FF012 – Garth’s Rage (Part 1)


Love does not conquer all. Steel, for example. In Garth’s experience, love did not conquer steel. If it did his parents wouldn’t have dripped out the last of their blood while he huddled struggling to stay soundless beneath the mound of old furs that had been his bed.

That moment stayed etched in Garth’s memory from the time he was 8 years old until the day he entered the spirit cave.

He’d always been able to see spirits, a gift from his human father, though his orc mother was the one who’d taught him to speak to them. When he was a child there had been kind spirits around their house. Small and large, the hearth spirits basked in the warmth of an isolated family who lived apart so that they could be true to the feelings in their hearts.

Garth had believed that his path was to show the world the spirits he saw, and teach everyone to welcome them in.

Then the other members of his father’s clan had found them.

There hadn’t been discussion. There hadn’t been any offers made. Just hate, and the fine edge of it killing the hearth spirits, the same as the edge on the clansmen’s steel had slain his parents.

Other spirits came then. They offered solace, but gave only torture. They offered vengeance, but only took his strength and left him weak. Those few parasitic ones which did sustain him were the worst though, draining the color from his world until all was grey in return from keeping his body from breaking down completely under the elements and lack of food and clean water.

Alone, Garth tried to live off the land, but he was too young, and too untalented. In the end he had to move from one refuse pile left behind by a caravan to the next until he reached a city where he could blend in. A hood to hide his orc-ish features, and hiding until it was too dark for anyone to notice or care, kept him alive.

Alive but not safe. There were those who found him anyways. Other gutter dwellers from whom he learned the value of punching both first and last, and the spirits which forever hounded his steps.

Like the hearth spirits had been drawn to the contentment of his family, so to were unkind spirits drawn to his misery. They took from him what they could. His warmth on a cold night. His strength when he was too weak to defend it. His peace in those few moments he could find it. Worse than the things they took though were the things they left behind.

With each wound to his soul, the scar that healed back held onto the horrors that hurt him. Over time he saw his heart grow as cold and sharp as any unkind spirit.

That coldness wasn’t just cruelty though. At times it felt like it had a mind of its own. Like what he wanted was connected to nothing more within him than the scars that lingered, and sometimes not even that.

Little by little, the sense of the alien thing within grew, even as age brought new heights of strength that could be subverted to the other thing’s will.

The cleric who told him of the spirit cave worshipped no god openly. He bore a five headed holy symbol but the markings on it meant nothing to Garth. All Garth knew was that the cleric offered him the chance to master the things that had tormented him for over a decade. That was all that mattered.

Within the cave, Garth found only the pool the cleric had spoken of. He knelt before it as he’d been told and then gasped as the water came to life and pulled him under.

In a moment, he was drowning, he was going to die. One part of him wondered if death would be a final release. If he would get to see his parents again, and all the kind spirits he’d once known.

But that wasn’t how things worked.

Kindness was a ruse. Life was cuts and pain and misery, and death would be no better. All he had to look forward to was being ground up by the spirits who ruled his world.

“There is another choice,” something in the drowning depths said.

“I don’t have choices,” Garth said, not accepting death, but not believing an alternative was possible either.

“Would you live?” the thing asked, curling around him like a rope of woven razors.

“Yes,” Garth said, feeling a familiar anger stir within him.

“And what are you willing to do to live,” the thing asked.

“Anything.” He meant it as a warning, but the words emerged as a promise.

Without words the razor thing slid inside him, and the world went red with flame and rage.

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