Private Tales What Does Not Kill Us

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Pern

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Yngol offered a small bow of his head in return to Hath before shifting from the window. He moved with a stilted hobble, exacerbated by the clipping of cloven hooves. Seemed what youthful appearance the faun had undermined an obvious prolonged lifespan. Pern watched him conduct himself in jittering steps across the wooden floors to a desk where he unfurled a blank sheath of parchment and took up a quill before dipping it into the inkwell.

"You may begin dictation at your leisure," he said over his shoulder.

"Oh-" Pern glanced around, blinking the stare furiously from her eyes, "uhm, musht you write it?"

"Is there another option?" the faun asked curiously.

"Yesh, I can write it."

At this the faun sat up a little straighter and turned a slow look of surprise upon the orcess, "Color me amazed. Seldom do we receive orcs to send letters, never have I seen one write it on their own."

"Ahhm," Pern glanced at Hath with a look that could have been construed as apologetic, "well my father ish a Maeshter of the Fifth Order at the College of Elbion. You met him many yearsh ago, Ignashush Oshric."

"My word," now the faun looked utterly bewildered, "brave man to bed an orc."

"No," Pern waved her hands frantically, cheeks turning a brilliant shade of red, "no no no, not like that. I am adopted."

"Ah," nodded the faun, "fortuitous indeed. Very well, I will prepare the raven."

Smiling somewhat awkwardly, Pern nodded her thanks and quietly took the chair once the faun had vacated and jittered off to another part of the room. Gently taking up the quill, she set to writing her letter out with surprisingly delicate and flowing cursive. Much as she would have liked to tell him everything, Pern found that brevity was likely best. No need to worry the man over nearly dying several times over the last month.

Just about to finish, she glanced over at Hath, "Would...you like to add anything?"

She didn't think he would, but it seemed polite to ask.
 
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Hath Charosh

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A brave man, Hath reflected. Humans were such delicate creatures after all and orcs were not always gentle in the throes of passion. He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot at the sight of Pern blushing and moving so quickly to correct the faun.

Pern's question caught him out. He looked up frowned at her. He took a step closed and looked down at the scrawls. It was particularly neat. He could appreciate the artistry even if he couldn't understand a word.

"Tell him that I am grateful he sent you. That I would not have made it this far otherwise," he said simply.
 
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Pern

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She was actually somewhat surprised he had anything to add. Not that he couldn't, just that she didn't think he would. Pern stared for a moment, quill hovering over the parchment, and offered her friend a warm smile with a hint of color in the cheeks. With a nod the nib touched down and scrawled in a P.S. to her father.

"It ish finished," she reported as she stood from the chair and rolled the scroll.

"Bring it here," said the faun as he hobbled out with a large raven perched on his antlers.

Rolling the narrow parchment tight, he closed it with a wax seal and attached it to the bird. No sooner than the raven gave a shrill caw and swooped out the open window.

"Is there anything else?" Ygnol asked.

"Ah, no, I don't think sho. Unlessh..." Pern glanced to Hath, "we make for the Shire of Oak Valley, have you heard of it?"

Ygnol looked contemplative for a long moment and Pern could only assume it was a great task to sift through the great library of memories his mind contained. "Yes," he said after a time, "the halfling village. It is some ways from here yet. A half moon through Falwood on foot."
 
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Hath Charosh

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Hath smiled back at Pern, relief at the thought of just another handful of days to find his salvation. It did not last. Hath took a half step back, his hand going to his chest and tightening around Pern's ward. That hurt. The demonic presence flared to life to counter the relief Hath felt. It was a lance through his very soul.

With eyes screwed shut, he turned his head aside. A few heartbeats and the grip started to lessen.

"Is there...a path we should follow..." Hath asked. He slowly blinked his eyes open. His own tribe had an uneasy truce with the local elves, but he still feared their kind. Especially when he was moving through the woods they guarded with brutal efficiency.
 
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Pern

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"Your most direct route would take you through the elvish capital," said Ygnol, the faun's eyes tracing the expression on Hath's face and landing on the amulet he clutched at his chest, "ten days walk."

"Ish there a ... lesh direct route?" Pern asked, a concern look passing over the larger orc, "I am unshure how welcome we would be in the capital."

"The Road of Ages follows a route through the north of Falwood, but that would add several more days to your journey."

"Thank you," Pern nodded, "what do I owe you for the letter?"

"Nothing at all," replied Ygnol, "witnessing an orc write in cursive is payment enough."

A small, embarrassed sort of sound came from Pern as she lifted a hand to rub at her neck, "We'll be on our way then," that same hand then moved to touch at Hath's nearest arm. It was a questioning gesture as she headed back to the stairwell and began the descent down the spiral. She only got down a flight or so before she paused and turned to look up at Hath, "Ish everything ok?"
 
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Hath Charosh

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"It knows we draw closer to the end of the journey. It knows what I know, even held at bay."

He took the first few stairs carefully. He realised that he hadn't thanked the faun for his services. Hath decided to keep on ahead, finding his footing and standing more tall once again.

"If I'm not going to make it there, if it starts to win...you should run," Hath muttered as he went to collect his belongings.

He didn't take strength from having his axe in hand, but it made him feel safer. Made him feel less exposed. That in turn helped solidify his resolve against the dark presence.
 
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Pern

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"Hath I can't jusht...leave you."

She followed him out the main entrance of the tower, watching after him with a worrying look. After everything, how could she even fathom leaving him behind? A month ago her concern would have been for herself, but now it was for him.

"I would never forgive myshelf."

What would Scy think?

"We're sho closhe - my father would shay to keep your mind light."
 
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Hath Charosh

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"I will try. But I mean this. If it seems I am lost then you run," Hath said firmly.

He turned as he walked, talking a fee steps backwards to look up at the tower. Not what he had expected. Hath has thought he roamed freely across the land, but that world seemed ever smaller. He had seen cities of men and been to hell itself.

"You put it back, but I would have killed you," Hath said. He had felt a prisoner inside his own mind for a few scant seconds when it spoke for him.

It hadn't been the same with his brother. That had been his hand too, but he had been certain he was about to watch the thing squeeze the life out of Pern with his hands.
 
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Pern

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She wanted to insist that he wouldn't, but there was a strong uncertainty toward that notion. Pern liked to believe they were friends, that Hath would overcome. That he wouldn't let that ... thing inside him kill her. But she just couldn't know how much she didn't know. She nodded to him in understanding, but the feeling that she wouldn't leave him behind lingered.

Who was to say how brave she would be, or how stupid, when faced with the choice. Pern hoped she wouldn't need to.

"Hath," her voice carried gently to him as they walked, making their way back out onto the path that would take them back to the crossroads, "thank you."
 
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Hath Charosh

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Hath slowed his pace. He wanted to put some distance between himself and the strange, talking door. Such things didn't phase him as much as they once had, as much as they should still have done. It still made him feel uncomfortable.

"What for?" he asked. There was nothing unkind in his tone, but it was clear he was genuinely bemused by the thanks.
 

Pern

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Now she felt sheepish. Pern wasn't exactly sure what for, only that she felt a great wealth of gratefulness for the orc. Impossible to keep the color from her cheeks, she finally offered him a shrug and a sheepish smile behind her tusks.

"For ... everything? You didn't have to do any of thish but you did and you have been very kind. In my life ... I cannot shay that about too many people. Sho few ever give me a chansh."


An indiscernible amount of time later ...

From the small settlement of Cree they traveled northeast, following a footpath that navigated well out of Falwood elf territory. For the most part this leg of their journey had been uneventful, though the sight of Hath had sent a few potential merchant wagons in the opposite direction. Nothing that came anywhere close to the violent, visceral drama of their prior weeks. Even the weather was fair, which Pern thought was leant to the proximity of the elvish lands. Didn't everything involved with the elves somehow seem wonderful?

Perhaps she was naive and a bit too familiar with the old fable stories.

Either way, Pern felt more at ease now than she had for much of their wandering. So when happened upon by a young man who looked to be a runaway from a local farm while searching for firewood, she felt no suspicions in offering a seat by the fire for the night.

"Thanks," said the boy, wiping at his ruddy face.

Hath had gone to hunt down something for dinner - Pern suspected he might return with a hare or maybe even a small deer. She nodded to the boy and had him help her carrying the firewood back to the small clearing in the woods they had chosen for camp, "Are you traveling alone?"

"Noh," he replied, "well, I wasn't. I was with me Pa. We got attacked by bandits and he bid me run, so I run."

"Are..." Pern blinked, "are you hurt?"

"Jes skinned up a bit. Right hungry tho, ye got anythin ta eat?"

Perhaps she should have asked more questions, but Pern nodded, "Shoon enough. Help me build the fire and we'll shee you fed."
 
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Hath Charosh

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Hunting took time. Hath did not want it to take time tonight. Pern had seemed quite relaxed about letting the stranger stay. Hath was not.

Orcs survived in close knit tribes. Pern was familiar now, her mannerisms, her presence and even her scent. His own tribe was far away, a community he might never be able to join again.

Strangers on the road could be dangerous. The boy hadn't looked dangerous. He had looked about to keel over.

Pern might have been enamoured with stories of elves. He knew how dangerous they could be. His own tribe had a 'live and let live' policy with the elves to the south of their home. The orcs didn't fell trees at the rate humans did, nor did they tear up the land for farming. However, plenty of orc hunters had met elven scouts. It had not always been an uneventful meeting. They were deadly with sword and bow. He was nervous being this close to their city.




"Food," he grunted as he emerged into the light of the fire. He threw a pair of rabbits down, immediately going for his skinning knife.

"How is he?" he asked Pern in orcish. He hoped she could remember enough to form something of an answer.
 
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Pern

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"Mm," Pern mentally stumbled over the orcish, "hungry ... tired," she replied shortly, words she recalled with a bit of effort, "name Willem."

The boy looked up at the sound of his name, familiar even in the rough orcish tongue, "Me pa do some trade with orcs when they pass by our farm. Says so, when he was a younger, a'fore me."

That explained why Willem did not seem afeared of them like most passerby. Pern raised a curious brow as she continued to feed the fire to let it grow sizeable enough to cook the hares, "Have you sheen many orcsh lately?"

"Few," said the boy, tossing small blades of grass into the fire with the idleness of a child, "not like those big groups me pa done seen. Last he saw thems gone winters ago, says he. Ones now be bigguns, like him," Willem looked over at Hath, brown eyes blinking through the firelight.

"How ... how far did you run from the banditsh?"

Willem peered out into the last waning light of day, back in the direction he'd come from and pointed a scrawny arm, "Oer' that ridge there. Theys never even saw me."

"Maybe in the morning we can go look for your father?" Pern offered, glancing to Hath with a questioning look, "it ish the way we are going."
 
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Hath Charosh

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Hath frowned. He had been frowning a lot lately. Not just for the worries that every tree's shadow contained an elven warrior, but for the growing shadow he could feel within himself. Her ward was strong, but the thing was trying desperately to find a way out. He could feel it now. A little flash of excitement. The idea of letting that anger out and spilling blood.

Hath could only hope that it was the demon. If it was some intrisinc change to himself that would outlast the demon then he did not know how anything could ever go back to the way it was. It had already done enough damage.

"We will go and look," Hath replied. "No fire through the night. You can have my blankets," he told the child. The human looked particularly frail.

"They were men?" he asked.
 
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Pern

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Fire at a heady crackle, Pern prepared the skewers for the hares, taking the skinned bodies from Hath as he finished them and setting them into place. She remained quiet when Hath graciously gave up his blankets for the boy - generosity was maybe not one of his more obvious traits but she had seen it in small doses, in all the times where it really counted. It was, perhaps, more of an attribute of tribal life. Even if the orcs of his tribe were tough and counted greatly on survival of the fittest, she had seen a great deal of charity among them.

Among family, especially. Hath keeping to himself and maintaining a low profile during his stay spoke volumes when he could have easily vied for dominance over his half brother. Not that he would need to anymore...

"Fink so," replied the boy, "some big, on 'orses. Saw anovver real big; horns anna tail. Didn't catch a good look."

It was Pern's turn to frown, brow crinkling in thought, "Hornsh and a tail ... like a bull?"

"Naw, like a snake."

That narrowed it down a bit, but not entirely. There were a few types of bipedals that matched that description, none of which were particularly welcome as adversaries. She glanced to Hath, "Komodi, perhapsh ... or a Tiefling." Or a dragonkin - unlikely, so far as she knew - they were quite rare.
 
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Hath Charosh

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"Horses," he muttered. Horses were big targets for arrows, but it only took a few riders to be able to charge him down.

"Never met a Ko-mo-dee. Seen a tiefling once," Hath said. They were species that the orcs didn't cross paths with often, to the extent that the orcish language didn't have another word for tieflings. It was the humans, the dwarves, the elves and the gnolls that his savanna tribes vied with.

They were far enough off the path that riders were not his concern through the night. Even having the fire now concerned him a little. The boy could not have run that far, even on adrenaline. He kept his axe close. There would be no time for the bow if these raiders crept up on them.

Hath leaned the handle of the axe against the outside of his thigh and took a pair of skewers to hold close to the flame. He barely let the fire lick them before they were cooked to his tastes.

Hath ensured another was cooked to the point all flavour would be gone for the boy.

"How dangerous?" he asked Pern. "Those races."
 
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Pern

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Pern found herself rather enamored with the boy, watching him play with sticks and rocks while he waited. Though he didn't seem paranoid around them, she could tell he was listening to them, sneaking peeks at them every so often. Might've just been his hunger - Pern noted how eagerly he took the proffered skewer and dug in. Poor thing. He put up a brave face but he must have been scared.

She leaned toward Hath, prying her attention away from the boy to speak low, "Komodi can be very big and shtrong, with clawsh and shpikesh, but they do not have magic. Tieflingsh not ash shtrong or big, but powerful shpellsh."

The prospect of biting off more than they could chew occurred to her. It was possible his father had been slain - but then what? Did she keep the boy with them? Pern couldn't live with herself if she just left him out in the wilderness on his own. Either way, they would do what they could, just not at the cost of either of their lives.

"We jusht need to find out if hish father ish alive firsht. If not, we will avoid the banditsh and take him to the neksht village where shomeone can look after him."
 
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Hath Charosh

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Neither option sounded appealing. Hath would prefer the ones which couldn't throw magic around but he wasn't in a place to choose.

He gave a sharp nod of agreement. He didn't think too far beyond the immediate problems. He would find out what had happened at the farm and then they would plan what came after that. He didn't pay the boy much heed. Where he came from the children avoided being trampled and started helping when they were capable enough.

"I will take the first watch, I will be leaving before first light," he said to Pern. This wasn't a night to relax.



Hath left before the crimson could bleed into the sky. In the darkness he would take the chance that the lone scout was harder to see than the entire group of bandits. He was right.

They were not difficult to find. They still occupied the farm and were making plenty of noise. Hath could only assume after taking the place they had raided it for food and drink and then slept it off.

Hath stayed still and watched. He stayed until he was worried the dawn light would make him visible. From this distance he was fairly sure they were the larger, spiky species.

He started to move but stopped the moment he saw two emerge from a barn. They were pushing a human ahead of them.



They were both awake back at the camp. He ignored the boys questions and made his way to Pern.

"The father is alive. I do not think we can save him," he said in orcish with a shake of his head.
 

Pern

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Pern frowned and gave the boy a quick glance. Willem barely looked up from the small bowl of grits she had prepared for him.

["How many?"] she asked him in return. She couldn't forgo the boy and do nothing. If his father was still alive, surely they could do something.
 
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Hath Charosh

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Hath opened his mouth to silence. There were orcish words for different sizes of warbands. Pern wouldn't have picked those up in their conversations so far.

He looked down at his hands.

"More than this," he said, holding up all his fingers.
 
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Pern

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Pern blinked at the display of his hands, "More than ten?"

She didn't know orcish numbers and wasn't certain they really existed. It had made teaching the smiths in the Circle more difficult than need be.

Her breath let out of her lungs as she allowed her gaze to travel in a moment of deflation. Ten was a lot, no matter how you looked at it. She looked to the boy while he ate, scraping the wooden bowl clean, and her bag that he present sat back against. Oh, but maybe ...

"Maybe I can trade for him? I have gold from Elbion...."
 
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Hath Charosh

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"I could try," he offered. "But just me. They took a farm. They could just take the gold too."

Hath looked to the boy and back to Pern. His people didn't often go far out of their way for those from other tribes. It did not make them unkind, just pragmatic.

Hath was trying to work out if he was making this offer because he wanted to do right by Pern or because he was losing hope that anything could save him from the demon in the end.
 

Pern

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Her expression fell. Along with her shoulders, and her general good posture to boot. Suddenly the prospect of walking up to this cadre of miscreants to ask for the boy's father seemed like a terrible idea. Pern didn't want Hath to go alone, but she also didn't want any harm to come to their prisoner.

Well, they had come this far and faced potentially worse odds. Right?

Pern's internal pep-talk wasn't going well, but she was resolved to at least give it the good-old-college-try, as her father would have said.

"Willem," she turned to the boy and gestured toward the bag, "can you hand me that?"

He shuffled about and gave a good effort in trying to fully pick up the pack, but what had become something of a afterthought for Pern to carry was apparently a great challenge for him. She gave him a weak smile and took it up, then combed through the pockets for the satchel of coins.

Coins that had served no purpose thus far in their journey.

Five were deposited into Hath's open hand, "That'sh enough to buy the entire farm. Shtart with one."

"And Hath? Be careful."
 
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Hath Charosh

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He had no real sense of the value of coins. If it was enough for the farm then it had to be quite a lot. Hath handled them as if they were delicate items. He gave a firm nod.

"Stay here," he said, looking to the sky. "If not back by midday then go. Take my bow."

The weapon was going to be of new use if they turned on him. He would need his axe to defend himself and for his legs to carry him as far as they could. It was still cold, the reptiles could still be sluggish.



Hath made no attempt to conceal his approach. There was a main gate to the farmstead. After hopping over it he walked up the most trodden path through the field towards the house.

His axe was in his hand, but kept low. One of the komodi crossing the space between the barn and the main house saw him first, immediately calling for others.

"Trade!" Hath called out in the common human tongue. "Trade!"
 
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Pern

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A nod, a look of concern. Pern watched him go before looking down to the sensation of the young boy tapping her on her side.

"Where's he going?" Willem asked.
"To try and get your father," Pern said, a feeble attempt at a smile following, "help me clean up camp. We musht be ready to move at a moment'sh notish."

They cleaned up the fire pit and tossed the remnants of their dinner into the thicket. Bedroll and pelt were rolled up and set with Pern's bag. Now that they had some daylight she took a moment to sit the boy down and look at his various cuts and bruises from his earlier escape.

"Do you think my pa will be ok?" the boy frowned as she gently cleaned a deeper cut on his knee with supplies from her bag.
"I hope sho," she said, though couldn't help her own uncertainty, "Hath will do what he can, but 10 banditsh ish a lot to fight if they refushe to give up your father."
"What do you think my pa is worth?" Willem blinked at her.
"Uhm..." Pern chuckled, "there ish no value that can be put on a life, Willem. Your father is pricelessh ... but banditsh don't think that way. I gave Hath a few gold pieshesh to barter with."
"I ain't never seen a gold piece," the boy gaped, "that's a lot innit?"
"It'sh more than mosht in the country have," she nodded.
"Hey Pern?"
"Yesh?"
"Who is that?"

Blinking, Pern turned to follow the line of his pointing finger over her shoulder to a figure emerging from the trees, training a bow and arrow upon her back. With a gasp the orc made to move for Hath's bow nearby and nearly ran into another figure. Elves.

"Stay where you are," hissed a third that dropped into the clearing from the trees above, "and release the boy."

They were not the only ones presently being stalked by these graceful warriors. Unbeknownst to the bandits and Hath, their numbers were slowly encircling the farmstead.