Monthly Archives: August 2012

Peace Terms

Hasan stepped forward. “Well met, holy one, and peace be upon the Hutakaa and their Vale. Know thee that we come with reverence for the antiquity of your race and its understanding. Know too that we come as friends, of thine and of thine own enemies. Indeed, see now that we bring your enemy as our own bonded diplomat. These humans are thine own friends these many years, and deserve the respect their friendship those many years earned. For friendship and belief is what brings us here. Belief that none can stand idle when evil that can end us threatens us. So I stand before you, an elf heir, young though I am, I will aid you as I can. Pass me the runestick, that I may assist thee.”

“Thanks be to thee kind elf,” she said as she handed him the enchanted stick. “It is only peace that we seek as well.” The more the Hutaakans spoke, the easier it became to understand their accent.

“Koforedz, you are wise, and I will honor your confidence. Take me to the Vault, and I will do as I can. We shall find this Tome of the Hutakaa, and see peace again on this Vale.” Accepting the Rod, Hasan examined it closely. “This looks old, yet still I recognize some of it. Ludo, Miklos, tell me what you see. Use your skills that I may do what I must at the Vault.”

Miklos recieved the rod giving it a cursory glance then turned to Ludo, “We should have brought the Traldar spokesman. It would have been interesting to see what he might have said to the High Priestess’s accusations. My mind is not made up in this matter, as you say I don’t believe all the truth has been told. There is fault on both sides.” He returned his attention to the rod. “It is a key Hasan, I suspect no duplicity at this point. We are here to break the deadlock and in return we shall learn the secrets the the Son’s of Night covert and in doing so we achieve and ultimate good.”

Ludo looked over the rod’s inscribition. “Its a, elven dialect that I am not familar with. Beautifully made, obviously very old.” He handed it back to to Hasan.

Ludo started to ask “I wonder if they have anything to eat,” then stood agape as he was interrupted by Maruc.

“I will not side with anyone willing to curse a land with the sleepless dead.” Maruc said. “But I have not pledged my loyalty to either side and I will not until I have all the facts. I have precious little of those.”

He turned to the priestess, “Kforedz, High Priestess of Hutaaka. If as you say the Traldar released the undead on your lands, why would they do such a thing? They are strong and violent and they outnumbered you I presume? They seem incapable of magic’s that would cause the weakness between the worlds necessary to fill a whole valley with restless spirits. They accuse you and your kin of this deed and the facts so far point in this direction. You admit you are a priest and priests have skills in such areas. But only the evil would choose to do so.” He added darkly. “From my point of view it looks like your culture of what the Traldar call ‘slavery’ broke down in a violent revolution and perhaps this action was a final roll of the dice to maintain power, or simply even to save yourselves?”

Maruc raised his voice as all could hear, “I follow the immortal Halav Incarnate who sits on the Ducal throne of Specularum in the deep South. He is wise and benevolent. I try to emulate Him in my way. I do not believe that the Hutaakan priests would deliberately and irreversibly befoul their land, but equally I do not believe the Traldar would have wilfully unleashed an undead hoard upon themselves. Miklos would be a better man to describe this, but what I think is this. Some delicate magical balance has been disturbed during the revolution. Neither side of the war are innocent. The Hutaakans forced labour from the Traldar, however willingly or not at the first, the Traldar certainly felt aggrieved enough to form a revolution in the end and have in ignorance broken something of Hutaakan making that has flooded the land with evil. But equally a violent revolution casts its own evil light and the Traldar did not choose to negotiate their plight, or were refused negotiation to avoid death and war. I do not accuse the Hutaakan’s of making the evil but of insufficiently containing it. I do accuse you of lack of foresight, arrogance and subjugation of another culture.”
Maruc held up his hand for silence and the babble of voices, “I serve only the furtherance of Good under the eyes of Halav Incarnate. I will not suffer the undead to walk the land and I will do what I can to cleanse this land, but in return for this deed I seek oaths.”

Maruc stepped forward in front of the Priestess and looked directly into her eyes. “Kforedz, High Priestess of Hutaaka. Under the eyes of Immortal Pflarr and Holy Halav who I call in witness, you will swear do all in your power to never again allow enslavement or anything akin to it to enter your culture. And this will be your responsibility and your heirs forever. Do you agree to these terms?”

“Faack…” Stephan muttered about halfway through Maruc’s speech. Sotto voce, “Couldn’t he just say it was an accident and we’ll try to fix it but can you all just be nice to each other. And maybe just leave off that last part until we sort things out.” It was a rhetorical question. “Halav in Heaven,” the Traladarian muttered in way of correcting Maruc’s interpretation of the god’s whereabouts.

Silence bellowed as Maruc finsihed his speech. Ludo looked around uncomfortably and in an sotto voice echoed Stephan “Maruc you sure do know how to make friends and influence people. Come into their home, accuse your hosts of arrogance, evil and slavery and then give their religious leader an ultimatum.” His hand slowly moved and rested on his sword. This could go bad really quickly.

Feldard lost interest in the priests long winded lecture as to the cause and reasons behind the war; it was only when the priest demanded an oath of the Hutaakan that the dwarf paid more heed. He watched the jackel headed priestess for sign of insult and anger, and moved his hand to his axe just in case.

“Kind visitors. You see the ancient art that surrounds us. There are depictions of peace and knowledge, fine craftsmanship and honoring of the dead. You do not see depictions of war and aggression. We are caretakers, living quietly in the valley for ages, faithfully serving Pflarr and performing our duties of sacred guardianship over ancient malevolent forces. We tried to instill these values to the Traldar, but it is not in their nature to know peace. They are a selfish, aggressive race.”

“You ask that we do not enslave the Traldar. I give you my word that we have not done, now shall we ever do anything of the sort. Whatever grievances the Traldar hold against us, we hope we can resolve. War has taken a great toll on both sides. The Hutaakans can pledge to you that if you can help us bring the dead to rest and defeat the evil unleashed by the Traldar’s ignorant actions, we shall do our utmost to come to a peaceful treaty with their clan.”

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The High Priestess of Pflarr

Maruc looked kindly at the bound warrior, “Nevertheless, Traldar, in order to resolve the situation we must seek the ‘Knowledge of the Elders’ to discover what truths they wish to hand down to us. You and your people must transcend your grief’s for only that way lies peace. I think the Hutaaka are unlikely to be in a position to subjugate you now.” Maruc glanced about the stricken landscape. “You make too strong a point. However, a wise man does not cast slurs in his arguments. It lessens the impact of what he says, and lights his as a fool in men’s thoughts.”

“Come, let us take these ambassadors. Traldar, the Hutaakan says they are a peaceful race let us see the truth of their words.” Maruc awaited their guide to lead on.

Stephan finished making sure none of the Hutaakan woke up near any of the Traldar and then readied himself to leave. He kept a wary eye on all the humanoids as they began to stir awake but thankfully the party with ambassadors was at some distance by then.

“The Traldar does seem pretty crude and unrefined, Maruc. But give the man his slurs after having just been attacked by a spear-wielding, spell-casting clan of jackal heads. Seems to me that this undead plague may be the common enemy that brings peace between the Traldar and Hutaakan. We can’t get to the temple soon enough.”

Ludo sullenly helped Stephan tie up the remanider of the Tralder. He said to Stephan, “no good will come of this, these Hutakkans do not speak the whole truth, there is more to their story than meets the eye, be on your guard for treachery. The Traldar do not have the faith and power to release and control Undead, but I believe that the Hutakkans do. They may be unrefined, but I think they speak the truth.”

Ludo crouched beside one of the Traldar. “A knife will be placed 20 feet yonder, you can use that to release yourselves when we have gone. Make your way back to your village, go in peace.”

Feldard was glad to be on the move again to some defined place. The aimless wandering of the day before had seem unproductive to the dour dwarf.

Feldard could see by their wary looks that Stephan and Ludo were of the mind that the Hutakaans were the source of treachery in these lands. Feldard own thoughts were that both sides were lying and looking after their own interests. It was only to be expected really, but if asked right now which the dwarf felt more kinship to – it would have to be the Hutakaan.

Feldard followed behind the group, wondering if his own prejudice was blinding him in the same way he suspected that Ludo and Stephen’s were blinding them. Only time would tell. Hopefully they would reach the Temple before dinner. Feldard was hungry, and had a real craving for a good meal and good drink.

Hasan said nothing, but Maruc and Ludo could not fail to notice the elf fall into line next to the Hutakaa, smiling warmly as he did.

“I am Jasiteq,” said the leader of their Hutaakan guides. ”We shall take you to Byxata. It is the last of our great cities. We shall be there before nightfall.”

The party reached Byxata. It had obviously once been a magnificent and opulent town, but was now in ruins and crumbling badly. A stone wall provided some fortification against attack. Some two dozen Hutaakan guards maintained watch on the the ramparts.

Insid the ston walls were approximately 20 buildings, mostly single stories. The outlay had been no doubt designed by the cultured Hutaakans, whereas the brutish Traldar had been employed to carry out the physical labour required to construct the many monuments and buildings. Undoubtedly much blood, sweat and tears had gone into the construction of towns such as this and others. Had the direction and learning offered by the Hutaakans been a reasonable price for the exploitation of the Traldar people?

The party was led through the town streets to the steps of a large shrine, one of few remaining Hutaakan temples, dedicated to their Immortal patron. Miklos recognized the holy symbols adorning the facades as of the Immortal Pflarr. Pflarr was an obscure immortal, with scant information available in any of the tomes Miklos had ever poured over. Now, before them in the town center was a giant statue of what could only be their sacred deity. With the head of a beast, they now saw that Pflarr and the Hutaakans were of the same race.

Jasiteq turned to the group. “Allow me to fetch the priestess. I shall return shortly.”

While they waited outside, there was time to study the frescoes, carvings and sculptures that depicted the story of the Immortal Pflarr. From what they could see, Pflarr was not born but created in ancient times by magical forces, the artwork did not get more specific on the nature of the magicks. Pflarr was depicted as the ruler of some ancient kingdom, there were renderings of pyramids, war turning to peace and the creation of magical artifacts. Finally, it appeared that Pflarr created the Hutaakans in his own image, to be his faithful servants.

From the temple emerged a group of Hutaakan priests, led by a tall, silver-furred female, dressed in pure white robes. She wore a glorious jewelled medallion around her neck, a giant holy symbol.

“Welcome to the Valley of Hutaaka. I am Kforedz, High Priestess of Hutaaka.” She spoke with a haughty, yet tactful tone. “As you have seen, our lands have been overrun by undead, released by the reckless actions of the evil barbarian race known as the Traldar. Jasiteq has informed me that you have travelled here from the outlands, with the means to help us bring the dead to rest.”

One of her aids brought forth a smooth stick, about 3 feet in length, with arcane symbols carved upon it.

“This runestick was bestowed upon us by an elf many ages ago. Only it may open the Vault of the Elders, and therein lies a tome containing the knowledge we require to perform a sacred ritual which may banish the evil that has animated the dead and turned our ancestors against us.”

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Not That Simple

Ludo looked on aghast at what he heard, he turned to the Hutakkan and angrily grabbed him by the robes, “is it true, you made slaves of the Tralder”. He threw the Hutakkan back to the ground, they are no better than the Iron Ring, they lost control of their former slaves and then when they couldn’t regain their control, they unleashed the Undead within the valley to hunt them down. Hasan; they do not deserve your support, they would most likely make slaves of us all. Stephen we should release the Tralder from their bonds”. I suspect that these Hutakkan are in league with the Sons of Night.”

“Stop this foolishness,” Hasan’s voice rose. The elf began to gather magical energies, and set to unleash them on Ludo. Mid-gesture, Hasan then closed his eyes, and the elf stopped. The elf’s chest heaved. “And stop myself, as well.”

“Slaves, pupils, masters or protectors, we will not know who is what until we reach the Great Temple. Let us travel there, with these two as our guides. We can bind them both, and Maruc can silence them both. Miklos, would the confusion spell we saw on the scroll help us dispburse the others?”

“Use your head rogue!” the dwarf snapped at Ludo’s accusations and stood up to defend the Hutakaan as it rose to its feet. “If they were already in league with the Sons, the Sons wouldn’t have needed the map to get here. But that’s not to say that now that we’ve made it here others won’t follow in our wake and try to gain favour with them by allying with them. Just because you humans share ancient blood with these Traldar doesn’t make their words any more valid.” He glared at Ludo then looked around to the other in the group. “Hasan is right, we need to see this Great Temple to figure out what the Sons of Night are truly after and keep it from them. That’s what we are here for not to pick sides in some revolution, regardless of our sympathies.”

Ludo stood back from the Hutakkan, and with heavy sarcasm said, “Well now we see the Prince for his true colours, blinded to the truth, ready to defend a slaver. Let us look at the facts, they ambushed the Traldar and killed them, they ambushed and tried to kill us and they have been accused of slavery and do not denigh it. Yet still our Prince defends them and is prepared to turn on his team mates to support them. They do not deserve your protection Hasan, they will enslave you too given half the chance. Let us go to this temple, but mark my words, these Hutakkans, they are the evil of this valley, of that I am in no doubt! Remember Hasan your people and your beloved Rahasia would have been enslaved by the Rahab and the Witches, it was the courage of your friends that stopped that, do not let these slavers blind you to your true friends and our mission.”

Ludo walked past Hasan, stopped in front of him and spoke in a low voice “do not threaten me again.”

Stephan stood nonplussed not knowing what to do or say. This was not his bailiwick. His was the regimen of command and act; usually with a sword. This banter and ambiguity made his head swim. How he longed for a stiff pint! How long had it been since the last? Three months? At least!

“All I see is that their conflict is quickly becoming ours!” He looked around at the encroaching rock. “This cursed land drives away all good will!”

“Violence is no answer,” the priest spoke softly. The others turned to him as he stood up. “We have two conflicting stories as I suggested we’d have. Neither completely true but each with a kernel of truth.” The others started to become restless but he held up is hand to call for silence. “Here me out. The word ‘slave’ is very evocative. Indentured servant? Protected manservant? Beyond these mountainous walls we live in a feudal society ruled ultimately by the immortals. Therefore are we all not slaves in the very strictest sense? There is always a higher power to which we are beholden. I am a priest and I do the work of Halav Incarnate who sits on the Traladaran ducal throne, and he is wise and benevolent. But some may view me as his slave if you twist the facts slightly. There are serfs working the fields, but we past them by unheeding because a fair lord will feed, house and protect them.”

“The Traldar have lived for a very long time under the yoke of the Hukataan Empire, They still stand as a race undaunted even when all the might of Hukata is thrown at them, but they are not guiltless or pure. One doesn’t become a warlike race o’re night and from our experiences of the valley so far they have been quite successful.”

“The solution is simple to say and difficult to enact. It is this, the valley should be split into two kingdoms and a beneficial trading agreement where each party gains from the skills of the other for their mutual benefit because they have needed each other for many hundreds of years and conflict has only benefited the crows.”

“But there is another secret yet to uncover as has been revealed. What lies in the Great Temple may heal the rift that has crushed this valley. Hasan is correct, We require to spokesmen and guides, one from each side and a oaths from all that the violence will stop until we uncover the cause of the strife and heal it.”

“What say you to that?” he directed he gaze at each of the captives. “Who will volunteer?”

He had expected one or more of the brave warriors to step forward, but none did.

Miklos stood agape for a second. He wondered if the priest wasn’t some kind of arch diplomat. He reappraised his friend, true he was not intellectual but he could read the hearts of men and this was a master stroke. He hoped it would work.

Ludo stood to one side, he felt like he was a lone man standing on a beach trying to keep the sea at bay. “Maruc, your vision to split this land into two while laudable is bound to fail. When one race of people have stood on the necks of another race of people for so long it will be impossible for the two people to live peacefully beside each othe”r.

“You speak of slavery as thou the Hutakkans have done these Tralder a favour,” he sneered. “Here have this crust of bread, but to have it you must work for us and do our bidding. That is not an Indentured servant or protected manservant, it is taking advantage of people who have been given no opportunity to better themselves to have free will and choices. I will not apoligise for my stance on this matter; all my life I have seen people oppressed and beaten, bound to a life of slavery. It is abhorrant. We have stumbled into a land of civil war and I will assume that both sides have committed evil acts but I will never support a people that oppress others into slavery.”

“However what we should seek and uncover is who or what has released the undead to prey on the living in this valley. It could be what the Sons of Night are after; that type of power would make them unstoppable. I think we should go to the villages of these Hutakkans and Traldar and seek some answers from the leaders of these two people”.

“Ludo, you misinterpret my meaning, I was not seeking to justify this story or that. I offer only alternative thinking. Many nations have been at each others throats for centuries and have come to peace. Your view holds no hope. For me I remain optimistic. Who are we to judge them guilty or not? For all we know the ancient Traldar were murdering each other and needed a strong hand to quell them to peace? We are not in charge of all the facts but I understand your feelings on this my friend and I shall not rebuke you for a passionate opinion. Indeed I would encourage it.”

Maruc grinned, “I never said bringing peace would be easy! I think their leaders would be less likely to offer peace as they have more to loose, but you have a point about the devastation that surrounds us. It could be a vision from the book itself.”

“Let us go to the Temple without delay.”

“It is not that simple,” said the Hutaakan. “The Temple is overrun with the undead. Not the pitiable walkers you may have encountered in your travels in the Eastern half of the valley. Great evil emanates from within the Temple now. It has turned our own ancestors against us.”

“We must first travel to the Vault of the Elders. The breach of the temple was prophesied in days of old. In the Vault lies a book, The Knowledge of the Elders, which has laid unread for centuries. It will tell us what is necessary to restore balance to our lands. Come with us back to our village. You will see we are a peaceful race. We have a sacred rod. Only it can open the vault, but we cannot read its inscription.”

He then turned to Miklos and Hasan. “But you… an elf. Like the one that had gifted us the rod, lo those many years ago.”

“This mutt lies!” insisted the Traldar. “Natting good kin cahm av list’ning to ‘im! We conquer thar temple to take vat we ‘ave earned frahm ages ‘a slav’ry. Rad’r thahn give up thar riches, they curse dah land!”

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Hutaakans vs. Traldar

Ludo looked upon the Hutaakan with a sceptical look upon his face, “Miklos, Hasan, listen carefully to his words for untruths and deception. I have seen first hand how culture and refinement can easily decieve those who seek the truth and justice. Dont forget the tracks from the dead bodies lead us to these natives of this valley, and in my book, actions always speak louder than fancy words!”

“These are Elfriends of long ago, and we must treat them with the respect they deserve,” insisted Hasan. “Spare the humans, to be sure, but send them away. These nobles mean no harm,” the elf continued, turning to their tall captive, “but have worked across the ages for the commonwealth. They are due our respect.” Finally, the elf addressed the captive directly, “I am Hasan of the Elyan, Prince of Radlebb Wood. We come bear grim tidings, and we come to seek a boon. Great evil arises beyond this vale, and it would infiltrate your fastness. My people stayed, protected within their own bounds for eons, until we grew weak. Let that fate not befall you. These, my friends and I, would take up your tools, to use beyond these bounds on your behalf. Come now, and take us to see your people’s fate, and what they hold onto today of your true ways. We respect those ways, but you must allow us to know your tale, travel your paths, and be your spearhead in the realm beyond.” The elf finished with a grand gesture signifying the world.

Feldard gave a bit of a harsh laugh. Of course the Hutaakan would speak some variant of elven. Don’t all ancient races speak elven? he thought in bitter wry amusement.

“Wise elf, I take heed of thy cautionary words,” replied the Hutaakan. “Many ages ago, our race ventured out of the valley and into the lowlands. For generations, we lived in peace and brought cultural enlightenment to the uncivilized. When the gnoll hordes invaded, our peaceful nature was no match for their inhuman savagery. We had no choice but to retreat to our sacred homeland or face extinction.”

“After we withdrew from the outside lands, our race hath remained secluded here in the valley for ages. We continue to take great measures to remain secluded not just for our own protection, but also to protect the outlands by faithfully carrying out our sacred mission lo these many years. Thou arrival here appearest to be most fortuitous, for thou may help us regain control over the dark forces that hath been unleashed by these vile warmongerers.”

He nodded slightly as Miklos and Hasan interpreted the Hutaakan’s words. While Feldard was often of a mind to be wary, he found himself accepting the Hutaakan’s words readily enough. It did not surprise him in the least that the Traldar were invaders to this valley and that the Hutaakan were normally peaceful, but forced to defend themselves.

Silent though he remained, there was just one question that begged to be asked: Was the invasion by the Traldar at all associated with the Sons of Night; or were the two completely separate?

Feldard had no clue what Hasan said to the Hutaakan. “Hasan, ask him when the Traldar began their attacks.”

Ludo scowled in frustration, he could see that the fancy words of the Hutaakan was winning Hasan over. Typical, high born gentry were often fooled with fancy words and flowery diplomacy, rather than looking at the facts. Ludo could not decide if the Hutaakan was telling the truth or not, but another old saying from his father came to mind, ‘a true diplomat has as many faces as the moon’ and knows when to reveal them. This Hutaakan was spinning a grand tale to Hasan.

He could tell that the Tralder were confused why they were all tied up, and their confusion was slowly turning to anger. Great he thought to himself, more enemies, just what they needed.

He angrily exclaimed, “Hasan you would lose your crown in a game of cards versus a blind, deaf court fool. You have revealed our mission thereby allowing the Hutaakan to hide if they so wish what we seek or to lead us into a trap. Your grandiose honesty could be placing our mission at risk”. You have to learn when to reveal your cards and when to bluff. Do not be blinded to the truth by prejudice.

Stephan was dismayed at Hasan’s words. Actually, he could not fathom what the elf meant by “worked across the ages for the commonweal” and “take us to see your people’s fate.” ‘People!’ he thought. Since when are jackal headed men people?

“The Traldar, too, Hasan, may be friends of long ago to some folks. Tell him, Hasan, that we saw the Hutaakan ambush the Traldar.” Stephan was not adept at diplomacy. “Tell him that we seek peace between the Traldar and Hutaakan. Tell him, Hasan.” He looked at the elf, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly.

Miklos nodded in agreement with Ludo’s initial thoughts of caution. “Hukataan.” he said in the common tongue of men. “Do not anger my friends but pretending not to know the tongue of men. It is plain that a cultured society at war would first learn the speech of their enemies in order to defeat them or at least parley,” His eye’s darkened. “I was half convinced that you were the injured party in this affair, but it seems deception is not unknown to you. I would know the truth from you in plain speech, or you are not the cultured people I took you for. Answer me this, how long have you been at war? Who started it and most importantly, why? Your answer may decide the fate of this valley.”

Maruc kept an eye on the Traldar he was tending. “Very astute Miklos, indeed they must know the common tongue, by the ravages of this valley alone this conflict has been raging for years. To a folk with the power to create mighty golems it would be a simple thing to converse in an unknown tongue very swiftly.”

Hasan addressed the Hutaakan in Elvish again, “Say your truth, and be at peace. Despite their rash words, these humans have shown themselves trustworthy many times. Speak now.”

“We are loathe to speak with the tongue of the Wreckers for it is the language of war and aggression.” He said, still speaking in Elven. Then he reluctantly switched his speech to the something akin to the Traldar dialect, but much more sophisticated. “Ve have lived vit these barbarians since the gnoll invasion. They accepted our most kind offer to accompany us on our retreat into the sacred valley. We have shared the valley with them ever since, providing them peace an’ knowledge, but their aggression has grown over time and at last their true nature betrayed them.”

“Some months ago, they attacked and expelled us from the Great Temple where we perform the sacred rites. Now, the wreckers have unleashed a great evil. We have been made to resort to war to regain access to the temple so that we may once again bring the dead to rest.”

Maruc spoke to the warrior he was treating, “Is that not so Traldar? And what say you? When did the Traldar enter this land and why?”

The Traldar was still weak, but hearing the Hutaakan made his blood boil.

“Tho mutts ar liars! Th‘ave made slaves of Traldar. Tho call us Wreckers! Thar civilization be built ‘pon tho backs a’ Traldar! Now ve bring revolutia! Thar priests unleash tho dead, but Traldar vill not be defeat!”

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