The Saga of Urahng Part 1
Is It A Demon?
It was summer in the River Kingdoms city of Gralton, many years ago, that our story begins. Long and hot the summer had been; one of the hottest summers that Elizious Baraclor could remember. So hot, in fact, that he could hear his plants complaining in the heat as he tended the Black Gardens. It was nearing the end of another long day, when a peculiar sound caught the druid’s ear. Coming from near his charred cabin, there was a sound almost like an infant, but not quite like on that he’d ever heard before. When he located the source of the noise, he was astounded to find a baby nestled into a charred patch of ground that had been green just that morning.
The child was not a human child by any means. Its skin was as black as the burnt remains of the grass around him, and his eyes glowed like the coals of a fire. It was befuddling to say the least, and Baraclor didn’t quite know what to make of it.
“Is it a demon?” He pondered aloud as he looked up for any signs of where the infant may have come from. “No… Surely not. The eyes are all wrong for a demon, and it’s got no tail or horns.” He studied it closely, for several moments before he decided that it might be harmless enough to touch. The child was incredibly warm to the touch, almost like steel that had sat out in the sun for too long. “Hmmm… We’ll have to see what the order makes of you, little fireling.”
A Gift From Calistria
Little more than a week after Baraclor found the little oddity in his garden, there was a meeting of Gralton’s Order of Vengeance, a cult of sorts, dedicated to the goddess Calistria and to the reclamation of Galt by any means necessary. The meeting was held in the Black Gardens, shortly after midnight. As always, the meeting began with a prayer to the Savored Sting, for which Baraclor was absent. As the prayer ended, the druid approached the gathering, holding a small bundle in his arms.
“Friends, I have something for you.” Opened Beraclor. “A gift, perhaps, from The Unquenchable Fire.” He continued, using Calistria’s flame-oriented nickname as he unbundled the child and presented it to the gathering.
“Look how his eyes burn with the fires of Calistria’s vengeance!” Exclaimed one of the gathered fanatics.
“Shut it, fool.” Another retorted. “It’s some bastard of an elemental. An Ifrit, I think it’s called.” When the man finished his astute observation, he sat back on his bench with a smug grin, assuming to have defeated any arguments about the infant’s divine claim.
“Who cares what it is, Bartholemew, look at what it represents. Baraclor found it here, in our refuge, bearing the fires of Calistria as part of its very being. This child could be an instrument of our wrath!” retorted Anthous, another of the congregation.
“Oh?” chimed a third, “Simply because it has been touched by fire, it is an instrument of Calistria’s will? What if it is nothing more than an abomination, abandoned by its parents and left to die alone?”
“Brother, would that alone not produce a more vengeful soul?” Defended Anthous. “I tell you that this child should be taken into our care, and raised among the faithful of Calistria so that he may be taught our plight and become a weapon to reclaim Galt.”
“Let the child be raised in the church,” added Anna, an attendant at the Gralton’s Temple to Calistria. “The whores have children there, we can look after him along with them, regardless of what he is to become.”
The debate continued well into the darkest hours of the morning, with the final consensus being that the child would be raised per Anna’s suggestion, and the order would teach the child to fight, and to become a weapon for the order.
The order took him in, gave him a name, Urahng, and gave him a home. In the interest of discretion, they elected to keep him a secret, in the back of the temple, in his own room. What they didn’t know, however, was that Ifrits like Urahng age very slowly. In fact, most Ifrits reach maturity around the end of a standard human’s life.
It would take several years before Urahng was old enough to walk, and more still before he was old enough to learn to fight.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
For twenty years, now, Urahng had lived among the whores’ children. He hated them. Some of the children he’d known were young men now. He hated them, too. The other kids always grew up faster than him. They got bigger, stronger, and they hated him. He sat in his room stewing on the latest incident. One of the other boys had been making cracks about him looking like a little troll. He hit one of them, but there were three of them, and they weren’t about to let some little freak get away with that. When one of the sisters showed up to break it up, they blamed him; said he started it. The sister was standing in front of him now, looking at him sternly.
“You’re always getting into fights, Urahng. Letting the others get the better of you… I remember when we brought you here. You were small… so many years ago.” As Anna talked, her face softened a little. “You’re mad about it, Urahng. And you should be. The Savory Sting teaches us that there is no greater motivator than vengeance. Here… If you are to be the aspect of The Unquenchable File, you should know vengeance.” And with that, Anna left a dagger on the bed next to the young ifrit.
He stared at the weapon for a long while. He knew what Anna wanted him to do. He knew it was wrong, too. The rage in him put the dagger in his hand. If you kill him, they’ll leave you alone. he told himself. He sat for hours, well into the night. At midnight, he finally moved. He stared at the knife as he moved down the hallway, almost in disbelief at what he intended to do. He heard the door creak open as he moved into the room. He locked eyes on the lump in the bed. The scene from earlier played out again in his head. As it did, he started to shake with rage.
Sanno stirred from his sleep. He was confused. It was hot in his room… But it wasn’t summer .He turned to see Urahng at his bedside, two fiery embers for eyes hovering in the darkness next to him. “Ura… What th-” his words were cut short as a blade dove into his throat.
Urahng pulled the knife back out of Sanno slowly, twisting it a little as he did. He watched as the object of his ire gurgled and started to drown in his own blood. The young Ifrit, functionally as old as ten year old human boy. He felt an odd sense of satisfaction as Sanno’s face contorted in pain and terror. He said nothing, simply turned and walked back to his room.
He woke the next morning to the sound of screams. Sanno’s mother, Corra, had found his corpse.
“You have pleased Calistria, young one,” Anna whispered to Urahng. “Remember the feel of vengeance, and it will give you power. The order starts your training today.”
The act haunted the boy in the following days. There was an unending conflict within him, a dialogue between the id and the superego.
“Yes, I’m glad I killed that little son of a bitch,” said the Id. “After all that he’s done to us, he deserved to be punished.”
“Surely there was something else that we could have done to punish him though?” replied the Superego. “Did he really deserve to die? He was just a boy.”
“We’re just a boy. Did we really deserve to be hated, harassed, and beaten all those times?” snapped the Id.
“And what of the other boys that have hated, harassed, and beaten us through the years? Are we going to kill all of them? Perhaps we focused our anger at all of them on Sanno? Sanno didn’t try to kill us, but we ended his life. He’ll never become a man. He’ll never have a chance to redeem himself.”
“Yeah, and he’ll never have another chance to hurt us again.”
“What about Corra? She’s never wronged us, now we’ve slain her boy. You heard her screams, we might as well have killed her.”
“Maybe next time she’ll discipline her child when he bullies another kid?”
“Damnit, she didn’t know that Sanno was bullying us. As far as she knows, we started the fights…”
“True, but she also doesn’t know that we killed him. So she has no reason to be mad at us.”
“That’s our justification? What kind of sad, hollow, excuse is that? She grieves because of our rage! We shouldn’t have killed Sanno. We should have hurt him, made him pay for what he did, but let him learn a lesson from it.”
Urahng’s internal dialogue was interrupted then, by sister Anna coming into his room with a rather solemn expression on her face. “Urahng, it is a sad day. Sister Corra hung herself last night. We will have a service for her this afternoon, so set aside your best clothes. I expect you to attend.”
The news was devastating. Corra had never been mean to him, in fact quite the opposite, Corra was one of the few people that had been nice. And now she was dead because of his actions. He might as well have killed her with his own hands.
Fanning The Flames
As bothered as he had been since he murdered Sanno, he had noticed a change in himself. No one had actually figured out that he was the culprit in Sanno’s demise, so the other boys had continued to taunt and harass him… For a while at least. Urahng hadn’t gone so far as to kill another boy, but in the year since the incident with Sanno, he’d grown more capable of fending off his agitators. Three times a week, he would spend the day with the most capable warrior that the Order of Vengeance had available (Which admittedly wasn’t a very impressive fighter, but it was better than nothing). While he learned much from his mentor, Tanner, he’d learned just as much from fighting with the other boys. He understood that a fight wasn’t as much about grace and poise as it was about inflicting pain on your opponents, and he was becoming proficient at inflicting pain.
He’d also found that when he got angry, his body became heated, like a stone sitting next to a fire. It wasn’t enough to be useful on its own, and he’d already ruined more than one pair of clothes with the sheer heat, but it did prove handy from time to time. The other boys couldn’t hold onto him very long without burning themselves, which made it difficult to pin him down, and it was even more effective when he managed to pin down someone else. There were times that his fights with the other boys had gotten so violent that they’d isolated him from the others, even though he was almost never the aggressor.
It didn’t take long for the other boys to leave him alone more often than not. Regular harassments turned into infrequent engagements. Now they only seemed to bother him when they felt like they had something to prove to whatever group they were with. On occasion, the older boys would bring in friends off the street to look at the “demon” the sisters kept hidden in the church. Those visits usually didn’t end well for someone.
Truthfully, Urahng lost more fights than he won, but at least he was pushing back on the antagonists now. And for the fights that he didn’t win, he’d occasionally pay the winner a visit in the middle of the night. The sisters didn’t seem interested in punishing him for lashing out at the bullies. Anna, in particular, often encouraged him to seek vengeance, or applauded him afterward; She claimed that he was honoring the Goddess Calistria with his actions.
As the days passed, Urahng grew little by little. Much slower than those around him. He’d already seen several infants grow to be his size and even surpass him. He’d seen men grow into old men, and old men grow into corpses. The order still didn’t let him out of the church, but there were places that he could at least see the city outside. He desperately wanted to go out into the city and see what was there. He hadn’t known anything outside the church. Perhaps people were different out there? Perhaps there were.. friends? The closest things he had to friends in the temple were Anna and Tanner, but they were more like a manipulative mother and a stern father.
Tanner was a firm believer in teaching through experience. More often than not, he would present Urahng with a goal for the day, and let him spend the first part of the day trying to figure out how to accomplish it. It was usually some physical feat or combat maneuver. If the Ifrit hadn’t figured it out halfway through the day, Tanner would give him some pointers and increase the difficulty a bit. If he failed to reach the goal by sundown, he’d get no food for dinner. Not the cruelest of punishments, but Urahng certainly didn’t enjoy being hungry.
Today’s goal was straightforward enough. Make Tanner’s ass touch earth. They’d been at it for an hour or so. The boy wasn’t strong enough to trip his mentor, and he’d proven too small to tackle him, so now they stood a few yards apart while Urahng considered his next move. Tanner was obviously growing impatient with his student’s lack of attempts, and decided to grab a drink while he waited. He turned away from the boy to reach for his waterskin, which presented Urahng with his opportunity. The boy quickly scooped up a clod of dirt and pitched it at Tanner’s backside.
Tanner jumped in shock as he spun to face Urahng, with an unimpressed look on his face. He grumbled a bit as he wiped the dirt off of the back of his pants.
“What’d you do that fer, you little shit?!” he asked.
With a grin that he simply couldn’t contain, he replied “I made your ass touch earth.”
“Bah! I suppose you did, didn’t you?” Tanner said, his face softening a little. “Not quite what I had in mind, but I reckon it counts. Now let’s try for what I was really asking you to do. Put me on my ass.”