Haksa breathed in deeply as thick blue smoke filled his nostrils, before travelling down his throat and into his lungs. He closed his eyes and paused, savouring it, before letting out a slow, measured exhale. His thought processes slowed, providing clarity, reducing the noise from the outside world and from within. These days, Haksa would often spend hours on end under a drug induced stupor. It gave him space to gather his thoughts and make sense of the world, an important and increasingly difficult endeavour in recent times. The rise of the summoned, the emergence of a new pantheon of demi-gods, and a peculiar disruption in the fabric of time, together provided ominous portents that could no longer be ignored. Haksa rarely slept these days, so troubled was his mind, his only solace could be found in his herbs.
Haksa placed his pipe down on the earth floor of his hut, still moist from recent rain. It felt cool on his bare skin where he sat. He slowly stood up and walked to the back of the of the hovel that he called home, and lifted the lid on an old wooden chest. Inside were numerous compartments, drawers and containers, filled with all manner of fauna, flora and powders. He rooted through the contents for a short time before picking up a small jade vial. Swirling patterns were etched into its surface, and a cork stopper was firmly in place to prevent its contents from spilling. The shaman walked back to his pipe, removed the cork stopper and poured 2 drops of a thick liquid from the vial into the pipe's receptacle, before carefully forcing the stopper back into place, protecting the precious liquid.
He placed the vial into a leather pouch attached to his belt, sat back down on the floor and sucked on the pipe once more. Closing his eyes, he breathed in a deep, powerful breath, reaching far into his core. Haksa had long ago become a master of the narcotic powers of the local flora and fauna. His most precious discovery was a rare herb, known as Angel Petal, which he brewed into liquid form, granting him the power to commune with the old gods. Haksa cursed as he caught himself using a phrase that made his blood boil. There was no such thing as “old gods” and “new gods”, just the gods and the usurpers. What rich irony, he thought. The five races send mortals to another plane in an attempt to stop the gods from meddling in their affairs, only to see their chosen champions turn into the very thing they were meant to stop. He shook his head in disbelief just thinking about it.
To make matters worse, Haksa was recently betrayed by one of his own. Kruul, the witch doctor, a former friend and confidant, had managed to drive a wedge through Haksa’s people. He had first embraced, and then championed the new gods. Droves of young orcs flocked to his banner and declared their allegiance, renouncing traditions that had served orcs well for a thousand years. Haksa was left with the difficult task of trying to reunite his people, while avoiding a bloody civil war. Kruul’s folly had made the orc race vulnerable, at a time when they could ill afford it. Their allies were few, and in these troubled times other races were becoming increasingly suspicious of outsiders. Haksa drifted deeper into a trance as the powerful liquid took effect, and before long he started to receive visions and sentiments that communicated the will of his gods. The visions were often of the past, and on occasion of the future. Over time, the shaman had learned to better interpret them, however still now there were many that remained a mystery to him.
Hours later, the mighty orc woke from his slumber, the drugs slowly dissipating from his body. He sat for hours, pondering what he had learned from his most recent commune. It seemed he was to become a summoned, and apparently the gods had the means to make it happen. Haksa was not one to question their will, however this was somewhat unexpected.
Kruul had been one of the first to be summoned, and Haksa had seen first-hand the profound effects it had had on his adversary. His powers were augmented significantly, in line with his arrogance. Despite his reluctance, Haksa would follow the will of his gods; he knew that there was a significant role for him in all of this. He walked back to his old chest, and once again rummaged through the compartments. There were some herbs in there that he had not used for a long time; ones that would enhance his powers in battle. Haksa wanted to be prepared for when the summons came. The summoned would learn to fear him, and he would find a way to end Kruul.