Doroga looks to the East, watching the sun rise, as is his custom. The camp is beginning to stir behind him, but if feels as if there's a cliff between him and them. He'll be leaving, after all. To be a hostage, though the crap-sitters don't call it that: he's a cultural exchangee. Funny how they aren't sending one of their own out here. But then, the stronger rarely have to make concessions to the weaker, do they?
The Earthshaker clan needs this treaty: give the Humans some worthless ground to mine for even-more worthless gems. Pretty, to be sure, beauty is everywhere. Useful things, now those can be all too rare. And the Earthshakers are getting some very useful things out of the deal: yearly gifts of worked metal. Then again, the Humans are getting something useful as well, aren't they? He may be the second son, and thus not the true heir to the Shaman, but he has power all the same.
A hand on his shoulder.
"What do you see, Cub?"
Scowling, Doroga looks up at his father. "I'm an adult now, Father. And today I'm leaving. The least you could do is call me by my name."
There's a twinkle in the old man's eye, causing Doroga's scowl to deepen. "The clan judges you an Adult, but you are my child yet. I don't wish to send you away, but the clan needs this treaty, and everything has a price. The Alerans will be your hosts: remember, you aren't simply a hostage there. You will be our permanent representative. What you do reflects on all of us."
Doroga almost resist, caught up like most new adults in the importance of their new status, before catching his father in a hug, burying his face in the older man's shoulder. "I'm scared, Father. What if I change?"
"I certainly hope you do." Looking down at his son's stunned expression, his face softens, and he continues. "Life is change. You'll see that one day. But as long as you live, you'll remain my son, and have a place in this tribe. Many things will change, but not that. Never that."
Three Years Later
He doesn't wake till long after the sun rises, anymore. Waking up at dawn is for the poor, or the barbarians out in the wilderness. Certainly not for the Aleran family, or their honored guest.
Lazily stretching, Doroga gets up to do his morning grooming, before going downstairs to breakfast with Marcus. The two were the same age, and had become close friends over the past few years.
The next few hours are filled with them fooling around: it's their day off from studies or duties. Doroga does show Marcus that new trick he worked out, but beyond that it's the same as many other days.
Until the event that shatters everything. Returning home, Guards all around the house, apparently keeping the surrounding crowd to get any ideas. They enter easily enough, and in the Atrium they see why. Several Hobgoblin Warriors, dressed for battle, lounge around. They stiffen when they see Doroga.
One finally steps forward. An older warrior, a friend of his fathers. Nasaug, if he remembers correctly. "Doroga. Get your things ready. You're leaving."
Marcus comes between them. "What are you talking about. He has to stay for the treaty-"
"His brother is dead, and so is the Treaty. Your false-tribute saw to that." Nasaug looms over Marcus, gripping his sword so hard his hand is beginning to shake.
Doroga knows he should intervene, but he feels so...disconnected. Apart from everything around him. He silently goes, gathers the few things he needs, and leaves, saying a few token thanks to the Aleran's sympathies. Home. Where is home, really?
It seems like a blur. News of his brother's death, the call for his return. The gathering for war. The Council. Him, speaking out for peace, and the backlash.
Now he sits in his Father's tent. Wearing the traditional Earthsaker garb, but after 3 years it feels wrong, somehow. He thinks back to the day he left, and his father's words. Maybe he was wrong, maybe that has changed.
The flaps open, and his father walks in. He's older, easier to see now without the ceremonial garb. As if more than a mere three years have passed. Doroga genuflects, speaking with his head touching the rug.
"Don't apologize. You are right, this is pointless. But worse, it's futile. We can't win, not against the human army. But we don't have a choice."
He's startled by the tone in Father's voice. He hasn't heard him like this since mother died. "Surely there's something-"
"No, they've laid the trap too well. Continually encroaching, taking more and more. Now the only choice for us is between dying well or poorly. Well, most of us."
"I have one last task for you, cub. I need to go with the War camp. You'll be in charge of the Peace camp. If-When- we lose, keep them alive. Keep the clan alive."
Doroga is stunned by his father's request, mutely nodding.
His father gives that knowing smile that Doroga always found so infuriating, before turning to leave. He pauses by the tent flaps, looking over his shoulder at his son.
"May the Earth Shake in your Passing, Doroga."
Having called him by his name for the first time, he leaves. Doroga never sees him again.
When really was the correct word.
It is raining. He hates the rain. Least of all due to the trouble it's causing the clan. Sapping the strength of the injured, making accidents more likely, and hiding their pursuers.
Ahead of him, one of the warriors stumbles. For a second, Doroga thinks it's simply putting a foot down in a loose patch of mud, but then he falls backwards, and the arrow sticking out of his throat is visible.
The next few...minutes? Feels like hours, but then, it always does. So much happens, so fast. Some mounted men, falling to the flames he summons. Another warrior down, a lucky hit to his leg. Some aren't as lucky: a child taking an arrow to the stomach, and trampled under a rider's mount. The mother, or maybe sister, speared through her chest as she reaches for him.
There are two few attackers, though. They must have thought this was another of the scattered bands, rather than the remnants of the tribe, such as it is. They are surrounded and overwhelmed in short order, and Doroga moves to aid the wounded.
After tending the most grievously wounded, some warriors approach, dragging a living man along.
"Nasaug, what is this? I don't have the strength to cure all of our own wounded, much less the enemy."
"Shaman, this trash says he knows you, that you'd want him alive." At this, Nasaug rips the mans helmet off, revealing Marcus Alerans face. "So, do you?"
Doroga doesn't speak for a bit, shocked to see the familiar face of his friend.
"Doroga, it's me! I'm so glad to see you: I thought that-"
Doroga's face softens for a moment, not really hearing his friends words. When he looks up, however, he sees the trampled body of the child, prepared for the death rites. Looking Nasaug in the eyes, he speaks in a hard monotone.
"He's simply someone I used to know."
A small motion from his hands, and Nasaug draws his sword and slices in one motion, seperating Marcus's head from his shoulders. Doroga's glad it's raining, otherwise someone might think he was crying.
They preform the rites for their dead. Most of the invaders are simply left where they fell. Except for one body, which the Shaman obliterates in a moment of privacy. Only Nasaug sees, but he never tells a soul.
Doroga looks to the East, watching the sun rise, as is his custom. The camp is beginning to stir behind him, but if feels as if there's a cliff between him and them. He'll be leaving, after all. A hostage, again, this time to fate. He might bring the salvation of the clan.
If not, he will bring fire, death, and the end of the world.