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The Song of Orcus

by Ripvanwormer

The Song of Halav is the most famed of the Traladaran epics. It tells of the struggles and losses of the three heroes of the Beastman Wars, of their sacrifice, their victory, and their final reward.

But there is another song the Church of Traladara has forbidden, a song told only among the secretive cultists of fell Immortals.

This is the Song of Orcus.

The song begins in a humble, inauspicious place, a small farm on the borderlands. There, a boy named Zirchev lived with his cruel father and their two pigs. The cruel farmer was prone to rages, and would beat and starve his pigs when the mood hit him. The boy loved one of the pigs, and would go out at night to soothe it and sneak it food. The other pig had a disturbing aura, and the boy feared it almost as much as he feared his father.

Being on the borderlands, the farm was one of the first places to fall victim to the beastman invasion when it came. The beastmen tore down the door of the farmer's house and tore the cruel farmer limb from limb. The King of the Beastmen himself inspected the barn to see if there were any men left to kill. He saw only two pigs, beasts like himself, and he left them alone. Zirchev clung to the underside of the pig he loved, and went unnoticed.

When the beastmen left, the pig grunted softly and nudged the shaking, weeping Zirchev toward the woods. Zirchev let his friend the pig lead him until they came to an ancient tree standing alone. The pig rooted in the ground, uncovering a tender root. It nudged Zirchev anxiously until he, deducing what his friend intended, gave the root a nibble.

"Finally!" said the pig.

"Did you just talk?" asked Zirchev.

"Of course," said the pig. "This tree is a Tree-of-Life; it was once the center of an elven community. The elves are long dead, but the tree remains, and consuming parts of it has made the local beasts clever. By eating of it, you can now understand our speech, and we can help teach you the secret magics of beasts."

"Thank you, my friend," said Zirchev. "But what were the terrible beastmen who killed my father and destroyed our farm?"

"They were once beasts like us," said the pig. "But they were corrupted by Entropic forces. We can help you defeat them."

As for the other pig, the one Zirchev found loathesome and disturbing, it walked another path, following the trail left by the beastmen army until it came before the King of the Beastmen himself.

"Who are you, four-legger," demanded the king, "to speak to the King of the Beastmen?"

"Brother beast," said the disturbing pig, "I have nothing but hate for men, who have been nothing but cruel to me. Teach me, please, how to become like you, so that I can have my vengeance on mankind."

"Hmm," rumbled the King of the Beastmen. "There are arts that can change you, allow you to walk unnoticed among men. If we teach you these arts and make of you a devil-swine, will you be our agent, and sow chaos among our enemies?"

"Gladly," said the disturbing pig.

"Then the pact is sealed," said the King of the Beastmen. "We name you Orcus."

A decade passed. Zirchev lived among the beasts for years, learning to run from the stags, to hunt from the wolves, to skip between branches from the kercpa, even to fly from the birds. He grew clever and wise in the magic of the wood.

And in the city of Lavv, prince Halav grew restless. The beastmen army had been rampaging through the land for a decade, and many cities and villages had fallen to their onslaught. The city of Krakatos was now being threatened by them, and Halav begged his father, old king Lavv, to let him go to Krakatos' aid.

"You are too impatient, my son," said King Lavv. "Your duty is here. Besides, our advisor, Orcus, tells us the danger to Krakatos is not great."

Orcus had arrived in Lavv a few years before, charming everyone with his large bags of clanking money and his admirable girth signifying great wealth and therefore cunning and wisdom. When heralds and bards came to the city warning that the beastmen were destroying everything in their path, Orcus explained to the people that heralds and bards were notorious liars. Only he, Orcus, a man of obvious wealth, could be trusted. "There are actually only fifteen beastmen," said Orcus. "Soon, the fifteen is going to be down close to zero." When nearby villages began to drown in blood, Orcus offered to build a wall around Lavv.

"Will you pay for it, with your great wealth?" asked a man.

"I will persuade the beastmen themselves to pay for it!" bragged Orcus.

"Why have we never seen you spend a single coin?" pressed the man. "Why have you never opened one of your clanking bags and shown us if the clanking sound is actually money?"

"This man is a liar," said Orcus. King Lavv obligingly put the man to death and waited patiently for the beastmen to send him money for a wall.

Prince Halav went privately to Orcus and told him of his wish to aid the city of Krakatos. "Why should I remain here in the safety of the great wall that will shortly be built as soon as the beastmen send us the money when I could be proving my valor on the front lines?"

"You make a good point," said Orcus. "Go to Krakatos, my brave friend, and I will make sure your father understands."

Shortly after Halav left, a beastmen regiment destroyed the city of Lavv, killing men, women, and children with gleeful abandon. "I won the war!" Orcus said to the corpses. "The beastmen won only in the eyes of lying bards and heralds. I concede nothing!"

The door to the king's chamber shattered. Howling beastmen swarmed in, shattering furniture, defecating on the floor.

"You don't need to do this," said Orcus. "I'm in control here. I can get you anything you want."

"And what do I want?" asked the King of the Beastmen, his breath hot in Orcus's face.

"Wealth. Slaves. Women."

The King of the Beastmen laughed. "Those are human things. They mean nothing to me. I crave only destruction and meat. You've gotten too comfortable here. You've forgotten what it means to be a beast."

He moved close to Orcus again, close enough for his drool to drip on his face. "What's my name, little swine?"

Orcus struggled to control his breathing. "Yeenoghu," he said finally.

The King of the Beastmen turned to his army. "Burn everything down." To Orcus he said, "You can be king of the dead."