Chapter 3: In Matters Feral and Urbane
No tricks. No games. No commentary. This story doesn't deserve that treatment.
It was a muggy afternoon that my companions and I happened upon a den of Mites: ferocious blue creatures with wicked hearts. We waded in and cleared the place, leaving only 3 of the vermin running for their lives across the open plains. In the process, we freed a Kobold my the name if Mikmek. He informed us, in rather broken Common, that the Mites had stolen an icon of his tribe, and that we would be rewarded for its return. Sasha, suspecting the involvement of a devil or some other fiendish hellion, agreed to travel back with Mikmek and return the idol. None of us could have known what happened after that.
Upon arrival, we quickly discovered that Mikmek's tribe was under the influence of another, less menacing influence. A purple-skinned kobold had appeared a while back and convinced the tribe that they would be cursed by "Old Sharptooth" if they did not do his will; 'his will' being the will of this new kobold. So, off the tribe went, at his order. First to war with a town of Gnomes, and then the Mites, who had stolen the idol we were in the midst of returning. So far? Not your standard fare, but a story to enforce some of the darkest thoughts of man. Evil can do evil to its own. And while that lesson does not dissipate as the story goes on, it does get deeper than that.
Sasha of course tried to talk to Tartuk first. Tried to reason with him. I had my doubts, on more than one count; he was a kobold, but also seemed to be incredibly more intelligent than his fellows. His Common was spot-on, and his demeanor was of a more calculated and cool malice, rather than the usual frenzied hate of his near-feral brethren. Still, he was about as stubborn as your average kobold, and so talking degenerated into quarrel- fast. I leapt right into the fray, only to be held back by Sasha. "Don't kill him," he said. He seemed to have seen something, something in the way Tartuk was acting. He wanted to be killed. He had a long-standing rain check with his own damn grave.
The scene went on for a few minutes. Katya stood at a chokepoint in the hall, blocking the rest of Tartuk's tribe from entering, while we all handled Tartuk himself. Of course, when asked he refused to divulge why he wanted death; in fact, he repeatedly cast spells to frustrate us- or me. It took all of the self-restraint in the world, again and again. I was following that man, and I had been given a direct and concise order. I was not about to break it, regardless of whether or not I understood. That's what trust is.
At long last, I was given leave to cut Tartuk down, and I did so, not with any bit of regret or remorse. The sorry bastard had threatened my friends, and had started to act on said threats, on top of being an enemy of my people. After rooting through his things, we found a journal. Again, something that struck me as odd. Kobolds don't write journals, they hold no meaning. So while my companions swept up the mess we had created and coaxed some thanks from the tribe's chief, I sat down and began reading.
Tartuk was a Gnome, once. A Gnome, like me, with purple hair and a knack for magic. His community came under attack, and he, attempting to surrender and offer his assistance, died. The Gnomes he lived with gathered his corpse and took it home, and decided, upon seeing his "act of martyrdom," to use the town treasure: an invaluable scroll of reincarnation. "Fuck them," he said in his journal, "who asked them to?" He returned to this world as a kobold. Infuriated at his new form, he went to a nearby kobold tribe, and convinced them that the Gnomes were going to attack them soon. The kobolds, following countless precedents, decided to attack first. The whole community was slaughtered, to a man.
And after that? The bastard was not satisfied. His revenge had not been achieved. "I don't feel like I think I ought, though. Maybe… I'll do it again."
So he proceeded to commit atrocities to the kobolds, convincing them of Tartuk's power and using his dabbling in magic to fill in the rest. He declared war on the Mites, on his Gnomes, and on the kobolds… all out of mindless spite and rage.
The last entry in his journal mentions a scroll of fly- which we found as well- and how some day he was going to use it. Fly up and up until the effect runs out. Meet the ground with a welcome smile.
A few days afterwards, Sasha pulled me into a conversation over the fire, while Katya was asleep and Eoghan and Lem were off scouting the fort. The talk wandered eventually towards the journal, which had been left in my care for the time being. I had apparently been very grim and not myself- certainly not without reason, and that he understood- and he had taken notice of such. I took a moment, however brief, to describe my problems with the situation. Sasha took that a step further, and made certain I was aware that I could become that. Hate and desperation and blind rage; all of these things could culminate, and did in Tartuk's case. He taught me several lessons that evening. The hardest part- as it always is in the stories- is sticking to that lesson, and remembering to heed it whenever possible.
This is a tale of caution, friend- and I have watched it unfold firsthand.