The Crescent Sea

Prologue: The Mysterious Case of the Irorian in the Alleyway

In which Karguk and Schmee are introduced, and from which a Bak Story escapes

One fine day, ten-odd years ago, a casual worshiper of Irori was strolling through a market street in rural Altara. His face was plastered with a smile, for he had been having a truly great day. It would be a perfect day, really, if only he had the chance to share it with someone else. And here! An opportunity presented itself, as though borne by the Master of Masters himself. A large gentleman was looking intently at him, entranced by the sight of the holy book riding in his breast-pocket. Stopping, the man looked up into the face of this approaching giant. With a smile, he reached for the book, relishing the opportunity to complete his day. "Would you like to see-"

The intrigued orc, who just so happened to be Karguk, First Axe of the Orcish Horde (or at least of One Of Them, a topic of hot dispute,) did not take this offense lightly. He did not appreciate the threat of having someone read at him. So, he responded fairly and reasonably: he pulled out the branch he used as a club and swung it at the offending Irorian so hard as to knock the man back into an alleyway wall. Further back down the alleyway, a shadowy figure watched with increasing interest.

The Irorian fled down the alley, shouting back as he went: "What in the hells is wrong with you?" As he ran, however, he was caught by a small knife. The gnome Schmee McGee lashed out from the shadows, stopping the man in his tracks. Stopping, however, turned out to be unfortunate for the Irorian, as Karguk collided with his head foot-first. Spinning dazed from the kick to the face, he fell prey to Schmee's dagger which found its way to his heart. He would have been dead there and then, but for the holy book through which the dagger passed. He collapsed backwards, oblivious to the world as the pain of a knife tickling his heart got the better of him. It was then that Karguk, never one for subtlety, jumped up onto a crate before rebounding off onto the unconscious man, hitting the knife squarely with one foot and driving it it deep enough to finish the job. He may not have stuck the landing perfectly, but nobody present really seemed to care.

Schmee watched, awestruck, as Karguk casually looted the body, then started to walk away. He was almost out of the alleyway (Schmee, behind him, was taking the chance to sieze some notes of credit that Karguk had missed) when a shout came from the alleyway's other end. "Stop! In the name of the law!"

Karguk stopped, slowly turned, and then bellowed: "LAW?"

-

A bare handful of seconds later, Karguk finished crushing the head of a city guardsman beneath his boot as Schmee watched another guard make his escape. The lucky guardsman (Bak, of the proud clan Story) passed out of range of Schmee's daggers, leaving the gnome to clean up his remaining compatriot.

Once the bodies were stored, the orc and the gnome walked away down the now-deserted street. As they passed a phalanx of Altaran soldiers jogging the other way, the squad leader took a moment to look at the pair. An orc, covered in blood, gleefully ripping pages from a book. A gnome, wiping something from a dagger. After a moment of careful consideration, the squadleader decided not to think too hard about it, and carried on.

Behind him, Karguk pulled out a bag of coins, and held it out towards Schmee. Looking at the gnome with a serious expression, he carefully intoned: "Whores?"

The gnome, in turn, smiled. "You fuckin bet!"

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