Grall grabbed the scout by his tunic and pulled him close. “Do you know why I have these bandages?” Grall whispered in his ear. The orc shook his head, the story of how the elders punished him had spread through the tribe and everyone knew of it, but none dare speak it to Grall.
Grall smiled as he pulled the bandages down revealing black, bottomless orbs where his eyes should be. “It’s because the elders have my eyes to see through the bullshit that others, like yourself spew forth like vomit.” Grall covered his eyes as he pushed the frightened orc away. “So, who else have you told?”
The orc, trembling with fear, leaned in and gave Grall a single name. “Ambrest.”
Grall bit his tongue, keeping a straight face. Out of all the orcs here, Ambrest was the last one Grall wanted to have this information. He was an orc that has been trying to undermine Grodak every step of the way. Grall held up his hand and Fluffles appeared behind him, hiding in the shadows.
“Take him out.” Grall said simply.
“As you wish, my lord.” The Tabaxi bowed and as quickly as he came, he was gone.
Grall walked up to Grodak as the festivities began, drinks being passed around and song being sung. The celebration would last the remainder of the day and long into the night. As Grall reached Grodak, pushing his way past several orcs who were trying to hand Grodak mead, he placed his hand on Grodaks shoulder and said one word. “Come.”
“Where?” Grodak asked, he was obviously tired and hurting but Grall knew he needed to see what his scout had found. “The festivities have just started, little brother, and I have yet to eat and drink my fill.”
Grall leaned into whisper in Grodaks ear. “Talengars gifts have been found.”
Grodak coughed as he spit out his mead. “What?”
Grall smiled, Talengars gifts were items that every orc in the world had searched for. It was once rumored that only Talengars chosen champion could ever access his gifts and use them for the betterment of his people.
“Are you sure?” Grodak looked to Grall skeptically.
“Either my scout is lying or it’s true. Either way, I think it’s something we need to look into.”
Grodak pondered this for a moment before speaking. “You’re right, little brother,” Grodak eyes gave off a strange sort of energy as he spoke, “either way, it’s something we need to look into.”
Grodak stood and began to falter, Grodak quickly caught him and helped him to stand up straight. “Careful, brother,” Grodak said as he helped support Grodaks weight, “you just took a beating that would’ve killed any normal orc.”
Grodak laughed. “I ain’t no ordinary orc,” he said raising his voice for all to hear, feigning drunkenness, “I am Grodak!”
A large roar from the orcs echoed through the camp in approval. “Help me to the location,” Grodak said in a hushed whisper, “and make sure it looks like you’re helping your drunk brother.”
Grall nodded slightly in acknowledgement as he helped guide his brother to Talengars gift.
Grall and Grodak stood at a stone door where a fresh orc body laid on the ground, Fluffles nearby.
“So,” Grodak said with sadness in his voice, “Ambrest was also after Talengars gift.”
Grall nodded, looking the stone door over. Grall noticed several runes on the door that seemed to glow in the darkness.
“Wouldn’t have mattered anyways, brother.” Grall spoke in a hushed tone as to not let others know of their location. “The door says, ‘only the one who is known as Grodak may open these doors.'”
Grodak looked from the body of Ambrest to the door. He seemed to not be able to see the runes that Grall knew was there.
Grodak looked to Grall puzzled before walking up to the door and laying his hand upon it. The runes glowed brighter and the door itself shone brilliantly, as if some new magic was activated upon the doors.
“Grodak,” a voice echoed from the door as a figure appeared, “my chosen champion. I congratulate you on your victory and the unity of the tribes.”
“Who are you?” Grodak stared at the image, almost as if he was searching for the answers to life.
“I am Talengar,” the figure replied with a smile upon his lips, “though I am no longer alive, the runes set upon these doors are placed here to allow us to communicate through time.”
“Unbelievable.” Grodak said in disbelief. “How is such magic possible?”
The figure chuckled a bit before replying. “It’s an old elven magic that is long lost. If you want to learn more about this magic, then you can ask the queen when you arrive.”
“Arrive?” Grodak asked.
“Yes,” Talengar spoke softly, “you must head to the fallen kingdom of the elves and retrieve my God orb, by doing so, you will gain access to my treasure.”
With those words Talengar vanished, leaving Grall and Grodak standing in the open, slack jaw.
After returning from the doors, the festivities ended as Grodak ordered the men to pack up, his anger evident in every action he made. “Brother,” Grall said in a soothing tone, “you mustn’t take your anger out on the men.”
Grodak whirled around and faced Grall. “Taking my anger out?” Grodak practically shouted the words as spit sprayed Grall in the face. “I am nowhere near taking my anger out on anyone.” Grodak kicked a sack of rations, sending it flying into the sky.
Grall stood there in silence as his brother seethed in anger. “Do you know where we must go?” Grodak asked finally calming down.
“Yes.” Grall said causing Grodak to spin around and face him. “I’ve been to the border of those woods once before, but the trees didn’t let me pass.”
“The trees?” Grodak asked in confusion.
“It’s hard to explain,” Grall said as he thought back to the first few weeks after his banishment, “it was as if they were alive.”
Grodak grunted in disbelief. “Alive my foot.” He said turning away from Grall. “If you do not know where the elven kingdom is then just saying so. Don’t make excuses for your incompetence.”
Grall bit his tongue, his anger would do nothing but make the situation worse and he knew that. “Brother,” he said, confident his words would not fail him, “I do know where it is. If you so do not wish for me to take you then I’ll have one of the orc spies-“
“You will do no such thing.” Grodak growled at Grall. “If I wished for someone else to lead me, I would’ve ordered it.”
Grall turned on his heels as Grodak spoke and began to walk away. Grall managed to get a few feet away from Grodak before he felt the twinge of the shadow world envelop him and Grodaks voice shouting at him. “Don’t you dare walk away when I’m talking.”
The next thing Grall knew, his face was being pressed into a fire, Grodak shouting over him in anger. “If I order you to do something, you do it.” Grall fought in vain to free himself from Grodaks hold as his face burned. The smell of his own burnt flesh filled his nostrils. Grall knew not what was going to happen, either he would be subjected to this horror until the Shadow World took him or Grodak will see that his punishment was met.
After a long moment of agonizing pain, Grodak threw Grall onto the ground behind him. “If you ever back talk me again-“
Gralls laughter interrupted Grodaks speech. “You’ll what?” Grall asked in amusement. “Kill me? I cannot die brother.” Grall stood up, his wounds already healing as the Shadow World took effect, pulling part of his body in and restoring the rest. “If I could die so easily brother, I would have already died a thousand times over.”
Grodak stared at Grall in horror and realization. “You’re immortal.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.
“No.” Grall said plainly. “I am cursed to suffer this life until the next chief, until you die.”
Grodak took a few steps back and fell onto the ground. He ran his fingers through his hair and stared out at nothing.
“Grodak,” Grall said disdain in his voice, “we may be brothers, but I never once accepted you as my chief, nor will I ever. You are, and always will be my brother, but never my chief.”
Grall turned on his heels and started to walk away. “Grall, stop.” Grodak almost shouted, the anger that was in his voice previously was gone.
“No, brother,” Grall said without pause, “I will not stop. Even if you used the Shadow World to drag me back and slam my face into the fire again, it would make no difference. I will continue to walk away until you either become the chieftain that Talengar believes you to be or death finally takes us both.”
Grodak sat on the ground as his men worked around him, packing up and getting ready to move out. His thoughts lingered on what Grall had said and how he was so cruel to his brother. He knew not of what had come over him and possessed him to commit such acts, but Grall was right. If he was to be the chieftain of the unified tribes then he needed to act like one. This meant putting the needs of the tribes over his.
Grodak stood up and started towards the Harsha tribe. It would only be right to pay them a visit so that they can know who killed their chief.
The air felt sickly as Grodak neared the entrance of the tribe, he could hear the mourning of the women and children. Their leader laid on a pyre that must’ve been built ahead of time, the flames licking at his blackened skin. Grodak stood just outside the entrance, not wanting to disturb their mourning.
As the flames died out, Grodak approached the tribal people. At first they seemed startled at his appearance but Grodak paid them no mind as he kneeled down by the ash and placed a single green gem, the currency for those who laid defeated so that they may tell their tale on the next life, on top of the grayed ash.
“Tonight we pray for the leader who never gets a break. Oh God’s above, from the time he opens his eyes until he falls asleep, he is thinking about what he needs to do next. He makes the hard decisions and the easy ones. He decides when to let things go or take things on. He says yes when he wants to say no and says no when it would be so much easier to say yes. His mind is in constant motion. Tonight, oh God’s above, we thank you for the rest you give him. You don’t just bring rest to his body, you bring rest to his soul. Settle everything that is racing within him. Help him sleep in the darkness of the Shadow World. We ask, in the old God’s name, hold his soul close at hand so we may cross paths once again, with Talengars song.”
Grodak sung his sorrowful song that his tribe had once sung over his father’s lifeless body as he watched the flames take what remained of him. A year slid down Grodaks cheek as the memories surfaced. An elderly orc woman sat next to Grodak and began singing their song of mourning.
Grodak stayed with the tribe for the remainder of the night, helping them with the burial. As the sun began to peek over the horizon Grodak stood in front of the tribe.
“I united the tribes to create a better home for us all.” Grodak spoke softly but his voice echoed off the buildings for all to hear. “We have been forced into the scar for far too long and it’s past time for us to come out. There is no longer enough food and water to sustain every orc in the scar, so we will leave and go where there is.” The crowd began to cheer at Grodaks words. “I already found land that could house every orc in the scar, land that is flourishing with enough life that we could last there until the end of time. Therefore, I sought to unite us all, rather than leave the other tribes out I want to share this with everyone.”
The crowd erupted into more cheers and as Grodak looked over the crowd he spotted a single figure standing alone, a bandage covering his eyes and a smile upon his lips. Grodak walked over to Grall and placed his hands on Gralls shoulders. “Brother,” Grodak said, “when did you get here?”
“The same time as you.” Grall said sheepishly. “You didn’t think I would allow our tribes chief to wonder off, alone did you?”
Grodak could feel his lips twitch almost into a smile. “No,” he said, “I guess not.” There was a moment pause where neither of them spokes. “Grall, I’m-“
“Don’t.” Grall said, a hint of anger clouded his voice. “There is no need to apologize, just don’t ever do it again. If you do, I will make sure that not even the God’s their selves will be able to save you from my wrath.”
Grodak flinched at Gralls threat. Grodak knew that if it came down to sheer strength, he would win, but in a fight against his brother, who could jump out time and time again refreshed and even use his own shadow as a weapon. Grodak stood no chance.
“So,” Grall said, changing the subject quickly before anyone could get mad, “how are we going to get everyone to Whitewater?”
Before Grodak could speak, a familiar voice shouted, “I can help you with that.”
Writer’s note: “Talengars song” is a modified version of “Mother’s rest.”