Character Name: Orchrist Paralax of Chesapeake

Elder Armswoman of Chesapeake

With few exceptions I have no quarrel with any man, or woman, for that matter. Nor do I hold aught against the monsters that inhabit our world, save only that, should they trouble me, I will defend myself. But for Orcs, vile and ignorant and evil, I have enmity in plenty, and will have until either they or I have gone forever from the land of Britannia.

I did not always feel so. In childhood I was, I think, a common girl, given to common play and common thought. I did not come to my detestation for the Orcish kind until I was a woman grown, and changed my name from what it was, which none may know and which I shall not be called until all Orcs have passed into shadow, to what it is now, Orchrist. I will tell you how it came about.

I do not know the year of my birth. My people, the Sith, a nomadic tribe ranging from one end of Britannia to the other, do not keep calendars as do other folk. We reckon seasons rather than years, and count them by the moons, so the best I can say is I may have somewhat more than 26 years, and that I count my age from what my people call the New Deer Moon in the earliest spring.

My parents were much honored among our people. I am the first and only-born of Griffon Paralax, mage of the Aeldar Sect, and the warrior, Tannueth Ironhand, named after the great Queen under whose reign the Wolves of the North were subdued, and whom we count as ancestress, albeit many generations back in time. I spent my earliest years riding before my mother as our band slowly moved from place to place, or curled at my father's feet while he studied his grimoire or experimented with odd and often odorous combinations of ingredients to assess their magical properties. He traveled in a small caravan, one of the few our people possessed, necessary to him for the transport of his paraphernalia and books, and often when I grew tired of sleeping beneath the stars at my mother's side I would join him in his little house-on-wheels and he would tell me stories of great wonders and distant lands.

As I grew older, and could ride my own horse, I spent less time with my parents and more with others of my age. We practiced at arms with wooden weapons carved from deadfall we passed in our travels, raced our horses, and I suppose posed a general nuisance to the band. My parents were always there, present as the trees and the wide sky, ready with a word of advice about how to parry a left-hand blow, or the best spell to discourage a rabid mongbat. But they were not grasping, clinging parents, and I grew up feeling confident, and perhaps over-confident, in my own abilities and strengths.

And so, I grew to my majority, which among the Sith is 64 seasons, and like all Sith, was sent away from my band to make my way in the world for at least eight seasons. And then, if I lived, and if I wished, I could return and take up the nomadic life again, and make a family and be Sith. But that was not to be.

I left my band near the town of Minoc, and for some little time dwelt there, making a living by hunting and selling leather. It was an unsatisfactory life, for I was young and arrogant and thought my skills wasted bashing unlucky deer and bear over the head merely for their skins. And so, when I met a young man dressed in red at The Barnacle, and he, eyeing my well-used mace and my tattered cloak, asked if I was interested in adventure and gold, it was inconceivable that I would answer with anything but a resounding "Yes!"

The young man, one Tel Ket by name, was a member of a company of warriors known as Herne's Red Guard, bound by oath to defend the Temple of Herne, a sacred place in a region known as the Ayersian Valley in the plains far north of Minoc. The Guard was not a large company, and they had received word in recent months that Orcs were planning to attack the Temple, to steal away its treasures, and to slaughter the faithful, who worshiped the Hunter in his guise as a great, green man with the antlers of a stag. For some reason, this image of Herne offended the Orcs, and they meant to wipe the worship of the Green God from the land. In order to adequately defend the Temple, then, Tel Ket, Captain of the Guard, his brother Tad Ket, and several others had traveled throughout Britannia to find mercenaries to bolster their thin but dedicated ranks. They would pay in gleaming gold anyone who would join them, and by that evening I was on my way astride my lovely mare, Pearl, following the map Tel Ket provided me, and with a new cloak, a new shield, and a few gold pieces jingling in my backpack.

I arrived at the Temple some days later, having fought a few monsters on the way, trolls, ettins and such. I was greeted by an elder man, who introduced himself as Ben Ket, and who, it turned out, was both father to Tel and Tad Ket, and Head Priest and Protector General of the Temple of Herne. Though Ben Ket was white of hair and lined of face, he was full of vigor and strength. He assigned me to a cadre, a warrior group who messed together and slept in the same barracks as well as trained and fought as a unit. Others were joining, mostly young people like myself, out to prove themselves, to build their warring skills, to earn a little money or to have a little fun. We were rowdy and happy, full of life and eager for the fight, and we paid much attention to our battle practice and almost none to Ben Ket's lectures or the pious teaching of the other Priests of Herne.

The only time we listened was when we were taken into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies where the sacred Books of Herne were kept in an altar carved of a single block of emerald the size of a large table, and there swore a solemn oath to defend the Temple and its people. That was after Tel and Tad Ket and the other recruiters had returned to the Temple, and they were with us leading us in the oath. It was a solemn occasion, with the Priests chanting, and the believers surrounding us, blessing us, and raising their hands to us, placing garlands about our necks and giving us gifts of food and wine. As we recited our oaths, our Captains gave us each a red sash, the symbol of the Red Guard, for though we were only mercenaries, we were honored as though we were true members of the Guard. Not since I had left my band had I felt so truly welcome and at home.

Three days later, the Orcs struck.

I know now that I, that we, were all foolish. We thought that we would easily defeat any attempt to destroy the Temple, that Orcs, being stupid, clumsy things, given to cowardly flight and none but the simplest magics, would be turned away like a summer breeze turned away by a stout stone wall. We were so very wrong.

Little did we know that the Orcs, in some flash of brilliance we never thought them capable of, had hired their own mercenaries, troops of Bagaroons, trained to fight from earliest childhood and fearful of nothing that walked or flew or swam. Nor did we know of the abilities of the Bombers, the Choppers or the huge Orc Brutes, who came upon us in waves. We did not realize that Orc Mages had entranced packs of dire wolves, bears and eagles, and provoked them to tear at the helpless aged, the women and children of the Valley while the mercenaries and their Orcish masters kept the Guard tied down trying to protect the Temple itself. And, perhaps most damning, we did not know of the numbers, the absolute flood of Orcs willing to die to wipe the worship of Herne from the land.

The Bagaroons came first, laughing into battle, their pipers playing shrill and the drummers nearly drowning out their battle cries. Behind them were mages, casting healing spells and hurling fire and magic arrows right and left. Following close behind were legion after legion of common Orcs, led by heavily armored Orc Lords. I stood in the right flank of the Guard, trying to keep the Temple wall from breach, and saw the ranks of the Orcs part to let the first wave of Brutes through. Right in front of my cadre one attacked the wall with a club the size of my horse. We were all skidding about, loose-footed in the blood of Bagaroons, Orcs and our own, trying to get away, when a shower of stone fairly buried me and those nearest me. By the time I came back to consciousness, it was night, and the battle was over.

The Temple was gone. Not a stone stood on stone. The altar was shattered, the books burned. And of my cadre, only I survived. In all of the ruin, I found but one other living thing. Somehow, my beloved Pearl had escaped the burning stables, and was limping about the stable-yard, her shoulder a mass of contusions where an Orc mace had nearly crippled her. Together we left that place, bringing with us only what I had to hand, my mace, my shield, my armor and the red sash I had worn so arrogantly.

We had to move carefully. The countryside was still alive with Orc troops, killing, pillaging and looting. We spent much of the first night hiding in the tall reeds along a small stream, soothing our wounds with the cold water. Pearl seemed calm enough, certainly calm enough to crop the grass along the bank. But I was stunned, unable to believe the totality of our defeat, of my defeat. I kept remembering the oath I had taken, and the cheers of the people I had sworn to defend. Within me grew a rage, and that rage lives today, ten years later, fresh as the dew, sharp as the new moon. And I took to myself a new name, Orchrist, "Hammer of Orcs", and swore another oath, to rid the world of Orcs and to see the Temple of Herne restored. So I swear today, and every day the sun rises.

Pearl and I stole through the Ayersian Valley, headed south, creeping by night, laying up by day in half burned barns and shattered homesteads. The things we saw I cannot speak of, though I let my mace speak of it for me then whenever we met a lone Orc or a small band of the vile creatures. We did not meet another human until the third day.

He was a scrawny youth with a clubfoot and the unlikely name of Livingston Brawn. We found him huddled in the remains of a broken house where he had served as apprentice to a blacksmith. Pearl was, by that time, well enough to carry so light a load as he made, and so I led her while he rode, for he, with his damaged foot, could not have kept up even at our creeping pace. And so, after some days we left the Valley, and came back into the world of men.

I took Livingston to a friend of my father's, a mage living in Britain who had traveled with the Sith in his youth. He was able to put Livingston's foot to rights, albeit after some months of rather painful treatment, and we moved back to Minoc where Livingston took up the trade of smithing and I went back to hunting and fighting for a living, always with the impotent rage burning inside me. And then one day, a miracle happened.

I went into The Barnacle to meet Livingston, and there was a young man dressed in red. Tel and Tad Ket had somehow survived the battle, and like me, had made their way south, and were living hand-to mouth in Vesper. Like me also, they had a burning enmity for the Orcs that would not be denied, and the heartfelt need to try to rebuild the Temple. It was the work of moments to form an alliance, to declare ourselves once again as the Red Guard, and to begin to plan for the achievement of our aims.

Years have passed, and life has not been easy. However, I have hope, not mere castle-in-the-clouds hope, but a hope based on reality. Two years after Tel and Tad appeared, an old but vigorous man, white of hair, and bearing, in a sack made of Orc skin, some torn and half-burned books, appeared at the Ironwood Inn seeking a bed and a meal. It may only have been chance that Livingston was there, and maybe it was mere happenstance that he brought the old man with him when he returned to Minoc, but I no longer believe in chance.

Together, the five of us worked, and today we have this to report to our credit. In Malas, in a secret location accessible only by rune, is the restored Temple of Herne, watched over by its Head Priest and Protector General, Ben Ket. The sacred books have been reproduced by Morigan O'Sidhe, a young gentlewoman who first sought employment with the Red Guard as a simple cook, but whose knowledge of the scribe's art makes her more valuable than can well be imagined. And the ranks of the Red Guard now include Livingston Brawn, Grandmaster Smith, Kyriel Templar and C'ahoulan, Bagaroons dedicated to erasing the shame of the attack on the innocent Ayersian Valley, Hara Haru Haruku and Sumi Gin Hoshiko, recently arrived from the lands of Tokuno by way of the Island of Cieran, and the newest member, Lugh Freefoot, another Bagaroon dedicating his life to restoration of the Cult of Herne and the eradication of the Orcish kind. The Red Guard has even been fortunate enough to find a home, a small but adequate dwelling near the city of Umbra, named, perhaps sentimentally, The Keep of the Red Guard, where all may come to rest, to learn, and to prepare for the future.

And I? I think often of the Sith and of my parents, and as the moons pass I imagine their slow journeys across the face of Britannia, like a tide, ebbing and flowing. I sometimes wish I could be with them under the stars, hearing their voices as I drift into a dreamless, innocent sleep. But I know this is not to be, not until I have fulfilled my vow and I can return to them with my own name. Until then, I worship at the Temple, I help the young and innocent, I hunt for a living, I hone my skills, I keep my peace, and when I find Orcs I kill. Without mercy or compunction, I kill.

My name is Orchrist.