Hello, SneeR here. It's been a long time since I've posted anything meaningful on these boards, so I figured I'd throw down a creative story I wrote for a creative fiction class last year. My style has become a lot more minimalist since then, and it is now where near my best work, but I don't want to rewrite it. I thought you guys might appreciate the subject matter.
I took a few liberties with the mythology, but tried to make it work.
Ehgoss lived through twenty winters and prophesized on Gruumsh’s behalf for seven of them. She was chosen as an Ork priestess, and she hated it.
The throaty drums of the Initiation Ceremony rolled through the temple halls from outside. She stepped away from the ceremonial dais after gingerly lifting the wickedly-curved Eye Knife. A line of young acolytes Ehgoss had chosen from Clan RotHide strode between the marble pillars separating the entrance hall from the sacrificial chamber and presented their offerings to Gruumsh. Incense, flesh, stone, and wood. Only after these symbolic gifts were placed upon the altar beyond the dais would Gruumsh grace them with His presence, and only then could the Priestess initiate the new warriors into His Army on His behalf.
Or so He had led them to believe. She frankly doubted it was for anything but His own edification.
Ehgoss took the offerings and placed them silently upon the altar. Its center was burned, and its edges were scuffed and chipped by the struggles of living offerings in the past. She poured holy water from the dais upon the offerings and said, “Gruumsh, One Eye, Lord of the Ever-Growing Army, we now sacrifice these relics in the hope that you might emerge from Nishrek, abandon the Iron Throne for but a moment, and initiate our warriors into your hallowed ranks.” She raised her arms and breathed deeply through her nose, faced away from the acolytes, and bared her fangs.
The wetted offerings burst into voluminous, roaring flames that licked the ceiling high above them.
“I AM HERE, MORTALS. LET IT BEGIN.” The howling of the flames seemed to beget these words, form them as naturally as the sparks. Ehgoss grimaced at the display and the gasps from behind her. She had earlier demanded the acolytes remain silent throughout the entire ceremony. She would have to punish them, now. Of course, Gruumsh held the true blame; He never passed up an opportunity to make His subjects revel in His presence.
Ehgoss lifted a censer embossed with Gruumsh’s snarling face and held it over the diminishing flames, lighting the incense within. A grey haze that smelled of cloves and steel—bitter and unpleasant to taste—poured lazily from the engraved Gruumsh’s open mouth and missing eye. She held the censer in her left hand, letting it swing gently back and forth, and grasped the Eye Knife by the sheathe in her right. These she held suspended at chest height and hastened, followed by the acolytes, to the temple steps where Clan RotHide patiently waited. She clenched her teeth at the biting scent with displeasure.
“Hail Gruumsh! Hail Ehgoss!” Lord RotHide and his heirs saluted her as soon as she appeared at the temple threshold. They were trying to make a good impression. Everyone did.
She produced a smile and called, “Hail Gruumsh! Hail RotHide!” The smile dropped and she shouted so all the clan could hear, “This day Gruumsh gauges your mettle, decides your worth to the Ever-Growing Army. If any Ork is judged worthy, he will be given a title and a message from Gruumsh Himself!” She walked down the temple steps carefully and said to Lord RotHide, “Bring forth your warriors.”
Twenty-four Orks stepped forward from the front of the clan and kneeled. They were burly and stout as RotHides were wont to be, and their knuckles could almost brush the ground. Their skin was thick and their manes dark, so different from Ehgoss’ own slight figure and lighter mane. Most had inherited the RotHide tusks that characterized their brutal fighting style: biting, tearing, and beating. They wore ancient ceremonial armor that Ehgoss recognized; the RotHides were proud, but poor. The armor was probably handed down to fledgling warriors after every Initiation Ceremony. They had certainly been kind enough to her clan when they mingled long before she became priestess on days of trade.
She stepped off the temple steps onto the gravel road beside Lord RotHide; there would be no Ork blood spilt in the Temple of Gruumsh, so the Ceremony took place outside it. The first Ork had a scar over his right eye, a narrow escape from blindness. She swung the censer gently over his head, letting the harsh smoke sink over him. THIS ORK SHALL BE GRUUMSH-HAMMER. WHEN HE INVOKES MY NAME ON THE BATTLEFIELD, HIS FOES WILL COWER. Ehgoss gave no indication that she alone had heard Gruumsh’s voice within her head, rattling her bones with His gusto.
“You shall be Gruumsh-Hammer,” she said steadily. “Invoke the name of One Eye and see your foes cower before you.” The Ork gazed up at her with a look of wonderment lighting his features.
She stepped to the next warrior and let the haze waft over him. The voice of Gruumsh filled her, and she spoke: “You shall be Man-Cleaver. One day you will deliver the finishing blow to a human king with your longsword.” The Ork looked up at her in surprise and whispered his thanks. They were not needed. For seven years now she’d been little more than a vessel devoid of will.
Ehgoss was taken aback by the next Ork. He was familiar. Memories of long ago entering the RotHide village to celebrate victory at war washed over her, memories of an Ork child—the very one who stood before her!—and of childish thoughts of friendship. His name was Barod. He didn’t recognize her, naturally, not in this position. The smoke wafted over him, and she was struck with how silent it felt now that she had hoped he would speak. THIS ORK IS NOT FIT FOR MY ARMY. HE MUST DIE.
Ehgoss, expressionless, dropped the censer beside her, unsheathed the Eye Knife, and plunged it into Barod’s chest. His muscles all contracted at once, and he leaned into her, clutching at her robes. She wrenched the Knife from him and plunged it in again, so that he slumped to the ground beside her. She slammed the blade once more into his chest and cried, “This Ork is not fit for the Ever-Growing Army. This Ork is not fit to serve under Gruumsh.” There was a murmur of surprise and understanding. She reclaimed the censer and sheathed the Eye Knife and continued without another glance at the corpse. They would probably take the body home for a proper burial. Not a warrior’s burial, but a respectable one nonetheless. He had given His life to Gruumsh’s Army, after all.
The rest of the Ceremony passed in a haze of cloves and steel, just like the censer, and Ehgoss was finally in her chambers again, away from it all. The respect, the admiration, the expectations. Gruumsh.
All was dark at last. She slept.
“Did it bother you to take his life?” The Ork was taller than any she’d ever seen, twice as broad, radiating masculine virility and strength. His smile was dark and enticing, an attempt to goad her passion.
Ehgoss stood in the center of the temple, where the Throne of Gruumsh resided. It was dark, and she was dreaming. The Ork sat in His dark Throne yet seemed to stand out from the night. She had gone to bed in night clothes and now was nude.
“It seemed like it did.” His face was surprisingly animated and now showed an expression of mock concern. He threw it off immediately though: “No matter. Do you know who I am, Ehgoss Priestess?”
He wore no armor, wielded no sword, had both eyes, but the voice was the same. “You are Gruumsh, One Eye,” she said and placed her palm over her right eye, fingers closed, as she had been taught long becoming priestess.
“Very good.” He grinned at the quaint gesture. His teeth were like a hundred needles and His eyes like beady black river stones; Ehgoss wondered if she was only dreaming him as BlackTear Clan, or if this was His true form. “I have come to you with a proclamation of war. You are my greatest vessel, loyal and broken. You will do this for me.
“The Elvish Army of the South will pass through Orkish lands to aid the Men of the North. They are protected by a treaty, a ceasefire forged without my consent. When they are in the heart of Orkish lands, my Oracle will surround the elves with my Ever-Growing Army and annihilate them. This is my will.” He leaned forward on the Throne, studying Ehgoss’ reaction. She gave none.
“And, bereft of an army, the Elves of the South will be weakened. You will lead my Ever-Growing Army into the land that Corellon Larethian stole from me for his elves so long ago.” Gruumsh clenched His fist and gave her a sinister grin. The weight of unwanted responsibility pressed on her chest once again. “Gouge out one eye from each of the elven corpses and impale them on stakes so that all who venture through my new land will know that Corellon’s thievery of my eye at time’s beginning was avenged with a thousand thousand of his own.”
Gruumsh stood from His throne and stalked towards her meaningfully, took a knee beside her. He ran His hand around her breast, over her clavicle and neck, and to her chin. Locking her gaze with His, He said sternly, “You will take advantage of the elven genocide. The Men of the North will have no support; kill them.” His eyes danced over her visage, searching for some expression, some reaction, but she would give him none. At this He sneered with satisfaction. “However, to ensure the victory of my Army, you must become a more perfect vessel for me, Ehgoss Priestess. Hasten your investiture to Grand High Priestess to the end of this month. There is no time to wait for the summer solstice as normal.”
To her unblinking gaze He said with a chuckle, “Oh, don’t worry; I think I’ll be all right with it.”
Her eyes opened. She lay silently on her cot and cursed her god. First He conscripted her as his priestess; now he made her High Priestess as though in mockery of her discontentment.
After donning her vestments, Ehgoss made her way to Solka, the High Cleric, an aging Orkess who transcribed the books and rituals of old and had taught Ehgoss everything she needed to know about her priestly duties. Solka sat hunched over a desk in the library, surrounded by scrolls, peering at an anonymous tome through spectacles she had procured from the Men. She fingered her ogre-bone cane pensively as Ehgoss entered.
“Solka High Cleric, One Eye has spoken to me in a dream.” Solka looked up, her long, braided mane swinging with the sudden motion, and her faded eyes lit up with the same curiosity and eagerness that she always had about such mystical matters; she was fascinated by her god, but had, regretfully, never made contact with Him. “I am to be made Grand High Priestess by the month’s end. So Gruumsh has decreed.”
Solka stood with a grace not normally attributed to an Orkess of forty winters and padded to Ehgoss’ side. “You want me to teach you the Ritual of Ascension? Does He Who Watches truly desire to be one with you so badly?” Ehgoss nodded and Solka tilted her head, bemused. “The Ritual is taxing, Ehgoss Priestess. Gruumsh will come to you in a prophetic dream. In this dream, He will give you a name and a prophesy. This name will be yours from your christening onward, and this prophesy will come to pass inevitably during your reign.” Solka pressed her cane to the ground and straightened her back with a popping sound before continuing: “In the dream, one of the Lord’s eyes will be out, for He will appear in His true form. At the Ritual of Ascension, you will proclaim your new name, give your prophesy, and use the Eye Knife to gouge out your same eye that Gruumsh was missing in your dream.”
Ehgoss gawked. She knew about the Ritual of Ascension in passing, for its lore was taught to all priestesses. She never imagined that she would become the Grand High Priestess. There were only nine more days before the month’s end. She sat down abruptly and pressed her hand to her brow, absorbing the gravity. Her fantasies of somehow outliving her term as priestess were shattered. Was she ready to put out an eye for Gruumsh? Was she ready to lead the Ever-Growing Army as One Eye’s living avatar? Ehgoss was filled with such… aversion. A sense of self that she had stifled for seven winters emerged now and screamed through the mire of accumulated responsibilities, no.
Solka ran her hand through Ehgoss’ mane. “This is the reason I waited to tell you of your duties. I thought I had until summer solstice to train you in the new ways, how to channel One Eye and be one with Him. Once this has happened, you can commune with Him freely, and the dream may come at any time. Now, though…” Ehgoss had never seen such genuine concern in anyone’s eyes for her. The emotions that welled up caught in her throat. “Are you ready, Ehgoss Priestess?”
She blinked, breathed, nodded. “I am, High Cleric. As priestess, I live only for Gruumsh.” Ehgoss put on a smile, stood up, and walked briskly from the library. The smile immediately dropped.
That night, Ehgoss lay rigidly on her cot, clothed in a sheer gown. She scowled into the night and listened to the sounds of the temple: faint talking, tapping feet, and distant song, all from those who knew not what their god demanded of them. She dared not speak the myriad curses flashing through her mind, for no one could be allowed to hear. She drifted into sleep despite herself.
“Can you hear me, priestess?” She opened her eyes to the sound of that mocking baritone. He stood at the foot of her cot, looming almost to the ceiling of her room, once again as a BlackTear. She could see two eyes glint down at her through the night. What is going on? This is wrong, she thought.
The Ork that was her god pulled her from under the sheets, and she found that she was again nude. She wondered for a moment whether this was to make her feel more helpless before him, or so that He could sate His lustful gaze upon her. “No one has ever had a prophetic dream before they were trained to commune with you,” she said to Him, ignoring His hand creeping down her back to her bottom. “How will I become Grand High Priestess if you won’t show me which eye to put out?”
He paused His lascivious motions and bent down to her eye level. “You will become High Priestess under Gruumsh, for I, Gruumsh, demand it. Surely you do not question this!” He studied her face for a moment, running His hand through her mane. He sat upon His throne, and Ehgoss realized that that was where they were, now.
“Did you know that you forgot to punish those RotHide acolytes? You decided to before the Initiation.” He shifted His weight onto one arm, splaying His legs. “They are probably back to their village by now, though.” Ehgoss’ brow furrowed without her realizing, and He grinned. “That’s right, little priestess. I know everything about everything in my domain, and what is more a part of my domain than my priestess? I know exactly what you think of me; I have heard every little blasphemy bounce around inside your skull.” His eyes widened slowly as He drank in the look of horror that crossed her face, smile ever widening. “That you obey completely even with contempt in your every thought, that is why you will be my High Priestess, and that is why I chose you seven winters ago. I need an Ork with fire in her heart. You will spread your fire through all the lands and raze them in my name!” He pumped His fist into the air in a gesture of triumph; His whole body seemed to literally radiate at the idea.
Ehgoss’ lip twitched. He knew she would obey Him. Somehow she had resigned herself to a lifetime of rituals geared only toward His self-aggrandizing notions. He had known her before she even knew herself. But His arrogance still posed the greatest detriment to her service.
“Give me something! How will I follow through with your twisted, selfish desires if I can’t even take the first step!?” She stomped up the steps to the throne and jutted a finger into His face. “Are you so possessed of yourself that you would have me give you my life and do it without any help? How can I—”
“ENOUGH!” He roared. He bolted to His feet and glared down His nose at her, far below. “YOU WISH TO KNOW THE PATH YOU MUST FOLLOW, IMPERTINENT CHILD?” Every syllable was like an explosion, rocking her off her feet. “YOU SHALL KNOW MY TRUE FORM, AND YOU SHALL HEAR MY PROPHESY.”
Suddenly, His features contorted. Muscles bulged and bones cracked into new locations. His face flattened and became wider. His needle teeth grew and became tusks. His sunken black eyes were swallowed in their sockets, and, for a moment, Ehgoss could see through them into infinity; quickly, though, the sockets filled as blazing embers. He stood the height of six men, and an equally large set of black armor appeared around Him, covered in spikes and spattered with blood. This was truly the form of the voice that controlled her.
“WORLD-ENDER, GAZE INTO MY EYES AND SEE THAT BOTH ARE OUT.” He whipped a massive gauntlet forward and pointed a clawed finger down at her. “WITH YOUR BLINDNESS WILL COME A DARKENING AS NEVER SEEN BEFORE. THE ELVES WILL BECOME FEW AND THE LAND WILL BURN IN THE NAME OF GRUUMSH ONE EYE! THIS IS MY PROPHESY FOR YOU. GO, THAT I MIGHT FILL YOU WITH MY ESSENCE AS GRAND HIGH PRIESTESS.”
Ehgoss woke up screaming, surrounded by acolytes holding her writhing body to the cot.
The month ended.
Ehgoss walked slowly to the dais where the Eye Knife waited. She felt as though it was eager for her blood. The ceremonial robes were heavy, a reminder of the gravity of what she was to do. Clergy stood in file on either side of the hall leading to the altar. There was a pressing silence filled with anticipation.
She lifted the Eye Knife and carried it to the altar. One at a time, she placed each of the four symbolic offerings upon it. Incense, flesh, stone, and wood. She called Gruumsh, and He answered from the flames, bid well upon the proceedings with His usual grandeur.
Now that the clergy knew it was real, Ehgoss unsheathed the dagger and spoke the words that had haunted her for eight days and nine nights: “I am World-Ender, High Priestess under Gruumsh.” She lifted the Knife up and continued. “With my blindness, there will be a darkening as never seen before. The elves will become few, and the land will burn in the name of Gruumsh!”
“SO IT SHALL BE,” intoned the flames from behind her.
Her hand shook. She was terrified by what she had to do, but pressed the Knife to her right brow anyways. She felt pain as it sunk in and warmth as blood trickled into her vision. Slowly, she pulled the blade down through the skin and let waves of shudders pass through her until the tip reached her eye. I hate you, Gruumsh.
She plunged the blade in and screamed, twisting it in the socket, and prying outward. She felt the edge bite bone, and white-hot agony brought her to her knees. She dropped the Eye Knife and gasped raggedly for breath, fighting off unconsciousness as she looked at the white, yellow, red sphere impaled on the tip of the Knife. To keep from vomiting, she looked at the wide-eyed clergy.
They were different. Through her live eye, she saw their forms just as they were, but through the empty socket that symbolized her connection to One Eye, she saw so much more. She could tell their names and how many winters they would live yet just by looking at them. She could trace the flow of blood through their beating hearts. She could even see the faintest glimmers of their thoughts race by if she strained. So this is what it’s like to be High Priestess, she thought.
But her task was not done. Gruumsh demanded both eyes—blindness from his seer. She shakily picked the Eye Knife back up, pulling the eyeball off of it and tossing it behind her into the flames. She breathed in deeply before she plunged it in, wrenched it out.
She was blind.
As her sight left, so too did her agency. Gruumsh flooded into His waiting vessel greedily. Her entire life had led to this moment, and He was pleased. The elves would fall, the men would scatter. Cries of praise, fear, and hatred would echo through all the lands of World-Ender, blind High Priestess of the unrelenting god Gruumsh One Eye.