Shades of the Past (Marauder Origin Story)
Hello everyone, and thanks so much for the feedback so far. Really glad people are liking these looks into the Exile's lives before Wraeclast.
Today we have the Marauder's story, and a big thanks goes to Edwin McRae, writer for PoE, for providing a bunch of background resources on the Karui and keeping me from putting my foot in my mouth a couple times. Appreciate it Edwin!
Templar - https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1403133
Scion - https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1414654
Shades of the Past
The first time the Ancestors spoke to me I was eleven suns past the sea.
I lived in a wooden shelter with my family, what the Oriathan missionaries called a ‘hut.’ The walls were of stout bronzewood, the roof covered in bero reeds and woven flax. We slept under stars in summer, burnt smoking wood in winter for warmth, and filled the days between with life. Hunting for fish in the sun-bright seas, playing at warrior ways in the jungle, harvesting the life-giving karumo root from the rich, dark earth - always something to be done on the island, and so, it was done, in the ways of my ancestors, and their ancestors before them.
The day I heard their voices, was one that began simply. In the morning, I helped Aunt and Uncle in the garden, burning plant circles to keep the caterpillars away. To lose the karumo harvest would be to spend long winter nights listening to the rumble of my belly, and so I watched the smoldering piles of plants unblinkingly. No caterpillars had crept through by sun’s height, when Uncle came to check my circle, so I went to play with my friends.
Oh, what warriors we were, in our minds. Mighty Kahoraki, already near tall enough to scale a bronzewood tree with just his arms and legs; swift Atirina, her laughing face dashing through the ferns; clever Molani, always ready with a means to make us laugh or think. Together we chased the giant birds and groundhogs of the island, planned elaborate raiding parties to bring glory to our names, and swam the rolling waves. Most days we would gather at our tree fort, a ramshackle cluster of wedged branches and scavenged driftwood in the first canopy of a bronzewood tree near the village, our sky palace from which we could plan the day’s activities.
We were in the fort, arguing over whether stealing the Oriathan missionary’s clothes would violate tradition or not, when I suddenly noticed the silence of the birds. Normally their raucous squawks echoed through the canopy, so used to our presence had they become, but alarmingly, the air was still. Immediately, I chopped my hand across my mouth in our shared signal for stealth. The other three stopped talking, their eyes fixed upon me, and it was then that I heard the voices below.
“You sure this is the way?”
“Yah, it’s just over this rise. Fat village with no warriors, they’re all out fishing during the day. Plenty to raid while they’re gone.”
“I don’t see a village.”
“You want to be chief? Yah?”
The sounds of a small scuffle.
“I didn’t think so. We go where I say, and I say the village is over this rise. C’mon, we gotta hurry afore the warriors get back.”
I peered over the edge of our nest, careful to keep myself hidden. Below us, a small group of men pushed their way through the jungle, clubs and stone axes held loosely in their hands. Their tattoos marked them of the Ran Guara, the tribe two valleys down.
We had blood-debt with the Ran Guara.
I looked at my friends, all three of whom had crept up next to me. They stared back, eyes wide.
“What should we do?” Molani mouthed at me.
I did not know. What could us children do against grown warriors, trained for battle? I shifted uneasily, my elbow catching on the jagged edge of one of the branches. Blood seeped out from the cut, and it was then that I heard the words, a choral harmony in my mind.
Grab that branch. Fall upon their leader from above. You will kill him on landing. Use his body to cushion your fall, then you will spin and kill another. The rest will run from fear.
It was like another voice in my head, one not my own. The voice of the Ancestors.
I knew what I had to do.
“The Ancestors guide me,” I whispered, looking at Molani.
Reaching down, I tore out a splintered length of wood from our ramshackle roost, its weathered heft comforting in my hand. Not waiting, not thinking, I rolled out of our perch, my eyes set on the leader of the raiding party below. His head grew in my vision, until it seemed I could almost see the braided hairs on his scalp.
It was then that I yelled a battle cry and brought the heavy wood swinging down.
His scalp split beneath my blow, my knees smashing into his back, and together we crashed into the dank soil, his brains scattering in flecks of pink and grey. I bellowed again and sprung upright, spinning my club towards the head of another warrior to my left. His eyes grew wide with shock, then burst open with the force of my strike, blood and bile spraying from his mouth. He dropped like a stone, and the remaining three raiders sprinted back the way they had come, dropping their weapons in their haste.
The exultation pouring through my veins was unlike anything I had ever felt before. Sounds seemed louder, the sunlight brighter, my entire skin prickling with heat and fury.
I felt like a god.
My friends thought me to return to the hideout. They told me so afterwards.
The Ancestors thought differently.
Now chase them. Scour them from the land.
I set off at a run after the fleeing raiders, tracking their panicked flight easily through the underbrush, grabbing an axe along the way. I knew these trees, their paths, and it took no time at all to catch the third raider, my feet flying like the wind. His panting breaths gave way to the surprised grunt of impact, and then to the silence of death, my axe cleaving his spine in half. I ripped the stone edge free from his back and continued the chase.
The fourth died like the third, a coward’s fall unseen by the eyes of the gods. Only the fifth dared turn and face me, and I laughed at the shocked look in his eyes when he saw my age. I gave him a warrior’s death, striking his head from his body in a whispering swing that painted the bright green leaves a glistening red, then howled my triumph to the sky.
The piercing shrieks of the birds answered me, and I knew the Ancestors were content.
I found the others still in the bronzewood tree, unharmed, and we returned to the village, gore streaked across my face and arms in drying streaks of crimson. I carried the last raider’s head with me as proof of the Ran Guara’s villainy, my friends clutching their scavenged weapons in escort, though I could sense their nervousness. Kahoraki’s fingers trembled around the club in his hands, while Molani and Atirina darted glances everywhere but me, but I held no contempt for them. They were my family, and the Ancestors did not speak to most, or so I would later learn.
When we arrived, the men had not yet returned from the sea, and so it was Aunt Kaileio who saw us first. She dropped her gardening tools and rushed over with a loud exclamation. The other three let their weapons fall and ran to her, hugging her legs tight. I stood alone, the hot sun beating upon my neck and back, flies buzzing about me in lazy swoops.
“Children! What has happened! What are you carryi- is that a head?”
“The Ran Guara sent a raiding party,” I replied. “Five who thought themselves warriors, but died as cowards. They planned to catch the village unaware. It was they who were caught, instead.”
“How... you killed five warriors? Grown men?”
“All of you working together? That brings much glory to your families.”
“It was only me,” I said, with a child’s boastful pride.
“He said the Ancestors spoke to him,” Kahoraki added slowly, not looking up.
A strange expression crossed Aunt Kaileio’s dark features. She looked down at the head swinging from my grasp, then back up at me, chewing the inside of her lip as if coming to a decision.
“Come, child,” she said suddenly, gently disengaging the arms of the others. She motioned for me to follow. “I must take you to Elder Huhava. The rest of you, clean yourselves up and find your mothers - they will want to know you’re not hurt before the words spread. Tell them where we’ve gone so they can tell the others.”
Molani, Atirina, and Kahoraki scattered, their running feet kicking up dirt and dust. I looked at Aunt Kaileio, confused. Elder Huhava was a remote figure, hardly ever seen unless someone needed a curse lifted or a ritual tattoo inscribed on flesh.
“The elder? But she lives a half day’s walk away.”
“Then it is good we have half the day left,” Aunt Kaileio said briskly, bending down to collect the weapons. “Here. Take this.” She thrust an axe into my free hand, its weight clinging naturally to my palm, then carried the rest inside the lodge. When she emerged, she brought with her a long bow of pale wood near as tall as she was and a quiver of arrows strapped to her back, brilliant amo bird feathers peeking up above her shoulder. The only time I had seen her with the bow before was to hunt the wild pigs of the island, ranged weapons being forbidden for men. Without a word, she started off into the jungle, her steps long and sure. I jumped to catch up.
Together, we walked along a faint trail through the shadowed depths beneath the trees, the sounds of life all around us. Curiosity tore at my tongue.
“Why are we going to the elder, Aunt? Have I done something wrong?”
“No, child, you have done nothing wrong. Tell me, have you heard of Tukohama?”
I hesitated. I had heard the men talking about Tukohama, the god of war, around the fires at night, when the fermented juice ran freely and tongues loosened. The men would speak of him in hushed tones, of the bloody path he and those chosen by him carved through the world. One night, Paoramo, one of the fishers who drank regularly of the fermented juice, loudly proclaimed his disdain for “bloody handed Tukohama,” and how he wasn’t afraid of a god whose few followers spent all their time watching the seas for men and not fish. The others hushed him with dark looks at each other, and for the next month Paoramo’s nets brought in nothing but rotting crabs, their shells filled with dark red worms, until he crawled on his belly to beg forgiveness from Elder Huhava. I did not know why no one spoke of Tukohama like the other gods.
“I’ve heard the men say he is a god of war. Paoramo spoke ill of him once.”
“Paoramo is a drunken idiot, and lucky all he caught was rotten crabs. You are correct, child, that Tukohama is a war god, but the true war he wages is against the world outside the islands.”
Aunt Kaileio motioned for quiet, and we slipped around a foraging wild boar, its huffing grunts fading slowly behind us. Once past, she resumed talking.
“Yes, child. Outside. The island we live on is part of a much larger world, one that constantly seeks to enslave us. Not in the violent change of raiding parties, but the true enslavement of loss of self. There is a great Empire, remnants of one that was much larger, and it constantly assaults our shores, to steal our people’s lives and spirits.”
“The land that Kaom attacked?”
“Yes. Centuries ago, Kaom traveled to that land. He trusted their honeyed words, walked their corrupted soil, and none know what became of him and those he led. Hyrri’s accounts tell of a ‘black spirit corrupting the Karui way,’ but nothing more.”
She hissed softly in displeasure, braids on the unshaven side of her head swinging side to side.
“Kaom was a fool, just like Paoramo. He thought to defend the island by taking the world. He dared too much. Tukohama does not spend his rage against other Karui, nor does he favor blind ambition. He saves it to defend our people.”
I was startled at this. Kaom was worshipped almost as a god, and to hear Aunt Keileio speak of him this way ran counter to our entire culture.
“But all the men say Kaom was the greatest warrior we have ever known. He was the king.”
“He was misguided, and he weakened us near fatally. The men speak of glory, of valor in battle, but what did we achieve from his conquest? The loss of a generation, our finest warriors vanished into a nightmare land, and the survivors desperately clinging to these islands, ripe prey for more subjugation. Kaom’s intentions may have been pure, but he failed. Oriath eyes our shores once more, and we have few to defend them.”
I shook my head. Aunt Kaileio’s words were confusing. I would have to think on them.
“Is that what Paoramo meant about Tukohama’s warriors always watching the seas?”
“Yes. To be a son of Tukohama is to dedicate your life to the protection of the Ancestors; the protection of this island.”
I still didn’t understand.
“But what does this have to do with me?”
Aunt Kaileio’s voice grew soft.
“A son of Tukohama is sworn to defend this land, and those within it. He fights with the rage of the god himself, and there is no battle he will not wage to guard his people.”
She paused, drawing in a breath. It was the first time I ever saw Aunt Kaileio afraid.
“A son of Tukohama hears the voices of the Ancestors, and will hear them always, until the very last day of his life. The end of that life is always violent.”
My steps faltered, the words finally hitting home.
“Then I am...”
“Yes. You, child, have heard their voices. You have felt the blood rage. That is why I am taking you to Elder Huhava.”
We passed the rest of the trip in silence.
The sun was low in the sky when we finally arrived at Elder Huhava’s shelter, a tidy collection of logs and woven palm leaves perched on a rocky cliff. It overlooked the sea below, whitecaps glittering in the dying light. Seabirds swooped and circled through the air, their piercing shrieks bouncing off the black stone. The axe felt heavy in my hand, the head even more so, my legs tired and sore. My earlier energy had dissipated, leaving in its place a leaden weight of numbness, until I felt I could barely walk another step. Aunt Kaileio raised her voice in greeting to the empty trees.
“Ayahh, Elder, it is Kaileio. We must speak.”
A figure faded into view from an area I swore had been empty not ten seconds before. Dark black braids fell from the unshaven side of her head, and she held a long bow similar to the one carried by Aunt Kaileio, though hers was nocked and drawn. Her face was lined with the scars of middle-age, wrinkles radiating out from the corners of her mouth and eyes. Upon seeing us more closely, she slowly let the tension out of the string and walked over, replacing the arrow in a small quiver on her back.
“Greetings Kaileio. Child. What brings you here?”
I took a seat on the warm rock while Aunt Kaileio recounted the earlier events of the day, my attention waning. It seemed forever ago that I had chased down the invading warriors, and after the long hike through the jungle, my body demanded rest. It took all my willpower not to succumb to sleep right there. Gradually, I became aware that Elder Huhava was talking about me, her expression dour.
“...must stay here. There is no other choice.”
I stared at her, her words making no sense to my exhaustion-fogged brain. She leaned down and plucked the axe and head from my unresisting hands.
“Go inside, child, and rest. There is a blanket on the floor. You may use it. Wash yourself first.”
Nearly numb, I staggered into the hut, a low fire dimly illuminating the interior. A clay jug of water near the window rinsed the blood from my face and hands, and then I could hold back my body’s demands no more. I toppled onto the blanket and immediately into sleep.
I woke to beams of sunlight streaming through the wooden slats of the window onto my face, seabirds trilling their endless cries outside. My body felt refreshed, my mind as well. Yawning, I pushed myself into a sitting position, the blanket falling away from my body.
“Good, child, you wake. Some do not, the morning after.”
Elder Huhava sat cross-legged by the fire, a small animal roasting over it. Juices hissed and sizzled where they dripped into the flames. In her lap was an elaborately carved box, faces flowing into each other around its entire length, their expressions almost seeming to move of their own volition so cleverly were they crafted. I almost felt that they would speak to me if I stared at them long enough. Voices - of wisdom, of knowledge, of power...
A sudden snap of fingers brought my attention back to the Elder. It was like waking from a dream.
“There will be time for you to examine the soul-shelter later. It is dangerous for the untrained to commune freely with them. As the lava flows from the mountain, so must we shape your mind to channel the Ancestors safely. Otherwise...”
She made a bursting motion with her hand, and I nodded. As children, all of us had been taught of Ngamahu’s rage, the smoldering heat that lives below the earth. On most days, she dwelt in her dark prison, slumbering, but every so often, she would remember her trickery at the hands of Lerango, and on those days, her rage trembled entire islands. Steam still rose from the shattered remnants of the south island, though Ngamahu’s rage had coursed through it when Aunt and Uncle were younger than I.
I did not wish to end up a crater.
Elder Huhava reached into a pouch at her waist and withdrew a small chisel - a device used for ritual tattooing. It was of white gull bone and beautifully engraved, the cross-hatching of prayer sigils a darker grey against the pale bone. She beckoned to me.
“Come here, child. You have committed a great deed, the first of many, and it must be recorded. The Ancestors are pleased.”
“Will it hurt?” I asked, kneeling at her side.
“Yes,” she replied simply, “but the true warrior does not fear pain. He embraces it, as a lover.”
She set the chisel against my shoulder, and drew back the small wooden mallet. The edged point was curiously warm against my skin, as if the bone was still a living thing, eager for my touch.
“He uses it, as a weapon against his foes.”
The mallet descended, the chisel cutting a thin groove in my flesh. Blood welled up from the incision, bright red beads like small jewels.
“He takes it in, every last sensation, until he can take no more, yet still he endures.”
She dipped a finger into the wooden box, what she had called the ‘soul-shelter,’ bringing out a black, paste-like substance, and smoothed it into the wound. Fire erupted in my mind, a burning unlike anything I had ever felt. It was like the very essence of Ngamahu, immolating everything inside my flesh until nothing but ash remained. My body tensed, but I did not move, or scream, or flinch, because another sensation was rapidly overwhelming the pain.
It was anger, the incandescent purity of total rage, and that anger coursing through me dwindled the flames into nothing, made them seem the coldest night of the harshest winter. Looking down, I could see the darkness seeping into me, spreading under my skin in greedy tendrils. Elder Huhava smiled, and placed the chisel against my shoulder again.
“The true warrior does not fear pain, because the pain does not exist. There is only life, and death, and you will serve the first until the second claims you. You are a son of Tukohama.”
It took three descents of the sun for Elder Huhava to finish the tattoo. I stayed awake the entire time, drinking only a special broth that she would brew at midday from mysterious ingredients, but whose efficacy at keeping me aware was quite potent. When she finally lay the chisel down, the entirety of my right shoulder, chest, and upper arm was covered in the inked swirls of recollection, my history writ upon my body. I flexed my aching arm, watching the curved lines dance and twist, and pride rose in my heart. I looked at her, the room seeming to swim in my vision.
She gazed back, expression inscrutable.
“Now you learn of Kitava.”
She clapped her hands, and the room went dark. Not the darkness of night, or sleep, but the darkness of the grave, a pure negation of light. Chill dankness seeped through my bones.
Welcome, child. It has been long since I have spoken with one such as you.
“What- where am I? Who are you?”
I am your Ancestor, child. You hear my voice, do you not?
I hesitated. This voice did not sound like the choral harmony of the other voices I had heard before. There was a... a hunger, to this voice. As if it needed something so foul, that to describe it would be to curse oneself to oblivion.
“You do not sound like my Ancestors.”
Those were not your Ancestors. Those are weak spirits who would chain you, keep you from your true purpose.
“My true purpose?”
Power. Glory. Triumph. All of these are yours for the taking. Do you not remember the feel of blood on your face?
Suddenly I was back in the clearing, the last warrior on his knees in front of me, dark hair covering his bowed face. I raised my axe high, exultation filling my mind. Soon, his skull would adorn my belt with the others, another symbol of my prowess.
I looked down at my waist. On it were thousands, millions of skulls, each grinning the horrible rictus of death.
Each one Karui, Molani and Kahoraki among them.
The axe leaped in my hand, like a thing possessed, and came swinging down. With a roar, I twisted it aside from the warrior at the last instant, burying it into the ground. Even so, it scored a small groove on his cheek, a thin trickle of blood dripping steadily into the soil. His face remained hidden.
“Who are you!”
I am what you desire. I am the power to take what you want, and lay waste to all who oppose you.
The warrior disappeared. In his place lay Atirina, her face turned away, her tanned body curving in places I had never noticed before. She moved to cover herself, and a surge of emotion stirred within me, a powerful need filling my loins. Smiling, I reached for her, intent on satiating my lust. It was only proper. Such was the way of the world.
My hand closed on her loincloth, and I snarled. Atirina was like my sister! This was forbidden; taboo. I tried to pull away, but my hand would not obey me. Grunting, I forced my other hand around my wrist, muscles quivering with the effort. My fingernails pierced the skin of my traitorous limb, and crimson seeped out in quarter moon crescents. Enraged, I ripped my arm hand away from her, tearing the loincloth with it. Atirina continued to lay there, unmoving.
“WHO ARE YOU!”
I am everything you wish to be, but don’t have the courage to admit. I am the natural culmination of this world and everything in it.
Scenes flashed in front of my eyes - flames leaping from burning villages, screaming people falling to flashing axes, the bloodlust of battle and carnage. Heaped piles of jewels and gold, ornate weapons and armor on racks, rooms filled with willing women. In every one, a celebration of my strength.
I am the greatness of eternity, a sliver of which you can possess. All you need do is submit. Allow my essence to guide your path.
The images flashed faster and faster, a nauseous display of corruption. Grimacing, I bit the inside of my cheek. The salt-iron tang of blood filled my mouth, and I dove into the pain, searching for the rage that lay on the other side.
You think to defy me? You think to master the pain and turn it against me?
Countless deaths slammed through me, every one my own. The freezing bite of ice, shocking bursts of lightning, fire igniting my hair and eyes, clubs and swords and things half flesh and half nightmare rending me limb from limb, and all the while the laughter of death in my ears.
MY WORLD IS PAIN AND YOU WILL SUBMIT.
It felt like my heart was going to burst. Screaming, I embraced it all, let it flow through my body, let it scour away my fear in a tidal wave of agony until, finally, I emerged from the other side, into the calm center of the hurricane’s eye.
“NEVER,” I said, and my voice was not just my own, undertones of a vast and terrible presence weaving through the word.
The scenes abruptly stopped, and once again I was in the blackness.
So you say now, but I have patience. My hunger never sleeps.
“Who... are you...” I gasped, falling to my knees, my legs buckling.
I am the dark beneath the world. I am the dying breath of the stars. I am he who feasts, and we will meet again, son of my brother. Oh yes.
The world reappeared, and the last thing I saw before I passed out was the sprawled shape of Elder Huhava, her clothing torn from her body, a shallow cut on her cheek oozing blood from her twitching face.
The next time I awoke, my entire body felt as if island pigs had trampled it. I grunted in pain, slowly rolling myself into a sitting position on the floor. Once again, Elder Huhava sat across the fire from me, a red scar lining her left cheek.
“What... what happened...” My voice was shaky, weak.
“You learned of Kitava, the dark spirit. Not all who encounter him survive.”
“Are you... did I...”
She shook her head.
“Had you succumbed to him, one or both of us would be dead, and you would not care. That you can ask the question means you know the answer.”
“Then the gods are real.”
She laughed, the sound startlingly out of place.
“Of course they’re real. Before the weight of Empire, we communed with them regularly. Now, it is harder, but that does not negate their existence. The Ancestors guide us, and in return are guided by the gods.”
“But what of Kitava? He said he was an Ancestor as well.”
Elder Huhava’s laughter died away.
“The dark spirit is of the Karui, yes, but he is a perversion of the Karui Way. To follow his voice is to feed him your eternal soul, and each feast gives him more strength. Should he ever grow strong enough, he will break his chains and consume this world. You must always be aware of his temptation.”
I thought back to the visions.
“I do not think I will ever forget. What happens to me now?”
Elder Huhava climbed shakily to her feet.
“Now, you will travel back to the village, and learn from the warriors there. They will teach you how to fight, how to use axe and club to scatter your enemies, but you must always remember your purpose. You must remember that you are a son of Tukohama, and that the true enemies are those who would destroy the Karui Way. There is a strength in you I have not seen elsewhere, but Kitava desires that strength as well. You must keep it from him.”
“I will,” I promised.
Of course, I was still young then, and foolish.
The seasons passed, as they always do, and I grew, in both years and knowledge. I took my place with the warriors of the village, and quickly surpassed them in martial skill and size, eventually becoming war leader. My club beat back the sporadic raids from Ran Guara, keeping our island of Ngakuramakoi safe and prosperous, and periodically we would raid them in return, for food, weapons, and women. In battles with the Ran Guara, I maimed, but did not kill, remembering the words of Aunt Kaileio, of Elder Huhava, and the waiting darkness below. Other Karui were not my enemy, so I controlled the rage. The alternative did not bear thinking on.
My friends grew with me. Tall Kahoraki joined the fishing boats, mastering the waves and tides, and his nets bulged with abundance from the sea. Molani and Atirina tended the soil and trees, growing the edible roots in the spring and summer, crafting fine tools and toys during the winter nights in their shelter, always smiling in each other’s company, doting on their children.
I had need of their tools and toys, for I had a family of my own. Beautiful Talea, my wife, taken from the Ran Guara by my own hand on my first raid as war leader. She fought at first, for customs must be upheld, and propriety maintained, but the instant we locked eyes we knew we were meant for each other, a destiny proven true with the birth of our first son, Kapa, and our second, Mani. I swore we would be the parents to them that Aunt Kaileio and Uncle Tualo were to me, a promise of safety, of protection. Aunt and Uncle had passed from a disease some years before, their bodies given to the birds, but still I remembered their faces, and honored their memories.
Life was good, the Ancestors silent, until the day that it wasn’t.
The night was dark, a few fires still glowing gently amidst the clustered huts of the village, when the attack began. My first warning was the warcry of our sentry watching the shore, and then his gurgled death-rattle. I leapt up from bed and grabbed my club, the sweat-stained wood, as always, comforting in my grasp. I looked at Talea.
“Guard the children, wife. The Ran Guara do not attack at night. This feels different.”
“Drive them out,” she said, grabbing her bow, her expression fierce, “whoever they are. You are the son of Tukohama. Show them the might of the Karui.”
“The Ancestors guide me. Be safe.”
She did not respond, busy as she was stringing the bow, and I ran outside. In the distance, flames bloomed suddenly from a domicile near the beach, and I heard unfamiliar voices speaking a harsh language.
I changed direction toward the intruders, and sprang out of the darkness into their midst, feet landing noiselessly on the still warm sand. My first strike pulped a face to gory ruin, my second stove in a breastplate so hard it drove metal shards into the luckless soldier’s heart. A spear came flashing toward me, its tip glinting in the flickering light, and I twisted to the side, altering a deadly stab into a shallow graze along my ribs.
Pain bloomed in my mind, and I bared my teeth in a feral grin. An instant later, the pain fell away, replaced by now familiar rage.
Drive them before you. Crush their skulls. Defend your people.
Howling, I spun into the rest of the soldiers, my club spinning around like a whirlwind, and death lay where I passed. Their black armor could not withstand the force of my blows, their gilded weapons could not do more than spur me to greater ferocity. The grunts of combat were soon replaced by cries for mercy, but I had no mercy to give.
The Karui must be protected, and Tukohama chose me.
It was then that I heard the screams.
They came from behind me, from the village.
They were not screaming in Oriathan.
I sprinted back through the sandy soil, my arms and legs churning, hot needles stabbing my lungs. I ignored it all and ran faster, pushing my body relentlessly, dreading the time it was taking to return.
The first body I saw was Kahoraki. Two spears pierced him to the ground, impaled through his chest, and a slender gutting knife lay near his outstretched arm. Blood coated its length, and in the trees was the corpse of an Oriathan, a gaping tear across his throat. I could not spare the time to grieve.
The next body was Molani, the cracked haft of a scythe still clutched in his hands, his headless corpse lying next to the neatly bisected halves of another Oriathan, entrails spilling out like worms. Just past him, two more Oriathans rested in the stillness of death, arrows sprouting neatly from their eyesockets, and then Atirina’s ravaged flesh appeared around the bend in the trail, grotesque slashes marring her slender form, splinters of a hacked up bow scattered about her.
I cursed and ran faster.
More bodies signposted my journey, Oriathan and Karui alike, men and women I’d known my entire life, ruthlessly cut down by butchers in ebon armor. The rage inside me grew and grew, until it felt like the world must crack apart from the force of my pounding feet, but it was as nothing compared to the sight I witnessed next.
A woman in red, her features hidden behind a mask, malicious glee dancing in the darkened sockets of her eyes while she dissected a still living body, its screams shrill and piercing.
A man in white robes with red trim, lightning crackling about his fist, slamming it through the chest of Talea, my wife, blood pouring from her open mouth, her eyes grown dim and lightless.
A dark haired man in ebon armor, small scars over his right temple, fireballs leaping through the air from his scepter, piles of ash where children once stood.
I witnessed this, and the pressure inside me grew brittle and sharp, threatening to shatter my mind like poorly blown glass. I could not breathe. I could not think.
That soldier. Behind them. Kill him, quietly.
The voice was familiar. I could not think. I did as it said.
Good. Now take the gem from his armor.
I watched my hand, as if from a distance, reach down for a green jewel set into the now-corpse’s breastplate. My fingers closed around it.
I thought I had known rage before. I thought Tukohama filled my veins.
I was wrong. I had mistaken shadows for the sun.
I touched the emerald edges of the stone, and the fire of creation exploded into life behind my eyes. An all-encompassing, all-consuming need to destroy that which surrounded me, to bathe in the world’s blood until the insatiable urge for violence ended everything. Dimly, I felt warm liquid trickle from my nose and ears, but ignored it as unimportant. There was only the rage, pure and clean.
Very good. Now kill them.
The woman spoke, then.
“Look, Dominus. One of the savages has a gem. Shall I end it?”
“No. This one... could be useful. Take it alive.”
She motioned to the ring of soldiers who had crept up behind me unnoticed, and they advanced, shields and blades held warily forward.
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and the red mist coloring my eyes laughed with me.
When I moved, it seemed like they were caught in amber, just beginning the effort to block or parry when my club or fist or foot was already striking home. Their jaws shattered, their bones broke, their eyes grew wide with fear, and every time I killed one, the rage inside me renewed itself, a surge of energy granting me fresh vitality. The gem seemed fused to my hand, its green light pouring out between my clenched fingers, and I used it just as much as a weapon as I did the club, and every other part of my body.
Yes. Kill them all. Feast on their flesh, let it drive you forward.
With a start, I realized all the soldiers were dead, and only the three other figures remained. I stalked toward them, blood dripping from my entire body, some of it my own. The one in the middle, Dominus, looked at me curiously, while the other man, the one in ebon armor, flinched back. The woman stood firm alongside her robed compatriot.
“You see, Piety? Even though it is but a savage, it still has an innate understanding of the gem. There is something here, in these people, that we must understand if the work is to proceed. That is why we must take these isles.”
“All well and good, my lord, but what will we do about the one in front of us?”
“A savage is slave to his desires, my dear. The key is knowing how to tighten the chains.”
Kill them! Claim their skulls!
I had almost reached the vile three when Dominus made a gesture, and a wall of pure ice rose before me. Bellowing, I smashed through it, but then another rose, and another. I crushed them with my club, and when that broke, my fists, but I could feel the vitality leaving my limbs. The rage was ebbing, and with it, my lifeforce. Finally, another ice wall arose, and I could do nothing more than slump to my knees, exhausted. The gem fell out of my nerveless fingers.
You are weak. An embarrassment. You have failed your people. You have failed your family. You have failed your Ancestors.
I wanted to howl the word at the sky, but it came out as a grunt, the last gasp of a body pushed too far. I toppled over to my side.
If you want your vengeance, you must grow stronger. You must listen to me. To your Ancestors. I will show you the Way.
“I will,” I panted, blood-drenched sand gritty against my face. “I will have my vengeance. I will follow the Way. Show me.”
The voice said nothing, and then my world went black. The last sound I remember was the clinking of manacles.
I have been a month on this cursed island of Oriath, this wretched pile of stone and death, and my vengeance remains incomplete. I will find this Dominus, and I will choke the life from his eyes, but first I must escape these slaver chains for good. I have learned some little of their tongue, enough to understand that when the man with leg coverings a child wouldn’t be caught dead in, this ‘High Justicar,’ when he calls me a slave, he expects me to accept it as fact. He does not understand why I am to be returned after each escape attempt, why I am not simply executed for disobedience, but I know why.
The man they call Dominus, he wants to enslave me. He wants to enslave my people, and I am his tool with which to do so. He thinks to use me to take the isles.
He does not understand the Way.
I will never be a slave. The Karui will never be slaves, never kneel to Dominus and his murderous ways. I will burn the world down to prevent it, if I must.
At night, the Ancestors speak to me, tell me what I must do, and I listen, and I obey.
I do not think of my life before. I do not dare.
Last bumped on Apr 23, 2017, 7:59:56 AM
Another excellent effort. I appreciated your take on Karui castes and the inclusion of ritual tattooing as part of a warrior's life. The Karui are the most interesting part of the game's lore, I think you did them justice in the places you chose to magnify.
3/3 pants references. Excellent.
Ruby light of Songbird dreaming,
Daring King of Swords deceiving,
Queen of Sirens left in grieving,
Star of Wraeclast evermore.
This one came fast! Another great part of lore, i love these reads mate!
on Sep 7, 2015, 1:22:01 PM
Thanks! Duelist is up next, should be a bit more comedic than the previous ones. He strikes me as the not so serious type. We'll also finally learn what caused the Marauder to be exiled, I promise :)
This one is the one i enjoyed the most so far, although every background is really awesome.
Keep them coming, it's a really good reading.
GGG should really think about making you the story teller here, you have a knack for it.
Amazing yet again! Thank you for bringing Path of Exile lore to life!
on Sep 7, 2015, 5:24:39 PM
After reading the second one today, I realized we still don't actually know how the Marauder ended up exiled.
Guess I'll wait for the Duelist one :)
on Sep 7, 2015, 8:13:47 PM
These are great.
Le Toucan Will Return
Ah you're becoming an excellent marketing tool
😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 business a-blazing but no more t-shirts