Khanuk Delkhii Yertöns
An ancient and long dormant heartbeat stirred deep underground, within a remote cavern, concealed in the Urvor mountain range. As blood began to flow and valves contained within fibrous cardiovascular muscles opened, life began to return to the large carcass. The faint heartbeat grew stronger, morphing to a pounding rhythm, resonating with the power of great war drums, shaking the very walls of the stone cavern.
His sinewy chest heaved as his lungs shuddered into motion. Khanuk Delkhii Yertönts took his first breath in centuries and his eyelids fluttered open. He flexed his thick neck muscles and snorted as warm blood spread through his body. Khanuk shook out his great arms, frustrated by their stiffness. He stamped his hooves, leaving wide imprints upon the limestone floor. With another low snort he shook his head, the points of his large, sweeping horns gouged the narrow walls. As he swayed his large head, a metallic clang resonated throughout the cavern. Khanuk’s attention was drawn to an unfamiliar pressure at the end of his bovine snout, an odd tugging on his septum. He realized that the source of this tugging was a thick, metal ring driven through the sensitive flesh inside his nose. This ring was linked to a heavy chain that trailed off into the surrounding darkness, presumably embedded in a nearby wall.
Khanuk, now enraged by his binding, seized the chain in his powerful fist. His eyes widened as previously unnoticed runes inscribed upon the chain began to glow a brilliant white, illuminating a small portion of the cavern. He loosed a shocked cry as unimaginable heat spread up his arm. The unfamiliar sensation of white-hot pain ran through his veins. Dropping the chain, Khanuk recoiled blindly, his shoulder slamming into a stone wall that seemed to materialize behind him. The chain pulled taut, tugging harshly at the ring that trapped Khanuk. His hand rose to grasp the chain once more, though he paused as he saw the strange runes glowing faintly in the darkness. His hand fell to his side as he grunted, pawing the rocky floor beneath his powerful legs. Without warning, Khanuk charged forward, barreling into the endless blackness that threatened to consume him.
Pain tore through his snout as the chain tightened and jerked his head over his left shoulder. His momentum carried him forward and the ring bit into his septum, partially tearing the cartilage out of his nose. He skidded to a stop and grabbed the bloodied chunk of flesh, tearing it free and allowing the ring and chain to fall to the stone floor, followed by a cascade of dark blood. Khanuk merely grunted as blood poured from his wound, pooling between his hooves. As the clatter and the glow of the white runes died, warmth blossomed across Khanuk’s chest and arms. The familiar stench greeted his nostrils as his own runes, branded on his shaggy hide, glowed bright red, once again searing into him. Their glow peaked and the throbbing pain from his torn septum faded to a gentle sting, then vanished completely. His familiar and unconstrained power flowed through him once more and the bleeding from his nose ebbed. Khanuk’s lips peeled back into a feverish grin, his eyes were large and wild. His runes, now smoking gently, no longer afflicted him.
Khanuk took a moment to steel himself and take stock of his surroundings. Now that his head was clear and his power restored, his sensitive ears, twitching softly just below his horns, picked up a faint noise, a low, continuous note, muffled and distant. He stepped cautiously into obscurity, noticing a slight incline beneath his hooves. Reassured when he was met with no resistance, he began to stride forward, inexplicably drawn to the quiet humming. The slope grew steeper as Khanuk continued walking, hooves clicking loudly in the near silence that encased him. Stretching out his hands, he determined that he was traversing a passage, too narrow to fully extend his arms.
Khanuk walked, for how long, he did not know, in pitch darkness, the only light emitting from his runes, which put of a dim red-hot glow, alluding to their heat. The soft slope of the ground grew harsher, soon morphing into a near vertical angle. Khanuk was forced to scramble upward, his powerful hands pulling stones loose as he climbed, sending them tumbling down the slope at a rapid speed. As he trekked through the cavern, the sound of his fixation grew louder and louder, until he could make out two distinct voices. One voice swept low, conjured from deep within the throat, a rich and resonant note. This voice’s counterpart lept high and danced through the air, creating an entrancing rhythm. The voices wove together, pulling Khanuk closer, filling him with a primal urge to find the source of the alluring throat singing.
The ground beneath him evened out, allowing Khanuk to walk once more. At this point, the singing was close. Khanuk felt as if he would round a corner and see his singers, however, the passage had been perfectly straight thus far, offering no cover for hidden singers. After fifty pages or so, his broad snout rammed into a solid stone wall, forcing him to halt and let out a snort of surprise. He felt along the newfound barrier, discovering that the passage simply ended here. The singing was loud and clear, possibly coming from just behind the wall that stood before him. The singing swelled and grew in volume, seizing Khanuk’s will. The desire to see the singers overwhelmed him and he drew back his now curled fist, driving it solidly into the rock. The wall shuddered but remained intact. Khanuk shook his head and snorted as his whole body tensed. He punched the wall again, and again, and again, pounding his fists upon the unmoving wall. The hide covering his knuckles gave way, blood splashing on the stone as he continued to strike at the rock, unaffected by his newly acquired wounds. He continued to rain down punches, determined to break through the stone, to break free. The exposed flesh on his knuckles was forced against the stone and with every blow, more blood poured from his fists. He would not stop until he was free and face to face with the powerful singers.