[B] Ryleth Thoom
I only vaguely remember my mother. I remember that we lived near a forest where I used to play. I think i must have been in the forest when the orcs found me. I don’t know how old I was when I was taken but it must have been young for I remember so little about my home.
The first thing I remember clearly is being tied to post. A rope was tied to my ankle and the other end to a wooden post in the middle of the dirt patch behind the hut of my orc captors. That is where they kept me, with only a small pile of straw and enough wood and canvas to keep me out of the rain as my home. At least at first.
I was kept like a dog until I was old enough to do manual labor for the orcs. When I was big enough to fetch and carry I was put to work hauling water from the river and sticks from the fire wood pile. Eventually, I was given more duties; chopping wood, herding pigs, basically anything the tribe was too lazy or drunk to do. I couldn’t run away because they watched me closely and made me wear manacles that were not chained but that had iron bells attached. I soon learned that they listened closely for the bells unless they thought I was asleep at night. If was supposed to be working and the bells weren’t ringing they would find me and punish me.
My captors didn’t really give me a name. I thought my name was Crog-nak for quite some time but as I learned the Orcish speech I realized it only meant “wretched child.” As I grew up I learned how to read the mood of my captors and became adept at hiding my true feelings and thoughts from them. I ingratiated myself with them by appearing servile and working hard to do whatever they set me to. As time passed they watched me less and I learned how to muffle the bells at night to allow me some freedom of movement.
Then, one day after most of the men of the clan had been out raiding, I received the item which would set me free from my captivity. The only clothes I ever had were what had been pulled off the dead bodies of people the orc band had slain. There were never any weapons or valuable items among the rags and cast off packs that were given to me but occasionally something insignificant would end up in my hands. Buttons with intricate designs of birds in flight, scraps of paper with bits of a map upon them, travel journals written in Common or Elvish. I could read a little of these books but never very much.
The tattered journal that i found among the clothes that day looked much like the few others I had seen. But inside the writings were much stranger than any I had seen. The letters seemed to be the letters of the common language but they were oddly twisted and curved. Most of the words did not seem to be words yet somehow they seemed to almost make sense. I stared at the book for hours that first night trying to understand what it was and who could have written it. When I finally slept my dreams were strange indeed.
Days passed and I spent every moment I could looking at the book, trying to read what was written inside. Each night my dreams grew stranger. I saw vast plains of black ooze and green stone with giant monoliths reaching to the sky. Each night I seemed to draw nearer to the base of one such monolith. It was covered in strange symbols that I could not read and did not recognize. As each dream brought me closer to the giant column I could see a creature’s image, carved upon the stone. It was a hideous thing with what seemed to be a head made of writhing tentacles, a body scaled and clawed like a dragon but strangely humanoid in form. It seemed to have two wings protruding from its back but surely nothing so massive could fly upon such wings.
I don’t know how long I delved into the book and my dreams but finally I reached the pillar. At its foot was a slab of that strange green stone with the creature’s image carved upon it. In my dream, or what I think was a dream, I reached down and touched the runes carved below the figure. That is when the whispers started.
I became aware of my surroundings finally and saw that all around me was devastation and fire. In the middle of the crude orc village the wives of the clan elders where hung on strangely carved pillars. They seemed to have been burned with acid and cruel sinuous marks covered their faces. The clan chief’s favorite was in the center, on the highest pillar and around her wrists as she hung upside down where a pair of slave manacles with iron bells. I looked at my own wrists and they were bare.
It was then that I knew I had to leave. The men of the village must have been out raiding again. I gathered what I could and ran. I know they are looking for me. The clan chief of the orcs is a vicious hateful thing who will not let a slight go unpunished. I must hide myself until I am strong enough to go back to that place and destroy him.
And I must understand what happened to me. For after that day I could finally read the journal that had come to me. Even now it whispers in my mind and I still dream of that hideous thing which, I fear, still whispers to me from its dark crypt of nightmare.