A/N: This story is based in the Forgotten Realms 4E setting, specifically in the Shaar. Enjoy!
Argen rose from his bed as he wiped the sweat from his brow. Yet another night of restless dreams plagued his sleep. He could not fathom what they meant. His training to interpret the will of the spirits through dreams was not going as well as he had hoped. The shouts and tells coming from outside his tent signaled that it was time to get up or incur the wrath of one of the overseers.
Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Argen removed the covers from his body as his legs swung outward before planting themselves on the ground. He was not used to sleeping this high off the ground. By order of Myru, the Rageblood orcs' spiritual leader, a bed was crafted for him so he could be well rested for whatever training she had chosen to put him through. It was an understatement to say that others weren't pleased with this arrangement.
Argen rose to his feet, stretching as he went. He winced as a pain shot down his right leg. Argen shook his head as he eyed the still-healing wound given to him by a grizzly bear two week ago. He shook his head at the thought. The bear mauling him was only the first of his problems. Argen had suffered from an infection that had sent him into delirious fever. Due to the Ragebloods' superstitious beliefs, Argen was left to die in his tent and he would have had Myru not intervened. He had awoken several days later on a new bed and was told by Myru herself that the spirits had chosen him and it was her duty to train him.
Argen shook his head. He had wanted to become a fearsome warrior, to earn his place among the tribe. He had instead been relegated to learning about the spirits and the flow of the world. As if living a half-blood in a clan of orcs wasn't bad enough, he now had the misfortune to be learning from an old crone. Argen fastened his leather armor into place, taking care as to first place the ointment given to him by Myru for his wound.
After his armor was in place, Argen donned his customary black, hooded cloak. He had learned from an early age that the very sight of his half-blood features was more than enough to send the people he lived amongst into a violent frenzy that had left him broken on several occasions. He hardly ever removed the hood and cloak when out in public, leaving him with a noticeable lightening of his skin color, which further exacerbated the difference in appearance from him and his clansmen.
Argen turned towards the spear he had crafted a week ago. It was simplistic, to say the least, fashioned as a means to defend himself considering his original was broken when he was mauled by the bear. On the table next to the wall where his spear rested lay his totem. Made out of a spare bear claw that Myru had found amongst her belongings, it had a dwarven rune etched into it. Argen had asked what it meant and as to why an orc would know dwarven. She proceeded to laugh in his face saying she had no idea what it read and that it was fun to curse dwarves in their own language. Argen saw the contradiction in her response, but thought it better to not argue with an old, orc female.
Argen tied the totem around his neck and took up his spear. With a swift prayer to the spirits, an odd and unfamiliar ritual to him, Argen pushed aside the animal fur that functioned as a door and stepped out in to the camp proper.
The clan's current location sat upon the northwestern banks of Lance Lake. Originally from lands further to the north, the Rageclaws were forced south after the events of the Spellplague rendered their homeland infertile and void of life. Following the advice of a former tribe shaman, the Rageclaws turned south to the vast grasslands of the Shaar. Upon discovering the Shaar itself had been reduced to a desert with an enormous canyon bisecting it, the former shaman did not live long enough to curse the spirits for his bad luck. The clan had then since settled around Lance Lake, constantly at war with the other inhabitants over the precious water and game animals.
Argen made his way through the camp, keeping his head low and his eyes on the ground. From what he could glimpse, the clan was pulling down their tents and packing belongings. They only ever did such a thing when they were planning on relocating. This had caught Argen's curiosity. The Rageclaws had only been here for a few weeks and had not clashed with any of the nearby gnoll encampments to warrant a move. He had to know what was going on.
Argen changed his course to bring him closer to the slave pens. While he may have been a half-blood and considered not orc by his clansmen, he still was ranked higher than a slave due to his current training as a shaman and was free to use the slaves as he saw fit. As he made his way through the village, he saw more and more injured orcs. Had there been a battle that he had not known about? Quickening his pace, he finally arrived at his destination.
The orcs of Clan Rageclaw kept very few slaves. They saw slaves as a waste of resources due to their nomadic nature. They kept enough on hand to help when the clan relocated and to help keep the camp clean. Argen sought out his own personal slave, one he had acquired even before he was trained as a shaman. It wasn't hard to find the energetic little kobold.
Kibil was an eccentric. While he was your average kobold in the sense that he followed the orders of Clan Rageclaw without fail, he hated his shortness, and he loved to build traps, Kibil used his trap making for rather obscure reasons. A kobold who was obsessed with keeping things clean, Kibil used his trapmaking skills in his attempt to get the orcs to bathe every once in a while. One can tell by the scars that riddled Kibil's body that the orcs did not take kindly to falling into a river or receiving a bucket of water to the face.
Kibil had appeared to be assisting an orc child folding a garment of some kind when Argen strolled up and poked him on the head. Kibil granted his master a sidelong glance before shooing the child away. Argen motioned for Kibil to follow him as the two set off for the direction of Myru's tent.
"You smell of bear," Kibil noted, a look of displeasure crossing his face.
"And you smell like a wet dog," Argen replied.
"What you want?" Kibil asked, not liking to be taken away from his duties.
"What happened?" Argen asked, pulling his hood lower as they passed the warrior tent.
"Patrol met bug people. They fight. People hurt. Bug people captured. We move to avoid battle," Kibil explained as her scurried after his master.
Argen stopped as he took in what Kibil had said. The Rageclaws would never allow such a slight against their warriors. It was customary for them to attack whoever they had encountered on the Shaar as a show of force that they were not to be taken lightly. The Rageclaws were choosing instead to vacate the area immediately.
"Bug people?" Argen asked, eyeing the kobold. In the years Argen owned Kibil, the kobold had never told a lie. The kobold may have voiced disdain on occasion, but Kibil never lied when questioned.
The kobold shrugged. "Prisoner in cage. Near Varkus' hut."
Argen made a mental note of the prisoner's location before dismissing Kibil. Varkus was the current leader of the Rageclaws. An orc of intimidating stature, Varkus towered over many of the orcs and was significantly broader about the shoulders. Earning his title of chief by slaying the previous leader, Varkus kept the Rageclaws on a tight leash. Since his rise to clan leader, the Rageclaws lived a rather comfortable, by orc standards anyway, life. A lot of this though was due in part to his constant seeking of advice of Myru. It didn't help matters that Varkus was Argen's uncle.
Argen shook away the thoughts that crept into his head. He'll deal with having to go around his uncle's tent later. Myru was most likely waiting for her charge to arrive to help her pack up her belongings. This would be Argen's first time helping Myru move. His predecessor had already graduated from her teachings and left for the wilds to commune with the spirits. Considering Myru's old age, it would not surprise Argen if his predecessor took over her duties as the Rageclaw shaman. The only problem was that Argen was being trained as a shaman and he was unsure as to how his predecessor would react when he returned.
Continuing on his way, Argen momentarily crossed paths with the human girl he had grown up with. Lowering her head as to not offend him, she scurried out of his way and around a tent. Argen watched as the blonde-haired female left his field of vision. He did not know her name. He never bothered to ask as she was a slave for as long as he could remember and whenever he tried when he was a child, she was always beaten for talking with the half blood. He grimaced when he thought that maybe she linked him to pain. He did notice that she sported a new bruise on her face and maybe it was best that he leave her alone.
Argen eventually made his way to Myru's tent. While it wasn't a hut like the clan chief's, her status as clan shaman allowed for some rather eccentric decorations. Animal furs of varying colors made up the outside walls of the tent while the bones of some animal were attached to some manner of string and were draped over the entrance. Eagle feathers dotted the outside of her tent signifying Myru's spirit beast.
As Argen studied Myru's tent for ways in which to dismantle it, he heard a crash come from the inside. Argen could hear Myru cursing the person who was in there with her before a female orc rushed out of the tent in tears. Myru was hot on the orc's heels before realizing her student was outside.
Myru was old, very old. Many in the clan had wondered how she was even still alive. Her hair had fallen out decades ago, now covered by a feather headdress. She was missing all of her teeth and spat when she talked. She was doubled over due to heavy arthritis in her back. Yet she was not by any means frail. Despite the fact that she was doubled over, Myru did her fair share around the village, visiting the sick and offering sage advice when asked. She had raised a family who had broken off from the Rageclaw's when they decided to head south after the Spellplague and she had trained the last five shamans, only stepping in as clan shaman when the training of a new shaman was needed.
Myru grinned when she saw her favorite pupil before her. "Ah, Mato! I was wonderin' where you were!" Myru gestured for Argen to follow her into her tent.
"Greetings, Anunkasan," Argen greeted, using her spirit name, as he followed her inside.
The inside of Myru's tent was not what a typical person would expect after gazing upon the outside of it. Inside, Myru would have herbs scattered about, bones littering her floor, furs tossed about. If Myru was not attending to the need of someone, she was usually communing with the spirits, which at times would leave her agitated.
Argen stood just inside the doorway as he waited for his teacher to have her seat. Finding her stool, Myru sat down upon it and stretched her back out. Only when she was sitting was she able to be upright. Myru gestured for her pupil to take his seat. She saw that he had many questions for her. Signaling for him to begin, Myru pulled a cup and some tea leaves from her bag. Argen was just starting to learn about the spirits and his questions were numerous.
"Anunkasan, shouldn't we be getting you ready to move?" Argen asked, a little perturbed that his teacher had not begun to pack.
Myru eyed her pupil as she prepared her drink. "Twas not expectin' that question, Mato. Leavin' I am not."
Argen waited for his teacher to take a sip of her drink before he continued. "I saw orcs injured on my way here. Kibil says a patrol encountered bug people and a battle took place. Why is Varkus moving the camp? Why are we not going to fight like we normally do?"
Myru took another sip from her drink. "Because I told him to leave."
Argen was perplexed. "Why would you do that? Many orcs will scream for battle."
"It is because the spirits will it," Myru returned cryptically.
Argen wanted to say neither she nor the spirits made any sense; that this course of action was against everything he was brought up to follow. "And Varkus listened to you." Myru nodded as she sipped from her tea. "Despite the possibility that the other orcs may see this as weakness?" Myru nodded once again. "But why?"
Myru shook her head. "That is none of your concern now, Mato. Varkus is a smart man for an orc. Very few would put their faith in a shaman. The fact that his reign has lasted as long as it has shows merit." Myru could see her pupil was not very accepting of her answer. "Come, come, we have other things to talk about before you start packin'."
Argen sighed. All Myru ever wanted to talk about since his mauling was about his dreams. "I'm still getting the dreams of a bear, a bird with broken wings, a mantis, and what appears to be an air elemental journeying through a land tainted by some kind of black muck. None speak, but we are traveling south."
"And what do you think the dream is trying to tell you?" Myru probed. One of the key things about being a shaman was interpreting dreams and their meanings. She learned long ago that when the spirits wanted to talk to you, they would usually do so via dreams.
Argen massaged his temples. "There's no need to guess that I am the bear. I was mauled by one recently and I carry a bear fang as my totem. Yet it only shows 'me' journeying with three others. Not with you, not with the clan, just myself and whoever these others are." Myru nodded, not saying a word, fully expecting him to figure this out on his own. Argen sighed before continuing. "As for what lies south, there is nothing but desert wrought by the Spellplague. I hear of a forest to the southwest with a city further than that."
"Therein could lay the answer to your dream," Myru offered as she finished her tea.
Argen's eyes opened wide. "You expect me to travel south? By myself?"
Myru laughed. "Of course not. Your dreams tell you otherwise, do they not? You do not make this journey alone."
Argen sat back in his seat and placed his hand over his face. "I don't think Varkus will accept my leaving. They all may hate me, but I'm still a capable warrior."
Myru waved off his statement. "You are no longer a warrior of the Rageclaw. You are a shaman. You will do what is necessary."
Argen sat there for a moment as he digested their conversation. The realization of what it all meant hit him like a dwarven ale knocking out a halfling. "This is my 'journey into the wilds', isn't it? If I do this, I'll be a fully capable shaman?" Myru's toothless grin was all he needed. "But Inmutanka is still on his journey! How can I leave on mine only to come back to him being a shaman?"
Myru winked at him. "Guess you'll have to fight him for it."
A dread came over Argen. Bralu Cragspear, or Inmutanka, was not exactly the person Argen had ever wished to fight. The burly orc had placed more abuse on him than any orc in the clan combined. The last two months had been paradise without him around. Argen wasn't even sure if Bralu knew about his training. As Bralu had a lot more training in this than Argen, chances are the spirits had already told him.
"But Anunkasan, I haven't even been able to summon my spirit beast yet! How am I to go on this journey without it?" Argen asked. From what he can recall from when Bralu left, Bralu had successfully summoned his spirit beast, a mountain lion, which signaled his time to depart.
Myru stroked her chin. "Well, you do have a point, but it's not uncommon for shamans to venture into the wilds without their spirit beasts." Myru snapped her fingers. "Think of it as a learnin' experience! That you can't rely on your spirit beast all the time."
Argen looked at his teacher right in the eye. "You really do plan on sending me on this journey, whether I want to or not, aren't you?"
Myru smiled her toothless grin.
Argen shook his head. "Fine, I'll go get ready. Are you sure you don't need help getting packed?"
Myru dismissed his question with a wave of her hand. "I told you I don't plan on leaving. Besides, Inmutanka should be back rather soon from his spirit quest. If you don't want to run into him, you'd best be on your way."
Argen sighed before rising to his feet. He bowed to his teacher before leaving, failing to realize the faint smile on his teacher's lips. As he stepped outside, he couldn't help but feel this journey may actually be good for him. He had never once thought about leaving the clan. Despite all the mistreatment and brutality, Clan Rageclaw was his home, and while he will miss it, he could not help feeling a liberating feeling deep within his soul.