Day Unknown, Location Unknown

Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Day Unknown, Location Unknown

Written by Craig Gallant | Tags:

Blood Reaver Dar'Vok

Blood Reaver Dar'Vok

It is easy to look back upon the last couple of days now with a sense of curiosity. Seeing new things and meeting new people always drive me over the next hill and around the next island. In the past few days I have seen some truly extraordinary things. As a Chronicler, I must keep firmly in mind those last coherent moments upon the deck of the Winged Fury; as a storyteller, I cannot forget the trauma and the fear that presaged these calmer days.

When I hit the water, having fallen from the towering aft deck of the Eyrie Carrier, I struck with enough force to drive the wind from my lungs. I tumbled through the dark water, struggling without knowing if I was reaching for the surface or driving myself deeper. Flashing lights erupted in my eyes, and I did not know if I was about to emerge into open air or die.

I awoke on the island’s shore, covered in wet sand and seaweed. There was no sign of either the Prince’s Dragon Lords or the Captain-Mage’s Thaniras Elves. I attempted to drag myself from beneath the blanket of slimy, gritty vegetation and nearly lost consciousness again. I ended up on my hands and knees retching out salt water, my head pounding and my throat raw. I tried to stand and nearly doubled over from the pain lancing through my stomach. I was ravenous, and looking around I could see nothing nearby that could assuage my hunger.

When you have survived as many dangerous predicaments as I have, you tend to take on a rather fatalistic approach to life. There is an element of perceived invincibility that creeps into your mind set: palace coups had failed to claim my life, bitter rivals for glory, gold, or women have left me relatively unscathed. A lifetime of travelling with violent creatures, and witnessing hundreds of battles from the sharp end of the spear, had left their indelible impression upon me, but I had never been truly close to death. The irony of facing slow starvation on an isolated island was not frightening to me, but rather bitterly offensive.

I struggled to my feet and stumbled towards the treeline. I fell several times during the journey, at one point landing on a sharp corner of my writing box. Although painful, this at least had the happy side effect of reassuring me that it, too, had survived the battle. Within the treeline I found the tracks of small animals and several bushes with berries I thought would be edible. Over the remainder of that day, taking what nourishment I could from the berries and drinking from pathetic little forest rills, I journeyed up towards the very modest peak of the island’s central mass. Once there I could see all around, and confirm that I was, aside from the small animals of the island and the soaring gulls overhead, the only living creature for leagues.

For days I scraped my life from the island’s meagre stores. With clever traps I captured enough of the small squirrel-like creatures that I shared the land with to keep starvation at bay. Then at night I slept under the trees, near the peak of the low hill, secure in the knowledge that nothing on the island could harm me.

Something new arrived during the night of my fourth or fifth day, and I knew nothing of it.

I awoke as the sun struck the tree tops overhead. I rolled onto my back without opening my eyes, let out a great sigh of frustration, and prepared to face another day of hunger pangs and introspection. But when I opened my eyes, my sigh turned into a gasp and I scrambled frantically backward. A group of creatures were arrayed around my feet, staring at me with hard, narrowed eyes from a very impressive height. Their skin was dark, ranging from a greenish grey to a deep brown, and their armour a combination of rich leather and burnished bronze. Their humanoid faces were impassive as they glared down at me in unnerving silence.

I quickly pushed myself to my feet and was slightly alarmed to see that I only came up to the creatures’ shoulders. They were taller even than the Dragon Lords, with bodies more solid and wrapped in muscle. The mysteries as to who they were and how they came to be on the island were answered simultaneously as I saw the enormous balloon floating above us, an intricately carved and decorated ship hanging beneath it and a corded ladder dragging slowly behind that. They were Ralgard.

I bowed deeply, beating my mind for any scrap of information I could remember about these new comers to the Uncharted Seas. Rumours among the traders said that these were a warrior vanguard, serving the fabled Ancient Ones who had ruled here before the Dragon Lords. That seemed far-fetched to me, but all the tales did agree that they were fearsome warriors with a stark code of honour, and I knew that I would be safe, at least for a little while. No Chronicler had yet served with the Ralgard, but warrior cultures are notoriously susceptible to the temptations I can offer. I felt sure that I would be able to secure myself a place with these creatures long enough to find passage back to Human-held waters.

“Greetings,” I began, but immediately stopped as one of the warriors shook his head with two abrupt motions, and then turned to gesture towards the ladder hanging against the grassy hilltop.

The creature uttered several guttural syllables that I could not decipher, and then repeated the word “Dar’vok.”

I nodded, sighed, and pointed to the ladder. “Dar’vok?”

The warrior shook his head, pointed at the giant balloon above us, then far off to the west and said with a finality that send a chill through my blood, “Dar’vok.”

I nodded again, muttered “Dar’vok,”, and moved to climb up the writhing ladder to the floating ship.

My first ride in what I would later learn was a Dralnak Balloonship was primarily a whirlwind of impressions unfixed in my mind. Whether from exhaustion, starvation, or shock, I was not at my mental best. The crew of towering, heavily-armoured warriors all but ignored me as they went about sailing their ship. My first impression was one of size. The Ralgard warriors were truly immense, and thus everything aboard the ship, naturally built to accommodate them, was colossal as well. Doorways, companionways and furniture were all so large I felt like a child wandering through some fantastical giant’s realm.

We were travelling aboard the Dralnak for most of a day, and I am afraid, what with everything I had been through and the fact that no one would talk to me, I simply fell asleep in the storage room assigned to me for the journey. I was awakened by a light tapping on the doorframe, and followed a warrior back to the control area where the majority of the giants were standing at a line of windows, looking down at something we were approaching.

The Ralgard

The Ralgard

I remembered seeing the Ralgard Heavy Cruisers from a great distance while sailing with Captain-Mage Phoskis. They were huge, boxy, fortress-like ships that crashed through the surf rather than cutting gracefully like the elven vessels. The ship below us now made even those fortress ships look like children’s toys. It had a massive tower at fore and aft and enormous junk-rigged sails reaching up to our Balloonship, sail-battens rattling in a fitful breeze. Golden detailing and decorations underlined the intricate impression of the ship, and as we came about to approach from amidships, a spinal gunnery deck that nearly doubled each broadside was revealed. It was truly a monster of a ship, and its tri-barrel cannon seemed a most formidable array of weaponry.

Once again I found myself on the rope ladder. This time, however, rather than climbing up to a strange ship over a grassy field, I was dangling above a massive sailing ship who’s decks would smash the life from me should I slip. I found it a most nerve-wracking experience, not aided by the crowd of curious warriors that had gathered upon the forecastle to watch me descend. During the journey I had ascertained, from the few exchanges I could coax from my companions, that the commander of this ship and, indeed, the entire Ralgard expedition within the Cauldron of Silence was named Dar’vok. The string of guttural sounds before and after may well have been titles, but I was damned if I could wrap my mouth around them.

I thumped down on the deck, and was quickly surrounded by a mob of seven foot colossi examining me with mild curiosity. I dusted myself off, wringing a little feeling back into my hands, and looked about as I settled the writing box on my hip. “Dar’vok.”

I made the strange word a statement rather than a question, as I assumed none around me would speak my language, or in fact any language I knew. I had tried everything I could think of during our journey here, and nothing from High Dwarven to Plains Elvish had elicited so much as a batted eyelid. So I figured I might as well cut to the chase. I repeated the name into the heavy silence. “Dar’vok”

A brown skinned specimen came forward and gestured with one enormous shovel-hand for me to follow. We walked along the spinal deck and around the giant trunk of the mainmast. Everywhere we went the crew watched me curiously but made no effort to follow or interfere. I was surprised by how few crew there seemed to be, but when your average crewman is a seven foot tall giant I supposed you wouldn’t need as many. And the tri-barrel nature of most of their weaponry would require fewer gunners for a greater weight of metal than the average ships of other races.

As we came to the aft section of the spinal deck we began to ascend a huge, wide stairway that reminded me of several palaces I had left behind in the Old World. Upon the broad expanse of the quarter deck was an actual building. Palatial in stature and decoration, it reminded me of nothing so much as the hetman’s huts of the Vosk villages I had visited over the years. A wheel and command station stood before the palace and looked down the spinal deck to the distant forecastle, giving excellent views all around the ship from beneath the vast junk-rigged sails.

I was led past the control area with its huge wheel and up into the palace proper. Within I found myself in a mammoth hall, resembling an austere throne room, with a high raised dais and throne at the far end. Sitting on the throne was the largest Ralgard I had yet seen. He was resting casually on the large chair, sprawled uncaringly upon it and with a large flagon in one hand. I walked the length of the hall and came to a halt before the throne, glittering dark eyes regarding me the whole time.

“You are a teller of tales.” The voice was a low, harsh growl. The accent was horrible, but I could understand the words easily enough. I nodded.

“I am a Chronicler. In these waters I—“

“You tell tales. You spin yarns. You embellish and exaggerate the deeds of men, gilding a thing of beauty beyond its original provenance.” The voice was so rasping and hoarse it was impossible for me to divine any sort of emotion behind it.

“Well, I take that which truly happened and I create from it a tale that will last the ages. I would not say I embellish—“

“Deeds of skill and bravery are beautiful in their own right and require no further elaboration.”

I nodded, trying desperately to keep on my mental feet. “There are definitely folk who feel this way. Your average Grothgarda Orc, for instance—“

“You will not embellish my deeds when you tell my tale.” The eyes were shadowed by the prominent brow and low helmet rim.

“Certainly not my Lord.” Was that a job offer? I was not expecting such swift adoption of the tradition of a Chronicler in the new comers. I was quite out of my depth at this point.

“I am Blood Reaver Dor’Vak, Tar’Nak of the Azure Hunt and Oathmaster of the Traargant Tek’Far.”

“I am at your service, Blood Reaver Dor’Vak.” I made sure to bow exceedingly low.

“For the duration of this hunt, you are.” He stared down at me and I was sure I was being measured. “You are no warrior.”

I did not let the sting show. “I have been, my lord Blood Reaver. I am out of practice.”

“A true warrior would not need to write the deeds of others.” The voice was making my head hurt, constantly trying to glean any hints of his intentions or emotions.

“Well, you are not alone in that assumption, my lord.” I avoided his eyes, knowing this would be what he expected. This was no time for my displaced pride to get in the way of the story of the century.

“Your kind is seeking the Pesh-Let, the honourless savages that have ravaged the outposts ringing this section of your seas.”

I nodded. “My kind and most others, my lord. Your ships, too, have been spotted searching through the Cauldron. It is assumed you, too, seek the pirates that have been preying upon the innocent.”

A repetitive grating sound shuddered out from the Blood Reaver, and his shoulders gave slight surges. I realized he was laughing. “We do not hunt the Pesh-Let.”

I was puzzled, and saw no reason to try to hide it. “But your ships—“

“Have tested the strength and resolve of those hunting the Pesh-Let. We know where the Pesh-Let are. None here are worthy of them, and so we will claim them, end their efforts in this region, and move on. We are nearly finished here.”

I nodded. I had heard very similar claims from captains of nearly every race. “And so you intend to destroy these Pesh-Let and depart?”

“The Traargant Tek’Far have assigned duties in these waters, and the Pesh-Let are a mere distraction from those duties.”

I glanced around the throne room. “One so great as you takes orders? I would imagine a lord such as you would be master of his own destiny.”

The laughing sound rolled forth again. “You cannot instigate me to quick judgements, tale-teller, and you will find my pride is not the yawning weakness you take it for. I am but one piece in the great game of my masters. Were the rewards enough, my entire Tek’Far would be sacrificed without hesitation, from either my lords, or myself.”
His eyes were steady and cold, and I had no doubt he was speaking the truth. I found myself hoping that the Arkos and Tepes forces to the east would not fall afoul of Dor’Vak’s orders. I shook my head very slightly and attempted to regroup.

“These Pesh-Let—“

“You will know of them as the Kelpor. They are unknown to you, but not to us.”

I was confused. “Kelpor? I have never heard the term before. Are they new to the Uncharted Seas?”

“They are, although they were not always so. It was far from here that we first encountered the rabid vermin, under stars strange to you. This Tharn seeks to establish itself in this region, and once they have done so there will be no ridding yourself of them.”

My confusion grew. “And you seek to do us a favour? So you come to the New World in peace?”

Again the laughter. “New World.” The laughter grew harsher. “How little you know, singer.” I let that go. If I had ever depended upon my singing for my livelihood, I would have found myself swimming long before I was knocked off the Winged Fury. The Pesh-Let Kelpor must not establish themselves in this region. It will disrupt a stratagem centuries old now coming to fruition.”

“I grow tired. You may retire to one of the guest cabins here in the greathouse. One of my Bal’Nak will show you the way.” He gestured to a smaller warrior, standing quietly in the shadows. “We set sail for the Kelpor bolthole at dawn. Food will be brought to your rooms, and you will be summoned when we have brought our prey to action.”

I bowed again, nodded to the Bal’Nak, and followed him down an ornately decorated hall. My head was swimming with shock, fatigue, and a thousand possibilities. I closed the heavy door behind me and sank into a bed that would have been Spartan to a Ralgard warrior but was quite spacious for me.

The Ralgard had been known on the Uncharted Seas for a few years, although they were still not a common sight, and no one knew what they truly wanted. However, who could these Kelpor be?

The next day or so could very well remake my career. It was a bittersweet realization that, should that be the case, it would be time to change my name again. All that I had accomplished would be lost as achievements I could claim my own. Well, such was the life of a fugitive.

I collapsed into a deep sleep, the word ‘Kelpor’ revolving in red jagged lightning in my mind.