Author Topic: The eye of Gruumsh closes  (Read 217 times)

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The eye of Gruumsh closes
« on: March 25, 2019, 08:53:44 PM »
Evening falls on a band of travellers.  Men, women and children, some elderly, some sick.  The strongest among them do what they can to assist those who are beginning to falter but while it is never spoken aloud, the group know that given their current situation they will not all survive the journey.  Several have fallen already and they are not certain of where they are even traveling to.  They are refugees driven from their home by bold warriors; warriors now celebrating the kind of fame and success reserved for the greatest of heroes.

The refugees are orcs.  The heroes are of various races, finally compelled to violent action following one raid too many.  The orcs have no remorse for their crimes.  After all, they are strong.  Humans, elves and their kin are weak.  Why shouldn't orcs take what they need?  That has been a proud tradition of most races throughout history.  Numbers now dwindling, it is time to find a new way.  Hiding does not come easily to them, proud fighters all, but in the face of extinction...

It has been 3 months since their search for a new place to call their own began.  Supplies are running low and a cold smell in the air suggests snow.  Without shelter, this will be a bad night.  In the near distance, scarcely two hours' walk from where they stand is a mountain range.  In the light of a nearly set sun, it looks terrible.  Peaks jab at the sky with craggy, snowcapped lances.  Less a mountain range, more an arrangement of sheer rock walls.  No creature quite in their right minds would consider an ascent, not even if fully prepared, able bodied and with the benefit of warm weather and daylight.  There appears to be no better alternative.  Their leader, the largest and therefore ruler by default, makes a difficult decision.  Perhaps there will be a cave.  She hopes.  She prays.


Somewhere outside of the perception of mortal minds is an orc.  Well, mostly an orc.  Biologically.  On a plane blighted by endless war, a place of violence, scorched earth, the smell of blood and the crowing of carrion feeders, this orc is throwing a tantrum of unfathomable proportions under a cloudy, blood red sky.  Mortal orcs are so worthless.  Utterly incompetent, weak, lazy scavengers.  Those are just the orcs he actually approves of.  CIVILISED orcs, now they REALLY make his blood boil.  Orcs who dared to defy him, dared to find other deities, who live among humans.  Orcs who trade.  Orcs who contribute.  Orcs who defy their very nature, growing soft and fat in their pursuit of an easy life.

This is the domain of Gruumsh.  An ancient god of orcs and part of an extensive pantheon, worshiped by thousands (if not millions) of orcs and even the occasional member of other races.  Whilst certainly not the most powerful god in existence, his strength is enough to give even the likes of mighty Khord pause for thought.  He is anger incarnate.  Not an avatar of war, that is far too ordered and civilised, but a representation of slaughter.  In the dark domains he represents, he has few equals.  Unfortunately, self control is not one of his most celebrated virtues.

As he screams bloody murder to his followers, inspiring them to bouts of uncontrollable rage, he lashes out with his chosen weapon, a tremendous spear.  Not at anything in particular but anger and violence are the only ways in which he has to express himself.  No poet, he.  With one almighty thrust, he feels something he's never felt before.  Something gives way.  He pauses, he looks at the spear.  Something.  A different... texture to the air.  A slight trick of the light, a different tone to this empty space.  He must have rampaged through it one million times or more but today, it's different.  He examines it, gains no further understanding and decides to continue to probe this oddity in the only way he knows how.  He strikes repeatedly at the air with spear, tooth and claw.  The anomaly is larger, now.  He can feel something almost ripping.  It's almost as large as he is, insofar as he can tell, and from it comes a new sensation.  He can taste the presence of others.  Divine beings.  A new plane of existence, perhaps?  Gruumsh lacks the intelligence to be truly curious about much but this is strange.  He pushes against the space, forces an arm into it.  The arm is no longer visible.  His legs follow, his body, another arm, finally his head.  What he finds is a new place.  Bland would be his first word to describe it.  Here is a plane of barren earth, devoid of life and without any influence.  Obviously a divine place undiscovered by any god.  He will begin to claim it for his own immediately but... something is missing.  He feels weak here, almost threatened.  Something more is needed.  He cannot sense the souls of his faithful worshipers.  Perhaps this place is so far from what he knows as home that in this strange realm, he has no worshipers.  He closes his enormous eye and concentrates, seeking out compatible souls.  Yes.


In the sky above the Devil's Teeth mountain range, a star shines brightly.  The orc tribe have been navigating by its light these past weeks but now there is a change; it is extinguished; an ill omen indeed.  Their wise man, an ancient druid, looks to the sky with his leader.  This is no magic that he recognises.  Discussions begin, fears and concerns about the meaning of this occurrence.  The leader falls silent mid-sentence.  Her eyes shine as she looks to the heavens.  The star is back, now burning a brilliant, sickly green.  She hears a voice call to her.  It doesn't speak in Orc, nor in Common but instead in a far older language than that.  She hears the ringing of steel in chorus with the screams of the fallen, the meaty sound of blade striking flesh with deadly intent, the gentle drumming of sprayed arterial blood on dusty earth.  This voice doesn't speak in Orc, it simply is Orc and resonates with the pride and glory that being an orc entails.  The leader drops to her knees and begins praying and sobbing frantically.  Her companions follow her lead.  Soon they stand, brimming with purpose and determination.  There are no words, they simply stride confidently toward that star, directly to the mountains.  They do provide a cave which houses a large family of wolves.  No match for an orc tribe.  Their guiding star has provided both food and shelter.

Years pass.  The tribe colonises the mountain range, moving to its frozen heart.  Times are hard, the first winter in particular claiming many lives, but they eventually learn the skills they need.  They take up farming, learn to build shelters rather than taking them from weaker creatures.  They discover art (in their own primitive way) and learn to work with tools requiring more finesse than an axe.  The Serrated Fang tribe is born, named after their prominent lower canine teeth.  Gruumsh fosters his new flock providing care and guidance.  He is not a particularly nurturing soul but in these difficult starting decades he is willing to put his anger aside.  The Serrated Fangs do fear him and his demands but overall are grateful to him for his efforts.  Once certain that they would survive and that they were completely, hopelessly devoted, Gruumsh brought in some less... savoury traditions.  Ritualistic mutilation and sacrifice became a part of day to day life.

As Gruumsh's power grew, so did his ego.  Finally, a land to call his own, free from the constant oppression of that pompous fool, Larethian.  All he desired now was a larger flock.  To his dismay (and increasing fury), his little tribe never left the mountains except in times of dire need.  They feared other races now and preferred to keep to themselves.  They never spread his word, they never expanded.  They bred, though.  Near constantly, he thought.  After several generations in which Gruumsh permitted only those seen to be the strongest and bravest to couple, their offspring were now strong beyond his wildest and most fevered dreams but stupid.  So very, very stupid.  Certainly a beneficial trait in a devotee, not one of them thought to question him, but this new tribe could barely walk without forgetting to step using alternating legs.  Even if they had encountered other races, their ability to communicate was severely hampered by their tremendous lower jaws and (in extreme cases) 6-inch canine teeth.  They reluctantly returned to the raiding ways of their forefathers but only out of necessity.  They never killed, never took too much, never took what they could make or find for themselves, always made sure their victims had enough to survive and recover.  It was almost like another form of farming in a barbaric way.


Rumours spread, sparse rumours, about a one-eyed orc tribe in the mountains.  Few sightings were confirmed but it became common knowledge that a race of hulking brutes were certain to descend upon the nearby settlements any day now to finish the grim work they'd started.  Everybody claimed to know somebody affected by a raid though not one could provide a first-hand account.  And so, this tiny corner of the world came to know the many Eyes of Gruumsh and through them, they saw a fledgling god.  A new, tiny but apoplectic fish in a very large pond.  In Golarion, that was the the true birth of Gruumsh.

The villagers are getting restless now.  They gather pitchforks and torches.  Enough is enough, it is time for action.  Gruumsh watches with an unblinking eye.  Violence, delicious and senseless.  This will be the making of his little tribe.

There was only one survivor.
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Re: The eye of Gruumsh closes
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2019, 08:56:14 PM »
All was darkness.  in the back of Tung's mind, a familiar voice, booming but petty and dripping with insincerity mocked him.

"So now you know your history.  You, bold orc, who thinks himself above the gods.  Who thinks himself above consequence.  One more boon, well deserved.  Another that your kin likely never spoke of.  Would you like to see a potential death, young one?  Would you like to know precisely what the Eye of Gruumsh is for?"

Another time.  Another place.

It was time to say goodbye to the world.  Tung knew his death was coming and had but a short time to react to it.  He did what came naturally to him in times of crisis.  He offered a sincere prayer to his god, a god he still worshiped and had for his entire life.

Tung found himself in a strange place that he'd never been to before.  He had no recollection of traveling here.  It was dark, wherever 'here' was.  Barely visible in the distance were sharp, towering mountains lit by a tiny, struggling sun.  He seemed to be stood on a plain of earth and stone, barren and lifeless.  Occasionally the dark sky was illuminated with flashes of vivid green lightning.  There was a metallic smell in the air which reminded him of fresh wounds and he could feel a strong, warm wind around him.

Tung's death wasn't about to be spectacular.  Hadn't... been spectacular?  Had it already happened?  The past tense was probably something he should get accustomed to soon.  He didn't remember much about how it had come about.  It hadn't come as a surprise, he remembered that much, and he'd been disappointed at the time.  Still so much to do, so many things to experience.  Ah, but wasn't that the way for everybody?  It had been a good life, though.  Accomplished.  Plenty of regrets accrued whilst pursuing those accomplishments, yes, and so many lives taken by a being that once treasured all life but that was the way of the barbarian.  He had always felt justified in his killing.  He felt regret but not shame.  His view on morality was never especially complex.  Some things simply deserved to die and that was that.  This time it was him.  He hoped it had been a good death.

He sat.  He could pray, yes.  Wasn't he praying a moment ago?  Recent memory had left him, all he knew was the now and the then but very little detail in between.  Prayer was certainly an appropriate course of action in times of confusion but then, he was clearly dead.  About to be dead.  The transition was more confusing than he'd expected but without confirmation and without memory of the moment that it happened, he couldn't be sure.  This was possibly some kind of afterlife; it certainly looked like one.  He wasn't sure what happened to prayer once you crossed over but hopefully since he was nearer to them, the gods could still hear him.  He looked at his now-naked self, stripped of clothing and weapons.  He was young.  He had become an old man so gradually that he hadn't noticed it but joints no longer hurt, teeth felt stronger, senses sharper.  Youth.  Invigorating youth.  To be young again was an exquisite joy.

He'd heard that before you went to your last reward, you went somewhere.  Somewhere appropriate to you and your beliefs.  Was this the prelude to the afterlife?  That seemed about right.  Nowhere like this existed on Golarion.  It looked like... like somebody had brought him back to the heart of the Devil's Teeth mountain range but everything was wrong.  Bent into all the wrong shapes.  It felt like the world was ending, like this place didn't have long left to exist before being consumed in blood and fire.  What a strange sensation.  Blood suited this place.  It was sharp.  Everything was sharp and where it wasn't, it was desolate.

He looked up as he heard footsteps, slow and heavy.  A humanoid shape in the distance, silhouetted against the lightning, was growing nearer.  It was obscenely large, dozens of feet tall, carrying a spear longer than the bearer was tall and with every step seemed to grow, faster than a trick of perspective could explain.  The only visible detail on the dark mass at this distance was a single glowing point of green light in the centre of what was presumably its head.

"The time of judgment is at hand, Tung."

Gruumsh stopped, close enough now to see quite clearly.  He was terrible to behold.  Clearly orc but everything comically exaggerated.  Too many fangs, physique developed to impossible proportions, an odour so strong it was almost tangible, body literally stained with blood.  So much blood.  He must have bathed in blood.  Clad in nothing but a loincloth, every muscle gleamed with sweat, a chaotic mass of veins visible on every inch of his obscene body.  His very presence was profane.  This god, this beast regarded his follower with a single, crusted, grotesque eye, lips curled into a disapproving sneer.

Tung began to cry gently.  Not out of sorrow, not out of fear.  There was no emotion, it simply seemed the only appropriate reaction.

"Is this all there is after we die, my lord?"

"You have yet to die, Tung.  You are as close to it as it is possible to be but have not quite perished.  But for you, yes, this is your afterlife.  This is my domain.  It is a place of struggle and conflict.  There is no law here, only blood and the satisfaction of ceaseless violence.  Here you will find fulfillment through toil and combat for the rest of eternity.  This is your reward, Tung, and a rare boon indeed.  To live one final, eternally prolonged moment in my service and to obey my will until the end of all things."

"Jiro says when you die your soul is offered up for judgment.  He says representatives from the different afterlives bid for you."

"And you expect an ELF to understand Orc religion?  He was wrong.  He was lying to you."

"Do... mother and father live in this land and fight by your side?  Does my tribe endure?"

"They do not.  They lost their lives at the hands of HUMANS.  They called to me for salvation, they cried, they pleaded, claimed their right to survive on the strength of their faith.  They were unworthy of sharing this bounty, undeserving of my generous gifts.  Their souls were cast to the void, utterly obliterated.  You would do well to remember their fate, Tung.  It is one I could visit upon you with but a thought."

Nobody could be angry like Gruumsh.  It was always dreadful when he shouted; bad enough to experience it as a voice confined to the inside of Tung's head but in person it was significantly worse.  He sprayed a thick, faintly smoking bile as he screamed and his painfully loud voice shook the very ground.  His tribe had been right.  Gruumsh WAS the rage, he was physical anger.

"You killed them?  All of them?!"

"That which is not living cannot die, fool.  They were... silenced.  I would describe the depths of the pain they felt but your primitive concepts of language cannot begin to encompass the sensation.  Just know that they are gone and you, for the time being, are not gone.  Simple enough for you to comprehend, yes?  I must try to remember your feeble mortal mind in future conversations..."

"They were your children!  You were supposed to protect them!"

"I am SUPPOSED to do what I please!  You have the AUDACITY to tell your GOD what he can and cannot do?  ENTITLED!  EGOTISTICAL!  WEAK, SNIVELLING EXCUSE FOR AN ORC!"

With every screamed word, Gruumsh took another step forward.  He could have crushed Tung beneath his bare feet now as burning bile and spittle rained upon the seated orc.  Up close, the rage within Gruumsh was literally visible.  Every vein popping, evaporating sweat forming a sickly sweet cloud of mist and that dreadful eye.  Where it wasn't green, it burned with a red inner light.

The wind grew stronger, a howling gale.  The sound resembled the screaming of dozens of voices, shrieking in pain and fear.  They were all too familiar.  These were the last utterances of his people.  His parents.  This was an attempt to intimidate.

Tung stood, slowly and carefully.  He looked directly into that eye.

The scene halts for a moment.  A voice expresses wordless confusion.  Something is wrong, this isn't how this moment is supposed to play out.  The scene resumes.

"KNEEL, DEFIANT ORC.  OBEY."

Tung recalled an old battle cry.

"No..."

HOW DARE YOU?  I AM YOUR GOD!

Tung's voice was completely level, almost calm, even as Gruumsh brandished his enormous spear and placed its point, crackling with green lightning, directly on Tung's chest.

"I am the last one, am I not?"

"ONLY BECAUSE OF FORTUNE.  YOU ARE THE WEAKEST.  YOU WERE ALWAYS THE WEAKEST AND WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AS SUCH."

"I have studied your teachings, my lord.  I have studied your way.  I have learned that none outside of the Serrated Fang tribe even acknowledge you as a deity.  At best, theologians consider you the lead figure of an orc cult."

"ENOUGH.  PREPARE YOUR SOUL FOR THE BLACK WINDS OF ETERNAL OBLIVION, ONE-TON."

"You won't do it.  You can't.  You need me.  Now that you have killed them, forced them to sacrifice themselves, wasted them, you actually need me.  What is a god without worshipers, my Lord Gruumsh?  And you have said so yourself, I am the only one left.  Is that why you will not allow me to die?  Is that why you have stolen me?  What happens when a god is no longer loved or feared?  When all worship ceases?  Do they fade quietly into obscurity, Gruumsh, or do they starve and die?"

Something struggles to halt the vision.  It grows indistinct, soft around the edges.  Tung concentrates, a lucid dreamer forcefully taking control of a rampaging nightmare.

"ONE-TON-BLASPHEMER.  ONE-TON-INGRATE.  ONE-TON-DEAD!"

"You are beyond reason.  After all these years of abuse, even now all you do is threaten and scream.  I am tired of you and I will tolerate no more.  I cannot fight you, I cannot provide the 'honorable' end you probably feel you deserve but perhaps I can defend myself yet.  I reject you, Gruumsh.  I reject you as my god and as the leader of my race.  I hereby declare my soul to be the property of any more worthy god who should see fit to claim it."

The unseen interference ends.  The vision plays out uninterrupted.

There it ended.  One moment Tung stood in the presence of his lifelong tormentor, on the verge of complete annihilation.  The next... nothing.  Gruumsh was gone.  No protest, no pain, no retaliation.  He'd truly believed himself invincible.  What a pitiful creature.

That was it, then.  Tung sat for a while in case any roaming gods did claim him.  None did.  He scratched a dirt-encrusted claw thoughtfully at a still-vacant eye socket.  Gruumsh hadn't restored that along with his youth and judging by a familiar itch at his back, nor had his slave brand been healed.  Hardly a surprise.

He'd read there was a special place for souls without faith and that it wasn't a nice place.  This clearly wasn't that place.  Perhaps if you lost your faith in a place like this, the rules were different.

The storm overhead was clearing.  It was no doubt caused by Gruumsh for dramatic effect.  It wasn't really that dark here, not when you properly looked at it.  It was dry and warm, the wind was refreshing in a way and the metallic smell...  well, there were worse fates.  Some plants would have been nice.  Maybe there would be plants later, now that Gruumsh wasn't here.  There certainly didn't seem to be any way to leave without One Eye to deliver him.  Tung stood, reflexively reaching for an old axe that was no longer at his side.  Maybe for the best that it was gone.  All considered, abandoning the path of violence and slaughter was probably a good idea now.  He didn't need to impress any more.  A pacifist barbarian, now wouldn't that be something?  A fine story to tell if he ever met another intelligent being.  He made his way to the distant mountains in the hopes of finding a better vantage point.


The vision fades.  Tung was never supposed to witness this, never supposed to be in this place.  It was time to go home.  Time to make a better future.

Tung woke up.  His eye socket no longer hurt.  He didn't really feel much.  The familiar voice in the back of his head had stopped.  He tentatively offered a few provocative statements but there was no response.  This would be an adjustment.  But for now, best to live in the moment.  He slumped off out of the room in search of something to eat.

---

In another time and another place, Gruumsh has been dragged against his will to somewhere else.  He feels the last connection to his former worshipper, his last connection to Golarion being severed.  Insolent, miserable ingrate.  He sought a new messiah?  The wretched little gob of phlegm deserved everything he got.  You give yourself entirely and what thanks in return?  What reward?  A rage began to brew within his mighty chest fueled by entitlement and bitter frustration.  That felt more familiar.  As did the place he found himself in.  Ah, of course, his old domain!  To be home again was wonderful.  To be reunited with his legions of frenzied worshipers and the sustaining might of their faith.  To...

That smell... that malodorous ELF still lived.

Larethian.

Gruumsh howled impotently into the sky.  His followers had failed him again!  On the material plane of Greyhawk one million faithful orcs, one million hearts united in newly rekindled anger, each one howled in unknowing unison.  Their god had returned.


The eyes of Gruumsh were open again.
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Re: The eye of Gruumsh closes
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2019, 12:22:06 PM »
It's a bit of a shame to waste it so in the best tradition of DVD special features, there was an alternative ending that I'd written several months before Tung's salvation via Jiro.  His story wasn't meant to have a happy ending.  It's been a really interesting campaign for actual, real character growth and I've had a lot of fun with watching the way it's been playing out.  This picks up from around the end of Tung's Eye-of-Gruumsh death vision (which in this story was his actual death and not just a preview).

There it ended.  One moment Tung stood in the presence of his lifelong tormentor, on the verge of complete annihilation.  The next... nothing.  Gruumsh was gone.  No protest, no pain, no retaliation.  He'd truly believed himself invincible.  What a pitiful creature.

That was it, then.  Tung sat for a while in case any roaming gods did claim him.  None did.  He scratched a dirt-encrusted claw thoughtfully at a still-vacant eye socket.  Gruumsh hadn't restored that along with his youth and judging by a familiar itch at his back, nor had his slave brand been healed.  Hardly a surprise.

He'd read there was a special place for souls without faith and that it wasn't a nice place.  This clearly wasn't that place.  Perhaps if you lost your faith in a place like this, the rules were different.

The storm overhead was clearing.  It was no doubt caused by Gruumsh for dramatic effect.  It wasn't really that dark here, not when you properly looked at it.  It was dry and warm, the wind was refreshing in a way and the metallic smell...  well, there were worse fates.  Some plants would have been nice.  Maybe there would be plants later, now that Gruumsh wasn't here.  There certainly didn't seem to be any way to leave without One Eye to deliver him.  Tung stood, reflexively reaching for an old axe that was no longer at his side.  Maybe for the best that it was gone.  All considered, abandoning the path of violence and slaughter was probably a good idea now.  He didn't need to impress any more.  A pacifist barbarian, now wouldn't that be something?  A fine story to tell if he ever met another intelligent being.  He made his way to the distant mountains in the hopes of finding a better vantage point.

He would wander for many more years through this barren land, not that time had much meaning.  It was a peaceful period of his existence.  A deity, wandering the edges of what most gods considered a barren celestial wasteland with no value did eventually discover the lonely, radiant, tarnished but well intentioned soul of a hero walking a forgotten and long abandoned plane in search of itself.  Tung was gently returned to his world and the death he'd been denied.  The pain was severe but brief.  It was closure, at least.

---

Again, a change of perspective.  No sensation of movement, just somewhere else.  A dark place, most things were grey and made of stone.  Tung didn't like that.  There was a large building ahead of him, tall, black and imposing.  It filled him with a sense of dread.  He looked around and saw he was in an open courtyard outside of a spire with many doors.  He was surrounded by countless other people, each looking toward the spire with a sense of... impatience?  He looked to his nearest neighbour.

"You speak Orc?"

"Nay, brother, but it hardly matters here.  We all speak a common language in this place."

"Not so good at Common.  You have to excuse Tung."

"No, no.  I mean... ah, just speak your mind, you will understand soon enough."

Tung's brow furrowed.  He wasn't sure that he would.

"Very well."  He ventured.  "So what is this place?"

The other person gave him a look.  A curious gesture as Tung realised it had no physical form.  He could sense that it was humanoid, definitely the right shape, but there was nothing there but a single floating point of light.  He didn't even think he'd heard it speak.  Something was terribly wrong.

"Brother, did you not have a religion when you died?"

"Died?  Oh.  It's happened, then?  Yes, I did have a religion but my old god is dead now."

"That is terrible.  How terrible for you.  I do hope you find fair representation at your time of judgement.  If you don't mind my asking, how did they..."

Tung sniffed.  He shrugged.

"I don't know, really.  I think I killed him.  He tried to kill me and the next thing I knew, he was gone."

There was a long, thoughtful pause.

"Brother, do you understand the term 'deicide'?"

"No."

"Well remember it and know that it will make you very unpopular here."

No further words were shared.  Tung got the impression that he'd caused offense.  He wasn't surprised, it happened rather a lot and he rarely understood why.  Deicide, though, what was that?  Logically, if regicide was the killing of a king then deicide... maybe he shouldn't talk about what happened to Gruumsh?  In truth he didn't know what had happened.  He had suspicions.  Without the constant nagging, belittling voice in his head he was beginning to feel a lot more confident but was getting rid of One Eye a bad thing?  Surely not.  The world was surely better without him.

Tung stared into the sky.  Black.  There was something which looked a little like the moon up there, swollen and glowing in the sky.  He felt like it was looking back at him.  He didn't like that moon.  He didn't like that empty sky.  This place was boring and frightening and he didn't know what to do.  Periodically, one of the points of light would move into the spire.  Maybe he had to wait his turn.  It all seemed very poorly managed.  He reached up to scratch at his vacant eye socket, a usual reaction in times of uncertainty, but found his ioun stone lodged in there.  He reached to his back and found Serrated Fang, his old battleaxe.  Well, wherever he'd gone, at least he'd kept his equipment and could probably fight if he needed to.  His equipment had that same insubstantial quality that his new friend had.  So did his hands and body.  But no matter, Tung knew he was Tung.  Maybe a Tung made of light, maybe a dead Tung but still Tung.  Tung was good at fighting and Tung was good at surviving.  Everything would be fine.

Hours passed.  Maybe days.  Time seemed to lack definition here but not in the same way as in Gruumsh's domain.  He felt a sensation in the back of his head.  It may have been a voice.  It was the same inner voice usually reserved for Gruumsh but it wasn't screaming, it simply stated his name carefully and clearly.  He walked toward the nearest opening in the spire.  Defying this voice didn't seem like a good idea.

Through the opening was darkness.  No definition to anything apart from what he was stood on.  The floor beneath his boots was hard but smoother than the stone flags outside.  Even with the night vision his species was known for, Tung could see nothing.

"The time of judgement is at hand, orc."

Tung squinted quizzically into the gloom.

"What, again?  I did that once.  Not long ago, really.  Who am I speaking to and where am I?" Tung demanded.  He never really did have any respect for authority.

"You are familiar with the Boneyard, yes?"

"Jiro mentioned it.  I'm not familiar, as such.  He had strange beliefs that conflicted with my own and Gruumsh discouraged me from learning about them.  Gruumsh said only he would judge me."

There was a sound.  Almost of laughter echoing through the room from hundreds of voices.  Maybe he had an audience?

"Yes, Gruumsh.  I regret to inform you that you find yourself in quite the unpleasant situation, Tung.  Gruumsh should be here to make a case for ownership of your soul and said case would certainly have been iron clad.  You see, in this place, your actions in life are judged and your eternal reward decided upon accordingly.  You have acted in accordance with the wishes of your god throughout your life..."

"At great personal cost, yes." interrupted Tung.

"Quite.  But Gruumsh no longer has any authority here.  Gruumsh never belonged in your world, Tung, and it appears that he has acted beyond his authority a time too often."

"Does he still live?"

"Gods do not die.  He returned to where he belongs, a place beyond even our knowing.  This leaves you in a precarious position and it is important that you understand the severity of it."

"I always did as instructed."

"By a power hungry tyrant, yes.  And when the tyrant leaves, what of those who upheld their regime?  What reception can they expect in society?  Tung, the fact of the matter is that your religion can now best be described as 'unaffiliated'.  You will not receive the fate of an atheist for you have strong faith.  Or had, at least."

Tung nervously toyed with his ioun stone.

"So where do I go?"

"No good god wants you.  No rational neutral god, either.  A few evil gods have expressed a mild interest but have been rejected.  Lamashtu, for instance, made a particularly impassioned argument for bringing you into her kingdom but not for the right reasons.  Some orc deities would have accepted you, had you not physically pledged yourself to Gruumsh so completely.  Yours is an unorthodox case, Tung, and as such unusual measures are to be taken.  Your judgement is to be perfectly impartial."

"Oh."

"Your fate is to be decided entirely upon on the strength of your actions in life.  As such, you will be assigned to an afterlife that reflects those actions.  Do you understand?"

"I always acted in the best of intentions and for the right reasons."

"Your lack of remorse is noted.  Do you understand?"

"I did not mean to state that I lack remorse!"

"Do you understand?"

Tung slowly nodded.

"Yes."

"Tung, last of the Serrated Fang tribe, you stand proven of countless acts of violence, vandalism, desecration, murder, intolerance, prejudice and petty theft.  Many of these crimes involved those too weak or too young to help themselves.  Many of these crimes were committed without provocation.  You are free to deny or otherwise justify these actions if you believe it will aid your case.  Do you wish to state anything in your defence?"

"Would it truly make a difference?"

"Perhaps.  Anything is possible."

"I entirely agree."

With that, in a desperate attempt to preserve himself, Tung allowed the rage to take hold one last time.  What other chance did he have?  After all, he'd banished a god, albeit by chance, so maybe he was capable of winning.  Already charging, his hand barely reached his axe before he felt one more shift of perspective accompanied by one last stern internal voice.

"There is no need to consider the evidence.  The orc on trial has made their own choice."

It would be nice to imagine he had a peaceful afterlife and a reward that he'd earned after years of struggle but unfortunately, not every story deserves a happy ending.  Tung had, for all his good acts, not been a fundamentally good person at heart.  His choice of god, his actions, prejudices and beliefs, all were taken into consideration.  All a result of choices he had consciously made.  He would receive what he had always wanted.  Gruumsh had lied, their souls had not been destroyed at all and at long last, he would find himself in the company of the Serrated Fang tribe.  He would live in torment with his family for all eternity.

---

In another time and another place, Gruumsh has been dragged against his will to somewhere else.  He feels the anguish of his former worshipper, now trapped in a terrible place.  Self-important, miserable ingrate.  The wretched little gob of phlegm deserved everything he got.  You give yourself entirely and what thanks in return?  What reward?  A rage began to brew within his mighty chest fuelled by entitlement and bitter frustration.  That felt more familiar.  As did the place he was stood.  Ah, of course, his old domain!  To be home again was wonderful.  To be reunited with his legions of frenzied worshippers and the sustaining might of their faith.  To...

That smell... that malodorous ELF still lived.

Larethian.

Gruumsh howled impotently into the sky.  His followers had failed him again!  On the material place of Greyhawk one million faithful orcs, one million hearts united in newly rekindled anger, each one howled in unknowing unison.  Their god had returned.


The eyes of Gruumsh were open again.
I can still tend the rabbits, George?