Dark Sun: Spirit Champions
The story of Crystaliss.
I wasn’t always the Hell bent on vengeance person you see before you; there was a time when I spent my days hunting for berries and other edibles for the nightly meal. Being the youngest this was my job, unlike my older sister and brothers whose job was hunting. Our mother and father were merchants, bartering the excess meat for services, useful items and something fresh bread from the villagers. Farther was also an adventurer and would be gone for several weeks at a time searching for exotic items.
Our village was no different than any of the other small villages that dotted the Scrub Plains. That is until father returned with an item that would soon bring destruction and end the lifestyle we had grown to love. He saw this fist sized object as our ticket to great wealth. News spread quickly and people traveled great distances just for a chance to view the item. It wasn’t much to look, sort of reddish brown in color, and no the magic of the object wasn’t in its appearance but what it could do. It was hard and unbreakable and this gave father an idea. He set up and competition in which the item would be the prize. All you had to win was break the object.
The object was placed on a boulder, the entrance fee was paid and each contestant was allowed five attempts to break it. Hundreds tired and all failed. The broken weapons were tossed into piles which grew larger every day. Father had made more coin then he had ever imagined. Life was good, or it was until he showed up. He turned out to be Mebols Skulcap the self appointed governor of this area and after hear countless stories about the wondrous idem had decided to come and have a look for himself. Normally the village would have greeted such nobility with open arms, but the large force he brought with him had them all concerned.
Mebols dismounted and approached father. “Are you the one responsible for this miraculous find?” He continued without waiting for an answer. “It fills my heart with such happiness that you have found my long lost family heirloom; however it saddens me that you failed to return to me and by not doing so forced me to journey under this blazing sun to retrieve it myself.” Looking at father and spotting the sizable money pouch tied at his waist, points to and says, “I feel I am owned compensation for my time, the time of my guards, provisions and other expenses, if you are short on coin I’m sure we can work something out. I am after all always in need of slave labor be it for work duty (turning an eye toward me and my sister) or for sex.” Father slowly handed the pouch to the governor who tossed it to one of the guards along with orders to start rounding the villagers. “I like this village, so I’m not going to take all of you; just the woman and any men I feel will be useful as training fodder for my Gladiators in the arena.”
That was the last straw for father; he screamed and charged Mebols but was struck down by several well placed arrows. Mebols finished him off with a slow and painful throat cutting. Guards didn’t bother picking their targets because we all were targets, the old, women, children and even the livestock fell under their blades.
After seeing father fall I ran for the forest hoping to escape, in doing so I lost track of my family. The dead were everywhere, I continued to run but the tears in my eyes blurred my vision. I tripped and found myself staring at the lifeless faces of my sister and mother. Someone grabbed my arm and pulled to my feet. It was RazSpark, one of my brother’s friends. He was covered in blood; he saw the shock on my face and said not to worry because it wasn’t his blood. We ran with Raz swinging his blade the entire time. By the time we reached the edge where the thicker scrub brush I too was covered in blood. My brother Bodartss was waiting for us; he hugged me, took my hand and started to lead me deeper into the tall brush. He stopped when he notice that Raz didn’t follow. Raz looked at him and said “There are several coming, take our sister and go and I’ll hold them off as long as I can.” Bodartss started to protest but Raz stopped him. “Go, the survivors need a leader. I’ll catch up after I deal with these murderous cowards.” Bodartss scooped me and heading into the cover of the dense brush. I watched as the men descended on Raz, he fought hard taking out two and wounding one other before being struck in the back of the head by a mace wielding guard who had gotten behind him. I saw Raz turn and trust his sword through his attacker’s throat. Just before I lost sight of Raz I saw him fall to his knees as the remaining three pounced on him.
Bodartss tighten his grip and ran faster into the thick safety of the brush. He ran through the night and by morning we were standing at the edge of a small valley. Others were there including our older brother Gralfss. They had both seen our mother and sister cut down, Gralfss was wounded trying to get to them. After killing Graifss’ attacker, Bodartss helped him to the edge of the forest. It was decided that Graifss would lead the survivors to safety while Bodarss searched for me.
For the next several weeks were nursed our wounded and stayed hidden. During that time Bodartss had visited the area around our burnt village looking for survivors. As of today he has only found seven. All carried with them stories of the events of that dreadful day. After governor Mebols ordered the massacre he had the guards round up any survivors to be taken back as slaves. When all was said and done 22 were captured and marched off including RazSpark.
There were 37 of us taking refuge in the valley and it wasn’t long before we had cleared the area of any suitable game and edibles. We were left few choices, go back to the village and chance Mebols return, stay and slowly starve or head out into the wasteland and become Nomads taking what we needed to survive. Bodartss let everyone decide, he wanted us all to stay together but he knew how difficult it would be for such a large party to survive intact so in the end 14 left for the village, 7 chose to stay in the valley and the remaining 16 became Nomads.
The Nomad way of life scared me at first but in time I grew to love the hunt, capture and pillaging of the misfortunate travelers we encountered. We took only what we needed and in most cases sent the travelers on their way only slightly harmed. There were other Nomad tribes that would have done worse including eating those who hadn’t gotten away. We tried not to cross paths with these, but sometimes it is unavoidable. One such early morning encounter cost us dearly. It was a blood bath that lasted into early evening until we surrounded the remaining rival and chopped her to pieces. We had won the battle but lost everything else. There were only five of us left and two wouldn’t make it through the night. Bodartss was among the wounded and Graifss with the dead, our six years as Nomads ended with that one battle. It also removed one of the most blood thirsty packs of Nomads that had ever roamed the wasteland. That alone gave us comfort and after pillaging their nest the three of us now wealthy headed out of the wasteland and towards the city. The nest provided more that coin and replacement weapons, it contained the explorer pack RazSparks father had carried with him all those years ago. Taking it I planed to return it once I found Raz.
In the city we found a place to stay and proceeded to get drunk. It was a drunk to end all drunks, two months to be exact. During that time Triel and Shaots became an item. Once sober they wed and decided to remain in the area, they purchased a small farm on the outskirts of town with their share of the remaining booty. I gave them 2/3 of mine with instructions to build an extra room for me to stay in when I came back this way. They said they would and tears flowed as we parted.
I wasn’t sure where I was going when I left the city but I thought I might venture out and see if the village I had once called home still existed. The path I chose also took me to the valley where I found nothing but a couple of rotted huts and four old graves. Coming out of the forest and expecting the worse I was pleasantly surprised by what my eyes were taking in. Not only had the village survived but it was thriving. I rode through the center of town not recognizing anyone. At first I thought I must have taken a wrong turn and ended in one of the villages further up the road, that was until someone called my name. It was Csoter the man who had led the 14 from the valley back to the village. I jumped off of my mount and found myself being smothering in his massive chest; arms like tree trunks crushed the wind from my lungs. “Crystaliss we thought you dead.” He cried.
That evening I dined with Csoter the others who had followed him from the valley. This included three of the seven who had chose to stay in the valley. They had lasted for over two years before a sickness had claimed the lives of the other four. Fearing they too would die they fled back to the village after they buried the ones they lost. I told them of the Nomadic life I had led and it caused them great sadness when I spoke of that last battle. I asked of any news of the ones taken as slaves. Everyone became quiet and turned to Csoter. His eyes fell as he told me how most had been killed for sport during the journey back to the captures lands. Those few who did survive the trip ending up in the arena, he looked up at me his eyes blazing with hatred. “Only RazSpark lives today, he is Mebols champion and a traitor to this village.” “How is he a traitor?” I asked. “He is the champion. That means he has won his freedom yet he still fights for Mebols making him richer every day. He watched Mebold’s guards murder his family and half of yours and he stays and does Mebols bidding. If that isn’t the actions of a traitor then I don’t know what is.” Csoter slumped in his seat, tears streaming down both cheeks. “You must be mistaken about Raz, he saved me and then held off several guards allowing all us here to escape.” Csoter looked up, wiped his tears and said, “Raz was brave and I loved him like a son but him staying with that butcher and making him wealth leads to only one conclusion. He is a traitor and his name will never be spoken in this village again”
I didn’t believe Raz was one, but I also didn’t understand why he stayed. I needed to find out, so I asked around the village as to where Mebols called home. Once I had the information I set out to find Raz and get an answer from him one way or the other.
The first few days of travel went off without a hitch but by the third it became apparent I was being shadowed and what was worse was whoever they are they knew that had been detected because not long after she made herself known by riding up alongside me as if we had been friends for years. I slowly moved my hand toward the hilt of my weapon but stopped short as the warning flowed from her mouth. “Touch it and you are dead,” Is all she said. I moved my hand back to the reins and continued on without a word. We rode in silence for another four hours before she spoke again. “I’m happy that I didn’t misjudge you and not have to leave your gutted corpus on the trail.” “Yeah that would have put a damper in my trip because I swore I wouldn’t bloody my blade on a puny halfling this time out.” I replied. She looked me up and down and then burst out laughing saying. “I like people who don’t back down, makes them trustworthy in my book!” With that she extended her tiny hand in friendship. I took it not out of fear but because I was starting to like this little ball of fire.
We chatted until we stopped to make camp several hours later, after eating we talked until we couldn’t talk any longer. Turns out our paths had crossed more than once and that we had met when I was younger. She was pleased to hear that our band was responsible for the death of one of their sworn enemies and saddened by my loss. As luck would have it she too was going to the arena to see the champion in action before heading to the market place to set up shop. She had ridden ahead of the caravan to not only get to the arena on time but to pick out and prepay for a good shop location.
She said she loved the life of a Dune Trader but deep down inside had always wanting to become a mercenary or even a bounty hunter because as she put it there is good money in spilling blood.
We broke camp and started out on the last leg of the journey, tomorrow would find us at the arena about the witness the greatest champion of all times in a fight to the death. She tried to recall the last time she felt this excited, but after several long minutes she concluded that she never had.