Ere the World Crumbles
Gunderman Soldier, Veteran
Growing up on the northern frontier of Aquilonia, Glacius Orastes has lived a rather modest life. Living in the borderlands between the harsh Cimmerian wilderness and the jeweled cities of Aquilonia bestowed upon Orastes some rather extraordinary fighting skills. Of a normal height and slightly larger girth, Orastes was a man toned not for an arena but as an average soldier. Born to a common family, Orastes was taught the principles of working hard and treating others with the same respect you would your family, even if that led to their death. From fighting off Cimmerian tribesmen or ambitious Aquilonian nobles, he was able to hone his skills for combat with trusty his sword and shield. When he was old enough to join the military forces, usually led by some far away king, he was mocked for not mastering the way of the pike, although Orastes did not mind. It was not that he doubted the killing ability of the long pike, for his life had been saved multiple time by its killing reach, it was just that he thought his opponents should have a more equal fight. With a sword, he felt that his opponents were given a better chance to fight an honest fight, as well as getting close enough for Orastes to do his killing work.
Surviving until the next conflict was usually his goal and it was one that he normally accomplished. Over the years, he survived multiple campaigns. From glorious campaigns against the rebellious Corinthian states to disastrous wars of attrition on the Northern frontier or the Pictish wilderness whose only spoils of war was the extra gold each survivor was given. Although, gold never did mean much to Orastes. A good set of armor, a sturdy shield, and a trusty “pig sticker” was all he needed. Perhaps it was the glory of fighting or the chance to die, not a heroic death, but a meaningful one. After watching his people torn to shreds or thrown into the meat grinder by distant rulers, Orastes became a fervent believer in a good death. Gods in general were a mystery to him. Ever since his fathers death at the hands of a spiteful ruler, for reasons never known, Orastes never put much stock into the old or new gods. After seeing so much death, all he could believe was a higher power that would keep him alive. What that power was, Orastes could not say.
A man of few words, not because of some lack of intelligence, but rather of his observent nature. If he saw a wrong, he would attempt to right it. Orastes earned this by seeing things, lives, belongings unjustly taken by force from some other power. Some called it banditry, he called it cowardice. Why take something from the weak or the helpless unless you yourself were weak. Even when in the service, he would restrain his plundering to just items he could pick up or enemies he had slain. Not necessarily made of leadership material he would follow when necessary and lead naturally by his silent, stalwart demeanor.
It was hard to distinguish what exactly had happened throughout his career. Killing, fighting, grunting, and sweating were his life. From campaign to campaign, from victory to defeat, he seemed to slide past these events. He enjoyed listening to the boasts of new recruits or aged veterans. Perhaps he thought that his life was mundane. Either way, he never could recall what exactly what had happened on the battlefield. He survived, and to him, that was enough. With shield in hand and his trusty short sword at his hip, these things are all that Orastes needs to boast of his tales with.
However, at the age of 32, Orastes had seen enough of military service. Enough of his comrades slain by unending hordes of Picts or ruthless Cimmerians or Aesir. After being part of the crucial victory by the Aquilonians over Beleverus in the aristocratic nation of Nemedia, Orastes took his earnings and decided to wander the lands of Hyboria, content on finding his own path as well as the “right death” that he had striven for.
AFTER THE FALL OF BELEVERUS
Following the sack of Beleverus, Nedmedia sued for peace, and after some concessions, won it. With the war over, Orastes found himself in Tarantia…unemployed… with ample amounts of money and time to entertain himself. He feel into drinking at the taverns near the docks and, when not laughing with his fellow bored soldiers, fighting with the foreign sailors that found his boasting offensive. . . but it was all a facade. Orastes yearned for something more in his life. He did not seek the approval of some fabricated or forgotten or distant gods. Orastes felt that his life had been somewhat hollow. All his life he’d soldiered… killing and bleeding for captains and warlords and kings, most of which were loyalty based on payment than respect.
It was his search for a meaningful life . . . or a meaningful death . . . that found Orastes more and more frequently staring questioningly at the bottom of an emptying cup of wine. Aquilonia and her enemies entered into an era of relative peace and prosperity, and Orastes one of alcohol, gambling, and whoring.
Over the next year, Orastes’s wealth shrunk to the point that he could no longer support his gambling and boozing fits. His family refused to send him more money from the estate, so he took to serving as a body guard in the noble district. When his hangovers and hygiene rustled the feathers of the tight-arsed nobility, Orastes was forced to take up his sword as a strongman for Borius Fulk, Opium lord and runner of the docks district’s dice houses, where Orastes spent his money before it was earned.
One night, Orastes returned home, staggering drunk. He glanced around his dark, dirty room, his eyes settling upon his trophy in a corner of the room… the sword he’d taken from the enemy general in the Battle for Beleverus. His closest friend, a Cimmerian named Cael, had told him when he’d brought it back to camp that it was a rarity indeed… an Akbitanan shortsword. The blade gleamed, no matter the dust and shadows that filled his room. Reminding him of what he once was…
Orastes looked down. . . his once firm muscles were now weak and his limbs flabby. His gut hung heavy over his belt, his tawny hair and beard tangled and dirty. “This is not a worthy life! I’d take it, if I were coward enough to die a coward’s death!” He screamed, flinging the wine flagon against the wall. “I’ll leave this place. . . I’ll go out on my own… at least I might die fighting bandits or beasts like a man, than drowning in my own vomit here!”
And leave he did. He owed money to Borius, but Orastes left, nonetheless. He shaved and bathed, packed up his belongings, and stole out into the night.
Life was harsh again for Orastes. He traveled across Hyboria, slowly trying to regain his former fighting form. He migrated, doing odd jobs as a farm hand in Poitain, then going further south, He worked as a deckhand in Argos, and then a caravan guard in Stygia. He continued further South, searching for whatever lesson or meaning life had for him, bringing him eventually to Shumballa, deep in the South, where he served as a Temple Guard for the Priests in El Shebbeh. He is mocked here for his skin color and heavier build, but he does his job, waiting for his opportunity to move onto the next adventure, having grown bored with his time amongst the strange, pompous Chagas that rule there.
JOURNAL ENTRY 1: 13th day of the crone, year of the Ape
By the gods this day could not get any worse. First, I am unceremoniously sacked from my position as general and placed as a bloody bailiff. A soldier who has seen more battles than the entire population of this set cursed place. Yet, the luck of the gods spits on me even still. Today, two roguish characters were brought to the Kings Court. King Arrakkamani,the king of Kush and my sire, ordered me to deliver these two criminals to the perverted priest Betzallah. How these to knaves escaped the kings justice is beyond me. I am just a soldier, not some meddling sorcerer or scholar.
This task I did as any good soldier would do. I brought them peaceably and within the lawful duties of my legal powers. Fortune favors the bold, however, and not Orastes. As I brought them to the meeting place that vile priest Betzallah tried to “buy” me from my lord Arrakkamani. I attempted to “explain” the situation to the egotistical tit, but he ensorcelled me with his foul magic. More’s the pity that I didn’t get to gut the conniving priest with my sword but that is a soldiers luck. He finally begged me to receive the Kings justice, but when the time came, he slipped out of his just rewards yet again. Not only this, but my honor was dashed against the rocks. Me, a simple soldier. Heck, it was hard enough to learn to read an’ write let alone try and dupe my king with some supposed act of dishonor.
Whatever the cause, it ain’t my concern. Followin’ orders is what I do. When I was removed from the King’s service, I left. When ‘e put me under priests orders, I obeyed. I know my place, but from the way that priest eyes the King and Queen, I don’ think he does.
From the ramblin’ that the priest gave us, it seems that both the thief and the quite girl, Ramla she calls herself, have some sort o’ mysticism about ‘em. Don’t believe it, but havin’ tasted the same supposed powers from the priest, I will stay on ma’ toes all the same. Tomorro’ we head out to this necropolis.
JOURNAL ENTRY 2: 14th day of the crone, year of the Ape
By Bori does my head ache. Too much mead. Too little silver. After meetin’ with that underhanded priest our company left El Shabbeh on the road headin’ Northwest. Decided on headin’ into a local tavern, grab some drinks, gamble and catch some sleep. And damn it all of I did just that. Two of the finest cups of ale in this swamp of a nation. Prodded the barkeep for some info but the half dressed savage didn’ have anything to say. Took my silver though, that’s for sure. After chuggin’ that fine stuff I alerted my two companions about our room, walked into the room, and fell right asleep. Ugh. By the way my head feels perhaps I passed out instead. Either way, the room was terrible. Better than livin’ in the slums like our astute thief friend recommended. I don’t know what he was up to that night, but if I was a two bit soldier, I would guess it had sometin’ to do with thieving. Someday that lad is goin’ to get caught and by all the gods I will thump him upside the skull myself if he gets me dragged into it. That demon girl was quiet again as well. Not much to say that one. ‘Haps that is for the best. I remember a scholar once mutterin’ sometin’ in my travels. Sometin’ ’bout “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt”.
Was woken by the noisy barkeep. ‘em Gallah girls certainly are a sight for sore eyes, with nothin’ on top and all. Not as good as a fine as a plump Bossonian wench, but it’ll do. Packed up our gear, got a lil’ sandwich for our starvin’ thief, and headed back on the road towards the East. It was weird. The closer we got to El Shabbeh the tenser the people got. I have been in more than a few conquered cities and they were giving us that look. Filled with ‘atred. Don’t know if I blame ‘em. Don’t know if I care.
We continued past the eastern gate of El Shabbeh and marched down the road until we ran into a group of some Chaga. Damn bastards are as tall as trees and as thickly muscled as well. I wouldn’t have been in trouble, but the rest would have been sacks of meat. Not that I would care too much if I had to do this job by myself, just that I don’ want their deaths to be put on me. Though if we died then, would o’ been a great death. That’s for sure. I am sure one o’ them would know how to handle a spear.
First time I heard more than a peep outa’ that girl Ramla. Seems she could speak their language. Got them to back off, though by the looks of ‘em they weren’t that happy about it. She said sometin’ about them being upset at the Chaga regime. When I was the King’s man it would’ve been important to me, but he isn’t my concern anymore. ‘though I ’ave been through enough revolutions to know that the people living there wouldn’t live through the regime change. Suppose I am gettin’ ahead o’ myself. Just have to take care of our own task at hand. We then kept walkin’ to our current base camp at the foot of the Necropolis. Anul was waitin’ there just like the lecherous old priest said. Got our gear, got some “advice” from the other priest, and currently are preparing to enter the complex. Hope these urns are easy to find. I ’ate catacombs.
Journal Entry 3: 13th day of the crone, Year of The Ape
Broke into that damnable temple. Blast it all. Gods and men that place was a horror. Passed some statues that gave us pause, some set forsaken trickery, then noth’n happened for quite some time. Further we went into that miserable, dank ’ole in the ground. Beset by bloody huge insects.
Bigger than those milk cows that my lousy father used to keep. Killed ’em all the same. Even ambushed by some of the locals. Took care of them well enough, no thanks to “our” miserable thief. Girl got quiet again. No skin off my back. Meant less distractions.
However, durin’ our “adventure” in tha’ dark I came across a true horror. Now, I ain’t a softy, but when it comes to innocents bein’ slain, like they was back in the borderlands at the hands O’ them picts, I shan’t tolerate any disrespectin’ of the bodies. Well, I found one. A priestess long dead by the looks of it. Stabbed in the back, probably no warnin’. Tried given ‘er proper burial rites. Don’ know if it helped, but I certainty THOUGHT I heard some sort O’ speech from… something. Gave me the right chills, but I know I done the right thing.
Eventually, we finally got to the chamber with those Bori damned pots. Things happened pretty damn fast then. The girl was attacked by some sort of wild animal. Don’ know how the bloody thing got into the catacombs, but it must’a been determined. Our fight against… something didn’t last to long with the nimble, I am ashamed to admit, blade of our thief friend.
We finally left the catacombs and fled into the night. Something called my name as we left. But there weren’t anyone there…
Journal entry 4: 15th day of the Crone, Year of The Ape
City a flame. Shemallah in ruins. Seems like from the local intel that the locals rose up against their masters. Battle most o’ not lasted long for those Chaga. Slew everyone. Anyone who weren’t the color O’ ebony that is. Even the pig of a priest died as well. Shame I didn’t get to ram my blade into his smelly paunch.
During the riots and what remained of the “guards” of that blasted city, we went to the docks. Found a ship, shifty-eyed sea rats, but I found a GOOD one among ‘em. Glavius is his name. Old soldier like me. Served in the same unit in Nemedia. Gods, those were the days. Sword in one hand and a flask in the other. Nothin’ like a fine Argossian wine after a hard days fightin’. Not like what had happened to the poor king and the rest of the people in this city. That’s why we had to leave. It was either the ship, or try and traverse our way through some bloody dense jungle. Last thing I need is to be killed and cooked up by some crazy eyed Darfurian savage.
We board the ship acceptin’ the sea dogs rules O’ conduct. I am meant to serve as a guard. Fine with me, although the thief didn’ look to ‘appy about gettin’ on the ship. Can’t say I blame the lad, although I enjoyed watchin’ him squirm. Hopefully this’ll be a good time to rest my eyes. Haven’ ’ad good shut eye in a long while. Good to see some damn stars above me.
Journal entry 5: 21 day of the Crone, Year of the Ape
Been a few days since we left that burnin’ port. Got to finally clean my weapons and armor some. Talked with some o’ the crew, but they are a shy bunch. Sea-rats always are. Caught up with Glavius. Finally glad to meet another soldier and I couldn’t be more ’appy than a fish in water that it is Glav that I get to talk to.
Not much to say about the events here. Decent enough weather, although I still can’t take all this damn shakin’ from the ship. Land is where good, hard workin’ folk stay. Not this slippery, tipsy hell of a place. I-
Hold on. Some one is shout’n up above. Sometin’ about land. Sounds urgent. Better sort this mess out. Damned glad Glav is with us. Good man. But right now we might need ’is sword.