The Vulture of Vosgaard, continued....

"Different tribes have different traditions, of course... and the word

`tradition` is, perhaps, too strong to describe the methods used, for there

are many means of execution employed, and none employed so regularly or

with such devotion that they would constitute a `tradition` in the sense

that we in the south might use the term. The Vos have a very harsh system

of punishment, of course, with a set of crimes and infractions alien to the

more civilized mind. Death is a common sentence. It is meted out for

things as minor as petty theft. Murder, of course, is only occasionally

punished in any legal manner, but when a murder is given over to the system

of justice the penalty is generally only a fine. I tell you this to convey

the context of the situation I faced, when I was subjected to Vos

justice. I had very little hope that my life might be spared."

"Though death is a common sentence, sentencing does not end there. The

means of death is used to determine severity of punishment, and those in

the position to sentence the convicted have a panoply of methods from which

to choose. For lesser crimes a criminal might die a quick death by

beheading or he may dance upon the gibbet for a short while. More serious

crimes, however, earn a more serious and painful demise for the

convict. Slow torture is, of course, a favored method of execution for it

much pleases their gods. Many devilish devices have been invented for this

purpose, and a small caste of experts has sprung up to employ them. They

are quite skilled, and one of the few tradesmen that the Vos have sincere


"In my case, the crime of which I was found guilty--I do not say that I was

guilty of that crime, for I was not--was a relatively mild one. Mild by

civilized standards, that is. To the barbarous Vos it was an heinous

act. Or perhaps it was merely my foreignness and vulnerability that earned

me such punishment. I was in Vosgaard engaged in some speculative trade

and looking for a regular market, you see. One of the goods I was peddling

was a concoction derived from the root of the eckle vine. Mixed with the

red berries of the torroro bush it makes a thick, pungent liqueur that my

associates and I dubbed bloodwine for sale amongst the sanguine residents

of Vosgaard. The beverage was believed responsible for several

poisonings. Several people were sickened and one, I`m afraid, was rendered

blind in days following our sale, but I reiterate that these unfortunates

were not harmed by the bloodwine that I sold them. I did sell them the

spirits, but whatever the malady was that afflicted them had nothing to do

with my goods. I have drunk the stuff myself--enough to know that it is

not to my taste--and I have not been rendered blind, nor have I

died.... No thanks to my former customers, that is."

"Please imagine what it was like for me in those days. I was a rather

naive young man from a prominent merchant clan. This was my first foray

out of Khinasi lands, and the wilds of Vosgaard were new to me. I was not

fully prepared for the shock of the culture here. On the day I arrived a

fight broke out between two women on the street. Some very large warriors

arrived whom I took to be the authorities, but instead of breaking up the

brawl they merely egged the women on. When one drew a knife from her

basket one of the spectating warriors actually drew his own dagger and

tossed it to her opponent that it should remain a fair fight. Horrified, I

turned from the spectacle. Several Vos children guffawed at my squeamishness."

"My trial was brief, if a trial it can be called. Just a few spare moments

before a local puppet warlord--and I was allowed little opportunity to

defend myself. He ordered that I be executed in the manner most commonly

used in that region. The Vulture`s Wake, they called it. You see, it is

the funerary custom of that tribe to take their dead into the mountains

where these magnificent birds that surround me reside. The body of the

deceased is dismembered and fed to vultures while his family and loved

one`s celebrate his passage to the afterlife with various ritualistic

songs, drinking and the telling of the departed`s deeds in life."

"The Vulture`s Wake is a horrid parody of this already barbarous

ritual. The man to be executed man is heavily shrouded in heavy clothes so

tightly that he cannot move. The victim must watch as he is slowly

dismembered and his steaming flesh fed to the vultures before his very

eyes. The ordeal begins at the feet, and they tie off his limbs with

tourniquets most cunningly as they go, preventing him from bleeding to

death too quickly. They begin with the toes and then the fingers, and then

they... well, I see I am upsetting you, so I will simply say that by the

skill of the executioner many such executions have been said to go on for

several hours. It is called the Vulture`s Wake for there is no family to

celebrate the life of the dead. The funeral is for the vultures alone. I

suppose in some ways it is for the Vos equivalent to being buried alive,

for who does not have a horror of lying insensible but aware as their body

is treated as if it were dead?"

"It is also considered a very ignoble death amongst the war-like Vos as I`m

sure you can imagine. Not that I was concerned by such a thing, but it

illustrates their disregard for me and the crime of which I was

accused. It is that disdain that has fueled my hatred, and fills me with


"Fortunately, it was not my destiny to suffer the horrors of that death,

blessed be the Powers. As I lay upon the stone platform awaiting the first

stroke of my killer--sometimes called The Executioner`s Caress by the

unsubtle Vos--the warriors that accompanied the procession were in high

spirits. One fearless vulture hopped forward to view the prospective

meal. He looked me directly in the eye. Could it be that I saw sympathy

there? Of course, it was ridiculous that this bird could recognize the

injustice of my plight or the rage that it instilled in me, but strangely

his gaze seemed to help assuage my anger and calmed me, for in that gaze I

saw that at least for the birds themselves there was nothing personal about

the event. In fact, there was a quiet nobility in that bird`s eyes that I

found heartening."

"It was then that one of the warriors who had accompanied the execution

party lashed out and struck the vulture I had been communing with

down. With a laugh he quickly cut out its heart and thrust it into my

mouth as a final act of humiliation. This raised a roar of amusement from

those present--the sense of irony among Vos warriors is quite acute. I

struggled to breath but was forced to swallow the organ. The coppery taste

of blood filled my mouth, and I fought the urge to gag. I could feel life

pulsing in the heart as I gulped it down. But there was something more."

"In all the years that the Vos dead had been fed to these vultures how many

of their strongest warriors had that beast tasted? Generations of Vos

nobles had been devoured by like generations of these birds. Countless

hearts and minds devoured by them over and over again. Can you imaging

what powers these animals must have absorbed? Look about you a these birds

here. I do not expect that you are very familiar with creatures of this

breed, but I can assure you that they are not typical of their

species. Can you imagine what strengths they contain? Do they appear dumb

animals to you? Can you see their strength and intelligence? They look

back at your with clear, knowing eyes not as dumb animals do, but as what

they truly are, beings gifted with a consciousness that rivals your own."

As I looked from one bird to the next, each met my stare with a calm,

unflinching regard. I realized that what he spoke was not only true, but

that it may even have been an understatement. The vultures did not look at

me with simple awareness. They seemed to have a bearing of

confidence. They wre even... gloating. As I stared at them my eyes went

wide in recognition not of the simple acknowledgement of their

intelligence, but that they felt themselves superior--knew themselves to

superior--and that my presence in their midst, my knowledge of their

sentience, the very continuance of my life was at their pleasure. They

looked at me with dark, feral eyes that glimmered with amusement at my

realization, and I got the distinct impression that they the moment was

something that they had long anticipated. The Vulture himself drew my

attention by raising to his full height and unfolding his dark wings before

me. As the shadow of that feathered expanse fell upon me I could see the

acknowledgement of my shock in his eyes. His visage grew grim and

determined. Gone was the gentility that I sensed there only moments before.

"Now that you know our secret, I can tell you why you are here. You are to

make this secret known to the world. These mountains are now mine and my

flock`s. We will put to death any other human who comes here

uninvited. Furthermore, bring this message to the barbarians who accosted

me, falsely accused me, set themselves up as my judges and executioners;

tell them that I am coming. I will bring death down upon them from the

skies. Once again vultures will take on their ancient role in the scheme

of the afterlife, but now they shall surpass it. We will be bringers of

death not shepherds of the dead. Go now and take my message to the people

of the lowlands. Tell them their time is near."

End, part II (domain and character description to follow)