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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Fantasy · #2291396
Malusk reveals his past.
Malusk's Confession

When the party had settled into the suite, Malusk locked the door and seated the party around the room's small table. The big half-orc was visibly anxious and even embarrassed, to Skrie's reckoning. He wrapped his gigantic hands around a large tankard of dark ale as he locked eyes with each of his companions.

"I know ye gots questions now," he began, then took a gulp of ale. "And I feel I owe ye's full and truthful answers." He paused, took a ragged breath, and sipped the ale to disguise his uneasiness.

"First off, that drawin' is probably me, but th' accusation is based lies t' cover the backstabbin' that started some four years ago. When I'us fourteen, I were initiated as a soldier in the Legion o' th' Red Neck, a' orc horde lead by the half-orc bandit, Grag Muct. Me ma and Da was both half-orc squad leaders in th' Red Necks. Ma were a fletcher, Da were a bowyer, an' th' squad were mostly archers, though, all o' us could fight wit' almost any weapon th' raid required."

Malusk looked around the table, then took another gulp of his ale.

"I don' know all th' particulars 'bout it, but I heard they was clan politics involved. I also heard that Grad wanted my mother t' be 'is wife and hated me an' me Da. 'E 'ad me Da killed. Even said it openly as he left th' village t' ambush 'im. This were after his first attempt at a' assassination failed.

Skrie watched as Malusk's face darkened in anger, his fingers tightening on the mug.

"'E called me Da a traitor to th' Red Necks fer reasons I never understood. He also stated that he would never allow the son of a traitor to live... meaning me."

Malusk paused, anger smoldering in his yellow eyes and grim expression. His hands trembled slightly, gripping the tankard as he took another drink of ale. Once again, he looked into the eyes of his new friends.

"Th' Red Necks was the true bandits. They raided small villages, trade routes, even farms and cattlemen. We had us a safe town nearby, where we'd trade th' goods and animals we got from distant raid areas. That were me only exposure t' what ye call 'civilization.' It were smaller than this, existin' on trade with all kinds o' the most murderous sort. 'Course, it gave us a location t' be attacked."

Malusk's gaze shifted around the table, not really looking at anyone in particular.

"Grag were away wit' 'most all o' th' raiders, huntin' down and killin' me da and th' others that survived th' first try. They was only a few o' us new fighters and th' ol' raiders t' resist when th' attack came. I fought by me ma's side an' we was overrun by th' mercs hired by Grag's victims. Ma were wounded, and were bleedin' out at me feet. I were wounded bad, and near collapsed from exhaustion, when I were hit by huge human that knocked me down an' left me stunned."

The half-orc took another swig from his tankard.

"'E tol' his men t' stand down, and tol' the me t' drop me weapon and no harm'ud come t' us. Ma told me t' do what 'e said. With her dying breath she said to the man, 'Hello, Brother. My husband is dead by now. This is your nephew, Malusk Agnar. Protect him.'"

Malusk stopped talking, drained his mug, and stared into the bottom of the tankard for a moment before setting it in the center of the table and reaching for the remaining stein.

"'E were me ma's human half brother. They 'ad th' same father, a slave owner. 'E owned both orcs and 'alf-orcs to work the family lands 'til slavery were abolished. 'Til then, ma were a slave on those farms. Me uncle were th' owner's son, Roland 'Blackhand' Grissot. Th' family lost everythin' when slavery ended. 'E took up as a merc, an' 'ventually became the leader o' th' Blackhand Raiders, a band that hired out t' anyone that could pay t' take care o' problems. They was once a part o' th' Legion o' th' Black Finger, but broke off with th' others 'cause o' the types of jobs they was takin'. Roland wanted t' protect settlements instead o' raidin' an' robbin' everyone."

Malusk took a deep breath.

"Me uncle explained that Grag raided a bunch o' human towns in the area, and left clues to th' location o' our haven. Apparently, 'e went t' a bunch o' little village taverns, an' dropped 'ints tha' th' Red Necks 'ad a bunch o' treasure and human slaves they was gonna sell." He looked around the table once more.

"Grag set the village up to be attacked when he left to kill your father," said Skrie.

"Aye," said Malusk, "we di'n't know that part of the story then. Uncle Roland trained me to be a proper protector, to stand at his right side with sword and shield in battle. I advanced to the rank of Lieutenant in his company, and commanded a mixed squad of archers and foot soldiers. It were a good life, much better than that back in the old Red Neck camp. Nothing actually criminal or evil, but generally fighting against those who were, although we did use tactics and techniques the regular military forces shunned. We was successful where they wasn't."

"Sounds like you were happy there," said Theren. "Why did you leave?"

"Not long after me last birthday," Malusk responded, "th' camp were attacked. We was betrayed and ambushed by the local militia, the very people who used t' hire us to do the jobs they considered too 'dirty' for them t' do. They killed most of us, includin' Uncle Roland. Me an' a few others, scattered, thinkin' we might be hunted by th' locals. I traveled alone for days, escapin' over the low mountain and down through a wilderness of forested hills to a' abandoned dirt road, that 'ventually led to Fort Bridale."

"That's right," said Skrie, "you got there just before me."

"{So ... yeah, I were once a bandit raider, a member of Grag Muct's Legion of the Red Neck, then later, a member of Uncle Roland Grissot's Blackhand Raiders, who were not bandits!" Malusk angrily pounded his fist on the table, making tankards bounce and the flame in the lantern flicker. He took a deep breath, visibly calming himself before continuing.

"I smells treachery, and betrayal both times where ambush and surprise killed those I loved and admired. Now, this 'Wanted' poster with me face on it shows up, makes it plain that I still be hunted. But by who, exactly, and why? I dunno. I gots me suspicions, but no' a' inklin' o' proof. All's I can do is try to avoid gettin' seen, keep me eyes and ears open for clues, and hope me enemy ... or enemies ... show themselves eventually. Now, ye have t' decide if me being around is too dangerous for ye's to tolerate. Ye need only let me know, and I be on my way in the opposite direction from all ye's."

"Look," said Garrick, "anyone dumb enough to try such an elaborate plan had better watch their back. Are you sure that the culprit behind is Grag? It seems a bit too well-planned and elaborate for a half-orc. No offense of course."

"We've been through a lot together," said Skrie, "whatever's going on, I'm with you."

"As am I," said Theren. "I am right here to help you get to the bottom of this threat."

A knock on the door proved to be Della announcing that their baths were ready.

"If ye leave yer clothes in the bathing room," said the girl, "I'll make sure they'll get washed when I do our laundry on the morrow."

After a long soak, they settled back into the suite. Not long after they returned, a half-elf woman and a young man brought a large tray of venison stew, biscuits, and more ale and cider to the room. Skrie took a small spoonful to taste the broth and noticed an odd tingling in her tongue, then her mouth went numb.

Malusk was just about to take a big bite of the stew when Skrie spit out the broth and rinsed her mouth with water, spitting it into the bowl. She followed it up with a mouthful of cider and spit it into the bowl.

"Something's wrong with this stew," said the halfling. "I tasted this before, when I was little. My ma got medicine from a local herbalist to help me sleep. This has the same feel on my tongue. I think someone is trying to drug us."

Malusk puts just the tiniest taste in his mouth and has the same sensation.

"We need to let someone know and find that girl and boy who brought the food," he said.

"I'll go talk to Filice. She'll know who that girl was." said Skrie, heading out the door.

"Ye knows I don' like it when ye goes off by yerself," said Malusk, standing at the doorway, watching the stairs as Skrie descended toward the common room.

Next: "Chasing Shadows
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