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I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all [ATTN: Isha]


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It was bitterly cold. The distant BOOMings of trees, exploding from the deep freeze, provided apt counterpoint to the emotions tormenting Forge. He stood alone atop the castle’s highest battlement, suffering from a pain colder than anything the winter’s icy blasts could offer.


He couldn’t recall what he had said to the other, older, Ogier as he had left the comfort of their rooms below in Fal Dara’s main fortress keep, but he couldn’t take any more of their good natured conversation on this night. No, he needed to be alone. He knew they would all want to help him, but there was nothing they could do. Their knowing looks wouldn’t aid him any more than they did all those years ago, they would just make the pain all the more difficult to bear. He didn’t think he could handle anyone seeing him like this. The crackling fires weren’t enough to dissuade him from seeking the necessary solitude for his personal anguish in the sub-zero temperatures outside.


The group of Stonemasons had been here for several days repairing the damage done to the outer walls despite the sudden onslaught of winter. An attack by Trollocs and other Shadowspawn had reached the citadel itself late in the fall, and the Lord had sent off for the Ogier Stonemasons to re-build. It had taken them several weeks to arrive from Stedding Madan, but the work had gone well. Of course, they hadn’t been prepared for the bitter cold, but the keep’s Ladies had provided suitable clothing for them, even as large as the garments had to be made. He was wearing their work, a heavy coat and a thick cloak that popped violently in the tempestuous wind. It was all that separated him from joining the reason for his misery in eternal slumber. The removal of his heavy coat and cloak and a few minutes in the icy gale were the only thing between him and death. That and the knowledge that she wouldn’t approve.


Suicide was taboo among the Ogier, but the thought had certainly crossed his mind today. It did one day each year.


Today was the day Lily had died.


She wouldn’t have been happy if he killed himself, so he stood alone on the battlements, crying. The harsh bass rumble of his agonized sobs was weirdly echoed by the ongoing tree explosions in the distance, while the moaning cries of the wind as it whipped around the peaks and valleys of mankind’s refuge against the Shadow combined to sing a song of sorrow beyond human words.


His tears fell like a driving rain, freezing before they hit the ground. Each icy jewel shattered like the dreams of their future he used to have.


Delicately, he removed a carefully wrapped object from an inner pocket of his coat. Sliding down to sit with his back against the walkway’s wall, its glacial caress providing fertile ground for his pain to grow, Forge reverently removed the linen wrappings to reveal a marble carving. His hands, as large as hams, held an exquisitely depicted flower with the gentleness of a mother holding a newborn. A snow white Lily of marble, softly accentuated with hints of pink and gold. So vividly lifelike was the stonework, that an observer would be compelled to stop and caress it petals, would hope to catch a hint of its subtle fragrance.


He stared longingly at his tribute to his lost love, seeing not the masterpiece he held but the true beauty it represented.


His sobs wracked the night, but only heaven and the dead could hear them.

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Anger and agony

Are better than misery

Trust me I've got a plan

When the lights go off you will understand


Pain, without love

Pain, I can't get enough

Pain, I like it rough

'Cause I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all

Pain- Three Days Grace


The howling wind once more sent the open door crashing against the doorstop. Most of the glass from the window had lain on the floor in a broken mess since sometime last night. What remained of the glass was attached to the door in teeth-like shards, reminding Isha of Trolloc fangs and of that day almost exactly a year ago when the boy’s world had come crashing down.


Icy wind bit at his exposed flesh and set his still barely-healed scars afire. Yet that pain was nothing compared to the all consuming torrent of soul-crushing loss. His father, gone? How could the great, glorious Faerthines Talcontar be gone? How could Isha, for that was who he was now, go on?


His mind and heart automatically turned pain to anger for anger could be released and channeled into a thing, pain simply rotted with a person. And Light, what pain! What anger! How could such levels of intense emotion dwell inside the body and soul of a seventeen year-old boy, big though he may be? To have his father ripped from him just as he was entering manhood... His soul cried out in anguish.


More anger... More anger... Less pain... Less pain...


Rage built within the abnormally large boy until he could no longer contain it for fear of losing what little remained of his sanity. With a blood-curdling screech that was lost to the howling of the wind, he threw himself from the four-poster bed upon which he had been laying and onto the sharp glass on the cold, stone floor, made all the colder by the ice and snow that had blown in from the open balcony.


Sharp pain in his hands and side.


He reached his hand up towards what now remained of his face. A sharp of glass was stuck into it a full half-inch deep. Blood oozed out from around it and for a brief time Isha was mesmerized by it, taking his mind away from the nightmare of his life. Entranced, he lifted it up for a better look, incidentally allowing the inky darkness of the night to become its background. The light from the remaining oil lamp that braved the bitter winter wind reflected a twisted face back to the grieving adolescent.


It all came crashing back. Like the passing of the eye of a storm, the walls of winds surrounding the calm were twice as furious as those winds on the outskirts of the storm. Another cry of ultimate suffering was drowned out by the wind which seemed to grieve with him. The wind carried sobs to his ears; one ruined and one whole. The question the oddly comforting sounds arose was “was it the wind, or some other wretched being?”


The adage “misery loves company” came to mind as Isha pulled on a pair of breeches, forsaking a shirt for the comfort of icy wind. Lost as he was in his personal torment, matters of the physical body were of little concern. That there was glass shards in his right arm and side, dripping blood was a pin prick beside the excruciation of losing one’s closest friend, father and mentor all in the same fell swoop. Certainly the effects of hypothermia had little place in boy’s mind.


Walking against the wind, the sobbing slowly became more and more audible so that Isha was now sure it was a person and not some trick of his deranged mind. What he found on the highest battlements of Fal Dara’s keep were in no way what he was expecting, though welcome none the less.


A sobbing Ogier? Isha had never heard of the likes. Fascinated, the boy simply stood and watched, the only sound he emitted were of heavy breathing and chattering teeth. No doubt the Ogier would believe him a spirit should he turn around- though this did not register in Isha’s numbed mind. There he stood, half naked in the middle of the Shienaran winter, his nearly albino-pale skin blue with cold, scars raking his face and twisting it into a form- to his mind- barely recognizable as human and blood dripped from his right side.


“W-w-w-w-w-w-w-az-z-z-z-z-z-a-a-a-a-a ma-a-a-a-a-a-er-r-r-r-r?” What he had meant to say was “What’s the matter?” but his tongue was practically frozen in place and his lips couldn’t move correctly because his teeth were chattering so badly.

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OOC: i'm glad you picked up on the lyrics! heh. i'm really into that song now, for some reason... now onto business...


Staring out into the vast empty darkness before him, Forge confronted his pain atop the fortress’s highest battlement. He gripped the stone wall hard, as if he could force his anguish into the rock by the strength of his hands. How he missed her! The cold was his only companion, as it should be when he laid bare the agony of his soul. He was lost to his surroundings as he searched inside himself for solace from her death.


“W-w-w-w-w-w-w-az-z-z-z-z-z-a-a-a-a-a ma-a-a-a-a-a-er-r-r-r-r?”


He started at the sound behind him, the stone battlement he was gripping shattered as fury poured into him. Who dared force themselves upon his grief?! Turning with a speed that gave lie to his massive size, he sought out the unwelcome intruder. His ears lay flat against his skull, a visible testament of his rage to any who missed the bared teeth and murderous glare from a face that suddenly looked harder than an anvil. Spying a half naked man staring at him, Forge felt a rush to stamp the human out. But even angry Ogier aren’t hasty, and the moment he took to consider the situation prevented another pointless death.


Forge stared at the broken figure fearfully staring up at him. Blue with cold and dripping with blood, the man was a figure from a nightmare as bleak as the one Forge had been dealing with moments ago. The man’s face was contorted from the cold and by two long scars. He bled from both his naked side and his bare feet, which were freezing to the stone as they bled. The duo stared at each other in shocked silence so complete the Ogier could hear the ghostly figure’s teeth chattering in the frigid air despite the wind popping his own cloak. If I do nothing, in a couple more minutes I will be alone again with no one but the dead to hear my respects, Forge thought coldly.


He smashed the horrible thought with the force of one of his hammers hitting steel. Still, he didn’t know what to do.


The few brief moments seemed to stretch into years as they stared at each other, until the Shienaran winter forced his hand. The nearly naked man crumpled to the icy stone floor, his body succumbing to the intense cold.


Forge acted on the instant. He had to help the fallen human! Lily would expect it, and maybe his appearance was a sign from her… Feeling the frigid body, Forge tore off his cloak and wrapped it around the freezing man. He lifted him easily, only then realizing how large the scarred and bleeding man was for a human. Holding him like a mother would a giant baby, he hurried downstairs to find a fire. He had no time to lose.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hazel eyes regarded the Ogier from a face that had since turned blue. The calm, steady gaze of the Shieneran man-boy contrasted the violently shivering body it inhabited. To Isha, it seemed he was an onlooker from the naked man’s point of view, rather than an actual participant in the scene. Light from the open doorway behind him illumined the Ogier’s face. With the black sky and driving snow as a backdrop, it was surreal to Isha; it seemed as though he gazed at a painting.


The Ogier’s face was set, clearly displaying rage. Teeth bared and ears laid back, the massive Ogier was a formidable being in a formidable setting. The painting would strike both fear and awe in the hearts of any who gazed upon its incredibly accurate depiction. Almost apathetically, he wondered who had painted it as his consciousness slipped away.


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Blink. Blink.


Flashes of light assaulted Isha’s eyes as he struggled to remember why he was lying beside a fire, wrapped in some sort of blanket.

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OOC: that was short, but it was a great post, E! how am i supposed to follow that? heh. :D


The turmoil that accompanied Forge’s announcement reminded the giant Ogier of kicking an ant hill.


The humans scurried about frantically, shouting instructions of “What must be done” and “Send word immediately.” He had barged into the common room and declared that, “A giant, bleeding man-boy is dying from hypothermia. I’ve done what I could to stem the cold’s effects, but I fear that he needs more aid.” In the uproar that followed, he described the boy’s location, that he had wrapped him in his Ogier cloak, and that he had gotten a fire going.


After that, he was completely ignored. He sat on the floor with his back to the wall, waiting patiently for news of the boy’s welfare. In the meantime, his mind played tricks on him. At the corners of his vision, he would have sworn that Lily had just passed by, arms loaded with heated blankets to help the boy. Or he felt her gentle touch on his cheek, checking to make sure that he was okay. He dozed intermittently and in his dreams he spoke with Lily, telling her about his day and how she looked more beautiful than the first flower of spring.


Forge was unsure if the tears that streamed down his face were because of the dreams, or because upon waking he realized they weren’t real and that his world was empty without her.


At some point during the hubbub, he gathered that the giant boy was someone of importance. Forge didn’t care, he just hoped that the youth would survive the night.


The night grew older, and what warmth the day had given faded remorselessly. The worried Ogier finally succumbed to his fatigue, falling asleep where he sat, his giant body covered with a blanket by a compassionate servant at some late hour.


The Wheel turned, weaving what it would.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Estel

Awareness returned. First the sense of smell; fire and smoke, sweat and herbs. Voices drifted to his ears- his good left ear and what remained of his right ear. When he first perceived them, they were distant, fuzzed to inaudibility though somehow Isha read the concern in their blurry tones and as touch returned and the ability to connect his sense to form the full picture, then came the understanding. Last came sight but by that time it was only a confirmation of what Isha already knew.


The room was filled with women, dashing left and right, here and there, to and fro all in seeming unorder and chaos but Isha knew the pattern as he knew the voice that shrieked in relief and exasperation at the opening of his eyes.


“Jethro Talcontar-Jagad! What in the bloody Pit of Doom do you think you’re doing? Your father died to save you, fool boy, dying would be a poor way to thank him.” The voice of his aunt, his mother’s sister-in-law, shrieked in a high soprano above the din of the room and not even the healers’ hands drawing shards of glass from his legs and side could drown out sound at that high decibel. For a boy used to the rough, soothing bass of soldiers- not to mention his quasi-conscious state- it set his head to pounding and fanned the heredity temper his father had been famous for.


“I am Isha!”


“You did not betray him!”


“I did not save him.”


“You could not save him.”


“If I had...”


“Light blast you, boy! There was nothing you could have done and wasting your life in grief will neither bring your father back nor will it help him lie easy in his grave. You know I loved him as a brother, despite his moods and secrets. Your grief is mine and your uncle’s as well, but it’s been over a year now...”


“A year, a century it does not matter. I’ll have my revenge.”


“Then take it, boy, you can avenge no one dead. I’ll hear no more of this. The healers have addressed your self-inflicted wounds as best they can and I suggest you rest.” Lady Jagad was the last to leave the room after the gaggle of healers had filed out. With a last tired sigh, she used her head to gesture towards one of the corners of the room. “You should thank your Ogeir friend. He’s the one who saved your life.” With that she was gone, leaving Isha to swivel his head towards the indicated shadowed corner.


A long moment passed while Ogeir and boy once more regarded each other, the boy unaware he had already done so. Still unsure as to whether he was actually thankful for the rescue or not, Isha instead addressed the question he had first asked, still unaware he had done so before. “Why were up on the ramparts? Last I remember I heard a voice crying and followed it. Who do you mourn?”

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A woman’s high-pitched shout woke him from his disturbing dreams.


He didn’t move, though, because an argument broke out between the woman and the prone man-boy. The words were disturbing, causing Forge to consider again the struggles these delicate humans overcame in their short lives. The boy had obviously gone through something tragic with his father. The gigantic Ogier could relate.


At the woman’s mention of him he re-focused on the matter at hand, and with her swift departure he looked at the boy.


The big lad’s eyes searched him out, although he was easy to find. Even sitting on the floor, his head was higher than the bed, and the shadowed corner he was sitting in wasn’t nearly large enough to hide his massive frame.


The boy’s words were a probing effort, searching for something even he didn’t understand, and Forge thought them over carefully before answering. When he finally responded, his tranquil, deep bass voice was pitched just loud enough for the boy to hear it over the crackling fire.


“I mourn a lost loved one, much as yourself.” Pausing, he considered his next words before continuing. “The lady called you by a different name than the one you have taken for yourself… Isha. Could it be you chose that name because of the Betrayer of Hope, Ishmael?” The bed-ridden figure didn’t answer, just staring at him with eyes glassy from un-shed tears.


“You’re no Darkfriend, boy, or you wouldn’t care about his death so much. It is honorable to mourn the loss of loved ones, but destroying yourself in the process destroys the very things they loved in you. THAT is not a good idea.”


Adjusting himself slightly to find a more comfortable position, Forge looked carefully at the boy, past the scars and unnaturally large size, and saw a frightened youth. The Ogier knew very much what the lad was going through and decided, if the self-named Isha would allow it, to become his friend. Young men needed someone strong to lean on, and it seemed that Isha had lost his foundation. Perhaps the Ogier could help him re-build it.


“I will tell you my story,” Forge prompted, “But first I would hear yours. I have no wish to burden you with anything more until you lighten your load. Come, Jethro Talcontar-Jagad who calls himself Isha, tell me why you are torn on the inside and out.”

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Estel

Isha is betrayer in the Old Tongue. I betrayed my father.” Isha bit the words in anger but it was with himself, not the Ogier. “I should have saved him but I didn’t. Now he’s dead and I’m alive. It should be the other way around. And I could never be a Darkfriend. The Shadow took my father and someday it will fear the name Isha Talcontar.”


Almost as suddenly as it came, Isha’s self-righteous anger drained from him, leaving him tired. Unlike his father’s near-legendary fits of rage, Isha did not have the capacity to remain angry for long periods of time. “I barely even knew my father. He was my hero, my idol- General and Lord Faerthines Talcontar, one of the best swordsmen and strategists in Fal Dara. He was distant though and secretive. I always wished we were closer and I always blamed my own shortcomings for the distance between us.


“That was why I was so proud when he took me out riding last year. And then we got attacked. I froze and he was left to fight off the Trollocs on his own while protecting me. It killed him.” A lone tear slid its way down Isha’s scarred cheek as he struggled to contain the rest of them.

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Sitting with his back to the cold stone wall, the Ogier looked at the mournful boy through shaggy eyebrows, filled with sorrow for the boy’s lost father. He was an Ogier of action, not a philosopher. He preferred a hammer in his hand and the heat of the forge working good steel, the feel of stone in his hands, or walking toward the distant horizon. Deep thoughts were the realm of his friend Jeran. This was a moment for tender words, but Forge suspected that Isha, as he wished to be called, would do better if he could burn off his pain rather than lying in the dark soaking in it. The giant Ogier could understand completely.


Besides, the Borderlands were not a place for tenderness. Especially when it came to the Shadow.


“Your pain sings in my heart, Isha.” Forge put emphasis on the last word. “You are wrong to feel like you betrayed your father, but your remorse does him honor. However, your self-destruction does not honor his memory, and it will do nothing to preserve his legacy.”


“If you wish to take a new name, so be it. That is your right, even if you choose such an ill-fitting one. But know this: you could have done nothing but die alongside your father if you had tried to fight. You weren’t ready to cross steel with a Trolloc. He did his duty, both as a warrior and as a loving father, when he gave his life to save yours. I think you should remember that.”


Standing, Forge looked down on the pitiful wreck in the sick bed and was inspired to add one more thought before leaving the boy alone with his thoughts.


“You can never bring your father back, but you can prepare yourself to fight the Shadow as he did. When you are ready, find me and I will begin showing you the path. I will be here for a while yet repairing your keep’s walls, so rest now. But if you want to follow in your father’s way, I will do what I can to aid your quest.”

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Estel

Forward yesterday -- Makes me wanna stay.

What they said was real -- Makes me wanna steal.

Livin' under house -- Guess I'm livin', I'm a mouse.

All's I gots is time -- Got no meaning, just a rhyme.

Take time with a wounded hand -- Cause it likes to heal

Take time with a wounded hand -- Cause I like to steal

Take time with a wounded hand -- Cause it likes to heal...I like to steal.

I'm half the man I used to be -- This I feel as the dawn, it fades to gray.

Half the Man I Used to Be- Nirvana


Isha sighed heavily. He had heard it before and Light burn him he agreed but that did nothing for the oppressive cloud of guilt hanging over him. He wanted to do something about it, rather than just sitting here. There was no way his uncle would allow him to leave the city and wreak his revenge. This sitting here, doing nothing was eating at his soul, his sense of honour- it was driving him mad.


The silence left in wake of the Ogier’s departure gave Isha more than enough time to ponder its words. Despite having been in recluse since his father’s death, having had someone to take his mind of his father’s death- or rather divert his attention from his guilt to planning revenge. For the first night in a very long time, Isha’s dreams were happy... vindictive, rather.


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The next day, much to the shock of his aunt and uncle, he rose early and left his rooms and in fact the whole keep itself. He spent the morning wandering through the city, stretching legs that had long since become used to entire days of lying around doing nothing. Despite the whispers and stares he received, a small smile curved his scarred lips, unfortunately twisting it into a sneer.


Walking those crowded streets, he remembered going with his father years ago to buy his first sword which he had worn so proudly at first. Now it lay abandoned in his room, his right to wear it gone with his father. But even that could not sour his mood and he even managed a half-decent conversation with an off-duty officer though both parties conspicuously avoided the topic of the lord general so that every minute silence echoed with his name and Isha eventually left when he could no longer take the false courtesies.


When he returned to the keep at mid-day, his long legs ached and when he looked down at them, puzzled, he realized for the first time how much weight he had lost during his year of seclusion. Disgust filled him as he ran back to his room, looking at himself in the mirror. Now that he was so super-thin, his abnormal height was all the more apparent. His skin, starved of the sun, was a deathly white and held a sick tinge to it giving him the appearance of a wraith. Blood and ashes, cover his face with a black hood and he’d be mistaken for a Fade!


Horrified with what he had become, Isha returned to the Ogier’s words last night:


“You can never bring your father back, but you can prepare yourself to fight the Shadow as he did. When you are ready, find me and I will begin showing you the path. I will be here for a while yet repairing your keep’s walls, so rest now. But if you want to follow in your father’s way, I will do what I can to aid your quest.”


With purpose he had lacked for the past twelve months, Isha all but ran from his rooms, out towards the walls where the Ogier were working. The one he had spoken with last night, he had yet to learn its name, was easy to pick out from the others as he was big even in comparison to them. A feeling of kinship rose in the boy, knowing all too well what it was like to be singled out because of body type.


“You never told me your name or story.” The Ogier was hard at work with the stones and when Isha tried to help by lifting one of the blocks- a task that would have been quite possible a year ago- he dropped it immediately, cursing the hunk of stone and himself.


“It seems even inanimate objects agree with you. I admit it, I was a fool to cloister myself up and I’ve rotted for the last year. I’m half the person I used to be and my father was five times the man I could ever be. Please, help me avenge his memory.”

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Forge hung from the wall like some strange, giant insect. Dripping with sweat and covered in a thin veil of dust, he was completely at ease up here over fifty paces off the ground. He was the best of the Builders with either stone or steel, and the rickety scaffolding that clung to the keep’s massive wall like a creeper vine on an oak was a second home to him. The Creator had taken so much from the massive Ogier, but he had given something back as well.


The other Ogier couldn’t understand Forge’s joy at crafting lifeless stone into such beautiful and strong structures. They loved the trees. In their minds, the skill with Stone was just something that had been picked up during the Breaking. But for Forge, whose spiritual connection with the trees had never existed, the ability to craft lifeless stone and shape cold steel until they almost blossomed into life was the most joy that he had left in this world.


At least now that Lily was gone.


He loved the feel of his muscles bulging as he moved the giant stone blocks, and he reveled in the joy of fitting the massive blocks so smoothly that you could hardly even see the join. Satisfaction in a job well done, especially knowing no one else could do it as well, was one of the few things that could help him forget the emptiness in his heart where true happiness used to live. He tried to stay busy for that very reason. He didn’t like thinking about what he missed.


Over the hubbub of his kindred’s construction work, he heard a distinctly un-Ogierlike voice shout up at him from below. “You never told me your name or story.”


Looking down from his perch, Forge saw the human boy-man from the night before. He looked vividly out of place here amongst the dark, much larger Ogier stonemasons. His deathly white pallor almost glowed in the sunlight, his presence and vitality in stark contrast to the sickly gauntness of his features. As if the giant boy read his thoughts, he attempted to pick up one of the smaller stones that lay near his feet but managed to only just barely lift it before dropping it nearly on his foot.


Cursing himself and the stone, Isha, as he wanted to be named, lifted his gaze back to Forge and again shouted over the noise. “It seems even inanimate objects agree with you. I admit it, I was a fool to cloister myself up and I’ve rotted for the last year. I’m half the person I used to be and my father was five times the man I could ever be. Please help me avenge his memory.”


Sighing deeply because he didn’t know if Isha knew what he was getting into, the sound like an old oak’s limbs swaying in a stiff wind, Forge swung over the edge of the scaffold he was on, hanging there briefly before dropping to the ground with a thud.


He removed the band that held back his pony tail, he kept his hair cut shorter than most Ogier, then shook his head to get the sweat out of his face, sending a fine spray of perspiration all around. He re-gathered his hair and tied it back up before rubbing the carefully trimmed, short strip of hair just below his bottom lip. His lack of a mustache and a true beard was an ongoing joke with the other Masons, but Lily had said he looked handsome. Forcing himself to halt the reverie, he considered the boy before him.


Isha was already a giant among the humans, despite his youth and the wasted state of his body. Forge felt sympathy toward how different he must always feel. What caught the Ogier’s attention, though, was the look in Isha’s eyes and the determined set of his jaw. Perhaps the youth would be able to face the difficult days ahead after all. With a nod, Forge spoke.


“I am called Forge, but my story can wait until the work is finished. Your path will be hard. VERY hard,” the Ogier said emphatically, his stern expression driving home the point. “Are you ready?”


The boy nodded silently.


“The first step is to re-build your body just as we are re-building this wall. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. After that, we begin forging a weapon.” Pointing to a pile of blocks lying in the distance approximately the same size as the one Isha had barely moved moments before, Forge said, “We need those stones brought over here. It will take you a while, so start when you’re ready.”


With that, their work together began.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Estel

Isha stood, trying to look as determined and strong as possible. In truth, he was more than a little nervous. His nerves compounded ten-fold when Forge gave him his task. ‘Blood and ashes! I couldn’t lift even one rock and he expects me to move the entire pile for him!’ He was on the verge of protesting but caught Forge’s eye and immediately steeled himself for the task, bowing his head in acquiescence.


Taking a moment to stretch long-unused arms and legs, the boy took hold of both side of the stone, just as he was about to lift her heard Forge call back “Be careful not to lift with your back.” Grumbling under his breath, too low for even the Ogier’s large ears, Isha squatted beside the stone and then replaced his hands where they had been. Drawing a deep breath, he tightened his muscles and tried to stand.


Immediately, the stone tipped away from him and he leaped back to avoid having the stone land back on his feet and hands. “Damnit!” He glanced over at Forge but the Ogier seemed to be paying him no mind. Sighing, Isha placed his hands closer to the opposite side of the stone and tried again.


With a burst of energy, he lifted the stone a few feet and then managed to his knee under it. Another burst, and he was stooped like a wizened old man, the stone balanced between his hands and his pelvic bone. Like an elder without a cane, he hobbled a few steps before dropping the stone where Forge had instructed.


With a relieved sigh he straightened and smiled proudly. Wiping sweat off his brow, he re-stretched while walking back over to the pile.


By the time he had moved half the stones, Isha’s limbs felt like water. He had already dropped one stone on his foot which ached so bad he was sure he had crushed every bone in it. His thumb bled from where he had split the skin under another brick and that was only the worst wound on his hands which were completely cut up from sharp little slivers of rock.


He glanced at the enormous Ogier desperately but received no pity in return. With a piteous whine he sagged against the wall muttering about having a five minute break so he wouldn’t die of exhaustion- there were a good many comments about bloody Ogier mixed in between words as well. Apparently, though, his plight wasn’t completely unnoticed as Forge threw a water canteen at him that he was too tired to catch and it ended up bouncing off his head and into his lap. Uncaring for the bruise that earned him, he gulped down water greedily and was able to stagger to his feet roughly ten minutes after having sat down.


Being so drenched in sweat and his hands so clammy, he ended up dropping the first rock he picked up on his left hand. “MOTHER’S MILK IN A FLAMING CUP!” His cry echoed across the entire keep and a number of people, not only Ogier but soldiers in the courtyard below, looked up. Heaving the stone off his limb with his shoulder and uninjured right hand, he collapsed to the ground clutching the crushed hand against his body and whimpering in pain.


ooc: hope I didn't NPC Forge too much

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  • 2 weeks later...

Forge’s approach to the giant young human went unnoticed, as the man-boy was paying more heed to nursing his various minor injuries and cursing the harsh cruel world that made him suffer so. The Ogier’s sense of humor found the entire scene amusing, but for the boy’s sake he didn’t antagonize him with any jokes. Forge didn’t think his psyche could handle that just yet. Instead, the Ogier dropped to a crouch and offered a few words of encouragement.


“Tar Valon wasn’t built in a day.”


With a rich chuckle at the lad’s pained expression, Forge stood and offered Isha a hand up. As the boy rose, the young Ogier master Mason clapped him on the back and urged Isha to come along.


“Your body didn’t fall into its dreadful state of disrepair overnight, Isha. So use that big head of yours for something besides a hat rack. You’re not going to re-build it overnight either. When I offered to help you, it was a long-term project I was anticipating. You should know that now, if you didn’t think of it before.”


The Ogier’s face nearly split in two with the wide grin that formed after Isha flashed an angry glare at him. The Ogier’s attitude was undiminished however, and soon even Isha lightened up. Well, a little bit anyway.


“Come, my large human friend. If we’re going to get any work out of you tomorrow, we must see that the fires for your forge are well fed. It’s time to eat!” The Ogier’s voice boomed with pleasure as the duo joined the procession to sup at the evening meal and share counsel and jokes with one another. Eating for Ogier is a festive time, and Forge hoped being around more merry faces would lift the boy’s spirits a bit in the days to come.


Days turned into weeks then into months, as Forge and Isha worked side by side. The young giant’s body rapidly grew into its skin with the regimen of incredibly difficult physical labor and plentiful food. Soon, the bulging muscles that rippled under the boy’s clothing replaced the lank, dead-looking flesh that had drug itself out of the self-enforced solitude to ask the Ogier for help.


Isha was growing into a man, in more ways than one. Forge hadn’t forgotten about the boy’s request to hear his own tale of woe, but he hadn’t cared to share it before now. But Isha had grown both physically and mentally in his time working on the walls, so Forge thought the time had come to reveal a bit more of himself. One evening he broached the subject with the strapping lad.


“We Ogier will be going to a stedding for a few days to refresh ourselves. I’d like you to come along. Maybe we could talk about things other than Stone and how much you hate dropping things on your feet.” Forge’s grin was for more than the jest. Isha said yes.

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Guest Estel

Sleek, rippling muscles made good progress against the boulders two other strong men would have lifted with difficulty. Exhaustion and the pain of strained muscles were old friends and their companionship brought a sort of self-satisfaction that not only matured the young man’s body but his self-esteem as well. His body was no longer disproportionate between height and girth. Rather, he looked a normal-sized man from a distance and with nothing around to bring his height into perspective.


At eighteen, Isha was already the tallest man in the keep and city. His uncle boasted of his nephew the giant and already the adjective had become another name to add to the collection he seemed to acquire. Isha, Giant; they were the now, Jethro had been given to the Mother’s Last Embrace with his father.


Life seemed to be looking up for the son of Fal Dara. He lived a comfortable life and was expected to rise quickly to his father’s position in the Shienaran army. However, these future prospects made him restless. What was his father’s position when the man himself should still be occupying it? What was a comfortable like when his father’s soul tossed and turned in its grave unavenged? How could he call himself the son of Faerthines Talcontar without avenging his father? It wasn’t enough to simply hold the Blight back year after year, watching as it unstoppably moved on, claiming more and more of Shienar, Kandor, Saldaea and Arafel- as it had claimed Malkier in the end.


No. Isha couldn’t stand by and “do what he could”. His father’s blood would be paid back thousands of times over in the black blood of Trollocs and Myrdraal. Revenge could not be achieved until the Shadow trembled at the mention of “Talcontar”. Nothing would stop him except his body bleeding out with a thousand horned head surrounding it even as he expended his last energy to cleave another head from his armoured shoulders.


This lust for revenge, burned a searing fire in hazel eyes that had once held nothing. Pain lingered as his mind worked ceaselessly at turning it to righteous rage to one day be turned against his father’s killers. Massive as Isha was in height, weight and strength, this fervent desire stunted his emotional growth. He couldn’t sit and hold conversations with his own cousins, not even Ingtar who had been the closest thing to a brother he had ever known. Every waking moment was spent plotting ideas for the destruction of entire clans of the monsters and every night spent dreaming of blood and iron. A certain amount of his humanity was lost and any remaining youth was burned out of him.


Faerthines had always been a hard man but even he could not level up to what his son had become. Beneath the scars, Isha had iron for a face. No tear had wet his cheeks since his physical training had begun. No laugh unmarred by bitterness had left his massive lungs since that day either. He felt no love and even struggled to feel friendship towards Forge and his uncle’s family. His soul was consumed by a hate that left room for nothing else.


When Forge had mentioned leaving Fal Dara for the stedding, Isha had jumped on the idea. Despite being emotionally distant, certain reminders of his father, scattered throughout the city, were painful. None dared broach the topic of the late Lord-General but the omission silently echoed in the boy’s ruined ears.


The day they were to leave, Isha saddled his horse and packed his saddlebags with a lighter spirit than he had felt in some time. Certain yokes of grief were lifted from his shoulders and laid down in his room to await his return. He mounted Blood Mist, his painted stallion, and even scratched the frisky beast behind the ear as it attempted to nip its usually distant master’s shoulder.


He met the party of Ogier in the keep’s courtyard, disconcerted by the sudden shift from being the largest and strongest to being the smallest and weakest. He smiled at Forge and manoeuvred his mount over to where the he stood. Even from horseback, the massive Ogier overtopped the Shienaran giant by a head. The thin crowds of the city parted to allow the unusual party through. To the casual eye, it seemed like the Ogier moved through a crowd of children who hailed them in the Old Tongue “Glory to the Builders!”


When the reached the gate, Isha heeled Blood Mist, stopping the horse in its tracks. The Ogier moved around him, only Forge concerned enough to stay back. The boy, for so he seemed at this moment, stared out the gate with a mixture of fear and grief twisting his prematurely scarred face. Tears ran down previously dry cheeks as he stared ahead with a fixed fascination.


“The last time we left here, only I came back. Only I…” Sobs wracked his massive frame, made small by the enormousity of the figure at his side.

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  • 1 month later...

Forge suspected something was coming when the boy halted his horse. And the Ogier was quick to respond with an understanding pat on the shoulder when Isha broke down into tears.


“I know, lad. I know,” Forge answered softly, his deep bass rumble pitched low enough so none of the onlookers from the walls or gate would hear. “It’s alright, lad. Let it out. A flawed core makes for weak stone. Or steel. Or men.”


“We can’t keep sitting here, though,” he added, looking around to see the other Ogier already gaining a large lead on the two dawdlers. Isha looked despondently at him, but was too emotional to put the words together, so Forge shushed him quiet. “I won’t leave you behind, Isha. I’m here.”


“We’ve a lot of work to do still yet,” he said, recognizing the depth of meaning in the words as soon as they left his mouth. “We’ll find our way together.”


The Ogier wasn’t sure, but he thought something approaching gratitude flashed behind the red-rimmed, tear-spilling eyes of the giant who was still just a boy. Nodding silently, Forge looked to make sure Isha was well seated in his saddle, and then clucked to the big spotted horse to get it moving.


The trip to the soothing confines of the stedding would prove cathartic for the Ogier, Forge knew, but would it be enough to save the broken shell of a man who traveled with them? Isha needed relief from the self-imposed burdens he carried within himself, but the giant Ogier had no idea how to re-build a man’s soul when the man himself wanted to destroy it.


It was going to be a long journey to the stedding.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Estel

Together…  He wasn’t alone.  The word hit him harder than any punch ever could.  ‘I’m not alone.  I’m not alone!’  He had been orphaned, isolated, separated and abandoned but he was still not alone.  Nodding back at Forge, the vision of the massive Ogeir set against the dawning sun was blurred by tears.  ‘Not alone.’


It was a bit of a gallop back to where the other Ogeir’s heavy boots were already sending a thin cloud of dust up on the horizon.  They were walking but, mind you, an Ogier’s walk was roughly apace with Isha’s light run and Isha’s legs weren’t all that much shorter than the Ogiers’.  And they continued at that pace, a pace that Blood Mist, despite being a giant even for a Tairen Stallion, was hard-pressed to keep, for the better part of a week.


The little light which escaped the heavy canopy over their heads cast their world in a hazy green even though it must have been noon outside.  They must have been relatively close to the Blight because the humidity under the canopy was excruciating.  Sweat ran in a constant trickle down Isha’s nose before he licked it off his lips, wincing at the saltiness and wishing he had more than a few drops left in his waterskin.  Closing his eyes against the constant sting of perspiration, he wondered how on earth the Ogier could stand to leave their shirts buttoned up and their coats on.  Isha was already stripped to the waist, his shirts, coats and vests having been packed away upon entrance to the forest in which a Stedding was supposed to be hidden.


One moment, Isha was wondering darkly just how far this Stedding was and then…


It was like gulping down cool water after days of thirst.  It was like plunging into a warm spring after spending days sweating and dirty.  It was like falling asleep in a feather bed after a week of no sleep.  It was like eating a feast after fasting for weeks.  It was like enjoying others’ company after months of solitude.  It was finding peace after years of grief and strife.


Isha simply breathed.  Where before the darkness had seemed oppressive, it was now as if it somehow leant a calmness conductive to deep philosophical thought.  The you man’s naturally active tendencies suddenly slipped away and he could be quite content to simply sit and meditate on the serenity that filled him.


“So this is the Stedding?”

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  • 1 month later...

“Yes,” Forge responded, his deep bass voice resonating with obvious pleasure. “This is the Stedding.”


It was like the first whiff of his mom’s apple pie after a long time away. It was like seeing a friend he’d not seen in ages. It was like his dad giving him a big bear hug. It was like coming home.


The mystical dividing line that separated the rest of the world from the sanctuary that a Stedding provided was invisible, but its effects were readily apparent, not only to all who experienced the crossing, but to anyone who looked at the surrounding countryside, as well. The woodland growth was more lush, the trees taller, the grass more green, the scattered flowers not so rare. The Stedding was like a fertile basin that showcased the landscape’s flora in its most glorious.


To those who crossed into the Stedding from Outside, it brought a sense of peace and contentment, a knowledge that while things wouldn’t always be easy, any struggles one might have could be dealt with. It didn’t erase the knowledge that the world was often a terrible place filled with violence and death, but it reminded you that the world also held beauty and life, and worrying about the tribulations was pointless if one didn’t appreciate the joys.


Sighing deeply, happily, Forge turned to the lone human amongst the troupe of Ogier Stonemasons, and smiled in a grin that nearly split his face in two. “Welcome to the Stedding, Isha. May it help you find peace in your soul. Lay your burdens down, for here is a place to rest.”


Paying heed to his own suggestion, the giant, young Ogier, dropped his travel pack to the ground, as his fellows were doing as well, and found a likely place to relax for a bit before making camp for the next few weeks. Here, they would rest and recuperate away from all the trials that they dealt with in the world of men.


He sighed contentedly again as he reclined comfortably against a large maple tree, stretching out comfortably in the hopes that he might take a nap. “It is good to be back.”

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What have I become

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know goes away

In the end

And you could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns

Upon my liar's chair

Full of broken thoughts

I cannot repair

Beneath the stains of time

The feelings disappear

You are someone else

I am still right here

(Hurt-Johnny Cash)


The Ogier simply stopped where they were and put everything aside to revel in the quiet sanctuary of the Stedding.  One by one, they drifted off to sleep under the trees, apparently so at peace with their surroundings that they feared no danger from any source: human or animal.  As deep, rhythmic breathing turned to snores, the cicadas responded in turn, creating an eerie harmony between the bass snoring of the Ogeir and the tenor of the cicadas.  Add the singing of various birds and a melody arose over the drone of the lower voices; the entire Stedding seemed to resonate with a natural symphony, surreal in its beauty.


Time seemed immaterial, an hour flew by to seem a minute and a minute stretched on for hours, and Isha could not tell how long he sat, back against a tree trunk, listening.  But where the music should be calming and the environment serene, the boy was filled with agitated energy.  Unable to stay still any longer, he began to pace.  Each footstep brought him deeper in the Stedding and the tranquillity of the place built up like a dense fog getting thicker and thicker.  The feeling was so tangible that Isha noticeably slumped his youthfully strong shoulder and bent his head as if some great weight were bearing down on him.


Where at first he had felt peaceful, the Sheinaran felt entirely out of place.  How could he feel so mellow; how could he rest while his father was less than a year in his grave and unavenged by the son who loved and respected him, but was never good enough to earn more than a sliver of his father’s time.  Isha had never made his father proud while alive, now that Faerthines Talcontar was dead, this was his chance!  So where was the just rage to fuel his righteous quest?


Gone.  The Stedding sucked out the anger, the sorrow, the desperation, everything that had consumed his mind and soul since his father’s passing.  He hadn’t just felt those things, he had become them; they had consumed everything else until nothing happy or good was left.  When the Stedding stripped him bare of everything he had become and left him an empty husk.  As unable to deal with that lack as he was with his father’s death and the issues he had had with the man, the boy’s feet trod on to give his aggravated mind something to dwell on besides the emptiness he felt.


Eventually his wandering path took him across a thin brook, with barely enough water to warrant the name.  All the same it cast back a reflection which he couldn’t help but wince at.  The pinkish skin on his bald scalp and down his left cheek, the perpetual sneer of his lip, they made him wince.  How broken was he, that Isha couldn’t even stand the sight of his own face?  He kicked a nearby rock into the water and watched while the ripples distorted his face, turning him into even more of a freak.


The water settled back to his regular, scarred face, while tears leaked down his cheeks.  It was too much!  His boot stamped down in the mirror image of his face, heedless of getting wet feet.  Isha took off running.  He could take care of himself and right now, he needed out!

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Forge drifted into blissful half-sleep to the rhythm of Isha’s pacing, the man-boy’s footsteps like the ticking of some strange clock on the mantelpiece of the stedding.


It was the absence of the sound that brought him awake soon thereafter.


Sitting up and running a ham-sized hand through his sleep-tousled hair which put it into even more disarray, the Ogier looked around to catch a glimpse of the lone human in the group of Builders. Not seeing him didn’t cause the Ogier to worry, but his ears perked up at the sound of something large tearing through the forest not too far away. Deciding to get up and have a look around, Forge wipe a bit of drool off his chin, and casually walked in the direction of the noise.


Only when he saw a few large human footprints in the mud near a small stream did he think of trouble.


These humans carry trouble with them as surely as a wolf carries teeth, he thought humorously. His fondness for humans was one of his many eccentricities, at least as far as his kindred were concerned.


Taking off at a lope toward the sound of something big tearing through the undergrowth, the Ogier quickly gained ground. Before long, he made out the shape of the large human dashing madly through the stedding. What has set him off his rocker? Forge thought quickly, Increasing his pace, he soon got within hailing distance of the lost youth, In more ways than one, I’m thinking, and bellowed, “Isha! Wait a moment!” The deep bass of his voice resonating through the stedding like a thunderclap.


As if he were surrendering, the human’s shoulders slumped visibly, and Isha came to a staggering halt before falling down. Forge could hear him sobbing even over his own noisy trek through the trees.


Finally reaching him, Forge clapped a big hand on Isha’s shoulder, enveloping even the giant human’s shoulder like a father would a small child. “Talk to me lad,” Forge urged softly, as he sat down with his back against a large elm.


Between sobs and with a steady stream of tears the words kept flowing. Isha recounted his thoughts to the giant Ogier. And when the twisted soul completed his heart-wrenching tale, Forge did what always seemed natural to him but so odd to other Ogier.


He took action.


“Come, Isha.” Suiting his own words, Forge stood and offered a hand. “You are a fire in need of stoking. You are steel that needs shaping. You are a man without hope. Though I don’t agree with you blaming yourself, I can help you burn off that energy in a helpful way. That self-loathing will strangle any love in your heart like choke vine if you let it, but a man’s choices are his own. Steel, on the other hand is only shaped with fire, sweat, and time. If you can’t set aside your self-imposed burden, then we best be getting to work.”


The strange pair made their way back to where the other Ogier still slept, the Stedding’s peaceful bliss augmented by the snores of a dozen slumbering Builders. Reaching his travel pack, Forge knelt and retrieved on of his axes and motioned for Isha to retrieve his sword.


Once they each had a weapon, Forge escorted Isha past the Stedding’s edge and took a fighting stance. “Now, we begin.”

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