Open Chronicles Bloodied Fists

Mischa Ven'rohk

Betrayer. Oathbreaker.
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Mischa lay on the bed of her room at an inexpensive inn. The meager room big enough only to accommodate the length of the bed. Her armor and her shield in a pile beside the bed. The door left open. Unlocked. She did not care for privacy. Even now. The occasional footsteps of humans and others walking up and down the hall. She did not see, for her back was turned to the opening.

She lay curled on the bed, clutching the hilt of the Lightbringer and holding the sword close to her body.

"Please...send me a vision...speak to me, if you would...anything..."

The Great Holy One merely observed. Its presence in the back of her mind.

She had come to Elbion at the Great Holy One's prompting. And here it was that she first failed. It had sent her a vision, the guidance for the next step she must take in her journey, and she had failed. She did not gain the trust of the man the Great Holy One had shown her, and now she never would. She did not know if she had misinterpreted the vision or not, and the Great Holy One had been passive ever since.

Her voice a mere whisper. "I'm sorry."

The Great Holy One merely observed.

It would offer her strength. That which her frail body could never achieve on its own. Strength in exchange for service, for the deeds It desired her to do as relayed by the visions It sent. But what now? Now that she had failed and it had been days since without another vision? Now with no guidance on what It wanted of her?

"I am worthy...I can be worthy...please...I...I want to return home. I will do as you ask. Just...just show..."

And Mischa lay there on the bed and thought of her father and her tribe and wept until sleep finally found her.

* * * * *​

She found menial work for a few days. The barmaid had fallen ill at a large yet dilapidated tavern called This Ain't Falwood. Yer Drunk. Mischa hated the name. The irreverent joy and stupor of the patrons grated on her tense nerves. And she hated the boisterous elven barkeep. But she needed the work because she needed the damnable coins because she needed meat to eat and a room to stay.

Mischa kept to herself. Took the orders of patrons dutifully and didn't respond to snide remarks about her being an orc and wearing full plate yet working at a tavern. She cleaned the bar counter and the stools and the tables and the chairs and the outhouse latrine and helped the barkeep bring in new shipments of barreled drinks. She quelled a few fights before they even began by simply intimidating the would-be brawlers. Not from her size or stature, no, she was always shorter than the humans in question.

The look on her face. In her eyes.

She had nothing to lose.

And she was ready to die fighting if need be.

As it happened, another orc had been watching her. Seen her do this twice. And he took interest.

* * * * *​

Night was falling.

The hearthfire had been lit and the crowd within This Ain't Falwood. Yer Drunk was only getting bigger. The evening barmaid had arrived. It meant then that it was time for Mischa to go, her day of work finished. A routine. She collected the small payment for her work from the elven barkeep and gathered her shield and her sword from behind the bar and started across the tavern floor toward the exit.

When she felt a large hand placed on her shoulder from behind.

She turned around. Looked up. A big orc stood before her, his arms nearly as thick as her body. A certain pang of fear gripped Mischa's heart. That feeling of weakness, toxic to her being, to everything she needed to be if she were to have any hope of rejoining her tribe.

The din of conversation and drinking about them in the tavern. Yet the orc's voice and words were clear. He said, "Mischa. That is your name?"

"Yes." She did not dare show her fear.

"My name is Makgraw. And I know what ails you."

Those patrons around them. At tables and at the bar and drinking and talking and coming and going. All seemed distant. It seemed only that she was there with this orc named Makgraw. Separate from the world about them. "What ails me?"

A look of compassion. Firm, but compassion. "Elbion is not a place for orcs. This city perhaps above all others. We orcs have a need. Humans and dwarves and elves may also have this need, but none so strongly as an orc. Do you know what I'm talking about, Mischa?"

Makgraw didn't need to say it. Mischa knew. And she said, "Yes."

Makgraw smiled. "Good." He glanced around. "This work. This city work. This work of humans and mages and all else. It separates us from a natural calling. And it has taken a toll on you." He leaned in closer to her. Said, "You wish to engage in an honorable fight. Your orcish blood demands it."

Mischa closed her eyes and inhaled sharply through her nose and clenched her sword and the handle of her shield tighter. Thoughts of the near-brawls in the tavern. The honesty in wishing that the drunken humans did not back down from her. An exhaling and opening of her eyes.

"Yes. I want to fight."

Makgraw nodded. "There are others like you. Not just orcs, but humans and dwarves and elves, as I've said. We come together, each with their own reason, to fight with only our fists in private and to witness others and to be surrounded by those like-minded." And he pointed. "All you need to do is walk through that door and go down the stairs to the basement."

The big orc pointed to the door in the corner of the tavern, behind the bar counter. A door which Mischa had noticed many people entering and leaving but which the barkeep never asked her to go and clean, and so she never did. And as she looked upon the door--

A vision from the Great Holy One. The door. Opening. The stairs down. A ring of people. Watching. A Monolith. And pain. Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, and yet more pain. A hand offered. Her own hand, bloodied, taking hold of it. And a sense of wondrous joy.

Mischa gasped quietly at the visceral feeling of the pain from the vision. But it was banished as quickly as a nightmare when the vision blinked away.

The lively tavern around them, her and Makgraw.

And the big orc said to her, "Come. It will be good for you."
 

Teodron

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Teodron didn’t go out much. Not because he didn’t enjoy it, but because he was often too busy—and because he had few friends—to actually have the time or inclination to do so. He didn’t mind much, although occasionally he longed for even a few nights of fun where he didn’t have to worry about class, or the mystery surrounding his mother’s disappearance, or the shocking amount of dark magic he’d encountered at the college. It was a lot for anyone, especially someone who wasn’t special, or strong, or particularly well suited to intrigue or combating the forces of evil.

Indeed, he was nearing the end of his rope. He certainly hadn’t come to the College of Elbion to do much more than study, and maybe see if he could discover anything further about his mother. Now it felt like he was drowning. And that wasn’t even getting into the lives he’d been forced to take to keep himself and others safe. It had been necessary, the right thing to do even.

But their eyes still haunted him at night.

Maybe people noticed the change, or maybe not: it wasn’t as if he was really friends with anyone at the college. But even the few people he was friendly with seemed to evaporate. Other than seeing folks in classes and meeting with professors, he was feeling increasingly isolated. The worst part was, he knew it was partially his fault for not opening up to people, and yet he couldn’t seem to do anything about the problem.

It was making it hard for him to focus on his academics; thankfully, he was such a diligent student that he could afford to do poorly for a bit. However, some of the professor gave him odd looks. Few had thought someone with dwarven heritage could succeed here, and though he’d initially proved him wrong, this stretch might ruin what little goodwill he’d built up. There wasn’t much he could do about it: he didn’t feel as if he could talk to anyone, given the sheer amount of conspiracies he was worried there were at the college.

It was the end of alchemy class—which, although Teodron wasn’t particularly skilled or interested in, at least he enjoyed Professor Ryver’s admittedly rambling lectures—and the half-dwarf quietly packed up his supplies. However, he heard the rest of the class joking, glad they were done with classes for a while..

Then a girl piped up. “It’s the end of the day, and we don’t have classes tomorrow or exams coming up or anything. So let’s have some fun for once.” There was an excited chatter of agreement and they quickly hashed out plans to go hit a few taverns.

Teodron was just about finished gathering his things when he noticed movement in the corner of his eye. The girl who’d suggested the excursion and made the bulk of the plan—her name was Roselia, or Rose to her friends, Teodron knew that—was hovering awkwardly over his desk. “Would you like to join us?” She seemed hesitant, as if she wasn’t sure how he’d react or was only inviting him to be polite.

It was also awkward for him; he paused, unsure whether to accept or not. But in the end, his need for a degree of normalcy and his loneliness won out. “I would love to. Thanks for the invite.” The words were stiff, as if he hadn’t interacted with people in a while (which was true enough), but his tone was earnest and kind.

She smiled, seeming relieved that he’d said yes. “Great! Come along then.” Then she was off.

Although he trailed behind, making agreeable noises whenever someone remembered to talk to him, he still felt a part of the group for once. It was refreshing: for too long he’d been isolating himself, and he’d almost forgotten what it felt like to just go out and be with people. With each passing instant he felt more like his old self. Oh sure, he wasn’t chatty—and he didn’t know his classmates well—but he’d occasionally interject with a casual comment or observation.

By the time they arrived at the first tavern, he was even making a few cautious jokes. Then they ordered a round of ale for everyone. While he usually didn’t drink, tonight was an exception in more ways than one. Still, he only had one tankard. Given his size, he got drunk pretty quickly.

Then they moved on to the second tavern, and he had to do it all over again. Then the third, and he was starting to feel it a bit. It was a pleasant warmth, though when they arrived at the fourth tavern he begged off the ale. The group was significantly drunker, on average, than he was, so they booed, but accepted it.

Settling down, he examined the latest watering hole. It was called This Aint’ Falwood. Yer Drunk of all things, and it catered to a more mixed clientele than the others; they’d wandered farther and farther from the college, and the taverns had gotten progressively less fancy. Of course, they were students, so the first one had been pretty inexpensive to begin with, but this particular pub had some pretty rough looking decor and characters. Unlike the first three, which were favorite haunts of the mages, this one was a little bit out there.

Indeed, there were even orcs here. That was unusual, but not completely unheard of or unseen in Elbion. Teodron found himself watching one of the orcs. Weirdly, they were wearing full armor. Even weirder, the orc looked familiar.

Then his hazy mind realized why she looked familiar and his jaw dropped.

The shock immediately burned through the buzz of the alcohol: it was that crazy orc who killed her friend and had been sent by some mysterious and potentially nefarious being to follow him. After she’d left the store, Teodron had prayed to Metisa that he would never see her again. And yet, here she was, once again strangely in his life. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence, not given the forces involved.

Or maybe she’d just stuck around Elbion and this was just serendipity. But Teodron wasn’t going to take that chance. Maybe it was the alcohol—or maybe it was being tired of being reactive and not active—but as the female orc was approached by another, much larger orc, the half-dwarf found himself standing up.

Luckily, none of his fellow students was paying too much attention to him, though a few gave him a curious look. “Need to use the outhouse,” he found himself saying and they nodded and went back to their carousing. Teodron picked up his bag. For once he was glad he was basically beneath notice.

Then, before he could think too hard about what he was doing—and the fact that he had no supplies, no spells prepped, nothing but his innate knowledge and slightly clouded wits to protect him—he crept as best he could without being too obvious about it until he could keep an eye on the female orc. Wherever she went from here, Teodron would follow, and hopefully get some answers as to why she was still in his city and what designs she might have. And maybe he could stop her from hurting anyone else, as the case may be.
 
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Mischa Ven'rohk

Betrayer. Oathbreaker.
Member
Messages
29
Character Biography
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So enraptured was she by what Makgraw had offered that Mischa did not take notice of anyone but him. Only him, and the door that he had pointed to. All else faded to a blur of disregard in the peripheral of her vision.

Makgraw had prompted her, but did not move. He waited for her.

And Mischa made her decision.

She walked across the tavern and Makgraw followed and they weaved past patrons and tables and those dancing and those singing and they went to the door which seemed the only spot devoid of people and activity. A little knowing nod from the elven barkeep to Makgraw and from Makgraw back to him.

And Mischa pushed open the door. Descended the stairs down.

* * * * *​

The air warm and stuffy, even without a large hearthfire. Magical etchings on the walls and on the pillars of the basement provided light, yet it remained dim for the most part. Save the very center of the basement, where the largest of these magical etchings shined down a column of bright white light from the ceiling, making the surroundings darker by contrast.

Mischa walked down the stairs. A gathering of a couple dozen figures, all in a wide circle and facing toward that light in the center. Shadowed figures of varying height and builds stood witness. Watching. Gruff cheers and calls of encouragement.

And a loud and unanimous 'Ooooo', followed by the smack of a body hitting the wooden floor.

Two people were fighting as Mischa reached the bottom of the stairs. An orc, nearly as scrawny and runty as her, and a human, both male. They were both students at the College, but that she did not know. They wore nothing more than trousers, their fists both bloodied. The human had been knocked to the ground, the orc was giving him some space, and the human found his feet again and though he stood with an unsteady stance brought up his guard and the fistfight continued.

"Here," said Makgraw. "Straight ahead, Mischa."

Makgraw walked past her a few paces and pointed. And there straight ahead from the stairs and along the wall and by the far corner sat a big orc like Makgraw on a stool. Behind him, some tables and crates and a few barrels. Items. Weapons and armor and clothes, some placed neatly on the tables or in the crates and barrels, or simply left on the ground beside it all.

The sitting orc regarded Mischa as she approached. He was old, his beard gray and one eye faded, but still he had the brawn of a human male in his prime. The sitting orc said, "Fists only. Place your armor and weapons here."

Mischa nodded. Her heart pumping with a mounting excitement as she placed her shield and her sword on the table. The vanishing of the Great Holy One's presence once her hand left the hilt. It did not bother her. Not this time. For not only did the Great Holy One direct her down here, but this...this could finally be the chance. To take on a fight such as this, a fight like the many hundreds of Umrogks she had participated in back with her tribe, and to win. To emerge victorious using nothing more than the strength of her meager body.

Another 'Ooooo' from the crowd.

The old, sitting orc spoke as Mischa worked to take off all the sections of her plate armor. "Both fighters agree to a fight. One fight at a time. Saying 'yield' stops the fight. Getting knocked unconscious stops the fight. Fights go until one or the other happens. Cheering is allowed. Judging is not. You disrespect a fighter for saying 'yield' or getting knocked out or any other reason, you're not welcome back."

The old orc regarded Mischa once her armor was all off. Her arming pants and doublet worn and stained and faded and a mere shadow of what nobility and elegance they may have once had. He said, "No shirt. Do you have chestwraps under that?"

Mischa blinked. Said, "No."

Makgraw stepped past the old orc on the stool and rummaged in a crate beside one of the tables. Pulled out a few thick and long strips of cloth. Handed them to Mischa.

The old orc made a motion by his own chest. "Keep those wraps tight and secure. Face the corner for privacy and get them on."

And Mischa did so. She turned and walked the few steps to the corner and Makgraw and the old orc both looked away and she took off her arming doublet and tied the chestwraps about her small bust and some up and around her neck to secure the others and knots were fastened in the back and she tested moved her arms and her chest and her neck and adjusted as necessary until it all felt as comfortable and natural as could be.

"I'm ready," she said as she turned and stood before Makgraw and the old orc again.

And the old orc said, "Stand with the crowd then. Give the fighters the space they need and don't interfere. Once a fight is done and you want to fight next, step into the white light. Agree to your opponent and if they agree to you, the fight is on. Um rogg ukar Mot Um'durshar."

Mischa smiled a little. The old orc nodded in recognition. Gestured his head toward the circle of watchers and the two fighters having their bout underneath the light. Makgraw crossed his arms and watched her walk to the outside edge of the circle.

Mischa watched the students. Both of whom were bloodied and bruised and tired and who circled one another with their hands raised and their bodies reeling and the looks of satisfaction and visceral achievement upon both their battered faces.

The old orc had said to Mischa, in Orcish: May you find peace/bliss/joy in your fight.

And that she intended to do. The Great Holy One's vision notwithstanding.

And Mischa watched from the back of the circle, through the gaps of the bodies of those assembled.
 
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Teodron

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Teodron didn’t know exactly what he’d been expecting when he descended the stairs, but a fighting pit was pretty close to the bottom of the pit. As soon as the circle with the fighters came into view, he gaped like an idiot. And someone could’ve knocked him over with a feather when he recognized some of the people in the ring as students at the college. Although he had no idea what any of this was, it filled his gut with dread. This couldn’t possibly be legal—not that fighting for sport was a problem, but this bloody display seemed dangerous—and even if it was, the half-dwarf knew it was wrong.

But he took the last few steps into that dark basement anyway.

Actually, calling it dark wasn’t entirely accurate: magical etchings bathed the room in an otherworldly glow. That just made it worse, as it made everything outside the circle shadowy and menacing, and everything under it far too stark looking. Beyond that, the air smelled of sweat and the coppery sickly scent of old blood.

Quickly, he jerked his head around, and spotted the female orc in the crowd. He stayed where he was, simply keeping an eye on them. The two orcs were joined by a third, and there was a conversation, followed by the female orc handing over her weapon and going off. She came back soon enough, stripped down to her chest bindings. Then she was off again, and soon lost in the crowd.

To the half-dwarf’s surprise, she’d left her sword behind.

He fidgeted then, hesitant and uncertain. The smart thing to do would be to leave. However, this might be his only chance to examine her sword up close. If there was some sort of eldritch being bound to the blade, then there would be some sign of its containment there. Anything would point him in a direction where he could do further research on it. That might help him avoid being detected by it again. And maybe, just maybe he could break its hold on her.

Besides, he was small, usually beneath notice, which supposedly made him stealthy. At least the bounty hunter thought so; Teodron didn’t trust his advice, but he would admit, as he crept through gaps in the crowd and finally emerged near the table covered in gear, that maybe there was some truth to it after all. He reached out an eager hand, fingers almost touching the hilt of the female orc’s mysterious sword.

A hand fell on his shoulder, and yanked him around. Teodron yelped as his face was suddenly presented with the maw of a much larger orc. Said orc’s breath stank, but the half-dwarf was far more concerned with having been caught and the grip on his shoulder than that.

“Seems we got ourselves a thief.” The orc’s voice came out in a distinctly male snarl.

Teodron tried to stammer out a response. “N-no. Not a thief, I just—”

The orc shook the mage, and the half-dwarf tasted blood as he bit his tongue. “I saw you, boy. No excuses. Now, what am I to do with you?” A savage grin spread across the orc’s face. “I could turn you over to the authorities.”

Before the half-dwarf could open his mouth to protest, the orc’s eyes narrowed. “Or you could make it up to me by going a few rounds in the ring. We’ve had far too many humans lately. Would be nice to mix it up a little.”

Teodron gulped, wavering. Obviously he didn’t want to fight: he wasn’t a combatant, and would just himself beaten to a bloody pulp. But he wanted to be arrested even less. He’d be expelled from the college, and, much much worse, he’d have to explain to his family what had happened. Besides, all his excursions and fieldwork had exposed him to much worse horrors than those of this basement. “I’ll fight.” He’d make it through this.

The orc smiled again. “Excellent. Some ground rules: Both fighters agree to a fight. One fight at a time. Saying 'yield' stops the fight. Getting knocked unconscious stops the fight. Fights go until one or the other happens. Cheering is allowed. Judging is not. You disrespect a fighter for saying 'yield' or getting knocked out or any other reason, you're not welcome back. Now go strip to your pants, then with the crowd. Give the fighters the space they need and don't interfere. Once a fight is done and you want to fight next, step into the white light. Agree to your opponent and if they agree to you, the fight is on.”

Teodron nodded and swiftly stripped off his robe and his shirt. Although he didn’t see that he had much choice but to agree to a fight, he knew better than to argue. He shivered when the air hit his much more exposed skin, but the weight of the bodies gave the air a heat that quickly warmed him up. As he stepped up to the circle, he realized he’d lost track of the female orc.

But then he had much bigger issues to worry about, as one of the students had finally won the round; the other had been dragged from the ring, apparently unconscious. As soon as the other combatants had cleared out, Teodron stepped into the center of the room, the lights bathing his pale skin in an eerie glow.

Hopefully his challenger wouldn’t be too tough.
 
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Mischa Ven'rohk

Betrayer. Oathbreaker.
Member
Messages
29
Character Biography
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Mischa watched the two students fight inside the lighted circle.

It was just like the Umrogks of her tribe, save only that the Umrogk lasted only three minutes, and these fights could last for much longer. That anticipation. The building clutch of it on her heart. A thing of excitement instead of a thing of dread. It had been many years since she felt like this. Her tiny tusks judged by a shaman of a tribe to have fully grown despite their puny size. Her admittance then into the ritual combat with the other young. Still she retained that excitement for combat, even after she lost her first few Umrogks.

Still that excitement, even after she lost several more Umrogks after that.

And slowly that excitement faded. Beaten out of her by each new opponent and her abject failure to survive the three minutes against any of them.

That dread. Mounting. As the other families of the tribe avoided looking at her. As their spoken words to her became stiff and rigid, distant as if she were an unknown tribesorc from a differing tribe. As she overheard the name 'Little Elf Teeth' spread.

It was the slow and agonizing death of many things.

But Mischa herself did not die. A determined survival. Through Bhathairk and through the Templars and through her journey now under the guidance of the Great Holy One. All she had to do was endure. Push through. Never quit. And she could find the strength she needed. And she could go home.

Respect, then, when she saw the human male get knocked out by his orcish opponent. He didn't give up, the human. Fought until he couldn't anymore. Whatever his reason for coming to this place, and despite the outcome of the fight, he had courage and honor.

Two others from the crowd dragged the human male student from the lighted circle. Cleared out then. This was her chance, as the old orc instructed.

And Mischa stepped into the lighted circle at the same time as...

As...

Her mouth opened. Moving soundlessly. Phantom words.

It was him. The short man. The selfsame one from days ago. The man she had seen in the vision from the Great Holy One then. The one whose trust she had failed to earn. The very same she had made the absolute mistake of telling the truth to. She had lied before, in Vel Anir. An act of necessity, despite the feeling of poisonous dishonor it left in her heart. She should have lied then, to him. She should have been willing to give and do anything. Anything to return home.

Was that...was that the point of the Great Holy One's vision? Was it a lesson? Was she meant to fail then in order to succeed later, to gain the resolve do what must be done at a more crucial point in the future?

Perhaps...yes, perhaps it was a mistake to reveal her true intentions to others. To those who were not kin. For they had no capacity to understand. For all of Marcie's kindness and charity, would she have understood? Would she have understood why Mischa did it?

Was there something Marcie would give or do anything for?

Was there something the short man, here now before her, would give or do anything for?

Was there something either of them would kill Mischa for? Something that was loved so dearly that no sacrifice demanded for the sake of it would be too great?

If not, then how could they possibly understand?

Yes. That was it. Mischa knew it now. It had been weakness to reveal herself in the manner in which she did to the short man. To allow herself to shed tears in front of he who was not kin, he who could not understand. To truly give of herself, to let her wants and her fears and her dishonor be known. Yes, it had been foolish to allow her emotions to overcome her, even if it had been the truth of the moment and her words had all been sincere.

Such could not be allowed to happen again. The Great Holy One had deemed her worthy of another chance, and she would not squander it.

It would pain her greatly. But even the spoken word would need to be sacrificed as necessity demanded. That venerable tradition of her tribe and orcish kind at large would need to be trampled under her feet.

Because anything meant anything. It would bring dishonor and hypocrisy upon her, but therein a contorted measure of ultimate respect for the spoken word. Because anything did indeed mean anything. And here she would need to find the strength to make it so. To live up to what she professed and what she had resolved to herself.

"Thank you," she said quietly to the short man. Words that did not hurt to say, for they were the truth.

Mischa pointed at him. Said, louder than before, "I wish to fight you. Do you accept?"

* * * * *​

He walked down the stairs. Into the basement.

A pause on the staircase. He saw her there. In the lighted circle. Facing down a man even shorter than she.

A hard regarding.

And he walked to the bottom of the stairs and over to the old orc sitting on the stool and Makgraw and he stood eye-to-eye with the latter. Makgraw grinned and greeted him. Said welcome back. Said his name.

He knew the rules. He had been in the underground brawling ring a few times before over the past few weeks. He took off his rough leather and hide armor and his heavy boots and he placed them on the table neatly. He stood there by the collection of armor and weapons in the corner in just his cloth pants and wearing chestwraps of his own. It was unnecessary for males here to wear chestwraps, but he was not questioned.

A slow glancing down at a particular sword on the table.

It had all been arranged. A promise fulfilled.

And he walked from Makgraw and the old orc and toward the crowd around the lighted circle.

He would await his opportunity.