Gravefoot called on as much focus as that which he required to call upon Pharasma’s gifts as he forced his huge form through the motions the fierce kobold Ahghir had spent the last year instructing him on. Time and time before, Gravefoot could never complete the complex forms correctly, resulting in many cruel beatings and abuses by elemental magic. Even recalling the harsh lessons almost made him break focus, almost losing his center and ruining the kata.
Gravefoot regained his focus, pushing back the memories, and the fear he felt today when treating with Ahghir, aligning his body as he came to the most complex part. Gathering all the balance of his long form, the half orc leapt into the air with a great growl driving his right near forward above his waist, arms and shoulders extended back. From his leap Gravefoot landed in in low crouch, weight on his back foot, front leg extended.
Gravefoot felt as much as heard the twang of the bowstring and his huge hands were already in motion. He twisted his body sideways, shooting out his arm and snapping outward from the elbow with his forearm at the last second. There was aloud crack as his huge olive forearm made contact with the shaft, snapping the shaft in the center sending the arrow head careening off harmlessly to the side.
The half-orc let out a deep breath, and a huge grin split his ruined face. Arumn stood a ways off, bow held at his side, his other arm raised in the air letting forth a cheer, sharing in Gravefoot’s elation. Finally, Gravefoot had done it.
Gravefoot rose from his crouch as Arumn crossed the distance. Grimacing, Gravefoot snapped off the shafts of Arumn’s previous two arrows, which Gravefoot had failed to turn away. Uttering a small prayer to Pharasma, his wounds glowed with golden light and began to close, forcing the arrow heads out of his skin. Gravefoot caught them as they fell, returning them to Arumn as he approached.
“Well done Gravefoot,” Arumn said with his usual grin. He produced a flask from seemingly nowhere. “A celebratory drink is in order.” He tipped the flask back with a quick motion, not seeming to care if Gravefoot agreed or not, before offering it to half orc.
Gravefoot took the flask, and drank eagerly. Arumn’s spirits were always the most amazing thing the half orc had ever tasted, at least until the next kind was offered by the bard.
“Good thing you finally were able to master it Gravefoot,” Arumn said with a look of concern. “I was starting to worry.”
Gravefoot appreciated his friend’s concern, indicating the already closed wounds from Arumn’s arrows. “Pharasma has not told me I will join her today my friend,” Gravefoot said with his grotesque smile.
At that, Arumn looked a little shocked before a look of recognition crossed his handsome face. With a smile he threw his head back again in a quick snap, pulling from the returned flask.
“Wasn’t you I was worried about,” Arumn said through his grin. “I only thought to bring three arrows.”
With that the bard began to stroll off back to camp absently composing a song about, “A lad who shot at maids, and hoped he never hit his mark. And the maid that could turn his shot away, would for tonight have his heart.”
Gravefoot didn’t get it.
Later that night, Gravefoot called upon a sparrow to convey his message to the Blackthorn’ barracks that he needed someone to meet him as he and his comapnions made for Sootscale. He then returned to camp, and checked the bundle he had prepared to make sure it contained everything he intended. Within was the black dragon scale armor Gravefoot had worn over the last year. He had cleaned and conditioned it, the soot black scales perfectly reflected the moon silvery moonlight. Also, wrapped in a cloth, was the greataxe just given to him. Gravefoot knew it was the most exquisite weapon he had ever seen, and he was once again taken in by the sheer magnificence of the powerful enchantment. There was a small leather purse with a few gold. Lastly, there was were two simple roles of parchment, bearing two letters. The first read:
I have sent this bundle along with one of my soldiers from Gravethorn. Please see its contents delivered to Kundar. If he cannot read, please read my letter to him, and then seek to correct that over the next year. There is far too much wisdom in the written word for one to go without in this life.
Lastly, if you would be so kind as to feed whomever delivers this, as they will need to return to Gravethorn shortly thereafter.
As I know you and yours were not anticipating another mouth to feed, I have enclosed a purse of fourteen gold, whose contents should be used as you see fit to account for Kundar over the course of the year.
My thanks to you and all who serve with you. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need anything.
The second read:
I apologize for the expedient fashion in which we left. We had to treat with one who has shown little patience in the past, and is often cruel to those who make him wait. In treating with him, I am reminded of something that I must tell you now.
I was flattered when you swore your fealty to me as appreciation for the ordeal we underwent that night. I am still new to many things when dealing with others, and was overcome by such a show of devotion and gratefulness.
That being said, I cannot accept your pledge, nor will I allow it. You are supplanting one master, the beast, for another, myself. That is cowardice. Instead I will challenge, support, and facilitate in any way, you answering to the most difficult master, yourself.
Friend Kundar, I know what it is like to be held captive by something. And recently, I find myself conflicting with something inside me which is bestial, which is wrath, which is dark. Sometimes I think it would be easier to succumb. To serve the dark inside, or flee toward the light, and be at peace one way or another. To be act as commanded, to not think, to not feel responsible, can be a path. But that is not the path I walk. That is not why myself, and so many others, risked all to settle this wild land. This land was formed so that men did not have bend knee unduly or without choice.
As was sentenced, you will serve with Jhod for the year. But you must belong to yourself. You must spend that time coming to terms with the fact that, whether or not you were in control, you have taken a life. You need to begin get right with what happened, or it will resurface in a future, and will be far more costly than it is now.
I have sent you my armor and returned to you your axe. Please do not think I do it to insult. The gravity of you gifting such a magnificent weapon to one such as I is not lost and you have my heartfelt thanks. But for myself, and my own balance, I do not do lasting harm to the living. I do not think less of them that do, as a matter of fact I count amongst my companions both a killer, and swordsmen, both of which I think these lands have not seen the likes of before. My tie is one already so close with death, that I do not take action to speed my Lady’s will along, save by her command.
Please take up my armor, made from the scales of the black dragon Gotternyxia. This beast of legend, whose cruelty was so fierce that it took the sacrifice of hundreds of lives to finally fell her, had he scales reworked to protect the brave survivors that stood against her. Let it remind you not only of myself and our ordeal, but that from the fiercest of beasts can come the strongest protection when re-purposed. Take up your axe, a weapon whose power put to purpose can be so great. It has no business being wasted by one who seldom would call upon it. With these implements I ask you to, not task you with, seeking out innocents within our land for a year under Jhod’s guidance, but wherever you so choose after your sentence, and protect them from monsters like you once were. I care not if you devote yourself to a Jhod’s goodly cause, or even agree with his ethos. So long as you always remember that there are things in this world, by choice or otherwise, that would prey on the innocent. All are not created equal. In this life there are the strong and the weak. The strong can prey upon the weak, or they can protect them. I would hope that you find it within yourself to do the later. Only in death do all become equal. And in death, the strong must answer for the decisions they have made in life.
Lastly, it occurs to me that while sentencing you, you were never asked if you had a family. For that I apologize. Your sentence stands, however I am learning the importance of family, and know that if you have one, it will be difficult from them to be without you for the year. I have a small and simple home with Leveton. If you have a family they are welcome to it for the next year. You are not allowed within the city during your sentence. But I am sure Jhod would not protest to your family coming to visit you at the shrine. In addition, I will check up on you as often as possible. I am very curious about your people and lands you have come from.
Kundar, when we found you, you said Erastil had abandoned you. I would posit that it was the opposite. In your darkest hour, he sent ones who was not even his own to help you. Try and keep that in mind over the next year. Have faith. Have conviction. And let your wounds begin to heal.