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Dubh Splinterbane

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The grim rider spurred his mount up the cascading bank of sand until orc and beast stood atop the dune's serpentine crest. Below him a vast plain of saltflats stretched out into the shimmering distance. Looming, deteorating columns of sandstone protruded from the flats, the skeletal remains of a bygone structure all but reclaimed by the sands. A hunter by vocation and predilection both, Dubh felt uniquely at home in the wilds and possessed a keen eye for tracking. This new land was barren and unforgiving, but already as he familiarized himself withevery stratum of stone or thicket of scrub it had begun to feel like home.

He lifted a sunbaked hand to his brow and scanned the arid desertscape below, his searching ebon eyes smoldering like coals beneath a heavy, low-hanging brow. His mount shifted impatiently underneath him and Dubh offered the Warg a comforting pat on the flank.

"Not much longer now Turk." Dubh remarked, attention still pinned to the crag-webbed landscape below. "We beat them here. But only just."

He loosened his scimitar in it's scabbard and brought his hands to rest upon the saddles pommel, silencing his thoughts in anticipation of the wait. Like so many denizens of the desert, conservation of energy played a vital role in survival. The transition to the stark brutality of this world had been difficult enough for the tribe's collective ability, but since striking out on his own, there was precious little room for error.

Dubh had staggered out of the second great Surge as perplexed and curious with the rest of his kinsmen. The four tribes had initially worked in unison to ensure collective survival, but his people's leader saw the tumult as an opportunity to solidify their dominance and influence over the others. Acts of naked aggression on their part aligned the other tribes against them and before long, Dubh and his brethren were driven to the far south of this strange, new land. And fortune had only grown colder for Dubh since that final trek.

"Ah, right on schedule." Far below his vantage point, an ambling row of figures began to emerge from behind the palm fronds, and entered the flats beyond. "Ready for a bit of bloody business Turk?"

The warg snorted eagerly and pawed at the dust below. Dubh shouldered his hunting bow, squinting against the sun. The great beast beneath him lurched and shuddered, a froth visible now at its maw.

"Easy Turk, easy." Dubh advised, "We wait for , then the caravan is good as ours."

Zifi Halas OsricVek
 
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Terahk

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Terahk's sandalled feet pulsed painfully. A thrum of agony followed by blessed release with each foot raised before the crashing, strike of pain shot from sole to soul making him wither by the end of each day on the steppe. Step upon steppe upon step, the rhythm fell day after day, sweat bled from his heavy, jutting brow burning his eyes with salt and strain. He hadn't been foolish enough to run all the way to the rendezvous, he'd stolen camels and short lived horses on the way. Hell, he'd cooked one of the horses and still carried the sun dried meats in his pack. Heh, pack horse he mused.

Travelling by night, and resting in the hottest hours meant that he had made good time. He had eaten the last of the horse when he saw the last of the palms and the hard, infernal gritscape of opening desert ahead of the scant few trees that clung to the outer reaches of a barely damp watering hole. Bolstered on by the sight of the desert's mouth he pushed on through the hot, skinning pain of his steps, he was Orc not one of the small, slender creatures that he so easily took from. Pain was just nature's way of telling him he still lived, at least he agreed with it. As he neared the meeting point, his brow lifted and he saw the rider on the ridgeline. He signalled using the sun on his sword blade and awaited confirmation.

Tic
KillaRee
 
The Gypsy

Zifi Halas

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The desert was a hard, unforgiving place. A man could gain or lose his fortune to the sands, and none of the gods would be the wiser. Whole families could be lost to the sands of time, and not even their closest kin could possibly hope to gain their bones back to be laid to rest. There was a common saying amongst the desert kin: Hulle is deur die sand ingesluk.

Taeva's back swayed with the weight of Zifi's pack, her water always by her side. A detail of fifteen extra men joined her caravan to come around the new split in Cathwa's previously flawless face. Her oasis waited, three days' camel ride from here. The rest of her men awaited there too. But something in the air, something of the hot sand made her pause, prickles of awareness rising on the back of her neck.

Her hand did not stray far from her daggers. And though half her caravan also traveled with her along with these hired men, she was not at ease. She had the feeling they were being watched.

Tic OsricVek
 
...

Dubh Splinterbane

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Keen, vulpine eyes indeed watched as the caravan emerged from the thacket of palms and into the flat, desolate waste of the basin's interior. The ambling collective of merchants, families, and guards were much as they had been when the orcs had spied them a day prior, if not a bit more weather-beaten.

These fragile creatures which called the desert home made for easy prey and despite Dubh and Terahnk's isolation from their respective tribes, they had thus far found it easy to elude capture. The desert was vast and trackless, and offered succor to those not wishing to be found.

From below, a chromatic flash of steel signaled his compatriot's readiness and Dubh spurred the warg down the dune's interior, great paws spilling pediment and grit in their wake. The dire beast had been born and trained amidst the craggy, fume-shrouded homeland of the orcs and despite the radical change in environs, retained its skillset as a hunting mount. Despite its great bulk, it bound silently down the bank, approaching the caravan from the rear.

Bounding nimbly from the dune to the sun-bleached earth of the flats, they broke into a sprint. Searing desert wind whipped and tore at the lengths of skin not protected by his worn, leather armor. Guiding the slathering warg with his thighs, he unslung his bow and nocked an arrow. The caravan grew in his sights as the orc hunter drew aim on the group's rearmost guard.

A whisper of a prayer to his gods before he loosed the arrow towards the small of the rear guards back.

KillaRee Terahk
 
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Terahk

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Ready and waiting, Terahk watched as his ally moved to flank the caravan. Because he knew what to look for, the telltale signs of the warg-rider were easy to follow. Terahk unfurled the wrappings around his spear and let the sun shine on the heavy steel hunting head of Marrowbite. The spear gave him a tremendous advantage in melee, combined with his strength and speed, it was a dire prospect for an enemy to approach him. He suddenly wished he'd taken a warg from his village but doing so would have probably led to his death. Time enough for Wargs, he mused.

He tapped the pommel of his sword, resting it against his bended leg and reached down to the sand by his knee. Rubbing it over his calloused and desert-sweaty hands. It was something he'd been seen doing a lot since the Myst had dumped the Orcs here like silt on an oxbow lake, and truth be told it comforted him.

He spoke airlessly into the sand as it fell back to its source.

"Turmal. Ground at my feet. Strength in my arms. Let my aim be sure..."

There was a sarcastic smile, "Granir. You made me, don't let your child disappoint you."

At that, he stood. Lifting the spear high, aiming it, for a moment, at the endless sky before letting the head's weight rebalance. Then, satisfied with his aim, he coiled his massive arm back like a cobra rearing to strike. Then struck. The heavy spear flew at the guard up front. Before he could be sure that it had killed, or even hit the human, Terahk lifted his cutlass and charged.
 
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The Gypsy

Zifi Halas

Character
Cathwa Nation Citizen
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Caravan Leader
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Trader
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Female
Age
25
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KillaRee
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Of course, it dissolved into utter chaos.

The rear guard fell with a pained scream, while three others took to his flank to attack the warg with spears and shields. The front guard, spearheaded, fell to the ground, but immediately three others engaged with the green-skin that came charging from the front.

Cursing, Zi whistled sharply, and those of her caravan looked. "Turtle guard, protect the caravans!" she barked sharply, leaping off her camel with a practiced air, already uncorking one of her waterskins. They followed through, and with almost mechanical position her men took a heavy-shield surrounding guard to the caravans.

The hired guards getting slaughtered?

They knew what they were getting paid for, and they weren't her men.

Spotting the one without a warg, she charged forward as well, the water whipping out with a controlled hiss.

Snapping out her hand, it formed a sharp spear of ice. A shock amongst desert dwellers; she learned the last time she was with Alexios how to heft a spear. Aiming towards his shoulder and upper torso she paused, narrowed her eyes, and flung hard in a high arc, intending to pin him where he stood. Regardless if she hit or not, it would begin to melt after it would embed in something, and flow back to her with a swiftness that belied any natural force of water, her other hand on her dagger, prepared to be flung if need be.

Terahk Tic
 
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Dubh Splinterbane

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Cathwa Nation Citizen
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Scoundrel
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Male
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Dubh's arrow found its mark and folded the stricken guard as neatly as a jackrabbit. His final, strangled cry sparked a fury of panic among the caravan and no sooner had he nocked another arrow than he spied three spearmen breaking off to engage him.

Over the din of brandished steel and the cries of alarm, a low broiling rumble sounded over the desertscape. The ground seemed to momentarily tremble and quiver as though the very earth beneath their feet were bout to give way. The sensation was fleeting and as the guards' spearpoints caught and spun the daylight towards him, Dubh turned his attention to the task at hand.

From atop his warg, he had the clear advantage of speed and maneuverability. The puny inhabitants of this world were fragile and easily shaken by his estimation, but that gave him little reprieve from the bite of blade or bow. He circled the beast back to what he gauged a safe distance and pulled his bow taut and a shaft shrieking towards the foremost spearman's exposed thigh.

In one fluid motion, he shouldered the bow and wrenched his schimitar from its scabbard, spurring his warg into a charge as he did so. If these guards were bound by duty to die for their master's wealth, he would gladly oblige them.

Terahk KillaRee
 
...

Terahk

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Terahk raked his cutlass along the belly of a second guard, cleaning the blood from his blade before moving forward. As he moved like a river swell through the chaos he spotted a woman in the midst. She stood without panic or fear, instead an expression more like annoyance had crossed her face. A curious gesture with her hands followed the expression and then the spear materialised seemingly from nowhere. The spear's flight gave him enough time to turn but not enough to avoid it completely, the razor like point raking the flesh from his upper arm and an unnatural bite of frost stuck to his skin making him cry out nearly dropping his sword.

As the spear melted, almost instantly in the heat, he bellowed his rage at her and charged. Killing another guard and grabbing a small shield he made his way to her position.

As his leather sandalled feet battered the dust, sending plumes of dust up he felt something shift beneath. Had he been stood on a boat it would have felt similar, like something had moved under the hull. Something that barely missed the boat, but was big enough to create a wake. Except he wasn't on a boat, and there was no water beneath. Still, the sensation was unnerving and too obvious, to him at least, to be imaginary.

He slew a third guard, bashing the frail creature's head in with the edge of the borrowed shield. Then stood, bellowing in Orcish to his Orc brother.

"They have a witch, brother!" He pointed at his attacker.





unless you can speak orcish this will just sound like a guttural gibberish.

Dubh Splinterbane
KillaRee
 
The Gypsy

Zifi Halas

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So the big brute to the front wanted to point fingers at her and yell gibberish? Fine by her.

"Oh, fuck off!" she shrieked back in response, flipping him a symbol that, though it might not be understood in his language, the intent could be universal. Seeing the deranged woman make a rally, however, her remaining hired soldiers began to marshal in, drawing tighter quarters. Meantime, she called the water back to her hand, preparing to form a shield or weapon if necessary.

It was then, that the sand shuddered visibly around them. Something was stirring in the sand. Something quick.

Her stomach sank, and she gritted her teeth in rage.

Pretty soon, they would all be dead if these moron block-headed Orcs kept attacking.

Tic Terahk
 
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Dubh Splinterbane

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Dubh watched as the caravan’s shaken guards reformed in response to the woman’s exasperated shout. Any lingering doubt as to the caravan’s leader evaporated like so much moisture in the desert sun. The pair of spearmen he had charged retreated to the security of the turtle phalanx and he circled the warg back accordingly. He eyed the waifish sorceress and unslung his bow once more.

Despite the ferocity of their joint attack, the orcs had little predisposition for heedless violence. Blood and bone were, to them, commodities akin to any other. Anathema to their own kind and nightmarish monstrosities to the beings of this realm, what choice did they have? Survival was brutal business in this dry, arid and hostile land. Self-preservation was the goal above all else. Not mindless slaughter.

“Kill the witch and the rest may yield yet!” he bellowed in their guttural orcish tongue. Reclaiming his bow, he nocked an arrow and drew aim on the witch’s chest.

All at once the desertscape erupted. The space between the orcs and the waylaid caravan vaulted upward in a furious and billowing tower of sand, dust and earth that threatened to blot out the very sun. From the midst of the upturned sand and dust a great chitinous torso emerged so utterly alien that Dubh momentarily found himself unable to tell tip from tail.

A seam materialized near the creature’s peak and a great, yawning maw stretched wide releasing a rending screech so fierce that the warg bucked beneath Dubh’s thighs. The great jaws gnashed at the open air, rows of jagged teeth lining a depthless gullet. At near seven feet tall, the orc was a formidable foe, but he judged the beast at easily five times his own height. Great, ragged scars raked the monstrosity’s shell-like hide and he watched in mounting horror as thick, polyped tentacles vaulted from the surrounding sands, their viscous suckers coiling eagerly in the desert heat.

“By Turmal…” came the plea, but in a strangled, breathless whisper.

All seemed temporarily stilled. And the thing moved.

Tentacles whipped and lashed in every direction, a pair towards the caravan, writhing and groping towards any vulnerable being. Two more bolted towards the orcs in great, deadly arches designed to press them flat against the desert ground.

KillaRee Terahk
 
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Terahk

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Terahk's fury pulled him towards the witch. As her personal guard assembled around her, forming a strong shield wall he heard the words of his Orc brother and felt a surge in purpose. She gestured at him, something unintelligible in word but not in its meaning. But he wasn't given any time to translate it beyond that. The sand suddenly exploded upwards, tossing him and her guard aside like discarded child's toys. He tumbled arse over tit until stopping in a crumpled heap. As he righted himself his eyes, blurry from the blow and the dust that stung them, could only make out a vague outline of something much bigger than him. Struggling to find his feet and then his sword he stood up as something shrieked, the sound filling his ears and making his thoughts ache. His vision finally cleared to reveal it.

Erupting from the desert crust, it swayed like some chitinous, fruiting body before tentacles snaked up around it, huge cables of muscle and mineral surrounding the main body that seemed more maw than meat. It shrieked again then flailed with its tentacles in every direction. Terahk saw Dubh emerge from a dust cloud as an arm swung down at them. Instinctively he tried to hack at it with his sword, but the weapon clattered uselessly off the stony plates that segmented irregularly along the length. He sliced again, aiming into a thin gap between the plates and was swatted away for annoying the beast.

"Granir," he mouthed, "this is not funny."

"Dubh! The plates! Aim between the plates!"


He found his spear and ran back to the fight.

KillaRee Tic
 
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Dubh Splinterbane

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The battle raged across the wastes, the Sand Reaver's broad, cylindrical body tearing great scars across the ground. The caravanmaster, the water mage Zifi, rallied her remaining guards to fend off the beast while the merchants and civilians fled for the scant safety of a small outcropping. Spears, arrows and Zifi's own shafts of ice pierced the great, coiling plumes of dust as they sought to draw the creature's attention from the vulnerable and defenseless.

The orcish raiders, Dubh and Terahk, surged into the fray focusing their attacks on the meager points of vulnerability in the reaver's coarse, scaled shell. Blade and shaft bit at the towering monstrosity, rivulets of pitch-colored blood streaming down the beast's sides and fanning out to speckle the sands.

Dubh's faithful warg Turk carried his rider in serpentine routes, darting in and out of the reaver's range as they harried the reaver with the orc's shortbow. Terahk meanwhile, scaled the creatures massive hide, wedging his spear's head beneath the great overlapping plates and prying them loose with the sound of rending tissue. The exposed bits of gray, viscous flesh were then pierced with barbs of Zifi's myst crafted ice. The Sand Reaver bayed in anguish and fury, sweeping the orcs aside with one claw and bisecting several nearby caravan guards with the other.

Enraged and senseless, the creature surged past the guards towards the cowering merchants and artisans beyond. Great fanning arcs of sand spiraled into the sky as the ravenous beast charged its prey, great maw widening as it surged forward.

Dubh spurred his mount forward, barely overtaking the reaver. He heeled Turk to the left and put himself between the reaver and the remains of the caravan. Another piercing shriek of anger and the sand reaver struck, its great head darting forward towards Dubh and his Warg. The orc rolled off Turk's back an insant before the reaver's great jaws closed around the howling Warg. It lifted the braying animal high into the air and shook it violently.

"The waterskins!" Dubh cried towards the caravanmaster. Her eyes followed his frantic gesturing to the collection of hide skins strapped to the bloodied Warg's saddle. There was a sensation of the atmosphere thickening as she evoked her magic and then a series of distinct popping sounds as the skins burst and the water mage transformed the bursting water to spears of ice. The razer-sharp shards erupted from all sides of the reaver's head in a blossom of gore and blood.

The beast wailed and thrashed in a futile attempt to free itself from the attack and the gruesome damage it inflicted. But even as it did so, the great orc Terahk had mounted it's expansive hind and plunged the killing blow into its great black eye. It crashed to the ground with a final death shudder and moved no more.

---------

The tattered caravan plodded in silence towards Setasut. A great bulk of their wares were scattered to the desert winds in the reaver's mad wrath. The merchants were largely unharmed, though many of the hired guard were dead or dying. Bereft of fortune or prospects, the orcs too joined them, pledging to escort Zifi and her company back to Setasut in exchange for work.

Zifi seemed willing, if skeptical, to assist the would-be bandits in exploring all Setasut had to offer. The caravanmaster and the pair of orcs walked the wastes in silence, gnawing on the tough reaver strips and wondering what the future had in store for them.

Terahk KillaRee

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