Heralds of the Storm
He woke in the filth of an alley, covered in blood. Whos blood? Others? His own? He glanced at his side where is hand convulsively grasped his drooping intestines. In the moment of realization, pain surged through him like a tidal wave. He passed out…
He woke. Weak. Thirsty. A wailing voice echoed in the night. Was it night? He could not see. Crust jammed both his eyes shut. Blood. He recalled his situation and with a loud gasp he willed himself not to lose consciousness again. With his right hand still in a tight grip on his life, he tried to get his bearings with his other hand where open cuts crisscrossed his palm. He was dizzy, likely from blood loss. What of it? He lost his trail of thought. So hard to keep focus. His hand found something, no, someone. Lace. Silk. A woman was sprawled on top of him. He scraped the flakes of dried blood from his face. Only one eye restored vision. Dead of night, but a distant street light cast a solemn ray on the impaled body of a well dressed lady lying across his legs. She was not alone, it was a massacre. Resting against the wall right next to him sat a stout shape. It let out a short gurgle on uneven breathings. Alive then – if barely. The dwarf held a bottle in his lap. Likely strong alcohol. All around him lay distorted bodies. Fine-clothed patrons in mishapens positions struck down as they were begging for their lives. Armored men, up against walls in positions where they had made their last stand. Now all were dead or left to die.
He worked fluently, absent of thought. The hair pin from the lady, and silk threads ripped from her dress. The bottle rinsed all of it and brough immense pain. Cudgel between teeth, a tinderbox to purge and seal. His last thoughts pried his mind to remember if he had used to be a doctor. Doc collapsed and darkness took him once again…
Rough hands woke him. Clawing at his hand, the tinderbox. Shiny metal to produce fire. Priceless to some, commodity to others. Why this struggle for power and wealth? And what of it? He lost his trail of thought. Why could he not hold his thoughts? Why could he not remember! The scrawny boy pried loose his prize and dashed off, taking a few steps and then cold iron slammed into the boys head. The boy slumped against the wall that was sprayed with blood. A freakish thing stepped into the cone of light – malformed and hideous.
- “Washa got here, Rat?”, the freak hissed, “He be not dead ‘dis one, starin’ right at me!”.
The freak lept onto the lady, staring down at Doc beneath, probably thinking him incapacitated and dying.
- “What else you got for me, Your Gracious?”, the freak smiled broadly, revealing blackened teeth that had been filed down to razor sharp points. Man-eater, carrion-feeder, chaos-touched. Doc acted instinctly, reaching for what he could find nearby and rammed it into the eye socket of the freak. The freak bellowed and fell to the side, spasming violently.
Doc gently shuffled away the heap that had recently been a lovely girl and rose on shaky feet, head throbbing. Frankly, he was surprised he was alive, much less standing on his own feet. What he had just done felt foreign and confusing. Stitching himself up like that and stabbing that man, thing, freak. Evidently, Doc thought he must have had a violent history to simply resort to such means with ease. He limped over to the unconscious boy and turned him over. Immediately the boy lurched to his feet and backed up against the wall.
- “Easy now, son!”, Doc drawled, his voice barely holding, “Let me have a look at that head of yours.”, he said, grabbing the boy and examining the nasty cut. The boy struggled and screamed, spat and bit, cursed and kicked until Doc backhanded him across the cheek.
- “I may not be your father, but you’ll do well to do as I say!”, Doc growled, and, surprisingly, the boy quieted.
- “You killed my pa, you did”, the boy sniffled, “what that make you?”. That gave Doc pause and he looked at the boy. Perhaps seven years old and dead-ugly, with a too large nose and ears.
- “Not my real pa”, the boy continued, “I hate him.”, he sprang up and kicked the lumpy shape of the freak.
- “He said we get lots of gold to make sure everyone was dead in this alley!”, the boy said, “but I don’t care. I’m glad he’s dead!”
Likely not gold, but coppers, Doc thought. However, it was clear someone was after him badly, and was not satisfied until the job was done properly. He had to stay away until his memory would return.
For seven years following, Doc postponed facing his past. He joined with the boy, Noel, raising him and together working in a scavenging enterprise, collecting and trading junk and from time to time working as a handyman, barber and patchwork doctor in the filthy and often violent alleys of Altdorf. One day, the young Noel suddenly vanished without a word. Not hearing from him for over a month, and knowing the boy’s past association with chaos, Doc went in search for his young apprentice and decided it may be time to stop hiding and start facing his past…