After he closed his eyes and lost feeling in his body, Lev felt nothing…
No pain, no irritation, no worries, no anger, no happiness, and no sorrow… He couldn’t feel his body, nor could he perform complex thoughts. He was fading and becoming one with the void. All his hardships are fading but so are all his dreams. All his enemies were being forgotten but won’t so his friends?
No! He won’t allow it! He won’t allow the uncaring emptiness to encroach on his mind and claim everything he cared about, everything he hoped to accomplish, everything he wished to achieve! He won’t let it devour his memories, he won’t let it erase his friends and their smiles, and he won’t let it destroy what makes him himself.
He fought and fought against the ageless greedy tyrant desiring to strip him of everything. He fought for what felt like millennia, and he finally won, the overlord of nothingness conceded.
As he felt that it released its grip on his mind, he also felt the void change into a river as it swept him away.
He thought, ‘what was going on’ as he was swept away at an incredible speed to the great unknown with nothing in his sight but giant colourful balls of light.
Sight? He can see again! But he wasn’t shocked by that thought as much as to the wondrous view in front of his eyes. The giant balls of light were in a myriad of colours, each having a certain pattern. Some swirled to the left, some to the right, some upwards, some downwards, and some diagonal. There were even balls were multiple colours existed, but they moved in parallel directions. It was marvellous.
He suddenly felt that he was swept downwards, and as he looked ahead, he found that he was heading towards one of the balls. A green one where the patterns gathered into a vortex in the centre.
Panic-stricken, he closed his eyes from the blinding light, then he lost consciousness.
As he regained it, he felt a sharp pain from the front of his head. Head? He can feel his head! Suddenly the pain increased and a loud buzzing sound flooded his ears. He instinctively held his head, only to feel a soaked rag covering the source of the pain and a weird feeling from his hands.
He opened his eyes and stared at them to find 2 filthy grey spindly arms with 4 clawed fingers on each hand covered with blood.
He started screaming at the sight, and multiple thoughts flooded his already heavy head, ‘What’s happening!? What’s going on here!? These aren’t my hands! This is wrong!’.
In his panic, he looked around, to find himself sitting on a filthy hide in a small filthy room caked in dried blood with a giant brown rag covering what he assumes is the exit.
And as he tries to find answers to his questions, a gnarled green hand with yellowish claws pushes the rag to the side revealing a horrible looking bald creature with long ears, a pus-filled large crooked nose, and glowing yellow eyes.
“Maghag ma gherm!”, as it spoke in a guttural voice an alien language similar to growling to his ears, Lev’s headache intensified. It felt like a sledgehammer slamming into his brain!
He held his head and screamed as he tried to back away from the bizarre creature as it approached him screeching in its crude native tongue. In the end, as the creature was in arm’s reach, he couldn’t take it anymore and passed out.
“Wak… U… Gher…”
Lev kept hearing a feminine voice and it kept getting clearer and clearer…
“Gherm! Wake up Gherm.”.
Then he opened his eyes to see a grey inhuman figure wearing some rags looking down upon him, causing him to scream.
Only to be kicked in the stomach causing him to yelp.
“Scream again and I’ll kick you harder, got it?”, said the creature with squinted eyes, causing him to nod.
“Good.”, She smiled and sat down near our confused hero, “So how’s your head?”.
‘Gherm?’, he held his head in pain, as new memories flooded his brain, clashing with his old ones only to lose out to the latter in the end.
“Are you alright!?”, says Ghorza in a panic.
‘That’s right… She’s called Ghorza, and she’s Gherm’s older sister… But I’m not this creature called Gherm! What are even these creatures supposed to be, and where did these memories come from!?’.
Lev then looks at his hands, ‘these aren’t my hands!’, then he looks into a crude clay bowl seeing his reflection in the water, ‘this isn’t my face!’, he then looks down at his torso, ‘This isn’t my body!’.
“Gherm! Calm down! You’re freaking me out!”, says Ghorza as her brother was acting weird.
“Should I ask the overseers to get the healer?”, she asks herself in a worried tone.
‘Overseers? Oh no…’, he winces at the thought of being “healed” by the mad witch doctors of the tribe. Yes, tribe.
The more time passes, the more he realizes how bad his current situation is as his brain accesses more of his newly gained memories. For now, it managed to assimilate about half of them.
From what he understands, these memories belonged to a male specimen of a race called ‘Bogeys’ named ‘Gherm’. Bogeys were a goblinoid race known for being physically weak among goblinoids, more intelligent than goblins, having a lifespan of sixty years, and producing the less offspring than other goblinoids. If not for their physique and their ability to reproduce with multiple species with their traits always being the dominant ones, they wouldn’t have been considered goblinoids. There was another thing that Lev can’t seem to remember.
He and his sister ‘Ghorza’ were born from a grey skin bloodline making them slaves according to their primitive society. They were treated badly, abused, and generally humiliated on a daily basis just because they were greyborn.
Being greyborn wasn’t always bad, it actually was once an honour since greyborns, though have the weakest physique, were the ones with the highest magical affinity, but alas, a failed coup centuries ago by grey elitists led to them not only to fall from grace but also for it to become forbidden for them to practice the magical arts, leading for their techniques to be cast out from the annals of history. With the shame of the past being taught to every generation and nothing to increase their value in the eyes of their distant kin, it is no wonder that they remained slaves.
And if being a slave wasn’t bad enough by itself. The greyborn became slaves to slaves, as the tribe was a victim of a war between a goblin tribe known as the Jiira and a kobold tribe known as the Kur. The Jiira conquered them to use their territory as a buffer zone. Now their tribe is forced to live in slavery and mine one of the mysterious magical caverns known to spawn monsters, magical ores, and treasures, created during the age of the gods.
‘This can’t be real… This has to be a dream. No, a nightmare.’, he thought since it shouldn’t be possible for this scenario to happen. It shouldn’t be possible for a world like this to exist.
“Gherm? Looks like I really need to ask the Overseers.”.
“No!”, Lev yells, causing his ‘sister’ to flinch.
A moment passes as they keep staring at each other in silence. He’s thinking about what he should do to prevent this lucid dream from getting worse, while she’s thinking about why he suddenly yelled.
“I’m okay. It would be disrespectful of us to bother them with such a trivial matter.”, he says with a fake smile to reassure her.
“Just trust me. It’s all okay.”.
“…Okay… But please don’t scream like that ever again. You’ll give me a panic attack!”.
She then tries helping him stand, “Now get up. You’ve been here long enough and I’ve already used most of our merits to get them to look at you.”.
“Ouch!”, Lev winces in pain from the heavy slap to his back, “Why did you slap me!?”.
“Because you’re an idiot!”, she growls. “If you haven’t guessed, you would’ve died when that tunnel collapsed! Thank Vee that we had enough merits to treat you the first place!”.
He sighs as he knows that this will not bode well for them since in their society as merits were the currency used by people of their stature. Though they can’t buy their freedom, they need it in order to get food, water, and other common essentials which are usually free for others of their tribe. The lack of merits would spell their demise.
That is if this life was real.
‘Why am I having such a weird dream? It feels so realistic. Anyways, it’s time to wake up or at least make it better. The first thing to do in dreams: a reality check, and remember pinching myself won’t work and people can feel pain in dreams. Look at my palm, close my eyes, and then look again, it should look different. Now on 1, 2, 3.”, Lev reopened his eyes to find that to his horror that his hand is still the same as before.
“No… This isn’t possible…” he mutters. “Wake up!”, he screams in the air! Hoping that something will happen. Then he shakes his head hoping to shake himself awake, then he cracks his knuckles – an old habit of his hoping that something will be different. He pinches himself, but nothing seems to work.
Ghorza looks at him as if she was looking at a madman “G-gherm…?”
“It’s real… This is all real.”, he says as tears stream down his eyes.
She slowly approaches him and stretches her hand to hold her brother “Why are you crying…? What’s wrong…? Did something happen-“.
“Don’t touch me!” Lev screams as he slaps Ghorza’s hand away.
Lev looks at Ghorza and sees the shock and sorrow in her eyes. Her younger brother had never before treated her like this.
He suddenly feels his chest tightening and that there was only one thing he can do. Apologize. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad. It’s just that I’m really tired right now and my head is killing me…”.
“It’s alright… Let’s go home…”.
After their conversation, they decided that it was time to start walking back to their home in the slave quarters at the border of the cavern, far from any clean water source and with only a single layer wall between them and the monsters of the cavern. Thankfully they live in the better parts of the slave quarters.
As Lev steps out of the room, he immediately finds the yellowish-green face from before glaring at him. It was old Rogg, a witchdoctor who due to his meagre set of abilities and angering the wrong people, ended up working here, between the slaves and the poor.
He said with a hiss “Have you finally calmed down, you grey wretch! You had to keep screaming, waking up most of the nearby patients. Do you know hard it was to put a gravely injured hunter to sleep using dalk roots without killing him!?”.
Lev shudders at the thought. Dalk roots come from a common cave plant known as the Dalka which contains a neurotoxin that can easily incapacitate the user, but with a one out of four chance of them never waking up, making it rarely used. It should only be handled by master healers, and by no means can Rogg be considered a master healer…
Rogg, of course notices this and sneers “Oh, so now even a slave thinks he’s better than me. If I’d known that you’re such an ungrateful wretch, I would’ve rejected your sister’s offer to heal you!”.
‘You’re acting as if you’re doing it for free. Knowing your character, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that you immediately called the local overseer to see if we even have enough merits in the first place.’ rambled in his mind.
As much as he dislikes Rogg, he knows that he’s the only healer in the nearby vicinity that would treat greyborns and it would be unwise to piss him off. So he should just suck it up and do the thing that he hates the most: apologize.
“My apologies, I didn’t mean to offend such an esteemed practitioner of the medical arts. Surely you can understand that a mere greyborn such as myself never meant to doubt the greatness of your skills and that I never meant to insult a great healer such as yourself who throughout his years mastered the secrets of the goddess of healing and was generous enough to grant them upon us downtrodden folk.”.
Due to Lev’s mastery in the art of… ‘flattery’, and guessing from the smile on the old man’s face, he not only managed to appease the old coot avoiding a crisis, but also scored a few points with him in his favour since it’s obvious it’s been a long time since someone treated the witch doctor with respect. It’s never a bad idea to build a good relationship with others no matter how lowly and undeserving they are. You never know when you need to use them.
“Hmm… Master healer… Alright. You’re forgiven this time, but if you look at me like that again, death would be the least of your problems!”.
“Yes, of course. Thanks for your care, great healer.”.
“As long as you have the merits, you can come anytime, otherwise don’t waste my time! Now get out, I have other matters to attend to!”.
Lev and Ghorza happily obliged since they can’t stand the annoying bastard any longer. In order not to reveal his actual feelings, Lev didn’t drop his act until they crossed through the door.
“What was that?”, asked Ghorza.
“What was what?”.
“That whole act of gratitude and submissiveness. You were kissing his wrinkly old ass more than a priestess of Maga. What happened to you? You were submissive, but you never were grateful for being a slave, just a coward.”.
“Ouch. You never hold back your punches, do you?”.
“Nope. Never. But you always knew that, right?”, Ghorza says with a suspicious glint in her eyes.
She noticed that there was something different about her brother from the moment he woke up. Other than his previous weird actions and confusion, he spoke differently, walked differently, and acted differently. He was assertive and cunning, things that you would never associate with his old self. It was as if he wasn’t her brother anymore. Could he be possessed, or did he lose his memories? It’s not like those events haven’t happened to anyone in the past, but she’ll give him some time before checking on her assumptions. Since it could also be aftereffects of the damage or a side effect from the medications, only time will know.
But for now, they have reached their home and will rest.