The History of Grum

There had been reports of barbarians out on the plain. Cullin Mitchel’s town had never had problems with barbarians before so he was somewhat unsure of how to proceed. Not that the town had yet had trouble with the barbarians, so far the savages had only been spotted. Boyd and Russ, two trappers from out of town, had brought word of the band of 30 or so barbarians. Boyd and Russ were not from Cullin’s town thus he did not know them, yet he judged them to be telling the truth. Cullin Mitchel was the town’s “sheriff”, as it were, and also in charge of the militia.

“Thirty of the brutes you say?” asked Cullin, attempting to gain a grasp on the situation. “Aye,” replied Boyd, or perhaps it was Russ; Cullin wasn’t sure which one was which but it didn’t matter. “Thirty of those vile bastards are out there on your plain, have no doubts about that.” “Thirty!?” retorted the other of the pair. “Ye must excuse me younger brother here, his judgment be not yet honed. Mine eyes have tracked foxes over bare rock and herds of deer across endless grass expanses and I tell ye, Mr. Sheriff, there are no less than forty five of the barbarians outside this town of yours!” There was a long pause as the now breathless trapper recovered his composure as he had somewhat excitedly delivered his own version of the danger imposing itself upon Cullin’s town. “Forty five….” thought Cullin grimly to himself. “Were every man woman and child of this town to take up arms we’d have naught more than 250 militiamen. Even at odds of four to one we’d be demolished by a war party of barbarians.” “Well our city to the north has a trained military force of hundreds of men from the strongest stock” said the elder brother. “My kin and I could sneak past the barbarians and bring word to our armed forces of your danger, I’m sure Lord Montcalm would be more than willing to aide your little village here.” “You can get past the danger safely?” asked Cullin. “Aye” the brothers answered in duet. “There be a nice path through the hills that will avoid the trouble outright” pointed out the younger brother. After many quiet moments of contemplation Cullin delivered his response. “Alright, I’ll accompany you two back to you city and deliver my town’s plea myself. Come, let us fly lest this town be razed to the ground before preventative action can be taken.

Cullin delivered the news to the mayor of his town and quickly set out with the trappers. They led him on a path through the hills and indeed 3 days later they had reached their destination. The brothers led Cullin to the military ward of the city. They requested an audience with Lord Montcalm, the leader of the military. “Montcalm is our cousin, we’ll get in to see him right away friend, I promise you that” said one of the trappers, Cullin still didn’t know which was which as they never called each other by name; each referred to the other as “my brother”. Sure enough as soon as they told the guardsmen who they wished to see they were being led through a barracks of soldiers. The trio was brought up several flights of stairs and ended in the doorway of a rather decadent office. Sitting behind a large desk was a man who did not exude nobility. “Ahh, Boyd, Russ, how wonderful to see my cousins!” belted the large bearded man. What Lord Montcalm lacked in grace he made up for in girth. He was no less than 250 pounds of muscle placed on a tall and very sturdy frame. Accentuating his size was at least another 100 pounds worth of belly and beard. He alone could probably have slain all of Cullin’s small militia with the myriad of expensive and vicious looking weapons hung on the walls of his office.

“To what may I owe the pleasure of this visit? I thought you two were out of town on some hunt.” “We come with a task to test the mettle of our fellow
Montcalm and his soldiers” both brothers said as if they’d rehearsed it a hundred times. “Ah ha!” exclaimed the Lord enthusiastically. “And what test might this be?” he inquired. The brothers nodded towards Cullin. Cullin shyly advanced towards the intimidating man and cast his sight towards the floor. Cullin felt incredibly out of place, but the love of his town gave him the courage to address the cheerfully menacing Lord. “I am Cullin Mitchel, sheriff of the town nearest your southern border, 3 days trek by foot from here.”

“Three days ago these two fine gentlemen” Cullin continued and gestured to his escorts “informed me of a danger to my town. On the plains, not far from my small village, lies a war party of barbarians. I know not from whence they came or where they go. However, I would implore you Lord Montcalm” Cullin mustered the most flattering tone his voice could create “to bring the great strength of your men from sturdy stock and of military training onto the plains south of here and eradicate the beasts who would bring harm to the innocent.” Cullin looked hopefully at the large man. “BRAVO!” was the word that burst from the Lord in an explosion of spit and sound. “My cavalry shall ride in less than one hour towards your problem good sir, and upon the ‘morrow your troubles will be quelled at the end of my horseman’s lances.” Cullin thanked the man profusely; however before he had even finished Lord Montcalm was barking orders at his subordinates, instructing them to ready the cavalry. The brothers took Cullin to a stable and they began readying 3 steeds. “We’ll all follow our cousin’s men and watch the fun!” exclaimed younger brother.

The group of 75 cavalry-men, accompanied by the two trappers and Cullin, made camp on the plains at night fall. By now Cullin had no doubt that Russ and Boyd had not been exaggerating about what they had seen, he had the feeling that if they’d led their cousin and his cavalry on a wild goose chase there’d be hell to pay. They’d only been riding for 3 hours since sunup the next day before they came upon the barbarian encampment.

Grum was awoken from his slumber by an unusual rumbling he detected through his pillow of grass and earth. He’d hardly opened his eyes when he heard shouting coming from outside his tent. Grum and his family, about 20 in all, were traveling from the south to join a new tribe. Their previous tribe had been a mix of orcs and half-orcs. After years of tension within the tribe a massive battle broke out. Grum’s father had fought in the battle and in the end the half-orcs were victorious, slaying the orc warriors and driving their women and children away. However an orcish stronghold in the mountains was not far and the remaining half-orcs knew they had to scatter or be destroyed by a reprisal of orcs far too massive for them to defend against. And so his family had traveled north. Many weeks they’d been on the move and had finally come to rest on these fertile plains. Unfortunately they had discovered that the local human settlements were not going to be hospitable. One of Grum’s uncles had gone as an ambassador to the nearest village and was told that they had to leave the plains or be destroyed. At only 15 years of age Grum already knew the lay of the land as far as humans were concerned. Some accepted the half-orcs but most considered them savages when in truth the half-orcs are far less volatile than their pure orc cousins.

Now it seemed as though they had not moved their camp quickly enough as he heard his father shout “IT’S AN ATTACK!” Grum quickly grabbed for his old wooden mace and jumped out of his tent. He saw before him a massive cloud of dust headed by what must have been almost 100 charging horseman. They were shouting and brandishing weapons, there was no doubt about their intent. The thought of running away never entered Grum’s mind. It would have been fruitless to flee from the charger’s superior speed on the open plains, however that would never have been an option anyway; Grum’s family was strong and resolute, they never run. The dozen or so women and children of the family took shelter in the tents while the 8 adult males strong enough to fight, of which Grum was the youngest, stood their ground and readied themselves against the inevitable massacre. The strong 8 warriors stepped out in front of the line of tents and off to the side with the intent of directing the attackers away from the women and children. The massive onslaught drew nigh. Closer they rumbled until they were only 20 feet away. The initial clash lasted only a second. Grum dodged out of the way of the first lance he saw coming towards him and brought his old mace down hard on the horse’s knee. The fragile equestrian joint shattered, the beast and its rider were thrown violently to the ground but Grum did not get to see the fruits of his efforts as he was instantly knocked down and entangled by a net. He was rapidly being drug behind a horse.

As soon as Grum realized he’d stopped moving he looked desperately around himself. He saw only a circle of horses and large pair of feet approaching him. His mace was no longer in his hands but he felt relatively uninjured. “Release him” bellowed the man standing in front of Grum. “C’mon lad, pull yourself out of that mess” said the man. Grum suddenly regained his composure and began struggling furiously against the net that wrapped itself around him. “Hahaha, he has some fight in him to be sure” mused the man jovially. “C’mon son, get out of there.” Grum finally fought his way out of the net and quickly stood to face the man who’d been speaking to him. The man was huge, at least 3 times Grum’s weight. “Awe he’s just a little fella’, I wanted ye to save me a big one. Alas this one’ll have to do. C’mon little one, attack me, kill me, avenge your fallen heathen brethren!” taunted the man with a chuckle in his voice. Now Grum allowed himself to look around, he saw that all of the warriors he stood with and been slain and every tent had been trampled, they white canvas stained red with the poring blood of those under them. Grum threw himself at the man in a mindless rage he’d never experienced before.

Cullin looked on in horror as the cavalry ran right over the small group of half-orcs. He wanted to scream but his throat was choked. He felt as though his heart was going to rip itself out of his chest to shout at the Lord to cease his charge. Even if it had, though, it would have fallen on deaf ears. Lord Montcalm even wanted one of the brutes to be taken capture so he could face it in a hand to hand fight, the sick bastard. Cullin kicked his horse hard and pushed it into the circle of cavalry that encompassed the Lord who was now engaged with a young looking half-orc in combat. Montcalm encouraged the beaten and bloody youth to rise and fight him which he did over and over only to be knocked back down again and again looking more bloody and beaten every time. Finally the gold ring laden fists of the Lord pounded a final blow onto the skull of the half-orc and he fell dead to the ground. “I had truly hoped for a raging savage to put up a better fight than that. Alas, slay him to the grave.” Wait, no, he wasn’t dead yet. “HOLD!” cried Cullin. “FOR GOD’S SAKE HOLD!” Cullin’ had never heard his own voice sound so loud. “What?” roared the Lord sounding perturbed. Cullin worked hard to suppress the distress in his voice. “We need a new grave digger” Cullin said. “Allow me to take this one as a slave and put him to work in our cemetery.” “This thing is naught but a beast and will lash out against you, he will never submit himself to your will” retorted Montcalm. Cullin lowered his voice and attempted to sound as menacing and evil as he possibly could “Let me handle that” was all he said. Lord Montcalm smirked. “So be it, the creature is yours.” With that the Lord and his cavalry turned and headed back from whence they came. The trappers stayed, “We’ll help you get this thing back to your town safely” one of them said.

Cullin wanted to fall to his knees and weep over the tragedy that had occurred but he knew he had to remain strong in front of the trappers or they might suspect Cullin would show mercy to the half-orc and kill it themselves. Before the beaten creature could recover the trappers had secured him tightly with rope. The young half-orc began to rustle and move. When he finally fully awoke and opened his eyes Cullin looked at him. “Hello” Cullin said with tears swelling in his eyes. “Can you understand me?” he asked. The eyes of the half-orc fixed upon Cullin’s and Cullin had to look away. “You are now my slave” Cullin said with as much strength as he could muster. However his eyes deceived him as he was now freely shedding tears when he looked back at the half-orc. He had to hide his face from the trappers. Cullin could tell that the creature, though bloody and beaten, was thinking behind those eyes. Cullin had no idea what the half-orc was thinking. “What’s your name?” Cullin asked.

Grum was taught never to back down, never to surrender. Death was preferable to capture and should he ever be taken prisoner he should make all attempts to end his own life. However Grum still wanted to live; there was much he wished to do. He gazed at his captor. He thought hard and stared long into the man’s weeping eyes. “I am Grum” he said in barely more than a whisper.

“Come” said one of the trappers “let us make haste to town. That long ride made me hunger for something substantial, I trust there’s a good place to find some grub in your village eh Sheriff?” “Certainly there is” Cullin murmured. The elder brother tied a rope to Grum’s neck, held the other end, and mounted his horse. The 4 of them made the journey back to Cullin’s town; night was just beginning to fall as they reached the gates. “Point me towards the blacksmith” said the younger brother, “If ye want this varmint to be diggin’ your graves I know of a device that might aide in bringing about his submission.” The elder brother tossed the end of the rope to his fellow trapper. Cullin pointed in a direction that was not towards the blacksmith, however it was a small town and it didn’t take long for the younger brother to find his desired destination.

“Heya” the younger brother said as he entered the store dragging the half-orc behind him. The blacksmith looked visibly worried. “Don’t ye be worryin’, I’ve this little fella’ under control.” With that he yanked hard on the rope slamming Grum to the ground. “What can I do for you?” asked the blacksmith nervously. “I need a chain, ‘bout 20 feet long, ye got any paper for me to draw it out for you?” he asked. The blacksmith brought some parchment and a quill. The younger brother drew up the item he needed. “Shouldn’t be too much trouble, pretty simplistic, I can have it ready in 2 days.” “Perfect” said the trapper.
Two days passed, Grum was held in the local jail and everyone in town now knew about it. If Cullin were to let him go he would surely be run out of town. The two trappers stayed in town to see to it that the beast was perfectly under control, all the while eating and drinking at the local tavern and having themselves a merry old time. When the blacksmith had finished the item the two trappers brought it to the jail. When Cullin laid his eyes on it his heart sank. It was a massive chain; it looked as though it weighed over 100 pounds. It had spikes in certain places, especially on the ends where the spikes were extra large. “We’ll get this put where it belongs” said the older brother. They went to Grum’s cell.

Grum was still bound by the ropes. The younger brother held a crossbow leveled at Grum’s head while his older brother began securing the chain to Grum. It was wrapped tightly around Grum’s chest and stomach. The spikes didn’t penetrate his skin but if he were to lay down or perhaps even attempt to bend over he would be lightly gored. “That’ll keep him from tryin’ anything funny with ya” said the older brother has he affixed a large lock to the back which held the steel harness in place. Also attached with this lock was another chain which could act as something of a leash. The trappers then cut off the ropes and retreated out of the cage. The harness didn’t impede Grum’s arm movement at all, but every time he moved it poked into him. When he went to sit it drew blood and if he tried to lay down it would have really stabbed into him. “I’ve already talked to the mortician” said the younger brother. “He’ll be commin’ by to pick up his new grave digger later today.” No sooner had the words been spoken than the mortician entered the jail.

“I’m here for my digger” said the old mortician. He wasn’t really all that old but he’d gotten grey hair at a young age. He carried a large stick with him. “The trappers here showed me how to deal with this slave” he said as he went to the cell with Grum in it. He opened the cell and grabbed Grum’s leash, just as Grum began to think of attacking and slaying all 4 men in the jail the mortician smacked him hard in the chest with his club. The spikes from the harness slid into Grum and he collapsed onto the ground which only caused more of the spikes to stick into him. By the time he finally managed to stand he was bleeding from many wounds. “This will work very nicely” said the mortician as he led Grum away.

Years passed, Grum didn’t know how many. He buried the dead of the small village. As payment for his heroic deeds Lord Montcalm demanded that the dead from his town be brought to the cemetery where Grum worked so the slave could be put to use more often. Grum dug and dug. He was chained to a very large tree. No one ever even came close enough for him to attack. He had a small lean-to against the tree where he slept and kept out of the rain. Bodies and his meager meals (mostly scraps) were thrown to him from across the gate that surrounded the cemetery. Grum never saw Cullin again and often considered jumping into the air and landing flat on his stomach or back in an attempt to kill himself.

One rainy night Grum was awakened by a voice. “Grum” said a very old, tired, and haggard sounding man’s voice. Grum emerged from his small hut. Before him he saw Cullin Mitchel looking haggard and very sick. Grum just stared at him. “Grum, I’m sick. I’m dying.” Cullin said. “I’ve had a good life Grum, and I thank the gods for it. My time has come but there’s one thing I need to do. I should have done it 6 years ago when you were first brought here but I was too concerned about only myself. I’ll burn in hell for what I’ve done to you Grum and I deserve it. Let me see that lock.” Grum looked at him coldly. Slowly he turned his back to Cullin. Grum heard a loud clink and felt the harness that had been his enslavement for so long finally break loose. The Slave Maker fell into his hands. He turned again to face Cullin. “I’m sorry Grum, please, forgive me.” Cullin fell to his knees and began to weep. “Please forgive me and send me to the fate I deserve.” As soon as he’d uttered those words he was overtaken by a violent fit of coughing. Blood spurted out of his mouth with each upheaval. “You are forgiven” Grum said as he brought the heavy end of his Slave Maker down upon Cullin’s head. Grum wasn’t sure if Cullin heard him or not over all the coughing and the rain, he hoped that Cullin’s gods had heard him though.

After the rains had stopped sometime in the middle of the night the town was set to burn. Those in the streets might have seen who laid arson to the village but the large gashes in their heads made sure they told no one. The small town blazed orange until there was naught left but char and ash. The survivors began the journey north to the closest neighboring city. Their dead were left to bleach in the sun as there was no one to bury them. It appeared that in the confusion of the fire the grave digger had managed to escape whilst in the midst performing his bound duty one final time. The community was never rebuilt. Its members mourned their losses and moved on elsewhere. But perhaps none were as unfortunate as the family of Cullin Mitchel, for his body was never found.

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