Month: March 2017

Birth of the Thunderjaws

Another legendary tale, this time about a new orc tribe–the Thunderjaws. Like the Blackskulls, they live a rather isolated existence, but they pride themselves on their elven-orcish heritage. This is about their progenitor, Kunol–an elf adopted by the powerful Kilverud mountain orcs during a peak in the Long War. For this one, I wanted to experiment with the idea of the narrator addressing the reader, who is assumed to be part of the narrator’s culture. I’m not certain how successful I was on that front, but it was fun to write. The other thing I wanted to try out was making a character whose destiny is directly influenced by the gods.

Like most mythological tales, there’s always a nugget of truth somewhere in there. Besides writing about a hero, I also wanted to write more about the angels/demons that once wracked Veiadokuur to explore what they were capable of, what sort of forms they took, and so on. This one was mainly inspired by Nago from Princess Mononoke, but with less goop.

Originally Posted: January 25, 2017
Word Count: ~8500
Rating: G
Warnings: None

Many years before Fal’raikath’s birth and even the founding of the Thunderjaw tribe, a family of two elves wandered along the coast. They fled from a terrible enemy, a demon that ravaged their woods and blighted it for years to come. It tore through the homes carved into their great trees and made their trunks wither away until they collapsed into each other. It killed the ground too—made it dry, dusty, and impossible for sustaining plants and flowers. It drank the river that ran through their woods until nothing was left but dirt and pebbles and the skeletons of small fish. Everything dead, they had no choice but to escape while they still could.

As they looked for a new home, they lost themselves in a mountainous stretch of Veiadokuur. They wandered through rocky crevasses and high cliffs, but found nothing suitable for settlement. Weeks passed and their supplies—what little they could carry when they left—ran out.

Now, listener, please keep something in mind before I tell you what happened to this family. Elves, like orcs, valued family above all. Also like us, elves were practical and knew that sometimes, to survive, people had to make great sacrifices. These elves were not cruel nor heartless, nor selfish or greedy. They were dying. They were desperate. And, these two carried an additional burden beyond their own lives: An infant. (more…)

Tabris, Dokurokol, and the Life Gem, pt. 2

The conclusion to Tabris’ and Dokurokol’s search for the Life Gem. I wanna write more about underground adventures, and hobgoblins in general. They exist mostly on the periphery, and they’re kinda too interesting to just shove to the side.

Read part one here.

Word Count: ~3200 (out of ~7200 total)
Rating: G
Warnings: None

Dokurokol stood on the docks of Thunderjaw Island with her travel supplies on her back. While the orcs prepared her ship to the mainland, she stared out at the open waters. Veiadokuur’s cold, snow-peaked mountains lounged in the distance, grey triangles in the misty weather. Beyond them, to the north, the Impassable Heights stood far taller. In this air, Dokurokol could not even discern their tops. Even the water looked murky without the sun’s warmth. Every other day, the waves carried a deep blue hue and reflected the clouds. Today, though, it all blended together. The horizon towards the open ocean went on forever, and only differing shades hinted at the existence of land masses.

“How long will you be out this time” her Kilverud captain, Varn, said. Old, retired, and seasoned beyond his years, he regularly traveled from Stoneheart City to take Dokurokol to the mainland. He offered her a puff of his pipe, but she politely refused this time.

“It’ll be a long one this time, Varn,” she said. “If I’m not back I six months, stop waiting for me.” He looked down at her, pulling his lips to the side.

“You’re thinking this’ll be your last one?” he said. “You’re ready for that?”

“Indeed,” she said and nodded. “But I don’t anticipate that I’ll die. I’ll just be adventuring further into the mainland if I find what I want.”

“And if you don’t?” Varn said. Dokurokol smiled. Waves lapped against the shore and the wind rustled the leaves in the forests behind them. They heard footsteps running down the docks, paired with clanking and rattling. The two turned and saw Tabris, looking like a mule as he struggled with a massive bag on his back.

“I’m coming!” he said as he approached. (more…)

Tabris, Dokurokol, and the Life Gem, pt. 1

A quick story exploring some side characters and events in my larger narrative about Veiadokuur. I loved writing about Tabris and Dokurokol’s interactions with each other. Figuring out how immortal characters navigate the world around them is also a lot of fun, especially if there’s some sort of trick to the reason why they cannot die.

Read part two here.

Word Count: ~4000 (out of ~7200 total)
Rating: G
Warnings: None

It took Tabris a moment to open his eyes. Even if he heard Dokurokol’s shout and felt her heavy footsteps coming down his staircase, he chose not to react. Half of his mind still felt the fern’s thin leaves curling up around and right through that part of his conscious. The brown, dry tips of the fern changed as wet greenness seeped back into it. What was dead lived once again. A gruff hand pestered his shoulder.

“Tabris, get up. Get out of that plant and listen to me, yeah?” Dokurokol spoke to him in Dwarvish, her native tongue. Still blinded, Tabris waved his fingertips over his plant. He latched onto his mind and reeled himself back from the fern, no that he’d completed healing it. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked up at Dokurokol. She faded into his vision first, then his concentration room, the deepest part of his home, appeared. Its smooth, stone walls without corners, low ceiling, and lack of windows made for a perfect isolation chamber. Somewhere he could move his soul around almost freely. He sat at his table, a long, narrow thing big enough for Thunderjaw orcs to lie down on. He healed them here, using his magic to take care of whatever ailed them. And most times, it could. When it couldn’t, he brewed medicine and catalysts for that.

“What is it now, Dok?” Tabris said when his vision returned to normal. Dokurokol stood squat in front of him, with only the fern to protect Tabris from her enthusiasm. She grinned past her thick, curly beard and mustache and held up a fat book in her square hands. The tome looked like her—short, dense, and bulky. All it needed was a shock of thinning orange hair and a beard to match, and a bulbous nose to top it off. Its creased cover even matched Dokurokol’s wrinkles. Unlike Tabris, she regularly left the Thunderjaw’s island, and aged because of it. She’d always been bitter about the “immortal with a catch” thing, and traveled to faraway places in the mainland against her better judgment.

“I’ve found proof,” she said, eyes sparkling like cut gemstones. (more…)

Rokag’s Departure, pt. 2

And the second part to Rokag’s leave. You know, despite this being like, 10k words long, it felt ridiculously quick to write. I had a lot of fun with it.

Read part one here.

Originally Posted: November 2, 2016
Word Count: ~5700 (out of ~10,200 total)
Rating: G
Warnings: None

It took a few hours, but Rokag eventually calmed down and went to work at her daily duties. Finn and Agrat also went to their own chores, and the three mostly stayed apart from each other until that evening. When she returned home for the night, Agrat and Finn were already sitting in the living room, next to each other on the couch. She sat across from them in a chair.

“So?” she said. Agrat scratched his head and Finn opened his palms.

“So y’ know—”

“Things haven’t—”

They glanced at each other and Agrat motioned for Finn to continue.

“Things haven’t always been easy for us,” he said. “I’m guessing you already know that we’ve done our fair share of wandering.”

“Right,” Rokag said. “Of course you did, since you traveled all th’ way here.”

“And it goes without saying that things get dangerous when you don’t really have a permanent home,” Finn said. “You know we moved here for a better life, since that wasn’t possible in Ettinsmoor. We didn’t get to actually settle down and stop for some time, and during that time we had some… difficult encounters.” She leaned sideways in the chair and rested her cheek against her knuckles.

“Well, just how difficult?” she said.

(more…)

Rokag’s Departure, pt. 1

Another story taking place in the D&D universe about Rokag. I wrote this up to explore her personality, her upbringing and values, and–most importantly–her motivations for traveling. Plus, her parents carry a lot of baggage with them, so I thought that was important to examine as well. Playing several characters with related baggage in a TTRPG is tremendously difficult, since you can’t adequately roleplay out reactions to character death or change at the table. Part of writing this was so I could retroactively include that, too.

Anyway, it’s a two-parter to make for more comfortable reading. I’ll post the second half in a couple days. As usual with stories based on D&D characters, just roll with it if it seems bizarre and outta nowhere or confusing.

Read part two here.

Originally Posted: November 2, 2016
Word Count: ~4500 (out of ~10,200 total)
Rating: G
Warnings: None

The target swung lightly with the wind. Its bright red paint stuck out among the green foliage to everyone but Rokag. It looked just as muddled tan, blue, and yellow as everything else. The target was custom-made for orc eyes, and had bright yellow stripes in each of the concentric circles, to help make up for her poor color vision. Several arrows littered the ground around it, a tree off to one side, and only one stuck in the target itself. A songbird fluttered overhead as it landed on a branch, but otherwise, she only heard the breeze and the sound of her own breaths. Her uncle Tabris sat behind her, watching her closely. She drew back the string on her bow and squinted one eye.

“No, no—both open,” Tabris said, his voice hardly a whisper. “It’s a myth that squinting helps. Which is your dominant eye, anyway?” Rokag blinked and looked over at him.

“Dominant eye?” she said. “Like a dominant hand?” He nodded. He was much shorter than her, and overall smaller as well. Lithe. A human through-and-through. Yet as a child, he discomforted her. Something about his eyes looked oddly blank, as if nothing existed inside him. The mauling scar on the left side of his face, too—and the others on his body, for that matter—disturbed her, even if her own fathers were equally marred. That, and—she could hardly recall why, or when, or how—she remembered that one day, he suddenly changed into… this. Her earliest, vaguest memories of him seemed to be of a different person entirely. Someone who smirked, someone who spoke with life an energy. Someone just like her dad. Then, when he returned after an absence, stoicism. As if he forgot he had a face.

(more…)

Agrat the Wanderer

Another Blackskull tale, this time about Agrat’s namesake. I plucked this out of the longer narrative to share online. This is another one that I should have included more about what the legendary Agrat actually did during his time a-wanderin’, but as I wrote it, I worried it would distract from the rest of the narrative too much.

For context, Agrat here has just come out to his mother, Grasha, about being transgender. He wasn’t certain whether she’d take his feelings seriously, so he’s feeling pretty ashamed and embarrassed about himself. Both of them were exiled from the Blackskulls, Grasha’s tribe, because the Blackskulls carry some nasty cultural beliefs about racial purity, and Agrat’s a half-breed. For all their faults, I still enjoy writing about the Blackskulls and who they are as a people

Originally Posted: September 28, 2016
Word Count: ~1600
Rating: G
Warnings: None

“Come,” Grasha said, and opened her arms. Agrat stared at her a moment, then crawled up to her. She hugged him tightly. “I should have seen this long ago. You are my son, Re—no, you need a different name. Do you have one in mind?” He widened his eyes.

Just like that? So easily?

His mind spun a bit before he thought back to his dreams and fantasies. He’d tried on a few different names and none really fit him perfectly, but one cropped up a little more frequently.

“Helmun,” he said. Grasha stared at him and rolled her eyes.

“That’s a human name,” she said. “You’re more orc than human, kaluk.” Agrat set his jaw forward.

“I’m half, though,” he said.

“You’ll figure it out someday. And either way, orc names are better,” she said and grinned.

(more…)

Rokag the Rider

While building the world of Veiadokuur, I wanted to include myths, legends, and histories that the characters would know of and be able to reference. Actually writing these out made the task more interesting for me, and gives me something to do when I need to take a break from working on the main narrative. Plus it’s fun to write stories like this, where gods interact with mortals. I scratched this one out in basically one sitting at my parents’ house, then revised it when I typed it up later. I wish I’d gone a little further with Rokag the Rider’s legendary exploits, but this is an origin story more than anything; in Blackskull tales, Rokag appears again and again with their trusty steed.

Originally Posted: September 26, 2016
Word Count: ~2000
Rating: G
Warnings: None

When Rokag was born, Rek’gor was already an adult. The sister god still visited us in those days to share her wisdom and her stories, and give us insight into the workings of the world. She also stood present at each and every Blackskull birth, guiding the caretakers and the parents in the process. Rokag’s body was tiny—thin little arms, sunken eyes, and skin as thin as a crinkled leaf and ashen as the northern, icy fields. The weak cries the babe made hurt Rek’gor’s kind heart. After the birth, Rek’gor said to Rokag’s parents, “Come—let me hold your child.”

Rokag’s parents trusted Rek’gor completely, as all orcs do. They handed her their little loved one and Rek’gor embraced the child. Rokag stopped whimpering, warm and comfortable, and looked up into the goddess’ eyes.

“You wish to be stronger, don’t you?” Rek’gor said, speaking to Rokag’s heart of hearts. “Strong you shall be, young one. You can be anything you desire—here.” She touched Rokag’s chest with her great palm. Rokag’s skin darkened to the color of the most fertile soils, and after just one day, vitality flowed through the small one’s body. Rokag’s mother and father wept and thanked Rek’gor, who was only pleased to give their child health.

But something else changed about Rokag. (more…)