The Present: A Chance EncounterEdit
The bald young troll dragged the raptor's carcass down to the beach, careful not to draw the attention of its pack mates. Nearby, a large green tortoise looked around nervously, keeping an eye on the distant pack, always protective of her master. Settling down, Maclimes removed his skinning knife from his pack, and began the gruesome business of flaying the beast's hide. The creatures had been a major nuisance to his allies at Grom'gol, and he was determined to help thin the raptor's numbers. But as a beast of the land himself, he refused to let any part of the animal go to waste, and was careful about setting aside any useful bones or organs, used in a variety of voodoo rituals and construction.
The troll had the poise of an animal, always alert and cautious. His chest and legs were covered in thick leather armor, and his face was covered by a dark helm. Around his neck hung a necklace of teeth, from all manner of creatures. Orc fangs, human molars, tiger canines, and even a small kodo tusk adorned the grim totem that served as reminder to him that he was, at heart, a killer. After calmly finishing with the raptor, he carefully bagged up the remains and headed towards Grom'gol.
After selling these excess wares to the trolls there, a small campfire was lighting up the small section of the Savage Coast, not too far north of the Orcish encampment. A few small animals were drawn to the smell of cooking meat, but Ashelae, the great tortoise, kept them at bay while her master tended to their meal. He crouched quitely, his ears alert, as he slowly turned the spit that held the leg of a raptor. Behind him, towards the ocean, a twig snapped, and the troll leapt rapidly to the right, spinning as he came down. Before he had even looked up to the sound, his bow was loaded and pointed in it's direction.
There, standing on the beach, the waves washing over her ankles, stood a lone troll. She was beautiful, by the standards of the Darkspear, and stood wearing a simple dress of traditional troll make. Older than Maclimes by around 20 years, she had a look of endless sadness about her. The hunter loosened the tension on his bow, and lowered it towards the ground. She raised her arms, as if to embrace the bald troll, but he backed away warily.
“Who you be?” he asked in his native tongue, still keeping his distance from her.
She lowered her arms in defeat, looking offended at his question. “Do ya not reco’nize me? Ya knew me well, back when ya was small.”
He arched an eyebrow in confusion, though his brow furrowed with anger. “What you mean by that?” In truth, his memory of his younger days was hazy, although he never really questioned why. He wasn’t even sure he’d ever been a child. He was simply a hunter. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Suddenly, she dropped to her knees in the sand, letting the ocean current wash over her legs. She began sobbing intensely, her salty tears mixing with the salty water, as incomprehensible words attempted to escape her quivering lips. Maclimes looked over his shoulder, confused, at his pet turtle. Ashelae, of course, said nothing, but lay calmly in the sand nearby, looking sad as well. Her great eyes seemed to almost be pleading, and that was enough for the hunter. He had learned to trust the judgment of his companion over the years, and so dropped his bow into the sand.
He approached the older woman and, stooping low next to her, laid a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him, meeting his eyes, as the sobbing stopped. While her tears still softly flowed, they stared in silence for a moment, until finally Maclimes spoke. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember much from back den. Tell me, who you be?”
“Oh, Maclimes. What have they done to you?” she choked, drawing a look of surprise from the hunter at the mention of his name. “I’m Leshia She’Lorie. I’m your mother.”
The hunter fell over backwards at her words, landing on his rear into the surf-tossed sand. “My what?” He attempted to regain his footing, a foul look on his face. “I don’t have no mother.”
A strange, sad smile crossed her face, making it hard to tell if she was about to cry or laugh. “Of course you have a mother, you silly little troll. What did you think, that you popped up outta the ground like that?”
He hesitated, attempting to find the answer in his mind. In truth, the question had never occurred to him. He had no past, and had never tried to find out why. Given his naturally inquisitive nature, this suddenly struck him as odd. Why had he never wondered?
“They did a real number on your brain, my poor boy,” she whispered, the obvious sadness now showing through. “But it’s comin’ back, isn’t it? Here, let me help you remember.” She reached up, one finger extended towards the hunter’s forehead. To his credit, he did not back up, but let her touch him.
Everything started to get fuzzy, as Maclimes slowly fell backwards. With her free hand, she caught him around the waist, while keeping her other hand on his head. Cradling him close to her body, she whispered into his ear. “Remember, my son. Remember.”
The Past: Happier TimesEdit
Leshia sat on the floor of her hut, the small knife in her hand slicing up vegetables. The sounds of a battle and cheering echoed through the tent, though she did not seem bothered by this at all. Finally finished with her preparations, she raised herself from the floor, and peered through the open door of her humble home.
Outside, around the communal fire, was a ring of tents and huts. This tiny village was but one of many serving as the homes for numerous troll families here on the Echo Isles. A large gathering of trolls was off to one side, watching two male trolls, both clad only in loincloths, engaged in a rather intense bout of combat. As Leshia pressed in close to the center, she could see her son, Maclimes, fighting with a pair of small axes. He was nearing the age of manhood, and would soon be welcomed into the tribe as an adult, and as a warrior. She glanced past him, to a young female troll past the fighters. The young Jireala looked quite excited, but at the same time nervous about the duel that was occurring. Though a few years younger than he, she and Maclimes had become quite close, and would likely be wed when he was officially declared an adult, and therefore allowed to choose a bride.
Leshia then glanced at the other fighter in the ring of spectators. Slightly larger and considerably older than Maclimes, he fought with a single large axe, and swung with an incomparable level of strength. But the younger hunter was fast on his feet, and always managed to stay away from the larger troll, who was known as Opsani. After several minutes, supported by wild cheering from the crowd, Maclimes managed to land a ringing blow to the side of his opponents head with the flat of his axe, sending the big troll sprawling. Opsani lay on his back for a moment, before being offered a hand up by Maclimes.
“You okay, dad?” asked the younger troll. Opsani accepted the help up, and clapped his son on the back.
“You gonna be a fine warrior, son. You gonna make ya mom an’ me proud.” He smiled at his son as he led him towards the door of their hut. With a glance and smile over his shoulder at Jireala, Maclimes ducked his head into their small home.
He had barely stepped inside when a scream of fear erupted from across the village. Spinning on their heels, Opsani and his son instinctively clutched their weapons and scanned for the source of the yell. Suddenly, painted troll warriors leapt from every available hiding place, savagely attacking the village.
Rushing to the defense of the villagers, Maclimes squared off against a savage troll wielding a long spear. His eyes, Maclimes noted, were completely blank, indicating that he had been hexed by a strong voodoo. As his axe buried itself into the other troll’s chest, he scanned the fighting occurring all around him. He saw his father easily cleaving opponents in two, and was holding his own well. In a far corner of the village, though, a small clump of the hexed trolls walked in file, protecting what was obviously the leader. Clad in purples robes, his face was hidden behind his impressive mask.
“Zalazane!” Maclimes muttered. So, the bastard had finally resorted to violence and magic to attain his goals. The madman would stop at nothing, and rumors had been circulating that Zalazane was capturing and bewitching any troll who could fight. The young hunter grabbed his bow, and notched an arrow. The mad witch doctor would never harm another soul again, as far as he was concerned. Without a moment’s hesitation, he let the arrow fly.
It thudded into the chest of one of Zalazane’s bodyguards, who had dived into the path of the angry missile. Cursing under his breath, Maclimes reached for another arrow. But now he had been spotted, and Zalazane raised his hands towards the hunter. “Take that one alive,” he intoned. Before another arrow could be loaded, an evil magical blackness took the young troll, and he lost conciousness completely.
The Past: Fall from GraceEdit
When his eyes opened, Maclimes found he could not move. Though no ropes or chains held him, his body was bound by some mystical force. He stood in a row of other trolls, many of who were around his own age. Most were male, but the occasional female was present as well. All seemed to be under the same spell, as they did not move, but looks of horror were plain on their faces.
Off to the side were many other trolls, although these were not under any spell. They were tied up, and were practically laid in a pile near the edge of the fire. Getting a good look around, Maclimes realized he was not in his village anymore. He was at Zalazane’s encampment, far to the south east of his own home. Scanning the other ensorcelled trolls, Maclimes spied several old friends from his village, as well as a number of strangers, presumably taken from other villages. Around the edge of the encampment, other trolls stood guard, bearing the blank faces of the hexed.
Looking to the trolls who had been tied up, the young hunter’s heart broke. There, amongst the prisoners, was his mother. Lying still off to one side with her hands tied behind her back, her head was turned away from Maclimes, so he could not see if she was okay or not. He searched the rest of the group, but found no sign of his father or his love, Jireala. He dared to hope that they had found a way to escape, but he was not confident in this.
“So! Are you lot ready for the next step in your spiritual journey?” croaked a voice from off to his side. Maclimes, and the rest, turned to see Zalazane strolling up to them, with a deceptively small vial in his hands. “You are the ones who survived the first round of treatment. You should be proud, as not everyone was hearty enough for it.” He tipped his head to their left, where a second pile of trolls could be seen. This pile was not tied up, but rather, the trolls were all dead and pale, as if the life had been sucked from their bodies.
Maclimes’s fears came true, as he laid eyes on Jireala’s corpse, piled up casually with the rest. The sight of his future lover dead and her body desecrated was more than the young troll could stand. The rage filled him, empowered him, but all he could manage was one weak step towards Zalazane, fists clenched impotently by his side.
Zalazane laughed at the attempt. “A lot of strength in you, little one. Hopefully, you’ll be as strong as your father. Unfortunately for him, he proved to be a bit too strong.” Maclimes did not have to read minds to know what he meant by that: Opsani’s corpse likely lay battered back at their village, fallen in battle to protect his loved ones. But he was too strong for Zalazane to hypnotize, so he had killed him instead.
Again, the anger coursed through his blood, strengthening his weakened will. His other foot slid forward this time, bringing him another step closer to the treacherous witch doctor. But it would not be enough, sadly. Zalazane closed the remaining distance himself, bringing himself eye to eye with Maclimes. He tipped the vial into Maclimes's unresisting mouth, forcing him to swallow the foul potion.
The hunter's vision swam, and focus became difficult. Sounds suddenly dulled, and he could only hear a low ringing. Suddenly, Zalazane spoke, and as he did, it was as if he was inside Maclimes's very head. "Now, we shall test your loyalty."
Zalazane spoke again, but this time, it was dulled and weak. Apparently, he was speaking to someone else. "Bring his mother here. And give this one his bow." His weapon was pressed into his hands, and Maclimes found his body was able to move again. But he had no desire to flee. He only lived to serve his master, Zalazane. As if from a thousand miles away, he heard a woman screaming. She was in front of him, and he was slowly regaining focus.
Zalazane leaned in close beside the hunter's ear, and whispered simply, "Kill her." With no hesitation, Maclimes brought up his bow, pulled back an arrow, and let it fly. The evil bolt thudded sickeningly into his mother's chest, directly into her heart. But the mindless troll at Zalazane's side felt nothing at all.
The Present: A Sacred VowEdit
"MOM!" Maclimes screamed, sitting upright, his knees falling into the sandy beach. Suddenly, it all came back to him. Years after that fateful day, a group of Orcs and Trolls, attempting to put an end to Zalazane's power, had engaged Maclimes's party. Maclimes had fallen from a cliff, and been dashed against the rocks into the ocean. A miracle allowed him to wash up onto the shore of Durotar alive, but the combination of voodoo and head trauma had wiped his mind clean.
He leaned forward, crying. "Mom, I thought I killed you." He turned over his shoulder, to where his mother had been holding him close to her breast. But there was only empty air, and a wide, unmarked beach. Only his own footprints showed any sign of life having been here at all.
A voice, soft and feminine, seemed to flow from the crashes of the waves in the distance. "I am still here, always for you, my son. Look to the sea, and I will be there."
Tears filling his vision, Maclimes jumped to his feet. He tore the necklace of teeth from his neck, and with all his might, hurled it into the ocean. "No more!" he panted. "No more."
He thought of all the beings whose teeth had rested on that chain. Memories and visions came flooding into his mind. All the innocents killed, all the families shattered, all the pain he had wrought. "No more killing." He dropped his bow into the sand, and stepped back a few feet. The campfire had long since gone out, and his pet turtle was long since asleep.
He turned to the ocean, and cried out at the top of his lungs, "NO MORE! I swear, by my mother's love, there will be no more killing!" Falling to his knees, weeping to himself, he continued to chant, "No more... no more..."