Adventurers Journal

The Hammer of Vengeance

                The broad, muscular ogre sat alone in the crowded tavern. Nearly all of the long tables filling the vaulted room were taken, but a space was empty within reach of his arms. His long hair hung lank and lifeless and his eyes were bloodshot as he hunched over his mug like a dog guarding his bowl. After staring off into the distance for some time, he picked up the heavy earthenware flagon and hurled it to shatter against the sawdust covered floor.

                “Oi!” the overweight bartended shouted as he wiped down the far end of the bartop. Standing, the ogre staggered a bit and contemptuously spilled silver coins from his purse, enough to buy the cup a thousand times over. He turned and walked carefully, as only a drunk can, between the rows of tables. The raucous crowd paid him no mind except when he stepped on the tail of a serpentine midniss whose cobra hood flared out as he hissed in anger. The ogre nodded and waved an apology; his other hand rested on the long weapon hilt sticking up over his shoulder in a not too subtle threat, and the snake man settled back down grumbling and speared a gerbil, dropped it still wriggling into his mouth, and slurped its tail down like spaghetti.

                Combat raged in the fighting pit that dominated the center of the large warrior’s guild hall. A gnome in heavy armor waited behind his shield, pick raised, for a spear-wielding plains elf to come into reach. The elf was finally tripped by a quick kick from a very short leg and then bashed in the head by the flat end of his foe’s weapon. After a dazed moment the grinning gnome helped him up and the two climbed the stairs to buy the drinks the elf owed his much smaller foe. The pit cleared for a moment as servants ran to spread more sawdust over the blood and sweat of the floor.

                As the mock battle ended, the tall and thick ogre grabbed the fur wrapped club that hung from a leather tether and began to beat the suspended shield beside the pit. He staggered again as he leaned into the blows and the room gradually fell silent. The tusk-mouthed ogre looked about owlishly and blinked for a moment before mumbling, “I am Shump.”

                “Speak up you great beast!” yelled a lean human in fighting leathers through his salt and pepper mustache.

                “I AM SHUMP, ONCE OF THE WILD RIVER CLAN.” He growled, filling the room with his voice.

                “That’s better.” The human settled down, as did most of the rest of the crowd watching to see what was going to happen. At the mention of the ogre’s clan, many smiling faces became serious and hands drifted towards weapons.

                “I would tell you of my deeds and of a vow fulfilled.” His voice was gravelly and unused to projecting so loudly but it was as deep as the oceans.

                “Put aside your blades. I was ONCE of the Wild River Clan but was captured when I was little more than a cub during an attack on The High House Monastery in Perdition. Along with the rest of the captives, I was enslaved, used as little more than a beast of burden.”

                Many of the listeners murmured at this amongst themselves, and the broad-shouldered warrior swayed slightly beside the huge hanging shield as he waited for the room to quiet.

                “But I am ogre, and better than any other race, we endure.” Another, wilder looking ogre sitting among a group of humans raised his mug towards the speaker.

                “Over many seasons I labored, but one of the masters noted the spark within me. He began to instruct me in the ways of the monk, and I excelled. The teaching became less a labor than a joy as my chi strengthened within me.” A dull smile widened his tusked mouth, looking out of place on his weathered and bristly face.

                “More than ten years ago I was accepted as a journey practitioner and left the place I had come to regard as home so that I might prove myself in the world. Many monsters were slain and foes routed before last year. At that time, I received word that my master, the only human to treat me as a man and not as a beast, had been slain in the night. I vowed revenge.”

                “It took months to track them, along with the aid of a few friendly magi and a veritable mountain of gold, but find them I did. The blood spirits, a group of dread worshipping scum living in a fallen temple deep in the swamps, had done the deed. They had attacked the monastery to recover some relics hidden within it, and my master was killed trying to protect them.”

                “The blood spirit hideaway was deep in the swampy delta, long lost to any but their foul cult. Once located, I spent several days scouting. It had the aspect of a castle, though ancient in styling, with a square wall and three towers on each side, roughly fifty paces apart. There was no moat, but the surrounding rice paddies served much the same purpose. Chained thralls worked the paddies with hopelessness in their eyes as armored overseers paced the pathways between them.”

                “In the dark of night I began my attack. After scaling the wall, a none too alert who guard had been nodding and fighting sleep choked out his life after I crushed his throat. For most foes, I would have put them out of their misery, but this foul human could revel in the agony of his passing. I took his sword, sling and buckler in my bag and crept down the stairs to the main floor of the bailey. Two more guards were ended by nothing more than my hands, though my magic made fists as hard as steel when I struck. I took on the form of mist and floated softly across the parade ground, blending with the natural fog of the night.”

                “Floating among the rude huts of the thralls, I resumed my solid form behind the lone overseer on night watch; the overseer was a midniss and would be tougher to take unawares. I quietly performed the moves of a kata and drew the strength of the earth into myself. I began to feel chilled, and my skin grayed to match the rock wall of the fortress. Another hurried kata saw my strong right hand become blacker than the night with what looked like sparks of darkness dripping from it. I crept up on the snake man. It heard something and turned, so I lunged to grab his mouth and prevent a shout but was too slow. The quickly muffled shout rang from the walls as we rolled around in the mud. I was far too strong and my enspelled hand grasped the creature’s serpent throat, sucking its life force into me. After a moment all was still, but the silence came too late. The guard were roused.”

                “Slaves emerged blinking out of their homes, seeing little in the darkness. I threw the ragged prisoners weapons of the guards I had killed and whispered they were free if they could stay that way. An older man, wasted by bad food and hard labor, hesitantly took a club into his hand and looked at his fellows. Having no more time to be an abolitionist, I shouted my war cry and charge towards the sleepy humans coming out of their cells. None wore armor, and my hammer crushed them as they stood. Nearly a dozen died before the castle was roused”

                “Armored humans and another ogre came pelting down the steps of a far tower. I summoned my chi and put a glow into my hammer. The first to arrive died quickly, but the others fought well. I took several wounds but had absorbed much of the life essence of the slain midniss which protected me from harm. One by one my enemies died until it was ogre fighting ogre. I had finally taken injury and was slowed - luckily he was a savage fighter and untrained. His blows were powerful but uncontrolled. Our battle seemed to last hours but was probably only a few seconds but at last I stood victorious, blood streaming from slashes to my thigh and one through my armor; the fallen ogre blew red froth from his mouth and tried to breathe through a crushed ribcage.” Shump pulled aside the tasset of his finely made and badly patched studded leather armor to show a wide red scar across his upper leg. Several of his listeners winced and a small sea elf grabbed his own thigh in empathy.

“I staggered up to the door of the main keep. It was thick wood with bands of iron, aged well and cared for. Of course it was locked. None were approached so I took a moment and performed a simple kata taught to most trainee monks and the worst of my injuries closed. Concentrating on my hammer, I went through the movements of yet another spell in the trained dance that was monastic casting. The head of the great weapon went dark and darkness seemed to well up from it. With a mighty roar I struck the door and it exploded, fragments falling away from the spot of impact.”

“Inside was a dark temple adorned with skulls and red candles. Robed figures chantedin a circle around a wizened old man. They ignored my entrance, which spoke well for their concentration. An elven woman near to my height dressed in tight alchemical leaf armor strode from an alcove, her almond eyes gleaming. She smiled, showing the wide cow teeth of the elves which always looked so out of place in their slim faces. Long, narrow spears crackled with magic from each of her hands as she began the wind dance technique of the bleeding wind school. She seemed to flow around the room ever closer but never giving me a target because of her exceptional quickness. Her spears licked forward and tasted my blood on a few occasions, but none were deep. I swung futilely and could not gain the space need to cast a spell as the katas took up too much room. Blood seeped from a dozen pinpricks on my chest and arms while she was still unwounded. Dancing faster and faster, the elf wench began the storm of swords, a more advanced attack routine. I faked a leg sweep, and she jumped right into a torso-height blow with my off-hand. The crunch of ribs breaking overwhelmed both the noise of our breathing and the robed figures’ chanting. She continued to dance and attack, but at a slower pace now. My next successful blow broke her left leg just as she scarred my face with a spear. A final strike killed her to the head deformed her beauty and killed her.”

“My blood ran down my armor and onto the floor, much of it flowing into gutters probably kept for that purpose, as the robed figures came to a crescendo of shouts and the torches all went out. The elder human in the center of the cabalistic symbols choked out a cry and gave a last rattling breath. His body began to glow, and what looked to be his skeleton floated above him. Its orange burning eyes fixed on me and flew towards me with claws outstretched. It stopped just out of reach, chanting burning words that faded from memory as soon as they were uttered, and a dark gray bolt flew from the floating horrors fingers and into me. I shuddered in pain and chanted mumbled through the mantra of agony through clenched teeth as my magical protections faded. The spectral mage cast again, and I frantically went through the movement of one of my most powerful kata. We finished at the same moment, its bolt of foulness rebounding from me as I forced away the power of the arcane cage. I swung at it, and my hammer went through its mystical body as though nothing were there. I roared in frustration.”

“Another quick kata saw my hammer and fists glowing a dull white which cast harsh shadows in the room. The robed figures still lay about gasping, none yet standing. Swinging once again, the spirit dodged to the side, and my weapon shattered the rock of the floor where it struck. The creature hissed, but I did not hear it with my ears; its voice seemed to be in my mind, and its claws sank through my flesh to strike directly at my life force. My cries of pain and the foul thing’s rapturous noises blended into a horrid chorus. My hands still sparked with my own chi energy, so I dropped my hammer and grabbed at my foe. I caught it, though it seemed I was trying to grasp water; I held it tight and hammered with my other hand. Its hands sank into me again and again as we flailed at each other. It finally broke apart, and I fell to my knees shuddering in pain.”

“The first of the robed figures attempted to stand, and I staggered towards them with death in my eyes. They were old humans, both men and women, with horrid scarification scars proclaiming their dedication to the death cult. If they were death worshippers, I sent them to their gods that night.”

“My vow fulfilled, I moved slowly through another kata to regain some bit of strength and took up my hammer again. Stepping outside I was prepared to die, expecting more cultists to be there and meet me. The thralls stood, bloody and battered, but with triumphant smiles. Only three in ten of what were originally a hundred or so of them yet lived, but they were free. We spent a few days burning out the nest of foulness and nursing what injuries we could heal before setting off into the swamp to return to civilization.”

“My vow fulfilled, I stand before you to proclaim myself Shump the Oathkeeper, holder of the great hammer Bonebreaker.” The Ogre stood proudly and held up a great hammer whose head was the size of a small man’s chest. Its crystalline head sparkled in the torchlight.”

He ended his tale and looked about, surprised by the silence. The mustachioed human who had called him a beast stood and raised his flagon in salute. “Warrior,” the man said with respect. Others repeated it and soon chants of “Warrior” rang through the hall. The fat bartender left off his wiping and limped up pass the ogre a full mug of ale, and  the gathered freeswords cheered.

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The spell Shump cast to make his hammer go black and shatter the door is Smashing Blow. His hammer is a chi implement so he focused what is normally a touch spell through it.