Author Topic: Crack-Bones Story  (Read 232 times)

The Dan

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Crack-Bones Story
« on: November 12, 2018, 09:43:51 PM »


What You See

An ogre, skin milky pale, like a grey-white candle, but its folds are cracked and wrinkled, like old leather. He stands straight-backed, unlike the natural hunch of many ogres. All the features of a human face, but stretched and monstrous. A heavy jaw, blue eyes under heavy brows. Old scars, faded tattoos and scarifications.

He wears a mishmash of armour - boiled leather, an iron studded sleeve, even a few scraps of chain and woven silk. He carries a much-battered steel shield, in the style employed by Ambrian foot-knights, its original heraldry long scratched to nothing. For a blade he wield's an old, many notched sword, its grip wound with rope to better fit his fist. Around his neck is a tarnished bronze symbol of Prios.

He speaks deliberately, as if carefully picking his words. His words sometimes betray some kind of education.

He smokes a long pipe carved from what looks like a single leg bone. Sometimes he reads (with an intense stare), or writes in an old leather-bound book. In other idle hours, he whittles with middling skill: Bone chess pieces, caricatures of people he has met. The white king is an old man; the black a hunched blight beast. His own piece is the white queen.

What Most People Know

Crack-Bones has been around for as long as anyone can remember, but he’s better known and more infamous in Blackmoor than in the Hold itself: He works in the Hold, and has feasted there in better days, but lives in the tent town, though he has a gate ring.

In the hold's early years he was known as a leg-breaker and extortionist's thug, a debt collector and bounty hunter, a paid sword for feuds needing settling… any job that needed a strong arm. He was the right hand of a treasure hunter turned gang boss known as the the Old Man, who once lorded over much of Blackmoor.

Crack-Bones and the Old Man are known to have fought at the forefront of the Merchant’s War. They spilled plenty of blood, some of which might not have been forgiven or forgotten. He was on the winning side. 

What Some People Might Know

The Old Man was one of the first wave of Ambrians, or so the rumour goes. For years he was Taran’s man among the treasure hunters, ruffians, and transients of the tent town. The Old Man once controlled more than that, but was driven to the outskirts by the arrival of the Blood Robes and the raising of the keep.

Although he survived the Merchant’s War, the Old Man died in Thistle Hold itself, near the gallows to the claws of a blight beast that somehow got inside the walls. Since then, Crack-Bones has been spending more time with treasure hunter gangs going into the forest.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Crack-Bones Story
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2018, 10:33:56 PM »
Crack-Bones' Journal

Father says I must write, so I know all the words and letters and how take the most knowledge from other peoples’ words. He says words etched on skin or wood can have great power. I think that it is a bad idea. I think its better if only men speak words, so you can look them in the eye.

SPRING

In the beginning, there was the Forest. I remember it like a dream now, in pieces. Then people found me, or caught me, I cannot remember which. Maybe they said one thing but meant the other - that happens to us sometimes. Those people were Karohar, fierce and strong. I stayed with them for many springs and winters, but it is possible to spend a long time with people, and yet them still not be family. This I have learned.

But there was food and fighting though. Many fights, for that is the way of the Karohar.

Winters went by, many. Enough time that Red-Hair, who looked after us, went from a barely bearded youth to a greybeard, stooped and strange in the head. After him, it was first his son who ruled, then the son of his son. Some of us died. Others ran off or were lured away. Sometimes there were trades, though I did not know the word back then. One of us would go with a witch, or with men of another clan, and the Karohar would get something in return.

It was not a bad life, I think. But I had no name, and that is a poor thing.
 
When my time came, I was traded to another clan, one from the south. I remember the sun, so bright without all the trees. They lived in huts on great wheels, drawn by beasts. Sometimes I would help pull or push when the ground was bad. I liked those people. They were nice, these Varacks: They laughed a lot, and sang. I loved their singing, there was kindness in it. They named me Hefter. This was a better time, but it did not last.

We heard there was fighting in the south, a new tribe invading allied lands. The Varacks took us south, where we joined other tribes. We fought the newcomers, called Ambrians. They were different. Worse than Karohar, worse than the Saar-Kahn even. Grim, in skins of iron; shields of steel, and fire magic. This was different from the raids, and I did not understand it. I remember the chieftain, Haloban though. I saw him once, up close. He was tall. He said we were good fighters and gave us meat and a barrel of stut.

We fought like wolves, but the newcomers were like biting ants: No matter how many we stamped on, there were always more, moving as one. It was a hard fight, and we lost. It ended at Kadizar. Then there was no more Kadizar. They killed the place as well as the people, and they made a new place. This I had not seen before. But this is the way of Ambrian.

There were many of us left afterwards, from different tribes. There was another trade. I knew the word now, I was ‘traded’ and we went back north, to dead Haloban’s lands. We built new places for the new tribe. Bigger and bigger places, because more and more of them came. More than any other tribe I had ever seen, even at the great gathering of clans at Karvosti. And they are always hungry for more. More of everything. And they are used to taking it and fighting hard.

On Haloban’s land we dug, pulled stone from the mountains or the ground and cut great logs from the forest. Sometimes we would fight for coin – each other, or wolves or worse things from the forest – a troll one time, Caught and dragged in just to fight until it died. That is why I do not enjoy the Abomitorium. We built a new hold for their new chieftain, a man named Nightpitch who came out of the forest with a handful of herbs their queen prized. Tales of Nightpitch taught me the power of a great name, and how you earn it.

As that year was turning cold, I fought elves in battle for the first time. I had seen them before, but the tribes were always wary and would give them way. This time they came in their hundreds , out under the open sky, and their arrows lit the night above us like a rain of shooting stars. Everyone had to fight, even us that did the cutting and hauling. They killed a lot of us, but we killed enough of them. A lot of our work burned, and that hurt because I’d helped built it. The arrows hurt a lot too.

One of the people in the battle that night was Father. He liked the way I fought. He took the shovel from my hand and gave me a real blade again. And life was good.


SUMMER

These were good times, at least for me. No more digging and hauling, I was glad to be a warrior again, for they were building the beacon in those years, and that shed a lot of blood: Ambrian, goblin, and ogre alike – we all look the same when a ton block falls on us.

Me and Father, making ours names. Often in the early days, we fought those who owed coin to other men, and we had to make them pay - one way or another. Sometimes it was Ambrians, sometimes one of the old tribes causing trouble. Sometimes one side or another needed blades for a feud. Sometimes it was a fight about who sold what where, or who could come into town. Sometimes I would lead other men, like a chief myself. Father never cared who or what you are, so long as the job gets done.

Father was a chieftain, of a kind. Or maybe a witch or one of those Ambrian magic men. He knew things and was wise, that was his power. Men came to him for aid. Sometimes that aid was me.

When someone displeased him, or there was a job to be done, Father would point at them and say to me: “crack bones!” and so that is what they called me. It was a good name. People knew me, feared me. They would shout “Crack-Bones a-coming” as I walked by, and men who owed debts would scramble and run from me.

In those early days, Father fought with that long knife the Ambrians like – fast, like dancing. He taught me to be faster. To use a shield. To be wise. I got many scars and bruises, but I learned. I still get hit too much thought. I’m just too damn big.

Sometimes I went back into the forest. Ambrians are always hungry for treasures from the forest. I saw the Karohar again, and the Odavs. Fought them sometimes. The Karohar, often.


AUTUMN

I have done many things, but I kept the name.

When a man owes but won’t pay, call for Crack Bones. When a young man needs pulling from a drug den in Blackmoor – call for Crack Bones. When a merchant’s hall needs riffraff smacking - Crack Bones. And treasure hunters always need a strong arm for a run into the forest. Everyone knows me, one way or another. I have a good name, but I wonder if it is enough. Father had a good name, and already he is forgotten. Who will remember me after I am gone? How long will I last, when I am only a story?

I do not wish to be a tree that falls with no sound.

We worked the town, always growing. We worked Blackmoor, when more and more came to try and take the forest’s treasures. There’s always work in Blackmoor – fighting, guarding, taking what’s owed, moving plunder without permits or watching eyes. Father said information was more valuable than gold or artefacts. Hence the reading and the writing. I am not sure I hold with writing things down, but that is the way of the Ambrian.

I watched Thistle Hold get big. I watched Father get slow and grey. That’s why the treasure hunters came to us in the Merchants’ War. We made a lot of friends that day, for breaking a few necks and burning a few bad treasures. Backmoor can never be clean, but now its not so dirty where it shows.

Corruption’s bad for everyone. Like a fire or sickness, it spreads.


WINTER

Father is dead.

An abomination got him, right in the middle of town. He wasn't the only one. No one knows where it came from, this thing from under the scaffold. People aren't even sure what it looks like, and I wasn’t there to see it - I was working the tents in Blackmoor for him. Did he know, and send me away? Was it chance, or something to do with the Merchant’s War? Maybe it was some other work come back at us. Perhaps just bad luck and a man gone slow with age. I don’t know, but I will kill the thing that did it.

Sometimes people ask if I am old. I say that the mountains are old, the forest is old. What is Crack-Bones to that? But there does come a time when you have learned all you are likely to, and you no longer fear death, and you sometimes feel the weather in your bones. Is that old?

I’m on my own now. Still working. Still writing. Tired of the game though. I miss the old days, when Father and I cracked bones together and the walls were new. I sometimes thing about the forest long ago. I wonder where I came from. Where we all came from.

I still like Blackmoor, it has life. I go into the forest looking for the thing that killed Father. Plenty of things to kill there until I find it. I like the treasure hunters, and they like a strong, steady arm. It’s not just that, though. I feel the forest calling.

Maybe I am just letting this place get to me.

Maybe the forest is getting into my bones.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2018, 10:45:16 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Crack-Bones Story
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2018, 11:50:01 AM »
OK, so since I might have to delicately explain it to 'someone', here are Crack-Bones' thoughts on THAT week...

Sometimes things go bad and it’s no one’s fault. That is the battle that is life. We pit our will against the world, it pushes back, and we hope to be the one who triumphs - or at least, survives. Sometimes it is other people pushing at us for their own purposes. It is not a matter of right or wrong, just push and pull. Good men can hate, or kill, or be overcome by a desire. Both good and bad men do these things. All that differs is our aim, our intention. Never forget your intention. You are master only of your desires. Everything else is a battle between chance and necessity.

Sometimes a deed is like an arrow loosed from a bow: You aim, draw, and loose towards an end. Other times it is like a pebble rolling down hill, hitting one stone after another until the whole damn mountain comes down. Terrible deeds are sometimes born from a small pebble, and once the avalanche starts, nothing can stop it.

Sometimes you have the luxury of a good choice, and sometimes you are ruled by necessity. Who has not stood by friend or kin in a quarrel, when we knew them to be wrong? Wicked actions aren't always foolish, and honourable deeds are not always wise. You are a lucky man, if life gives you good choices and only honourable foes. Oft-times men are just unreasonable. They are tired, drunk or have the ale-sickness that comes after, or their blood is burning for hate, for lust or for killing. These thoughts are like brothers, who encourage each other along. They say foolish things, do foolish things, because to them it does not seem foolish at the time. To them you are foolish, or wicked.

Only when both sides push and pull do we find out who is the fool.

Sometimes you see the future a moment before this comes to pass. You see the pebble falling, hitting others. You smell the wolf and know its teeth are near.

Upon this moment, the world pauses. Your heart beats like thunder and you feel the tickle in your bones that means what follows is the avalanche, inevitable - someone is going to die. In that moment you are freed of all shackles, all fear. That is why some people laugh in the face of doom, and run headlong into battle, happy. Because terror is the herald of Death, and goes ahead of him, but vanishes when you see Death clear before you. Then all things become simple: The only question is who will walk the cold path, who will rot and who will breathe a while longer. You or them, push or pull. This is the best feeling, save only one: The feeling when you take the first breath once the battle is done, for the pushing and pulling is over and you are victorious. You are born again.

Do not fear death, for it is all that you can say for sure is coming - sooner or later. Nothing good comes from letting your worries stand in your way. Be bold. Push, and push back, and do what must be done when  the rocks fall.

But never forget your intention.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2018, 11:57:02 AM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.