Strength is the way of the world. The weak are crushed underfoot.
The creed of her tribe, the Dm'rohk. A nomadic tribe, living in the lands east of the Spine
and nearby the Drawa River. And hard lands made for a hard life, between the Blight orcs of the Blightlands
and the fearsome beasts and creatures of the Ixchel Wilds. Each orc of the Dm'rohk tribe had to carry his and her own weight. All contributed. All hunted. And all fought. Nomadic life was not city life. There was no room for weakness.
Mischa was born into a family of four brothers. Three older, one younger. And while all four of her brothers grew to the impressive size and bulk natural to orcs, her growth remained stunted. A worrying anomaly, but one not unheard of. Her father--Vengtokh--consulted the tribe shamans, and even shamans from other friendly tribes, fearing some manner of curse or hex on his daughter. And when her brothers' tusks all came in large and strong, and hers just barely poked out from her mouth, a nickname stuck. "Little Elf Teeth," started by the rival family to Ven'rohk, whose patriarch had recently lost chieftainhood to a challenge by Vengtokh. For they vengefully wished to wound his pride, by attacking the runty stature his beloved daughter.
All orcs in the Dm'rohk tribe who had fully grown their tusks participated in frequent ritual combat, the Umrogk. Brutal, one-on-one fist-and-grappling fights that lasted for all three minutes of the tribe's signature drumbeat and warsong. The vast majority ended in draws, the ultimate purpose being to make both participants stronger, not to simply win. And the crowd of raucous tribesorcs always fell silent whenever it was time for Mischa to step into the circle. They knew what was coming. No proper fight at all, but a completely one-sided pummeling. It was not honorable for Mischa's opponent, whether it was one of her brothers or an orc from another family, to hold back. To do so would be to deprive her of the opportunity to grow stronger. A malicious act in the eyes of the tribe. But all quietly knew the truth and tragedy of Mischa's fights. That her opponents gained nothing by so easily beating her, and more over, that she gained nothing by being beaten senseless.
But tradition had to be kept. And so it was.
Mischa lost all three hundred of the Umrogks she engaged in during her years of adolescence. All her training and preparation for nothing. She was simply overpowered and beaten bloody. Every single time.
And on her three hundredth Umrogk, when her eldest brother beat her so badly she could only convulse on the ground and spit up blood for half an hour later, Vengtokh had had enough. His heart could no longer bear seeing the ravages of nomadic life taking their toll on his little daughter. She struggled at more than just the Umrogk: hunting, carrying her belongings, fishing, crafting. The life of the tribe was not for her. And so it was a mercy to call for a Bhathairk-Tai, a journeying of the tribe to the great orc stronghold to cast off their weak and infirm.
Mischa stood before the awesome gates of Bhathairk
with her father. And he kneeled down and placed his hands on her shoulders. Said, "Return to us, should you find the strength the tribe could not provide you."
And he hugged her for the last time. Turned. And left her there.
As she cried and called out to him.
* * * * *
Mischa would spend a year in Bhathairk. She was nineteen when it began.
She didn't want to beg, but she had no skills with which to support herself. She was a poor hunter, leatherworker, fighter, herbalist, everything useful for the tribe she once knew she had no talent or inclination for, and so it was in Bhathairk as well. And, as it was in her tribe, she sought out menial work. Mostly cleaning and assisting tavernkeepers and crafters with trivial tasks. A pitiful life, flitting from odd job to odd job, only just earning enough coin and scraps to stave off starvation. A hollow life, with no family or home to call her own. She wished ill upon and forsook her gods and her ancestors, who had seen fit to torment her so, to curse her with the damning weakness which had torn her from her tribe and her father.
And then came the locked room.
A cleaning job, much like all the others. A mage, human, from a city called El-bee-on. Spoke enough Orcish for them to talk. Heard about her from a friend, he said. Just needed his house tidied. A busy man, after all.
A small house in a cluster of others unlike it. Strangely built. More human than orcish in design, she supposed. And she stepped inside. Cleaned the main room. But when she went into the bedroom, the door swung itself shut and locked. From the outside. No windows. No light.
Days. Trapped inside the locked room. She beat on the door and the walls and screamed for help but to no avail; something blocked the sound. Her throat ached for water. The rumbling of her stomach turned numb. And her body was slick with her own filth. Soon she lacked the strength to even stand. She was Little Elf Teeth again, lying in the ring after her three hundredth Umrogk. A pathetic creature. A shame to her tribe. To her father.
The mage came back when her skin clung to her tiny ribs. Stripped her naked. Placed her on a table. Mused about how she was "the perfect specimen" (words she would later learn). And took out a knife. Made careful incisions into her skin. Folded them open and stemmed the flow of blood with magic. Gazed with perverse fascination at her innards. She could do nothing but weep. She lacked the strength for anything more.
The bedroom door was kicked open. A burst of light flooding in. A heavy footfalls and clanking of armor. The slash of a sword. The mage shrieking and falling dead.
The face of Marcie Armentrout entering Mischa's fading vision. A Templar of the Keepers of Oath. She saved her. Took her in.
And Mischa was inducted into the Keepers of Oath as squire initiate.
* * * * *
An eclectic Chapter of Templar, with humans, dwarves, orcs, elves
and some others that Mischa had never seen during her time in Bhathairk. Most full-fledged Templar, only some squires like herself. And it was her duty to attend primarily to Marcie, her sponsor, and secondarily to the other Templar, in exchange for training and the eventuality of becoming a Templar herself when she was made ready.
A certain improvement, over her lowly station in Bhathairk. And, while her father consistently kept Mischa in the backline of the battles
her tribe had been forced into, such that she never once swung her weapon
, at least in the Keepers of Oath Mischa and the other squires served as auxiliaries. Yes, the true Templar engaged the monsters
and creatures and Blight orcs first, but Mischa at last tasted victory in defending their backs and their sides from flanks and trickery.
And victory tasted good. Mischa quietly craved it. More. And more.
Marcie was patient. Kind. She took the time to teach the Common tongue
to Mischa. Told her some of the wider world out there, west of the spine. How there were massive cities
of humans and dwarves and elves and how differently they lived from her tribe. Marcie forgave her mistakes and instructed her in the craft of armor repair and maintenance. Didn't insist that Mischa carry all her burdens as the Chapter traveled across the lands east of the Spine. She attempted to teach some of her healing magic to Mischa, though it was clear that Mischa had no aptitude for it.
Then. The Sunken Tomb. Reports of some manner of nefarious activity. Necromancers or vampires
, or something else entirely, the superstitious orcs of the nearby tribe were unsure, and dared not anger their ancestors by foolishly investigating the 'cursed' place. A detachment of the Keepers of Oath went in. Marcie leading the way, Mischa right behind her.
And they found nothing.
Inconclusive evidence, disturbances in the dust and signs of a camp inside. Fresh ash and discarded torches in one of the chambers not flooded in waist-high water. Only a small pile of old weapons, covered in the hardened muck and filth of decades past.
As others were searching the other chambers of the Tomb, Marcie assigned Mischa to cleaning off the weapons, if perhaps there were any information that could be gleaned from them. The Chapter Sensor would need them to be free of the grime for his art to function properly.
And when Mischa touched the hilt the dirt-encrusted Lightbringer, It chose her. The Great Holy One, That Which Makes Pure, sent her a powerful series of visions through the Symbiote locked inside the hilt. Mischa, as a full-fledged Templar, but never having gained the strength necessary to be accepted by her tribe. And another, Mischa serving the Great Holy One, receiving Its gifts and boons, and becoming mighty enough to be welcomed back by her father.
A silent choice. A wordless offer. Mischa made her decision, and the Great Holy One sent another vision: What she must do to begin her service. The first step in achieving the Purity It offered. Heart trembling, she accepted.
With guilt and sorrow, Mischa walked to her sponsor. Placed her free hand on Marcie's cheek. Said, "I'm sorry."
And a jet of Holy Fire obliterated Marcie's head. All her kindness vanished in a violent gout of flame.
The Great Holy One's visions directed her to the hidden switches in the walls. Switches which sealed the chamber doors, and opened a hidden escape tunnel. The other squires and Templar couldn't breach them fast enough. Mischa had enough time to don Marcie's gray and red plate armor, take up her shield, and escape with the Lightbringer in hand.
It was that day that Mischa became the Betrayer. The Oathbreaker.
It was that day that Mischa's journey began.
A journey to find and earn the strength to return home.