orcs

The Collector, pt. 3

During the night, Rokag saw her parents vanish for seemingly no reason. In her panic, she shouted while she searched for them, but nobody answered except her neighbor, Tabris. Knowing far more about the Fair Folk and their ways, he takes it upon himself to navigate the other side with Rokag, and help her find her family.

This is a modern alternative universe about Finn, Agrat, Rokag, and Tabris. It’s a longer one, so it’s posted in three separate parts.

Word Count: ~5300 (of ~13,500)
Rating: PG
Warnings: None

In the morning, Tabris walked over to Rokag’s home and rang the doorbell. Inside, she snored softly. Only after did it ring a second time did Jacques perk up, stare at the door with concern, and jump off. The tinkling of the bell on his collar disturbed Rokag from her dream, and she opened her eyes. Then, without thinking, she sat up and tossed her comforter aside. She checked her parents’ room, and saw that they hadn’t yet returned. With a frown, she realized that this would be more difficult than she imagined.

Once she pulled on a hoodie, she answered the door. There stood Tabris, wearing his usual clothing—save for a leather wristband with a flat piece of iron shaped like an oak leaf, and a silver ring on his thumb.

“Ready to go?” she said.

(more…)

The Collector, pt. 2

Rokag notices that her fathers have been behaving peculiarly for days. Each morning they wake up exhausted, as if they’ve been out all night, but neither recall doing anything but sleeping. They snap at each other, things go missing, semiprecious stones accumulate, and her parents smell of tobacco, though neither of them smoke. At a loss, Rokag tries to get through her day-to-day life.

This is a modern alternative universe about Finn, Agrat, Rokag, and Tabris. It’s a longer one, so it’s posted in three parts.

Word Count: ~3700 (of ~13,500)
Rating: PG
Warnings: None

Rokag returned much later that evening. Her basketball practice got finished late, and by the time she got home, Finn and Agrat were already there. As soon as she saw their cars parked in the driveway, he tightened her jaw and steeled herself. She walked only the slightest bit slower, preferring to lengthen her time between arriving at home in the bus stop and actually walking into the front door. She touched the hood of Agrat’s car, then Finn’s. Both were still warm. As she approached, she braced herself for loud, angry voices, but heard none.

(more…)

The Collector, pt. 1

In the modern world, cities have expanded and grown, replacing forested or otherwise natural spaces. Fair Folk once thrived, only to be overtaken by parking garages and strip malls. Their quieted presence made mortals forget their existence–as well as how to avoid the wilier ones. Most mortals, in fact, dismiss tales of the Fair Folk as “fairy tales” or simple folklore. Finn is one such person, and doesn’t even realize just how big of a mess he’s found himself trapped in.

This is a modern alternative universe about Finn, Agrat, Rokag, and Tabris. It’s a longer one, so I’m gonna post it in three parts.

Word Count: ~4300 (of ~13,500)
Rating: PG
Warnings: None

Finn sat up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. He blinked and looked at the clock with its glowing, blue LED numbers. 3:17 AM. He felt no nagging headache or pain, and remembered dreaming about nothing frightening or uncomfortable. He felt rested. Clear in his thoughts. He swung his legs over the edge of his mattress and urged his feet into his slippers.

The shifting and crinkle of the sheets woke Agrat. He turned over and looked at Finn’s back.

“What’s up?” he said. Finn looked back at him.

(more…)

The Fox and the Flame

Suffering as mortals know it did not exist until the creator god, Bakthua, plucked his eyes to give to his children. People suddenly began dying forever, and felt pain in ways they never thought possible. Yet despite their turmoil, nothing truly mattered–you were born, you were hurt, and you died. The brother god, Geldorg, as he wandered through our world to see it for himself, had yet to realize the futility of it all. It was only when he met a truly evil orc, Gordūn, does he learn the difficulty of mortal life.

Word Count: ~3500
Rating: PG
Warnings: Descriptions of violence

When Bakthua plucked his eyes and gave one to each of his children, the shout that tore from his throat shattered the sky. So great was his pain, it escaped his essence. Even the labor pains he suffered to create the world could not match what he experienced then.

His suffering trickled out of the divine realm and into our world. And suddenly, all living beings, too, felt hurt. We felt the first pangs of hunger, the numbness of depression. The ache of aging and the stammering of terror. For a time, nobody knew how to cope, and all creatures did whatever they could to ease their pain. The wise invented medicine, and used parts of herbs or animals to manage their hurt. Some concocted elixirs and brews to quiet the buzzing anxiety in their minds, or grant them the energy they lacked. But not everyone could create what they needed. The kind-hearted gave their inventions away to whoever needed them, while the clever traded for what they wanted. The cruel devised a way to get more from their creation than what they put into it, and only more people hurt as this became the new way of life. A great many died, and we call this the first war. All beings, even today, fight to control their pain, and it is a battle that even Rek’gor sees no end to.

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Horace’s Journal

Subject matter aside, writing a journal from the perspective of a side character about a main character’s birth circumstances was a pretty interesting and entertaining exercise. I caught myself wondering about Finn’s parents’ lives right before Finn was born, and what they went through to have him. So, I wrote this “document” up, and provided some fake context for it in the form of a scholarly article. I think I miss being in school and writing history papers. The footnote format is made up and isn’t meant to be formatted to any particular style.

Word Count: ~2800
Rating: PG
Warnings: References to miscarriages and stillbirths.

The Carrier, Carried: Finnegan Arber-Uthordar’s Birth

These journals regarding Finnegan “The Carrier” Arber-Uthordar’s early life was retrieved from an old, metal chest in Isaea. Before the discovery of these primary documents, little was known about his life before his involvement with the Seers of Geldorg and his work as a licensed mercenary. The journals provide historians and biographers with a glimpse into his infanthood and the circumstances of his birth. There still exists, unfortunately, a massive gap between this time frame and his adulthood that remains unexplored. Based on other sources found and verified (see Agrat Arber-Uthordar’s journals from 481 to 483), we can assume that those years were especially tumultuous for Finnegan[1].

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Grasha, Outsider, pt. 2

Grasha’s frustration with the response of her tribal leaders to the ever-deadlier war in Veiadokuur only worsens with time. But she’s only a scout and a lowly, former-exile. Her words carry little sway, and the Blackskulls only tolerate her presence. It takes a horrible event before anything is actually done about the growing, inevitable conflict.

In this short story, I wanted to learn more about Grasha’s family dynamics and who she is as a person. I also wanted to explore the Blackskulls and the Seers of Geldorg, and figure out more about the human-instigated war in the region. She’s quickly become one of my favorite side characters in this, and she’s arguably the most badass character I’ve ever written.

So, here’s the conclusion. Again, it’s a longer chunk, but that’s to keep the natural divide feel more, well, natural. Thanks as always for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Word Count: ~5500
Rating: PG
Warnings: Descriptions of violence and gore, plus brief sexist language.

During the coming years, a handful of messengers from the Seers approached the Blackskulls for help again. Each time, the answer remained the same: No.

Word spread in the tribe. Grasha made no secret of her views, if anyone cared to ask. And gradually, Bentrar learned to drop his political politeness, and spoke to his trainees and followers about the war in the rest of the region. The news they heard from any outsiders they spoke to only worsened. The human army grew ever powerful as time passed. The most recent news told them that Thelary’s Knightly Order joined the Helotak army in the east. It sent a wave of unease and concern through the tribe. Letho addressed the change by reassuring the Blackskulls that nothing about this concerned them, that they need only to continue about their days as usual without worrying. They had, after all, negotiated with the Order before, and came to peacefully agreements.

The Blackskulls had settled in the northernmost part of their territory, not far from the base of the Impassable Heights, when the Knights contacted them. They sent a single messenger, as they always did. Letho spoke to him promptly. That day, Grasha stood guard outside the meeting tent. It was cold out and her mood soured fast, only to worsen when she saw the young human in his overly-decorated armor. She scowled at him as he entered, but said nothing.

The messenger relayed a question and a request to Letho: What was the pool of magic energy guarded so fiercely to the north, and would they meet with a group of Knights to explain it?

(more…)

Grasha, Outsider, pt. 1

Grasha, Agrat’s mother, changes a lot through the narrative. I wouldn’t describe her as naive to begin with, but she is trusting, and she fundamentally doesn’t know much about the world around her. And how could she? The Blackskulls simply don’t interact much with outsiders. After her exile, she gains new experiences that question her tribe’s practices. As she ages, her bitterness and regret start to really eat at her, especially in old age as Veiadokuur becomes more and more unstable. But she’s headstrong and stubborn. It’s probably a gene the Uthordars pass down.

In this short story, I wanted to learn more about Grasha’s family dynamics and who she is as a person. I also wanted to explore the Blackskulls and the Seers of Geldorg, and figure out more about the human-instigated war in the region. She’s quickly become one of my favorite side characters in this, and she’s arguably the most badass character I’ve ever written.

This’s a long one at about 11,100 words. I was tempted to break it up into three parts for ease of reading, but there was a natural break in the narrative that made splitting it into two parts feel more natural. The second half will be posted on Friday. As always, thank you for reading!

Word Count: ~6700
Rating: PG
Warnings: Descriptions of gore and some brief sexist language.

Lukal, born and raised in the northwest quadrant of Veiadokuur, had never seen such a massive sky. Growing up in Kilverud territory, surrounded by mountains, made for a sky more like a ceiling. It existed only over your head, with snowy peaks to hold it up and keep it there. But here, she looked left, or right, or ahead and behind, and there was sky. Clear blueness, dotted with sickly, white clouds. Like a dome decorated with paint. It left her feeling claustrophobic. All this open, flat space with no true boundaries or landmarks overwhelmed her. She wondered how the Blackskulls made and traveled that territory.

And it was that tribe that caused the other part of her anxiety. She’d heard the stories—everyone had. Humans might see orcs as a conglomerate of savage, cruel people, but orcs new better. Only the Blackskulls fit that bill. They were isolationists, and completely self-sufficient. Arrogant. Hateful. They believed themselves “true orcs,” and that all others were mistakes of the gods. Tales of Blackskulls killing outsiders on the spot, or leaving unworthy infants in the wild, or beating “blood traitors” to death made up Lukal’s complete knowledge of them. Her heart beat faster than her horse’s hooves. She was terrified. Who wouldn’t be The one rule most every orc knew was that the Blackskulls were bad news; a scourge to be avoided.

But these days, desperation dictated their decisions. Willowleaf’s genocidal army marched on without any signs of slowing. Rumors of young mages being used in the south spread around. The Seers needed help. They knew that the Blackskulls, legendary horse tamers and breeders, commanded a superb cavalry. Their warriors on horseback outnumbered and outranked the human army’s mounted soldiers by a landslide. Having them fighting with the Seers could erode the onslaught, and slow it to a halt.

So the Seers sent her, Lukal, as a courier to the Blackskulls. Her mission—to convince the Blackskulls to fight alongside the Seers—made for a heavy burden.

(more…)

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…)

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.

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