Friday, August 17, 2012

Of Squigs and Orcs: An excerpt from our Fantasy Campaign

It was hot. 

A mosquito engorged itself on the blood of a drowsy fox who had found a spot of shade under a massive tree on the barren plain. The vivacious ichor flowed lazily from the penetrated skin of the sleeping animal, all the while its leg flinched at the thought of chasing a brown hare through a luscious field of grass. Skulls and bones of creatures littered the surrounding area under the ancient tree, the ground stained brown with gore that had been spilt under its branches. Each day a careless traveler would wander under its limbs, searching for shade, and each day the roots of the mighty tree feasted upon their remains. Its feral spirit yearned for the life essence of these invaders, trespassers into its sanctum. It had been planted by the things of legend, eons past, long before the desolation of war and famine had reached these lands. There were brothers and sisters that the tree deeply missed, standing alone in its kingdom of death. The pain of loss and fervent duty of protection had driven its spirit mad over the centuries it had stood guardian its ever dwindling siblings until only it remained. It blamed the ruthless creatures of man and orc for the demise of this once beautiful and innocent land. The images of destruction burned into the trees heart, consuming it with revenge and hatred towards the outsiders.

The crunch of aged bone, and the scampering form of the fox from its resting spot, snapped the tree from its contemplation, bringing its attention to the area of desert towards the north. Hulking figures rose over the knoll upon which the tree sat, brandishing cruel axes and mighty blades, howling and jeering at one another as they approached.

"Dis'un be fine wood fer da camp. Dry as a 'umies bones, what I be done wit 'im." The creature who spoke had a horribly scarred face, his left eye showed signs of old infection and lingering rot had eaten away some of his cheek, revealing the bone underneath. He walked with bravado, as if proud of his disfigured features, and had a great, spiky ax slumped across his shoulders.

"Old and rotten, 'tis. Be makin' a stink if'en we burn it, be makin' crud hut if'en we use its bits fer huts." The second orc was bulkier than the first, but at least a head shorter. His frame was more like that of a Lustrian ape than of an orc. He carried himself low, knuckles nearly grazing the ground as he moved his way towards the tree. A giant, sharp tooth jutted at a peculiar angle from his lower jaw, splitting his bottom lip where it pushed its way unnaturally outwards, as if beckoning someone to come closer to him.

"I's da biggest, an' I sez we gon' drop an' chop dis tree down." The first orc leered at the shorter one, nervously tapping his fingers across the haft of his ax.

"You be da biggest, Gazgut, but you isn't da thinkiest" growled the heavy-set orc, smiling a crooked smile. His split lip oozed a brackish puss where his drool mixed with the fungal agents of his body.

The big orc, referred to as Gazgut, laughed heartily at the insult, slapping his stomach with his right hand. The other three orcs milled about, shifting their weight in an uncomfortable manner, hands ready by their weapons should violence erupt, as was often the case when an orc quarreled, even if his opponent was himself.

The tree could sense the figures better now that they stood a couple meters above its sprawling roots. The two talking ones wore armour of tanned hide, dented and heavy plate, and rusted links of chain, none of which they had the dexterity to create for themselves. Something in the tree tingled as memory flooded to its young days as a sapling. The things of legend that had planted it wore such chain, fashioned in a remarkably similar fashion. Where had they gone, these many long years. The tree pondered but for a moment and it drew a maddening conclusion; the orcs had taken their chain. They had murdered his creators, taken their clothing, and flaunted it about like the cruel beasts that they were. The spirit of the tree swelled, its soul pounding in agony and rage as it pictured the foul beings ripping apart the trees nurturing providers. The tree let out a quiver of anger, its leafless branches shuddering without a helping breeze.

Gazgut stopped his laughing and glared at the now statuesque tree. He swung his mighty ax as if it were made of reeds rather than gnarled wood and battle-tempered steel, readying himself for trouble. His eyes scanned the horizon, looking for the source of what he described as his "tingly wot feelin."

"Did you boys see dat?" Gazgut sniffed the air, "It stinks of rot, old meat, and elf fings here. Sometin' idn't right wot with dis here hill." Though no wind carried a scent his way, he knew, deep in his gutty works, that this was a place of slaughter. He grinned at the prospect of slaying just a few more humans before his day was through. He prayed to Gork, or possibly Mork, that a band of wounded merchants or brigands sat on the opposite slope of this hill, his hill, that he could unleash beautiful rage upon.

The orcs fanned out following grunts and stiff hand gestures that Gazgut had taught them after watching the human leaders perform them on the field of war. Sure, humans were nothing but meat sacks, but they were the best thinkers that Gazgut had encountered. Rottooth, his bulkier and squatter lieutenant, notched a rough arrow into his pilfered bow. He had won the weapon from an unlucky goblin in a game of "squash". The flattened head of the grot was tied to his left wrist as a reminder of what happened to uppity gobos should they challenge him to anything, much less a game. Rottooth fancied himself the best archer in all of Cragteefs mighty WAAAAAGH, that being because he could hit a building every third shot from 10 meters out. He took great pride in this fact, and displayed his pride on the battlefield, calling out targets before launching his payload. Gazgut chuckled to himself every time Rottooth loosed an arrow at a foe, knowing that he was more likely to strike a fellow orc than his called target.

The first of Gazguts boys reached the base of the tree, a bare choppa-ax readied in his right hand, and leaned on the tree for support as he lift himself onto his toes. With a swish and sickly thud, the orc crumpled to the ground, his right arm brutally mangled at the joint of his shoulder. His howl of pain and surprise brought the others eyes up to preview the carnage that was to be theirs in a few moments.

The trees limbs flailed about its trunk, smashing the orc into a mound of pulp. The ground shifted as the roots of the tree burst through the layer of dried earth at its base, wrapping themselves around the bulk of the orcs limbs. A sickening tear broke through the dull thudding of the trees branches, and a splash of juices quenched the dirt. The tree began to hum a low, hollow sound, as its roots fed upon the life of the hapless warrior.

Gazgut waited just long enough to see the trees roots expose themselves before he charged the hellish tree. With a warriors cry and a gaping leap he was on the tree in a mere three seconds, his ax already chewed through two limbs and embedded in the trunk. He tore it out and pivoted on his left heel, using the momentum of loosing the blade to make a back strike against the trunk of the tree once more. Something snagged his right leg as it reeled about, and pulled harder than a squig pulling on a snotlings liver. With a scowl of pain, and a grunt of determination he ripped his leg free of the entwining appendage and buried his blade once more in the trees first wound.

By now Rottooth had abandoned his bow, having lost all his arrows at feeble attempts to shoot the towering tree, and was rushing towards its base with two choppas swinging frantically above his head. He parried a blow from a branch to his right and lunged across a spasming root as it reached for his waist. The force of his arm brought his first strike deep into the core of the tree, sending a shower of sticky sap and splinters towards his face. He closed his eyes as the wooden shafts split his tough skin and the sap burned the open wounds. A frantic shriek of wood on steel deafened the orcs, sending the two lesser boys to their knees while clawing at their ears and face.

Gazgut swung again, pushing his body mass into the chop and delivered the final blow to the tree, cutting it low and burying his ax into the earth on the other side. The tree fell, and with its final, murderous impulse, landed on his last two guards. Rottooth and Gazgut stood at the stump of the massive tree, panting and grinning like the young fools they once were. Gazgut reached out a hand and gave Rottooth a bone snapping clap on the shoulder and both orcs promptly began to howl with laughter.

"Dis 'un be makin' MY hut." said Gazgut, as he tossed his ax to Rottooths open hand and hefted the lifeless tree under his arm, dragging it unceremoniously through the bloody and dusty trail behind him.

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