Wrath of Righteous
Charok (for reference)
“Remember, my son, the gods know what your true purpose is, and when the time is right, you will as well.” – Sathria Sha’tha to Razzak
Razzak Sha’tha was born in 4681 in Magnimar, Varisia, the middle child of immigrant parents who fled the Mwangi Expanse by way of traders in Sargava. The family finally settled in Magnimar, where Razzak’s father, Thrask, a smith, could find steadier work.
Razzak admired his elder brother, Kraz, greatly, following him to take up such pursuits as riding, sword fighting, and hunting. However, as the elder son, Kraz was to be apprenticed to their father in the smithing trade, often leaving Razzak to his own devices while he studied. As a result, when their sister, Iliza, was born, Razzak often cared for her and the two grew close. Iliza possessed an affinity for the arcane, and was placed under the tutelage of a wizard who had settled in Magnimar in semi-retirement. Once again, Razzak was left with no obvious path ahead of him and forced to create his own.
Razzak’s mother, Sathria, a scribe by trade, used her second son’s sense of adventure to instill a love of history and grand tales in him, despite Thrask’s protests that she would turn Razzak into a hopeless romantic, enamored with tales of knighthood. Fascinated by his mother’s stories and books, Razzak was determined to master his swordplay and become a hero of the people like those in the tales. But such dreams are the folly of youth.
Sathria kept her younger son close for a much deeper reason, however. Razzak had been born with a strange color pattern on the scales of his neck. As he grew in years, the pattern became clearer and more distinguishable as the holy symbol of Iomedae, goddess of valor. Knowing that her son had been marked for some unknown purpose, Razzak’s mother feared for his safety, believing that such a marking could not be mere coincidence, and if knowledge about it got into the wrong hands, there was no telling what could happen to her son.
“You know those moments you have in life where it seems like everything makes sense and you know what to do with the rest of your life? Yeah, I’m still waiting for those scars to heal.”
Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, Razzak became determined to seek his destiny through apprenticeship of a different kind, much to his mother’s dismay. By winning a small tournament with other hopefuls his age, he managed to impress one of the local knights, a human named Sir William Devonshire, enough to take him on as a squire. William treated Razzak well, instructing him in the arts of war, chivalry, and politics. Perhaps what intrigued Razzak the most, however, was Sir William’s unwavering faith in Torag, the father of creation and patron of the dwarves. Sir William lived out Torag’s tenants, always holding himself to a higher standard than those around him, and it guided his life.
Life is a fragile thing, as Razzak soon discovered firsthand. After a particularly grueling training session on the eve of his eighteenth birthday, Razzak’s future was forever altered. On the way back to the squires’ barracks, he and Sir William encountered a strange man on the road. The man was shaken, dirty, and clearly confused about his surroundings. As Sir William approached the man, time seemed to slow to a crawl. Razzak suddenly felt a crushing sense of dread; the man spun to face Sir William and as he did so, his eyes became as black as the abyss and Razzak could see a shining red haze collect around him. Sir William hesitated, a moment too long, and the man waved his hand, sending a brilliant bolt of lightning straight at the knight. The bolt pierced directly through his chest and he staggered back a step before collapsing.
Shocked by the murder of his mentor, Razzak froze on the spot, unable to will his body to move. The man turned to him and beckoned with his opposite hand. Without delay, Razzak felt himself lifted off the ground and speeding through the air toward the man. He stopped just short of the man’s face as if he’d slammed into a wall, and instantly felt a burning agony in his stomach. Looking down, he could see the blade of the dagger that had impaled him, painted in the dark blue hues of Charoki blood. The fire in his abdomen spread through Razzak’s body and his vision began to darken at the edges. Raw, animal terror gripped his heart, and the man grinned at him, looking like death’s head in the twilight. “You’ll make a fine vessel,” he said with a cackle, his voice like gravel. He turned Razzak’s head to the side and his eyes widened. “Iomedae’s mark, even!” he said, “I do love irony, my son. We are fortunate to have found you. Now, sleep.” He gestured with his upraised hand and Razzak promptly blacked out.
“All I saw was darkness. Utterly black, soul-crushing darkness. I could feel it actually weighing down on me. I’ve never been so terrified in my life; it’s a feeling I will never forget."
Razzak’s eyes opened again, to almost pitch darkness, his underdeveloped hunter’s senses unable to properly see into the infrared yet. He awoke kneeling on both knees, with his hands bound above his head, to something unknown. His stab wound still throbbed fiercely, and the room seemed unnaturally cold. He looked down to notice that he was naked, save for a bit of cloth about his waist. He tested the bonds around his wrists, but was far too drained to make a serious attempt at escape.
Several minutes passed in that black chamber before Razzak began to hear something just barely audible. After concentrating for a moment, the sound became slightly louder, enough to make out several voices in rhythm, chanting. A blood red symbol began to glow brightly on the floor underneath Razzak and confusion became panic as his eyes widened in horror at the light. The chanting became more and more audible and the same man from before stepped into his vision. Hatred and vengeance immediately flooded Razzak’s thoughts as he eyed Sir William’s murderer. With all of his available strength, he thrashed against the bonds, but they held fast, and he bared his teeth, daring the man to get closer.
“Such violence!” the man exclaimed. “Surely, this behavior is unbecoming of one so lucky as to become a vessel for our patron!” He laughed and gestured at Razzak, and watched gleefully as the young Charok ceased his struggle and slumped forward. He strode across the room to the motionless prisoner and reached down and lifted his head up to look into his eyes. “Rejoice, my son, you are to be given a great gift. But first, a sign of your new heritage!” The man’s hand reached inside his robe and withdrew an object that gleamed for just an instant in the light of the glowing symbol. Razzak gasped and valiantly attempted to struggle out of the way, but was unable to will his body to move itself. The man knelt down, placed the tip of the object on Razzak’s chest, and began to drag it downward. Agony exploded into Razzak’s senses as the dagger ripped through scales and into the soft flesh beneath, eliciting a scream that was drowned out by the darkness itself. The drawing continued for what seemed like an eternity, and by the end, Razzak’s screams had degenerated into mere whimpers.
The man finally stopped the torturous procedure and stood up to his full height again, grinning that death’s head grin the entire time. He spun around, holding the dagger high above his head and spoke loudly, “Brothers! We have waited and prepared for this moment. Now, bear witness to the new vessel of our unholy patron!” The chanting intensified, and the fire in Razzak’s chest rose with it. Red lightning danced from the symbol on the floor into his body as droplets of blood fell onto it. He couldn’t even scream anymore and simply gasped as pain erupted into his entire body and mind, as if his soul itself was being dissolved. Blood streamed freely from the wound on his chest, and his vision narrowed as the assault on his being continued. Desperation set in, and as Razzak strained to look up, he was able to whisper one word, “Help.” As the word left his mouth, the birthmark on his neck began to warm, and strength surged into his body as the pain abruptly vanished. The light emanating from the symbol turned white, and the lightning began to invigorate his exhausted muscles.
As if with borrowed strength, Razzak strained mightily against his bonds, snapping the ropes like a child’s toy, and caught himself as he fell forward onto the symbol. Shakily standing to his feet, he watched as the expression on the man in front of him changed from confusion to horror. Razzak grinned and took one step toward the man. The lightning encasing his form immediately coalesced into the wound on his chest and a sensation like a shockwave rumbled through Razzak’s body. The man flew away from him into the blackness of the room, and all of the other participants in the ritual stumbled and fell backwards as the energy crashed into them. In the midst of his own confusion, Razzak heard one word in his mind clearly: “RUN”.
He obeyed, using his newfound strength to propel himself off the dais and through the middle of the ritualists. He could clearly see a door against one wall, and, lowering his shoulder, slammed directly into it, throwing it open, and causing candlelight to creep into the room. He charged forward, unhindered by the impact with the door, past two stunned guards, and saw what must have been the exit to the building. He burst through the door, into the nighttime streets of Magnimar. He had never been to this part of the city before, but he knew that if he stopped running, he would never leave this part of the city either. He ran, not daring to look behind him, until his breath became ragged and uneven, forcing him to slow his frantic pace. Taking a moment, he looked around for a watchtower or guardpost. Spotting a single guardpost, he ran again, up to the small building. He slammed the edge of his fist into the door with as much force as possible, rapping repeatedly. Moments later, the door opened, revealing a scowling city guardsman with his sword drawn. He stopped and looked at the bloodied, almost-naked Charok in his doorway and his eyes widened in shock. “Gods man!” he exclaimed, “What happened?”
“Long story,” Razzak replied, his voice hoarse almost to the point of whispering, “But you need to get about a dozen men as quickly as possible and go about five minutes’ walk due west of here and look for a building with a broken front door. I don’t know what they were doing in there, but I think it was some kind of ritual. They tortured me and were trying to do something to me. I’m not even sure how I got away, but I think their ritual backfired or something. I think they were doing something with demons.”
The guard’s jaw dropped. “Demons? In my city? I’ll get the lads, and when we’re through with the lot of them, we won’t even need an trial.” He turned around and motioned to Razzak over his shoulder. Razzak followed him into the room in the guardpost and looked at him quizzically. The guard rummaged around in a smallish cabinet against the wall, and turned back around, presenting some clothing to Razzak. “Put these on, kid, and stay here. Don’t go wandering off by yourself with those maniacs still on the loose.” He also handed Razzak a small flask. “Just water, don’t get your hopes up” he said, flashing a grin. With that, the guard shuffled past Razzak and out of the guardpost, heading, presumably, for the nearest watchtower.
The clothes were just a bit too big, but he was glad to have them, and as he examined the cuts on his chest, he was surprised to see that they had all already closed, leaving only scars behind. He ran his fingers gingerly along the pattern, testing the skin beneath, and the pain had all but subsided. Razzak finished dressing and sat down on a chair, draining the flask as quickly as possible to soothe his parched throat. He set the flask down on the table next to the chair and leaned back, staring at the ceiling of the guardpost.
Time passed, and as the last bit of adrenaline left his body, Razzak’s muscles began to ache again, and he buried his face in his palms. His mind began to drift back to the events that seemed so long ago and a cascade of emotions flooded into his consciousness: anger, pain and fear towards the ritual, guilt and sadness towards his inability to prevent Sir William’s death at the hands of the cultist. You’re just a stupid kid, a voice inside his mind whispered, Who do you think you are? You couldn’t help him; how can you be a knight if you can’t save one person? Razzak’s shoulders heaved as the flood overwhelmed his senses and poured out in half-choked sobs.
The door opened again, unknown to Razzak, and the same guardsman walked into the post. He saw Razzak’s hunched form and moved to place a hand on his shoulder. Razzak flinched at the touch, burning with shame over his display of emotion. “Easy, kid,” the guard said, “you had a hard night.” Razzak looked up from his hands and stared at the guard, eyes pleading. The man’s expression softened and he patted him on the shoulder. “You’re stronger than you look,” he said with a smile, “What’s your name?”
“Well, Razzak, I’m Sergeant Talarich. And I promise nobody else is going to come after you tonight, OK?” Razzak nodded.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Just doing my job. What do you say we get you home? Do you know where you live in the city?”
“Um, in the east part of town I think? I just know we live on Kingsfield. My father’s a blacksmith, so it’s hard to miss his forge.”
Talarich rubbed his chin for a moment, then shrugged. “Close enough,” he said, “I know a couple of the guys on the east side of the city; I’ll ask them when we get closer.” He leaned down and extended his hand, which Razzak took and hauled himself up off the chair. They exited the guardpost into the city streets again and Razzak spotted a large, white horse tethered to the riding post outside. Talarich motioned to him and pointed at the horse. “I brought us a ride from the tower. Let’s get going and get you back to your folks.”