So this is a thing.
For the past decade, I've been developing a completely unique universe in my skull. I've got characters, I've got races, I've got the bare bones for a story...but nothing committed yet. Brutal truth, it's been a decade since I last sat down to write ANYTHING so part of it is fear of being rusty. But tonight, well...ever since I realized Chronicles was back, I kind of wanted to share a portion of this world with the forum. So I got to thinking of a side story I could write. Plotted that out...got too scared to put it to paper. It's been a while and just because it's a unique setting doesn't make it *good*, after all.
So here's a little random snippet from that side story. Let's see if the gears still turn after ten years. Enjoy.
The story thus far:
The Endless Plains is as its name implies it to be, a seemingly endless plain of rolling hills. But as with all names, it is also an exaggeration. The Plains are only "endless" because mapmakers of the Civilized World have no desire to venture out within it. Thus, our story focuses on a wind swept, desolate part of the Plains that bears no official designation. It is also where two Exponents of Bretta - a holy order of warriors on a religious pilgrimage into the Plains - find themselves having been captured by the local Ikkarans The Ikkarans are a quarrelsome people, reptilian and communal, they see any non-Ikkaran intruder into their land as their property. This is all the Exponents know about the Ikkarans, but the fact they were specifically separated from their brethren and lead here suggests something, more...
The heat of this place was such that Casimir could feel it radiating through the soles of his leather boots. He, Geoffrey, and the Ikkaran translator-slave Rhob were all shackled together in the middle of the Herd, constantly moving forward into this rock strewn canyon by harsh tugs on the metal shackles, or the not-so-gentle prodding of the Ikkaran spear heads. Casimir kept looking for an opening, but the Herd continued to shift and rotate around their prisoners, making it difficult to Casimir to focus. Also making it difficult to focus was the fact he and Rhob had to support Geoffrey's weight between them. The blood caking the side of his fellow Exponent's face concerned Casimir, as did the lack of focus in his eyes.
Suddenly, he realized that the three of them had somehow managed to walk out of the center of the Herd and into the open canyon. It had happened so swiftly, Casimir hadn't even noticed. Looking back, he saw the Ikkaran Herd mulling about at the entrance to this narrow passage of the canyon. Trying to register why, he finally looked ahead.
Old gore soaked the ground around him. Or, at least, that's what it looked like to begin with. He quickly processed that the ground here was as red as dried blood and littered with dull brown crystal formations. So caught up in the sight, it took him a moment to register Rhob shaking.
"Rhob, what's wrong?"
The wasted and sickly translator merely emitted a whimper, his eyes locked away from Casimir. The Exponent followed his fellow captive's gaze, and his jaw went slack. Jutting out of the ground was an enormous brown crystal, but where the other crystals were a uniform brown, this crystal had what seemed like veins of glittering rubies all along its surface. Standing in front of the crystal, two other Ikkarans, not part of the Herd that transported them here, stood. Their bony heads covered by a grotesque ritual mask that reminded Casimir of the masks often used by cults of Hoculus, the Avatar of blood and water.
Apparently satisfied with the trio, the two Ikkarans stepped forward in unison, and one reached into its flowing earth toned robe to remove a key. Masked, inhuman gazes fell upon Casimir and he felt the slave translator shrink back from them. Casimir's face was once again hot. If Rhob was to be believed, he was once an Exponent like Casimir and Geoffrey. What horrors could be inflicted upon a righteous heart to quell it so fully?
Casimir realized he was dehydrated and his mind was wandering. Shaking off the cobwebs of his thoughts, he registered the Ikkarans undoing the shackles of the three men and roughly grabbing for Geoffrey. Casimir let out a cry, but a rattle of metal on metal from behind made him remember that the Herd was still behind him, and any resistance shown at this stage would just earn him a spear to the back.
As one of the Ikkaran...priests?...roughly removed Geoffrey from between the two men, the other Ikkaran deftly interlinked the shackles between them, thus binding Casimir to Rhob at the arms, rendering both incapable of any sort of true resistance. Geoffrey stumbled forward in a daze, and Casimir was beginning to suck in air to yell at the Ikkarans that the man was clearly direly wounded, when he witnessed the first Ikkaran priest shove Geoffrey forward and violently. Casimir looked on in horror as the tip of a blood soaked brown crystal suddenly erupted from his friend's back. It had been so sudden a maneuver, that even Geoffrey dazed as he was could only manage a choking gurgle.
Casimir screamed. Rhob wailed, beginning to chatter away in the Ikkarans' tongue. Casimir didn't understand the words, but the body language spoke clear as day. Rhob was a good slave. Rhob served faithfully. He didn't want to die. Casimir snarled and drew back his head, ramming it into Rhob's own brow and sending the both of them down into a heap in the dirt.
"W...Why?!" Rhob wailed.
"Because the least you could do is die like an Exponent." Casimir snarled.
The Ikkaran priests paid the two's altercation no heed, circling the crystal with the impaled man and inspecting it through their masks. Satisfied, they turned their attention to the other two offerings and the world exploded in noise.
A shout like a thunder clap suddenly roared through the canyon while drums followed up the illusion of a sudden, oncoming storm. The Herd snorted and brayed in dismay - for all their viciousness, they were still creatures of instinct and the majority threw down their spears to flee back up the canyon and away from this macabre altar. The two priests, to their credit, drew daggers and adopted defensive postures, something Casimir would have never assumed to be the case with Ikkarans. From the canyon walls, bronze skinned men in animal hides began leaping or rappelling down onto the scene. They were armed with metal weaponry and seemed intent on using it, though Casimir did notice that it was mostly blunt instruments and not true swords or axes.
The two priests, as well as those of the Herd that did not flee at the noise, rushed at the men but other men stationed at the top of the walls were waiting with bows to cover their comrades descending into the scene. Casimir looked around in dazed amazement as one of the priests staggered backwards towards him, a arrow shaft sticking out of his shoulder.
"Rhob!" Casimir shouted. There was no time to tell the slave the plan, no time to consciously consider it even. Casimir just threw out his shackled arms - and Rhob, bless him, did the same - and the chains wrapped around the neck of the injured Ikkaran. Casimir pulled tight and was rewarded with the sound of struggled breathing. The Ikkaran was unnaturally strong, even for one of his own kind, but Rhob - weeping and sobbing - did his part and began applying downward pressure to the chains as Casimir took both ends in an attempt to keep them locked around the Ikkaran's neck. The priest's struggles intensified, but slowed eventually and suddenly Casimir found himself tipping backward with the slack priest. A brief, sudden fear of being impaled on a crystal like poor Geoffrey filled Casimir's mind as he hit the ground and the wind was blown out of his lungs. Recovering quickly, Casimir twisted his body from under the priest and in a quick motion, Casimir tore the ritual mask from its face.
Unlike all other Ikkarans, this creature had actual horns. Oddly though, they weren't made of the same bone that all Ikkarans had on their heads. No, these were brown, with pulsing red veins running through them. More brown crystal caked under the eyes, nostrils, and at the sides of the mouth. Casimir blinked in confusion when one of the bronzed men was suddenly at his side, driving a iron mallet down on the creature's face.
Casimir looked up into the face of the man who had in a real sense saved himself and Rhob. He wore his raven hair in thick braids, and wore a necklace of various predators' teeth. The man regarded Casimir briefly before looking up and barking a command in a unfamiliar tongue. Casimir turned towards Rhob for an explanation. Rhob shook his head.
"Orcs don't let themselves be caught by the Ikkarans. I'm not familiar with their language." Rhob explained.
"Orcs?" Casimir stared in disbelief. "But..."
"They're Men, I know."
Casimir's mind reeled. For eons, the Civilized World knew the Endless Plains were the domain of the Orcs, the savage red eyed race bent on their destruction. It was why the Worldsend Forest was established as a natural barrier. But all Civilized children grew up believing the Orcs were more beastly than even Ikkarans...
Casimir became aware of a faint, keening hum from the surroundings. Glancing around, he saw the Orcs were also aware of it. The braided Orc was calling out orders as Orcish drums continued to beat on the sides of the canyon walls. A masked Orc suddenly appeared, seemingly wearing a parody of the Ikkaran's own mask, but he was flanked by two other Orcs, who carried metal poles and wore strange, oily black gloves that went up past their elbows. The trio advanced on the large crystal. As they did, the humming seemed to be getting louder and more insistent.
Casimir was utterly confused, and then he saw movement at the edge of his vision. His jaw once again fell open as he realized Geoffrey's body was beginning to move once again.
"By the White Mother..."
Rhob began to weep. "The Yasa."
In addition to the humming and the drums, Casimir became aware of a harsh, angry hissing. With the other noises, it took it a moment to realize the new noise was coming from Geoffrey.
The impaled Exponent tore himself free of the crystal, and with glowing red crystal erupting from his hissing mouth, seized the Orc closest to him.