March 18, 2017
Hak ran through the trees as quickly as he could. At age twelve, he was already over five feet tall and very athletic but that was not strange for a half-orc. He would have had an easy time running except for the tree roots underfoot and the arrows in Hak’s back. Now that his seemingly bottomless rage had run out, Hak could feel the blood dripping down his back even as he ran. He could not stop running or the slavers would catch him again. Two people had already died in the escape attempt, Hak had to make this count or he would join them or he would be back in chains. Both were pretty much the same option.
It had been a long year since Hak had seen the tribe that had raised him. Some of them were half-orcs and some of them were human but they lived together in relative harmony. They hunted together and fought off powerful enemies together. It was here that Hak had learned how to use the rage his blood gave him to his advantage. He missed the grip of the enormous sword he had earned in combat on his sixth birthday. The slavers took the tribe by surprise, using powerful sleep spells to steal away some of the younger members. Hak was shipped far away and put to work. He lived his life in chains now but that was over now if he could just keep running.
As he ran past a tree he reached up and pulled a large branch off of it and carried it with him. If they caught up to him, he would make them pay for every lash of the whip and every boot to his ribs. It almost made him hope they would catch up, even if it would probably mean his death. He was a rabid dog. If he was cornered, he would kill anybody who came into reach. The trees fell away and he was in suddenly in the open which filled his stomach with anticipation. It would not be long now. His heart fell at the sight in front of him. It was a cliff and beyond that was the sea. Hak had run the wrong way.
The men and women who had been following slowed to a jog, forming a semi-circle to make sure Hak could not get away. Hak raised the branch and swung it a few times, showing them that he meant business. He backed almost to the edge of the cliff and growled at the slavers. He tried to access that rage again but it had been depleted. He was just so tired but he would not give up no matter what. A dwarf with a battle ax charged and Hak swung as hard as he could. The branch broke a little on the dwarf’s head, sending the slaver stumbling away. Hak laughed wildly, his eyes wide open.
The tiefling woman to the dwarf’s right did not take such chances. She aimed a crossbow and fired it into Hak’s shoulder. There was a terrible moment when Hak fell to one knee and he felt they were going to take him alive. He tried to push himself back to his feet but he lost his balance. Time slowed down as he realized he was falling over the edge. He could see the disappointed faces of the slavers. He could see the dwarf already yelling at the woman for firing her crossbow. Then they were gone and Hak was alone, falling parallel to the rocky cliff face. At least the slavers had lost. Then came the water and sweet oblivion.
The light came again and Hak held his arms in front of his face. There was the sound of seagulls and the crashing of waves. He realized that the swaying he was feeling was real and not just from his recent blood loss. Though the sun hurt, Hak dared to open his eyes anyway. He was on a ship on what looked like the ocean. Standing over him was a woman with cloth strips tied over her eyes. She smiled in relief as he moved to sit up even though he let out a grunt as he did. She walked down the length of the ship, the ship’s crew took little notice as they went about their duties.
“So you’re finally awake, are ye?” A man with a long beard said. He walked with purpose and authority and Hak knew he must be in charge. He was a human but he was not an ordinary one.
“I am awake. How–?” Hak asked.
“How did you get here?” The man asked. “We fished you out of the ocean. You’re lucky we recruited a cleric a while ago.”
“Lucky,” Hak said. He looked up and could not see the cliff anywhere. “Very lucky. Thank you.”
“We didn’t save you for free. We could use a big lad like you,” The man said.
Hak tensed, remembering how the slavers had put him to work. “You could, huh?”
“Yes. For pay, of course,” the man said with a smile. “You would follow my orders but no more chains and no more whips. What do you think?”
“I have a choice?” Hak asked. He could not hide his surprise.
“Every person in the world has a choice, lad. What are you going to do with yours?”
Hak looked the man in the eye for a long moment. “I will follow you. See what the ocean has to offer,” Hak said at last.
“Good,” the man said. “You look like you could use a drink. Then we’ll see about putting you to work. I’m Captain Trystan but most people call me The Shark. What do we call you?”
“I am Hak.”
The man grinned and patted Hak on the shoulder. “Hak the Hurricane. I like it.”
December 3, 2016
Bron lay face down in the dirt. When he opened his eyes he could see it was dirt. He was not sure where he was or even if he cared where he was. He closed his eyes again. He tried to think about the night before and it was like pulling on a fishing line. As he pulled, the memories started coming to the surface.
All he had known was life in the Blacktooth camp. It was brutal and dangerous but there was a joy in joining the fight every single day. He had grown up believing in the survival of the tribe against all odds. The kids his age had made that hard. They had always ganged up on him. They had not cared that he had no father. Bastards were common enough. They were upset that Bron was only half-orc. They hated his human side.
Bron did not see it that way. His human half did not make him less, it made him more. The thought fueled him and the hunting and the hunting and constant challenges made him even stronger. Too strong for the elders of the tribe. They had told him that he would never be accepted. Bron had countered that eventually they would die and he would take over. Then he would have to be accepted. They promised that this would never happen. Bron had just laughed and walked away from that meeting. That was what he assumed was the day before.
In the night, they came for Bron. They dragged him away and into the wilderness and he fought but there were twelve of them. One against all is not good odds. Every time he fought back, they hit him with fists or clubs until he was dazed or blacked out. They pulled him to his feet in the middle of a field. He was face to face with Urka. He did his best to spit blood in Urka’s face. He succeeded.
“You’ve never beat me, Urka. So you needed your friends to join in,” Bron said.
“Your time here is done, Bron. Your words are useless,” Urka said.
“You will have to kill me to get rid of me.”
“Good.” There were no speeches, there were no announcements. Urka pulled out a long, wicked dagger and immediately Bron fought hard. He charged Urka but suddenly he was blindsided by an orc with a spear. Bron could feel it going through his body. Then another spear hit his other side and pierced him. Urka walked toward him, grinning like a devil.
The knife drove deep and Bron instantly knew that it was very bad. Urka cradled his head as Bron sank to his knees. Urka drove his knee into Bron’s face. Something cracked. He drove that knee again and again and there was warmth and wetness. The world turned black after that third knee landed.
So here he was. He had no idea how long he had been out. He pushed himself to his feet but the high sun was much too bright and Bron found himself blinking and shielding his eyes for a moment. Beneath his feet, there was a great pool of blood that had mixed with the dirt and then dried. There were two spears as well but no knife. Bron thought Urka must have taken it with him. Bron smiled to himself. He was not dead. He actually felt fine.
He turned and there was a small robed woman standing and staring.
“Who the hell are you?” Bron growled.
“Hmm. It is a long time since I had a name,” The woman said. As Bron approached to strangle her, she held her hand up and he paused. He was merely surprised at her courage. “You can call me the Noonday Witch for now,” the woman said.
“Whatever,” Bron said dismissively. “What do you want? I have necks to snap.”
“I healed you. I did not want to depart without making sure you were alright.”
“I’m fine,” Bron grunted.
“You did not look fine,” The woman said softly and carefully.
“There was twelve of them.”
“Twelve and you lived. Impressive,” The woman said with a slight smile. “The currents of fate may have something big in store for you yet.”
“Whatever. I’m going back there and I am turning Urka inside out.”
“Do you feel the pull of Grummsh that strongly?” The woman asked. The name sent pulses of dread through Bron’s body.
“I am half-orc. I do what I want.”
“If you do not share their ideals, you will never rule them and they will never rule you.”
“What do you care?” Bron asked. “It’s all I know.”
“My point is that there is more world out there. There are challenges more worthy of confronting,” The woman said.
“Like what?” Bron asked. He was suddenly interested. He loved a challenge.
“I see your path going that way,” she said. “If you go that way, it will be hard not to continue down the path.”
Bron squinted at the witch. “Those currents. Can you see the future?”
“Maybe,” she said and smiled cryptically.
“It depends on if you go where I suggested,” she said with a shrug.
“Maybe I will. Maybe I will show them my strength,” Bron said. Visions of new faces awed by his strength danced behind his eyes. Maybe he could create his own tribe. A new tribe to crush the Blacktooth for rejecting him.
“Maybe,” the woman and seemed to think about it for a moment. “I like maybe. I hope you will carve your own path some day.” She seemed to flicker like the flame of a torch for a moment and then she was gone. In her place, there was a great ax. Bron walked forward and greeted as if it was a new friend.