One and Only

by Matt Goetz

Keleg Who Hungers had covetous eyes; Ammok the Truthbearer knew jealousy when he saw it. It made the eyes shine, was impossible to ignore. And Keleg’s eyes would make glacier ice look dingy.

Ammok sat in his tent and stared across the war camp to where Keleg and his warmongers feasted. They squatted over the carcasses of a fallen ulk and two men, mindlessly twisting limbs free of their sockets and shoving the bloody joints into their mouths. They filled the air with the cracks and slurps of their sloppy eating.

What else do you think he hungers for?

“Shush,” Ammok whispered, stroking the chilled metal of his relic with his fingertips. With each soft brush he could feel the power of Everblight, the Reshaper and Steward of Transformation, still within it, numbing his skin and buzzing in his mind. “That unworthy cur won’t sully you.”

The Malihedron responded to his touch, giving him a sense of coolness and calm.

Ugly Keleg, with chipped and yellow tusks. Keleg Who Hungers, who cracked his teeth on a human’s metal armor trying to bite through to his flesh. Stupid Keleg, who desired something he could never have.

Ammok the Truthbearer decided. He unfolded his crossed legs and hoisted the tremendous weight of the Malihedron over one shoulder, stifling a shudder as it came into contact with his flesh. The frozen mud of the encampment crunched and dimpled beneath his heavy steps as he crossed to Keleg’s band.

The warm stink of offal tickled Ammok’s nose. Keleg and his warmongers glanced up but did not stop feasting, crunching bones and choking wetly as they struggled to wolf down huge bites of meat.

Keleg Who Hungers spoke, bits of flesh spattering Ammok as they flew from his maw. “What do you want, Truthbearer?” His full mouth made his words slop with spittle and half-chewed food.

Yes.

Ammok spun, bringing the full weight of the Malihedron down on Keleg’s skull. Bits of horn snapped under the impact and drove the warmonger facedown into the pile of corpses.

To his right Deaf Gantak burst up, thrusting a gnawed leg bone at Ammok’s face as he rose. The sharp edge of the bone raked open his cheek, exposing his gums to the cold air. Ammok kicked Gantak back and swung his burden, pulverizing the bigger ogrun’s jaw with the impact.

From behind Ammok an arm snaked around his throat, crushing his windpipe and lifting him off the ground. An insensible voice growled in his ear, raw animal sounds that must have come from the one they called the Howler.

Keleg Who Hungers rose, his skull cracked and bleeding. The vessels in one eye had burst, filling the orb with blood. He smashed his horns into Ammok’s face.

White light popped in Ammok’s head. Blood ran into his eyes, stinging them.

“Want me dead, raver?” Keleg said through teeth clenched so hard they squeaked. “You should have tried harder.”

He backhanded the Truthbearer with a fist bristling with barbs, opening new wounds in Ammok’s face.

Ammok gulped around the pressure on his throat. His face was hot, his temples throbbed. The wind bit at his open wounds.

Keleg barked for the Howler to hold him still and forced his hand into the Truthbearer’s mouth, gripping his tongue with unwashed fingers. “I’ll drown you in your blood when I tear your tongue free.”

Ammok bit down, felt the crunching of Keleg’s bones between his teeth. The warmonger roared in pain and backhanded Ammok again, hard enough that the Howler lost his grip. The Truthbearer scrabbled for the Malihedron, clutching it to his breast.

“No unworthy, dung-stinking warmonger like you shall have it! I was chosen!” he screamed. He shielded the relic with his own unworthy flesh. “Me! Only me!”

Keleg held his wounded hand like a child cradling an injured bird. He put on a show of confusion. “Not even rotwings would touch that thing. Only you.”

Keleg’s lies were unbearable. To covet the relic was one thing, but to speak against it was blasphemous.

Destroy him.

Ammok lifted the Malihedron above his head, with a roar, and charged.

The Howler stepped in, intercepting the attack with both hands. But when the other ogrun touched the relic, his angry eyes rolled back into his head until Ammok could see the pink of the Howler’s optic nerves. The warmonger let out a noise—not an angry scream like he was named for but instead the shrill cry of an infant being crushed beneath a dragonspawn’s claws.

Ammok’s opponent fell to the ground, twitching, senseless. Ammok and the others watched as the Howler mindlessly stared up at the sky and gnawed the lips from his face. Blood ran down his cheeks.

“The Truthbearer killed him,” Keleg hissed. “My warmonger. I demand his life.”

The war chief yanked his cleaver from the ground with his good hand and advanced on Ammok.

“The Reshaper’s power cannot be blasphemed or decried!” Ammok shrieked.

Keleg swung his weapon at Ammok’s throat when the Malihedron awoke. The slashed runes at its heart burst into life as the relic’s core started to turn. Keleg froze as if held fast.

Ammok raised the relic triumphantly, letting the ripples of blighted power radiating from it rinse over him. Clots of Keleg and Gantak’s blood dripped on his jubilant face, washing away his anger and replacing it with the warmth of rapture.

A voice behind Ammok spoke. “Cease this.”

Keleg fell to his knees and bowed his head. From behind Ammok, a thick and powerful ogrun strode forward. She carried a long iron spear in one hand, a spear with three severed heads spiked down its haft. With her free hand, she pointed to the Malihedron, channeling her power into its heart. She was the Doom Feaster, matron of the blighted tribes. Her beast Golab walked behind her, its wings spread wide so she moved in its shadow. Ammok watched blissfully as the Doom Feaster plucked a scuttling parasite from the bird’s feathers and tucked it into her mouth.

“Mother of Many Hungers,” Keleg said. “Your attendant—”

“I do not care, child,” the Doom Feaster said. She placed the tip of her spear beneath her bowing son’s chin, raising his face so she could see his injured eyes. “You know the Truthbearer is not to be harmed.”

“He attacked us,” Keleg said. When he spoke to his mother, his voice was nearly a whine.

“Which changes nothing.” She motioned for one of her champions, the one called Rotteneye. Without a word, the ogrun took her meaning and brought his weapon down on Keleg’s shoulder, chopping through the bones and meat with two swift strokes.

The Doom Feaster picked up the severed limb, giving the injured fingers a lick as if to test their quality. Satisfied, she thrust the arm into the sash around her waist. “Disobey me a second time, and I shall eat your other arm as well.”

“Yes, Mother,” Keleg said, attempting to staunch the flow of blood with his remaining hand.

Anamag the Doom Feaster turned on Ammok and pointed him back to his tent. “Return to your tent. Now.”

He bowed to her and backed away, keeping his arms tight around the Malihedron and never turning his back on Keleg. He kept staring at the other ogrun long after he had settled back into a seated position, whispering comforting words to the black iron companion in his arms.

“Don’t worry. Keleg One-Arm will never take you away. I won’t let him.”

***

Hi folks, Nate Feyma here – I thought I’d jump in and show just how Ammok went from concept to model!

Ammok began (as nearly all of our models do) with a written brief, this time describing an ogrun prophet of doom bearing an ancient Morrdhic artifact. The artifact was described as being similar to a prayer wheel, although with a touch of evil. Based on the description provided, I worked up a set of options to get us started.

After selecting elements that we liked for both the character and the artifact, I spent some time working out how Ammok could realistically carry this enormous artifact. Art Director Mike Vaillancourt brought in a huge duffel bag and helped me work out the way someone carrying this huge object could stand. We also spent some time coming up with alternate face ideas. Fortunately, we were able to blend my two favorites: the crazy eye and the big hood.

The artifact needed some adjustment to work the way I intended, and it became more cube-like in form so the sphere within could project the way I wanted it to. Even then, the sculptor had to make some adjustments for it to work as a real object. (Thanks, Nathan!) We also needed to generate a new rune set for the artifact’s Morrdhic origins. Meanwhile, Ammok received a few tweaks to help minimize issues with casting and producing the final model, like tying the pelt to his torso and reducing the length of his dangling hood bits.

The final step in the concept phase is deciding on the colors the studio will use to paint the miniature. Our colors for blighted ogrun are fairly set, so the main thing to do was to decide on placement. Ammok got a little extra red and gold due to his favored status, while the artifact itself stayed dark and muted to help show its age and to highlight its glowing runes.

You can find Ammok the Truthbearer on store shelves or online!

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