Ghets Chapter 6

Ghets Chapter 6

It’s Fiction Friday! This week it’s Ghets Chapter 6. Markus considers the mysterious Ghets he encountered last chapter. We’re getting close to the end of our Ghets preview just another chapter to go! (Well, for now)

If you’d like to get caught up on Ghets you can do so here: Ghets Preview


Chapter

After the arrangements were agreed upon, the Fellowship retreated to their stuffy Inn on the Aphetrrian side of the Divide. They had left the orc and her companion with an informal agreement, one that they would make official at ‘Oath Hall’ tomorrow.

Yin felt they were making a mistake, she was even less trusting of the Ghets than Markus. She said she had been around enough of them in Ruinsway to know they were all cheats and con men. At the very least Yin pushed for them to get a second opinion. But Meiral and Roland had been satisfied with the orc and too exhausted to look elsewhere.

Markus shared Yin’s concerns, but despite her bravado the orc seemed credible and her companion was rational. Both promised a list of references at Oath Hall to back their claims. Markus intended to thoroughly vet those.

He didn’t like the orc, though he didn’t understand why. She was both what he expected and nothing at all what he expected. Markus had met few orcs in his life, but he was under the impression that they were a brutish, violent people that held allegiance to no side but war. They relished and worshiped combat, known to enter a berserker like state of ecstasy they referred to as ‘bloodlust’. Even their biology was built for war, they were big, on average, taller and bulkier than humans with tusks or fangs drooping out of their mouths.

This Reez had green skin and yellow inhuman eyes. But she was shorter than Markus and only a little taller than Meiral. She had muscles, but they were the lean muscles of a swordswoman, not the hulking muscles of the barbarian like orcs Markus had fought. Her hair was a wild mess of red dreadlocks and she had a sinister smile, it was too long, and her teeth all looked like sharp canines. But there was a playfulness to her grin, and to her presence. Markus could even see how one might find her attractive despite her orcish qualities (not having tusks went a long way with that).

Her armor should have been a clear sign that she was a Ghets. It was an advertisement of her adventures, stitched together from different styles and cultures. Mostly brown and red leather bindings, with ‘plate’ in places. She had a shell of some creature worked into a kneepad, similar to the people of the western Aphetrrian tribes. Along her sword arm there was lacquered armor that looked vaguely Dairkkul. Their leather was grown from pits of flesh, blood and magics. Under her belt was a crimson sash styled in the manner of the horse archers of the Aphetrrain frontier. There were other pieces and trinkets on her that Markus could not identify.

She was infuriating and seemed to enjoy Markus’s discomfort. It was hard to believe she took anything too seriously and yet, she seemed to have pride in the work she had done. Reez was confusing. Her companion on the other hand was not.

This ‘Odvid’ explained everything in detail and walked the Fellowship through all the challenges geographically, politically, culturally and logistically they would face on their journey. Just as Markus wished to dislike Reez, and yet couldn’t completely. Markus wanted to trust this ‘Odvid’ but found that he could not.

Odvid was of a people that Markus couldn’t place and the Ghets seemed to want to keep it that way. He wore a large overcoat with many pockets and a hood that he kept pulled over his head the entire night. His form was…strange.

He was about the size of a human, only a little shorter than the orc. He had a large hunched back and his hands and arms were massive, even larger than Nord’s stocky frame. And yet Odvid’s legs and feet were stumpy and weak. He walked with a hobble, it didn’t seem to impact him much, but it was evident in his gait.

His skin was stone gray and revealed nothing. His eyes though created more mystery. His left eye was gorgeous. It was pure blue, the richest color of the sky. No whites at all, just the iris and pupil like a glass bead. It radiated something, a power? a lineage? It suggested a pure Aphetrrian, an elven demi-god maybe. But Odvid’s right eye suggested something else entirely.

Ovid tried to keep his right side hidden in his hood away from Markus and the Fellowship. But Markus had gotten a decent look. Odvi’s right eye too lacked whites, it was a rich red with dark veins like cracks running through it. Its pupil was odd, shaped like a black star. Its edges shifted, moving slightly, growing and shrinking so it was never the same shape. It was hard to look at. It felt wrong, made of chaos and Neradoom.

Odvid did not seem Dairkkul. He didn’t have any horns and his proportions were very different from the demons. But Markus knew the Dairkkul could modify their bodies to a certain degree. Markus doubted any creature would want to shift itself into Odvid’s bizzare, almost crippled form, but maybe he was a Dairkklu that tried to appear as an elf and thus experienced a horrible accident? Maybe he was from another Neradoomin people that Markus didn’t know of? There were many. There were even humans in Neradoom, maybe they looked like Odvid?

And yet Odvid’s left eye felt so pure, so true to Aphetrria that Markus doubted it could be copied. Odvid could have been born at the border in Ghetshaven and maybe that affected him and gave him his strange eyes? Markus didn’t know, but whatever Odvid was it made Markus suspicious.

Why an Orc?

Why an Orc?

As I wrote last post there are problem with Orcs. But despite those problems I still wanted to include orcs in my fantasy world and even make my protagonist one. Orcs are fun! Their dumb and violent tendencies can make them mischievous, even endearing if presented in a certain light. And as the ‘evil minion’ race of hundreds of fantasy novels orcs feel like the underdogs. Maybe they’re just misunderstood? Maybe what is so often seen as barbaric in orcs is just a different point of view?

Like any longstanding antagonist orcs have gone through several revisions and become heroes. Stan Nicholls novel Orcs: First Blood, tells a story of human orc warfare from the orcs point of view, taking a traditional band of orc warriors and making them the protagonists. Terry Pratchett’s orcs are near extinct and suffering from a case of bad propaganda, only surviving one being friendly. And then there’s the Warcraft games.

Warcraft started out with a traditional Tolkien set up. There was an evil army of orcs vs. an alliance of humans, dwarves and elves. The first two Warcraft games had the orcs invading from a dark portal led by evil wizards and hell bent on conquering and killing everything in sight. But with the third Warcraft game Blizzard (the game studio behind the Warcraft series) decided to do something different.

Blizzard deconstructed its orcs and the very idea of orcs as the ‘barbarian other’. They took inspiration from what happened to historical ‘barbarian’ or ‘savage’ peoples after they were conquered. The orcs of Warcraft III start off enslaved or kept on hemmed in reservations. Their story becomes a fight for freedom and once they achieve that freedom they desire to go back to their traditional ways. The orcs are still violent, a warrior culture, but one that is more complex and less aggressive than the conquers they used to be. They even finally defeat the demon overlords that led them astray in the first place.

The orcs of Warcraft moved from mindless evil to at worse worthy antagonists, all while keeping the things people loved about them. They’re still big and green and mean. They still have pointy armor and say funny made up words like ‘zug-zug’, but they’re given their own needs and desires. They now do stuff outside of fighting.

When coming up with my own orcs I took inspiration from Warcraft, as well as Wahammer, Tolkien and all the others. The orcs of Ghets like to fight, drink and eat meat. They have green skin (as well as purple, orange, and pretty much any color). They’re a proud warrior society, that fights in ‘hordes’. And they’re the underdogs, despised by both Aphetrria the land of Order, and Neradoom the land of Chaos. But in Ghets, the orc’s ruling body, the ‘Okkore’ is the closest thing there is to a medieval UN.

The orcs of Ghets were created by the god Kor to act as border guards, to prevent Aphetrria and Neradoom from killing each other. They take their mandate seriously, and even went so far as to conquer both lands to put an end to the millennia long war. It didn’t work, and by the time the novel begins the Orcs are trying to learn from their past mistakes.

I don’t spend too much time with the Okkore in Ghets, I’ve got more planned there for another novel. Reez is the orc that readers get to know the best, since she’s the lead. Reez is all the stuff I love about orcs with none of the baggage. She’s a carefree adventurer that always cursing in funny made up words: guck, gunking guckers. She loves to fight and get into trouble, but she’s not mean or even mercenary in her thinking or actions. She’s clever without being condescending and most of all she doesn’t take herself seriously.

Reez would find the abject barbarism of orcs like those in the Shadow of Mordor series to be comically over the top. Like the people she comes from Reez is down to earth, an orc that’s good at fighting, but is into other things than just conquest and plunder. She’s got her bones in the old greenskin trope, but she’s grown out of them into her own character. I really like spending time with her and I hope you will too!

 

Ghets Chapter 5

Ghets Chapter 5

This week on Fiction Friday it’s Ghets Chapter 5! The fellowship makes it to Ghetshaven where they meet Reez and Odvid, and the true journey begins. For more of Ghets check out my Ghets Preview


Reez couldn’t believe her luck.

Since the official decree arrived weeks ago every Ghets in town had been chatting about the Aphetrrian Fellowship. The Aphetrrians weren’t playing around this time. The decree was endorsed by everyone from the Golden King, to the High Priest of Dhiamitrst. There was going to be seven warriors to represent the seven Elven Goddesses and they each came from a different kingdom. Though most of them looked like Easterners with some support from their mountain allies. The Easterners were using the Fellowship as a power play since the Eternal Empire were hurting.

Politics aside, or maybe because of the politics, there was a lot of money and power behind this Fellowship, which meant it was going to be a fat purse for whatever Ghets landed a contract with them. Every Ghetter captain worth their gunk had been practicing their Lori’ve and spending time in the ‘Holy, Holy’ tavern wanting for the Fellowship to land on the Aphetrrain side of town.

Reez and Odvid had been at the tavern every night since the decree, but the Fellowship never showed. It had been well over a month and most of the other Captains had given up hope, taking work with cravens and heading out of town. Only Reez kept to taking day jobs and spending her nights in the ‘Holy, Holy’ waiting for a tired pack of Aphettrians to wander in for a drink.

Her perseverance had finally paid off. A strange looking group of Aphetrrains had come in and Reez was the only Ghets Captain in the tavern. She rushed them, dragging Odvid with her and offering to buy her new friends a round of drinks. The potential Fellowship had been guarded at first, but eventually Reez’s smile and charms won them over, that or she was too gucking stubborn to take a hint, (and why should she be anything else? They made her wait weeks!)

“So, you all work for the same guild or something?” Reez said to the Aphetrrians with a knowing smirk.

“No, why do you say that?” Roland asked. The old human seemed alright, bit Eastern Aphetrrian stiff, but friendly.

“’Cause you all got on the same cloaks,” Reez said leaning in, “Nice ones too, Winterash and a Silver silk blend? Fancy, hear that stuff changes to different shades of grey to help you blend in, a lot of rangers carry them.”

“Oh yes, right” Roland corrected feeling his cloak, “I suppose you could say we’re work colleagues, of a manner.”

“Roland” Markus said with force.

Markus was bitter, clenching his stein and looking all mean. If he wasn’t so ridiculously pretty or maybe had a pair of tusks, the human would have stirred something in Reez. Markus had nice muscles, rich brown skin, a strong jaw, and lush black hair. He had to be the leader. Aphetrria liked to make plays and songs about their ‘heroes’, they cultivated a certain type.

“So, you guys merchants?” Reez asked.

“Reez” Odvid said, exasperated, he just wanted to get this over with.

“Yes?” Roland offered not sure what to say.

These gucks weren’t good at the game. The innuendo, the raised eye brows, the little hints and suggestions. Everything done with just the right emphasis to explain what you were really looking for. Crow already had these guys beat, she was a master of the game.

“Burnished gold plate armor,” Reez said peaking at what was under Markus’s cloak before he wrapped it around himself, indignant.

“And you, Orecast chain mail?” Reez said turning to look at the dwarf. “And that’s an impressive war mallet too!” Reez said inspecting the weapon. “That thing double headed? One side an axe the other a hammer?”

The dwarf crossed his arms and nodded with pride. Markus shot him a look and the dwarf coughed sheepishly.

“Well, we heard it was dangerous on the road, highwaymen and what not” Roland said trying to play.

Reez gave him a point for that. None of the other Aphetrrians were engaging. Markus spent most of the night glaring at her. The pretty elf blushed and looked away, the part elf with an eye patch squirmed, and the dwarf drank. They were all uncomfortable, clearly out of their gucking depth. It was a good thing Hawke or Sahar hadn’t gotten to them or these poor gunkers would have been swindled out of their coin before they even started their quest.

“Oh, it’s real dangerous out there.” Reez said leaning back, “That is if you don’t got a guide.” She gave them another of her award-winning smiles and then a big dramatic wink to sell it, cause this Fellowship needed all the help they could get.

“A guide, oh, like a Ghets?” Roland said, seeming legitimately confused. This was slowly unraveling from fun to painful.

“Yup, that’s what the G stands for. Ghets: Guides. Hunters. Explores. Treasure Seekers.” Reez said.

The part elf girl shot up. “What? Their dumb name really means something? I always thought they were trying to be stupid or cute.”

Reez deflated, “Nope, it stands for exactly what I said.”

“Oh marvelous,” Roland said, “Do you know any Ghets? We may be in the market, if you know what I mean.” He leaned in close, “We’re not actually merchants.”

Reez didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “You don’t say.”

“Roland don’t,” Markus interjected.

“But Markus, I thought we agreed–” Roland said,

“She doesn’t need to know. We can find Ghets on our own. They must have a guild.”

Reez grabbed her wine and drank deep, “Course they do, got a certification board, reviews too, all the Fellowships they smuggle across the border on clandestine missions leave letters of recommendation. Don’t trust anyone who’s under three starts, fivers are overrated. If you’re a five, you usually haven’t done enough work that’s why their scores are so high, go for a solid four, they have the experience and the right price.”

Roland brightened at that. “Thank you, let me write that down.” He started searching his bag for a stencil until Odvid spoke up.

“Don’t, she’s teasing you. We’re Ghets.” Odvid said.

“Oh—I see, if you don’t mind me asking what are your stars?” Roland asked innocently.

Reez laughed, Odvid made a face, trying to ignore her.

“There’s no rating, there’s no guild or certification board. We do our deals in crowded taverns like this and then sign contracts written up in Oath Hall. Don’t worry, the language is made purposely vague for your benefit and ours.” Odvid explained.

“Why?” Roland asked confused.

Reez was having enough of this. If these gunkers needed it spelled out for them, she’d spell it out. “Because leading Fellowships like you across the border is breaking a ton of gucking treaties and we don’t like pissing off Neradoom, Aphetrria or the Okkore.” Reez said swirling her glass.

Markus shot up, his hand on his hilt, eyes locked on Reez. The entire tavern went silent watching them. Reez just kept on sipping her wine.

“How do you know about us and our quest?” Markus asked in a harsh whisper. “You’re an orc, are you a spy for the Okkore?”

“For the love of Kor and his gucking ways.” Reez said sharing a knowing look with Odvid. “Not every orc is a member of the Okkore, learn that quick or you’re going to tick somebody off. Now sit down and stop acting like a butt-spider. Half of Aphetrria knows about your gucking quest. Your kingdom has been bragging about it for months! I even took a job last week taking one of your Heralds to the Shattered Coast so she could give public reading.”

Markus glared at Reez but did as he was told. He looked to the other members of the Fellowship, all of them seemed aghast that their ‘secret’ mission was common gucking knowledge. They lent in whispering.

“There was the parade through both Valenbrook and Sphettra.” Roland said

“And the feasts in Eldorita and Grunnhorn” The pretty elf added.

“Oh yes, and in Nord’s homeland too! That was quite a bit of mead,” Roland said smiling before, looking down at his stein embarrassed. “Now that I think about it, one doesn’t usually get that drunk to announce a clandestine enterprise. Actually, rarely does one ‘announce’ anything clandestine at all do they?”

Markus’s scowled, “I can’t believe this. Why would Sphetrra jeopardize us before we even left? I knew of the announcements, but to be spotted like this” Markus sighed, “If the Ghets know we’re here than surely Maelator knows as well.”

There was a bit more chatter, not all of it Reez caught and then the Fellowship broke up their huddle. Markus the hero sat up straight and looked at Reez with frighteningly serious eyes.

“We need guides and body guards to take us into Neradoom.” He said

“Course you do. Now where do you need to go and how much are you going to pay me to get you there?” Reez asked smiling.

Ghets Chapter 4

Ghets Chapter 4

This week on Fiction Friday, it’s Ghets Chapter 4! We meet Markus and his Fellowship as they quest to save the Princess Reez just helped kidnap.

You can find the first three chapters of Ghets here


Chapter

It was night as Markus and his Fellowship approached Ghetshaven. To the East over the banks of the Divide a Black Sun hung in the air. Markus had never seen something so wrong. It was the blackest of black, darker than the very night and yet it’s edges radiated a pale light. It was a twisted mockery of the moon. The product of a dark and foul place, one where the moon and sun dare not tread. Neradoom, the land of demons.

Markus was close now, closer than he had been in months. Soon he would see her again, his love, Princess Arilune.

Markus winced at the thought of the Princess. He remembered lying next to her on nights like this. Her deep green eyes, the bright freckles that dotted her face like a mask, her wild red hair. He remembered the feeling of Arilune’s slender shoulders against his chest. He would stare at her in shock that this dainty girl, the girl he loved, was the avatar of Victorious Anudica, Goddess of War.

Arilune could be fierce in her way, but she was no warrior. She was a princess, regal, capable at diplomacy and the intrigues of court life. But for combat, she relayed on Markus to be her knight and champion. He had defended Arilune ever since they first met, having sworn that he would always be there for her.

He wasn’t.

Markus was at Lunderbik when the demons attacked. Smoke choked the air. Alarm bells and shouts rang out. Bucket brigades collided with guards as chaos engulfed the manor. Lost and searching for Arilune, Markus had stumbled upon the fleeing demons.

They had the princess. She was bound and rolled up in a rug, being carted off like livestock. Markus charged the Dairkkul intent on freeing his beloved but was stopped by a fiend, one of the demon’s slaves and monstrosities.

The creature had claws like daggers and racked Markus’s chest. The pain was immense, but rage carried Markus through and he fought the creature to standstill eventually taking its head. Bleeding and panting Markus ran in the direction of the dairkkul had fled, but they were already gone.

Weeks later when the elves of Sphetrra, Anudica’s holy city, called for a Fellowship to save the avatar, Markus was the first to volunteer. The elves were rightfully suspicious of him. How could they trust the so called ‘knight’ who allowed Arilune to be kidnapped in the first place? But Markus’s persistence slowly won them over. They included Markus and his mentor, the grand sir Roland, in the Fellowship. The pair were joined by five other elite warriors picked from all over Aphetrria.

But the journey had proven difficult, even for a company of heroes’ such as Markus’s Fellowship. Before reaching Neradoom they had already suffered death and betrayal. Three warriors had fallen, including Aawut the Fellowship’s ranger and guide. Now Markus was left with only three official members of the fellowship and one apprentice and they hadn’t even made it halfway.

Markus touched Impaladius the sword that was lost and now found.

“Was it worth it?” He asked his companions as they neared Ghetshaven.

“It was.” Meiral said. Meiral was an elven mage and Priestess to Dhiamitrst the fertility goddess. She was gentle, and Markus often found her words to be of great comfort, a comfort he needed now more than ever.

“We’ve lost so much” Markus said. “Meraldo first, now Aawut and Aeikhu…” Markus twisted his grip around Impaladius’s hilt. “I still can’t believe Aeiku was a traitor!”

Meiral came closer, her voice soothing. “Aeikhu was Unclaimed, they have been fighting this war longer than anyone, Markus. There was no way for you to know.” Meiral’s Lori’ve accent made her words fluffy turning ‘they’ to ‘zey’. Markus let out a calm breath. It was hard to be anything but hopeful in Meral’s presence.

“It’ll be alright.” Roland said coming up to meet his former squire. “We’re nearly there.”

Markus stared at the round, soft face of his mentor. Roland had been one of the greatest tourney knights Markus had known. But Roland had seen less war than even Markus and he was old and growing frail. Markus couldn’t help but feel protective of him, of all the Fellowship. He glanced back at Yin and Nord staggering behind them.

Nord the dwarf was limping, still recovering from Aiekhu’s attack. Yin was helping him walk. Yin was taking Aawut’s death the hardest. She wouldn’t even look at Markus when he glanced back, instead hiding her good eye under her straight back hair.

At first Markus had found it difficult to believe that Yin was a ranger in training. She was only part elf and had already lost an eye despite being younger than Markus himself. She seemed undisciplined and bragged of once being a pickpocket. But she had proven her worth as guide in the tombs of Ruinsway. And she seemed determined, shadowing Aawut, trying to copy his every move.

Markus looked at Roland and wondered how he would have taken his mentor’s death, if the knight had fallen while Markus was still a squire. He shook his head, he would be half the warrior he was today.

Sadness and frustration gripped Markus. His Fellowship was wounded, lost and nearly beaten. He hated to admit it, but they needed help. A guide to replace Aawut, a mage to help Meiral, warriors to keep the Fellowship safe. He had been debating it with Roland for weeks now, but after Aeikhu’s betrayal there was no choice. They needed Ghets.

The Problem with Orcs

The Problem with Orcs

When coming up with my novel Ghets I wanted to create an everything and the kitchen sink high fantasy world. A world crammed with all the weird concepts I had come up with over the years, as well as my own spin on fantasy tropes like stolen Princesses, and tall, elegant elves. Some tropes I wanted to explore and others I wanted to subvert. For orcs, like my lead Reez, I wanted to do both.

Orcs are a fantasy mainstay, and like most fantasy mainstays they first came to prominence in Tolkien. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth orcs are squat, humanoid brutes obsessed with fighting and eating the flesh of their enemies (and sometimes that of their allies). Since this inception they have grown and spread with the fantasy genre becoming the stock minions of hundreds of dark lords. And have achieved a pop culture relevance equal to that of stormtroops and big head gray aliens as the baddies you except to see fall by the dozens in video games and movies.

Orcs have largely remained the same since the Lord of the Rings. They’re often violent cannibals, swinging crude axes and clubs, dressed in pointy armor or covered in furs and bone necklaces. Like all villains they speak to us on a subconscious level. Their origins found in mythological creatures like trolls, ghouls and goblins. They are the manifestation of the ‘other’. The wicked, warrior tribe that lives over the hill or across the sea. They are backwards but conquer and kill everything they come across.

Orcs are something of melting pot of every fear of barbarians that western Europe has had since the fall of the Roman empire. They swing axes and have fur lined helms like Vikings. They fight in ‘hordes’ like the Mongolians. They wear war paint like Celts or Native Americans. Most problematic of all, they are often called ‘savages’. And have traits and inhuman practices that mirror accusations European conquers levied against locals in the Americas, and Africa, like low intelligence but brutish strength, and the eating of human flesh.

Orcs are also, often, exclusively male. This usually happens because they don’t get much character development, merely being the big bad invading armies in vaguely medieval worlds where the majority of warriors aren’t women either (I know that’s dumb, in Ghets women fight alongside men and nobody cares). But some universes do take the whole ‘orcs are all dudes’ thing to a ridiculous extreme.

In Tolkien Orcs are pulled from the earth using vile magic so theoretically the orcs all gender neutral? Though they do call each other ‘boys’ and use male pronouns. The same thing occurs in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universes. In 40K Orcs are like a type of fungus and grow and spread by sprouting? (look I wish I was kidding). Usually this lack of women goes hand and hand with another problem with these orcs. Nobody writing their fiction considers: what do orcs do when they aren’t fighting?

The most egregious example of this is the Shadow of Mordor series. Shadow of Mordor is a video game series loosely based on the works of Tolkien. In it you play as Ranger who is leading a resistance in Mordor against Sauron. The games are all about you hanging out with the orcs, either stalking, battling, or subjecting them. Orc society in the game is cartoonish, all they do is hunt, drink, kill each other, and enslave things.

In Shadow of War, the second game in the series, you come across different orc locations like villages, mines and fortress, but there’s no difference in what’s going on in each location. They’re all just backdrops to stab more orcs. The orcs have rival tribes, but you don’t know what they’re fighting over, there’s no real resources or territory and no one explains why one orc would be part of one tribe or another since they aren’t born into them. In fact, no one explains where they keep on getting more orcs, since you murder hundreds of them, like hundreds of hundreds them. If the game was Lord of the Rings cannon, then there wouldn’t be a need for the Fellowship. By the end of Shadow of War Mordor would be vacant.

And yet, even with none of these questions answered I liked the orcs of Shadow of Mordor series. I liked all the orcs I mentioned. Tolkien’s and Games Workshop’s too. Orcs are fun, often because of how thinly drawn they are. They’re all the things we like about Vikings and barbarians, the fighting, drinking and looting, without any real-world consequences. They’re so dumb, greedy and violent that they become comical. Bad guys that are destined to lose, in facet deserve what’s coming to them and often don’t seem to mind the outcome.

But there can be more to orcs, ways to take what we like about them and make them richer, more complex characters. Some franchises and writers have already done that, and I will discuss how and how I’ve designed my own orcs in next week’s post: ‘Why an orc?

Ghets Chapter 3

Ghets Chapter 3

This week on ‘Fiction Fridays’ it’s chapter 3 of Ghets. We visit Ghetshaven and Reez learns of the consequence of her last job. Hope you enjoy!

You can find Chapters 1 and 2 here


Chapter

Reez stared at the wilting leaves of her Mawba plant. Odvid had gotten the plant for her because it was notoriously hard to kill. You could feed it water or booze, plant it in soil or in a bowl of steam and it would still prosper. If the Mawba’s leaves weren’t a pretty red-brown with maroon flowers, and if it didn’t take forever to grow and spread, it might have been considered a weed. It even grew in the Under-Kingdoms way beneath the earth, that was how little care it needed. And yet, Reez was still managing to kill hers.

As an orc that should have been a point of pride, she could kill anything. But Reez just huffed and fed the plant some more wine, hoping that would perk it up. Wine usually had that effect on Reez…usually. She had been in a funk the last couple of weeks and even going out for drinks with her team wasn’t doing it for her.

Reez was sure it was her little apartment in Ghetshaven. She was getting bored and claustrophobic. It had absolutely nothing to do with lingering guilt about stealing some redheaded human girl in the middle of the night. No, what Reez needed was to get out of town on some job. After guiding caravans through The Bitter Pass or hunting for treasure in Ruinsway she’d be back to her old self. Satisfied with the plan, Reez split the remainder of her wine with her plant and headed out for Oath Hall.

It was raining out on the Neradoomin side of town, so Reez kept to the streets on the Aphetrrian side where it was nice and sunny. Reez was fortunate enough to grab an apartment on Godless Isle. Godless was the old part of Ghetshaven and sat right in the middle of The River of the Great Divide (or just the Divide, as the locals called it.). Godless Isle was one of the few borders between Aphetrria and Neradoom where you could simply walk across from one land to the other.

Godless also had easy access to Gate Square and Oath Hall, as well as any guild or merchant offices Reez might need to visit. But it wasn’t cheap. Reez’s team went in for bigger places on either side of the Divide, placing them in Aphetrria or Neradoom proper.

Reez scoured the pre-written contracts and job posting at Oath Hall. There was a survey team looking to build a temple in the Ourobori jungle and needed a guide. Perfect. The Okkore was opening a Gate to Morjara today, and according to the schedule there’d be a Gate open in Ghoneshi on the other side of the jungle on the fifteenth. It would be a quick four-day job, three nights in the jungle, and then to Ghoneshi, to take the Gate home. Reez grabbed it.

Reez stopped by the post to send a quick a note to Odvid letting him know she’d be out of town and see if he could work some magic to fix her plant. He was a mage as well as a healer after all. And then Reez headed to Gate Square. She’d pick up some supplies in the bazaar that was held between the gates before heading to Morjara.

The Orc Fortress of Korragorra loomed before Reez. The Orcs had their own sprawling city on Godless Ilse. Ghetshaven lived in the shadow of it, leeching off the trade and travelers that used the Gates. The Gates technically belonged to the Okkore, the closest thing the orcs had to a kingdom. Only Orc shamans could operate and maintain Kor’s Thirteen Gates and each Gate was a portal to an Orc barracks in either Aphetrria or Neradoom.

There was a time when the Okkore didn’t like sharing the gates. They understood the gates’ full military potential and used them to send armies all over the world. Armies they kept resupplied and reinforced thanks to the gates all leading back to their chief fortress of Korragorra. The thirteen gates helped the orcs conquer both Aphetrria and Neradoom and for a hundred years the Okkore had ruled the world putting an end to the Deinomachy and enforcing Kor’s peace.

But the Orc Empire didn’t last, the gods wanted the Deinomachy too bad and the orcs were almost wiped out. The Okkore that now ruled Korragorra was a very different beast than the one that had conquered the world. It was leaner, more cautious and more cunning.

The new Okkore opened Gate square to the merchants of Ghetshaven. It employed Ghets, sending them on trading missions to guilds, kings, pit lords and chieftains. It re-ranged the arch totems, the gate exits, building barracks with totems near major ports and crossroads. It paid to lease arch totems in the capital cities of every kingdom on either side of the Divide.

The new Okkore did everything it could to promote travel and trade between Aphetrria and Neradoom. If Kor’s peace couldn’t be won through the sword, the orcs were going to see if they could buy it. So far it had been working. There hadn’t been a major war between Aphetrria and Neradoom since the Elven retaliation thirty years ago.

Reez passed the Okkore’s contraband checkpoints and entered Gate Square. Gate Square was a giant courtyard that held the Gates and a daily bazaar. Merchants set up stalls along the lanes leading to and from the thirteen gates, trying to pick up trade from the thousands of travelers that passed through the gates each day. The square was unlike anywhere else in the world and always made Reez get philosophical, reminding her of ‘the churn of creation’. The early days of existence when there was only Apherria and Neradogtha. In the churn chaos chased order, order chased chaos, the forces came together, and broke apart again. It was balanced, yet volatile, Apherria and Neradogatha expressed as a single primal force, that was the churn, and that was Gate Square.

Lanes of merchant caravans streamed from one gate, narrowly avoiding getting tangled with the reins and wagons of caravans coming from the opposite direction. A mass of messy pilgrims bumbled through the bazaar like gawking tourists. The pilgrims’ Ghets did everything they could to shepherd them along, while merchants shoved trinkets, charms and idols in their faces and shouted of deals and wonders.

The smoky scent of barbeque blended with the spices of curry, the honey of glazed nuts and the steaming stench of dung produced by a thousand different types of draft animals. Barkers shouted in Xunese, Loir’ve, and Kul, before repeating everything in Common, trying to entice travelers to the inns and gambling dens in Ghetshaven proper. Agents of various guilds and merchant companies ran across the bazaar directing their caravans to the correct Gate or warehouse. Most caravans would have to spend a couple of nights in Ghetshaven while they waited for their destination to come up. Kor only had thirteen gates and they needed to be changed to a new location every morning.

The Okkore was a heavy presence in the square. Okkore sergeants prowled the Gate lanes, pushing aggressive vendors to the side to make room and halting traffic to let orc warriors march between gates. The orc sergeants cleared up messes and directed complaining merchants to Oath Hall in Ghetshaven where their dispute would be overseen by Aphetrrian law masters and Neradoomin judges.

Confusion erupted everywhere in the square, there was a mess of different peoples, each speaking different languages, with different biology and wildly different customs. And yet that confusion was quickly sorted and shifted, if not completely dispelled thanks to the tight routines and layout of the square and the discipline of experienced guards and guides. This wonderful, beautiful place of managed chaos was all thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the Ghets and the Okkore.

Reez felt some pride in that, since she was both an orc and a Ghets. She bought some dry goods from a salt merchant representing the Roohr League and a new water sack from a Dairkkul Skin-Smith, before chatting with her friend Monoko who dealt in mounts and then heading over to an apothecary stall to haggle over bug ointment. Finally, fully stocked for the excursion, Reez bought a roasted frog on a stick for a quick lunch and headed to Gate Four to start her job.

Reez, and everyone in her lane, was stopped by an Orc sergeant to let an Okkore unit of pikemen march out of the gate. It was always strange to watch people exiting the gates. They looked like they were just walking into the bazaar from another entrance rather than traveling leagues in an instance.

Each gate was a portal that sat in a giant doorway carved into the walls of Gate Square The substance that made up the portals were hard to describe. It was a spiral. The ether of Neradoom and Aphetrria coming together in one swirling blend, the churn again, light chasing darkness, darkness chasing light. You didn’t really feel anything when you touched the portals. You just stepped through them like a regular door and were transported to whatever spot had the active arch totem.

Most of the gate exits weren’t as big as the gate entrances in Korragorra. There were a lot of rules to the gates, the orcs had a whole class of shamans dedicated to them, and Reez didn’t know all the particulars, but she did know that each gate exit had to be an archway, at least a mini version of the doorway in Korragorra. The gates were fascinating and a gucking miracle, but like any miracle people got used to them and started to take them for granted, like the indignant merchant that pushed himself ahead of everyone in Reez’s lane.

“You’re doing this again?” The merchant shouted at the orc sergeant, “I’ve been halted five times today already, once for two hours to let your people through. You own these gates! Get organized! Do your nonsense in the morning before you open the square! It’s not hard.”

The orc sergeant reminded silent and kept her face cool. Unlike the civilized orc, most peoples found it rude to be punched in the face when they said something stupid.

Luckily, Reez was there.

“Hey friend,” She said tapping the merchant on the shoulder.

“What is it?” He said spinning around. “Oh for the love of Apherria another one,” He said looking Reez up and down. “Are you this one’s superior? Because—”

“Because what?” Reez said leaning in. “Just because it’s the middle of the day in Ghetshaven doesn’t mean it’s noon in Morjara. What? Every orc should abandon their post in the middle of the night just because it impedes you by a couple of hours? The gates are a literal gift from the gods! Stop whining and get back in the gucking line.”

The merchant looked like he was going to say more, but Reez smiled at him, big and hungry like and that was enough for him to scurry back to his waiting pack animals.

Reez winked at the orc sergeant after the merchant retreated. She was young, probably only about sixteen. “Had to do gate duty during my training too, don’t let these gunkers get you down.”

The sergeant didn’t reply. Reez stood there in awkward silence while the last Orc pike man passed. Before letting everyone go the orc sergeant spat at Reez’s feet and muttered “Traitor”.

Reez immediately felt an emotion too hot to be called shame and too heartbreaking to be called rage. Her smile deflated, and she sunk into the crowd of merchants and travelers that flooded into Gate Four. Sometimes Reez let herself forget everything that had happened between her and the Okkore. It was generous of her, the Okkore had taken more from her than it had given. But just because Reez was willing to be generous didn’t mean the Okkore reciprocated. At best they tolerated her, seeking to forget that she was ever a part of them at all. To the Okkore Reez was no different than the pushy merchant, just another traveler using the gates.

But that was okay, Reez liked being a ghets more than she ever liked being Okkore warrior. She stepped through the gate and got to work.

Reez’s job in the jungle was mostly okay, but Reez only got into one measly fight and the gig was over way too quick. Reez found herself in Ghoneshi with a whole day to spare. Usually, under those circumstances she’d do some sightseeing, but Ghoneshi was a Darikkul city and it was all a buzz over the latest news. And what news it was, Reez stayed in her inn soaking it all in, growing increasingly pale.

According to the local gossip, Lord Maelator had pulled ahead from his rivals and was on the verge of taking the Black Spire. Maelator had always been a contender, but his sudden success had come when he converted his staunchest enemies into allies. He accomplished this by doing something that no Dairkkul outside of a Dark Lord had achieved before. He kidnapped the avatar of an elven god. The girl was proof that Maelator wasn’t just seeking the Black Spire for himself, but for mother Neradogtha. For surely, he would use the power of the Dark Lord to marshal all the fiends to him and restart the Deinomachy.

Reez almost fainted when she heard about the avatar. She ordered ‘literally all the wine they gucking had’ and asked her Dairkkul drinking companions to go over the news again.

“Maelator stole an elven avatar?” Reez said, “But I, um, heard the girl was a human.”

“She is! She is!” The Dairkkul said excitedly, sloshing his drinking dish “An Aphetrrian human with red hair and green eyes, just like the god.

“But how can a human be—”

“I don’t know” The Dairkkul said slurping up his liquor “It’s Aphetrria they have so many constricting rules. I don’t know how people survive under that tyranny. But apparently, they have humans there too, and this one is the avatar of a god, the elves have said so themselves! They’re calling for their heroes to form a fellowship to win her back. Maybe we’ll get a proper war again!”

Reez snatched the wine jug out of the innkeeper’s hands and immediately started guzzling. There was no way this was happening. Crow had signed contracts, made promises! Reez felt her forehead. The orcs were going to call her a lot worse than ‘traitor’ if they found out she was the Ghets that orchestrated this.

“Do you know which god this avatar is supposed to be? Reez asked.”

The Dairkkul smiled. “The bad one. The worst one. Wicked Anudica, the Goddess of war.”

………..

The Importance of Journaling

The Importance of Journaling

Over the weekend I hung out with a friend who wants to write a play. She asked for writing suggestions. I told her to start a journal.

Journaling is the most important thing that any writer or anyone who wants to start writing can do. I’ve been writing short stories and novels since I was twelve, but I didn’t consider myself a writer until after college when I started a journal. Thanks that journal I write every day. I’ve improved in all elements of my writing and have six hundred-page novels to share.

For most people journal writing conjures up images of mole skin notebooks with dear diary written in looping cursive, but that’s not exactly, what I mean. When I say journal, I mean a space, be it a word processor or notebook, where you sit down for at least twenty minutes and write. It doesn’t matter what you write in that space, it just matters that you do it and do it every day.

Writing, like exercising or learning a musical instrument, is hard. It requires practice and that’s what the journal is, your practice. You have to force yourself to do it, especially when you’re first starting. After a long day of work, you’re not going to want to do anything, even write, same is true if you get up at five am and try to squeeze in a writing secession before work. You have to make it a habit.

I write at least a paragraph in my journal every day before I start a writing secession. It’s how I limber up my creative muscles. My journal is freeing, I write whatever I want. I don’t care about quality or the mistakes I make. I write as fast as the thoughts come to me and I write down all my thoughts, no matter how bad, or lazy or mean they are. Most of my thoughts are just boring. 90% of my journals start with the phrase, ‘I’m tired and I don’t want to write.’

When I journal I don’t tend to write fiction. Instead, it’s more like a compressed dairy. I’ll write a summary of my day or talk about something that’s bothering me. I use the journal to plan a lot: review goals and progress. I will talk about writing ideas I have as well as what I liked or didn’t like about the book I’m reading or game I’m playing. It’s a lot like a less polished, more personal version of this blog.

My journal is also home to some of my best writing, entries that I love stumbling over again and remind me that I can actually do this thing! But it’s also home to my absolute worse writing, a reminder that I need to stay sharp and edit. Because I have horrible penmanship and spelling, I keep my journal in google docs which makes revisiting old entries easy. I can trace my progression as a writer, as well as other goals, see where I’ve succeeded or fallen behind.

There are also wellness benefits to keeping a journal, so many in fact that even if I didn’t want to be a novelist I would still journal. It let’s me slow down and organize my thoughts. I can dissect what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way. It also helps me vent. I can write my roommate a nasty letter without ruining our friendship or formulate what I’m going to say at my next work review. I always feel better after I journal, even if I write nonsense or something I wouldn’t say out loud.

Journaling alone won’t write your novel or script, but it gives you tools you need to accomplish those dream projects. It teaches you about your own writing, about setting habits and enhance your critical thinking. It also does the important work of letting you know yourself better. Journaling doesn’t just improve your writing, it improves you too.