This story takes place in approximately 4000 B.C.E., when the chalcolithic era was permeating Europe, and the bronze age was beginning in western Asia. This is a tale of revenge. It is written in a pulp wierd tale style as homage to the greatest fantasy writer of all time, R.E. Howard.
The pallid red Hunter’s Moon rose slowly over the city of Ara, obscured by smoke rising from a myriad number of hearths. The yearly harvest festival of Shar Nahaved had begun, and the people of the capital city were out in full force; drinking, carousing, and toasting the name of their lord. The yield was bountiful this year, and the merchants and nobles could almost feel their pockets bulging in silver from the crops. However, not all were filled with joy this night.
Ossrad, a Skadian wanderer and mercenary, ran swiftly along the narrow alley between the earthen-walled courtyards in the noble quarter. His brown hair fluttered wildly in the cold autumn wind.
“How does this always seem to happen,” he thought to himself as he heard the clanging of armor behind him.
“Stop that thief!” yelled the guard chasing the young Skadian. A narrow side passage, no more than a crevice two hands wide appeared between two unkempt walls on Ossrad’s left. He shimmied nimbly between them, hoping the Zurati militiaman couldn’t fit through. He stopped briefly to catch his breath as he came out the other side, his hair stuck to his head by sweat, his grey eyes darting right and left to try to find any sign of another guard. The crevice led him to the great marketplace, and he easily slipped into the throng of people on its way to the festival. The Skadian looked down at the bag gripped tightly in his hand, making sure his package was still safe.
“So much trouble for so little,” he thought, weighing the heft of the gold idol inside.
He took the job from an old Azak woman, probably a priestess judging by her long flowing yellow robe and elitist demeanor. A price of 100 silver coins for a trifle stolen from her village, she said. He was merely reclaiming their rightful heirloom, a small gold statue of their goddess of water, Mivilkie, she said. Stored in a ramshackle old manor in the nobles quarter, she said.
Ossrad had only been in Ara for a few days. He didn’t know what was supposed to be a deserted house was really the beautiful two story manor of the Sagat’s beloved mistress. He stole the idol without alerting the guards, but on the way out of the courtyard he slipped on a piece of loose plaster and fell, his yelp of surprise bringing unwanted attention. Ossrad fled, trying to lose the guards that were attempting to surround and flank him. He eventually made his way into this crowd of ruddy faced drunkards, speaking their uncouth tongue.
Ossrad soon realized how much he stuck out amongst the Zurati. They were a shorter, stockier race than he, with dark hair and equally dark eyes. Ossrad stood a head taller than most, leaner, with a thick light brown beard tinged with red. He decided to get out of the crowd and find a more direct route to his drop-off point.
The Skadian saw an avenue that led away from the festival so he jostled his way through the crowd, slipping onto the side-street.
“There he is!” came the familiar cry as two guards wielding spears came down the dusty road. Their bronze cuirasses shined blood red in the moonlight, and the faces under the leather caps were twisted into a bloodthirsty grin, eager for an easy kill.
But Ossrad was no stranger to combat, no peasant levy unused to his weapon. In a flash of light, the Skadian had his Khopesh ready in his right hand, a flint dagger in his left, both weapons nicked and dinged from countless blows in numerous campaigns.
The combatants circled, attempting to gain an advantage on their opponent. The tension in the air was palpable as the three men coiled, muscles taught, ready to strike, ready to react. The Zurati guards attacked first, confident in their numbers. They came as one, a spear high and the other low, attempting to finish the fight as fast as it started. However, Ossrad was ready and his corded muscles sprung. He ducked low, dodging the higher spear, and as he parried the lower spear with his sickle-sword he let loose his dagger, throwing it at the opponent on his left. The dagger bit into the throat of the guard, digging deep into the soft flesh above his chest-plate. Blood gushed from the wound, and the man dropped his spear, falling to his knees as he clutched at his throat, attempting to stem his draining life-force. The other Zurati looked at his ally, and in the brief moment while his guard was down, Ossrad lunged at the man. He brought his Kopesh to bear two-handed, slashing deep into the guard’s head, ending him instantly.
The Skadian muttered curses to himself as he reclaimed his dagger. He wiped off his weapons and sheathed them as he donned the cuirass of one of the guards. He dragged the bodies out of sight, then continued to the drop-off point, an inn on the outskirts of the city near the western gate.
He made it to the inn without incident. A sign above the door flapped in the wind, identifying the wattle and daub long house as “The Red Lion.” The building was out of place in a city made mostly of mud brick and plaster, a relic of a time before Zurat’s ascension to primacy in the eastern kingdoms. Ossrad mounted the steps and entered the inn, the main room barren except for a barman wiping down some bowls and mugs. The Skadian walked past him without a word, passing the rows of tables and coming to a back room. He pulled aside the curtain and walked in, flinching as the barman dropped one of his ceramic wares.
A sudden, horrific pain came to him from his abdomen, and his sight blurred. He looked down, realizing he had been stabbed by the woman, an obsidian dagger hilt in her hand. He saw the blade had broken off in his flesh. The Azak priestess’ weapon found the exposed area between the breastplate and back plate of his stolen armor. She looked at him apathetically, her face stone as she took the small leather bag from him. Ossrad crumpled to the ground, saying to himself “How does this always seem to happen.” The world went dark.
He started suddenly, his head swimming. As his eyes began to refocus, he realized he was naked inside one of many wooden cages in a long room. The walls were made of chipped plaster, the underlying planks exposed in many places. All of a sudden, he began to wretch as the reek of waste and blood assaulted his sense of smell. In the cage next to him, a huge man crawled forward, smiling.
“So the dead one has awoke,” he grinned, speaking Skadi with a thick accent. His skin was deeply tanned, and in the faint fire-light emanating from a distant hearth he seemed to be made of solid bronze. “You are a Skadian, no?”
“Where am I?” replied Ossrad in his native tongue, feeling a slight twinge of pain coming from the wound in his side as he twisted to get a better look at the man. He seemed to be about twenty winters old, but it was hard to tell in the poor lighting. The man sported a long, coarse black beard, yet his head was clean-shaven. Numerous scars riddled the man’s face and limbs.
“You are in the slave pens at Cato Armon, a village in Tanapali. I am Kahir of the Namal. What is your name, Skadian?” replied the larger man.
“I am Ossrad. What are we doing here?” asked the mercenary, surprised to be talking to a mortal enemy to his homeland.
“We are he-” Kahir stopped short, seeing a large man wielding a whip in his right hand and holding a wicker basket in his left walking between the cages, a small, grey haired woman in tow. They stopped in front of Ossrad’s pen, and although his mind was still cloudy, he recognized the woman as the hag who stabbed him. He lunged at her, grasping for her yellow robe, only to get his arm whipped by the burly man. The woman looked at him coolly.
“I see the somnil has worn off,” she said as she turned to the man wielding the whip. “His wound has healed enough. Feed him, and he will be ready.”
The old woman turned and left without another word, climbing the ladder to the exit in the roof. The man emptied the contents of the basket into the top of Ossrad’s cage and then followed her, whipping the hands from other cages that grasped pleadingly at his legs as he walked by.
The sight of food lying in his cage awoke a strong hunger in the Skadian. He ate ravenously, despite the fact that the bread was molding and maggots squirmed in the barely cooked meat. Kahir looked at the food longingly, his stomach audibly growling.
“What, have you not eaten?” asked Ossrad as he tore into a piece of meat.
“We do not eat until after we fight. The winner is given food and the loser…. Well, the loser has no need for food,” replied Kahir.
“What do you mean, fight? Are we a slave army?” the Skadian asked as he pushed some of his food through the gaps in the wooden cage to the Namali.
“No. We fight each other as a crowd look on. It is sport for these cursed dog Tanapalis,” Kahir stated between gulps of food. The two sat in silence for a while, deep in their own thoughts.
“What if we choose not to fight?” Ossrad asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Then we are killed.”
“What if we attempt to escape?”
“Then we are killed. More slaves come every day. We are no more than sheep to these people,” Kahir replied, eyes filled with rage. “We must try to rest now. Tomorrow I will fight, as will you, and by the horns of Jaaza we shall see another sunset.”
Ossrad woke to a stick jabbing his wound. He cried out a curse, only to be stabbed harder. He saw that Kahir was not in his cage.
“You will fight soon,” stated the man with the stick, the same man who whipped him the day before. He drew a bronze dirk and opened Ossrad’s pen.
The Skadian slowly crawled out of his cage, glad to be able to stretch his legs. The small joy went away as he felt the man’s weapon at the small of his naked back, leading him to the exit. He climbed the ladder to the roof and stepped to the side as the man followed suit.
The sunlight blinded Ossrad. A freezing wind, smelling of salt, blew past him, chilling him to the bone. By the wintry cold of the breeze he estimated that he was under the old Azak priestess’ spell for at least a season. As his vision adjusted to the light, he saw that he was in a larger cage now. He could stand and move around easily, shaking the fatigue from his muscles. Ossrad saw another man standing nearby. He had the darkest skin Ossrad had ever seen. The man grinned evilly, baring sharp, pointed teeth that looked like they could eviscerate flesh.
“You will fight this one, both with spears,” said the man with the dirk.
Ossrad looked around the cage. Two of the walls were solid stone. The top opened to the bright blue sky. Behind him stood another stone wall with a strong-looking wood door in the middle. In front of him was a wooden lattice that led out into a large, dusty square. Surrounding the square were rows of benches behind wooden fences, packed full of people cheering on a fight.
Ossrad ran to the lattice and looked at the combatants, two huge men fighting with bronze swords. One had dusky skin and fine, black hair, neatly cropped. The other he recognized as Kahir. The men were dripping with sweat, wisps of steam rising from their arms and shoulders. Both were bleeding from many wounds. Kahir had the other man on one knee, battering the darker man’s upturned sword with his own. After three heavy blows and three deep grunts from Kahir‘s opponent, the man’s sword fell to the ground, dented and warped. The crowd went silent, and Kahir wasted no time lopping the man’s head off with one fell slice. The decapitated body fell limply to the ground, and the onlookers erupted into a deafening cheer, chanting Kahir’s name. If the Namali noticed he did not show it as he walked slowly to the pen where Ossrad stood.
Kahir did not say a word to Ossrad as he was disarmed and led down the ladder back to his pen. He kept his head low, eyes closed, muttering to himself in his native tongue as he made cryptic gestures with his hands.
“You. Go,” the man holding the bronze dirk said to Ossrad, giving him a firm shove through the open door into the arena. The dark-skinned man was likewise pushed in a few moments later. A guard brought a flint-tipped spear to each combatant, and the fight began.
Ossrad began to pace around the other fighter, unsure of what to do. He didn’t want to kill a man with whom he had no quarrel. The other, however, had a different idea. He flashed a toothy grin and came on without a sound, teeth bared.
He was fast, incredibly so. Three quick thrusts at the Skadian in quick succession. Ossrad had not fought with a spear in at least 5 seasons, and he had never used a spear without a shield. He dodged the first attack clumsily, a high blow aimed for his head. The second he barely parried with the shaft of his own spear. He realized too late that this left his other side open to the third attack, and the flint spearhead gouged deep into his upper left thigh and was withdrawn before he could even react. Ossrad stumbled away from the other man, howling in pain.
The mercenary realized that he had to go on the offensive to survive this fight. He feinted high and attacked low, aiming for his opponent’s abdomen, but the other man was too smart to fall for the trick. Ossrad’s muscles had deteriorated during the past season, and his slow attack was quickly parried down. When his spear’s tip slapped against the dusty ground the dark-skinned man stepped down, snapping the head off. The man took the initiative and tackled Ossrad. The Skadian’s head sprang off the ground, and with bleary eyes he saw his opponent straddling him, spear pointed downward for a killing blow to Ossrad’s skull. With a cry the mercenary wildly kicked out, his knee solidly connecting with the other man’s naked groin.
In the brief moment where his opponent was focused on the pain in his nethers, Ossrad scrambled from under him, grabbing the man’s spear. The two fought over it for a few seconds, muscles tightening under the strain, but Ossrad was able to spin the weapon out of the hands of the fighter. With a heavy kick he knocked the man down and sprinted away, grabbing the broken spearhead as he ran past. The man got up to chase him, and the Skadian threw the unbroken spear with all his might. It stabbed hungrily into his opponent’s chest with a wet thud. If the darker man was effected, he did not show it. He ran at Ossrad in silence, teeth bared, eyes bulging wildly.
When he got to about four paces away from the Skadian, the man jumped wildly into the air, intent upon pulling Ossrad to the ground with his greater bulk. However, Ossrad had his broken spear at the ready in front of him, and the speed and size of the man forced him onto the weapon. The flint entered and penetrated Ossrad’s opponent in the stomach, bursting through his back near the spine. The man made no sound, but as life began to fade from his eyes, he thrust his head forward, clamping his razor-sharp teeth onto Ossrad’s shoulder. The dark man went limp, the dead weight of his body pulling the smaller Skadian to the ground, the teeth still embe dded in Ossrad’s flesh.
With the help of two guards after a few moments Ossrad was free, leaving some of his skin and muscle in the man’s mouth. He limped back to his cage slowly, only beginning to hear the roar of the crowd stamping their feet and cheering. The Skadian did not care. A man died for the base pleasures of others. Ossrad felt a deep emptiness in his stomach.
Winter turned to spring, and spring into summer. Ossrad fought tirelessly, heedlessly. He didn’t care if he lived or died. He passed the time either talking with his newfound friend Kahir or listening quietly to the whispers of the other slaves and through the thin walls to those outside. Over time, he learned that Cato Armon wasn’t on an island but on the coast of the sea, near the capital city Myzora. He heard that the old lady had left for the summer to capture more slaves in the capital. With her gone the man who tended the slaves, Rayos, became more relaxed. He struck up a sort of friendship with Ossrad, often talking with him of older days when he was a spear-for-hire with the Black Marauders.
Eventually, the only slaves alive from when Ossrad was taken were himself and Kahir. Their winning streaks made them crowd pleasers. Many of the Tanapali who won big betting on them even brought them gifts of food and clothes. However, the people were beginning to tire of their constant winning, and harder and harder battles were devised for the two “Titans of Cato Armon.” Whispers spread among the slaves, rumors of an ancient dread captured in the western wild lands, brought specifically to combat the great Kahir and Ossrad.
“I grow weary of this life, living day to day in constant fear of death,” Kahir stated one evening as he sipped from the bucket of beer given to him by a man who won betting on the Namali.
“Then we must escape,” replied Ossrad.
Ossrad thought for a moment. “The wooden door upstairs, or perhaps we can scale the lattice and escape through the stands.”
“The guards will shoot us down before we make it to the seats. I feel death is upon us, my friend. I fear our next fight shall be our last,” said Kahir mournfully.
“We will find a way.” The two men sat in silence.
The voice of Rayos roused Ossrad from his sleep.
“Ossrad. Kahir. Wake up. Today is the day of your most glorious battle yet. The fight will take place at mid-day. Come and stretch your legs.” He opened their pens and led them up the ladder, unlocking the fence. Ossrad and Kahir ran around the arena, waking their muscles. They wrestled a bit, and then came back to Rayos when the Tanapali called them.
“There will be a few fights before yours. You can stay up here and watch, if you’d like. The two of you will be fighting a beast. A demon, some say,” Rayos told them, a hint of sadness in his eyes. The man had grown fond of the Skadian over the past few seasons and did not wish to see Ossrad’s death.
Ossrad and Kahir lounged, waiting for their impending fight against the monster. The Skadian frantically tried to think of a way of escape as men killed each other less than 20 paces away, while his larger friend dozed.
“How can you sleep when death will be upon us before the sun sets? Think, damn you!” Ossrad berated the Namali.
“Jaaza has weighed our souls against this demon. If ours are not heavy enough, our death has come. There is nothing we can do. I grow tired of fearing for my life. If it is time to meet our doom, then it is time,” said Kahir.
“There is always a way. If Jaaza is coming for me, I’ll cut off one of his horns and use it as a piss pot!” the Skadian proclaimed. Kahir grunted at his friend’s blasphemy and closed his eyes.
The sun moved across the heavens, casting long shadows from the arena. Ossrad watched as a large cage covered in a thick wool cloth was gingerly wheeled into the middle of the fighting ring by four Tanapali. Rayos walked towards it, an ostrich plume nodding from atop his ceremonial helmet. The crowd erupted into a deafening roar as he patted the air to quiet them down. A deep rumble came from inside the cage, as all the spectators clambered to the fence to get a better view. Ossrad and Kahir strained their heads between the bars, listening to Rayos, watching the wool covered cage.
“From the fearsome west he came, Ossrad the Skadian, wielding death and fury in his mighty hands to give battle in a way bred from a lifetime of warfare. From his barbarous homeland came Kahir the Namali, killer of Bogan the deadly, fighting with the passion and bloodlust that his people are known for. They are the Titans of Cato Armon.
Not a single man could stand before their onslaughts, but a new opponent has been found. This opponent is no man, but a demon bred in the hellfire itself, found in the trackless wastes west of civilization. This creature has made a pact with Azmin, your humble patron of this fine establishment, to fight our two heroes with all the molten fury it was born with. So I give you Kemoch, the Black Terror!”
The crowd cheered as Rayos pulled the wool tarpaulin off the cage, but when Kemoch roared the people fell quiet. It’s fur was the blackest sable, as if light could not penetrate it. It stood on four legs like it was a dog, but no dog was this monstrosity. It was at least the height of Ossrad at the shoulder, and had the face of a fearsome giant bear. It was a creature born of an ancient age, an antediluvian horror bred for destruction. It’s pale eyes held all the malice born from a lifetime of unending hunger, hunger for the living flesh of man.
A guard moved to the side of the cage, weapon drawn, as Rayos hurried over to Ossrad and Kahir. “What weapons?” he asked.
“Spear and shield,” replied Ossrad, still amazed by the cosmic monstrosity he was being forced to fight. He was most familiar with the combination of polearm and shield, using it exclusively when he was a mercenary what seemed like ages ago.
“I as well,” sighed Kahir. The two were armed, and pushed into the ring. The guard opened the door to the creature’s cage, fumbling with the lock, and sprinted back to the gate, shutting it. The two men were now alone with the horror, faced with a battle between modern men and a primal demon.
The Black Terror lithely walked out of it’s cage and stretched languidly, eyes darting about the arena. The crowd stood hushed in horror, a few men cursing the bets they placed on the Skadian and the Namali. The creature moved forward with it’s head low. It’s mouth was open in a twisted mockery of a smile, tongue slightly limp, tasting the air. Kahir and Ossrad spread out, circling the creature, their bronze shields held at the ready.
The creature stalked forward until it was ten paces from the Skadian then leaped easily, roaring a cosmic scream of nightmare and hate, louder than Ossrad had ever heard a crowd in the arena. The concussive force of the great bulk of the horror knocked Ossrad to the ground, his shield being the only thing between the Skadian’s naked flesh and the ripping claws and gnashing teeth of Kemoch. Just as Ossrad was beginning to feel his arm breaking under the weight of the creature, it’s hot, fetid breath nauseating him, the monster let out a yelp of pain and as nimble as a leopard leaped off him.
The creature twisted in midair as Kahir was pulling his spear from it’s flank, it’s massive front claws puncturing his bronze shield and wrenching it from his arm. The Numali screamed in pain as his arm was jarred out of the shield’s straps. The Black Sunderer reared on it’s hind legs and came down in a flurry of slavering teeth and claws. Kahir did his best to dodge the blows, but he took a claw that raked from his left chest to thigh, pulling the flesh away, exposing ribs. As the Namali attempted to stumble away, reeling from the pain, the horror sprinted into him, knocking him down.
Just as the creature closed it’s gaping maw around the skull of Kahir, Ossrad struck, stabbing deeply into the hind leg of the demon. The creature howled in pain and raced away from the two as the Skadian rushed to help Kahir up.
“Are you all right, Kahir?” asked Ossrad, panting from exertion. The Namali looked up through a gashed and bleeding face, holding the gaping wound to his side.
“I will live. Now, let us end this,” stated Kahir sternly, waving off Ossrad and using his spear as a crutch to get himself to his feet. The Black Terror darted back and forth madly, keeping to the far side of the arena, as if it did not wish to fight the two men. It’s eyes flicked to either side as it moved, until it paused for a moment in front of a grandstand. The creature jumped up and shattered the wooden fence between it and the crowd, crushing the nearest audience members.
“The demon has found easier prey. We go,” said Ossrad, sprinting towards the opening in the fence. Half the guards, headed by Rayos, charged the Black Terror as it was engorging itself on a particularly overweight man. The other half, however, dropped their weapons and fled for the exits, screaming wildly.
Ossrad and Kahir scrambled through the hole in the fence, threading their way through the throng of crazed masses. They made it outside and found numerous chariots awaiting their masters. The two men jumped into a vacant one, Ossrad grabbing the reins and spurring the two mares into a gallop down the flagstone road.
As they left the great northern gate of Cato Armon, the snorting and panting of horses behind caused Ossrad to look over his shoulder in fear. Two guards from the arena were fast on their heels in a gaudily painted red and blue chariot, the sunlight glinting off their bronze breastplates and painted wicker shields. As Ossrad turned back he saw out of the corner of his eye one of the guards stringing a short bow. As the man nocked an arrow and pulled the feathered vanes back to his ear, a loud shout of “No!” came from behind the guards.
Rayos, galloping madly through the gate on a frothing horse, pulled up beside the arena guards’ chariot. The guard paid him no heed and took aim at the Skadian’s exposed back. He smiled as he was about to let loose the arrow. Rayos, watching the man, bellowed a primal roar and slammed his horse into the chariot as the guard released the bowstring.
Ossrad heard the familiar twang of an arrow leaving catgut. He winced, prepared for the piercing pain, but it never came. The Skadian smiled and silently thanked Rayos as he looked over his shoulder once more, seeing his former slave-master making easy work with a Khopesh of the two arena guards. He turned back to the road, laughing in disbelief at the change in his fortunes. Only then did notice Kahir slumped forward, chest precariously leaning against the rail of the chariot, arm dangling dangerously close to the right wheel.
The arrow that was meant for Ossrad had pierced the skull of the Namali, it’s flint head sticking out of his eye socket. Ossrad stopped the horses in mid-gallop and stared at the corpse of his only true friend for what seemed like ages. Ossrad, any elation he had because of their daring escape now gone, drove the chariot off the dirt road and into a dense copse of laurel trees.
He sat there until nightfall, gazing silently at the mangled remains of Kahir. Hope had fled, and he was left with the same emptiness he felt as a slave just a day before. As the sun dipped past the mountainous horizon, casting bloody trails across the sky, he set upon his task in earnest. After finding suitable tinder, Ossrad gently laid his Namali friend on the floor of the chariot. The Skadian softly withdrew the arrow from the eye socket. He let one of the horses go and then led the other mare away from the funeral rites to assure that it wouldn’t flee in fear of the flames. Ossrad silently lit the tinder, and as the larger pieces caught fire he stepped back, watching the cremation of Kahir as emotion roiled inside him, agony twisting his stomach in knots.
“Jaaza has weighed you. Why you were heavier than that cursed demon but not more than a common cur, I will never understand. May you make your way to whatever afterlife exists, my friend,” whispered Ossrad to the dying embers.
“Bring me this tiny relic, my sweet, and your reward will be 100 silver coins. Go knowing that you will bring justice to a poor Azak village,” said the crone, smiling.
The boy she was speaking to, a lean excuse for a human, had scarcely seen 15 winters. He ran towards the door, bumping into the only other occupied table in the tavern, his sullen eyes looking away as he continued. The person there, huddled in a shaggy seal skin cloak whose hood covered his face, seemed not to notice. As the wood door slammed shut after the boy, the cloaked man stood up. He slowly walked towards the old hag’s table. She sat there, attempting to pierce the darkness surrounding the man’s face as he swerved to move past her table.
She audibly sighed as the man was passing, visibly relaxing as he stepped behind her. “Thank Arovit. I thought it was the escaped slave,“ she said under her breath.
As silent as a panther, the man drew an arrow from under the folds of his cloak, dried blood on the flint head shining dully in the dim candlelight. The Azak gurgled incoherently as the arrow pierced her throat, her crimson vitality coating the table. The man gently laid her on the floor as he pulled back the hood of his cloak and knelt beside her, his face a mere hand‘s breadth from hers.
“How many have you sent to death, you whore of Borotai? I take your life as wergild for Kahir, Bogan, and all those that have died at your whim! Return to the vile darkness from which you came,” cried Ossrad as Azmin, owner of the arena of Cato Armon expired, her face twisted in an expression of stark raving fear.
Ossrad stood, and for the first time since the death of his friend Kahir felt joy. He had vindicated the Namali, and relief flooded his senses. As he stood in the doorway of the tavern taking stock of the bustle of the streets of Myzora, jewel of the Great Sea, he glanced up at the red glow of the Hunter‘s Moon. Exactly one year ago he was taken as a slave. Now Ossrad the mercenary, rogue, warrior pure of heart and mind, who’s sandaled feet have walked from edge to edge of civilization and beyond, who’s blades have cracked the pillared foundations of many a nation, felt a vitality and eagerness of life renewed. He whistled an old Skadian traveling song as he walked down the street to a nearby bordello, 100 silver pieces in his pocket.