4 - Awakenings
Urduuk woke up feeling much the same way. More, perhaps. Definitely not less.
He rubbed his eyes and looked around, noticing that Karna was cooking breakfast. He shook his massive head. "How is it that we live like this?" he asked aloud.
"What?" she grunted back at him. "Live like what?"
"This place," he said, rising to his feet, "it's nothing more than a jumble of rocks with some crude rugs on the floor. Yet we've lived like this for years and never thought twice about it. Doesn't that seem odd to you?"
Karna was baffled. "This place is our home. Oggok is as it has been all of our lives. I don't understand this sudden... change in your thinking."
"Dissatisfaction, you mean? Don't you feel it, Karna? Don't you feel something rising up within you? It's as if a fog has slowly been receding and my mind understands things for the first time. We are a race of kings, Karna. Once we held all of Norrath in the palm of our hand. Yet for centuries our people have lived in a city that is nothing more than a shambling pile of stones and rotting vines. Doesn't that seem ridiculous to you? Doesn't that seem absurd?"
She bared her teeth and slowly shook her head. "My mind... it's fuzzy, Urduuk. It scares me a little. I know of what you speak, but still... it's like I'm trudging slowly through deep water. I want so much to move faster, but I simply cannot."
He wrapped his huge arms around her and pulled her close to him. "I'm sorry, my love. I do not mean to upset you. But I can see it in myself and in the others. I can hear it in the way we speak. Something about us is changing, Karna. We are not what we once were."
"I think you are right, Urduuk," she said, almost vulnerably. She squeezed him because it made her feel better to do so.
He kissed her brow. "That's enough nonsense out of me for now. What about that breakfast?"
"Pathetic," he muttered angrily to himself. Then, to the old man, "Are you sure this is all of them?"
The silver-crested ogre slowly shook his head. "I have told you twice already that it is. We simply have not kept many written records of our history, young man. Those scrolls and tablets are all that our shamans have scribed over the centuries."
"Ridiculous!" he hissed to himself as the old man sat down. "It's as if our entire civilization has been in a stupor. Stories have been passed down from one generation to the next through the telling, but there is so little concrete information. And this shambles of a library is laughable. Even the cursed frogloks have better books than these." Urduuk pushed the scrolls and tablets away and clenched his fist.
"What's that, young one?" the old ogre asked. "Did you find the answers you seek?"
"Sadly, I think I have, old one." Urduuk shook his head. "At least, the only answer there is to find." He stood up and walked out of the library, his feet pounding angrily on the crumbled cobblestones of the street.
"Be careful how you speak to your chieftain, Urduuk. My word is law here in Oggok."
Urduuk held his tongue a moment before speaking again. "I meant no offense, Chieftain Orrek. I simply feel there is a better approach."
"My plan is sound. We will expand our farmlands and feed our bellies. We will strengthen our outposts in the Feerrott and ensure that our borders are safe. Oggok will grow and prosper under my hand."
"We need to do more than survive! We are not a race of farmers, Orrek. We are a race of warriors and kings. Norrath knew our domination once, and it must know it again. But we will never see that glory if we till the soil like oafish farmhands."
"Your tone offends me, Urduuk. Say another word and I'll have you in chains before this assembly."
"Assembly? Are you joking? Look around you," he said, gesturing at the crowd in the square surrounding them. "The center of our city is nothing more than broken boulders and fetid ponds. How can this be enough for you?" He looked at the other citizens. "How can this be enough for any of you?" Many of the ogres murmured in agreement.
The chieftain sensed the dissent growing around him. "Enough! I lead this city, and I determine its course. This meeting is over."
"It is not!" Urduuk growled. "It is time for us to show the courage to embrace our destiny."
"Those are the words," announced a deep, booming voice, "that I have waited for one of you to speak."
Urduuk turned and gasped, as did the crowd. Out of nowhere a massive figure stood, twice as tall as any ogre, with a thick, imposing frame. It wore dark metallic armor that seemed to faintly glow with power, and a horned helm that hung just above its burning eyes. It was like an ogre but more than an ogre, a creature of power and terror and death.
Urduuk stood transfixed for a moment, then stammered a question almost in a whisper. "Lord... Lord Rallos?'
"No," answered the voice, echoing throughout the square. "I am not your maker, but rather the one who has remained behind to carry out his will. I am the hand of Zek while he must be absent. And I am the one who will guide you to once again dominate all of Norrath."
Urduuk looked over at the chieftain, who stood awed and terrified. Urduuk sneered at him and then turned back to the dark figure. "Avatar of War, emissary of our maker, we live and die at your command. Tell us what to do."
A dark smile seemed to cross the being's otherworldly face for a moment. "You will build. You will waste no time growing wheat or baking bread. You will take what you need from others and make this a city fit for kings. You will expand your knowledge and relearn the dark arts lost to you for so long. You will raise a new Rallosian Army that shall conquer the world and wipe out the children of the lesser gods once and for all. This is your destiny, son of Zek. Will you make it yours, or will you wander about the jungle with lizards and toads?"
Urduuk stepped forward and stood in front of the avatar. "We will seize our destiny. We will build a new city of Rallos that will be grander than any other on Norrath. One by one the lands of those who oppose us will be burned to the ground. On this you have my blood oath. We will not fail."
The avatar reached to his side and drew a runed, flaming blade. He touched it to Urduuk's shoulder and watched as the ogre refused to flinch. The avatar nodded. "You, Urduuk, will be my general. You will lead your people to their rightful destiny. By the touch of Soulfire I ordain this to be so." He sheathed the blade and drew a second weapon from his belt. "This sword was blessed by Vallon Zek and forged in the fires of Drunder. The unholy blade Vel'Arek must drink the blood of the weak, and in turn it will make you strong. Use it to claim what is yours, Urduuk."
Urduuk took hold of the massive weapon and felt its weight. It looked as if it would take two hands to wield it, but he could easily swing it with one. It had a long, dark blade with ancient words inscribed down the length of it. He looked up at the avatar a moment, then turned and walked to Chieftain Orrek. "Would you still have us be farmers, chieftain? Would you still have us be weak?"
"I... have devoted my life to the service of Zek," he stammered nervously. "I will not fail him."
"You are correct, chieftain, for your death shall serve him as well." Urduuk thrust the blade forward suddenly and drove it through the chieftain's chest, staring into the ogre's eyes as he crumpled to the ground. Urduuk withdrew the blade and lifted it to the sky, watching as it seemed to drink in the blood of the fallen chieftain.
"This," boomed the voice of the avatar, "is the force of will necessary to rule these lands. Even now my ally, the Avatar of Flame, is bringing this same message to the orc legions. Together the children of Zek will conquer this world and cleanse it of elves and men."
"The word of Zek shall guide us, Avatar," General Urduuk proclaimed. "We will build this city and your army. We will learn the dark magics and once again become the masters of this realm."
The avatar watched as the ogres knelt before their ruler. Urduuk narrowed his eyes and looked to the east. "And when the time is right," he said with disdain, "Gukta and the wretched frogloks will be the first to fall."