Posts Tagged ‘Noonday Witch’

Tooth and Claw

May 13, 2017

Bron found himself in the woods, deep in unfamiliar woods. He had no memory of how he had gotten there. He remembered being on watch with that Druid. She at least could make good food. Orc cooking was crude and utilitarian so Bron had grown to like Elven cooking even if he rolled his eyes at all the religion the elf girl and others insisted on. He also really liked alcohol but it would have to wait until the next town. Regardless, he must have slipped past everybody at the changing of the guard which made them all a bit more useless. Or it made Bron that much better than them. However, he wished he could spot the camp fire not that he needed them.

“You are growing more powerful,” A voice said from somewhere. Bron looked in that direction and watched as the Witch stepped from behind a tree. Bron let go of his axe, letting it hang back in the sling on his back. He could always grab it if she said something stupid.

“Witch,” Bron said and spat. “It was you who brought me here.”

“It was either fate or free will. Which do you believe in?” The Witch asked.

Bron thought for but a few seconds. “I do what I want,” He said gruffly.

“Fair enough,” the Witch said. “Do you want more power, Bron? To battle new challenges?”

“My power is enough,” Bron said with a frown. “No deals. No tricks.”

“No deals and no tricks. I promise,” she said. “This power is not coming from me. Nature itself is recognizing your strength. It has a gift for you. A tribute of sorts.”

“A tribute?” Bron asked. Tributes were only for powerful and important people.

“Turn around.”

Bron turned and saw a large bear standing almost directly behind him. As he reached for his ax, the bear moved to a pose on all fours. It was almost like it was genuflecting, bowing to him. Clearly an offering.

“Kill it,” The Witch said. “Take its power.”

Bron looked at the peaceful bear and shook his head. He threw down his ax. The witch looked outraged like she was going to start yelling at Bron.

“No challenge,” Bron muttered. Bron pulled back his hand and slapped the bear across the snout. The bear suddenly forgot its sense of decorum and reared up angrily. Bron had to dodge its first furious swipes. The battle was on. The two brutish competitors lunged at each other, wrestling with one another as one tried to kill the other. They both got their shots in, inflicting horrible damage. In the end, Bron rolled over to his great ax and brought the fight to its end. What was left of the bear lay still.

Bron stood, breathing hard and covered in blood and wounds but smiling. The Witch’s eyes were wide as they shone from under her hood. Her identity was still hidden but her surprise and fear were laid bare. She held out a necklace made from the bear’s claws.

“Take it,” She said. She held out the necklace firmly. To her credit, she did not shake. She seemed to have re-composed herself. Bron snatched the necklace from her and she did not flinch.

Bron instantly felt the bear again and the hair stood up on the back of his neck. It was there but Bron could not see it or hear it. Then he realized that he felt the bear’s presence within. Its menace, size, and ferocity were there and Bron felt stronger. He felt his flesh knit together once again, leaving just the usual blood stains on his skin. He felt nature around him come alive. He was acutely aware of every creature within miles, including the tiniest insect. There was challenge out there.

His vision blurred and when it cleared, he was running on all fours. His fur rustled in the wind. There was a deer that he was chasing so tantalizingly close in front of him. The deer stumbled on a tree root and he felled it with a mighty swipe of his paw. He bit the thing’s neck and dove into its guts, ripping and tearing. For a brief moment, the thing was Urka and Bron smiled.

“You are one of us,” a voice said. “Go and show them your power.”

“I will,” Bron said. “I am half orc, half human and half bear. And I am more than all of them.”

Then Bron awoke, still clutching the necklace. The fire was low and the Druid was making breakfast and everybody was starting the morning routine. He still felt the challenge ahead.

“Let it come. I am ready.”

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The End and the Beginning

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.

“Maybe?”

“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.


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