I was Oloz Slave-taker, half-orc. I was born ezal of the Black Tusk, shat out by other ezal and I lived the life of a slave's shit, dirtying other slaves and unthinking. I slew, I raped, and exulted, for that was life. I know now that is not the way, I know now that I am not ezal, I am not Ashad's, I am not orc.
An orc is not like a man. An orc is strong. He doesn't feel pity, remorse. He takes life, he takes slaves, for him they are the same, for in the orc's place in the afterlife, like in his life, he is slave or slaver. There is no other way. For the orc, for Ashad his Screaming God, that is the only way - slave or slaver in life, slave or slaver in death. For Oloz Slave-taker, that is the only way.
Oloz Slave-taker is dead.
He is dead but his soul is not with Ashad. He is gone but still he remains, Slave-taker no more.
I am him, and I am not. Where once he stood, I stand, how can that be? I am new, I will be new, I take slaves no more. I take no more. Like Ashad, Oloz Slave-taker only takes and takes, and he is gone. He did not go easy or quiet. He saw trust placed in him, by Anyra Windwalker. He saw her stand where he said, do what he told, because he would not give her to danger. He saw her burn, he could do nothing. He was a traitor as he had never been. He heard Daelus Windspeaker warn, he heard him rage, and even in his raping orc heart he knew he had betrayed himself too. Ashad knows what the price of it was, for all he cares in his madness. Ashad and Urgoz Ashad's Right Hand and all Thurayn. For all the violence and fury of his end, his last words will go unwrit. In Ashad's House none are mourned.
The night that Oloz Slave-taker was buried was bloody and eventful. We had met the Zeshimite Thebes and he hid us for two days. I was still hurt, bad, from the fight with Urgoz Right Hand. We all were nervous. The air was strange. Takal the goblin betrayed us to Tilbarat, almost killed us himself but in the end he was too much of a coward even for that. He fled, I will be content never to know where he has gone. He could not do it when the rats came, and he never will grow such a spine. Thebes says his jungle cat caught one of the rats. If not for that, maybe the Dogs would be slain sleeping like all of Thebes's other guests.
The rats killed her, we found her later. Thebes was hurt by this more than any blade that night. She died like a warrior.
We fought through Tilbarat's rats, went to his house even as the Sturm rained and rained so black you couldn't see. We found him. His archive was flooding and he did not even fight. I cut him down, but he probably would have drowned if I didn't. I don't regret it, but I am not proud of it.
The Vodoni and the Ashani and the Talliates all rioted, all fought when I struck down the Right Hand. Vodei won. His are big in Thurayn now, the Rex Exactor all but prostrate before them, and the House of Ashad is no more. Now they must gather in the Black Dome with the Talliates. Ashad has paid in a small way, but he will not learn I know.
Now, I write, Oloz of Aros, Oloz of the Temple of the Winds in Thurayn, and I exult. I see in my new friends and my now-enemies a new place and new things. We are adventurers, where once we sought gold or victory, we seek change and rightness. I saw even before Oloz Slave-taker breathed his last something different in my fellow Dogs. In Crisp, in Anyra. I did not understand it then.
Maybe I do not understand it full on even now.
Is Crisp his way because he is daft? Perhaps. He is daft for true. Is he daft because he is his way? That cannot be. Thebes the Zeshimite is the same, but adept.
I seek that now in me.
This second journal was written by Crispus, the Imperial mercenary who was sent to infiltrate Drozon the Cruel's operation and discover what exactly he was seeking beneath the city of Thurayn.
This is the journal and perhaps final record of me, Crispus the Milean, of the Dogs of the Exactor, in the tenth age of Arunë. Glory be to Aros! I set ink to parchment in our days of rest ending on 12th of Furrow, year 502, before we enter the temple of Ashad once more, in the hope that if I am consumed there, my deeds will not be lost.
The events that lead up to this are still fresh in my mind, I will record them now rather than start at the beginning. We had just discovered the vault of Azris, a step in our quest for Drozon the Red to unlock the city of Durius Wyrmcrown. The Red Wizard had unlocked it for us. The first room had statues of dragons, one each gold, silver, and black. The black dragon gave way to a black room, that light could not penetrate. I set forth to explore the magical darkness and in a moment of panic fell into a pit with walls of knives. With my comrade Oloz’s help, I was able to climb out, and Anyra healed and bandaged me. I could not have asked for truer friends.
After a moment of resting, we discovered that the silver dragon gave way to another room as well. I suspect that the gold dragon does as well, and if we ever return I will check it again to see if it does. The next room was laid out as a boat, almost, with two chests on pivoting sections of floor above a fall that ended with spikes. The goblin Takal and the half-orc Oloz began planning immediately how to get the gold and I admit I was excited at the prospect of it as well. The first chest was lost aside from a double handful of coins, scattered among the spikes in the floor. The second chest was recovered almost entirely, but as soon as they pulled the gold off we got a taste of the hells.
Flame erupted from one wall, and from the center of the room. Anyra rests with Aros now. Takal and Oloz were on the threshold of beginning their own journey to the underworld. My feet were still badly injured, but I leapt over the spiked pits twice, once to revive Oloz and once to revive Takal with the waters of life from Aros’ temple. Once they were on their feet, we returned to our warehouse, heads low and hearts heavy. Takal stayed there, and Oloz and I continued on to Anyra’s temple, to her home.
There, the Windspeaker Daelus chastised us. She had been with the temple since she was a small girl, and he felt her passing keener even than I did. He denounced Ashad and exhorted Oloz to cleave to the gods of men. Something he said must have affected Oloz.
After almost a week of resting in our warehouse, Oloz woke us in the middle of the night. He was bleeding and burned. He had killed the Right Hand of Ashad and several of his acolytes. Even as he told us, we could hear unrest in the streets. Vodei marched on Ashad, and Tallial marched to defend them. Oloz had cast a stone into the stagnant pool that is Thurayn, and the ripples threatened to overwhelm us.
As we listened to the chaos outside, Thebes the Zeshimite came to see us. He related how he had been watching us and how we confused him with our choices. He told us some things we had already figured, about how either the Ashad were going to send assassins or the Exactor would chain us up. He offered us sanctuary. We packed everything of value we could carry and abandoned our warehouse.
As we fled, storm clouds rolled in, until the sky was black with them, and even during the day there was only twilight to see by. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed ominously. The Vodei had called in the wrath of their god.
He took us to his inn, the Painted Jaguar
in the City of Veils. He told us about some of his goals involving the one-eyed general and freeing slaves. He invited us to hide there, and once the furor had passed, we could start working. Takal hated the idea of freeing slaves and seemed almost ready to start a fight, but everyone calmed and after a bit more discussion we went to rest.
Throughout the night and the next day the rain never relented, and from our vantage point in the tower of the Painted Jaguar we saw several lightning strikes. The dome over the seat of the Exactor was struck, and it collapsed. The lightning strikes seemed to occur in groups, striking the same spot furiously, from what I guess was whenever roving groups of Vodoni found their opponents. When night fell the darkness was absolute. I could not even see across the street except when there was a flash of lightning.
Thebes did good by us, put us in good rooms on the top floor of his tower, about 150 handspans above the street. He arranged for a medicus to come and tend to Oloz’s wounds. I was heartened to know that such good men live in Thurayn
In our second night there, Thebes awoke us in the middle of the night. The inn was under attack by wererats, sent by Tilbarat. At the time we wondered how he found us so quickly. As we equipped ourselves, one ran up behind Thebes, who slew it handily with one of our silver daggers. It cried out something about the goblin, at first I thought it was commanding its underlings to attack him first.
Once we were equipped, we proceeded down the stairs towards Thebes’ strongroom. At the next floor there were several wererats waiting for us. We paused on the stairs to consider this a moment, and Takal, blackguard that he is, used his foul magic to slick the stairs beneath our feet. We landed in a heap at the feat of these wererats.
Needless to say, we made short work of them while the coward Takal fired arrows into the melee. Fortunately his marksmanship wasn’t as good as his magic. After we slew the wererats, he fled upstairs, and we never saw him again.
We regrouped in the basement of the Painted Jaguar. Oloz and Thebes used potent healing draughts. We escaped using a hidden door, and entered the inn from the front, looking for Llyrex, Thebes’ jungle cat. It had been slain, and stoked Thebes’ anger.
With fury in our hearts, we set forth to Tilbarat’s lair. We were accosted by another group of rat men, led by one clad in armour akin to my own, and a bastard sword in the style of Essad that I kept. We made short work of them as well, though none of us were unscathed. When we reached Tilbarat, he was more concerned with saving his books than anything we might do to him. He was slain without a struggle. To find that the spymaster of Thurayn and the cause of our trouble was just a man left us feeling discontent and unfulfilled, perhaps a lesson in the nature of revenge.
For the rest of the storm, we took refuge in the temple of the four winds, and Oloz joined the inner cult. I am glad that Oloz, long my comrade as we worked in and beneath the city, is now my brother in the sight of Aros. We rested until the storm passed, and then went out into the city.
Thurayn had been devastated by the storm. Built in a desert climate, no building had been prepared for a week of torrential rain. There were pools of water everywhere, and dead Iron Guards, and dead priests. In the Street of the Smiths, two smithies out of seven were destroyed by flood or fire or lightning strike. The Painted Jaguar was also burned, and all of our possessions stolen or destroyed. Between Oloz and me, a small fortune was lost. Fortunately for Thebes the outer walls and ceiling still stood, we have pledged to help him rebuild. Before we could do this, we had to find some kind of work. I bought some gear with the idea of returning to the Vault that claimed Anyra’s life and recovering the coins that fell, and purchased gear that would help with that.
Before we tried that, we returned to the Temple of the Four Winds and asked if there were something we could do for them. We were told of a harp the Ashadis had stolen, and set forth to the ruins of their temple to recover it. After looking around we found a hidden way to the catacombs beneath their temple. We found a password that allowed us to pass beneath the arch of the blinding eye and then I fell into a vat of acid. After cutting my armour off, I was able to swim back up and grab a rope Oloz had tossed down.
I rested while Oloz went over the pit trap and into the next room. There he found skeletons that I saw a moment later when I was lowered through the trapdoor. They were bound by leather at their joints and used jagged blades. They attacked Oloz at the doorway, and through some bad luck his blade Throatslasher fell into the same acid I had just been pulled out of. As soon as he slammed the door on the walking bones they ceased their attack.
Upon returning to our temple, the priest that sent us felt some remorse and healed us. Windspeaker Daelus learned of what we did, and we related what we found beneath Ashad’s house. Soon he had a plan to take the temple for Aros, leading to a bigger temple and a better location. Soon we will return, bolstered with comrades we have just met.
These past two weeks I have taken wounds that would have killed ten lesser men, I survived only through the grace of Aros. I am poorer than I have ever been since I came to Thurayn but find myself surrounded by friends. I do not know what the future brings but I look forward to it with a clear conscious.