Friday, December 19, 2008

Kaledain: A Journey In Stranglethorn

So, this happens a good while after the last part ended. Kaled was 19 then, in this story he is about in his early-mid 20s. He has been through a lot of stuff between then and now, but I haven't really written it all down yet. The biggest problem is, I know what happens, but not how it happens. Writer's block ftl. But anyhow, this is how Kaled got his gorilla buddy, Argus. Enjoy.

Kaled had been in the highlands of Arathi several weeks now, assisting the orcs at Hammerfall with whatever needed doing, from heading off troll attacks to doing repair work on the buildings. Then a new arrival brought rumors of trouble far to the south.

"There has been many attacks on the patrols in Grom'gul by a gorilla. Everyone seems to think it's the same animal each time. I can't say for sure, because I've only seen one attack myself. The guard captains are going to start a hunt for the rogue gorilla soon, and if they find it, it will have to be killed," the orc told them at supper the first night. On hearing this, Kaled shook his head. "Gorillas are shy, peaceful creatures, they usually avoid all contact with us. I have to see this for myself, I can't let him be destroyed without finding out if he really is past redemption."

The following day he received his permission to leave, and the next morning he called Kechara to her shoulder-perch, hoisted his pack onto his other shoulder, and with Ashke pacing alongside he left to make his way to the Undercity, there to take the Zeppelin to Grom’gul Base camp. Upon his arrival he settled his animals with the stable keeper, then talked to all of the guards he found that could tell him anything of the rogue gorilla. He discovered that it was a young adult male, and would attack the patrols often while they were still in hearing range of the base camp, though always out of sight. From several survivors of the beast’s attacks, he learned that it would charge the group in a wild rage, and maul anyone it happened to get a hold of, but as soon as a counterattack was attempted it would melt back into the jungle brush and vanish. The orc captains wanted to start their hunt to get rid of this threat, but hadn't managed it yet due to other pressing matters, so he was given the go-ahead to see what he could do. He finally felt he had enough information to try tracking the beast.

As Kaled was about to start out into the undergrowth, the guard captain on duty called out the approach of a returning patrol. Acting on some instinct he couldn’t name, Kaled walked out of the camp and faded into the jungle, heading toward the patrol. Once out of sight of the camp he leaped into a small tree and deftly climbed his way through the branches, traveling from tree to tree.

Not far from where the patrol approached, he suddenly noticed movement and looked down to see several jungle trolls hiding in the brush, with a very drugged-looking young ape with them. As he watched, the troll leader, a witch doctor judging from his ornaments, took a small fruit, broke it open, and smeared it across the gorilla’s face. As the juices from the fruit touched its skin, the animal awoke and screamed in pain and rage. Kaled watched, horrified, as the maddened animal, its face burning from the poisonous juice, was pushed out toward the orc patrol. Kaled quickly brought to mind one of the cantrips he had learned, one simple enough to perform without magic talent, and dropped from the tree to the ground between the gorilla and the orcs. He quickly chanted the cantrip, and to his vast relief the ape stopped and looked at him, then dropped in its tracks, safely asleep. The nearby trolls, enraged at their scheme being foiled, rushed out to kill him but quickly faced the axes, spears and maces of the angry orcs. Kaled was only too happy to add his bow to the skirmish. The slaughter was quick and decisive.

When the battle was over, Kaled took control of the young gorilla. He had it brought to camp, washed thoroughly to get rid of the foul drugs and plant juices used by the trolls to control it, and secured in a roomy, but very strong cage, with fresh water close at hand. Kaled watched as the animal slowly woke up. It quickly jumped up when it realized where it was, and moved to the back of the cage, cowering there as if to escape notice. Kaled watched closely for signs of aggression, but saw none. He did find, with rising anger, the signs of pretty heavy abuse. Apparently the trolls had had this ape for a long time; he guessed they had been using it to attempt to kill off the orcs or force them to move out of the area. With the drugs worn out of its system, the gorilla was only very afraid of a beating or worse from its new ‘captors’.

Kaled, satisfied with the young animal’s behavior, opened the cage door and crouched at the entrance. He softly crooned to the young ape as it looked around, then cautiously crept across the cage floor and huddled close to the elf. Kaled stroked his head and back gently, then turned and looked at the guard captain. “I think he’ll be leaving with me,” he said. So when Kaled left Stranglethorn, he was accompanied by three animals, not two.

The gorilla, which Kaled named Argus, thrived under his care, soon showing his usefulness and intelligence with everything Kaled asked him to do. His black pelt, already showing signs of becoming a silverback, grew in thick and covered the scars from the trolls’ mistreatment. He was very gentle, and soon Ashke and Kechara came to adore him, the three of them often lying in a pile in the stable yard and grooming each other. Kaled felt that his little 'family' was complete.

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