“–no telling when, or if he’ll wake up.”
The clinically detached voice broke through the haze coating Bregan’s thoughts, and he groaned as a sudden pain lanced his skull. He’d only felt this once before: after a night drinking too much Mulgore Firewater with his buddies, before they set off on their respective paths of training. Talida had been about as sympathetic then as the voice just now.
Bregan’s eyes flew open in sudden remembrance, and he sat up fast, too fast, with Talida’s name on his lips. A cry of alarm went up from someone next to him, but the nausea that rolled through his stomach shut his eyes before he could see who it was, and he heaved the meager contents of his belly.
“Anar’alah belore,” Rae cursed at Bregan, “watch what you’re doing with those damned horns–you almost gored me.”
“Sorry,” was all Bregan could croak out between heaves. There was a hurried scuffling, then someone handed him a bucket, and he switched from the floor to it.
From the sounds he could hear, someone had set about cleaning up his mess. If it hadn’t been for his fur, whoever it was would likely have seen his cheeks flushing from shame at needing such help. After a few more painful heaves, he set the bucket aside and slumped his shoulders. A wet rag slapped down into his hand, and Bregan cracked an eye to see green skin and a raised eyebrow of concern, but also question.
“What in the name of Dranosh happened?” Thratar asked, while Bregan put the blissfully cold rag on the back of his neck.
“Too much magic, in too short a time, mon.” The proclamation came from a voice near the entrance of the cave, the thick Zandali accent of the troll rolling against the stone like a cat arching its back against you to be scratched.
Bregan looked past his surprised friend to find the troll reclining against the edge of the cave mouth, carving a length of wood. Now that his full height was stretched out and he wasn’t on his death bed, the troll struck an imposing figure against the pitch black of the night. The fire threw menacing shadows across his face, aided by an impressive set of tusks and the perpetual scowl created by their low brows.
“You said you didn’t have any magic,” Thratar said, a mere hint of an accusation in his voice.
Bregan frowned and turned his attention back to his friend. “I don’t–I mean, I didn’t. I have no idea what’s going on,” Bregan confessed, a plea in his words for his friend to believe him. A scant heartbeat later, Thratar gave him a stiff nod and Bregan relaxed a bit.
“Ya be a late comer to ya magic. It not be unheard of, but it’s rare,” the troll continued, and hoisted himself from his position on the floor. He took a few of the loping, hunchbacked strides trolls were known for, and crouched beside Thratar, in front of Bregan. The pale lavender of his skin was darkened by the night, and showing a thin sheen of sweat now that he was closer. While mobile, the troll was clearly not fully recovered from his ordeal with the spider Queen.
“Hold out ya hand, mon, and we’ll be seein’ what magic has awoken.”
Bregan was hesitant, but the troll’s implacable calm and patience in the face of Bregan’s fear won out, and though wary, Bregan held out his hand. The troll took his, not gently, but not in a firm grip either. The troll’s hand was rough, though not as rough as Bregan’s, who worked in the fields all his life. Before he could react, the troll pulled a small blade from a leather belt at his waist, which held up the only piece of clothing the troll wore at the moment: a loincloth. Before Bregan could inquire at its purpose, though in the back of his mind he knew, the troll cut across Bregan’s palm in one swift, shallow cut.
Bregan’s breath hissed between his teeth as the blood welled from the wound, though before he could complain at the stinging pain, the troll let go of Bregan’s hand and made a similar cut across his own. This time when the troll grabbed Bregan’s hand, now cut, the grip was firmer. He placed their bloody palms together and held Bregan’s gaze, the intensity in the troll’s scarlet eyes seemed to make them blaze like they were lit by a wildfire, and a pressure was steadily building against his palm; pushing his hand from the troll’s, but also keeping them locked together. A lesser sensation from the one he felt earlier, like a flash of intense sunlight cutting along his bones, washed through him, and elicited a gasp of surprise, but not pain.
The troll grunted, and let go of Bregan’s hand. Bregan was frozen in place, the shock of confirmation making it impossible for him to think, let alone move. The troll wiped the knife against the cloth of his loincloth, sheathed it, and this time reached for a flask attached to his belt. He pulled the cork out with his teeth, took a big swig followed by a gusty sigh, and handed the rest to Bregan. In a daze, Bregan downed the remainder of the concoction without a second thought, and wheezed against the burning, biting taste of the troll’s blood potion.
“Light magic flows through ya. My congratulations, young Paladin,” the troll tilted his head, a small show of respect. “My name be Ja’Ghan, and I be a Shaman. It were lucky for me ya was a late bloomer; one so new to da magic might notta been able ta cure da poison as ya did,” he said, and backed away to the fire. “Ya have ma thanks.”
Thratar mumbled about crazy trolls and moved forward to wipe and bandage Bregan’s hand, but the potion had done its work and the cut was nothing more than a thin, pink scar through Bregan’s fur.
Rae, who had remained quiet through the exchange, was scowling at Ja’Ghan. “Why didn’t you just take that damned potion, and save me the trouble of killing that big, damned spider?”
“Ma potions can only enhance da power I have, and Shamans don’t cure poisons. We was lucky Bregan’s power helped ease da way for da antidote ya made, since I was pretty far gone. Ya have my thanks, too, Rae,” the troll finished and grinned at her from across the fire, where he was stirring a pot that Bregan hoped contained food. He was over his earlier nausea, and it was as though the exchange of power had awoken an intense hunger that chewed at Bregan’s belly like a rabid dog.
Rae started muttering in Thalassian, and even with the language barrier it sounded uncannily similar to Thratar’s grumblings earlier.
“Now, Rae and da orc be tellin’ be about ya friend that were taken,” Ja’Ghan said, and motioned for Rae to hand him the bowls next to her. She obliged, though still a bit irked, and he continued on. “While it not be in ma nature ta drop ma business and help strangers, a life for a life seems like a good way ta thank ya, beside da words demself.”
With the final word, he started doling out what looked like stew into the four bowls, though from the consistency of the meat it seemed they were having spider Queen for dinner. Relief so intense it would have dropped him to his knees if he hadn’t already been sitting down, coursed through Bregan like a river overflowing from a spring thaw.
“Thank you,” Bregan choked out, his words barely a whisper. Ja’Ghan nodded, understanding, and gave a bowl to everyone. Bregan took it in his hands, and the trembling of the liquid in the bowl reflected the acute excitement he felt at finally making headway in finding Talida.
“Now we eat ta seal da agreement, sleep, and den we be off at dawn.”
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Two
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Three
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Four
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Five
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Six
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Seven
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Eight
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Nine
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Ten
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Eleven
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Twelve
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Thirteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fourteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fifteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter