The Last Will & Testament Of Jakob Strongbrew
I have not always been what I appear. Inside my heart beats a beast. Uncontrollable, unquenchable, and unappeasable in its need for violence and vice. Each and every time my eyes stare into the mirror it is there staring back at me; taunting, stalking, wanting desperately to force me to let him out of its ‘cage’. It was not always this way.
Once we were more or less one. More. Or less. It was in the foreground, its keen intellect, physical malleability due to our prodigious skills in the art of alchemical mutation, and unfettered ability to swindle, cajole, or threaten its way out of most situations. At that point we were part of The Empty Pockets, a group of low end mercenary dealing with small political skirmishes, Orcish tribal incursions, and occasionally doing simple seek and retrieve for Drun-Kgun Jack-sun or the Xavier’s of Ole Chicago. Robold the Bold, a human skald who loved his cups as much as the sound of his own voice, he handled our coin and jobs. Tim Tim Sadmuffin, a Halfling with a penchant for spilling blood, was the muscle. D’Nuchio was our ribald rogue, nothing was beneath him. Stephan Star and his brain-addled Flumph sidekick, Dom, a warlock of some renown rounded out our initial crew. We were the brains. Or should I say, Brutus was the brains.
Always give the devil his due. Brutus assembled The Empty Pockets to fill our collective bellies first and foremost. Robold was in for the fame, Tim Tim seemed to simply want a fight, D’Nuchio always needed a new mark to swindle, and Stephan Star was attempting to pay off his pact. We and Gulgor Broken Tusk came up together, he was and is family. He kept us focused, the glue you could say. For Brutus and myself it was about pushing the alchemical boundary. It was about breaking science, pulling it apart, and putting it back together again. And what better person to test our theorems on than us.
Eventually, we made enough coin and renown, and honestly enemies, in the area we decided a change of location might be wise for a bit of time. We left south crossing the Sea Of Tomorrows past the Sands Stained Red wastes to the Shatterstone Holds. We arrived during the middle of the third Great Troll Incursion. The Dwarves were attempting to annex more territory into the Troll Warrens further south that just happened to be rich in risidium strains that were yet untapped. For two hundred years they pushed the Trolls back further and further into the darkness of the warrens and opened new mines and pathways back to their Holds. But everything ends at some point.
No one knows when, but in a shocking turn of events just as the Dwarves seemed to have the Trolls on the verge of decimation, the tide turned. The Trolls became united beneath the banner of Figuraus The Foul, a Troll from the Feywild, who had migrated to our world. Well versed in tactics, negotiating tribal issues, engaging in general acts of horrendous violence, and giving his followers ample amounts of strange fungi from “Elsewhen” it took him less than 120 years to unite and fortify the Troll forces styming the regular Dwarven forces. At that point the Dwarves began to not only lose ground, but coin and kin as well. Knowing that there was coin to be made in a conflict like this The Empty Pockets signed up for irregular service.
This is where our lives were altered forever.
The Dwarves added numbers to our company. Omar Abdifafi was an excellent fighter from the West who was known for his ability to hunt and kill dangerous prey. A gregarious man, as quick with his spear as with his sense of humor. Phylla Stacks was our sawbones of a sort. Some in our party swore up and down she was some sort of holy woman, but if she were, she was smart enough to keep Brutus from seeing her practice. At that time my much worse half had a tendency towards random violence against those of any religious persuasion. Brutus had ripped the arm off of a Priest of Gond in a heated exchange over whether or not Goblin young should be allowed to live. I shudder to think what would have happened had not Gulgor intervened. The last to be added to The Empty Pockets was Casenda. A mage of incomparable intelligence, with sardonic wit, and beauty to match. The moment we saw her we knew she was our match in every way.
No one pushed the magical boundaries of studies the way she did, never fearing knowledge both forbidden and unknowable. She pressed us to push further and further into our own academic pursuit’s in-between our forays into the blood soaked Troll Warrens to earn more coin for more debaucherous and dangerous experiments. At the same time, Brutus lost his focus. Gulgor had grown sick of endless and senseless slaughter, and I suspect of watching us fall further down a void of pointless viciousness. He took his share, bid us farewell, and returned to the lands that gave us our births. Brutus shed not a tear, but instead threw himself into battle, alchemy, and Casenda.
Without Gulgor to keep the focus of The Empty Pockets together they began to let their lesser vices become horrid depravities. To the point that even the Dwarves began to look at them as liabilities. Eventually all parties were given what they wanted; a chance to cut the proverbial head off the beast. Intel had revealed that Figuraus The Foul was at a front position. The mission was clear; seek and destroy. It was exactly what The Empty Pockets had come to excel at. There was only one problem.
D’Nuchio had decided he was meant for more. For over a year he had watched his allies flourish, grow into themselves and all the while something rotted inside him. When he was approached by one of the cultist of the Fungi From Yuggoth with the opportunity to take everything he felt owed, everything he felt denied, and everything that in his mind was his. There was no hesitation. Robold was the first to fall to a poisoned knife in the back. His voice to never be heard again only a surprised and pained gurgle. As he fell, Figurarus ripped his body asunder, bathing in his gore, and ensuring that he would never be raised. Stephan Star and Dom appealed to their fickle patron, the Fungi From Yuggoth, but found that in Figurarus’ retinue there was another warlock of the same patron. The Troll pulled pieces of a Mi-Go from its bag of holding and devoured it whole. It went into a psychedelic rampage and in doing so set itself aflame. Wreathed in an unending flame that seemed not to harm the beast it grabbed Stephen and Dom. They burned as they were slowly consumed by both the Troll and the unearthly flame. Tim Tim led the withdrawl, recognizing that our forces were being devastated. We stood our ground, blood and fury, losing ourselves in the alchemical brews we had ingested. And then the blade slid between our ribs. His blade. D’Nuchio faded with a toothy smile from our outstretched nails into the darkness in victory. Our blood burned in a way we had not felt before, and just as soon as our moment of triumphant glee had ended our death began.
I am still unsure who pulled us to safety or how we made it back to the Shatterstone Holds. All I did know is that D’Nuchio The Thrice Damned lived, and that we were dying. For over three months we suffered in agony. The poisoned used had been developed just for us, a damnable brew made of “Elsewhen Fungi”, shadow-stuff, and stolen components of my own alchemical brews. Our party broken, thrown out of The Holds for our failure, our names black marked, and our form left broken and wilting we gave in. We died.
As we lingered during the long sojourn back to the lands of our birth, our allies found that no tincture, spell, or cure would prevent our dying. We drifted from our body, Brutus small and weak after what had happened. The betrayal, the failure, the impotence of his vengeance. While I wished to live. There were barriers yet to be broken, there were wrongs we had committed that I wished to right, and I wished nothing more than a life with Casenda. We drifted on the verge, locked in a metaphysical dissipation of form into the pure realm of spirit when she spoke, her voice as soft as silk but as strong as steel. “I am with your child. Twins. Do not leave them without a Father. Do not leave me without a Husband.”
Casenda stretched and expanded her magic beyond what she could or should have been able to do. She pulled, reached into the expanse beyond. She witnessed us in our best and worst forms and she choose. She choose the best for the children in her womb, our children. It could have all been done there. Casenda could have let Brutus have his peace in a beyond, but she could not. She could not bear to see the Half-Orc she had fallen in love with dissipate into nothing. Instead she left him, “caged” in his words, inside. She felt that he made me “whole” on some level. His strength, his cunning, and, in the case of real danger, his bloodthirstiness would serve me to protect our Family. Part of me knew and still knows that isn’t the only reason.
For years Brutus lay dormant. Resting, recovering, and reflecting on what he had suffered through. He watched our lives blossom. We found happiness in peace. I became a part of the community. Casenda, now my wife, became an even greater practioner of magic then either of us could have dreamt. Behind my eyes, Brutus watched his daughters be born and grow; wild and strong. He watched our sons take after the patience and cleverness of their Mother. And as our third daughter was born I felt his burning gaze within, longing for time with this daughter with his eyes. He burned within me, quietly waiting, desperately wanting, and biding his time.
As our children grew, succeeded, and left the nest Casenda threw herself into her magical pursuits with abandon. Without adventure, without children, I floundered. I found myself without purpose. And in that moment of hopelessness Brutus began to push around the edges. More daring pursuits in the lab, late night excursions behind masks, morally questionable decisions, and eventually without Casenda there keeping the watchful eye, he manifested. Alchemical potions of mutations became the gateway to his manifestation; fully reborn, powerful, brilliant, and with purpose.
My uncertainty has released a monster back into the world. My monster; Me, We, Us…And I don’t know how I can put him back again. Worse yet I don’t know if I want to…Follow @heelturnradio