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The Shaman (Part 4)
John Roberts tells the fourth part of the Shamanistic tale, now giving our hero reason to kill the Humans he sees. The Grimhammer clan needs to survive, but tensions between the Orcs and Taurus are becoming greater. Will Bodin and the Shaman fight in single combat, or will they be at each other’s throats with assassins and poison?
Return to Hammersfield
"My city.... my home.... my people....” I fall to my knees faster than the tears drip from my eyes. Hammersfield had fallen? Destroyed? But.... I was only gone for six days.... In the time it took me to get to London and return, my home was being plundered by the enemies of Grimhammer?! NO! I WILL NOT ALLOW IT! My fists clench, digging the remains of my nails into my hard flesh. Maroon blood seeps out of the wounds, but I do not cry, I do not bite my bottom lip and hiss.... I store it like the polite gentleman I used to be. Hammersfield - “Haven of Orcs and Taurus; the Gates of Hell for Humans” is what it used to be. My hands reach into the dust and glass that lay before me, pressed into the wounds of my palms. I can smell Human.... their gunpowder, their steel, their blood. I spit into the dirt in my hands, and blow gently on the remains. I hear a crunch from the far end of the old Lloyds TSB Bank, one that made me lift my neck so fast I almost snapped my collarbone! But the voice and language was familiar.
“Come young ones... it will be dark soon.” As the female turns her head to me when the young Orcs cross the abandoned road, she gasps. She does not draw her weapon, not even reach for it - she puts her respect before questions and shooting later. Her brown hair is split at all ends, frayed.... it looks like she dried her hair in a furnace after a shower in acid. Her arms are strong like mine as a Human, only hers are a pale green and had veins insisting on bursting through her skin. Her legs are covered in grey human greaves, as are her boots, but she has the huge legs of an Orc, which made them bulge at the joints. Orc women are as beautiful as they are dangerous. Her name is Gorescowl. General Gorescowl. She brings her legs together, standing tall and pounds her heart with her right fist twice.
“Rokk’shellar, Shaman!” She calls, and I smile briefly.
Three Days of Madness
It remains true that Hammersfield was almost destroyed by Human invaders after my capture, but they underestimated us. With our mutations, we not only became stronger. We became smarter! We now reside underground with near full strength, but training new soldiers is slow. Their attacks are sloppy, they don’t care for their own defence and their executions are poor. Perhaps one year ago I was being too tough, or am I now too soft? I know my Taurus counterpart, Bodin “Bo” Hailhoof wants to lead these people, but only tyrants speak of treachery towards a fellow mutant. He openly admits to his fellow Taurus that I should’ve died in combat instead of allowing myself to be captured. But he cannot get one simple fact in that horned head of his: My capture was so I could negotiate peace.... to give my people an extra day of breathing English air. It has only been three days, and already I burn hotter than a Flame Elemental’s tongue! That damn Taurus, how dare he challenge my authority! For the past three days I have tried to fight the thoughts of duelling him, but how can I without a weapon? He weilds a huge totem as tall as himself (around 7 feet long) in one hand! If I am to use the elements to defeat him, I would need good reason.... I don’t even know how to talk to Thréda anyway (she comes to me, and even when she questions me I don’t know how to reply). For three days, I have practiced in private learning how to summon water-balls, but all they have done is heal the wounds on my.... hands....
“How could I have been so stupid?!” I ask, slapping a wet palm over my rock-like face. “So Aquamancy is the art of healing!” What would my people do if they found out I had access to more magical properties? Few of us can use magic, as it seemed pointless to teach “worthless slaves” such arts. We were lucky to be educated well enough to understand the terminology, and there was a lot to learn in three days. Healing magic could save my people, but how many would argue against it? How many would attempt to tie me down, slice me open and experiment on me, hoping to find out my secrets? I can say - or do - nothing, despite everyone knowing I am a Shaman. They’ve not yet seen what magical prowess I have.... only the few punches I throw, in which my fists are engulfed in elemental fire! They will not understand me; only see me as a nature-spell dispenser.
I sit in my throne in a way Jorrok is all too familiar with. He now knows how much of a bad example he led.
“You want Bodin dead, huh? A poisoned arrow piercing his black heart?” Asks the Hunter who sits next to me, trying to see my misty eyes. I cover my face with a large hand, not daring to look at my own people who congregate around my domain. I have to reply to him. His gaze will not leave me.
“No, Hunter. I must defeat him in single, melee combat. A duel of honour must be established, and an arena must be chosen for our battle.” Jorrok’s pet wolf, Tundra, growled in disagreement. They had a much better understanding of Orcs than any Human Hunter. At least we knew how to tend to them. The Hunter spat on the ground next to him, raising a rusty tankard to his lips and sipping it. He sighs as he places it down, grinding the stone he places it down on. The sewer we reside in is dark and dingy, brown with wet walls and waste. We got used to the smell quickly, as we had to get used to our own when we first mutated. After a while, it’s not even there. But this place keeps us safe, and there’s enough doors and people to prevent echo, keeping our positions safe.
"The thing about you Shamans is.... you’re bound to honour.” Now I turn to face him. The thing with this one-eyed archer is he doesn’t give a damn about dirty looks. “We Hunters will go out there, perhaps allow our enemies to get a glimpse of the arrow shooting in between their eyes, before we take their sodding lives!” He spits on the ground again, projecting muck and other fluids residing in his rotten mouth. I feared the worst - I am becoming like him. Must I really kill an unarmed Taurus, especially one who respected me and I did him? One that people of his race look up to for help, and if they get no answers, they turn to me? I must do something, and fast, before the Taurus get too attached to him. Jorrok gives a chuckle behind his sharpened teeth, and the deception of a snake behind his left eye-patch. It’s all falling into place - I will have to break some rules to lead my people, to restore the balance. I have been too fair. I stand, and now the vendetta begins.
“BODIN HAILHOOF! I CHALLENGE YOU TO SINGLE COMBAT, ON THE EVE OF THE NEXT MONDAY!” Silence fills the room. The song and voices that were once present scurried away like the sewer rats we live with. Bodin isn’t surprised, and no facial expression can hide it. It’s in his blood - it’s the way of the slave. He gives a brief smile, remembering the life that he once had and he’d enjoyed what he did. He was older than most of us, aged 55. The rest were young and stupid, but he was wiser. While many people become weaker through age, Bodin only got stronger when he mutated at the age of 53. I respect the man - in life.... and his upcoming death.
“Then I accept, Shaman of the Grimhammer clan. May the best mutant win!” He gave the Taurahe salute I barely saw, and nodded.
“I wasn’t sodding asking....” I mutter, leaving the dining area for my personal quarters.
What was I thinking?! I have a single spell which I can barely use, and I have no weapon other than my Grimhammer! I haven’t been here for several days, and its condition is terrible due to overuse. Ah Grimhammer.... where would I be without you? You bring much joy and victory with every skull you shatter, every heart you pop like a child’s balloon. You steal lives like I could steal candy from a baby. But I cannot tell you I love you, dear friend. I have not forgotten that - despite our differences - I still love that fair angel I know as Helene. So much about her has changed. Her hair was once black, but now it is golden and silky. Her ears were small, but mutating into an elf made them stand tall and proud. She wasn’t slim, until this change. But if I was physically attracted to her, that would have to be the worst feature. My ideal woman is a strong tall lass, with green or blue skin, possibly a tail and some fur, I don’t know. Mutations have brought many possibilities, so it always gives me a laugh thinking of these silly ideas! Ah, what does it matter? My Helene - before this change and after - could probably swing a war-hammer just as good as any Shaman! HAHAHAHA! I look up to my steel companion mounted on my wall. I stroke the leather hilt and smile, kissing my fingertips then placing them on the grip. Such an excellent mace.... it will do well. Bodin will fall, but he will do so with pride and glory. That is the worst insult a sworn enemy can do, even in death: smile, or be proud. It is the dead man’s switch of any duel.... a fail-deadly for emotions. I sit in a new wooden chair and look at the little furniture I have. I prefer not to think about my Human life, before slavery. It prevents me from thinking of greed and casting aside what I would later become. I shake my head and reach down for the bottle of ale next to me. I guess there’s only two things I can trust now: my hammer, and alcohol.
Forging the Shaman's tools
I pass Bodin in the corridor, who greets me with a hearty hello and a smile.
“Greetings, Shaman. Looking forward to the duel?” How could he be so smug? It is a new day, and I didn’t expect to see the morning without finding a dagger in my back. I can no longer trust him, but I understand he is only trying to be polite.
“I do not enjoy killing my brothers, Hailhoof.” I try to pass him, but he stands in front of me holding out a three-fingered hand covered in hair.
“Shaman,” his eyes look down to mine, “I do not wish to die, but I do not wish to kill you. I will fight.... for honour.” I shake my head, giving a shadowy laugh from the bowels of my lungs.
"You do not understand. The terms cannot be changed. We fight in six days.” This time, I barge past his yeti-like self, and continue down the stinking brown passage.
“At least get yourself a better weapon!” Bodin finishes, before continuing his journey to the Grimhammer toilets. Should the Humans take this place and hope to drink the water, they can get a brief taste of history. Hehe.... “piss”-tory. Enough! Bodin is right: I need another weapon. Or at least improve my current mace. I look to it, and it whines in its sheathe. More killing, it asks. I hear, just by looking at the state of a once-marvellous weapon. It could do with a repair....
Forgemaster Shanks is a peculiar mutant. He is not an Orc, a Taurus nor a Goblin, a Troll nor even a Dwarf or a Worg. He is one of the few Human Warlocks who was taught about self-resurrection, which was more entertaining to see second-hand than it sounds. He was originally a human, but time has only taken the flesh from most of his bones due to overwork in the afterlife. Ever since he mutated, he has felt nothing but regret worshipping the King like a god! He swore allegiance to the Grimhammer clan, and guaranteed our safety should we encounter any of the Nazi-like undead that scour the lands in hopes of finding human labour. He may look weak and fragile, but rigor mortis has treated him well (for the most part) - his skin is as tough as the leather armour he makes for our scouts, but his steel is far, far stronger. He uses his Warlock magic to enchant the armour, giving it magical wards to prevent shields and plate shattering, perhaps even summoning demons should the “magic words” be so much as uttered. Shanks was a busy man, working the forge day and night and studying in his free time. Before I was taken to London, I practically begged of him to sleep, but he refused. Now it seems rest is nothing but a dream miles away - new recruits mean more armour pieces and weapons, only this time, they need to be made stronger. Today, I see him to repair the Grimhammer. As he sees me walk into the Forgechamber, he throws down his hammer and tongs, wiping his hands of sweat.
“Ah, Shaman! Come to see the latest “’Umiestomper Boots”? Perhaps interested in replacing an eye with one that can grant you the ability to see far off into the future?” He is a comical man is Shanks, and a serious one too. His library of dark powers ceases to disappoint, but I prefer the what I do. He places his (literally) bony hands on the warm anvil, and in doing so I notice his new hastily glued on fingernails.
“Rokk’Shellar, Forgemaster. As nice as your offers sound, I think I’ll just come for the usual.”
“The usual, eh? No new armour to be forged from the blood of demons and the plate of the inferno? No robes in need of washing in ink, blacker than the void? No, I don’t know.... Shamanistic enchants that can engulf an enemy in flame should the Grimhammer strike them...?” I hunched forward, placing my hands on the steaming hot weapon that lay in front of me. I ignored the pain, as it singed my palms.
“WHAT WAS THAT?!” My beady eyes poked out like living globules of white paste, glimmering in the forges’ flames. The Forgemaster leapt back in surprise, giving a deep yelp despite expecting me to react in that way. Such power.... I’d heard of it before! Yes, weapon enchants could blast targets miles away in a gush of wind, shatter the earth at my feet, or even part waves just by waving my hammer in any said direction. This is not Warlock magic, this is an elemental’s wet dream!
“Shanks, repair the Grimhammer, and give me an enchantment! NOW!” To think that the three years I’ve been a Shaman of Hammersfield, it has not once occurred to me that my enemies’ hammer blows are followed by a whoosh of flame! How could I have been so stupid?!
The Shaman’s weapons are being forged, and soon they will be ready for single combat against Bodin Hailhoof. Time is ticking, and the old grandfather clock is skipping beats....
Start the journey to Bombingham, New West Midlands here!
- The Shaman (Part 5)
The Shaman makes his way to Bombingham, in a journey filled only with doom, sadness and a thirst for revenge. The dangers of the new world are shown in this adventure to Bombingham, in the New West Midlands.