Orthiss and Kirkata
A Sarnak love story told among the Di’Zok.
There was once a great undead hunter. He was known to his people as Orthiss, and he devoted himself to the extermination of Venril Sathir’s most powerful undead minions. One by one they fell to his blade, and he was praised as a righteous defender of the Sarnak people. It seemed he would never fall. But there is no place for perfection in this world. There was once a great undead hunter, and this is the story of how he fell.
This Orthiss loved a female named Kirkata. She was a beautiful Sarnak girl with scales that gleamed like cut gems. Kirkata loved Orthiss in turn, and it seemed their love was the only thing Orthiss devoted himself to above the extermination of undead. Whenever he would return to the village from an expedition, the first thing he did was find Kirkata, and the two would disappear into the mangroves and stay until night swept the world in blue and gray.
There came the time when Orthiss sought to destroy one of Venril’s lich-kings, the most powerful of his lords. Rile Sathir, Venril’s own son, had slaughtered an entire village of Sarnak that were friendly with Orthiss – among them Orthiss’ oldest friend and brother in this world – and whispers speculated they would be coming to the village of the undead hunter next. For the first time, Orthiss’ own people turned their backs on him, terrified og what he was bringing down on their heads.
Spilling his own blood onto the communal fire, he swore to the gods to rid the world of Rile Sathir and preserve his village. The gods heard him and gave sign of their blessing by sending a great snake to crawl into the fire, where the flames ate its flesh away to a sword of razor-sharp bone. He and Kirkata kissed beneath the mangroves, and exchanged vows with no ends. When they were through, Orthiss began his quest, bone blade in hand.
Orthiss hunted for days, trying to find the right path but not coming across any leads. He pressed undead and Iksar alike, attempting to extract the knowledge from them by whatever means necessary. But either none of them had any knowledge of it, or they took their knowledge with them into oblivion; either way, Orthiss still had nothing. Until one day Venril Sathir himself came to Orthiss.
Startled from sleep one morning, Orthiss found himself gazing up into the face of the dreaded lich. Centuries weighed upon his sickly skin, and he smelled of centuries of evil deeds. Orthiss clutched his spear, knowing his life would soon be forfeit but vowing he would not go easily. To his surprise, Venril merely smiled and proposed civil conversation. Orthiss was not certain of what civil conversation one could have with a lich, but he put aside his weapon.
“I know you’re seeking to destroy my son,” said Venril in a great exhalation of breath. “And though you’ve been something of a trouble to me, I am going to help you.”
“And why would you do that?” asked Orthiss.
“Because he is a traitor,” hissed Venril. “I have given him life a second time and still, he will betray me, given the opportunity.”
Orthiss thought on this. No reason to trust Venril immediately came to mind, but then be considered that Venril could have killed him with little more than a look, and he hadn’t. Perhaps that put him in some sort of debt to the monster. Regardless, this was the first lead he had to Rile, and to fulfilling his oath. It was not unheard of for evil to kill its own. “I suppose you are able to tell me where his phylactery is,” said Orthiss.
Venril laughed in a sound like footsteps on dry autumn leaves. “I can,” said Venril, “You see, he spirited it away from where I had it hidden, but I have discovered where he thought to put it. You won’t want to hear it though. let me warn you when I say that Rile knows of you, and is afraid of you.”
“And?” asked Orthiss.
Venril smiled then – a sight Orthiss would never forget to the end of his days for how terrible it was. “And,” Venril continued finally, “this is where you will find it…”
Orthiss returned to his village in a thick haze. “I swore an oath,” he said dully. He repeated this time and time again along the familiar path home. When he returned, he was greeted with celebration. “Is Rile dead?” asked the excited villagers, but Orthiss’ quiet numbed their lips, and they watched him continue on in confusion. “An oath,” he repeated.
Kirkata knelt within the mangroves when he approached, head bowed and light playing off her scales. She raised her head as he approached but didn’t turn. “Is that my Orthiss?” she asked. Orthiss stopped behind her and pressed his hand to her cheek. She nuzzled her face against it, and he steeled himself for what he must do. With one swift motion, he plunged his sword into her back.
She died in his arms, and only when the light had finally fled her eyes did he pull out a knife and cut her heart from her chest. It seeped a black fog and was unmistakably covered in cryptic magical symbols. He lifted his knife high, but before he could drive it down into the heart, he felt something slay his hand. He glanced up and saw Venril above him, smiling once again that terrible smile. “Thank you for retrieving this, hunter,” he said.
“I don’t understand,” said Orthiss. “You told me… you sent me. Why?”
“Only because I thought it would be so much more fun this way,” said Venril. “Now I have my son’s phylactery, and he will not think to betray me.”
“But why send me? demanded Orthiss. “Why not get it yourself?”
“Because,” said Venril. “Now, I believe, I will soon have one less hunter thinning my ranks. This was so much better than killing you.”
Venril took the heart from Orthiss; hands and disappeared. Orthiss sat for hours with Kirkata’s body in his arms, through the night and into the next day; before finally a group of villagers pressed into the mangroves to see what had become of the couple. When they saw the dead Kirkata, they demanded to know what had happened. Orthiss couldn’t speak to tell them anything, and it condemned him to guilt.
Before the execution could occur, Orthiss slipped away, intent on pursuing Venril to the end of his days. None of the villagers ever saw him again, but now and then a story would find its way back of an unkempt Sarnak living in the wilds, crying out for someone named Kirkata, and begging for forgiveness.