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The Shaman (Part 2)
Seeing hope in this new mini-series I've started, I've decided to write the second chapter of this post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure throughout Britain. Our hero - the Shaman - has recently been presented to the King of England, but his fate is unknown after collapsing due to poor blood circulation. And who is this "Helene" he speaks of? Is she a friend, or an arch-enemy from long ago?
In this chapter, Roberts gives more background into the Shaman's life, concluding another part with what happened when he woke up from a kick in the face.
2013: A Magical Year
The Earth was a horrible place to look at in mid-2012. Thousands of lives were lost to the poisonous smog each day, not to mention those who died from being careless - forgetting to filter their water, take their food to the cleaning stations to be sanitized, not washing their hands after toilet breaks in the labor camps. The Earth became one huge factory, and smoke all around the globe filled the skies, finally bringing an end to luxuries and happiness with acid rain. Oil, coal, hydroelectricity - nothing could help save the world. Only a mere myth.... that soon became a legend!
The power of the arcane was studied down to the days when humans were the prey, and many great beasts fought for the title of Dominant Species! Wolves, mammoths, tigers.... even a mosquito could end the lives of a million humans with a single bite - we were weak. But we had one thing that the animals didn't, that kept them at bay. We had magic! The ability to cast flames from our hands drained our life essence, turning most magic-users into useless husks, gasping for air until they crumbled to dust. But this was lost to evolution, as other means of defence were used. Instead of magic, we used primitive tools like stones, sticks and bone. At least they could rend the flesh from a man's body, instead of burning him to ash. It was long forgotten, but rediscovered more than a million years later.
The Earth needed healing, or at least farmed of resources before the end of humanity. Therefore, humans abandoned desk jobs and started practical work - electricians were needed, alchemists were needed, miners were needed, blacksmiths were needed. If you were 9 years old, you'd be put to work. But we found a way to make it easy.... once again, humanity got lazy. Depending on your job, you'd be taught for three days on how to use a certain magic type. There were the Clerics, who specialized in healing wounds and psychological scars. The Warlocks, who summoned demons to dig, guard or become general servants. The Magi were the guards and kept everyone else in line - they made sure that the other workers did as they were told, 'lest they be blasted into the walls with an Arcane blast! Some Magi were told how to cast ice-spikes repeatedly at coal to make it break from the wall - this would then save money on digging machines and picks. Finally, there were the Druids - whenever food was needed, they would be able to tend to farms much faster than any gardener, and be able to conjure the finest produce without pesticides or fertilizer.
There was one study of magic which was never touched.... one that could make worlds collide, yet it could also save them. This power was granted to few, but the responsibilities were too great. Training of this art was long forgotten, and anyone who studies it is kept under the highest security due to its danger. They are the masters of the elements, of Earth itself. They are the Shaman.
War of the Shaman
Mid-2012 was when magic was researched. 2013 was when disaster struck. It mutated anyone who had used it, turning them mainly into bestial beings - be these cows, owl-like beasts, thin-tusked creatures, or zombie-like abominations.... they would change completely. The ones who were lucky enough to not be addicted to magic remained human, but the rest were exiled or killed. The sworn enemy of the Humans are the Orcs - not-so-jolly green giants, seeking revenge on those who did wrong to them. They have little common sense left - only a sense of honor, and primal thought. I too am an Orc, but what's worse is that I am a Shaman. Many seek my guidance and wisdom, but only get answered in riddles and foreign tongue. When the Elements call to me, I heed their summons, and go where they request me. They seek a champion though - one Shaman to do their bidding, to summon them into the world and fix things. One Shaman to set things right. 'Tis the War of the Shaman - only one may stand, the rest may fall.
I was 19 when I was contacted by the elements. Nothing more than a labourer for the humans of Barnsley, I would listen on the local radio to the rebel leader telling us to throw down our pickaxes and join the fight against the King. The leader was Darren Faire, a young lad who I went to school with before I became a worker. How he escaped work I've no idea, but it wasn't as easy as he said it was - "throw down your drills and pick up a sword! Interrogate the trainers! Force them to give you their secrets!" Pah! If only - we barely had the strength to lift a toothpick. Yes, work as miner was tough, and we weren't fed enough to keep our energy up. Many were worked to death, and many were buried where they died. They say Clerics can heal the trauma of seeing a man die of overwork, but when that man was your uncle, I can hardly believe it. On the night he died, I heard whispers of a middle-aged woman, or so they sounded like them. Her voice was fragile, but not delicate. It was harsh and deep, certainly not familiar. Little did I know it was the Queen of Earth, Thréda, asking me to become her champion. A lot of what she said was in a language I didn't know, but the most important pieces were in English.
Before the whispers stopped she warned me, "Embrace the Earth, and suckle on its bosom, and I shall grant you my boon!" It was unclear, but I realized exactly what she meant when the mutations began. Luckily, the guards who had consumed enough mana shards mutated first and ran into the desolate wastelands of England, joining different clans or they'd die trying. We would be able to escape the labor camps without fear of having our cabins infiltrated and blown to smithereens. But it was just as awful - watching your relatives and closest friends screaming in agony as their bones cracked and their skin torn, changing color, growing fur and hair from every orifice. There was constant vomitting, gargling, choking and animalistic sounds being emitted in every country in the world. Magic was a horrible thing to meddle with, but the pain was worth it's buff. The Earth Queen's boon.
For me, mutation was terrible. I was the last to change, and everyone watched as I morphed into this creature I am today. I stood paralized for around 72 hours, my arms reshaping to become longer, thicker.... the same with my legs. My chest had gone from round and wide to muscular and flat. Carrying around tonnes of coal in my life from a young age gave me a hunch, but my back was turned into a vertical wall of flesh. My skin was green and oily, but I preferred that to the stone-like textures and crackling noises when I moved, if I didn't stay moist. My face had changed greatly, beyond recognition, but as a Shaman and savior of Orcish people I am well known. I left a great deal behind, and my human life is nothing more than an empty, useless shade. A shadow that can no longer be connected to me.
My duties as a Shaman were delayed when my fellow mutants asked for me to lead them. But I had no idea how to lead. Before my change, I was a puppet master - I'd call the shots, but let someone else do the deed, and vice versa. These people were desperate though, to follow me on my adventures from Barnsley to Leeds, from Scotland to Wales.... but I could not bear the weight of such responsibility. If one was to die, you can imagine the morale loss. If they were to all survive, imagine how little food we'd have throughout our journeys. I refused to take them with me everywhere, but I agreed to help them make Barnsley more habitable. After three months of work, Thréda contacted me and insisted I progress. With a hearty farewell, I left to find my destiny in Huddersfield.
The place I first worked at was Huddersfield, and it was just as much a steaming pile of horse manure as it always has been. Since it was built, it knew it would never be the greatest town in England.... not even in the top ten. It was a place that provided accomodation mainly; a haven for slave traders, pimps and prisoners. The town centre was a hub for violence when I was a laborer. But when I went there as a mutant, all that was gone. A few abandoned tall buildings here, some unused shops there, and the odd harmless scavenger wandering around looking for safety from raiders. It was there where I met some Taurahe plunderers, scouring Yorkshire in hopes for treasure. I managed to catch them at a good time, joining in my first proper punch-up with a Human scouting group. They failed miserably against the Taurus fists and their sawn-off shotguns, and none of them made it back alive to report their findings. It didn't take long to gain the Taurus trust, especially when I found they'd devoted themselves to finding treasure and Shaman to help. They didn't realize that we Shaman weren't using our power for wealth, but the greatest prize of all - life. Within weeks we'd turned a World War memorial into a shrine for the elements, and it was there my throne was placed. It was there, Hammersfield was founded. It was a bastion of mutant safety, and the bane of Humans.
I never truly abandoned Hammersfield - it was my home. The one place I could call "safe". My mother doesn't live there nor father, but I still saw my older lieutenants as my parents. They would protect me, tuck me into bed and give me the love I never had as a child. I barely knew my parents, but if I could go back in time I would value every second spent with them. But like any good son, he would soon have to stand in front of his father and take a bullet, and that's what I did on several occassions. We Shaman, whenever another is close, get an instinctive kick in the backside, meaning we must be ready to kill one-another in single combat. By doing so, we gain the greatest power of Thréda, and have the chance of saving the world, or destroying it just by thinking of it! My first kills were easy, but I knew they would not all be the same.
"SHAMAN KILLING SHAMAN?! IT'S A DISGRACE!" I remember calling to my Hunter friend, Jorrok. He sat in his throne with his head in his hands, not believing what he was hearing. He believed I was going soft, and I would kneel to the next king of elements asking for my head to be lopped off. No.... I am a Grimhammer.... I will never allow that to happen. Thréda called me to do my duty, and if any Shaman comes and challenges me, I will obey her and slay him. I found no pleasure in my line of work, only regret. We mutants are supposed to be working together against those who made us slaves and recreated us! But no, we fight.... we kill. Soon there will be no Shaman left, and I will have to make the choices of who lives and dies.... what elements I control and how I shape this miserable planet.
Word had caught on several days later than the Orcs and Taurus had captured Huddersfield. The King expected the cow-people to name it "Uddersfield", but if he shared his view, he would recieve many negative looks. The scouts were the untrained sons of politicians, sent out because they begged to join the army. Had I any regret for helping the Taurus fight them? Not at all. They had killed many boys and girls, why should I feel sorry for a couple of adolescents who had it easy? The King didn't like the news of defeat, and so he sent around 1,000 footsoldiers to search and destroy Hammersfield. My three-hundred Orcs which had come from all across Britain (some pirates even made it from America with their steam-boat technology!), and were willing to die for Hammersfield. I liked their devotion to my cause, but dying for one's home does nothing except clean the enemy's tank treads with blood as the roll through the streets. The Orcs were trained well and slaughtered many humans in ways they deserved, but morale was running thin. I could not surrender - no Orc would forgive me for that -, so I made the fight easier. I rushed straight for General who commanded this attack, who immediately shot at my legs with non-lethal rounds. I gave him little resistance, only looks that could turn milk into yoghurt. He sniggered, but behind his face was a mind threatening to kill him, just because of a simple facial expression. My army was spared, and Hammersfield lived to see another day. The Orcs still continue to defend it to their dying breath, no matter what they face. Elements be with you, brothers....
Imprisonment (Present Day)
Splash! Slash! My head shoots up with icy water stabbing at my eyes. A young lady holding a now-empty iron bucket looks down at my soaking robes. I am certain she is the one I once called lover.... but she shows no signs of interest. I barely remember my human self, but I know she was my one true love. Does she no longer recognize me, because I am this green-skinned abomination? I try to move my arms to embrace her, but I find I am still in shackles, my wrists attatched to the bench I sit on. I stretch my legs, revealing huge gnobbly toes at the end of my large hairy feet. The nails are broken and jagged, some shorter than the others. The lady walks away, reaching for the iron door handle at the end of this stone cell.
"Wait! Fair maiden...." I request, weakly. My voice is not as mighty as it once was, but exhausted and tired. I wheeze as I talk. Blood drips from one side of my mouth. "What.... is your name?"
She pauses while holding the door handle, slowly turning around to look at my now beady eyes with black pupils. She opens her mouth to speak, but she turns and leaves, locking the door behind her. Was it a thief with a heart as cold as this cell stealing her words? I do not know, and I care not. I have lost everything - my city, my people, my family.... my lover. I can barely remember myself.... only the beast I have become. Is this really a blessing? A tear rolls down my face, warming the water that still drips from my hard chin. My lips tremble, soon bringing muscles to my face to life. The numbness is leaving, escaping the rumbling as my face morphs. My great Orcish fists are clenched, my ears now pointed, my eyebrows falling like a landslide over my nose.... I take deep breaths of the frost-like air, hoping that I don't choke and cough. I open my mouth, ready to unleash a mighty force and my rage,
"Gyaa--AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGHHHH!" I force my wrists to pull that the bench I am fastned to, ripping the shackles from the wood that keeps me imprisoned! My hands are free, and I am in control of my body. I attempt to stand, and my legs manage to keep my up! I give a large grin, beginning to habitually swing the now unattached shackles in a circle at my side, using them as a weapon until I get a decent weapon! "YOU CAN'T CONTROL A SHAMAN, KING! THE SHAMAN CONTROLS YOU!"
For the third part of this epic tale, follow this link!
- The Shaman (Part 3)
John Roberts reveals how the Shaman escapes London, also giving an excellent display of elemental power! But can he understand his responsibilties, and how much damage it can cause?