“Gor’h bokh, goh rukh.”
“Ba bohk, koh rogh re Gor’h.”
I’ll be the blood, if you’ll be the bones. That’s what it translated to, more or less. Few besides the ogroids themselves spoke their tongue, yet here upon Tor Agöra, many peoples lived, fought, and died alongside the mighty taur-folk. These outsiders had adopted the saying for what it meant to the ogroids, more than the words themselves.
Their kind persisted as gladiators since the day Gorkamorka’s brutes cast down their great civilization and drove them under the protection of Archaon Everchosen. It was not a mantle they desired, but one at which they excelled, regardless. The saying, then, was one of shared kinship in the face of hardship. That tomorrow they might kill each other upon the sands held no malice in their hearts; they were of the same blood and bones.
Today was a momentous day upon the island fortress, the day when fighters became warriors, earning their place upon the longships that raided far and wide across the Sea of Shadows. Each captain, or a chosen champion of their crew, would fight those who sought to prove themselves worthy, until every berth was filled.
No berth was more desired than aboard the Wolf of Agöra, longship of Kul-Brimir, the Old Bull. He did not care for the name ogroid; like their trade, it was placed upon them. He was goroan, his people’s true name, and to earn a place upon the Wolf, one was required to earn his respect in single combat. The Old Bull would not trust one he had not fought himself.
There was only one berth to be filled upon the Wolf, yet three now stood before Kul-Brimir. The first was a human man, long in years, with the scars to match. He was raised from childhood in the fighting pits outside the Varanspire and although he’d earned his freedom he knew nothing else, and so found his way here.
The man was skilled, and while Kul-Brimir admired his ferocity, he suspected it could be the warrior’s undoing. The Old Bull fought with two massive axes, each the size of those his kin carried in both hands. Great swings chopped the air around the gladiator as he sought to exploit an opening, any opening, and get inside Kul-Brimir’s guard. The goroan allowed his guard to slip, and the man saw it for the trap it was too late to keep his instincts from exploiting it. The Old Bull saw no regret or resentment in the man’s eyes as his axe carved the man’s shoulder from his body, collapsing his ribcage, splitting his heart and smashing what remained of him into the sand.
The next truly was of Kul-Brimir’s blood, among the youngest of those the Old Bull had sired over the course of decades. In other cultures, this alone would be enough to earn the youthful goroan his place, but here he was just another adversary in the arena.
Kul-Brimir went on the attack, and within moments, it was clear the fight was all but over. Still the youth persisted, refusing to yield, to show fear or ask for mercy. A blow aimed for his eye instead carved a horn from his head; the next knocked his shield from his numbed hand and shattered his blade at its hilt. The Old Bull stood back, and it was understood: the youth was not ready. There was no dishonor in his defeat, only a lesson harshly learned.
The last was a duardin, once a proud member of Grimnir’s cult, now simply proud. His captors had pulled the ur-gold from his flesh, stripping him of his god, and he’d been brought to Tor Agöra by a pompous Chaos lord eager to learn their craft. The lord had been slain quickly upon the sands, but this duardin refused to accept death so easily.
Each fought with two axes now, and despite the disparity in size, appeared equally matched. The duardin must have been truly fearsome when empowered by the ur-gold of his clan. His body was pockmarked with scars, the ruined echoes of runes. They made a strange mirror to the sigils that adorned the Old Bull, seething with the ancient magics of the goroans. Kul-Brimir’s own axes chipped at the onslaught, and wound after wound split his chest, thighs and arms. It was not an axe that laid him low, however, but a cloven kick which sent the duardin sprawling, broken nose bleeding across his sandy-orange beard.
The killing blow never came, and he looked up instead to an outstretched hand, massive and gnarled. Behind it, the face of Kul-Brimir, nostrils flaring from exertion, nodded in recognition.
“I’ll be the blood,” Kul-Brimir said.
“If you’ll be the bones,” the duardin responded, and took the Old Bull’s offered hand.