The Death of Moruk: Part One

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…as narrated by Aramis ben-Fazeel, chief scribe and attaché to Alexander Lutharo

I am Aramis ben-Fazeel, son of Arathain ben-Fazeel, formerly of the elven clan Elonaiy-duun-Mahliel, rendered in the vulgar Common tongue as Keepers of the Eastern Flame. I am an exile of my clan and have wandered far the northern world, telling tales at the tables of kings and beggars; noble lords and barbarian chiefs, all simply to earn a crust for my supper or a warm place by a fire to rest my head.

I have learned many things in my travels and being skilled with a blade, as well as knowing a bit of magic and being fluent in many languages besides, I have recently become employed by a nobleman of the northlands.

This nobleman has recently enlisted a company of men who have offered their blood oath in allegiance to his cause, which is to take stern action to bring justice and order to the world of mortals. For though the northlands are officially governed by a king, the land is, in fact, divided by great distances and principalities that are far beyond this same king’s control. As such, there are many open wastes and dark forests that are home to bandits, brigands and other things less fair.

My lord and his men have made their homes near the coastal waters, and have gone on forays against pirate scum who have brought death and destruction to innocent sailors and merchants. The king’s rule is specific in dealing with these wretches, but it is also a lengthy process to bring them to justice under the true codes of the official law.

My lord has no such ties to bind his hands. When he observes an injustice, he acts. Today I am witness to that justice.

It is now nearing noon, though you would not know it by the sky, for it is overcast and the heavens are pouring water in damp sheets. I find that the rains in the northland are bitter and cold, and I felt the chill air penetrate my skin through my robes and outer cloak. I am currently in the camp of my lord Alexander Lutharo, and my eyes flick over the camp, once again impressed by his attention to discipline.

The camp itself is in the lee of Daggot’s Spire, an old pillar of rock that juts from the plains like a stony finger of some long forgotten god to point at the heavens above. Legend has it that in the ancient days that sacrifice would be made here to the old gods, and it may be true, though I have never witnessed such things with my own eyes, but if the legends are true, then it seems appropriate that we choose such a place to camp for the verdict which we shall witness this day.

The camp itself is roughly two hundred feet by one hundred feet, and houses tents and gear for about one hundred men, as well as weapons, supplies, horses, food, and other more… unique items. The camp has two primary entrances, one at the east and west, so that an attacking force must surround the camp completely if they wish to trap my lord.

Each evening the company needs to be moved two scouts seek for a suitable spot to pitch the camp, and when such a spot is discovered my lord instructs his men to dig a ditch about three feet deep and three feet in width. The dirt is then piled on the inside of the trench, with wooden spikes thrusting outward placed at one foot intervals. This prevents the rush of cavalry and the charge of footman en masse. This typically takes an hour of preparation, at which point the men erect the tents inside, set watch details, gather food and begin preparation to bed down for the night.

In the distance I see four horsemen riding fast. The banner of my lord is held by the standard bearer, and I see the scarlet cloth with the double symbol of the runic letter of L through the gray of the rain.

A trumpet is blown and the men move to formation.

For mercenaries I am impressed again with their discipline which my lord’s very presence has clearly prompted them too. I see soldiers who have mismatched armor, but all it in the best quality and upkeep that they can manage, as are their weapons. Now they stand still and unmoving under the chill of the rain, their breath coming in steaming snorts and puffs from their nostrils. The only way you could mark them as a unit was by the scarlet sash that drapes from their left shoulder to their right hip, with my lord’s crest on it.

I see from his primary tent his chief lieutenant and mentally make the weirding symbol to ward myself of her sorcerous ways, for in truth, she is a mirror of confusion to me. Both gentle and kind to my lord, to other men she is as cold as ice. She flaunts her body like a temple prostitute, but I have never seen or heard tell of her taking a man.

Once I witnessed with my own eyes a gladiator from the Frostburn Mountains try to ravish her in a tavern; she refused. He persisted and she unleashed a spell from her hand that snaked out like a black finger of death. It touched him and his breath cleaved in this throat, he struggled to stand, but the weight of his own armor was too much and he collapsed gasping to the floor, shattering tables and crockery with the fall.

The silence from the tavern’s patrons was instant, and the only noise that could be heard was the witch lifting her flagon and drinking loud and lustily from its frothy contents.

But she is my lord’s favored one, and so no man will challenge her in his presence.

A heavy wagon was pulled back from the eastern entrance to the camp by a company of three men at the approaching riders, and the riders entered the camp quickly.

From a black charger I saw the figure of my lord. His very presence was intimidating to a lesser man or elf, such as myself. Towering over the heads of most he swung his legs from the saddle and dropped heavily to the ground. Gripping the shield that dangled from his mount he slung it over his back, pinning the scarlet cloak that billowed in the chill mist to his ebon covered armor.

His eyes flicked over the camp, checking for any detail out of place, and seeing none. Nodding curtly he stepped forward and motioned for the witch to advance, which she did quickly.

They spoke for a moment privately and I saw his featureless face remain motionless for some time, though his eyes flickered to the tent that housed the cage of our prisoner and I saw his lips curl in a cold smile.

The rain fell thicker, and I wished this to end quickly, if only to retreat into the tent and have a drink to warm my chilled bones. But I knew that would occur soon, so I held my tongue and waited patiently, wishing that I had the fortitude and strength to endure the elements that my lord possessed with ease.

“Brothers and sisters,” my lord then said with a cold commanding voice “today we shall enjoy the fruits of our many labors. For I deem that thee are all men of vision, as am I, and today we witness another page of that vision realized.”

My lord was never so articulate or passionate, and though I, a mere bard, may often exaggerate the value or strength of lesser chiefs, for my own lord I fear I underestimate his skill, his power of oration, his very charisma and the aura of courage and manhood that he keeps inside him like a hidden fire, shining out from time to time like a flame of righteousness.

“Many of you are sons of Tharovace as am I, others come from far lands and nations, but all of you seek a world where justice may be meted out to the corrupt and evil. Today thou shall see that justice,” he said, his voice a harsh whisper that carried through the elements, so that every many heard it and also felt it warm their very spirit. Indeed, at that moment, thoughts of a drink or a fire left me, there could be no other place in my mind then at my lords side, seeing his great power and works.

“For nearly two years the eastern coasts of our lands have been attacked by a pirate captain; a dog of the seas and scum of the very earth. The Knights have searched for him, but he alluded their justice; the king has left it in the hands of jurisdiction, but no lord may claim the seas as their own. None but we, we proud men and women who claim all of the material plain as our own to dispense justice.”

The men roared their approval, and drew their blades, beating them against their shields at the words of my master.

He signaled to several of his men, and they drew forth from the tent a shackled creature. It was quite clear that he was none other then the minotaur pirate Moruk. Having recently dispatched his chief lieutenant, Kythantos, we were able to take him with greater ease. Now he shall face justice!

But then my lord surprised us with his bold move, ordering the creature unbound.

“Give him his weapon,” he said in a cold voice.

One of the men tremulously handed the minotaur pirate a great axe, and the beast stared at my lord, his nostrils snorting steam.

“I, Alexander Lutharo, now decree, if this scum shall defeat me in right of combat then he shall be allowed to go free.”

The men were aghast, but my lord was adamant. He drew from his side only a silver dagger, that all knew to be the symbol of his goddess. A valuable tool, to be sure, but it was clear that to fight such a beast with only a dagger was suicide.

But my lord stepped into a crouch, the power of his goddess was on him, and as the minotaur bellowed and hefted his axe, my lord sidestepped the blow, and rolled across the ground neatly, hamstringing the villain.

The minotaur lumbered to the ground, and my lord stood back, waiting as a man of quality for his foe to rise, but the creature gripped a rock and hurled at my lord’s eyes. He battered it out of the way with his shield and the minotaur lunged clumsily against him, crashing his weight against my lord and pinning him to the mud. Rearing his head back he slammed his horns down to impale my master with them, but the will of my lord’s goddess then prevailed, it seems, for with a mere flick of his wrist, my lord turned his dagger and pushed it into the open maw of the beast, who fell down instantly, dead.

My lord stood to cheers of his men, cleaning his weapon gently.

“He died well, though he was scum. Burry him as a warrior would be buried. I shall be in my tent, seeking my goddess’s good will on this matter. Meanwhile, take pleasure in knowing that justice was done this day!’
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