Authors: Martin V. Parece II
Titles by Martin V. Parece II
Blood and Steel (The Cor Chronicles, Vol. I)
Fire and Steel (The Cor Chronicles, Vol. II)
Titles Forthcoming from Martin V. Parece II
Untitled (The Cor Chronicles, Vol. III)
The Path of Gods
Martin V. Parece II
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I dedicate this one to my father, who has given me more than I can ever repay.
And my wife, without whose support I would never have finished.
The world of Rumedia has seen several human civilizations come and go over the millennia. Our history dates back only three thousand years, and we have little knowledge of what came before us. As Chronicler, the gods have gifted me with the sight of everything that their people have seen, but it is known that before our gods arose, there were other pantheons. We do not know what happened to them, nor do we know what happened to their peoples, only to say that their civilizations apparently crumbled and disappeared with the loss of their gods. Sometimes, we find signs of these peoples in the forms of ancient writings, tombs or even entire buildings that they left have behind. Sometimes, we find amazing artifacts that give us clues as to the strength of their powers.
Men rule this world now, and I believe that men ruled it for thousands of years before I became Chronicler. But men are not the only denizens. There are other beings and creatures in Rumedia, and most of them can only be found in the dark and deep places of the world. What purpose they serve, I cannot say, as they serve no gods that we know, and they do not entangle themselves in the workings of men.
One such race of creatures call themselves the Grek, and they live inside the volcanic mountains of the continent of Dulkur with an average lifespan of eight hundred years. The Grek live in the great heat produced by the magma of these mountains, and they pay it no mind, breathing sulfuric fumes as easy as men breathe fresh air. They are typically larger than men, even Loszians, standing an average of eight feet in height, and they have lanky, bony legs and arms to match that hang nearly to their knees. The Grek have skin as rough as tanned leather, colored in mottled grays, browns and greens. To gaze on a Grek’s face would remind one of a bullfrog with its great eyes and lack of ears, excluding that the protruding lower jaw is full of sharp teeth.
While the Grek live deep underground and inside the volcanic mountains, it is not unknown for one to come to the surface on occasion. They can live for a short while in the open air before having to return to their own sulfuric climes. Carnivores by nature, the Grek find human flesh to be particularly tasty, though they have learned it dangerous to seek human prey too often. Their biology is wholly foreign to ours, allowing them to go large spans of time, perhaps even decades without a meal, which is advantageous to them as the primary food source for Grek tends to be other Grek.
This is extremely fortunate for the Grek, making their imperative to mate stronger than their appetite. Otherwise, it would be unlikely for the species to survive for long, and as might be expected from a species of cannibals, Grek do not make quality parents. The males mate and immediately leave the females when sated, and the females birth and care for their children only in the disinterested way of a child who is forced to do chores. They raise their spawn only until the young are able to walk on their own, and then the mothers abandon them to their own devices. As far as their cannibalism is concerned, the Grek seem to avoid killing their own immediate blood relations.
Around two hundred A.C. by the Western calendar, a Grek was born who came to call himself Feghul. Unremarkable for his species in appearance, his mother abandoned him and his sister shortly before they turned the age of four. As Grek are concerned, this is still a very young age; Feghul and his sister had only just begun to walk and learn what was edible and what was not. Unfortunately, Feghul’s sister met her end in the mouth of an adolescent Grek, who, his hunger sated, left Feghul to his own devices. Feghul did not mourn his sister; such emotions are somewhat beyond the Grek’s comprehension, and he continued about his life such as it was.
Feghul was nearly twenty, not even to budding adolescence in Grek terms, when he first ventured outside of the mountain caves in which he lived. Deep in one of the caves, he warmed himself by a magma pool when he scented something on the air the likes of which he had never before encountered. A sweet odor was carried by a slight draft of fetid, non-sulfuric air, and though the current of what we would consider fresh air was repulsive to Feghul, it was the oddly sweet smell that caught his attention. He followed it through labyrinthine caves miles deep into the mountains. The smell and the air current it was carried on continued to grow stronger as he made his way out of the depths. Eventually, he reached a point where the sulfuric air of his home was all but gone, leaving him with the distasteful air of the world above and outside the caves, but the unknown scent drew him onward.
The caves eventually ended, opening to the outside world, and Feghul had to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight that threatened to blind him. The cave’s mouth overlooked a lush green jungle, full of large leafy plants and trees, the likes of which Feghul had never seen, since such things obviously do not grow underground. As he sniffed the air and looked about, he could see the source of the smell that drew him from so deep. Perhaps a mile away and well below the mountain, Feghul could see a clearing containing a human village.
The thing was alien to him, as he had no idea what to make of thatched huts or the near black skinned inhabitants that he could see milling about their tasks. Extremely curious in a way no different from a human child, Feghul carefully made his way down the mountainside, hiding behind the rocks so as not to be seen by any of the humans. Following his nose, he entered the jungle, though he was loath at first to touch any of the dense green growth. Such things did not exist in his underground world, and he feared them at first. Feghul learned that the plants would do nothing to harm him, and he eventually came to ignore them completely as he approached the village.
The jungle came to an abrupt end at a clearing in which Feghul could see a large number of huts with human beings moving around the area, all involved in some chore or another. The round huts were made of dried mud with thatched roofs, and the rear of the huts faced the jungle foliage. A few feet away behind one of these huts, Feghul could see a small child who played completely alone. It should be noted that Feghul did not recognize the child as such, except that he knew that this human was much smaller than the others, and he seemed to have an innate sense that this being was similar to him in age if in no other way.
Feghul edged around the clearing, staying out of sight of any human adults, until the child was directly in front of him. He was not stealthy in the dense jungle foliage, and the child had stopped playing to look in his direction. The child, female he was sure from her smell, did not move or shout to one of the larger humans; she merely sat there and waited expectantly. Certain she could see him, Feghul stood, nearly five feet tall, and shambled out of the foliage to stand only a few feet from the child. She was ugly to his eye and small at just over half his height, and she sat quietly in consideration of him, her hands holding a tiny cloth figure.
Cazak thon dak tos
?” came a sound from an opening that he assumed to be the girl’s mouth.
It should be said that the Grek have no language of their own, so Feghul had no concept of speech as communication. He sat down on his haunches and scratched the side of his face, staring at the little girl. She stared back at him and repeated her question, which of course received no answer from the Grek. She held out the cloth figure with one hand towards Feghul, and when he made no move to take it, she stood up, walked over to him and sat down next to him. She placed the doll in his clawed hands, and he had never felt anything so soft against his rough skin before.
Hagat tosh walik Kytha
,” she said, and he could only look at the doll and then the girl without comprehension.
She took the doll from him and moved to sit right in front of him, mere inches away. She continued to speak and played with the doll in front of him, trying to include him in whatever game she was involved. The little girl would occasionally laugh, and Feghul, after hearing the sound several times, endeavored to duplicate it. His laugh was a terrible sound to hear, but the small girl accepted it for what it was. Every time she laughed Feghul would try to mimic the sound. They played in this way for the better part of an hour.
However, the little girl’s mother realized that her daughter was no longer where she was supposed to be, and the woman began a search of the small village, ending with her coming around the backside of the hut. Seeing her daughter sitting with a disgusting creature, a monster of unknown origin, the woman loosed a terrifying scream. The little girl and Feghul both started to their feet with the suddenness of the sound, and Feghul backed away from the girl, her doll at that moment in his hand. The woman continued to scream, bringing warriors running with axes, clubs and spears, but the little girl did not understand and tried to calm her mother. The men arrived and surrounded Feghul, shouting at him and threatening him with their weapons, and Feghul did not understand their aggression.
The men had not enclosed him completely, and Feghul turned and charged back into the jungle. The men were shocked into not following him for just a moment, and he could hear the little girl behind him wailing as she shouted, “Kytha! Kytha!” Feghul ran as fast as he could through the dense foliage, and the warriors followed him closely. When he reached the mountain, it was easier for him to outdistance the men, as climbing the rocky incline came naturally to him. He disappeared into a cave and hid himself deep within the mountain. After a short time, the men realized that the cave was in fact one in a system of caves within the volcano, and realizing the impossibility of tracking the Grek, they called off the hunt.
It is possible that Feghul was closer to being human than any of his kind, for he sat quietly in that cave for hours simply staring at the doll he had taken from the girl. As years passed, he would look at the doll and long to return to the girl and listen to the sounds she made that he did not understand. One day, Feghul decided that he would return to the village and find the closest thing to a friend that any Grek had ever known.
It was night when he climbed back down to the village, following the scents on the air to one particular hut. While he was not the stealthiest of creatures, he remembered that the males of the village had shouted at him and tried to hurt him with their weapons, so he moved as quietly as he could manage. The village was larger than he remembered it, and the scent led him to a hut close to the village perimeter.
Entering, he found two figures asleep on the ground. A large male lay there with his limbs intertwined around a smaller female form. The scent was unmistakably that of the girl, but this female was larger than he remembered and looked very much like the screaming woman he had seen. Then he noticed, cuddled in the crook of her arm, a third tiny creature that made odd soft sounds.
Now it should be said that the Grek are not entirely stupid creatures, but their perceptions of time are extremely distorted compared to ours. When one lives hundreds of years and is still a child at the age of forty, albeit a six foot tall child, the concept that a small child can grow to adulthood in less than twenty years is entirely beyond a Grek’s understanding. It had been long enough for the girl to grow and have a child of her own since Feghul had run from the village’s warriors, but to his mind it seemed only to be just the other day.
He hunched over the sleeping forms and extended one of his clawed fingers to run it down the exposed arm of the sleeping woman. His manner was extremely gentle, just like many small children have done to their own parents in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, Feghul comprehended neither his own strength, nor the ease in which he could harm a human being, and his claw carved away several inches of the woman’s brown flesh.
She bolted upright screaming frantically and clutching the wound, the jostling motion of which disturbed the baby and set him to screaming. The man with her immediately attacked Feghul, attempting to grapple with him, but Feghul’s strength was terrible when compared to a human’s even at his young age; he tossed the man like a large version of the doll in his hand across the hut, and he crashed into the back wall and fell still to the ground. The woman continued to scream, and Feghul could hear that the rest of the village was beginning to wake due to the commotion. Frightened that men would again come and try to hurt him, he dropped the cloth doll and charged from the village back to his mountain home. It was only after her husband was roused and she was sure that he would be well that she looked at what the creature had left in her hut, and she vaguely remembered a childhood friend from long ago that had never returned to play with her again.