“Where did I put that damn Tuki Tuka power?” Frode grumbled to himself as he browsed the various herbs and sacks hanging from the inside of the Chieftain’ Hut. The new living arrangements were nice, definitely better than working out of a cramped tent, but Frode still managed to be grumpy. No doubt due to old age and having to mentor yet another hard-headed Martyr Chieftain.
At least Torunn isn’t AS hard headed as his father, Frode pondered. Truthfully, this round of mentorship had been pretty challenging, even for someone as wise, intelligent, and fearsome as Frode. The Martyrs faced a new challenge these days, they were in a new era. One that focused around returning to their ancestral roots of caring for and protecting the Great Savanna. And even though Torunn did have some of the hard-headedness of his father, he also managed to be a completed different type of leader. All of those things made Frode feel more alive - no less grumpy, just more alive. It was like he was young again and learning how to harvest WhipLash root, without getting wiped or lashed, for the first time again. It was a painful process, but a uniquely rewarding one.
“Ahhh, here it is,” Frode muttered, “just where I left it...” The Chieftain’s Advisor didn’t have a problem with people touching his stuff and moving it around. Torunn often borrowed his Shaman supplies, as they often carried over to his Alchemy skill, but the young Chieftain always returned them to where he found them. No, Frode’s problem was just that he had trouble remembering where he put things.
He grabbed the small sack of powdered Tuki Tuka from the wall and poured some of it into his hands. With the grace that only came with old age, Frode mixed the powder into the fur on his face, giving special attention to not breathe in the powder or let it get into his eyes. Ingesting too much of the powder at once was the leading cause of the Mad Shaman debuff. It was a temporary debuff, one that went away naturally in a day or two, but it was terrible when it was active. His father often warned him with tales of Shaman grabbing skinning knives and cutting off their fur before disappearing into the Great Savanna for a few days, all the while shouting nonsense about Nifrits that changed their color to every color other than blue as you watched them. The most concerning of these tales was that some of the Mad Shaman recalled that the Nifrits talked to them. Frode knew this was nonsense. Blue Nifrits were known to uproot themselves to waddle around and they were known to communicate with other Blue Nifrits via a complicated system of pollen and plant pheromones, but were never known to talk. Or at least they were never reported to talk by anyone other than a shaman that had accidentally inhaled too much Tuki Tuka powder.
Frode carefully walked over to the prisoners, who were all busy grumbling the rantings of a fever dream. He stretched his hands out over the prisoner’s fur piles. He began to chant.
“Savanna nah nah nah,” Frode recited, as he did everytime he needed to use his Sense Magic ability.
“Hana heyyyyy,” He continued, building up rhythm and allowing his body to sway with it.
“HA!” Frode shouted, allowing his head to jerk slightly. Some of the Tuki Tuka powder trapped within the fur of his face came loose and floated into the air. He inhaled it.
“Savanna nah nah nah,” he chanted, this time with more gusto, and more rhythm. His feet stepped back and forth and his body swayed. He closed his eyes and allowed his body to fall into its carefully choreographed tempo. If he moved to fast, he would go mad. If he moved too slow, it wouldn’t work.
“HA!” Frode shouted louder this time with a more forceful jerk of his head. He inhaled more powder. His senses became aware of things. Things that Frode knew would disappear if he opened his eyes.
“HA!” sounded from Frode’s mouth, this time almost unconsciously.
“HA!” Frode inhaled yet more Tuki Tuka powder. Lights began to daze around in the Advisor’s vision, even through his closed eyes. They waved around vaguely, always retreating if Frode focused on them. Frode let himself be consumed by his chant. His head jerked and waved around violently. His feet stepped in rhythm with his body, all the while, his hands hovered above the insane prisoners.
The colors that floated around Frode’s consciousness became clearer and less afraid of his focus. They became bolder. They settled into the outlines of the Chieftain’s hut. More of them appeared and burst into a cloud of colorful mist that fell to the floor just below Frode’s hands.
Suddenly, Frode stood there, in the vague and colorful realm only a handful of the greatest shaman’s have ever entered. He didn’t have much time, he had to get to work. He dropped to one knee and surveyed the magic that flowed through the bodies of the prisoners. He knew that they were always inflicted with two types of insanity. One, which he knew from Omero that only affected Earth humans and was caused by stress, and the other, a more purposeful type of insanity. A type that was created by the Lich King to poison the minds of those inflicted, to make them malleable, to make them ripe for harvesting.
Frode identified the malicious magic that flowed through the prisoners' ethereal bodies and attempted to coerce it away with a chant. He recalled the shamanic lessons passed down to him from his father, who received them from his father, and so on. He connected with the toxic red mana flow and gave it a sharp tug with his fading consciousness. It came loose. Without wasting an extra second, Frode activated Martyr’s Rage. The fur on his back split and he felt a familiar calmness come over him along with the searing hot pain. He leaned into the red mana whipping about angrily above the prisoner’s bodies and took a deep inhale, absorbing the magic with his intangible shaman form. Then… he collapsed.
“Son,” a voice intruded into Frode’s brain. His eyelids shot open, revealing bloodshot eyes.
This is not the shaman’s realm, Frode thought, panic growing inside him as he looked around. He was at a large feasting table, a circular one with a large fire in the middle. He recognized it, but couldn’t place from where. All around him, Martyrs were feasting on hunks of meat and whole beasts.
“Son,” the voice repeated.
Frode turned right, and his eyes recognized his father for the first time since he was a cub. Frode furrowed his large brow and looked around again. Realization dawned.
“I am at the Great Martyr City,” Frode said out loud.
“Yes, my son. I am happy you finally came for a visit,” Frode’s father said as he took out a chunk of the meat in his hand.
“But how?” Frode whispered.
“You finally became a Great Shaman, that's how,” Frode’s father said, swallowing his chunk of meat with an involuntary growl, “I knew you could do it, son!” Frode half expected a pat on the back, but it never came. Frode reached out to touch his father, but his hand simply passed through him.
“Is this the afterlife?” Frode wondered.
His father scoffed, “I don’t think so! I would hope I wouldn't have to work so hard in the afterlife,” his father learned in, “Just between you and me, I could use a vacation,” his father leaned back and nudged the Martyr next to him and gave a loud chuckle, “or a nice nap!” The Martyr two seats down from Frode agreed with a hearty laugh and a returned elbow.
Frode felt out of place. He felt small again, even though he was one of the oldest Martyrs alive. Still, though, he could sense that everyone around him was much more wise, intelligent, and fearsome than he was. He looked around, finally recognizing the great shaman’s that he learned about through story after story in his childhood. Among all the legendary shaman, sat one small human woman. She was so small that Frode didn’t even see her at first and simply mistook her for a gap between two other Martyrs.
“Who is that?” Frode said, pointing his finger at the woman.
‘Ohhhh,” Frode’s father said excitedly, “she is an honored guest. She got here not to long ago actually and is the first ever human to make it here! Quite impressive if you ask me. And I think you two have already met. Her name is Salmaana.”
Frode nodded his head slowly as if his head was weighed down by a distant memory, “Yes. We have met.”
“Thought so,” his father said as he finished off a mug of frothy liquid and became much more serious, “It is good you came when you did, but even the most powerful shaman cannot stay here forever. You still have much to learn, so I am afraid your time is very limited. Come with me.”
Frode stood up and followed his father away from the feast. They walked the familiar, yet foreign, roads of the great Martyr city. Rope bridges swung above his head just before the blank grey sky. They twisted and changed elevation, forming a village of their own in the sky. Frode was led up a large wooden ramp that twisted around a wooden tower that was as thick as the entirety of Dreng’s Rest.
“I have some grave news son,” Frode’s father said as they climbed the tower, “It will not be easy to hear.”
“Out with it,” Frode said firmly, finally remembering who he was and all he had accomplished in his long life. Finally remembering that he deserved to be counted among the great shamans.
“Very well,” his father growled, “the humans are destined to destroy everything our race holds dear. They are destined to destroy the Great Savanna.”
Frode shook his head, “No, the humans protect the Great Savanna. Without them, it would have already been destroyed. You yourself predicted that they would come and do great things for us when you were alive. Humans that could command the fire and spend stat points before they reached adulthood. That was your prophecy, father.”
“Great does not always follow benevolence,” his father said sadly, “I was not insane when I was granted that prophecy, but the prophecy was limited at the time. When I died and came here I was able to talk to people that understood me and didn’t label me a Mad Shaman. I grew more powerful and saw the prophecy more clearly. With Salmaana’s help, we were able to see even clearer. The humans are destined to destroy all the lessor Spirit Vessels, which is a great dead of benevolence. But with this deeper sight Salmaana has granted us, we also discovered they will accomplish great deeds of malevolence as well.”
Frode reached the top of the tower and stood on its flat surface, overlooking the entirety of the great Martyr city. He stepped to the edge and caught a glimpse of the feast’s fire breathing life into the dull greyness of the city.
“They will destroy the Great Savanna if they are allowed to,” his father continued.
Frode turned to face his father and shook his hard head. He refused to believe that James and the other humans; the humans that grew stronger under his very eyes, who fought side by side with him, who helped bury Dreng, would ever betray them. The humans were wise, intelligent, and they were fearsome friends. They would never betray the Great Savanna. Frode wanted to tell his father all that and more, but he couldn’t. His breath caught in his chest as his body lurched. His father pushed him off the tower.
“I am proud of you my son. Please do come visit when you have enough power again!” his father yelled as he looked over the edge of the tower, “In the meantime, look out for the signs!”
Pain snaked through Frode’s body and lit all of his nerves on fire. He came to with a powerful roar that could have come from Dreng himself. He was back in the Chieftain’s hut.
Frode calmed his breathing and deactivated Martyr’s rage, allowing his wounds to slowly seal. The prisoner’s below him tossed and turned peacefully. He couldn’t sense any of the Lich King’s evil within them anymore. They would heal as long as they could overcome Omero’s PTSD insanity. Frode wanted to feel relieved now that his portion of helping the prisoners recover was completed. Instead, he felt restless.