In-Depth: Dorn Il-Khan
Published September 27th, 2012
Overhaul Games presents the third short Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition vignette by Dave Gross, along with an audio sample of Gord Marriott as Dorn Il-Khan
"Let them pass," said Dorn. "They're useless to us."
Dorn scowled down at the muddy road. The caravan was the smallest they had seen all day, only two wagons with a pair of lancers in front and another pair behind. Two armed men sat on each driver's seat, a third with a crossbow sitting atop the tarpaulin-covered cargo.
"They're headed for Luskan," said Dorn's mother. "And there are no dwarves among them."
Twelve-year-old Dorn had never raided the dwarves, but he knew they hated half-breeds as much as they hated the orcs of his father's tribe. He guessed the wagons carried iron ingots from the mining city of Mirabar. They would not stop to help a half-orc and his mother.
"Let them pass," said Dorn.
"We'll never make it to Luskan without help," she insisted. They had not eaten in three days, and she could barely walk. Dorn could carry her only a few miles each day. He had no idea how much farther it was to Luskan, where she said they would find civilized men.
Dorn and his mother were the lone survivors of the attack that destroyed their village. When the ogres crashed through the picket line, Dorn hesitated, torn between joining the defense and carrying his mother to safety as she begged him to do. If he had remained, he knew, they both would be dead. Dorn regretted not snatching up a weapon from one of the pulverized orc defenders. Armed, he could offer to help guard the caravan. Armed, he could defend himself if they attacked at the first sight of him.
Dorn's mother stood and cried out to the caravan, but her frail voice was too weak to carry.
"Here!" yelled Dorn, standing to loom above her. At the sound of his deep voice, the archers turned their crossbows in his direction.
His mother stumbled as she started down the hill. Gritting his teeth, Dorn caught her up in his arms. It was bad to show weakness to these strangers.
It was bad to show weakness to anyone.
Two of the outriders approached. They pointed their spears at Dorn's face.
Dorn felt the hairs prickling on his neck, but he restrained his natural urge to lash out. His mother had warned him that civilized men did not respect strength the way the orcs of the Il-Khan tribe did. They would not fight him one-on-one. They would band together to kill him.
Dorn set her down. She clung to his arm, but he pulled away. Before she could begin begging, he spoke to the men. "We want to travel with you."
Dorn wondered whether he had used the right words. He understood the common tongue, but he usually he spoke the language of orcs.
The other man laughed, and Dorn knew they had understood him. "What can you pay for your passage?"
"I can guard the caravan."
The men peered down at him. "You have no weapon."
"Then give me one."
This time the men did not laugh. One spat near Dorn's feet. "You're only half clever, half-orc."
"Don't hurt my boy." His mother's pleading angered Dorn. As his father's claimed slave, she had always cringed and begged, never standing up for herself. "I can cook." When the men shook their heads, she added, "And serve."
The men exchanged a look. One seemed agreeable, but the other grimaced. "She's lain with orcs."
"Let's see what the others think."
The discussion lasted only a minute. Afterward, Dorn and his mother were allowed to walk behind the second wagon. The men gave her a flask of water, but when she offered it to Dorn, one of the men snatched it away.
"We put that to our lips."
"Please," she said, holding out her cupped hands. After a moment's hesitation, the man filled her palms with water.
Dorn felt the urge to slap away her hands, but thirst won out over pride. The water trickled over his tusks and down his chin. The men laughed. Dorn bristled at the sound, more more than that he hated his mother for making him look like a child.
While the men rode, Dorn and his mother trudged along in the dust behind the wagons. Soon Dorn had to carry her again. He refused to ask the men to let her ride in the wagon. Dorn would not do her groveling for her.
She had always been his burden. From the moment of his birth, her human blood marked him as a weakling. He was smaller than the other whelps, but their rough play hardened him. Before he learned how to walk, he learned how to take a beating. When his mother tried to intercede, his father slapped her away. "You'll make him useless!"
Over time, Dorn understood that his father had been right. Weakness invites punishment. Only strength prevents it.
Dorn continued to face the beatings. He grew tougher, stronger. Soon he could defeat the other half-breeds. Eventually, he could defeat most of the true-blooded orcs as well.
"How far to Luskan?" asked Dorn's mother.
"Tomorrow afternoon," said the archer.
They were closer than Dorn had imagined. They would have made it on their own in a few more days. They never should have put themselves at the mercy of these caravan guards.
When they stopped to camp, two of the outriders stood guard as the other men broke out their supplies. Dorn's mother fetched water from the river and prepared a meal from dried peas and salt pork, adding some wild onions one of the outriders had gathered.
When Dorn moved to join her beside the fire, one of the men stood up to block his path. "Keep your stink away from the food."
He looked past the man to see his mother grimace, beseeching him to withdraw.
Dorn walked away. A moment later he heard his mother laugh. Turning, he saw her lean against the man who had driven him away. She was timid at first, then playful like a pet craving attention from its owner.
This was her way, Dorn thought, the way of weakness. This much was the same among civilized men as it was among the orcs.
The next day the men allowed his mother to ride in the second wagon, leaving Dorn to trudge along in the dust. Just before noon, Dorn detected a strange scent on the western breeze. He raised his head to sniff.
The archer grinned. "Salt water. We'll see Luskan after the next hill."
Past the hill, Dorn looked down to see the river and the road both winding toward a walled city beside a vast expanse of water.
The City of Sails came by its name honestly, its harbor filled with ships. The sails on the northern bank were all white, unlike the motley colors of those on the southern docks. The River Mirar divided the city into two unequal sections, its mouth filled with islets. Beyond the farthest of its three bridges, a four-spired tower rose from the largest isle. About a third of the city lay on the north bank, where the walls stood higher and the buildings loomed larger. To the south, hundreds of buildings crowded the narrow streets.
"Here's where you get off, sweetheart." The archer gave Dorn's mother a hand down from the wagon. "We don't want to make the wenches at the Cutlass jealous when we visit tonight."
"But we're nowhere near the gates-" She stopped speaking when she realized what Dorn already understood. The men had not wished to be seen with them.
The archer glanced over his shoulder to ensure the other men weren't watching him. He fished out a few coins from his purse and threw them on the road. "Thanks," he said. "For supper."
She waited for the outriders to pass before kneeling in the dirt to collect the money. Dorn walked on, stepping just far enough off the road to avoid the dust the wagons left in their wake. He quickened his pace, keeping the caravan in sight.
They reached the city at dusk. The guards at the gate hesitated at the sight of a half-orc who, despite his youth, stood as tall as they.
"He's big, but he's still just a harmless boy," said Dorn's mother. "Would you--?"
Dorn interrupted her. "Where do I find the Cutlass?"
"Keep to the wall," one of the men pointed to the southernmost edge of the docks. "The last lane holds the Cutlass."
Dorn walked away.
"Where are you going?" asked his mother.
He ignored her, too, even when she cried out that he was walking too fast for her to keep up. At last her voice drowned in the hubbub of the city.
Dorn heard the ruckus before he spied the Cutlass. Loud sailors and doxies spilled out onto the porch. Above the sound of music in the common room, laughter and screams rang out of the open windows of the upper floors. Dorn peered through the doors to see new arrivals turning over their weapons to a man behind the bar. A pair of drunken pirates stumbled out of the building, buckling on their swords before wobbling into an alley to empty their bladders.
Dorn knew where he must wait.
For hours he stood in the shadows, invisible to the men who appeared alone or in small groups to wet the tavern wall before staggering away. His father's blood gave Dorn keener vision in the dark. He watched for faces of the men he sought.
Dorn worried that the men he sought might not appear. He wished he had slept the night before, or the night before that. His chin dropped to his chest a few times before he woke with a start.
At last he heard the familiar laughter of the archer and another man from the caravan. When they walked past the alley, Dorn tensed. He had assumed they would stop, as all the other men had. If he ran after them, he would be out in the open. In the street he would be seen, perhaps captured.
Just as he decided to run after them, he heard the archer say, "A moment while I drain the lamprey."
Dorn waited as the man stepped into the alley, facing the stained wall as he unlaced his trousers. Dorn stepped up behind him and locked an arm against his throat, the other behind his neck. The man choked, his fingernails scratching Dorn's forearm as he released his bladder. Dorn held him until the stream of urine trickled to a halt and the man ceased struggling. Pinning the corpse against the wall with one arm, he removed its coin purse and sword belt.
"What do you think you're-?"
In the alley entrance, the other caravan guard reached for his sword. Dorn drew his stolen weapon and thrust it up under the man's breastbone. The man gurgled a few bloody words and died.
Dragging the second corpse deeper into the shadows, Dorn took the second man's purse and weapon. He preferred the heavy broadsword to the archer's gladius, but he belted both weapons around his waist before walking away.
From the direction of the Cutlass, Dorn heard his mother's voice, but she was not calling out to him. She was talking with someone. When he heard a man reply to her, Dorn stepped back into the filthy alley. Across the dark street, he saw them clearly, but with their feeble human eyes, they couldn't see him.
The man drew Dorn's mother along by the arm. "If the boy has any sense, he took one look at the Cutlass and ran back to the gate."
"I'm afraid he has his father's brains as well as his looks." She laughed the same way she had while serving supper to the caravan guards. "I'm sure he went to the Cutlass."
"He's as ugly as you say, someone would have remembered him. You should come with me, spend the night at my place. Look for your whelp by daylight."
"I can't leave him," she said. "He was raised among orcs. He knows their savage ways, but here in the city, he's useless."
"He'll be fine," said the man as they passed the alley where Dorn stood among the dead. "For tonight, think of yourself. You need rest, and I have a nice, soft bed at home."
"I don't know..." she said, but Dorn knew that cozening tone. She would do as the man asked.
He could step out of the shadows and reveal himself. Armed, he could frighten off the man with his mother. He could kill him easily. He could share the money he had taken with his mother, but he knew that was the same as picking her up to carry her again.
Dorn waited until he could no longer see them on the street before he left the alley and walked along the waterfront. Men stepped out of his way at the first glimpse of his bulky form and the blades swinging from his hips. Even drunk, they knew Dorn was dangerous. In their faces, Dorn saw himself for what he was: an orc, not a child but a man, one who didn't need to ingratiate himself with these civilized men.
He wouldn't carry his mother any more. Without her in his arms, Dorn knew he was stronger.
Check out these clips of Gord Marriott as Dorn Il-Khan:
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