
enter my Kingdom and no power of man, woman, beast or dark magic will stay my
unable to speak.
there was no ways to bargain with the stranger, no tricking her into letting
Korra go it was a deal or no.
child. She thought
reappeared. She held her withered arm out towards Korra and as she took the
desiccated hand Korra closed her eyes, relieved that the moment would be short
lived before she stepped through the vail that hid the living realm from the
realm of the dead.
impulsively opened them.
moment would be forever waiting in her nightmares.
agility, I ran on my knuckles around the enemy, ducking wild sword swings and
avoiding others fighting get to her. I watched her go down, saw the dark red
bloom from under her tunic, watched what I thought was her last breath and
finally I reached her, praying to the Elders that I wasn’t too late. As I
reached her Korra’s eyes snapped open again. All the pain and injury I had
inflicted on the Dark Orc-men I channelled all the hurt back in on itself and using
the last of my shape shifting enchantment to boost the power of the healing
charm. I felt the cloak of the gorilla fall and my Elven form returned. The
spreading red pool receded slightly and I looked over her to see if the magic
had worked. Everything appeared normal until I reached her arms. The flesh of
her left hand has withered, the flesh shrunken back, skin taught. The mummified
limb looked more like a bird’s claw than a Human hand.
issues to attend to. Korra was still lying down but her breathing was no longer
laboured. Urut and his men were still going strong, but from my position near
the back of the Long House I could not see how many were left on either side.
killing blow. My attention was drawn behind him and I saw Strike rise up behind
the warrior and holding his sword above his head stabbed down through his
shoulder and into his spine.
under part of the shattered table sung with all her spirit.
praying to the Elders for the short time I had studied the creature to be
muscles formed, clustered and tensed. I could feel my face stretch and teeth
growing in my new muzzle. White course fur burst through my skin. I stretched
out my new form and stood as a Great White Bear. I echoed the roar that I had
been greeted with by the bear on the shore line
intended. However, now being the largest threat in the room all able Dark
Orc-men closed in on me.
the blades as they hit, trying to latch in with the hooked tip but fat, muscle
and fur were a natural armour and soften the blows.
to wipe his face off. My claws cut deep through his flesh, shredding one to
pieces he toppled over, hitting the ground hard.
between the join in his helmet and shoulder plate. He must have taken advantage
of the Dark warrior’s lack of attention and leaped onto its back when it was
attacking me. First I knew anything about it was when the Dark warrior toppled
over gurgling and blowing blood bubbles.
spiked, metal rimmed shield so the metal frame was edge on and threw it by the
grip towards Strike. It flew through the air as gracefully as a stone skipping
he was still standing but his torso was lying down. The underside of the shield
brushed the tip of his nose as it flew over him, smacking the Dark Orc-man
behind him slicing his neck, green black blood sprayed the wall.
the injured warrior. My outstretched claw caught the wound tearing it open, killing
charge Strike, who, after seeing the pad side of my paw flipped back up. Seeing
the oncoming attack Strike started to leap over the charging Dark warrior but
as he did so he was grabbed by his outstretched leg, the Dark Orc-man catching
him mid-air and smashed him to the floor.
and plunged his blade deep into his back severing his spine, killing him
and finding no other Dark Orc-men standing we finally had time to breath, unsurprisingly
the room was totally trashed.
was lying in the corner of the room, slumped against the thick stone wall of
the Long House with his hand clutching his stomach, a river of green black
blood pumping through the open wound still holding his sword, wanting to fight,
but quickly succumbing to his wounds.
melody could not heal the extent of his injures. Stepping forward I gathered
all the damage I had inflicted and turned it back in on itself to heal Urut. He
rose slowly to his feet, leaning heavily on his sword for support. The effects
of shock now more dangerous than his healed injuries.
fallen warriors. Walking around, he crossed their arms over their chests and closed
the open, vacant eyes of all his men.
the Dark Orc-men I remembered something.
I didn’t know which village would be closest.
Strikes lack of interest, I saw no threat and moved to join Korra.
in the village to Orrick. He knew that The Rugorim had been going around
recruiting all the Northlander tribes he came across. How many? Well it would
be a lot more than one tribe. He has probably got far more than 12 Dark Orc-men
or Elf-men or some form of strange crossbreed. So where are all the rest of his
men? And it could be a bit problematic if they are all the same build and
weapons, armour, furs, anything of value around me. They wouldn’t be using the
armour as armour but would probably melt it down to make something more useful
to them. Staring at nothing I was gently but firmly moved out of the way of a
Northlander woman, desperate to get hold of the weapons of the dead Dark
Orc-man in front of me. I moved out of her way and was about to return to my
thoughts when something caught my eye.
He must have left it when he turned into mist, expecting to retrieve it after
his creatures slaughtered the village. Being very weary of the creepy looking
thing I gingerly pick it up with the intention of taking it to Orrick, the One
Eye who I believed Korra would have found by now.
would not much use in a fight so, like Korra he had helped out in his own way.
face. Korra suddenly understood that he had been helping out Urut and his men,
they were only Orc and Human warriors of natural birth and wouldn’t have stood
much chance otherwise.
brought back.” Korra tried to explain. She took a deep breath and started
again, not thinking that Orrick appreciated how demanding it was to explain
what had happened when she didn’t understand it herself.
sees her skeletal hand for the first time. The colour drained from her face but
swallowing down her fear she tried to describe what happened but there was no
hiding how traumatised she was.
he involuntarily moved his hand over his chest in the shape of a hammer as the
Northlander profanity escaped his lips and
takes an unconsciously stepped backwards.
a breath and started again. “Because I wasn’t from this place? I may not have
to go to her domain?” The One Eye could understand her explanation all being
questions, whatever had happened to her sounded unworldly.
world when their time has come. And then she only does so if it suits her own
interest for she is a jealous and selfish God.”
send anyone there!” On hearing her plight Orrick had more sympathy for Korra.
soul with equivalent worth. I am not qualified to speak as to how much Hel
value’s your soul. The Gods are not meant for our understanding but you must
find someone who she would value equally. Then they must take your place on
that dark journey to her deathly domain. She has laid her mark on you” He
pointed to her claw like hand. “Like all of our Gods she is bound by ancient
laws and her word. If you do not meet whatever deal she made with you then she
will use that link to take her soul into her dark domain.”
fully aware she would not want to hear the answer.
comfort her. “All I know is our ancient sagas say that those who have managed
to bargain in such a way to escape Hel’s domain has sent err… If you were a
farmer, a simple farmer and she had made you this deal your soul would not be
worth a great deal to her, there for you could send an animal or something
similar in your place. Remember she is a God of the Northlanders, your friend
will be able to tell you what we value here in the Northlands. All of our Gods
value the same things. So the worth of your soul would be based on how much or
little you live our values. I heard your singing inside, you are a teller of
sagas and stories that is a great part of our culture. The One Eyes like myself
as well as being the spiritual guides of our people we also preserve the
ancient legends of our people. Therefor I can only assume that she offered you
this bargain is because she values you highly as a Scald, a teller of tales.”
the Long house. I looked around and found Orrick where I left him, sat on a
tree stump with Korra sat beside him.
end of their conversation but from Korra’s expression it was not one of good
this I threw it to the ground, near to the One Eye’s feet. I had been hurt by
from his seat, making the sign of a hammer and muttering a ward under his
keep that in the village.” Orrick advised.
nearest biggest fire source, the blacksmiths.
in the life and death of iron, from the itching sensation in my feet, this
Smithy had been here a very long time, the essence of his trade engrained into
the earth. However uncomfortable I felt standing there was nothing compared to
how uneasy the staff was making me. I could bear that to get rid of this evil
Expecting his master the apprentice did a double take at me, it was a
reasonable response. An Elf with vine dreads, pointed ears and could change
form at will was not really normal for a village of the Northlands. I ignored
the questing look and held up the macabre staff. He recoiled in horror.
pumping furiously until a raging inferno was at the heart of the furnace.
Watching the fire carefully I waited for the coals to turn white hot before throwing
the thing into the centre of the blaze followed by a handful of cleansing herbs
from my bag just to be safe. I didn’t know if it would make a difference but it
made me feel better.
lick over the staff, the hand curled in on itself as the skin contracted in the
heat. As it burned away and was consumed by the fire the sap escaping the grain
of the wood made a high pitched keening sound. For a moment amongst the flames
as the staff was finally rendered down to ash I thought I saw a horned, demonic
face silently screaming before it evaporated, with the remnants of the staff.
battle.” Strike said to Urut after the dead in the Long House had been taken to
await the proper Northlander farewell.
back, pushing him forwards.
now we drink to celebrate!”
also released a form of tiny demon which seemed to wither and die in the
to increase his own power. That would certainly account for some of the
corruption we felt if he was channelling his energies through such a creature,
it would increase his power but it would also make it darker and reflect the
creature itself. Either way it is good that we have destroyed it, it will
deprive him of much of his power.”
killed many of the warriors in the village. All the surviving Northlander
warriors and the rest of the village, the none fighters, the children, the
elderly had all gathered round inside the Long House waiting. Urut stood and
called for silence. When hushed he turned to face Strike.
and firm in their courage and we will fight by your side. My King.” He dropped
down onto one knee, holding a spear in both hands above his bowed head.
inside the Long House followed his lead.
though the open door.
Written by Kelly Grimshaw who plays the Elven druid Demanor in the game.
Written by Kelly Grimshaw who plays the Elven druid Demanor in the game.
In fact i’m such a non-fan of the traditional dungeon crawls that one of the earlist RPG Bugbears videos I did on my Youtube Channel dealt with this subject (I have embedded the video below for anyone interested in seeing some more of the details behind my dislike).
Essential journeys are measured in the number of rations consumed and dangers faced, the group picks a trailblazer, scout and quartermaster. Each character with a job makes a Wisdom roll and can achieve various effects on a success such as reducing the amount of time it takes to reach your destination, spotting any potential danger and reducing the number of rations consumed during the journey.
For each area I will write down the consequences of failing these rolls; i’d probably come up with something like the map below (please note: this is only an example, not my final design, and uses a map taken from this website – http://henchmanabuse.blogspot.co.uk/2011_03_01_archive.html).
- The PCs encounter a party of Sandstone dwarves attempting to excavate in the ruins of the catacombs.
- A desert creature has entered the catacombs through a tunnel/collapsed section.
- The characters comes across some old mineworks that allow them excess the the ruins of the dwarven city at a reduced ration cost (but they must make a roll to avoid a collapse).
- The degenerate remnants of the original dwarven settlers still live here, a savage raiding party attacks.
- A clutch of mantis men have colonised several of the tunnels.
- The characters encounter one of the Magmin guardians, intent on preventing anyone releasing the demon.
- A lesser water elemental spawned by the demon attacks.
- The rock in the area is weakened by the aura of the demon and collapses.