His young, red hands shook. He was merely seven-years-old and stood six feet tall. He hunched over the corpse of his own brother. The body was stiff and blood surrounded the head where it had been slammed against the stone floor. The child, who had bested his kin in combat, gazed at the blazing fire that raged inside a clay alcove in the wall. He breathed heavily and despite what most would assume, he felt pride.
The cruel land of Kru’aka was nestled in the northern reaches of the fantastical world, Teros. Kru’aka housed one of the most brutal races known to the world: the Orken. In this brutal kingdom, an orken named Kal’drak was king. He was fierce and known for his lack of mercy: an expected quality in an Orken king.
He entered a large room, lit only by a fire on the northern wall. He saw his young orkling, his child, standing over another one of his orklings.
“Well done, Kul’drak,” the King said to his son. “Your kin’s death has assured your position as a warrior. Report to the barrack’s at first light to captain Kon’kra.”
“Yes, my king,” Kul’drak said as he took one final look at the dead orkling at his feet. The spar had indeed been initiated by the dead orkling. Kul’s brother, Gur, was merely five years older than he was. Gur, shamefully, had never killed before and thus, had not become a warrior in the Draken army. Gur’drak had approached his younger kin, Kul, and challenged him to a hand-to-hand duel to the death. Kul was ferocious, taking after his father, and defeated his kin
Kul’drak spent the next four decades fighting the wars of the Orken. He fought against many enemies and won many battles as a prominent warrior in the Draken army. His fame was quick to spread throughout the city he lived in; Krag-Ma’ak. He would soon be promoted to a captain in the Draken army, one of four, as a reward for his efforts and ability. Yet, unfortunately for him, his fame was a threat to his father’s rule. An orken king could be succeeded only through death and if an orken supposed themselves stronger than the king, they had the right to challenge the king in combat. The Orken hold no ties of endearment or favour towards family as their culture is strictly driven by loyalty. A child is loyal not to its parents, but to its king. In fact, the words mother, father, brother, and sister, were never spoken by Orken. They remained in the Orken language but were dormant words, aged out through the passing of time and the growing of their vigour. And so, when Kal’drak, King of Kru’aka, heard of his own kin’s success and quick rise through the Draken ranks, he became cautious of Kul’drak’s power.
Curiously, the female who birthed Kul’drak, his mother, and the loyal mate to the king, named Jul’drak, approached Kul and warned him of the king’s cautiousness towards him. Kul heeded his mother’s warning and strictly stayed in the barracks; training diligently and avoiding a promotion.
It was when Kul’drak was six-decades-old, a mere fraction of how long orken can live, that Kal’drak, his father and king, was killed. Kal’s own kin, Darg’drak challenged and defeated him in battle.
It was a grand day for the Orken in Kru’aka. The horn sounded from within the large arena in the War Hall; the central building in the city which housed the barracks, the sacred war chamber, and many other buildings crucial to Orken warring. The horn sounded three times, signifying a challenge.
Kal prepared himself, putting on his suit of thick iron armour. He looked to the eastern wall in his quarters and took hold of his massive axe that rested there. It was the last time he’d take that axe down from the wall.
He walked slowly through the city toward the War Hall. When he arrived, he was not even astonished to see it was his kin who had challenged him. Darg’drak genuinely meant nothing to the king. He may have been his brother, but to any true orken, he was simply someone that needed to die.
And yet, despite his determination, skill, and vigour; the battle was lost for him. His gauntlets had been ripped off during the battle. Kal found himself kneeling, holding his axe horizontally to defend again Darg’s incoming strike. Darg’s axe changed directions mid-swing and instead of chopping downward, swung sideways, catching Kal’s axehead as it went. Kal’s axe was ripped from his hands and Darg still held onto his own.
Kal’drak rested his frame, understanding what was to happen. In an interesting display of submission, he knelt still and allowed Darg’drak to sever his head from his shoulders.
The many hundreds of orken that lined the bleachers in the arena cheered and roared as Darg was victorious. Not because they were not content with Kal’s ruling, but because Darg was the commander of the Draken army and had indeed gained the loyalty of many orken in the city by his sheer strength. Thus, with almost a political acceptance, the residents of Krag-Ma’ak welcomed their new king.
With Darg’drak as the new King of Kru’aka, a new commander of the Draken army needed to be elected. A captain named Hil’gom was appointed commander in Darg’s stead. And in his place of captain, the young warrior, Kul’drak was promoted.
Many years later, after King Darg’drak had taken his dead brother’s mate for his own and produced offspring through her, the Draken entered into a heated battle between an enemy that lived in the mountain range just north of their kingdom: the Geerum. The Geerum sent a small raiding party to attack a few villages that rested just to the west of the great Orken city, Krag-Ma’ak. This attack was defended well by the local Draken militants. However, the Geerum’s forward attack was disturbing to the king, Darg’drak. He sent five hundred strong warriors to strengthen the western villages. Yet, the Geerum had planned for this. Their goal was to draw some more of the Draken army from the city and then attack them head-on.
Yet, something curious then happened. As the Geerum were amassed and ready to march south from their mountain and attack the Orken, a lone black metal arrow soared through the air and pierced the skull of the Geerum king. He reeled back and fell to the ground, dead. The Geerum, spooked by the assassination, retreated back into their mountain and remained dormant for a long time.
Rumours of this mysterious assassination quickly spread through the land. The Orken were glad for it but could not take any credit for the mysterious action.
After the tension between the Geerum temporarily subsided, Kul’drak continued to train with the other three captains. All of which shared the same clan name as he: Drak. Those of the Draken clan were not just of the same clan as the previous two kings, but they were truly remarkable in strength. Thus, it naturally occurred that all four captains and the king were of the Draken clan. The other captains were Dal’drak, Gan’drak, and Kil’drak. However, one of the other captains, Dal’drak, felt the Draken commander Hil’gom’s failure to defend the western villages from the surprise Geerum assault was unacceptable. He challenged the commander to a duel. The fight took place in the barracks, overseen by the other three captains and King Darg’drak himself. Dal was ferocious and ended the duel swiftly by killing his opponent. With full acceptance, Dal was promoted to the position of commander.
And in his stead, Kul’drak motioned for a young warrior who had proven himself to be extraordinarily strong for his age to become the next captain. This young warrior’s name was Ful’kag. Dal’drak and Ful’kag had actually crossed paths and sparred often. They had grown in comradery, which was not very familiar amongst orken warriors. Thus, Dal was quick to accept Kul’s notion and promoted the young Ful’kag to the position of captain.
Darg’drak, with Dal’drak as commander and Kul’drak and Ful’kag as his captains, led the Draken kingdom to many victories against foreign species. They warred and reigned with their fierce axes and brought the surrounding nations into submission.
However, the fierce reign of the Okren in Kru’aka came to a swift halt when the king, Darg’drak, was killed in his sleep. Orken only require a full night’s rest once every fortnight and thus, the window to assassinate the king was very slim. This killing of the king was a most unusual death for an orken as, being creatures of pride, assassination, subterfuge, dishonesty, and secrecy were foreign occurrences within the culture and hearts of the Orken.
It was on a warm summer day approaching dusk. Captain Kul’drak entered the barracks to spar with his fellow captain, Ful’kag. The two had become loyal warriors during their many decades of warring side-by-side. Yet, Ful’kag felt he had been closer to Dal’drak, an orken from the same clan as Kul’drak and the king, Darg’drak. Nonetheless, Ful’kag welcomed Kul’s challenge to a non-lethal duel.
The two sparred for quite some time before Kul’drak rose victorious. They, wanting to preserve each other’s life, used only their limbs to fight, setting aside their strong two-handed axes. With many cuts and bruises, Ful’lag lay on the sandy floor of the small arena they were in, grinning. He was proud to have fought against Kul’drak and respected him as a superior: even though they were of the same rank. Kul’s victory over him proved his might and worth.
Dal’drak, the commander of the Draken army, approached the pair wearing a similar grin. “Shall I duel the victor?” he proposed to Kul’drak. It was a later hour in the day and yet there were still many hundreds of orken inside the barracks, all of whom had turned their eyes to the sparring captains.
The orken are an interesting race to observe. They know nothing of love or envy. There are only a few emotions they experience. Two of which, are pride and loyalty. The loyalty of an orken is so strong that it dictates their thoughts and actions. Every orken is loyal to the strongest orken, typically the king. Often, however, orken can be loyal to their captain or commander. Seeing as the captain is loyal to the king, however, this does not present any conflicts. Or at least, it hadn’t previously.
And so, when Kul’drak defeated Ful’kag in the presence of other orken, those loyal to Ful’kag, and subsequently King Darg’drak, became loyal to Kul’drak. But because Kul’drak was supposedly loyal to Dark’drak, every orken’s ultimate loyalty to the king went unchanged.
“Let us begin,” Kul’drak said to Dal as he spread his arms wide, revealing his muscular red chest. Ful’kag limped his way out of the small circle he had lost his battle in and found a place to sit. He watched with anticipation as his revered fellow captain and his fierce commander began fighting.
Hand-to-hand combat in the Orken culture is a fascinating sight. An average orken weighs about five hundred pounds and stands eleven feet tall. Yet these massive creatures are incredibly graceful and skilled when it comes to fighting. In a combination of blocking a kick from Kul with his knee, Dal shifted his weight to land on his defending leg and struck Kul’s side with his other. The two fought in such a swift and silky duel that they could have been dancing. Most strikes were blocked or absorbed and neither of them said a word.
After a few minutes, Dal’drak surprisingly bested Kul. He spun and grabbed Kul’s arm as Kul was attempting to strike him with his fist. Dal dropped to his knees and leaned forward, causing Kul to flip over onto his back. Dal then shuffled forward and placed a knee on Kul’s neck, forcing him to forfeit the duel. Had it been a match to the death, Dal would have snapped Kul’s neck and he knew it.
The surrounding orken roared from the spectacle. Ful’kag grinned. Something burned within him; loyalty. He couldn’t help but gaze at his commander with an untamable pride.
And thus, after two firey duels, Kul’drak walked into his living quarters to sharpen his axe and prepare for his watch in the barracks: he and the other captains rotated their duties there. But on that night, to his surprise, someone awaited him in his chambers.
It was an orken from his clan, the one who had birthed him: Jul’drak. She sat on a stool made of a tree trunk and overlooked a blazing fire. She turned to Kul when he entered the room. She stood and approached him, she had a large axe in her hands. As she got closer, Kul’drak recognized the axe to be King Darg’drak’s.
“Darg is dead,” Jul’drak said. “Claim the kingdom as yours.” She handed Kul the large axe. If he were to present this axe to the Elders of the Draken, they would presume he had killed Darg and Kul would be elected as King of Kru’aka. The thought tempted him. It was not the usual way of Orken succession, however. And he knew it.
“How did his death befall him?”
“I know not,” Jul replied. “Have you heard the whispers of how the king of the Geerum died? An Assassin is what they say. Nonetheless, there is no one to claim the throne better than you.”
“Dal’drak is the stronger of us. And he is the commander of the Draken army. I am but a captain.”
“Dal is not fit to lead. You are. All orken revere you. Question no further.” Jul pressed the axe against Kul’s chest. “I will be seated in the throne room tomorrow upon an Elder’s balcony. Enter through the main doors and present the king’s head. The Council will pledge you as their king.” She marched away into the warm night having appointed the next king in Kru’aka.
The news of Darg’s death spread through the city and Kul’drak’s presentation of his severed head to the Council of Elders solidified his position as the new king in Kru’aka. Yet, to his surprise and dismay, it was merely one week before his kingdom fractured. His, own kin, his brother, Kil’drak who was young and had been promoted captain in his own place, had usurped from the Draken kingdom. His leaving was less than a grand display. He took the entire regiment beneath him and deserted to the nearby Forest of Fal’kir.
Kul’drak summoned his commander and the remaining captains to the War Chamber, a sacred room attached to the central War Hall that was the fabled place of all this war in the city, including the barracks. Kul’drak stormed into the War Chamber and found only Ful’kag was in attendance. He was kneeling, with his axe resting on the stone floor in front of him.
“Where are the others?” Kul demanded. He truly felt odd speaking to a close warrior such as Ful, however, he was enraged by Kil’s departure.
“They…” Ful struggled to speak. His muscled tensed and he closed his eyes. To his relief, three Elders surged into the room.
“Hail, King Kul’drak,” they said in unison.
“Krom’jun, Kon’kra, Kag’jun, speak well news upon me,” he said as he faced the Elders.
“We have not that,” Krom’jun, the oldest of the Elders said. “Not only has the captain Kil’drak usurped, but Gan’drak as well. And worse… your commander, Dal’drak too has fled. With them, most of the Draken army is gone.”
The roar that left Kul’draks lungs shook the bones of the four orken in that room. He understood the weak position he was then in. “Summon the five hundred draken posted in the western villages and draft every orken ten years or more; regardless if they have shed blood. We must bolster our army immediately.”
“Yes, King,” Kag and Kon said together as they left, leaving Krom’jun behind.
“This news is disturbing,” Kul’drak said as he turned and stepped toward Ful’kag. “Rise,” he said. “Ful’kag it is only fitting you assume the role of commander now. Live in the barracks for the next year, raise a new era of warriors and select for yourself four new captains to aid in our warring. Perhaps I will look to the Council of Elders for weakness that may be pruned. They have sat for long years and may need to prove their might again. Go now. We will convene shortly on your progress.”
Ful’kag stood swiftly and placed his fist against his chest. He nodded to Krom’jun as he exited the War Chamber.
“Never before has this kingdom seen such a fracture,” Krom’jun said openly. “What shall you do, Kul’drak?” He spoke plainly to the king, being some six hundred years his senior. “Shall you pursue and kill them?”
“War will be waged,” Kul’drak replied. He took a deep breath. “But the Draken must gather our strength. I feel this war will be long.”