Stories from Vaegrath The Free Cities of Xanthar

The Wayward Slave

The Slave loved Blackgan city. He loved the smell of salt in the air. He loved watching pedestrians shrink away from him. He loved the feeling of a knife’s point directly at the small of his back.

He felt the itch now, as though something should be touching him… but wasn’t.

Everyone wanted what he had: All the power of the Wayward Slaves.

He turned a corner into a deserted part of town. A few blocks down, a wooden structure had collapsed into itself. Shards of wood jutted out at awkward angles.

He pushed apart some of the wood and made his way into the ruins. He was inside a destroyed tavern. Tables and chairs littered the damp, muddy floor. Behind the rotting bar, several shattered bottles lay strewn around the floor.

The Slave stepped around the corpse of the bar, and crouched on the floor. Absent-mindedly, he picked up a shard of glass. It was the size of a dagger, and would probably cut like one, too.

He felt around the mud a little and found a depression. Smirking, he stood and took a step forward. He jumped into the air and landed on the mud… except it made a sound like wood. Three times, he jumped, making loud noises, and then he stepped away. A moment later, the ground shifted and opened before him like a trap door.

A large man stepped out of it. He was bald, and he was muscular. He seemed deliberately strong, as though he had built his body to look strong. Whether he actually was… only time would tell.

A delicious taste came to the Slave’s mouth, as he imagined whipping around this man, slicing and dicing his skin to his heart’s content.

His advisors’ words cut through his mind: At least try to negotiate first. 

That was useless. Blackgan City was not the place for tea parties and negociations.

“Slave,” the big man nodded. His voice was deep, booming.

“You seem fun.” The Slave smirked, his voice slithering out of his mouth.

“Hands out, please.”

“Oh, c’mon!” The Slave feigned a whine. The big man stared right back. “I’m sorry I called you fun.” He held his hands out by his sides.

The big man patted him down, taking away all of his weaponry: five daggers and a newly acquired shard of glass. The Slave bit his lip in frustration.

The man stepped aside and the Slave climbed into the trapdoor. Jumping off the ladder from the fifth rung from the bottom, he found himself in a brightly lit room.

The room gave off a musty odour that indicated age—a sense that this place had been around far longer than the ruins of the tavern above it. Inside sat a table with four people around it. Three of them just looked like grunts: big muscles, hard faces, no shirts. It was the man at the head of the table that excited the Slave.

He had a large scar going down his wrinkled face, through one eye and a crooked lip. There was no eyepatch, no eyelid. The mutilated corpse of an eye was on full display. Pure white, leaking from the sides, so much that the man had to take a handkerchief and wipe the pus off from time to time.

The Slave initially thought the man had a thin upper lip, but soon realized that the lip was simply missing, and instead, there was jagged flesh.

He bowed deeply.

“Lord Morrison,” said the Slave. “What an honour. I must say I am a huge fan.”

Lord Morrison made no response.

The Slave looked around, found a chair, and sat.

“The Lord didn’t say you could sit,” said a grunt, suddenly standing.

The Slave spread his legs in his chair and sized the grunt up. All brute strength. Pathetic.

“Well, it seems I can!” he patted the grunt on the arm. “So, now you know.”

Fire took the barbarian’s eyes, and he reached for his sword. Before anything could happen, though, Lord Morrison held his hand out and spoke.

The Slave counted three teeth, but there could have been more amongst the shambles that was his mouth. His voice came out like a sword being scraped across wood: almost a hiss, with a grizzled husk. The words came out slow, calculated, confident. Arrogant. “No need for that, my dear chap.”

The Slave threw his mouth open, “That’s no fair, why does he get toys? The big mean man took all mine away!”

“Because you,” Lord Morrison looked straight at him, “have infringed upon my grounds.” Every word came out carefully, each syllable enunciated. “There are few with the courage to do such a dastardly thing, and it must be applauded. But you must understand, you cannot be allowed to continue.”

“My mummy always told me that sharing is caring. Didn’t yours?”

“Unfortunately,” said Morrison, not missing a beat, “I had to cut my mummy’s life short. It is not the most comfortable of topics, so let us focus solely on your… insolence. Edward, here, has been with me for two weeks, unable to exact his vengeance upon the fools who destroyed the caravan that left two days ago from Myxhal. Some of those items were of supreme importance to Edward. He doesn’t like you very much.” He wiped some pus from his leaking eye. “If you surrender now, he will only take three fingers from your left hand.”

Edward smiled hungrily.

The Slave leaned forward. “I thought this was going to be a truce meeting.”

“What in the world gave you that idea, boy?”

“Must I remind you, my lord, that Eddie’s caravan was not the only one we took.”

“Six caravans were raided, and twenty of my men are dead.”

“The Wayward Slaves did all that. If I’m not mistaken, and please correct me if I am… that’s every shipment from Myxhal for two months. You have no product in Blackgan at all. I thought we deserved a little more respect than this.” The Slave spit on the ground.

The grunt went for his sword again, advancing around the table this time. The Slave didn’t move. Lord Morrison held his hand up ever so slightly. “Archie, come now.”

“Listen here, runt,” the grunt was now towering over The Slave, his shadow completely engulfing the Slave. “That’s Lord Nestor Morrison over there. Show some respect or I’ll eat—”

“Archie!” said Morrison’s rasping voice, shutting Archie up at once.

The Slave, still in his chair, looked straight up at him, and his eyes turned just a little red. Archie’s head momentarily retreated. “Yeah,” There was a tang to the Slave’s voice, like a whip being cracked on a slab of stone. “Archie.”

Archie snarled, and then backed away. The Slave could taste his fear. His mouth began to water. Oh, he was so happy that Morrison was threatening him.

“You know, Nestor,” said the Slave. The tension in the room seemed to rise the minute he said ‘Nestor.’ Archie definitely didn’t like it. “I really don’t appreciate all this,” he gestured vaguely at the room. “This isn’t really a comfortable environment for me. I don’t need this.”

Lord Morrison’s half-face curled in a snarl. The Slave felt his muscles seizing. He felt his windpipe close. He couldn’t breathe. For a small moment, panic took him, his heart jumping, a sharp pain in his chest.

“Is this more comfortable, boy?” said Morrison, his face erupting in glee.

The Slave closed his eyes and concentrated only on the taste of Archie’s fear. It melted in his mouth, almost bringing tears to his eyes, going straight from his tongue to his brain, and exploding there. His windpipe opened.

He gasped air and regained control of his muscles. He was standing now.

His lips stretched into a smile. “Thank Olir up high that you did that.” The room had become delicious. Every person in it tasted of a cake dripping in chocolate sauce. He had to gulp back some spit to stop himself from drooling. “I promised my advisors I wouldn’t fight until I was provoked.”

He threw the chair into Archie and lunged at the Lord, biting into his neck. There was an explosion of flavour as he ripped the Lord’s throat out with his teeth. Black smoke billowed from the hole he left there. The Slave breathed it in, the fragrance of a meadow of poppies filling his sinuses. His blood rushed through his body, and his limbs began to move at the speed of light.

The next few minutes were only flashes. The big man who had his daggers. Archie’s crimson guts. The other grunts cowering in fear. The taste of their terror. Black smoke filling the room. Sweet. Smoke. Blood.

To the others, the Slave was no longer a man. His hands whipped in every direction, becoming arcs of pure destruction. Every time they cut into him, he seemed to get stronger. The four grunts were no match for him, as Lord Morrison lay screaming on the ground, clutching the half of his neck that was no longer there.

When they all were dead, and his daggers lay dripping with their blood, the smoke billowing from their wounds found their way into The Slave’s nostrils. As he breathed out, his eyes flashed pure black for a second, and then returned to normal. Sheathing one dagger, he sauntered over to Lord Morrison, barely alive, thrashing on the ground like a fish out of water. He was trying to say something, but his throat was in tatters.

“I was hoping you’d do something like that.” The Slave pressed his knees on Lord Morrison’s hands, stopping him from casting any spells. “It seems you didn’t do your homework. You didn’t ask your men what they saw when the Slaves descended upon them. You should have, Nestor.” The Slave’s dagger sank in the exposed part of the Lord’s throat. Blood gurgled in the back of Morrison’s throat in spurts. The good eye was engulfed in fear. Pure, unbridled terror. The Slave felt drunk and giddy.

“Oh, well,” said The Slave, as smoke once more began to escape Lord Nestor’s throat. “I guess you know now.”

By Arsh Kabra

The most boring person at any given party.

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