Finding of Andelin
Krataka “Smokey” Z’tark
Shaman and Elementalist of the Oakenfist Moot. Friend of nature, manipulator of the elements, wanderer on the path of life and above all else, purveyor of happiness.
Meet the Parents
My name is Krataka Z’tark and this is my story. I was born into the highland Troll Moot; Oakenfist. My father; Kratas Z’tark is a reputable Sky Raider who Captains his own ship, the “Shadow”. My Mother; U-naka, is a skilled shaman who makes highly sought after potions and poultices. She is also a fantastic cook, story teller, and bandager of skinned knees.
One of my earliest and fondest memories is of the first time my Dad took me up in his Airship. It was only to exchange goods with an allied moot, nothing as dangerous as a raid, but still, that day will live with me forever. All I need to do is close my eyes and concentrate I can still smell the crisp mountain air of that morning, frigid enough to make your fingers tingle and your buggers go all runny.
It was on this day, as I watched with joy a great wonder as vast expanses of land unfurled below me that I knew I was destined to travel the world. From that day on, nay from that very moment on my path has been clearly laid out before me. I knew right then that I was not meant to stay with my Moot. I also knew that I was not meant to leave it just yet either, after all I was but a wee youngling and there was so much still to learn. And I was very eager to learn.
Even though I routinely told my father of my love for air sailing he would only rarely allow me to accompany him on the “Shadow”, saying things like “We are not Air Sailors, we are Sky Raiders!” or “Were Warriors not Scouts!” or “If you want to see the trees go talk to your mother!” And so I did. And she was happy to teach me all that she could. In fact she kept me so busy that I would practically have to sneak over to the Docks where I would pester the crew of any ship there until they would hopefully allow me to help them load or unload goods or swab out the hull. Sometimes a grateful crewman would even toss me a couple coins for a job well done this was usually accompanied by a wallop to the back of the head.
I spent a couple years in this manner, learning what I could and saving what I earned. She seemed very pleased with how quickly I learned to identify the rare ingredients necessary for potion making. She was very fond of telling me that it was such a shame that there were already so many people ahead of me in line for chieftain. And so in no time at all Mom promoted me from gathering the ingredients to making the potions. At first this brought me great pride and satisfaction, but the Oakenfist Moot pride themselves on being very aggressive raiders, and that meant that there was always a high demand for the potions. And so hours spent mixing potions turned into days and the days turned into months mixing potions. As the time passed my desire to explore grew stronger and stronger.Love will conquer all
One blessed day while I was hurriedly finishing off a task of unloading casks of mead and other consumables for a celebration honoring our chief, I happened to meet a talkative young Elementalist named Kuntara who was happy to explain to me about how True Elemental Air is woven into the boards of the ship allowing it to fly. I should probably admit that I already knew that particular lesson (anybody who has spent anytime at all around Airships does), however Kuntara was an exceptionally attractive young Female Troll and it was all I could think of to talk about at the moment. Fortunately she was just as willing to talk as I was to gaze into those beautiful Hazel eyes as she spoke. My fondness for her, like most things in my life, was immediate and fierce. And our friendship quickly blossomed into the only serious relationship I have ever had.
Coming of Age
So naturally I began to spend more time with Kuntara than mixing potions with Mom, and my trips to the dock became more about spending time with Kuntara than about working on the Airships or earning some coins. Naturally it displeased my father considerably that I should choose to waste the whole day away with this girl rather than help my mother tend to her very important work, and so he decided that if I was man enough to be in love, I was man enough to join his crew.
He gave me a sword and some leather armor that he said used to be his. He bade me to try it on, and as soon as he was satisfied that its fit was good he began testing my knowledge of the ways of self defense. Or at least that’s what he called it, kind of seemed to me like he was just kicking my ass because he was pissed at me. But hey one way or the other I figured out that if I wanted him to stop hitting me I either needed to block or dodge. Sometimes love hurts.
After he was through “schooling” me for the night he took me to the “Broken Mug” our Moots own little watering hole and the two of us drank together for the first time.
It was a boot to the side of my throbbing head that woke me in the dead of the night. The first thing I became aware of was that my head felt like it was going to explode and most of my body ached terribly from the pounding he had administered just hours earlier. I could barely hear my old mans voice demanding me to get up over the BOOM, BOOM! BOOM, BOOM! of my own pulse. My already aching muscles strained in protest as I arose to meet my fathers demands. “Get up! Get dressed! And get your ass on the Shadow, we leave in 15 minutes.” I didn’t have time to ask where we were going before he turned and left, I was somewhat surprised he didn’t kick me again before he left.
That night I went on the first of many Raiding missions with my father. On the way there he spoke little and the crew spoke not at all. There was no need, they all knew there roles and performed exactly as he expected them to. His only instructions to me were to “Stay close and don’t get yourself killed.”
What happened that night was horrible. Trolls slaughtering Trolls. I just don’t understand it. What with all the Evil there is in the world, why do we slaughter our own kind. I always knew that was the order of things, but seeing it somehow changed everything for me. It all became more solid, more real, more terrifying.
I stayed by his side and together with his crew we killed an entire Moot. I think he was proud of me for the first time in his life. I on the other hand have never been more disappointed with myself or my father. I know that many of the name giver races view all Trolls as being bloodthirsty savage monsters. And many of us are. My father is. Sometimes. But not me. I knew right away that I never wanted to go raiding again, but out of fear and respect I could never tell my father.
Thankfully, the trip back home was just as quiet as when we departed. I don’t know what I would have said if he had asked me what I thought just then. We floated silently over the terrain for what seemed like forever before I could finally see our Moot. When we reached the dock; night was giving way to day, the Shadow was full of plundered goods, which many hands rapidly appeared to unload and there was much rejoicing over yet another successful raid. My heart however was full of sorrow.
Back at home in the comfort of our family’s living room, my father must have sensed that I was filled with inner conflict because he invited me to share a bowl of his favorite pipe weed with him, something he has never done before The thick and pungently sweet smoke instantly went to work soothing my frazzled nerves and quieting the conflicting voices that were shouting at me in my head. And yet he still did not ask me what was on my mind. At the time I was thankful that he didn’t, but wondered why he wouldn’t. I now know that he must have already known the answer.
And so, as the months grew into years once again, I redoubled my previous efforts to learn all that I could about shamanism and elementalism. Occasionally my father would insist on taking me on raids with him, but this was frequently because he knew that some rare herb or other hard to locate ingredient was in the area and he wanted me procure it. My father was always fond of killing two birds with one stone whenever possible.
Turning over a new leaf
I hated going on those raids, but gathering ingredients allowed me to miss much of the bloodshed, while still joining in the celebration afterwards. Sharing a bowl of fathers favorite pipe weed after a successful raid was a tradition that I had grown quite fond of. In fact I was so fond of it that I wanted to do it all the time. You see it helps me to deal with the sorrow that is still in my heart. The sorrow that comes from knowing that my family is a bunch of bloodthirsty savages.
Knowing that I would be skinned alive if father ever caught me steeling his smoke, I instead learned where he procures the herb and how to cultivate it for my own personal use. With a little help from mom it was amazingly simply to set up a hidden little garden in the treetop canopy that marches right up to the base of the mountain. There nestled amongst the great oaks where the suns rays are strong and the chill is gone from the wind, our crop flourished.
Within a half year I soon had a crop so bountiful that even after trading with our closest neighbors and giving away great big bushels, there really was no practical solution but to sell off quite a bit of it. Now, its an interesting fact that a great number of trolls, women included, view smoking as a social pastime, and that a great many of them delight in blowing smoke rings. However, because of the bitter cold of the elevated terrain its difficult to procure smoke of any reasonable quality. So with just a little bit of work I easily established my own little trade route amongst the neighboring Moots who we were not at war with.
While this did take up quite a bit of my time, it did not in any way interfere with my responsibilities as a gatherer of the much needed ingredients used in the healing potions. In fact it allowed us to stock pile them, because instead of having to gather them myself, I was simply trading pipe weed.
I would set out for two weeks with a minimal crew aboard a small covered Drakkar loaded with pipe weed and rations and return 2 weeks later with an assortment of rare and useful ingredients (and pockets full of coins). Meanwhile back at home, Kuntara would help Mom mix potions and tend to the crop while Dad and his crew continued there nighttime raids on the lowland trolls.
Aside for being away from home 2 weeks out of every month everything was working out good. Dad was happy because his own son had helped the Moot to prosper. Mom was happy because her family was happy, and because Kuntara was with baby.
A Snake in the Grass
Everything was good…
Except, that unbeknownst to me, all the trading that I had been doing meant that while our neighboring villages had plenty of pipe weed to smoke, they were running scarcely low on the ingredients they needed to make their own healing potions. This shortage ultimately caused our “friends” to conspire against us. Apparently they figured that they could just capture me, torture me until I told them where the crop is and then kill or enslave us all. Then they would have a surplus of smoke and the highly sought after ingredients for their potions.
And that’s pretty much what almost happened.
One fine summer night while my modest little party was camped for the evening and we were all reaping the benefits of our trade, we were ambushed. The attackers came from a distance in the form of crossbow bolts that almost immediately killed all of my companions. Before I could even react I was hit over the head and knocked out.
When I awoke it was to the excruciating pain of having boiling water thrown in my face. Then to my shock and dismay I discovered that I was naked tied to a pole and surrounded by angry looking trolls, many of whom I recognized, and some that I knew by name. Off in the distant shadows a Zoak caws once and then flies silently away.
The next thing I know the biggest, ugliest Troll out of them all slugs me hard enough in the face to make me see stars, and he says “Where is the crop?” I’m so dazed that I don’t immediately know what he is talking about. I shake my head to try and scatter the stars that blur my vision, he punches me again, this time he cracks one of my teeth. I smile because I mistake my blood on his hand for his own and he slugs me again. I pass out.
When I regain consciousness the scent of cooking meat is heavy in the air. It smells delicious. I’m starving. There is just barely enough slack in my bindings to allow me to look down. To my horror I discover that the scent is coming from me. There between my bound legs is a bored looking Troll holding a red hot dagger to my inner thigh. It has burned me so deeply that the nerves are fried. There are several other nearly identical marks on both legs. I briefly wonder how long he has been doing this to me, but then the bored looking guard finally notices that I’m conscious again. He stops burning me and says “Hey Bile! He’s awake again.” He then punches me in the gut, hard, and walks away smirking.
The big ugly guy turns away from a table full of miscellaneous weapons and starts to walk over and I reckon that he must be Bile. He’s smiling. My stomach turns into one big knot and I vomit a little bit. All that comes up is a mouthful of something familiar tasting. I almost immediately realize that they must have given me a healing potion while I was out. They must have worked me over pretty bad while I was out.
Bile is in my face now. He is still smiling and he is talking slow and steady. He is holding a large rusty pair of sheers and saying that he is through playing around with me. He explains that it doesn’t really matter if I tell them where the crop is because they are going to find out one way or another. He tells me that my Moot is already being attacked and that they know Kuntara knows where the garden is. He tells me that they are going to kill my family and torture my beloved Kuntara until she tells them, and then he tells me that he is going to kill her too, unless I talk. He then grabs my right pinkie finger, twists it until it snaps and then snips it off with the sheers.
Its the worse pain I have ever felt, and he was just getting started. I wished I would pass out again. But I didn‘t. I stay conscious even as my bored looking friend returned with his red hot dagger. When he pressed it to the bloody spot on my hand that used to have a pinkie I scream for the first time since they captured me. They all Laugh.
I laugh a little too. Bile says “Oh, so ya like that huh?” He grabs the dagger from his assistant and brings it up to my left eye. The heat from it is immediately uncomfortable and my eyelashes get singed from it. He then says tell me where its hidden and I might let you keep your other eye. Just then he plunges in into my eye. I thrash my head and scream “FUCK YOU!, I’ll NEVER TELL YOU!” But my only reward for all my thrashing and screaming was a cauterized gash on my face and more laughter.
When it quiets down again, he says “I already told you. It really doesn’t matter if you tell us. We will find out. Why I bet that little bitch whore of yours has already spilled her guts” He chuckles. “In more than one way I bet.” he laughs some more and they all join in. Then he says “Were just having some fun here.” as he brings the dagger back up to my face. This time it hovers in front of my right eye, causing the lashes to curl back away from the heat. I brace myself for the impending pain, and just when I’m sure that I am about to be completely blinded for life. He snarls at me and says, “No. I want you to be able to see what I do to you. That will be more fun for all of us.”
Bile turns and walks back to his little assortment of tools. He plunges the dagger into the table, and curls of smoke get blown away by a light breeze. When he turns back around he is holding another pair of sheers and the smile has returned to his face. With a whistle and a pat of his thigh a large and equally ugly dog with mangy black fur and a thick tendril of drool dangling from it mouth, plods over to his side. And Bile says “Hungry boy?” The dog huffs a single bark that can only mean yes and I start to get scared.
The dog follows close by as Bile walks back over to me. He says “Get his leg boys.” and two trolls reposition my bonds so that Bile has easy access to my left foot. I fiercely try to escape but its no use, they are much stronger than I am and I’m still bound to a pole. Then Bile viscously twists and snaps my pinkie toe. He smirks at me and says “This little piggy went to market.” and then snips it off and tosses it to the waiting hound who snatches it hungrily out of the air causing that tendril of drool to fly away, it almost gets one of the trolls who bound me.
Then my bored looking friend and his red hot dagger return. He says “We wouldn’t want you to bleed out before were done with you.” and then he cauterizes the would. They cut off every toe on my left foot and another finger in that same manner, feeding it to the dog and then cauterizing the wound, before I finally pass out.
When I wake up again I decide they must have kicked my ass while I was passed out again because even though I am looking up at the clear blue sky, I can barely see it through my swollen and bruised eye sockets. My nose feels broken and every breath hurts, I must have a broken rib or two. I must have stirred a little before I woke up, because the first thing that comes into focus is Bile’s ugly mug staring down at me. He is smiling again. I hate that smile. I think he is saying that he is thirsty that he is thirsty and wants a new drinking horn, but I’m not sure because everything sounds muffled. I try to move my head but cant, its then that I become aware of what they intend to do. That bastard is going to snap of my horn and make a drinking horn out of it. And then SNAP just like that, it was done and bile was back in my face, jabbing me and poking me with my own horn.
Apparently their Moot had things more interesting than a mostly dead me to tend to that day, because they left me there for quite a while, tied face up to a log, completely naked, broken, and mutilated.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Now meanwhile unbeknownst to me or my not-so-friendly companions, that Zoak whom I spied earlier had beat a hasty path back to the Oakenfist Moot where it met up with its master Bazuk the Beastmaster and mother of Kuntara. Its seems the Kuntara hated me being gone for so long, so often, and begged her mother to have her familiar; Oz, follow me discretely.
And its a damn good thing too. If Kuntara had not been paranoid and caring enough to make sure that I was being watched over then it would not have mattered that my attackers unwisely chose to ambush me so close to home. But Kuntara was as paranoid as she was caring, and her mother did agree to send her familiar to watch me, and little Oz did make it back in time to warn my moot, who were quick to both ready the defenses and to send out a rescue party led by Oz, Bazuk, Kuntara and of course, my father Kratas.
The defenders of the Oakenfist Moot fought bravely to drive back there attackers who seemed to be somewhat confused as they were unable to locate neither the Leader, (my father)whom they wanted dead, nor there intended captive, my beloved Kuntara. In the end not a single attackers life was spared. But enemy blood was not the only blood on the battlefield. This battle caused more damage to my moot than any other in my fathers lifetime. The damage was staggering. were killed. Airships were downed by both sides, building were destroyed and Nearly 3/4s of the Moots population lay dead on the ground. Amongst the casualties lay my own mother.
But I was still yet unaware of these happenings back at home. I was after all still tied face up to a log, completely naked, beaten, broken, starving, nearly dead, drifting in and out of consciousness, and completely unaware that there is a battle going on around me. My rescuers have arrived, catching my captures completely unaware, so cocky they were. When I felt hands upon I thought for sure it was the icy grip of death himself come to take me away. I welcomed his arrival and once again drifted into unconsciousness.
Home Sweet Home
When next I awoke, to my bewildered surprise, the first thing I saw was the beautiful smiling face of my beloved Kuntara. I thought she was an angle in heaven come to welcome me to our new home. It was not until I saw the tear on her face that I knew that she and I were alive, because surely there could be no sorrow in heaven. And then I wept with her as she embraced me and her hot tears flowed down my own cheek.
While she nursed me back to health (physically, any way) she told me the story of how she had begged for her mothers familiar to watch over me, and of how he returned to warn the moot. She also told me that she had a miscarriage after the battle to rescue me. And then we wept together again.
On the Road AgainShe had rescued me, she had saved the Moot, and she had nursed me back to life from the brink of death. But yet I knew that there was now a fork in the path and that I would go one way and she another.
I could not possibly stay with my Moot sensing that I was responsible for the deaths of so many. And she could not possibly leave knowing that there were so many who needed help. This was widely understood and agreed upon by all members of the moot. So when I had done all the healing that my broken and mangled body was able, there was a going away party.
All of the surviving members of my Moot met at my home for the party. Not a single troll showed up empty handed. Every one of them was bearing some sort gift The feast that followed was the best ever. And all of the gifts were extremely practical for the long journey ahead of me. There was a lightstone, a firestarter, an everwarm cloak, rations, new armor, a sword, a dagger, a compass and so much more.
The morning after the feast, I awoke to find my father already awake and breakfast prepared. He apologized for it not being as good as it would have been if Mom had cooked it and then we ate in silence. When our meal was done he helped me gather my things and walked with me for quite a while. We didn’t say much on that walk. At one point he warned me that they never found Bile’s Body and that he may have survived. And then we walked in silence for a bit more. We walked until the Sun began to set, and then he stopped and I knew that he would go no further with me. And so I told him goodbye and continued down the mountain towards the lowlands where so many Troll lives were claimed by my own Moot. Alone
I spent months alone, wandering aimlessly even though I knew the path was still right there. I could feel it pulling me down the mountain, but still I lingered. Even though I had everything I needed to survive in the mountains alone for a indefinite period of time I could not escape the feeling that I was somehow overlooking something. And so I remained in the highlands practicing my skills and becoming one with nature.
And then one morning, just like the Sun, it dawned on me. I had to go back to the battlefield where my captors had detained and tortured me. I had to look upon that place one more time before I put it behind me. so with the sun and the stars as my only traveling companions I steadily made my way back to that awful little patch where so much had been taken from me. Not much remained, no other Moots had moved in but they had looted everything. But still I investigated carefully.
I was nearly dead when I was rescued and even though I bade Kuntara to re-tell the story of my rescue several times, I had no natural recollection of that battle at all.
I spent 7 days at that deserted Moot wandering around the perimeter looking for anything that would jar a memory of the battle that saved my life. It kind of sucks being able to remember being tortured, but not being able to remember being rescued. I never found it. Once I thought I heard the cry of a Zoak, and even though I strained my eyes trying, I never saw it.
I did find one thing of great interest near that camp though. I found the horn that Bile had snapped off my head with the intentions of making a drinking horn out of it. He must have dropped it when he fled the battle. That fucking coward.
I carefully packed my horn away with the rest of my gear and even though I knew that having it back would not make my fingers or toes grow back any more than it would restore my missing eye, somehow having it filled me with a sense of new hope and suddenly I knew I was ready to continue on down the path. At least just a little further.