Author Topic: The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum  (Read 17 times)

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The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« on: August 14, 2019, 09:31:02 AM »
Before Tung's return to Sandpoint
---

An orc shambles unsteadily through the streets of Magnimar.  Not a totally unusual sight in a city of this size but this fellow is drawing attention and plenty of it.  Tung is used to the stares of other people and he's used to knowing that he's being spoken about in hushed tones.  None of this bothers him.  Certainly not as much as the pain he's in.

He looks up and down the street he's stood on.  It's a familiar place but not that familiar and he's having trouble getting his bearings.  He sniffs the air.  There it is.  Incense.  He follows his nose to a temple, the one that only a short while ago restored a dear old friend to his former glory.

Despite the late hour, an acolyte came to greet the traveller.  A young elven lady, having been assigned the graveyard shift due to her low ranking in the church, stepped forward.

"Welcome weary traveller, how may we be of... OH, HEAVENS PRESERVE ME!"

Tung stood, swaying slightly.  His entire right arm was missing below the elbow and the stump was still bleeding heavily.  He felt quite light headed now.  He knew a little about healing and he knew light headed meant something bad but it was getting a little harder to really organise his thoughts.  That was also bad.

"Tung, follower of Gorum.  Need assistance.  Please.  Been accident.  Maybe need sit down, too."

And with that, Tung slumped face first to the ground.

He awoke somewhere nice.  It was cool and there was clean linen underneath him.  Sunlight.  He wondered for a while if maybe this was the afterlife but decided, all considered, that this was unlikely.  The astonishing pain radiating from his right arm was proof against that.  He tried to sit up.  The room began to spin.  Maybe sleep was best for now.  He imagined what Gruumsh would have to say about this.  He smiled.  Things were so much better, even now.

A fabric partition around what he assumed to be a bed of sorts parted and in walked a priest.  An older human man, unfamiliar but with a kind face.

"Well, well, well.  Tung, is it?  We have been in the wars, haven't we?"

"No."

The man looked at him quizzically for a moment but quickly remembered that some racial stereotypes were unfortunately rather well earned.

"I am sorry, it is a figure of speech.  You've been rather badly injured, I mean.  Now, would you care to tell me how it happened or would you prefer that I didn't know?  Rest assured that anything said here will remain in the strictest confidence."

"Tung not speak Common very well.  Getting better at it.  Not good yet.  You speak Orc?"

"Regrettably no.  I could send for a translator if necessary?"

"Thanks.  No need.  Tung climbing.  Training.  Gorum needs strength, Tung strong but not as strong as Orc should be.  Fell.  Arm broken, stuck in crack."

He could tell that the priest wasn't buying his story but, unfortunately, it was the plain truth.  He'd been practicing what he considered essential non-combat skills.  Swimming, running, survival skills and the like.  A trip up a nearby mountain had resulted in tragedy when a gust of wind had upset his balance.

"I see.  And... you were there for how long?"

"Dunno.  3 day?"

"Without food or water?"

"Snow."

"Okay, but food?  You do not carry a pack or other carrier, I notice.  You did not have rations?"

"No.  After 2 day, arm go black and stop hurting.  Couldn't move fingers.  Think it died.  Cut it this morning.  Dug it out of rock.  Weak.  Hungry.  Ate it."

Tung related the full story.  He certainly knew that a loss of sensation in a limb and a change of colour was very serious.  The arm simply needed to be removed and that was that.  It wasn't his arm any more, it was dead flesh.  To Tung, there was no difference between it and a side of beef.  Any unnecessary burden had to be eliminated.

The priest, paling as the story was related, looked at him for a very long time once Tung had stopped talking.

"Well, that is quite the tale.  I think I would suggest that you do not relay it to anybody in polite company and I will press you no further for details.  Now, we have a number of options available for treatment.  Restoration is very popular but generally an expensive option.  Some prefer to simply heal the wound and wear concealing garments.  A robe or loose fitting shirt can hide many things."

"No clothes.  Get in the way.  Cultural thing, human not understand."

"Of course, of course.  The other option would be a prosthetic."

"What."

The priest sighed internally.

"A replacement limb.  New arm, yes?  The practice is in its infancy at the moment but it is quite amazing what a skilled craftsman can come up with given enough time."

Tung considered this carefully.

"A new arm.  Made out of something not-arm?"

"Wood is the common choice."  Said the priest with an encouraging smile.  "Some nobles favour precious metals which, frankly, is a little vulgar to my mind.  Ceramic can suit those who work in hot environments.  Bakers and such.  Metals are popular among those who work in dangerous environments who, coincidentally, tend to be those who most require prosthetic replacements."

"That.  Tung want that."

"As you wish.  We would ask for a token donation for the cost of the healing magic used to bind your flesh but..." the priest's eyes briefly took in Tung's lack of clothing and non-lethal belongings "Well, this is, of course, entirely optional."

Tung pulled a lump of hacksilver from his loincloth.  It was the size of his fist and distressingly warm.

"You save Tung life.  You save Jiro.  Owe great debt.  This cover payment?"

The priest made quiet choking noises as he looked at a modest fortune.

"... that will... do nicely, thank you."


Tung wandered the streets.  A good meal was had which certainly helped his mood.  He entered the artisan's district full of purpose with an uncharacteristic smile on his face.  Purveyors of every service imaginable lined the streets.  Jewelers, carpenters, enchanters... at the end were the smiths.  He could tell by the ambient heat and the smell.  It smelled of good, honest work.  He liked that.  One by one, he tried each of them, tried to explain his needs but was turned away.

"You want a what?!"
"Not worth my reputation, mate."
"Stupid idea, it'll never work."

Until eventually, the last store on the row.  The proprietor was an Orc, clearly well into his old age but with plenty of fight left in him.  But then, you didn't live as an Orc for long without some strength in your bones, not even this deep into civilisation.

"You speak Orc?"

"Aye, just.  It's been a long time since anybody's come speakin' the mother tongue and if I'm honest, I've got soft and slow in my old age but I'll get by, I reckon.  Name's Slock and I'll thank you not to comment on it.  What do you need?"

Tung sighed with relief.  Finally, someone he could talk to.

"Well, this is delightful.  Simply put, sir, I've been afflicted with a minor disability and wish to overcome it with steel and ingenuity."

Slock narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  "You're not from these parts, lad, are you?"

"Quite so.  I'm a barbarian by trade and thought it would be quite appropriate, almost poetic in a way, if I were to perhaps have my new physical aid be a representation of my craft."

Slock closed his eyes and carefully parsed the sentence.  "You... want an arm that can grasp a weapon, yes?"

"Almost.  You see, I have a weapon that was once used by my patron to communicate with me.  It was a very significant moment in my life and I want to, in some small way, acknowledge his acceptance in a physical way.  With my very flesh, as it were."

Slock paled.

"Please tell me you wish to have your weapon melted down into a replacement arm."

"No."  Tung braced himself.  This was the tricky part.  "I wish to replace my arm WITH an axe in its entirety."

"Yeah, I was worried that you'd say that.  Look, I'll be straight lad, I won't do it.  It's madness, dedicating a limb to a god.  Unless it's one of them mad evil gods and I don't hold with them.  Anyway, orc with an axe arm, what's people going to say there?  'Oh, look now, here comes that monster with an axe hand.  Run, run, Mr. Choppy-Axe-Hand is coming for your kids!'.  You'll become a bogeyman  I've lived with humans for years, they're all like that.  You need a different kind of smithy for that.  Who are you serving, anyway?"

"Do you know Gorum?"

Slock looked at him carefully.  "Heard of him, yeah.  Respects the steel, he does.  Oh... alright, just hold a moment, will you?"

He stamped heavily on the boards under his feet.

"RANDOLPH, I'VE GOT A LIVELY ONE HERE FOR YA."

The sound of tiny feet moving at unsettling speed.  The sound of a trapdoor quickly opening.  A tiny head popped over the counter, blackened with soot, not a single hair upon it and wearing a pair of heavy smoked goggles on a rotting leather strap.

"Yis?" it squeaked.

Slock began to talk quickly in a language Tung didn't know.  He apologised after a few minutes of this, telling Tung that Randolph only spoke Gnomish.

"Oh, that's quite alright."  Tung said in what he hoped was a polite way.  "I've never met a gnome before."

"Yeah, he ain't a gnome.  He's... he's just like that..."

They went back and forth in a conversation involving many expansive and frantic gestures which sounded more like an argument.  Eventually a piece of parchment was produced and Randolph began to draw rapidly without ever breaking from the conversation.  A further ten minutes of this and then:

"Axe."  Demanded the tiny man.

"What?"

"Axe!  Show Randolph.  Give Randolph."

Serrated Fang was placed on the counter.

Slock eventually closed the shop.  Tung sat on the floor.  Randolph was still drawing and shouting but Slock gently assured Tung that this was just his way and not to worry too much.

"ARM."

"No arm."  Tung hoped this creature understood any Common at all.  "Ate it."

"Good arm, good arm!  MEA-SURE-MENT."

Tung lay his arm on the counter.  It was, with incredible speed, wrapped tightly in gauze which was painted with an unidentifiable, evil-smelling gel.

"And... what happen now?"

Slock was obviously trying not to laugh at this point.

"You wait." spluttered Randolph  "Cast dry.  Eight hour."

"But it's night ti-"

"EIIIIIGHT!" Randolph shrieked.

And so Tung stood until morning.  Food was provided, solid orc fare the likes of which he hadn't tasted in years.  It made him homesick.  Having to be fed due to his lack of limbs was embarassing but Slock seemed to find it hilarious.  Throughout the night, Randolph stood and simply stared, unmoving, at the arm.  He never lit so much as a candle nor removed his goggles.  Tung was becoming deeply afraid of him.

Morning came and without warning, the man sprang into action, scoring a line down the cast and breaking it into two with a small hammer.

"Mould!  Come back, five days."

The tiny head retreated.  The sound of a trapdoor.  Tiny feet scampering down stone stairs.

"What, exactly, is that creature?"

"He's human biologically but really, he's just Randolph, lad, and I don't ask any more questions than that.  Alls I know is he came with the building and I'll be damned if I'm going to try to make him leave.  He gives me the willies.  Now he's either going to invoice you on receipt of goods or he's going to forget, in which case there's usually no charge.  Payment is his own business and I've given up on reminding him.  Best bring some coin on the day just in case."

Tung took in as much of the city, its sights and culture as he was permitted to.  Being a large and heavily populated area he wasn't as discriminated against as he was used to.  Certainly some clothing would have helped significantly but then, Magnimar was open minded and used to barbarians.  5 days later, back to the shop.  Randolph was already at the counter along with a concerned-looking Slock.

"YOU.  ORC.  How strong spirit?"

Tung looked at him carefully.

"Tung... has faith in Gorum?"

"NOT RELIGION.  MIND.  How strong mind?!"

"Oh."  Tung didn't understand the relevance.  "Not good."

Randolph's usual screaming lowered to a normal speaking volume.  "Orc drink big-big?"

"Not much."

Randolph bit his lower lip.  "Might be that it is being good time to starting?"

"No."

Randolph reached up to the counter top, straining under the weight of a bundle wrapped in linen.  He unwrapped a device comprising a gleaming metal elbow joint mounted to a thick wooden shaft which had been carved into a beautiful copy of an orc arm, accurate down to even the popping veins.  At its end, where a wrist would start, was the head of Serrated Fang.  He undid a clasp at the elbow joint which opened the end of the contraption revealing a vast array of gears and neat metal cabling.

Randolph began to yell again.  "Randolph explain procedure.  Then orc decide.  Here anchor pin.  We HAMMER directly into bone.  Tensor cables wire directly into tendons.  PAINFUL.  DANGEROUS.  You understanding Randolph?!"

Tung slowly nodded.  He had endured much these past months but this tiny, screaming human was too intimidating to defy.  He reminded Tung of Gruumsh.  He simply stated how the world was going to work and it changed accordingly.  Instead of rage, Randolph spoke in mechanisms.

"Just do your work."  Tung told him quietly.  He could feel himself beginning to cry.  Slock solemnly locked the shop door.  There would be no further custom today.
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BioSpark

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Re: The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2019, 09:31:44 AM »
On meeting the Timothies
---

A few weeks later, Tung walks happily through the long reeds in the swamps outside the city.  He didn't initially care for the name of the Mushfens but he's found the locals hospitable and the environment peaceful.  He's come to make a reasonable home for himself in the wilderness.  The few villages provide should he need worked goods but for the most part, nature gives more than he could ever ask for.  He's stronger now.  He isn't so malnourished and looks more at ease.  Certainly the burning in his gut hasn't subsided but he's learned to live with it.  It's like his missing eye, it's a reminder of a mistake.  No, not a mistake.  It's a lesson.  Life's full of them if you're able to notice them.  Every problem precedes an opportunity.  It's a sunny day and as the early morning sun reflects from his protruding yellow tusks, he smiles and sighs heavily.

As he thoughtfully trails a hand through the green shoots, the soft squelching of mud underfoot, something watches him.  A cave, dark and cool, hides a small tribe of trolls.  Their leader fancies he spies an easy kill.  He will take this lone traveller by surprise, claim the victory alone and cement his position of authority.  He slinks from a deep shadow and lumbers toward his target, heavy footsteps easily masked by the careless footfalls of the oblivious oaf before him.  A glint catches the beast's eye; this foe is armed.  No matter.  He raises an arm bearing a wicked barbed cudgel and aims to cripple the limb before finishing the job.

He strikes.  Not the usual scream nor the meaty thud.  This hits with a metallic clang.  The orc barely notices the blow but quickly spins to face his surprised assailant.

"You make, big, big mistake."

The fight is brief and the details fairly unpleasant.  As the red mists clear, a winded Tung finds his mouth filled with a sour-tasting meat and his axe-arm bloodied.  He careless spits the wad of troll to the ground.  Tung hates trolls.  To his prejudiced mind, they're stupider than most races, maybe even more so than goblins, but cunning and they just don't know when to die.  He wonders how likely it is that this one will get back up now that its head has been crushed.  Hard to tell with trolls.  He idly stamps on the remains for a few moments and looks at them thoughtfully.  No signs of movement.  Maybe his venom will keep it subdued.  Well, at least it will think twice before trying to ambush anybody again.

He hears a noise behind him.  More a collection of noises.  At the cave mouth, he sees a group of trolls watching him with interest.  This could be a problem, who knows how many lie in wait in the dark?  He raises himself to his full, imposing height, wincing as back muscles used to being permanently hunched scream in protest.

"YOU THERE.  YOU TROLLS.  TUNG SEE YOU.  YOU DON'T TRY NOTHING, YOU HEAR TUNG?  TUNG HITS LOTS HARDER WHEN TUNG IS CROSS."

A few of them cock their heads to the side.  They look to the bloodstained orc, they look to their former leader.  The body is foaming slightly.  They discuss something amongst themselves in a slurred language of grunts and wet belches.  They seem to reach a reluctant conclusion.  In single file they troop out of the cave, piggy eyes squinting in the daylight, and stand to attention a stone's throw from Tung.  Some carry makeshift weapons; mostly tree branches and large rocks.  Most stand and stare vacantly at him, occasionally passing various gasses.

"YOU WANT TROUBLE?  YOU GONNA GET TROUBLE IF YOU WANT TROUBLE.  TUNG IS ARM OF GREAT GOD GORUM.  ARM IS MADE OF TROUBLE AND AXE.  TROUBLE TUNG'S MIDDLE NAME.  ALSO TUNG'S LAST NAME."

Tung frowned.  He didn't think he was really making much headway here.  They didn't look impressed.

"What you want Tung do, eh?" he pleaded.  "It hit Tung.  Don't know what you things think that mean but where Tung from, that rude.  Big rude.  Not Tung fault that it decide to die today."

More vacant stares.  The biggest of the group tasted the end of his branch for a while before deciding it to be inedible.

"Tung sorry, okay?  There.  Sorry.  Maybe you be more careful about how you say hello in future, okay?"

Silence.

"You not want fight.  Promise.  Look, Tung show you."

Since language wasn't getting him very far, a problem he was accustomed to, Tung let his actions speak on his behalf.  He raised his axe and slammed it as hard as he was able into one of the more intact piles of gore.  He cleaved a gash into the earth.  The trolls considered this for a second, grunted for a few seconds amongst themselves then set about following this green monster's example.  With every weapon at their disposal, they began to repeatedly strike the corpse.  It was quite a spirited performance.

"NO!  That not what Tung mean!  STOP!"

This seemed to reach them.  They looked at him with confused expressions.

"You go home.  You leave it alone.  It gone, it dead, you show it respect."

Silence.

In frustration, Tung turned to leave.  He rarely allowed himself unnecessary comforts but this had been a trying experience and so tonight, he would find a good tavern and have a hot meal.  He trudged to Magnimar.  As per usual, stares and whispering, quite normal since his recent modification, but now the occasional scream.  That was odd in a civilised place.  He turned to look for the source of the commotion and saw a troop of trolls.

"WHY YOU STILL HERE?"

Silence.  Screaming from the citizens.

"WHAT YOU WANT?"

Silence.  Confused screaming.


Some days later, Tung found himself in the smithy.  Slock was about the one friend he could really talk to in this part of the world and Tung was fond of his company.

"So you see they just won't leave me be."  Tung explained over a battered copper mug of tea.  "I killed one of them, now they follow me like lost puppies.  It's so exasperating.  I'm quite sure they don't speak a word of any civilised language so what am I to do? I certainly can't butcher them.

"Can't you?"  Said the smith with a laugh.  "I'd say you've proved yourself wrong there."

"What, all of them?  They're enormous.  Besides, it would be inhumane.  I mean they're monsters, yes, but the same was said of the likes of us once."

Slock looked out of his window.  Tung had tied the trolls to a stout metal ring that Slock had set into the building to cater to customers with dogs.  One of the trolls was eating a tin water dish.  "Well, I sees it like this.  That one you killed, it was braver than the others, right?  Strikes me that it was their leader.  You gets that with people what judge worth by strength.  Most orcs is like that.  So you kill their biggest, best mate.  Now what does that make you, eh?"

"Oh.  Oh no."

"Yep!"  Slock cackled.  "So either you kill the lot of them or you start working out how to look after them."

Tung thought this through for a while.

"You are wise beyond your years, Slock my friend, and I suspect you to be quite correct.  I'd like to make some purchases, if I may.  have you... oh... say, 10lbs of offcuts and a lump hammer?"

"You're going to leave my shop right now if that's how you plan to kill them."

"Oh, gods no!  No.  Just a project."



Back to the swamp.  The body of the troll has gone, likely regenerated, but appears to have departed in a hurry.  The cudgel has been abandoned.  Not a particularly elegant tool but he can see how it would be effective.  The weight alone would make it quite lethal.  In front of a congregation of incessantly farting trolls, he begins to work, rummaging through a sack of discarded hunks of metal and looking for the most intimidating of them, the sharpest, the most rusty.  One by one, trying his best to perform a craft he doesn't understand, he hammers the detritus into the thick wooden shaft that makes up his forearm.  After plenty of time, sweat and cursing, he is done.  He rises to his feet.  He raises Serrated Fang, now bristling with cruel barbs and blades, above his head.  No longer a beautiful cutting tool, it is now the weapon of a barbarian leader.  He throws his head back and howls a bestial cry to the moon.  His new tribe roar in unison.  Finally, they understand each other.
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Re: The beginning and end of the arm of Gorum
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2019, 09:32:10 AM »
After the fight
---

Tung stared directly into the eyes of the great dragon.  He could sense Jiro by his side but not much more than that.  The rage tended to sap his peripheral vision and right now the world was dragon.  Everything was dragon.  He reaches down into the reserves of berserker fury he's learned to harness and finds new strength, anger like he has never felt.  The world fades.  All is darkness; he sees only the blade of his axe and his foe.  It hurts so much.

He remembers something from an earlier time.  Back when he was told what the eye of Gruumsh was truly for.  A vision of a death.  The force he threw behind his blow seems to awaken something, his empty eye socket begins to burn but nothing materialises.  That power seemed to have faded along with the one who granted it.  He did witness a death, though.  The axe passed cleanly through bone and sinew, struck true at the target's neck.  Thick blood coated the screaming orc, mixing with the blood of the dozens he'd slaughtered this day.

The next thing he knew, he was laid on the ground in a foetal ball, sobbing and wailing.  A comforting on his shoulders and an insistent voice telling him everything would be fine.  If Jiro thought things would be fine, it would be so.  Ragged cheering rang out from the rooftops.  They'd won.

The coming days were memorable.  Celebrations and revelry the likes of which he'd never known.  Unfortunately Timothies 1-4 had survived the charge but appeared to have defected and joined the stone giants.  That was a relief.  Tung had come to see them as mischievous children with insatiable appetites.  He wasn't ready to be a parent.  Maybe he would miss them in time but for now, things were peaceful.



The days turn to weeks and to months.  In the company of good friends, he finds fulfillment but the barbarian life calls to him.  After all, his body is now a literal weapon which rather puts a damper on his previous dreams of farming.  Tung continues to fight for causes he believes in until one day, after a particularly long battle, Tung awakens.  He is not aware of having fallen asleep.  The last he remembers, he was engaged in a fight that he was, in truth, not certain he would win.  Quite fortunate, really, that he was now stood in... a grand courtyard under a blank, black sky.

Oh.

From his discussions with Jiro, he knew what to expect from the afterlife.  It was as described.  Baleful, tremendous moon lighting the area, onyx structure stood in the near distance.  He supposed that many who came here would feel intimidated but... well, after everything he'd been through, what was the point?  Years of fear and subjugation, only to face the same again in death?  No.  He'd not always acted with good intentions, he knew, but he'd tried to make amends here and there.  For an orc, he'd had a decent kind of life and for a barbarian he'd practically been a saint.  Yes.  Provided he hadn't been brought to any plane still accessible by old One Eye, maybe he still had hope.

It had come as a surprise in some ways but had been entirely predictable in others.  He was truly surprised to have lived for as long as he already had.  That was heartening.  It made him feel confident, almost successful.

He sat for a while, waiting to be called.  He had faith in the process that had been described to him by both friends and religious leaders.  It was right to wait.  Be patient.  He noted that his arm was still missing and a brief exploratory claw confirmed his missing eye, ioun stone still intact.  That was a shame.  He missed depth perception.

"Tung.  Come forward."

A voice, felt rather than heard.  He slowly walked into the tower before him and an unseen door shut behind him.  He stood in darkness.

"Will the representative for Tung make themselves known?"

A light shone to one side.  Tung saw a large suit of armour, quite mundane in appearance, hung in the air.  But no, not hung.  There was something in there that he couldn't see.  Its helmet, face obscured by a thick iron visor, turned to him and inclined slightly.  Realisation dawned and Tung nodded in kind.  No reverence.  They were equals in battle.  It seemed to regard him critically for some time then turned to the darkness.

"Aye."  Said a cold voice.  It spoke in iron and blood, it spoke in sweat and exertion.  It clanged.  "Gorum."

"The negatives will be considered first.  The creature before us has been accused of heathen worship of an ancient displaced god.  The god in question, Gruumsh "One-Eye" no longer has residence upon this plane and cannot speak for their follower.  This orc has committed many profane acts in the departed god's name, often without remorse and occasionally with enthusiasm.  They have freely admitted prejudice towards what they perceive to be lesser races despite being a victim of such injustice themselves.  They have dedicated their entire life, nay, their very being to mindless slaughter and despite apologies and hand-wringing insincere regrets, they have time and again continued along the path of murder and carnage.  What say you?  Tung, you may proceed."

Tung sat and thought.  Best not to rush things.

"You... speak Orc, then?"

Booming laughter filled the room.

"We speak in the tongue of celestial beings, Tung.  No, we do not speak Orc nor Common but a language of thought.  Speak you mind in any way you find comfortable and we will understand."

"What."

"Orc will be fine."

"If you are quite sure?  Then I shall address your points in turn.

Yes, I freely admit to having worshipped Gruumsh.  Not of my own free will entirely, it was the tradition of our tribe and he ensured that such traditions were upheld but I do accept responsibility for that and also for my later conversion from his way.  Lack of remorse?  Certainly, for One-Eye punished such things.  I learned not to revel but to tolerate and to endure the atrocities.  I took no pleasure.  Enthusiasm?  I was consumed by bloodlust.  It is the way of a barbarian and the way of Gruumsh.  Immoral perhaps to a more civilised sort of entity but such luxuries as parley are not often extended to those who live constantly on the brink of death in pursuit of a better world.

Prejudice?  I assume you mean the goblins.  Yes, I am.  I would invite any rational rebuttal to my argument that they are not, with ludicrously rare exception, thieving, murderous, primitive mongrels.  Nothing positive can be attributed to them save for their unholy fertility.

My regret was never insincere.  I have only killed when necessary.  I carry in my heart the memories of every kill, of every victim.  I remember and honour each of them, though they all sought to similarly end my life.  Even the creature who struck me down was a brother or sister in a way.  Would I do it again?  If necessary.  Would I ever celebrate or promote this way of life?  Never, but I have lived it to the best of my ability."

"Would the divine representation like to contribute any thoughts?"

"No."

"On to the positives.  We recognise the title of the judged.  Hero of Sandpoint.  We acknowledge their dedication to their faith, the strength of their convictions and their quick action to defend their companions."

"I would like to correct that.  I was not the Hero of Sandpoint.  We were.  The others represented the thoughts and actions which lead to our success and recognition.  I was just the muscle."

"We thank you for your honesty.  Gorum, your thoughts?"

"None."

"Then the time of judgement has come.  Not a blameless life but one that was not wasted.  Tung is a living representation of slaughter but with a tarnished, skewed personal sense of honour.  Gorum, your verdict?"

"He will join me."

The suit of armour turned on its heel and began to march.  "Come."  Tung walked toward the light it had occupied, followed further into the darkness beyond.  It grew colder and Tung could smell something damp.  He still could not see Gorum but he could hear the heavy metallic footfalls.

"So... you don't talk much.  Do you speak Orc?"

"Yes."

"Will there be others where we are going?"

"Yes."

"Will they speak-"

"Yes.  All share a common language."

"I don't speak Common well."

"Not Common.  A common tongue."

There was a damp sensation in the air.  Faint dripping noises from the darkness.  Even with his species' night vision, it was still too dark to see.

"This is a cave?"

"Yes."

"How large is this structure?  It did not look that large.  We must have been walking for half an hour now."

"You think too literally."

"We have not travelled?"

"We have travelled countless miles."

Tung thought about this for a while.  He couldn't make any sense of it.  He struggled for another topic.  He wasn't sure how conversations were meant to play out with a divine being but he was finding Gorum very hard to understand.

"Will my eye and arm be restored?"

"Unlikely.  Most souls retain the form they associated with their prime.  If not, many in the afterlife would be elderly for all eternity.  No paradise, that."

"Hmm.  So if I have no eye... is Gruumsh dead, then?"

"He is not my concern, nor yours.  But no."

"Then..."

"He went home."

"Will he come back?"

"It is possible."

Tung reached to scratch at his old slave brand.  He stopped.  It was a bad nervous habit.

"I hope I did not overstep my boundaries by referring to myself as the Arm of Gorum."

"You did."

"Oh... you don't approve?"

"No."

"Will... I be punished?"

"No.  But do not use that name again."

"I thought it would be a way to honour you."

The armour stopped.  It turned, a faint grey light shining from where its presumed face was from behind its visor.

"You honour Gorum through fair combat.  Your skill and conduct in combat is why you were brought here.  Physical sacrifice, effigy, mutilation are not appreciated.  These are the tools of tyrant gods.  Cease this discussion.  We are almost home."

After some time, a tiny point of light grew in the distance.  Brighter and brighter as they grew nearer, Tung could eventually make out a land on the other side.  He could see blue sky and grass.  It became clear that they were in a long, long tunnel cut through a mountain.  They emerged and stood looking over vast, grassy plains.  Great purple snow-capped mountains to the north, a wide lake to the east.

"So what happens now?"

"It is your choice.  Some choose to join the company of others, some choose to spend the time in quiet contemplation.  Some simply explore the realm.  The majority fight."

"Fight what?"

"Each other.  Monstrous creatures.  If you desire combat, combat will find you here.  It will be fair and it will be challenging.  Your skills as a warrior will flourish and thrive if that it what you desire."

"What would you like me to do?"

"Be content."

Tung turned from the grandeur of the scenery and saw that Gorum had gone.  Maybe he had never been there to begin with.  Tung had meant to ask what held the armour up, what Gorum looked like inside but... maybe that wasn't important.  Gorum didn't seem to approve of him.  Maybe he just wasn't a communicative person.  Probably all that armour, Tung thought.  It must make it hard to relate to people.  He looked at his axe arm.  Serrated Fang would be with him always, now.  He would never forget the family he'd named it after.

He sat for a while.  Time didn't seem to pass, here.  It was a pleasant day, clear and cool.  It felt like spring.  He thought about his family and wondered where they were, now.  Maybe still with Gruumsh, taken to a world that they didn't belong to.  That wasn't a nice thought.  He hoped his friends were having a good time, at least.  Probably still alive in the world somewhere.  Maybe he would be allowed to visit.  He hoped Samantha wouldn't be allowed into the afterlife.  Was that a bad thought?  Gorum didn't seem to worry about morality too much so maybe he could think bad thoughts here.  Maybe he didn't want to think bad thoughts any more.  Samantha wasn't so bad, really.  Perhaps he would try to find Demmel.  That sounded like a noble enough goal.

The mountains were comforting.  They reminded him of home so he decided to start his search there.  He stood and began to walk towards them in a distracted kind of way, in no particular rush.  There was a lot to take in here.

"You there.  You new?"

He turned to look for the source of the voice.  Seemingly from nowhere, an orc dressed in furs was watching him with interest.

"Yes.  Do you seek combat?  I am not quite sure how this works."  Ventured Tung.

"No, just talk.  Maybe see the world."  said the stranger, offering a calloused paw in greeting.

A friend.   Tung wondered what other wonders this new world would provide.
I can still tend the rabbits, George?