Talonslain: A Coda

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Talonslain: A Coda

Post by Sadok on Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:51 pm

Talonslain - A Coda

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Part One

“Begin.”

Sharptongue’s necrotically-distorted voice seemed to waver somewhat, but the tone was unmistakable -- it was not a request, not a plea, but a command. He stood tall, clad in nothing but her wolfmask and a ragged loin-cloth -- he had burnt his ragged shadoweave robes on her pyre, having nothing else to offer. He was not conscious of his nakedness however, for he was clothed in his grief. Beside him was Thur’ruk Steelheart, her breathing weak and shallow and her sliced palm bleeding the bright-red escrow of the promise made some minutes beforehand -- to commune with the spirit of the deceased. Her pyre had long since smoldered away, faint gray smoke still trailing upwards into the Nether-infused atmosphere.

Grit, ashes and soot were all that remained of the body of Vashnarz Talonslayer, once Varog’Gor of the tribe, exiled on pain of death by its Chieftain. She had been caught around the tribe’s lodgings at the Mag’har settlement of Garadar, and Chieftain Bloodmark had exercised no hesitation in executing the pariah with a battle-hardened blade through the back.

Sharptongue trembled as he looked down upon the motionless corpse of his once-mate. He was undead, he was supposed to feel nothing, but he felt. He felt the soft cold flesh of her cheek. He felt the ruptured skin where the blade had pierced through armor and bone to enter her back and exit through her breast, the ribcage cracked and bent outwards with the force of the Chieftain’s blade. He felt the thick crimson blood coat his fingers as he put his hand into the deep death-wound. He put his hand to his lips, tasting the blood of his beloved. It tasted bittersweet. But he couldn’t taste.

The remainder of the orcs had began departing the pyre-grounds where the likes of Rrosh-tul Stronghand and Regorn Thunderheart had been laid to rest in the past. Troxigar had laid his tribal tabard on the burning pyre before departing; in a more stable and reflexive mood, Sharptongue might have thought to wonder why or query further, but his immediate instinct was to secure privacy and eject spectators while Steelheart sought herbs, entheogens and miscellaneous reagents for the ritual.

“Sadok, brot’er, ‘fore I leave, can I jus’ ‘ave a few quick words firs’?”
“Yes. Imperative words: few, quick.”

“Ye know, if ye want a successful connection, orc, I suggest ye don’t use an exhausted, pregnant shaman.”
“...If you wish to avoid a successful connection between my soulblade and your face, you will be silent.”

“Greetings, Sharptongue. I had not expected to see you here!”
“Well, farewell, Earthstorm. Because you are departing posthaste. Meaning -now-.”

“The Spirits can wait eight hours, surely...”
“You won’t be breathing in eight seconds, let alone eight hours, if you do not remove yourself immediately from my presence.”

“I will not interrupt the ritual. I just want to observe the spirit-talk!”
 “You’ll be observing a spirit-talk from the other side if you don’t make yourself scarce.”

“Sadok, no-orc cares about yer heart t’heart with tha’ she-orc exile. We just want to make sure t’Thur’ruk is safe.”
“What has eight fingers, two thumbs, green skin and ten seconds to live if he doesn’t shut the FUCK up this instant? Hint: it’s you.”

Sharptongue knew he was being unreasonable, rude and aggressive -- indeed, he was behaving like a petulant orcling, but he just didn’t care anymore. Orcs were going to be unreasonable, rude and aggressive no matter what happened. He wasn’t going to the first belligerent bastard of an orc nor would he be the last. So he swore and snarled until the pale, shaking Steelheart’s preparations were complete. She had ignited the intoxicating herbal potpourri with the smoldering elders of Talonslayer’s pyre, and was inhaling the fumes deeply -- shedding blood into the flames from her palm-wound, she began to talk unsteadily with a tremor evident in her voice.

“Ancestors... Vashnarz... again I call out to you this evening! Please hear me, spirit! I have here Sadok Sharptongue, who wants to speak with you -- will you answer this plea?”

Sadok watched on expectantly, staring into the flames with his teeth clenched rock-hard and his arms folded tensely. Utterly apathetic to the Thur’ruk’s suffering, his low growl only faded when he apprehended the faint image of a she-orc before him. Squinting, he hoarsely called out to the spirit.

“...Vashnarz. Is that you?”

Sadok

Posts : 275
Join date : 2011-05-03
Age : 24
Location : York, UK

Character sheet
Name: Sadok Sharptongue
Title: High Blade Thur'ruk

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Re: Talonslain: A Coda

Post by Sadok on Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:51 pm

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Part Two

“...Vashnarz. Is that you?”

Sadok called out to the faint image of the spirit, flickering and seeming to dance back and forth in the flames. His attention was focused relentlessly on the ghostly visage before him -- he would not have noticed a towering gronn thundering by, and certainly didn’t notice a panting Steelheart drag her exhausted body over to the side, perhaps giving the pair some sense of privacy. On the point of collapse from exertion, the bloodied and trembling Thur’ruk slowly lowered herself down onto the rocky ground, her face cradled in both hands as she sighed weakly. Closing her eyes, she tried to focus on remaining conscious by controlling her heavy breathing. Easy now. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Stay awake.

After what seemed like a small eternity, the spirit answered back to Sharptongue, the voice thick with pain and confusion. Her death was still fresh and she was unused to this new noncorporeal existence. It is claimed by some that orcs roam the Spirit Realm in their dreams, but to have the link between flesh and soul permanently severed by cremation is undoubtedly a much more disorienting sensation than briefly wandering from the body whilst asleep.

“Yes... what’s left o’m’,” the spirit wailed with sadness evident even through the wide boundary between the Eternal Plains and the mortal world.
“I’d like to say that I tried to save your life, but you were long since cold by the time I knew what had happened,” a weary Sharptongue said with regret.
“It is fine... in the end, Bloodmark proved himself nothing but a coward. Couldn’t even face me when he swung his blade,” the spectral form of Vashnarz spat.
Sadok sighed -- or rather, forcibly expelled stale air from his fetid lungs to approximate the necrotic equivalent of a sigh. “You died as I died. Stabbed in the back. No honorable death, no glorious cause. Just the fire of life snuffed out years far too early.”

The spirit seemed to look the near-naked orc up and down -- taking in the discolored flesh, the unhealed wounds and the fractured soulblade, still glowing ominously as it slowly seeped out invisible energies. Pity evident in her cold spectral voice, Vashnarz spoke: “I am sorry, Sadok. I heard yer ain’t right... I came ter see yer... but Bloodmark...”
She fell silent again. The forlorn pair looked at one another across the immeasurable divide between this world and the next. Sadok adjusted the ill-fitting wolfmask -- her wolfmask -- upon his head and began to speak wearily.
“I was crazed. I didn’t know who I was. Whether I was alive or dead. I mistook others’ identities. I lived in a nightmare of my mind’s own invention. I thought you were dead, Vashnarz. And now you are.” For the first time, Sharptongue’s eyes left the spirit, slowly retreating to look at the coarse ground beneath his bare feet.

Silence returned. The spirit stared icily at Sharptongue. Finally, it relented: “We don’t have much time. I... just want yer ter know I be sorry... sorry fer everythin’.”
Sadok spat back, dulled anger rekindled by the ghost’s words. “You left me. I needed help -- I was dragged from the Eternal Plains and shackled to a voracious soulblade. I may have been imprisoned within the body of my killer, but Sadok was still somewhere in there -- and you suffocated him, tried to snuff out every last trace of that orc instead of helping him. You left me. For him. And it broke me.”
It was then he realised with faint surprise that he was now holding the shattered soulblade unsheathed in his hand, the vampiric entity within whispering nigh-inaudibly to him: I hunger. I thirst. Feed me. Feed me more. Kill them all. Drink up their blood. Feast on their souls. Sharptongue obstinately tightened his grip on the handle, as if the blade might force his hand if for even a moment he lost control.

But still he ranted, the bitter memories beginning to flood back like a festering reopened wound. “I waited in the Spirit Realm for you, Vashnarz -- until I was wrenched forth into undeath. Even then, I swore an Oath to stay true to you with my own flesh.” Sadok paused, growling as he glared at the charred stumps where once he had little-fingers, offered as a surety when he swore an Oath with Rargnasha that he would be burnt alongside Talonslayer.
“And that Oath was broken by the orc you chose to roam with in life and in death, as you broke the Oath we once made in the Stranglethorn jungles two years ago. And that orc killed you, where I would have been killed for you.” The resentment, the jealousy, the misery -- Sharptongue seemed to feel these as strong now as he would have ever felt them in life.
The spirit of Vashnarz seemed to hesitate slightly, guilt evident in its shaky voice as it replied. “Yer have ter understand... y-yer him... the one who stole yer from m’. I looked at yer an’... I was filled wit’ nothin’ but anger. The same anger I felt when I thrust my blade inter his chest.”
As the undead orc and the spirit of the departed argued back and forth, Steelheart’s chest began to rise and fall erratically, shaking and having trouble controlling her frenzied breath. Neither paid her any notice, and she continued to suffer quietly in the background.
Sadok snarled weakly, his emasculated pride laid as bare as his unclothed flesh. “You moved on and left me behind. But I couldn’t. I never could. The sun rose and set in your eyes for me, and seeing you utterly shun me while looking at him the same way you once looked at me...” He stopped, trembling neurotically as his fermenting rage and the soulblade’s hunger struggled to overtake him.
The spirit’s faint image flickered in the flames, stuttering and hesitating: “I... th-there be no words ter ask fer fergiveness fer how yer were treated...”
Sadok looked at her bluntly. “If there are no words... then I will ask you two simple questions. Then you may return to your rest.”

Vashnarz seemed to nod weakly. “I... will answer if I can.”
“Firstly: where is Igurg?” Sadok stated firmly, reasserting self-control from the bitterness and hatred swelling within his cracked soulblade. “No-orc seems to know, and I will safeguard the only living part of our... past union with everything I have.”
“I can’t tell yer, Sadok. I want her ter live a life as far away from Bloodmark as she can," she explained weakly. “If yer know where she is, she’d be under his influence if yer rejoined the tribe. She’ll be safe. I trust the orc who be lookin’ after her wit’ m’life.”
Sadok nodded very slowly. He hadn’t liked that answer, but he knew deep inside that Igurg would be happier away from the tribe’s inner turmoils. And she would be safer away from the tortured necrotic remnants of her father. She would grow up perhaps not remembering either of her birth-givers -- and perhaps that was for the best.

“Then I have one thing remaining to... plead,” Sharptongue grunted, choosing his words with great difficulty. He had been thinking of this question since he had clambered atop her funeral pyre and placed a farewell kiss upon her cold dead lips, once so soft and warm.
“Ask,” came the weary reply from the flickering spirit. Vashnarz was exhausting herself maintaining the link between worlds, and would not be able to hold on much longer -- Sadok knew this and he dithered no further.
“You once promised me... once swore to me in blood that we would run together always, in life and upon the Eternal Plains. Much has happened, both good and bad, since that long-distant day. I am sick... I am broken at the moment, but I will get better, I will secure my soul, keep it intact that it might pass into the Spirit Realm when my allotted time expires.
“Will you pledge to run with me when that day comes? Will you re-swear the Oath we once made?”
Sadok stared directly at the spirit, his glowing eyes burning with passion. Everything depended on her next words.

Vashnarz’s spectral visage seemed momentarily stunned by the request. After a short while, she replied: “I have no blood left ter make that Oath, Sadok. But... be there a way fer m’ter be bound ter yer blade... wit’ yer? That way when yer blade breaks, we go tergether -- if this helps bring yer ter yer sanity, I will... do it fer yer.”
Pangs of numbed guilt now seized Sharptongue, whose grip on the soulblade faltered -- as if it had a mind of its own, the arm holding the blade rose until it pointed at the spirit. Clenching his jaw tight and shutting his eyes, Sadok forced the wayward appendage down with a fierce snarl, however.
“No. Do not bind yourself to this blade’s hunger. It is too dangerous -- I will not risk your eternal soul for my selfish gain. Roam the plains. Hunt the eternal hunt. Be free. You will hear my howl on the winds when it is time for us to hunt as one. Until then...”
Sadok clenched the soulblade’s handle tight, holding it poised at his bare gut. “If you have no blood to offer, I will use mine. All that is mine is yours, Talonslayer.”

The spirit nearly faded out, a pained Vashnarz grunting as she tried to remain in the mortal world as long as she could. She nodded to Sadok meekly.
“I swear to ensure my soul is safeguarded,” Sadok swore solemnly, “and to roam with you always on the Eternal Plains... upon my true death. This I swear to you, my beloved.” At once, he forced the runeblade into his abdomen, cutting deep. Stale, black blood began to ooze very slowly from the wide gash -- the stench utterly putrid. He looked down at his bleeding gut, feeling only a numbed pain, before glancing back to the spirit.
“I swear ter run wit’ yer and hunt wit’ yer when yer join m’in the plains... m’Heart,” the ghostly image swore. Sharptongue drove the blade a second time deep into his abdomen, his rotten intestines spilling out and splatting on the ground before him.

The deed done, the disemboweled orc held a trembling hand out to the spirit, despite knowing he could never touch it. He whispered hoarsely, an uncharacteristic kind of tenderness evident in the otherwise cold necrotic voice: “Hunt well, my Vashnarz. I... love you. I always have. I always will.”
The spirit looked back at Sadok, smiling sadly and moving a few steps out of the fire. She was barely visible now when not supported by the billowing fumes, and was already slowly fading away. Vashnarz lifted a hand to Sadok’s face, and in the undead orc’s madness, he could have sworn he felt its soft, warm touch against his pale flesh.
“I love yer ter... gug’ye... and stay safe,” Vashnarz spoke as she faded finally into the nothingness.

Silence held dominion once more. Sadok’s hand remained outstretched, grasping at nothing. A kidney plopped out of the oozing wound, landing with a wet splashing sound in the pool of thick stale blood at the orc’s feet. Sharptongue looked ahead to the pyre’s ashen remnants, and his lip curled slightly into an approximation of a smile.

“I will.”

Sadok

Posts : 275
Join date : 2011-05-03
Age : 24
Location : York, UK

Character sheet
Name: Sadok Sharptongue
Title: High Blade Thur'ruk

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Re: Talonslain: A Coda

Post by Sadok on Sat Nov 30, 2013 4:14 pm

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Part Three

Sharptongue trudged indignantly onwards, storming out of Garadar and down the dirt-tracks winding out into Nagrand’s verdant expanses. It was late evening. If there had been a sun, it would have since set; nonetheless, light had failed and the grassy plains were bathed in the pale luminosity of the Twisting Nether’s energies. At one seemingly arbitrary point, the irritated orc broke off from the path and began stomping cantankerously into the wilds -- destination nowhere.

There was a reason for his foul temper. Earlier that night, he had clashed bitterly with his former Chieftain -- or current Chieftain? Sharptongue still wasn’t sure. But he and Rargnasha Bloodmark had argued passionately back and forth -- Sadok accusing him of having broken Oaths and killing indiscriminately rather than pursuing reconciliation or seeking understanding before taking decisive action. An orc born of war, forged in war and elevated to Chieftain and General in a time of war, Sadok had claimed -- and now that war was over, he couldn’t cope when the situation didn’t call for violence and belligerence.

As the necrotically-infused orc passed them by, the native fauna gave him a decidedly wide birth. One talbuk turned its head sideways inquisitively, as if utterly unsure what lay before it. Perhaps it had seen other such horrifically-twisted creatures before, but Nagrand was nonetheless largely sheltered from the aberrant mutations seen elsewhere in the Outland. Sharptongue continued stepping along before he found himself at the edge of a clear blue pond, the Nether’s streams reflected brilliantly in its waters. He gritted his teeth in consternation, and after some hesitation, looked at himself in the pond’s waters for the first time since his unholy rebirth.

He looked and did not recognise himself at first, but realisation dawned slowly upon him -- the orc in the reflection was himself. He saw a frail, sickly-looking orc clad in nothing but a soiled loincloth and a blood-soaked wolfmask. He saw the cracked soulblade hung by his side -- hung by what, he thought for a moment, given that he wore no belt or waist-clip -- glowing bright then faint, strong then weak. It was utterly unstable and upon looking at its image shimmer and shudder back and forth in the waters, he realised how vulnerable the blade truly was. How vulnerable he truly was.

He did the sensible thing and immediately broke down into a nervous, agitated wreck. Immersing himself within the pond’s waters, Sharptongue began to let out a low and pained wolf’s howl while rocking back and forth. The distressed paroxyms sent out frenzied ripples upon the water, and Sharptongue’s reflection became blurred beyond recognition. He cradled his shattered runeblade in his arms like an infant, beginning to wail out uncontrollably:

“Not strong enough! Not good enough! Not strong enough! Not good enou--”
“Yes yer are.”


Sadok snapped rigid in a moment, his glowing eyes wide open. Looking slowly around him, he saw nothing but trees, grass and beasts. No, it couldn’t have been, he thought. Muttering wistfully, he turned his eyes back to the pond’s surface and was shocked to see the image of a she-orc looking back at him! Faint but unmistakable. He let out a surprised yelp, squinting as he tried to discern its exact identity. Acting on his first hunch, he finally spoke:

“Talonslayer, be that you?”
“Aye... it be m’.”
“By the Nether, it really is you, my love! As clear as a mirror! Am I seeing things? Have I finally gone mad?”
“Aye, yer seein’ things -- an’ yer’ve always been mad.”


The spirit seemed to smirk playfully. Sharptongue remained dazed and slightly confused, stuttering as he tried to grasp the situation. Was he hallucinating, truly? If so, it was the most authentic reverie he had experienced. Or was it truly her spirit? And if so, how? He was no shaman -- in-fact, as an undead orc, he was anathema to anything spiritual. He racked his mind for questions -- he hadn’t thought of any because he hadn’t imagined seeing her again so soon.

“...How goes your hunting on the Eternal Plains?” Sharptongue ventured. “Have you met any of the others? Muzjhath, Tarag, Keishara... your sister Igurg?”
“I ain’t moved on just yet. It be Kosh’harg after all,”
the spirit replied. “So I’ll be stayin’ around ‘ere’ till t’en.”
Sharptongue nodded. It was two nights from the Festival -- perhaps it wasn’t untoward after all for such a recently-departed spirit to have remained here given the occasion. Or was it? He didn’t know. He had long-since given up on trying to make sense of nonsense and make right from wrong. So he decided to see if the spirit of his mate would make the difficult decision for him.

“I can feel my mind going, beloved. The blade is at breaking point -- I can feel it approaching utter meltdown closer and closer each day. Only the tribe can fix the blade. Only the tribe can save my soul so that I might honor my Oath and we can roam together.” Sadok paused, his voice wavering somewhat. “But how can I return to a tribe led by the orc that stole your heart from me then murdered you in cold blood? And if they fix my blade, how can I keep serving them? And if I don’t serve them... where do I go? What do I do?”
The spirit stared back at him from the pond’s reflection, seemingly unsure of what to say. She finally spoke, a hint of resignation evident in the timbre of her voice. “I... I don’t know how yer can return ter the tribe, Sadok. It be somethin’ yer will need ter find yerself.”
Sadok growled weakly. He didn’t want that answer. He wanted Vashnarz to tell him what to do -- to solve his problems, to point out the easy way ahead that he might finally set aside all this self-questioning. But that wasn’t going to happen. And besides that, was it fair to ask such a thing of her at all?

Sharptongue let out the necrotic approximation of a gulp, then changed tack. “If I continue to run with the tribe, or whether I roam elsewhere... how do you want to be remembered? Bloodmark has pegged you as exile, as traitor, as being unworthy even of the blade that ended your life -- so what songs would you have me sing of Vashnarz the Talonslayer? What stories would you have me tell of your life and your accomplishments?”
The spirit’s lip seemed to curl in agitation on hearing the words ‘exile’ and ‘traitor’. Retreating slightly into herself with a cold delivery, she spoke. “Yer don’t need ter sin’ son’s o’m, Sadok. I be a Varog’Gor. I be ment ter be ter unsung orc o’ter tribe.” She paused, before repeating: “Sin’ no son’s.” It sounded like a warning. Or a threat. But then her countenance warmed somewhat, and in a fonder tone she spoke to Sadok: “Just... remember.”

Sharptongue nodded very slowly upon receiving this instruction, closing his eyes and falling silent. There were so many thoughts swirling around his mind even now, but this unexpected spiritual communion had him feeling less alone -- as though perhaps Vashnarz had been watching him these last few days, and might continue to do so. The thought was reassuring.
The spirit smiled faintly. “But know t’is... yer may think I abandoned yer, but I always wore ter boar tusks yer gave m’before yer left. Always aroun’ m’neck... yer never left m’thoughts. Yer were always there.”
Sadok felt a strange warmth as he heard these words. If she was always watching over him, perhaps in a way he had continued to watch over her -- even if only through the talisman of the boar-tusks he had presented her in the height of his post-undeath despair.

His conspicuous absence these last months had in their own way been a kind of presence, he reasoned. And so whether Talonslayer was a hallucination or a spirit, and whether they spoke no more until his true death or whether they continued to commune with some regularity -- she would still always be present in some way, even as just a whisper of the past and a promise of the future.
Sadok opened his eyes again to look at the image of Vashnarz upon the waters, but it had since vanishes -- he only saw his own form staring back at him. He couldn’t help but smirk slightly. “Until we meet again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. So even if you are always here in a way, I will miss you until next we speak.”

A faint whisper upon the wind seemed to answer him, both reassuring and alluring: “Aye, but perhaps we’ll see each ot’er soon... it be Kosh’harg season after all...”

Sadok

Posts : 275
Join date : 2011-05-03
Age : 24
Location : York, UK

Character sheet
Name: Sadok Sharptongue
Title: High Blade Thur'ruk

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Re: Talonslain: A Coda

Post by Cid on Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:27 am

This gave me shivers up my spine. Nicely written, friend!

Cid

Posts : 1271
Join date : 2010-01-31
Age : 30
Location : Sweden

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Name: Cid Blackforge
Title: Captain of the Guard

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Re: Talonslain: A Coda

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