A Gift Revoked – Debinani Rahl

The wizened ‘Clan Majuka stared at his target in the door to the large inn at the edge of town. Beside him, his guards were practically foaming at the mouth to attack the man, but Glack’Nub was no idiot. Behind him, the bulk of the raiding party sacked the town, burning everything that stood and killing everything that didn’t grunt.
Adulphus stood in the doorway of Turon’s Redoubt, staring down the orcs. On the ground in front of him he had placed six arrows and his bow and his blade was propped beside him against the door. He stood there in a suit of black mail, and strapped to his arm was a black kite shield emblazoned with roses entwining crossed spears. He held a small, battered spell book in his left hand, and in his right he held the herbs and minerals necessary to use it. His eyes glared death at the small band of orcs besieging his home and family.

Glack’Nub was no idiot indeed.

Adulphus had stashed Marla and the twins in a secure room upstairs along with a few other young children from the town. Old Erwin and a few of the women from town stood in the dimly-lit commons room of the tavern, ready to defend the young ones upstairs if Adulphus should fall.
Across the way, Adulphus saw Mayor Fitch, bloodied and screaming, dragged from his home and literally torn to pieces by his pig-like assailants. His screams persisted for quite some time even after bits of his body were thrown from the mob.
He refocused his attention to the orcs before him.
“There’s nothing here for you but death orc,” he said, just loud enough to be heard over the din. The Grunts apparently took that as an insult, but the old Majuka, who most likely knew not only what the roses on his shield meant, but also who the man himself truly was, started toying nervously with a necklace of human finger-bones that dangled down his torso.

Glack’Nub was no idiot indeed.

Just then, screams of terror erupted from the commons room behind him, and the Grunts, much to the chagrin of the Majuka, took advantage of Adulphus’ distraction and charged. In one motion, the man turned to run into the tavern, threw the contents of his right hand into the dirt behind him, and shouted out some words of power. With a deft move of his foot, he kicked his sword into his hand, slammed shut he tavern door and threw the bolt.
The Grunts reached the door to the tavern just as the howling, violet whirlwind swirled into existence around them. They had little time to scream before the energy vortex took their lives.
Glack’Nub, on the other hand, ran like the Wargod itself was chasing him.

Glack’Nub was no idiot indeed.

To Adulphus’ night-vision-enchanted eyes, the commons room of the tavern was lit as bright as day. Five women, mothers all, and Old Erwin, lay about the commons room in varied positions, no sign of harm on them. One thing was common among them though; they each wore a look of sheer terror on their lifeless faces.
“Shadow….” Adulphus whispered.
He looked quickly to the stairwell and saw that it was still brightly lit.
Louder now, ”Couldn’t get up the stairs could you little devil?” he said. He could hear the faint sound of something flitting about behind the bar. Adulphus hooked his sword on his belt and called forth a pillar of fire in the middle of the room, briefly filling the entire commons with light. A tiny, muffled scream accompanied the shadow’s death as it could no longer find darkness to hide in.
Adulphus called up a Daemon, who looked devilishly angry at being pulled away from whatever it was doing in the netherworld.
“Guard that door!” he shouted, already racing up the stairs. The Daemon grumbled a bit and turned to face the closed door, which turned out to be completely and totally uninteresting.
Adulphus came around the corner at the top of the stairs and tripped over something obstructing the hall. He vaulted to his feet and whipped around, sword in hand. The obstruction was a child. Four-year-old Billy, whose mother had died horribly by the Shadow’s touch just minutes before, lay dead in the hall, a tiny stiletto hole at the base of his neck. Suppressing his revulsion, he turned and saw the remainder of the town children, scattered about the hall as if they were rag dolls tossed idly by some giant’s hand, each with a tiny hole in their necks.
With a growing sense of dread, he charged down the hall and through the door of his bedchambers. Marla was sitting in a chair facing the door, a still-loaded crossbow lying in her lap, her head hanging awkwardly atop her broken neck. The twins lay huddled against each other in the bed; both their faces had a markedly bluish tint. A fine, bluish dust had been sprinkled on their faces while they slept through the battle, a rare poison from another world that was only reachable by a Waygate in Tablenhelm. The lingering memories of Spirit in his head identified the stuff as kabodi, a poison designed to kill while its target slept. His two children hadn’t even been awake when they died. Adulphus fell to his knees and vomited at the foot of the bed.
And then he wept.

–====–

Glack’Nub was no idiot indeed.

The orc raced through the woods as fast as his short, old legs would carry him, but not fast enough. He lurched to a halt when he saw the man-sized shadow in the trees in front of him.

“You failed,” the man said quietly.

“NUB!” the orc screamed, outraged, “Ju nub tell Glack’Nub de Rahl be dere!”

“I told you there would be a Rose.”

“But nub de Rahl!”

“You give him too much credit, orc,” said Alexander, stepping out of the shadows and approaching the old orc casually.

“HE CLOMPED ALL ME GRUNTEES WIT MOJO!”

“And you ran away. I told you to kill him, and instead, he killed your escorts and my Shadow. Do you have any comprehension how rare those things are now?”

“Me no care,” replied the orc, an indignant look on his pig-like face, “ju pay Glack’Nub half for trouble and go ‘way!”

Glack’Nub was no idiot, he wanted out while he could.

“Fair enough,” the other replied with a sigh. Alexander approached the orc, reaching into a pouch full of coin. Glack’Nub visibly relaxed and gazed greedily at the bulging pouch. Blindingly fast, Alexander’s other hand whipped up and crushed the old orc’s windpipe. Glack’Nub gagged, and stumbled backwards waving his hands around and trying to summon a spell.

“Awww,” said Alexander, a grin on his face, “da widdle orcie can’t summon the Wargod’s power if he can’t make a noise, can he?” He chuckled softly as the orc, gasping for air, collapsed on his back. Alexander crouched beside the suffocating creature and sprinkled a large amount of fine blue powder on the orc’s snout.
Glack’Nub started convulsing violently as his fully awake orcish body tried to fight the kabodi’s power. Alexander laid a steadying hand on the orc’s chest as the creature gagged and convulsed, his tiny black eyes wide with fear. A large convulsion wracked the orc’s body, breaking his back; after that, the show was pretty much over. Alexander waited until the creature’s nostrils stopped flaring before he rose.

“You’re an idiot Glack’Nub, “ he said.

–====–

In those moments, Adulphus Turon II, last Duke of Stormstone Sound and owner/operator of Turon’s Redoubt, died. His corpse lay on the floor of his bedchambers in the form of a small pool of tears. A man rose slowly from this pool and moved first to the corpses of his children and then his wife, offering each a kiss of goodbye. Then, a telekinesis spell flung the lamp across the room, shattering it against a tapestry on the wall. He walked like a zombie, his steps as heavy, his armor jangling loudly with every step. In the commons, he found the Daemon idly sucking the brains out of a disembodied orc head and waved a dismissal at the creature. With a sigh of relief, the bored hellspawn vanished in a puff of brimstone.

Debinani Rahl sat atop his old warhorse and watched his home of six years – and the bodies of his family – burn. A contingent of Free Corps soldiers had shown up some time ago and were cleaning up the last vestiges of the orc raiding party, all of them made a point of steering wide of the armored Rose and the impromptu funeral pyre he was attending. All of them were faces he didn’t recognize, and none of them were old enough to recognize the General of the Orc Wars.

When the tavern had burnt to its foundation, and the pre-dawn light seemed to suspend the world in a misty, detached haze, he pulled a tiny blue crystal out if his pouch and placed it in his ear. He listened to the sounds of his army, chattering away and going about their business through the magical crystal network.

With a last look around his devastated home, General Debinani Rahl rode north.

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