Elqanah – 2nd Era
Pre-Age of the Gemkith
Kirrin Belledair’s eyes batted as he felt his consciousness begin to wane. The ritual was drawing more from him than he had anticipated. It didn’t matter, he was going to see it through.
Purple energy crackled from his hand as it danced in bolts across his steel sword as it lay on the pedestal. The dark light gave an ominous glow to his determined countenance. A dark, hollowing feeling washed over him forcing him to redouble his concentration. He bared his clenched teeth as a bead of cold sweat ran down the side of his face.
Just as Kirrin was about to give in to his failing resolve, the runes that ran up both sides of the blade filled with a purple light. He barked a laugh in excitement. Almost there, he thought. I can hold out for a few more minutes.
A drop of blood ran from the mage’s nose and down his lip. He let go of the sword long enough to wipe it away with his sleeve as he kept his focus on transferring the life force into the sword with his other hand. This was his last chance. He was failing at the traditional approach to magic, and he was certainly no sword master. If he was going to get that insufferable Sebastian, he needed something extra. This was it. This had to be it. Suddenly the blade turned a dull black and an unearthly moan echoed in the small, dark chamber. Finally, Kirrin could stop casting the spell. He staggered backward and smiled as he said “Hukvah Shly.” At his command, the lights swirling about the sword immediately sank into the blade as if being sealed to it. With the words spoken, he collapsed against the wall as darkness overtook him.
“Kirrin….” A soft, raspy voice called to the mage at the edge of his consciousness. Kirrin fought to awaken, but he was still too frail. “Kirrin, wake up…” There was a shuffling of footsteps, and Kirrin felt himself being lifted by two strong arms. He was too weak and dazed to care. Moments passed and he felt his head bob from his carrier’s steps.
Soon, Kirrin felt the familiar softness of his bed and the warm rays of sunlight as he was laid down. “Thank you. I will stay with him for a time,” the voice said. Kirrin fought once more to force his eyes open and finally let himself slip back into slumber.
When Kirrin finally awoke, he opened his eyes hesitantly. The bright glare of the sun through his window stung worse than he could ever remember. He closed them for a few more moments in an effort to let them adjust. Strangely, in that moment he felt something new internally. Something about him had changed that he couldn’t put his finger on. He felt somehow less than his former self; he felt… emptier. His brow furled as he thought, If that is the price, so be it.
Finally braving the sting of the sun, Kirrin opened his eyes once more. The room swirled for a moment and finally started to settle in recognizable patterns. He blinked once, twice, thrice, then shifted his gaze about the room. A blurry figure came into focus. It was an old man with a long beard in worn blue robes that sat in a chair looking out of the four windows that reached to the ceiling and folded into half of an octagon.
Great. The young mage sat holding himself up with his arms behind him. He looked down at his bare, well-defined torso. Well apparently they took my robes. Kirrin searched his room from where he was and stopped his gaze on the man with a knowing look. “Where’s my sword?”
“Somewhere that you will not find it,” the man replied, never shifting his gaze from the scenery outside. “When I was a young man, I desperately wanted to be a legendary wizard. I studied hard, practiced often, and stayed awake long into many nights. My instructor was a great wizard, and an astounding teacher. He was a strong speaker and a kind critic, unless strict discipline was necessary.
“I often times found myself at odds with this man. I thought I knew all he had to teach me, as absurd as that sounds. But he was patient with me. I imagine that was very trying for him. When I came across the teachings of Sandre, I all but abandoned his classes and training. Sandre thought that one could forgo the unpleasantries of training, studying, and practice by skipping to graduate studies and picking up the rest by context. Of course, there is a reason you do not hear the name of Sandre spoken amongst the great scholars of magic. His lessons failed demonstrably. And I was set back in my studies as a result of my time with his works.”
The man turned his gaze to Kirrin with a look of saddened disappointment in his eyes. “What you have done is reprehensible, Kirrin. You have given up a part of yourself in the name of expedition, and you will suffer the rest of your life for it.”
Kirrin’s face flushed as proud anger swelled in his chest. What made this old fool think he knew what he had been through or what hardships a Viscount had to endure? “Touching story, Raoulin, but don’t pretend to know what’s best for me. The Belledair name is at stake here.”
Hurt came to Raoulin’s eyes as he looked on at his pupil. It was a look Kirrin had seen many times before, and each time he saw it, the demeanor seemed to grow a little softer. The proud student’s outbursts appeared to be becoming more expected by his tutor. “That is no excuse, Kirrin. In time you could…”
“I don’t have time! Don’t you get that? Besides, I suck at magic. You and I both know that. I had to do something, or I would never be as good as I need to be.”
“So be it. Time has shown that you will refuse any advice I offer, so be on your way. Do battle with the Kallifaxes over some petty land disagreements to show the world that you are stronger than they are. You will find yourself emptier in the end for it anyhow.”
As Raoulin turned his gaze back to the beautiful morning outside, Kirrin stood from his bed, slid on his mithril chain mail and white tunic over it, then threw on his black, leather long coat. He ran his hand down the coat’s tough exterior, outlining the elaborate designs along its length before connecting each clasp with care over his torso. One of the benefits of being wealthy was being able to afford armor that was as stylish as it was effective.
Kirrin rubbed his short, blonde hair angrily. He doesn’t get it. It just takes one man in the family being lax for the name to be destroyed. I’m going to make darn sure it isn’t me.
“Hukvah Shly.” As Kirrin spoke the words, a sword-shaped purple light appeared in his hand. The light slowly faded into his black weapon.
“’My power’ in the old tongue. How appropriate,” Raoulin commented snidely.
Kirrin looked over his shoulder and curled his lip up in defiance before sliding the blade into its sheath and storming out of the room. The ritual was nearly complete. The blade just needed to take a life, and Kirrin had the perfect victim in mind.
As the door slammed behind him, a tear ran down Raoulin’s face. He stared out of the window for some time, an apologetic look in his eye as if she were sitting outside looking back at him.
Kirrin followed the giant, green orcs down the dark hallway stoically. A pungent odor hung about the cavern so heavily that he felt he was trudging through a light layer of muck and grime in the air. The mage closed his eyes momentarily to gather his senses once more. He knew this was going to be a dangerous and disgusting affair, so he steeled his resolve with that fact in mind.
One of the orcs ahead held up his blade as he chatted with the other guard. “Tur rach da schoor ra.” As the other monster laughed, his hunched over form bounced up and down causing the light from his torch to flicker on the walls.
Kirrin narrowed his eyes at them. He wanted to know what they were saying, but he would have to wait. Who knew how long the exchange before him would take? Taking in the orc’s massive size, Kirrin had the sudden urge to flee. His legs grew heavy and his head light. With a shake of his head, he tried to remember every time Sebastian Hallifax had come to visit. He forced himself to remember.
Kirrin’s mind went back to every instance that conniving son of a marquess would visit to “celebrate” expansion of his family’s land. In reality Sebastian was there to rub it in the faces of the Belledair Family as their share of the kingdom continued to wane. Kirrin’s parents played the role of nobility well, but Kirrin wasn’t so keen on the vanity. His parents would host, wine, and dine the Hallifaxes knowing well they were being mocked but swallowing their pride to protect their family from attack. Kirrin had to choose not to attend those banquets. Two outbursts were too many.
Kirrin took a deep breath, his ambition steeled once more. Never again.
The guards stopped at a tall archway at the end of the tunnel and stepped to the side. Kirrin walked into a huge cavern with orcs strewn about eating, drinking, and engaging in typical revelry. Bones like a ribcage from whatever monster they slew ran from the floor to the ceiling of both sides of the room, and the center led up to a flight of stairs with a throne at the top. An old orc with several rings in the two large teeth that protruded from his large under bite sat back lazily gnawing on a half-eaten leg of poultry with two scantily-clad female orcs chained to his seat. When he noticed Kirrin, he stood quickly and howled boisterously.
Kirrin covered his ears as the room joined him in howling. He genuinely feared the roof would cave in on them, the sound reverberating and causing the cavern to tremor visibly.
After a moment, the orc Kirrin presumed to be the chief held up his hand and the howling stopped. Every yellowed eye in the room fixated on the pink fleshling in their midst.
Kirrin’s heart raced, but he stood with confidence knowing that weakness would not earn him what he came here for. Any crack in his façade, and his leg bone could be the next one the chief was gnawing on. He quietly mouthed the words to his spell. His ears softly grew more jagged and the tip came into a point. When his tongue grew fat and rutted in his mouth, he held back a gag.
“Kur ra ruk cuk cha. Sor re voo lei nah,” the chieftain began. Though the language was Orcish, Kirrin understood him clearly, his spell taking effect just in time. He heard, “Tiny pink one. Why have you chosen to enter the Orc Kingdom to die?”
The room erupted in what sounded like apes whooping and hollering. Kirrin opened his mouth to speak, and the room feel silent. He silently prayed his spell would work as the tome had said. “Coor roh tay. Keer ree Vookra nawk shey.” (He said, “I have come from far away. I wanted to see the Vookra tribe of legend.”)
The chieftain ran his hand down the long strip of hair that ran from his lip to the bottom of his chin and beyond. “Jeerie coonie voo loo nah. Kume Vookra shu too meh loo.” (“It was foolish to come so far to die. Why do you want to see the legendary Vookra anyway?”)
“Shere rat Vookra ah vuhl rhoop myoo tah. Boo lah koo vere ree!” (“To challenge your champion for the Vookra’s allegiance. In a fight to the death!”)
The chieftain’s eyes went wide and he beat his chest as the orcs let out a wail then began dancing and chanting a tribal melody. They threw bones in the air and slapped the ground, some even slugging their brethren if they were close enough. Drool ran from their lips as freely as if they were staring at a freshly cooked meal.
The chieftain raised his hand and stopped the chaos in an instant. He looked around the room with his eyes narrowed. Closing one eye and slipping his tongue into his nose in concentration, his gaze stopped on an orc. Silently he raised a finger and singled his target out.
An unimposing minion stepped through the crowd. He was smaller than all of the other orcs, even smaller than Kirrin. With his skinny arms and boney joints, he couldn’t have weighed much more than one hundred pounds. He sauntered over to a table with an assortment of bone and wooden weapons testing them contemplatively. When he stopped at a massive jawbone with teeth that had been artificially serrated, Kirrin quirked a brow in incredulity. The orc attempted to lift it with a heavy grunt and veins protruding from his neck.
The orc turned and smiled knowingly at Kirrin when he saw the human’s disbelief. Walking over to his master, the monster bowed before him. The chieftain ran his hand over the smaller one’s wiry hair and pulled an upside-down skull from a bubbling vat next to him. Tugging at a tuft of hair, the master pulled the tiny orc’s head back and poured the liquid into his mouth.
The orcs about the room began chanting and swaying back and forth as the little one sat still for a moment. When he fell to the floor, the room quieted once more. He convulsed for a moment, his limbs bouncing about wildly, before jumping to his feet and screeching an unearthly sound causing the room to whoop and holler again. Everything about the small orc’s demeanor changed. His skin turned darker, his back expanded, his bones stuck out further, and most especially there was a new crazed, murderous look in his eyes. He ran erratically back the table and lifted the jawbone with ease.
Kirrin gulped hard and his eyes went wide as he was beginning to second guess his plan.
The chieftain lifted his tribal scepter into the air and shouted, “Vere ree!” (“To the death!”)
At the proclamation, the smaller orc charged Kirrin wildly with speed that surpassed anything he had ever seen. Kirrin leapt to the side and avoided an overhead chop that sank the teeth of the jawbone into the dirt where he was standing. As the orc jerked the weapon free, a bolt of arcane energy slammed into him, setting him off balance. The crazed monster shouted thrice, each utterance louder and more maniacal than the last, then rushed toward his opponent.
Kirrin took a deep breath, widened his stance, and mouthed another quick spell. Just as the orc’s weapon bore down on him, a translucent bubble appeared and took the impact, electrified shards scattering into the air around them. The spell did little to deter the mindless orc. He slammed his weapon down furiously crushing teeth from the jawbone and cracking the shield in the process.
As the weapon broke through the shield, Kirrin used the opportunity to reverse the momentum of the swing. He thrust his arms forward on either side of the weapon and magically sent it flying across the room.
The ravenous orc bit down into Kirrin’s arm and twisted frantically. “Arrgh!” Kirrin cried out as he wracked his brain for a plan quickly. He knew trying to pull free now might leave him with one less limb, but he had little time to think of much else. He put his hands together on the other side of the orc’s head, closed his eyes as he turned his head. A blinding light blasted into the room.
The dazed orc stepped back and held his head giving Kirrin time to look at his wound. Quickly placing his hand over the bite marks and clenching his teeth in preparation of the searing pain, he sent a small flame into the marks to cauterize the wound and stem the bleeding. Pain washed over him, nauseating him and making him nearly pass out. He shook the feeling quickly knowing any short lapse in cognition could spell a gruesome death. Kirrin needed this to work. His family’s legacy depended on it.
With steeled resolve, Kirrin looked back at the orc that was quickly regaining his composure as well. “Hukvah Shly,” he said, drawing an audible gasp as his sword returned to his hand. The orc that had been holding it turned a dumbfounded look to his hand.
I’m going to end this now. I have to.
The one orc that was incapable of being phased by Kirrin’s trick, his demented opponent, was bearing in on him again, massive jawbone in hand once more. A waver in the small orc’s arm and a bloodshot look of exhaustion in its eyes drew Kirrin’s attention. The potion must be wearing off… or he’s reaching his physical limits. Either scenario played well into the mage’s favor. Even with the laceration in his arm, he could use this to his advantage.
When the orc swung the now-mostly-blunt weapon around his side, Kirrin brought his sword up for the parry. “Lahadof!” he shouted. The jawbone met the sword, and the bone disintegrated into shards of light and ebbed out of existence.
Unfazed by the display, the orc leapt toward Kirrin, but the mage was ready. Kirrin slid his sword between the monster’s ribs. An energy coursed over the orc’s body as he stared absently at the mage before the monster went limp. Kirrin threw the body to the dirt beside him, a wave of relief and doubt washing over him.
The orcs of the room whooped and hollered, and Kirrin casually slipped his blade back into its sheath. His movements were cool, but his heart was racing. He only had to keep up the ploy a little longer. The chief needed to see him as a strong warrior and ally.
Kirrin turned to the chieftain, fought the swimming feeling in his mind as the room quietened, and reenacted his translation spell. “Koo roo kai. Sei fye nai.” (“I have bested your best. Swear your allegiance to me.”)
The chieftain regarded Kirrin closely for a moment, rubbing the elongated tuft of hair on his chin. Deafening silence pervaded the room as every orcs’ eyes were glued on their leader. Finally, he gestured to a female warrior to his side and she handed him a horn with an exaggerated curve. He threw it into the dirt at Kirrin’s feet.
“Vookrani valishe doo. Fye shee ree voyanah.” (The Vookra honor their words. You have our allegiance.) The chieftain pointed to the horn. “Jay rah pah voo Nasutogon. Blei nah shjee nah.” (“That is the horn of the mighty Nasutogon. Blow it when you seek our aid.”
Kirrin picked up the horn and tied it to his belt. He hit his chest as he looked at the chieftain in respect, and the chieftain acted in kind. The mage turned and walked out of the cave triumphant. He would need to return home to tend to his wounds. Pieces were falling into place, just as they needed to. The Hallifax’s day was coming.