It’s been hours since the rainfall died away, but splatters of water still cascade down on you as you walk through the dense forest. It’s hard to see exactly where you are going. Though you are no longer in the mountains of your birth, the Hacklefurs leave their trace on the landscape. There are hollows and ditches everywhere, and it is impossible to pick out a straight and even path. There aren’t any settlements around, and it’s not likely a pack would go hunting so soon after the rain, so when you hear the sound of distant movement in the undergrowth, it takes you a moment to identify it. Grunts and harsh speech untangle themselves, and you realize it must be mordok. There are many different snarling voices, and it is clear they are not particularly trying to be quiet, which mordok only do when they are confidant and in large numbers. It is hard to tell which direction they are coming from, but where ever it is, they’ll be here soon.
Belthazar stands still and unlatches his axe from its holder. In a fierce battle stance he cries out at the noises in undergrowth “Show your selves you cowards! Come and meet your fate.” After losing the last of his family at the hands of the disgusting creatures. Belthazar is ready if not excited to slay every last mordok who cross his path. Even though he hasn’t had much experience with actual combat, Belthazar is not going to back down from this chance to take a little frustration out. he holds his axe with a firm and solid grip as he slowly rotates to his right. “Come out! My axe is waiting to split your pathetic heads open!”
The guttural speech halts for a moment, then burst out again, with obvious excitement. A mordok peeks it’s head out of one of the many ditches in the woods and it pauses when it sees you, but as it takes in your surroundings, and your lack of companions, a savage grin lights it’s face. It calls back and as the rest of the mordok hove into view, you might start to regret your hasty challenge. At your count, there are ten of them. One or two are scrawny, likely whelps, but the rest are full sized and are bristling with a rusty array of weaponry. They make no immediate move to attack, and you find this very strange. Instead, they look back to the last mordok coming out of the ditch. It is clearly the leader here, and from what you know, very likely a shaman of some kind. It wears no armor and is decorated with many bits of fur, feathers, and bones. From one of it’s hands trails a rope. Attached to the other end is a figure that is *very* clearly not mordok. It is hunched over and filthy, and you cannot tell if it is ulven or human. A warning flag goes up in your mind. The mordok do not take captives, any victims that fall into their hands meet a fate that is painful and horrifying as it is swift. The shaman examines you, meeting your eyes boldly. A savage intelligence gleams there, but before you can make sense of it, the mordok breaks eye contact and snaps an order to its underlings. The group of mordok growl gleefully, hefting their weapons and spreading out. It’s clear a fight is on your hands, but this fight is also very much one sided.
You heft your axe in your hands, returning the mordok’s vicious snarls in kind. Running is not an option. There are too many of them, and your father’s death still burns deep inside you. You will not run, and you vow to take as many of them down as you can. Outnumbered as you are, the mordok still hesitate, none of them wanting to be the first and therefore, the most vulnerable.
The circle begins to close on you. You know this will mean your death, and you yell and charge one of the whelps. It skips back out of range of your wild swing, but your momentum carries you forward, bulling the creature over. It screeches and tumbles over, it’s muddy rags entangling it’s limbs. Before it can recover, you drive your axe into it’s throat. It’s dying cry burbles out around from the blood and the hole in it’s throat. The other whelp hisses in rage and rushes in after you, scoring a shallow gash along your arm. It isn’t dire, but you know the mordok favor poisons. The whelp continues to relentlessly attack, giving you no time to further contemplate your situation, except for the next incoming attack. You are grateful for the sturdiness of your axe, as the creature pounds recklessly at it. The gratitude is short lived, as one of the warriors bounds up, a spear in hand. It jabs viciously at you, and you are barely able to dodge. You run the up the spear-length, and take a sizable chunk out of the creatures torso. It squalls in pains, and reels away. The rest are on you before you can turn to finish it. There are simply too many. You and your axe are not fast enough to claw free from the group. A dagger nearly pins your hand to your weapon, making the hand useless. Snarling with fury, and sure that you are about to meet the Great Wolf, you throw yourself upon the nearest warrior, hacking and clawing for all your worth. A blow to the back of your head clouds your eyes and you stagger to the your knees. The beasts set up a victorious howl and swarm you, and you know that your death is upon you……..
But no blade steals your life, no teeth ravage your body. Instead, the creatures take advantage of your momentary confusion, and quickly bind your hands behind your back, kicking your axe out of reach. Only when you are secured does the shaman finally approach. The creatures crowd anxiously away from their leader. It grabs your chin and brings your face close to it’s own.
“Mal kul lat, glok-hai glob?” It hisses.
Belthazar looks into the eyes of the Shaman. He thinks that with his hands tied there is no way for survival. but curious belthazar is wondering why this important figure in the mordok culture is taking the time to talk to him. Belthazar wants to spit at the mordok leader but decides that, if he wants to keep his head on his shoulders, he better not. the curiosity overwhelms belthazar and he decides that it cant get worse. he lowers his head to show his submissive side. “What do you want with me?” he asks with a sigh. he isn’t expecting an answer but he just wanted to try be fore they decide to kill him which is most likely what they are planning to do.
The shaman seems surprised, then pleased by your capitulation. Very pleased.
“Lat thrakum, lorz glok? Garn, ashdautas vrasublatlat!”
Apparently, this is very funny to the assembled mordok. They cackle gleefully.
“Sindokgoth nargzabub za lorz glok!”
He quickly loops another length of rope around your neck, tightening it enough that you would be unable to slip out of it, but still able to breathe. He hauls on your leash, forcing you to your feet.
“Ukhizgu!” He starts off, dragging you and the other ragged prisoner after him. A small commotion sets up behind you, and the female mordok you wounded in the side staggers to the shaman. She is bleeding heavily and will not live long without treatment. You are quite satisfied with this thought. However, the shaman grumbles mightily, and hands your leads off to another warrior. He examines the wound closely, beginning to chant in a low and malevolent voice. His chant gains intensity as he takes up a handful of wet dirt from the forest floor. Suddenly, he jams it into the female’s wound. She grunts and wavers on her feet, but manages to stand as the shaman finishes smearing the wound with dirt. After a moment, she flexes and nods to the others. The shaman snatches up the lead ropes again, and drags you after.
They set a brisk pace, allowing for no rest. You are capable of keeping up the brutal pace, though after a few hours, your head begins to ache abominably, and your wounds, though superficial, begin to burn. Your fellow prisoner is not so lucky. It’s clear they have been in the keeping of the mordok for sometime, and they are weak and slow. Occasionally they will stumble and is dragged a few lengths in the wet leaves and mud. The mordok always laugh and jeer at the sight, but strangely, the mordok always wait until the ragged figure regains their feet, before continuing onward. Finally, as the sun is beginning to set, the other prisoner falls to the ground, and does not get up. The shaman snarls and aims a kick a them, but the being only continues to tremble on the ground. The shaman drags you and the other prisoner to a tree, and deftly secures you to it. The other mordok begin to set about putting up a crude camp, leaving you and your fellow victim to your own devices.
Belthazar looks at the other victim. “hey are you ok?” “whats your name?” Belthazar looks down at his feet and starts to wonder bout what the mordok are planning for them. he thinks to himself “-what kind of mess have i gotten myself into now?-” Belthazar looks back towards the other being tied up next to him “my names Belthazar”. as the time passes belthazar grows restless and starts to think of escape plans but with the both of them in their condition it would pointless to even try. the only thing he can come up with, is to stay alive as long as possible.
Your fellow turns to you, and for the first time, you get a good look at them. They are male, you realize now. Under their ragged hood, you can see the hint of pointed ears. Syndar then. But what really catches your attention are his eyes. They are not…sane. It takes a moment for them to focus on you. It is as if he was thousands of miles away. When they focus on you, it is with an intensity that makes you slightly uncomfortable. He continues to stare at you through your introduction, and does not offer his own name, or any words at all. As you grow restless, the syndar seems to echo your emotions. Suddenly, his focus on you again, and he begins to babble incoherently. You can’t really make out what he is saying. It sounds mostly fluid, maybe the syndar language? A few phrases are harsh and guttural, sounding almost like the mordok. The one word you can make out sounds like ‘beh-tak’. You hear a voice from the group of mordok, raised and angry. A rock flies by and strikes the tree you are both secured to. The syndar does not flinch but is immediately silenced. He looks cowed and afraid, and will not respond to anything after this.
The night passes and you both fall into an uneasy sleep. When you wake, you are feeling feverish and unwell. The hand that was damaged by the dagger is swollen, with angry red lines streaking down your arm. You remember the mordok propensity for poisoned weapons. But before you can dwell on it much longer, the shaman comes to both of you. He sets down two beaten water skins, and two portions of whatever they had been eating the night before. The syndar sets upon upon it, practically inhaling his rations. You are unsure about the identity and quality of the meat, but you have not eaten since the day before. The shaman eyes you.
“Lat brogbu.” He grunts.
Belthazar looks down at the food and as he hears his stomach growl, he decides to eat. after the food was gone and the water drank, Belthazar leaned back up against the tree. ” I’m getting really tired of being treated like an animal by these disgusting beings” belthazar muttered under his breath. the chance of a successful escape is slim to none. belthazar slips back into his thoughts “what does this shaman want with me? why has he taken me prisoner instead of executing me on the spot?” not long after that last thought Belthazar dreams of sinking his axe straight into the shaman’s skull. he opens his eyes looks at his syndar ally. “if only he were a mage or a cleric, he could help me escape but in his current state he probably can’t tell up from down” so as far as belthazar can tell, he is going to be a pet for a little while unless a miracle happens.
The day turns out to be much like the previous. The mordok drive you relentlessly, allowing for no rest, no food, no water. The female you had previously wounded in the stomach takes special notice of you. Whenever you stumble, whenever you fall behind, she is there to kick you viciously back into line. Your hand wound begins to burn intensely, and the pain travels up your arm, throbbing.
The miles and tracks of forest begin to blur together. Fever sets in, and you are barely aware of the syndar suffering next to you, of what direction you are going. You think only of forcing yourself to take the next step, so that the kicks and savage blows do not come. From some depth you knew not even existed, fed with the feverish and blind hatred of these creatures, you manage to pull the strength to continue on.
But it cannot last. Eventually, as the sun begins to set, even your deep rage fails you. You stumble and fall. The female is there immediately, viciously kicking you, trying to force you to rise. You manage a noise, half-moan of defeat, half-snarl of of defiance. When you fail to stand, the female reaches for her club. For the second time in as many days, you think your death is upon you, as she raises her weapon. Suddenly, the shaman is there. He grabs the female’s wrists and bends it backwards viciously. She howls in agony, and drops her weapon. With his other hand, the shaman grabs her by the throat, bringing her close to his face.
“Lat azub lorz-glok, Sindokgoth azub lat!” He spits at her, and shoves her away in disdain. Kneeling down he grabs your wounded hand, examining it closely, callously prodding it, sending fresh jolts of pain through your body.
You are dimly aware of the shaman beginning a harsh chant over your body, and some animal instinct surfaces. Sheer terror and panic does what rage and anger could not, and you flail, trying to get away. The shaman coldly grabs you, and slams you back to the ground, not even pausing in his spell casting. Dazed, you watch as he finishes chanting, and grinds a handful of wet leaves into the open and festering wound on your hand.
The pain is nothing like you have ever known.
It is sharp and throbbing and aching all at once.
It drives all breath from your body, all thought from your mind.
It is as if any and every pain such a hand wound could ever feel, all condensed into a few seconds of pure intense agony.
The shock of it is the only thing that keeps you conscious. As your vision begins to black, it stops as quickly as it started.
You gasp for breath, and the fog clears away.
Your fever is gone, burned out, and the wound, is closed, and left behind is nothing but a raised scar, the pink of healthy and healed flesh.
Nausea hits you, and you turn over and vomit what little was left in your belly, and a small pile of a black, slimy substance. You look up at the shaman, in confusion and horror. Slowly the realization that you were subjected to vile mordok magic seeps into your mind, and making your gorge rise again. You dry heave, coughing.
Not giving you time to recover, the shaman drags you by your collar to another tree, where you are bound fully again. The syndar stares forlornly at you. Your vision begins to swim and exhaustion hits you like a tidal wave. As your eyes close, you see something else in the mad syndar’s eyes.
When you awake, it is dark and cold. You are alone by the tree, the syndar gone.
But not unheard.
From the circle of firelight, you can see the mordok gathered around, muttering and growling to themselves.
But above them, you can hear a man alternately shrieking in anguish and crying pitifully. The shaman is bellowing words. What they are, you do not know.
You do not know how long this goes on. Sometimes the syndar responds to the shaman, sometimes he only suffers. Eventually he falls silent, and the ranks of the mordok break. The shaman passes through, dragging the syndar by his hair. He drops the syndar in an unconscious heap, and then turns to stare at you.
You can read the meaning in the foul beast’s eyes.
You are next.
As the shaman reaches for your lead, you snap. The fear and anger course through your veins and you throw yourself wildly at the creature. You head butt, snarl and bite savagely as the mordok pack drags you off and into the circle of firelight. Still struggling wildly, your wrists and neck are bound to a stake in the ground. Every time you pull against the stake, the rope around your neck tightens, cutting off your air. The shaman watches you struggle impassively, until you tire. You stare at him, panting, as he walks over and sits on his knees in front of you. He begins speaking in the Mordok tongue, almost companionably. He speaks at you for a minute or two, as you stare, uncomprehending. He reaches for a knife, and casually draws it across the flesh of your arm. You snarl in pain, as he dips his finger into your blood. Grabbing your chin, he forces your head still as he draws on your forehead with your own blood. Still forcing you to look at him, he holds up his now bloody hand and barks out a word.
You growl and try to look away. He slaps you, forcing his hand into your face again.
This continues for some time, you resist, and refuse to understand what this beast is trying to communicate with you. His violence only escalates, the more you refuse him. Eventually he goes for his knife. Even though your arms are now scored and bloody, and you are in pain, you will not give in. After a while, the shaman sits back, and stares at your arms. You look too, and you grow afraid. The flesh is ragged, and you feel faint from blood loss. You watch as the shaman takes up a handful of ashes, and begins chanting. You brace yourself, though it doesn’t help.
All breath is driven from your body, and for a second, you can’t feel anything at all. Then the pain hits, and you double over. You watch as the ash mixes with your blood, and begins to form new skin over your wounds. The pain becomes too much though, and the world darkens. As you open your mouth to scream, it is over. You kneel, gasping for breath. The shaman grabs your chin, forcing you to look at him again. Though you speak no common words, you can guess at the meaning of its expression.
I can do this all night.He seems to say.
“Beh-tak.” He grunts again, holding up his bloodstained hand.
How long this continues, you do not know. Each time the shaman progressively wounds you, each time he heals you with extreme pain. Eventually, you are almost mindless with agony, retaining only one thing in your mind.
I will not submit anymore.
When you finally pass out, it is to the image of the shaman snarling the word at you in frustration, still holding out his bloody hand.
You wake up in the darkness, next to the tree, with your head cradled in the lap of the Syndar. He makes shushing noises at you, holding a cup of luke warm water to your lips. You drink gratefully, and manage to croak out a thank you. He shakes his head at you, saying something that sounded soothing and melodic, and leaves you curled up on the ground.
You lay there, passing in and out of consciousness. You force yourself to focus on the firelight, and on its reflections in the dirt. It takes a long time for your vision to stop wavering. To realize what a reflection meant. Slowly you raise your head. It is a rusted dagger, half buried in kicked up dirt and leaves. One of the mordok must have dropped it during your earlier struggle. You silently flip around, straining with your bound hands to snatch the dagger. You grab it and lean against the tree, desperately trying to saw at the ropes binding your hands. The Syndar observes your actions with interest. Your hands come free, and you quickly free your neck as well. The Syndar eagerly turns his hands to you, and you free them. He snatches the dagger and frees his last bindings as well. You wobble to your feet, and with a last glance at the fire and the sleeping mordok, you motion to the Syndar.
“Come on.” You whisper. The Syndar glances fearfully back, and then shakes his head. You stare at him, unbelieving. The Syndar curls up into a ball, mumbling. You lean in, and realize, for the first time, he is speaking in the trade tongue.
“You…don’t understand. She…SHE knows. She….sees…me. I…can’t. Can’tcan’tcan’t.” He looks up at you, with clarity in his eyes that wasn’t there before.
“Run.” He whispers hysterically. “Run!”
Before you realize what he is doing, before you can stop him, he sets the dagger to his throat, taking his life before your eyes. You stumble backward, watching in horror as the blood gushes, and the Syndar slumps, gurgling. You whirl and flee into the woods, away from the shaman, and the madness that darkened the Syndar’s dying eyes.