Exile and Suffering
During the relatively calm months after the destruction of Remus Thagthane found himself staring into a mug of mead; such was his station many times in those months. The subtle bubbles rose to the top only to burst, and Thrag racked his brain to come up with a suitable metaphor for them. A young scribe, probably one of the new recruits who had arrived after the settling of the fort, hesitantly approached the slumped form of the hero.
"Excuse me, Mr. Skullhammer, but I was hoping to ask you a few questions" he piped out.
Thrag twisted toward him. "Oi, don't call me that, it sounds ridiculous. Thragthane will do just fine, mate."
"Of course. I was wondering if I could talk to you about why you left Ragtha."
Thrag drained his first pint of mead. "I didn't like it there."
"I've heard. Could you grant me some insight as to why?"
"Familial differences. There's your report, I've other matters to attend to." Thrag ordered another pint.
"Sir, I'm compiling a dossier for the compendium. We've scoured the legends of Ragtha, but there's not a single rune of you."
"Aye, there wouldn't be. Runes are for heroes and warriors, I was neither til the Band took me in."
The scribe ordered a pint of mead and pushed it in front of Thrag. Thrag eyed it warily before draining it, his second of the night.
"Alright, you keep the tap flowing & my mouth shall follow suit. Now listen up, because I'm not gonna feckin' repeat meself."
Thragthane, standing at 6 foot 3, was a runt. He sparred poorly with his job, and since he was next in line for the tribe chief seat, this did not bode well. But he was not without talent. His aptitude for shamanism was his only solace from the jeering and harassment his family threw at him. He loved to stalk the woods at night and feel the natural energy of Gaia course through the trees. It was comforting. It was empowering. It was not his duty as heir. His father constantly tried to dissuade him from his explorations. 'Tis no place for a warrior chief, me boyo' he would say. So Thrag was only able to carry out his studies after the clan fell into a drunken slumber. This worked for a time, until the night it didn't.
"What happened, Thrag" the young man asked eagerly.
Thrag drained his fourth pint of the night. "I'll tell ya if ya don't pipe up when I'm about to tell ya. Gods, you younglings are impatient." Thrag smoothed out his beard and cleared his throat.
One cold night, the winter solstice to be precise, Thrag slipped out of his bedroom as usual, eager to meditate in the nexus of swirling magical energy of the Grand Ring. This place focused all the energy that flowed ephemerally through the cold north into a great circle of stone. Thrag felt alive here. He felt like this place was his true home. The glowing stones called to him, guided him towards purpose. He meditated here quite often, and always felt at peace. Tonight, however, he felt something different. The stones glowed with a sinister red, and he heard, or felt rather, a voice from the void.
"Back again, dear Thragthane? My my my, you do so love this little ring, don't you? Worry not, my little one, your secret endeavors shall remain under lock and key, and what's more, I'll even help your studies."
"Who the frigid feck are you? And show yerself, if yer not too slimy for it," Thrag fired back into nothing.
"I am servant, like yourself. I am also keen to the energy of this place, like yourself. You see, we are similar, yes? We both serve Shaitan. We both know that death is but another life. I go by many names, but you can call me friend. I do not mean to trespass upon you, oh no. I seek only to aid you, so that maybe one day you could aid me."
"And why would aid a man I cannot see?"
Before Thrag rose a man, or a man-shape. His swirling cloak was gripped at the bottom by frost. His face was hidden in his hood.
"There, now we meet eye to eye. If you insist upon naming me, then you may name me Carth'agria. I have a little deal that I wish to propose. You seek understanding of the natrual magics. I happen to have a great deal of understanding in that field. For a small sum, I can enlighten you." As he said this, the rocks glowed brighter than Thrag had ever seen them. He was captivated by their majesty. They called louder than ever, and he was unable to resist embracing their call. His mind filled with thoughts of shapeshifting into different animals, of calling upon the natural elements to bend to his will. He also saw himself, much older, blasting foes with terrible icy winds. The power was overwhelming. His mind froze and enflamed . His right eye, tortured by the weight of his understanding, burst from his head onto the cold ground. Carth'agria grinned happily.
"My payment, or at least the first installment, is paid. You have my thanks, young scholar." And without a flash or bang, he was gone.
"That's how you lost your eye?!"
Thrag drained his tenth pint of the night.
"Aye. You cannot imagine the pain and suffering it caused. Which I will explain in depth if ya feckin let me finish."
Thrag father was outraged. When Thrag arrived at his palace, still bleeding but otherwise upright, the guard sent for the chief immediately. The chief ordered Thrag to be confined to his chamber until he had come up with a suitable punishment. It was here that he received another visit from his new friend.
"Looks like our little magician has found himself locked up in his tower. How fairy tale." Thragthane threw a wild punch that connected with nothing. "Mate, you're gonna get beheaded for this. GUARDS!!" But Thagthane's alarm went unanswered.
"Oh, they can't hear you. Or anything. Hehehe. They're indisposed at the moment."
"What have you done?!"
"I've collected the second installment. Did you think vast understanding would come cheap? I've simply, ahh, borrowed some life force from your retinue. And here me carefully when I say it's your retinue. For now, why don't you rest. You'll have a big mess to clean when you awake."
When he awoke, Thrag was being dragged out of his chambers to the Vault. His steward told him what had happened. The guards had seemingly revolted, claiming that Thrag should take the seat now. They besieged the palace, and managed to murder several of the attendants and maim the chief before they were put to rest. He was not being dragged to the Vault for protection, Thrag was told, but because it would act as a prison before he received his sentencing. The last Thrag ever saw of the palace, his palace, his home, was the contempt glares of his now previous court. The door was shut and locked.
"Bloody hell, what happened next?"
Thrag spilled his thirteenth pint of mead. "Feck the luck. Well, I was exiled as a traitor. My father would not believe that hadn't instigated the revolt, so he banished me from the tribe. My cousin, who long sought the seat, became heir, & I wandered Galdera, learning more magic until the Band took me in."
"And Carth'agria, what of him? You've had some run-ins, yes?"
"Aye, I have. He's still collecting his payments. But I think that the time to finish my debt to him is close at hand. Now if ya don't mind pissing off, I'm gonna meditate in the woods because this story makes me mad."
The young scribe, whom Thrag Just noticed had a reddish tint in his eye, sauntered off snickering. Just as well, thought Thrag. He needed to be reminded of why he's here. He headed out off the mess hall towards the woods, but paused at the weapons rack by the training grounds. He hefted up a short sword, gave it a few practice swings, then scabbered it and attached the ensemble to his belt. I have a great understanding of magic but poor use, he thought, so maybe it's time to see what my martial heritage has instilled in me. And without a further pause, Thrag marched towards the treeline, eager to meditate and feel what kind of energy courses through this lofty place.