You recall what was told to you, on the day you set out across the burning plains. ‘Before you is your future, behind you is your past, and in due time, your destiny.’
No truer words have been spoken.
The wind wraps around you, billowing out your cloak, flapping it in the breeze like a marching banner for the army of one that is yourself. You savor this moment; feel the rushing adulation of pure purpose that burgeons in your heart. You cast a smiling glance back along the trail you’ve ridden, the narrow mountain path overlooking a sea of golden-red sand stretching out for miles underneath a cloudless crystal sky. You then look to your front, and behold the world before you, a narrow winding path down the side of the mountain, leading into a verdant forest with shrouded leafy canopies. From the peak where you stand, you can see it all, you look to the south and behold the mountain peaks in the distance, bending back to the west to become a snow blasted landscape of fjords and plateaus. To the north you can look and see planes of rolling green grass, spotted with lakes and rivers extending from the foot of the mountains. And to your front, facing the direct east, in the long winding distance you see it- spreading over the horizon like a blue shroud, the ocean.
You see all of this before you, encapsulated all from upon your perch at the mountains peak. You can’t help your self, you grin, draw your sword with a flourish of steel on scabbard, and thrust it at the sky. You let out a cry of victory, of victories past and future to come and declare your name. Your voice rings out, echoing outwards to shout back at you and ring in your ears, you giggle. It is childish for you to do so but you allow yourself this revelry, because you are now at the border of the world you know, the world of reason and order end here, and a strange world of monsters, bandits, and petty kings now takes shape. Your brothers and sisters have told you much of what to expect and what is to come and you have listened to stern face masters who whipped you for your inattentiveness. You breathe deeply of the scent of the pure mountain air; its taste is tinged with the sweetness of the distant ocean, perfumed with also the scent of the forest below and the dew on the mountain rocks. A new land is before you, and despite the unknown nature of what lies ahead, the occluding fog of uncertainty does not taint your vision, for never before have you so clearly seen the glory available to you, for you to reach out and take with both hands. You are certain of it; this is where you begin your ascension into Legend.
You tarry no longer, sheathing your blade and kicking your noble steed forwards and down the mountain path.
Morning greets you for the first time in this new land, a choir of songbirds, and the chuffing of deer. You toss and turn, not willing to rise and face the cold despite the fact that the sun trickles through spotted leaves. Squirrels and other forest dwelling creatures meet the new day with their chattering calls. The air smells sweet with grass and dew, the dry-wet scent of churned earth by forest paws. A faint mist carpets the ground with steam. Eventually, you bring yourself to waking, sitting up, and feeling the cool air prickle across your skin. You stretch arching your back and throwing out your arms, closing your eyes so that the dappled light passes over your dreary lids, and then you stand, running your hands down over your face skin, as flawless since the day of your second birth, and with care and attention, destined to stay that way.
Somewhat away from the camp you can hear a river, you draw water from it with a bucket, you would like to wash yourself before you begin the rest of your journey- you intent to set forth with your best foot. Before you begin to wash yourself, to scrape away the dirt accrued from your travels so far; you cannot help but kneel down, and admire the perfection reflected back at you. You smile at yourself; you brush a hanging lock of hair out of the way, staring at yourself in this glassy water. You truly believe that your eyes are your finest feature, like gems set in a perfectly carved marble statue, guided by the hands of a master artisan no less, they reflect your bloodline, the nobility of your heritage, and your tireless resolve as a true Telothian warrior.
No, not a warrior, nothing so crass as that- a Champion.
Champion… The name fits the picture before you, you can’t help but mutter it to yourself as you ponder your reflection, you are soon all to aware of your nakedness. Looking at yourself in this state of nature, you certainly cannot help but feel a trill of arousal made all the better by consummate skill, no man or woman could hope to resist you, so why should you resist yourself? You almost give into your lustful avarice, yet you relent with a huff. This can wait. You’ve a journey ahead of you. To dilute it with the lustful passions of the human nature before it even could truly begin would to be dishonorable and a waste of spent time. After you finish washing you feel revitalized. It is on your way back to the campsite that you get the first inkling as to some sort of disturbance. Your horse, your faithful steed Staugr, is whinnying, stamping the ground; you can hear it easily enough. You go from relaxed to alert in an instant, you quicken your pace, ducking under branches you emerge at your camp.
Bandits and thieves, haphazardly armed and armored, they must have hold over the local wild lands. No such skullduggery would be allowed in the realm of Teloth.
A miserable bunch, they glance up from their pillaging of your camp sacks. At once they move to encircle you in a casual fashion, you do not let them do so easily, backing up against a tree, keeping its trunk to your back as you pick out more interesting details of these fools.
The Leader is yammering, saying something about your luck, you think so at least, you do not understand their language that well, and you hadn’t cared to learn it in great detail- your Masters had whipped you relentlessly for that failing. There are seventeen in total, more of them emerging from the brush just beyond the clearing, likely acting as sentries. They are not all human- you make out several Satyr and Beastkin, the leader among them is a half-breed Minotaur; his muscles bulge as obscenely as the thing twitching beneath his loincloth, much to your disgust.
You can practically feel the musk wafting off of him. You assume that the trio of harlots and svelte boys standing beside him –also Beastkin- glaring daggers at you and your perfection, are part of his harem. In their back lines you also spy a pair of Lamia, and beside them, there is a much bulkier Naga, a breed you are familiar with, as they uniformly hail from the desert that you are so at home in. Having taken stock of their numbers you now take in their weaponry and armor, nothing so substantial. The Beastkin have their daggers and claws, the humans are more traditionally armed with shields and swords- some old and rusting- the Minotaur chieftain has a warhammer, the lamias have their own special twinned blades, and the Naga, her whip. You crack your neck, easing out the remaining kinks. You’ve still yet to really wake up, though the bath did suffice in rousing you sufficiently.
This will be a good enough exercise. The leader is saying something more, you honestly don’t care to listen, in fact, he is truly annoying you. Were he a human, you might have given him a chance to surrender and spread the message of your arrival. He is not, so you reach up and grip a solid branch from the tree behind you, and snap it off. You roll your shoulders and loosen up. You hope this doesn’t become too messy; you did just wash yourself.
Ten seconds or so after you begin and you are already finished. You grunt and pull, falling backwards as your hand comes free with a sickly wet sucking. You are more used to it coming from stuck weapons, but you will admit that a clenched fist can be just as brutal when enough force is behind it. You shake the worst of the offending gore from your hand, annoyed that bits of bone- likely rib fragments have scratched you while your fist and arm was elbow deep in that half-breed minotaur’s chest, crushing his heart. You could hardly call it an injury, but you tense your muscles and observe tiny pinpricks of blood oozing from the scrapes. You spit in disgust, you had been hoping to go about this flawlessly, and it is hardly befitting you to sustain an injury from such worthless rabble.
Of such rabble, they are now dead. Strewn about the campgrounds in various states of dismemberment and mutilation. Crushed skulls, cratered torsos, legs and arms ripped off and stuck through the bodies of others. You may have been a bit too enthusiastic but you were unarmed and without armor with your nakedness exposed to mere vagrants. They were due a reckoning for such blaspheme against you. Furthermore, they had the audacity to spray their entrails and gore across your body as they died, and directly after you have cleaned yourself- it is clear to you now that these lands are truly savage and barbaric, dishonoring a champion such as yourself with such base obscenity. You drag your fingers back through your hair, several molars from one of the pulverized brigands untangling and coming loose in the process. You step out from the lower half of the Minotaur, he had been hardy enough to survive you breaking him in half, so you had to go and punch his heart out, naturally. You make sure not to step on the partially torn out spine of one of the Lamia, although you are tempted to tear out the rest and clean it as an early trophy.
You decide against it in the end, she died too quickly, and the chief was only a half Minotaur, no point in taking a trophy from such a runt. You make your way back over to the river and quickly wash yourself, scrubbing the blood away is a hassle, most of it is already dried onto you, a clear sign that you had gotten far to excited over such a minor scrap. You would have to show more temperance in the future. It is noon by the time you are finished, your armor donned and weapons slung. Staugr is anxious to be on the way as well, for being of Telothian stock, he is surprisingly dainty in avoiding the corpses. It is difficult for him; they are spread about in a rather gratuitous fashion. Despite the interruption of your morning you are in rather fair spirits, and eager to be about your questing, leaving the abattoir in short order.
You didn’t know what to expect when you come across your first human township, or so you assume it is a township. The tallest building is only three stories high, the road is dirt instead marble, the parapets are constructed of wood instead of stone, and there is no monuments or statues in sight. Clearly the local lord has his priorities skewed, you would think that even the lowliest of human colonies outside of the Burning Desert would try to emulate noble Teloth to certain extents. As the greatest outpost of humankind- second only to the memories of the Black Mountain- it should be only natural to aspire to its magnitude, no matter the peasant nature of the hands that try to construct its pale shadow. You puff out your cheeks and sigh at this disappointment. You lead your noble steed, Staugr, a true Telothian warhorse, through the streets of unpaved dirt and mud. You make it a silent promise that if even an ounce of dog-shit touches your armor, you will raze this village to its foundations and salt the earth left behind.
You find an inn, a sign hanging over a low-slung roof with a picture of frothing mead draws your eye, and you suppose some things are just universal. Such simple Iconography is quintessentially human. There is a stable around the back of the establishment that you lead Staugr into, you wrap his reigns around a post and pat his armored flank. You walk around to the front of the inn, it is a homely thing of stone and wood, with a garden behind it, flush with various vegetables and herbs kept in orderly rows with a fence built around them so as to keep out most vermin. It is nothing like the vineyards of Teloth, but you have to reminds yourself that you are no longer in the Burning Plains, and that you must temper your expectations.
As an Innkeeper, your life is your work and your work is your life. You oversee your three daughters in running the family business, and you deal with traveling merchants in hopes of buying exotic goods that you can sell, or trading in recipes that you can cook with the exotic goods you buy. It is simple work, and you take pride in it. Your only regret is that due to your obligations to your wife and daughters, you cannot journey as you once did in your youth, your sense of adventure only slaked by the few odd travelers that come through town and stay at your inn. More often than not, their tales and stories only serve to deepen your wanderlust. You are often inundated by the local working men and farmers who come by to tell you their woes and their stories as they drink away the night, leaving next morning having paid their tab or not and saying they will do so later.
It is those rare traveling individuals that you watch out for, but it is not often that they come by, given your town’s proximity to the dreaded Splintered Mountains. The only clientele that you receive on the regular is that of the Human sort, and in this dreadful but mysterious world, Humans do not travel as a rule, and if they do, they do not travel far or abroad, so their stories are often lacking and dull. Humans do have a greater degree of free travel in close proximity to the Shattered Mountains, it is much in the same as it is elsewhere, stories that are lacking and dull all to common, unless they are stories of horror and violence. There is a reason for that, reasons that you are all too aware of.
One such reason has opened the door to your inn.
Humble. If you were to think of a compliment to give this place, it would be Humble. You are trying your best to remain positive, you are trying to be forgiving of the failings of this realm. Teloth is a holy Kingdom under the guidance of Divinity, and that the humans in these savage lands do not have such grace and mercy to lead them on a daily basis. But, it is hard not to be punitive when in the face of such overwhelmingly quaint blandness. You remove your helmet, no doubt stunning the few patrons of this dismal inn. Several tables set in a lodge with rooms attached to the side, and a second story with a similar arrangement. There is a bathhouse behind the bar area if your nose isn’t misleading you. There are several patrons, as already stated, and from what you can see, the daughters of the innkeeper are acting as waitresses and maids, dressed in conservative white linen with their hair tied back, they send furtive looks in your direction, cowed by your presence. You approach the Innkeeper, standing behind his bar, trying his best to avoid you it would seem. The only patron sitting at the bar leaves at once, looking over his shoulder back at you and making haste to pay his tab and be off.
You airily say your greeting and without preamble you ask for a room to stay the night, you reach into one of your hip pouches and fish out lesser silverite coin that could likely purchase over a hundred of these establishments, but you are feeling largely piteous towards these people by this point, you slide it across the old wooden bar. You look at the Innkeeper, watch him thumb over your money piece and then look back before staring at you with something approaching confusion or conflict. It dawns on you quickly enough, the problem. You pinch your brow and close your eyes. You are half-tempted to just do away with civility and slaughter this hovel as you please and stay the night regardless, but to raze an entire human colony over the simple fact that they do not speak the true tongue of Man would be exceedingly petty. You try to recall some of the words that you so brazenly ignored being taught to you.
“Bed. Sleep. One-night” The knight says to you in a firm, exasperated, patronizing manner, they speaks in the way that a person will if they aren’t in the mood to repeat themselves. But you need to take your time with this; dealing with these creatures is never simple. You study the coin they put down, a square chip of hardened and polished opal. On one side there is a design, a portrait of one of their founding saints, on the other, there is a softly glow gemstone that is illuminated by body heat, a unique, and artful piece of currency that oozed arrogance. You are a collector of things like this, small wonders of the world. You press it back across the counter, for a moment you are afraid that they will take this as an insult. You summon up the little knowledge you have of their equally cruel language. “No pay.” Words you have memorized for encounters such as this. “Free room. Our Honor.” You say this in their language to appease them, and hurry their passage out of the village. Nothing good ever comes from one of their ilk staying over long.
It works as intended, they seems to relax, running a gauntlet through their hair, taking their piece back and slipping it into its pouch. It almost seems to grin, amused and delighted by your show of knowledge of their words, but it comes across more as a smirk, self satisfied and haughty. You quickly direct them to where they’ll be lodging for the night, one of the better rooms, they’d want nothing less, even then, you doubt that it would meet their ridiculous standards. You take the horse to a stable as well. The thing is massive, with slabs of muscle and short hair like pine nettles made of iron. You have half a mind to think that the armor it wears isn’t so much as to protect it, as it is to restrain the beast. It unnerves you with its silence.
Upon returning your youngest daughter comes up to you, you take her by the shoulders and tell her not to worry, you’ve dealt with these monsters before, so long as you defer to them and stay clear, they won’t make trouble.
Your heart sinks when she tells you that it wanted a bath.
It’s better than a river, but then again, that isn’t a high bar to pass. You drop the towel and step into the water; a hole cut in the stone foundation, filled and emptied by buckets of water heated over hot stones, it’s a rudimentary and inefficient design, but nonetheless a viable method, and more than a luxury in such a downtrodden hovel such as this. The youngest of the daughters would be tending to you; you’d rather it be the eldest, the one with enough bravery to look you in the eyes. This one was all too docile, flinching and shirking away at your every word. Present company aside, you might as well enjoy the bath. You step into the water and sigh in relief. They managed to get this right, at the very least. You slowly sink in, relaxing for a moment more, you then raise a hand and beckon the young girl to begin her ministrations.
You’ve heard only rumors of these creatures. You thought they were only stories to scare you into behaving and going to bed on time. You never once gave credence to how the townsfolk stared up at the split mountains with both scorn and fright, how they fervently pleaded with their children to not play upon the roads that led down from the mountain pass. You thought they were just stores. You wish that they were only that, when no in the presence of such a monster.
You are the shortest of your sisters, only measuring up to four feet and several inches. You only barley come up to its wait, and only if you are standing on your tippy toes. It waves at you to proceed, lounging in the washing basin like some sort of noble, though it is clearly annoyed by the washroom’s humble furnishings. It irks you somewhat that it would expect something greater; this was only a rural township, far outside the Xionite capital. Your town couldn’t afford the sort of luxury afforded to those villages nearer to the coastline. You fill the bucket regardless, pouring it over this… you aren’t sure what it is. You suppose you can only go by the stories that your father and mother told you, and those told by the Priestess. They spoke of a distant fortress within a desert that burned with never ending hellfire. The fortress at the center of this desert is home to demons and savages who wish to destroy the world that the gods built for all creatures to share. They wanted to claim it for themselves and in order to do so, they call upon the powers of a dark monster with no name. Sometimes they will send out their strongest warriors to raid and harass the people of the westlands. They were said to look like people, but because of their cruel upbringing, they were strong and tall, that the desert had stripped their skin away with cruel winds, leaving them pale and white, and that their eyes burned yellow like the sun that punished them for their sin. This creature, it fit the description. Taller than you, your father and your mother, with blazing yellow eyes, pale white skin with the shadows of veins beneath, and bleach white-blond hair. It hands you the brush, not the soft bristled one, but the one with the prickly bristles. You hesitate for a second and it glowers at you. You proceed. You scrape away at its back and it doesn’t flinch. Its skin is rough, course like sandpaper despite being even paler than your bottom.. You make heavy use of the soap, this thing smells foul, like sweat and sulfur.
Through the brush you can tell that its body is like steel, muscles visibly ripple just under its skin, taught and lean, not like mister Orvick the Woodcutter, who was a mountain of a man. This creature was instead lithe and dexterous with obvious toning. It now turns around, bidding you to tend to its front, you cant help but gawk slightly. You don’t know if it is like the other creatures, some are only like you- with breasts- or not like you –without breasts. This one had boobs and hair, long like your eldest sister, but its body is toned more so like a man, cut with strength unfitting of a lady. The way it looks at you makes you uncomfortable. Bathes are supposed to be a fun thing, and you like giving them. You remember the time you spent with a young harpy that was visiting. She would splash you incessantly, laughing all the while until you eventually gave up and joined her in her game.
This was nothing like that. This beast wearing a human skin was openly leering at you, taking joy in how you squirmed under her gaze. You tended and played host to all guests, and one and all they were for the most part agreeable. Not this one. When you thought it was finally over, it called you back again, you were shaking by this point like a dog locked outside during a thunderstorm.
A pretty little flower, this one, young and pure, clearly a flower among weeds; she would make a fine vessel for breeding. Hopefully one of the more promising excuses for a male in this hovel would taker her and bear strong children and so on and so on. She was marred though, an honestly brutal scar on her face, running down from just below her right temple down past her eye over her cheek and curving down to her jawline. It was ugly and disfiguring, besmirching an otherwise docile and charming appearance.
You grab ahold of her head, turning her slightly so as to get a better view at it, you hold her jaw shut so she doesn’t make a fuss as you examine it more closely. It wasn’t a clean wound that much was obvious. It was likely created by a jagged edge rather than a blade, and given the environment it must’ve been a uniquely primitive instrument. Your gut instinct says goblins or trolls, a stone spear perhaps? Maybe so, regardless, a wound like this never fully heals- it had cut deep, likely punching through her cheek fully, and carving over bone. It is a miracle it of itself that she survived it at all.
You ball up your right hand, your prayer hand, and go over the litanies of the minor saints, remembering easily the base miracles that are thought to all brothers and sisters of the first royal house knights, barley enough to even stoke the fires, a scar such of this was hardly a challenge for even your limited anatomical knowledge. Your fingers glow bright, the veins in your right hand illuminating as though they were filled with sunlight.
The eyes of this girl are watery now, crying- fear, most likely. You’ve no intention of doing any real harm, and you try to tell it as much as you trace a glowing hand down the length of the scar, the smell of burning flesh momentarily filling the air.
Pain. Pain unimaginably hot and searing, but you can’t scream, you can’t move, you can’t do anything. It has you in a vice-like grip, holding you still and silent as it runs heat down the side of your ruined face. It’s like a cruel god is dragging a branding iron across your flesh for no other reason more than that it can and you can’t resist it at all.
And then your head is forced under the water, and the pain is gone.
You breach the surface of the bathwater, spluttering as it releases you, you cough spluttering and grabbing at the side of your face, expecting to find that same searing heat, only for there to be…
Not a thing, your fingers run across smooth flesh, and not the usual puckered meat and raised bumpy tissue that has marred your smile for years with pain and misery. You lean over the side of the basin, staring down into the bucket at its side; the reflection in the water shows you what you didn’t think possible. The scar is gone, and even the bits of obsidian and fragments of rock that the apothecary said could never be removed were gone, you couldn’t feel them anymore.
The scar was gone.
You are in good spirits this morning. A self-satisfied grin on your face underneath your helmet, you recount the events of yesterday. Your miracle was of course nothing more than a standard healing prayer utilized by your House to treat battlefield wounds, to stop bleeding and repair broken flesh, nothing so great. It meant that you had to reopen the girls’ scar but you repaired it several degrees better than whatever butcher had seen to it beforehand.
Of course, the Father wept and bowed at your feet, as he should have, offering your praise and all manner of peasant trinkets that you so graciously refused. You are under no illusion about the stir it is likely to cause among the rabble, your healing no doubt the first of any kind of miracle they have ever seen, its news spreading soon enough, as it should, you are a Champion after all, it is only right that you be recognized for your merits. Though, ashamedly, you’ve yet to live up to your legend with the slaying of any real grave threat or beast, nothing but a handful of bandits suffered met your wrath.
It is the devils own work, that you round the bend in the road, and meet a curious sight.
A caravan, horse drawn carts filled to the brim with goods and travelers, peasants and pilgrims, a sizeable host, about five carts in total. Normally you would pay such a procession little to no heed, they would be of no interest to you. This procession, is however, markedly different. It is a procession of the Inhuman, and its guards… well, nothing more needs to be said about them. You grin and drum your armored digits on the pommel of the saddle as you pull Staugr around to block the caravan.
There is a moment of commotion as the horses and carriages come to a halt, the drivers calling out for you to move in their idiot language. From the first carriage a warrior hops out, one who’s ilk you are fondly familiar with. Fiery russet red hair, piercing green slit eyes, fair skin and black armored scales across the arms and legs, along with a winding lizards tail ending in a plume of mystical fire. Clad in loose fitting armor that shows off her toned body, you cannot help but admire this salamander.
Her kind is abundant in the desert regions around Teloth. They formed tribes and vied with each other for territory, they warred endlessly. A fractious species, they were all to the last, supremely consummate warriors. You doubt this one before you is of the Burning Desert tribes, her skin is far too pale, and she lacks that familiar savage demeanor. She may be a pale-faced shadow of the Salamanders you know and have come to respect, but she will hopefully be of some excitement before you dispatch her. That hope fades by a margin, when she fully beholds you, hesitating, flinching, her hand going back to a thick cleaver-like weapon on her back. You frown beneath your helmet. The entire reason you had come to respect the salamanders of your home was because they were consistently fearless. Not matter the numbers, no matter the adversity; they would fight to the bitter and always bloody end.
To the tribes, fear and cowardice were of some sort of disgusting anathema that existed to be purged. The cowardly were eaten, while the fearless bred. You had hoped that the Salamander before you had even a modicum of the latter of those two traits, not the former. She calls back to the carriages behind her. At the tail end of the caravan, two monkey-women emerge, carrying staves as weapons. You think for a moment, not entirely familiar with their species. You remember hearing about far off lands where such creatures like them may exist but cannot place the name. Either way. They’ll die all the same.
You dismount from Staugr. You slap his armored flank and obediently he trots off, out of your way. The monkeys, likely twins judging by the similarities, they split, one going to your left and the other the right. The salamander faces you down from the front; weapon held loosely, her gaze focused intently on you. You let the encirclement happen. The only one seeming to be even remotely aware of what you are being the salamander. The twins have some modicum of restraint, likely taking whatever the salamander said to them with a degree of seriousness, but they were far too relaxed.
You shrug, they won’t be so casual for much longer. Just to make the point clear, you draw you mace. The solid metal haft is always a welcoming feeling, for the mace was your first ever weapon. In the bleeding grounds of your youth, it was the first weapon to rest in your hands, grabbed from the ruddy stone floor in a fit of desperation. From that moment on, it would always be your preferred tool when dealing out death. Smashing in skulls, breaking ribs, shattering legs and pulping muscles. You twirl it idly, sauntering forwards, looking left and right, wondering who will be the first to attack.
The monkey twins, both from either side at the same time. Leaping at you with staves whipping around with lightning speed.
It’s an old rule of combat, that your feet should never leave the ground. When you are in the air, you are vulnerable, as you are unable to dodge or change direction. You step back, out of the way and grab the end of one staff, and yank, sending its wielder crashing into her sister. The crumple to the ground in front of you, and you waste no time. Your mace swings down, and in a single stroke you’ve blasted through both of their skulls.
You were hoping for better, and by far, you were disappointed. The salamander winces, not making a sound, but you can audibly hear her teeth grit. You twirl your mace again, blood and bone coming off its head. You kick one of the corpses out of your path and step on the other, ribs breaking under your weight. You approach the Salamander, looking for her tells, waiting for her attack.
She steps back.
Your brothers and sisters, they told you of the great and terrible beasts that were beyond the mountains. They whispered of deadly lightning breathing birds that could vaporize the tops of mountains, of wild eyed wolf-kin with pelts of pure shadow, and mighty scaled legions of lizard-folk stronger and faster than any man, you even whispered about fire eyed hounds with claws of jagged night and roars that turned blood to ice. You recounted the tales of the knife-eared fey-folk across the sea, with both ancient magic and ageless swordskill, you remember being told of the Mighty Wurm beasts, cousin of the Dragons and sister to the Wyvern. Above all, you dreamt of Dragons.
Met now with only disappointment after disappointment, you wonder if even those legendary beasts that you were told of are but whimpering puppies.
You kill the Salamander, barley even trying; you toss your mace, an action faster than she can blink, and it cores through her torso and into the ground, burying its head. You sigh with creeping depression and go to retrieve your weapon. There is commotion now across the caravan, the inhuman creatures begin to panic, and they will doubtlessly try to run. You reach down and grab your mace.
You are blasted back by a pillar of fire.
The heat spills over you, staggering you back as your hand closes around the haft of your mace just in time.
You stagger, steadying yourself, only to be blasted again by flames. You roll, diving out from the inferno and to the side, rolling, coming up standing and seething in hate, across from you, fists and feet wreathed in fire, is a mouse, like the ones in the caravan, except that this one clearly knows how to fight, and controls flame. You know nothing of her species, she is like the apes in that regard, but from appearance alone you can garner enough to your burnt skin is testament enough to the fact that she is dangerous. You twirl your mace and snarl. You attack.
She’s flexible, that much is certain, as well as fast, faster than the two apes and the salamander, lacking in power you will assume, making up for it in agility. Your mace just grazes over her head as she leans back out of the way of the strike, her foot kicks upwards as she leans back into a flip, the fiery limb catching you across the chest with burning heat. You can feel your skin burn underneath the metal, the heat searing your flesh, you hiss, a different heat now rising within you. The pirouetting mouse goes on the offensive, clearly emboldened by her earlier strike on you.
This time, you are ready, and you intercept her striking foot with your mace. It’s an explosion of ruined meat and atomized blood; shards of bone plink off your armor. You leer menacingly as she staggers back and falls. This would not be enough to satisfy you. Not enough at all. Yet, she was the first creature in these lands to strike a blow upon you, even if it was from a coward’s ambush. You reach down, her quivering body convulsing in pain and you grab her by the hair and lift her up. You swing, the haft of your mace crushes through her neck and out the other side, separating body from head. It’s not the cleanest of cuts, but it works well enough for its purpose.
So caught up in claiming your first trophy that you almost forget about the caravan itself. You run the mouse’s long red hair through your belt and let it hand, and then you heft your mace and look at the numbers of stunned silent and horrified mouse-like inhuman’s. You shake your head and grab the hilt of your claymore and draw, feeling the weight along the length of its blade. You nod. Much better.
A half of an hour later and the corpse mound is burning nicely; you clap your gauntlets clean and smile cheerily as you watch the flames. This was good work, just and holy work. You’ve no doubt that this caravan of inhumanas was headed towards the colony you had just left, intent on corrupting it with their filth, obviously. Cooling blood heats up and boils, skin blisters and pops. It is like a regular festivals eve of your very own out here in the wilds, beyond the light of Teloth. You take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, settling down with your back against a firm tree, you watch the unclean beasts burn away and turn to ashes.
The smell of the charring meat of the inhuman is more than enough to distract you from the stink rolling out of your armor, you are coated in a fine layer of sweat, and your skin and clothes stick to the inside of your armor like tar on a heretic. It’s not really your fault, not wholly, at least. Of your brothers and sisters of the first royal house, you’ve always been a bit overenthusiastic, some might say, and you find yourself drawing upon The Grace without often noticing. You never find yourself unconsciously calling it up to the point where it hurt you like you did when you were still a freshblood, you are more tempered now, but it is a habit that you’ve still yet to outgrow.
You undo the latches to your armor and strip away your chest piece and upper leggings. You allow the coolness of the evening air to brush over your sweaty body. It is a nice contrast, the heat of the pyre and the coolness of the air. It makes your body tingle.
You run your gauntlets down over your sodden shirt, feeling the damp cloth against your breasts. The pyre burns brightly now, the corpses curling into themselves like young children. This sight before you, you can’t help but notice how they all look alike, with their hair, scales, fur and feathers stripped away by cleansing fire. They all look the same. You yawn, and rub your eyes. The smell of charring blood-slick is heavy in the air with smoldering flesh. You lay down, getting comfortable, leaning your head back against your helmet.
You watch the pyre burn.