Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved
For those who have not previously travelled the lands of Arborell there is much that will be new and in need of explanation. The stories that encompass the Chronicles of Arborell are diverse, and considerable background information is provided in the form of excerpts and appendices that can be found within these books. It is your choice however, as to whether you read them or not.
The truth is that a reader does not have to read any of these following excerpts to understand what is happening in Windhammer. The introductory section entitled "Maenum", provides everything that you will need to understand the context of the adventure you are about to undertake. What follows here is something subtly different.
The six appendices that follow are part of what scholars in Arborell call a Moot, a collection of seemingly unrelated facts that come together to form a story that is greater than the sum of its parts. These six excerpts from different speeches and volumes form part of the Moot that winds its way through all the Chronicles of Arborell. Indeed all 40 or so titles that will ultimately comprise the chronicles have within their pages a small part of this greater, hidden story. It is however, a story that will not be fully clear until the Chronicles are finished.
Of most relevance to Windhammer is the first two appendices that appear below and the last entitled "An Enemy of the State". The other three will expand your understanding of Arborell but are not essential to this storyline.
Taken from an oratory given by the Venerable Siddigh in the Year of Settlement 916,
as part of Landfall Day celebrations in Castaal, Kalborea
"It has been nine centuries since Men first stood upon the shores of the New World, and in all that span of years I have been witness to the history that has followed. It is true that there are few men who can make such a claim. Why it is that Providence should bless me with such long life is not a story to be told here today. It can be said however, that all blessings come at a cost, and mine has been burdensome indeed. But that is not why we are assembled here.
Today we gather in remembrance of all those who have passed before; to the labours and struggles of our Forefathers, and to recognise the great cost that we have had to endure in making our lives here in Arborell. Of all who have lived in this world I am the only Man who can now stand and say that he has seen it all, and it is a story that must be remembered. Indeed we cannot afford to forget, for the tribulations of our past will be revisited twicefold upon us if we choose to ignore them.
How long has it been since we first found landfall on the shores of Dromannion? Nine hundred and sixteen years have passed since that gladding time, and yet I remember that first day as keenly as I now look out upon this gathering. In those times my name was Merriarum, a boy of the NomDruse and a sickly child at best. The rigours of our flight from the Old World had taken its toll upon me, and upon most of our number, but in those uncertain days our resolve was strong.
About us our great Fleet of ships wallowed in a rolling sea, broken and battered after fleeing the Old Enemy. Less than Five Thousand souls had completed the crossing from the Old World, but we had survived the voyage, our one hope that the shadows we were fleeing would not find a passage here as well. Thankfully they did not.
Painful memories remind me that those first years were hard. A new land requires exploration and understanding before it can be taken as a home, and Dromannion proved difficult to tame, but it was not a task that was beyond us. Quickly we founded the first of our settlements and soon the Dromannion Free State brought all Men together in one great Nation. For a generation we prospered on our new island home, free of the fear that had sent us as refugees into the unknown of the Grey Sea. Towns grew, farms spread in ordered lines from roads that connected the growing populations of the Free State, but we all knew that Dromannion was not the New World, only an island haven on its eastern fringe.
Quietly a need grew in the hearts of many to explore the New World that lay beyond the mists of the western horizon. Many of us did not wish to venture further, the memories of the Old Enemy still too fresh to risk the chance that they might be revisited. I learned quickly however, that you cannot stand against the need of Men to find new horizons, and new lands to conquer.
It was the Kalboreans of the Fleet who first made footfall upon the shores of Arborell and what they found was indeed a New World; one of vast forests and plains, of swift rivers and great opportunity. What they found also were the Oera'dim, the creatures that we know now as the Horde, and ultimately the cause of so much tragedy for the Four Nations. In this world our fates are intertwined and their story is one that must be told also, if we are to understand why it is we are assembled here today."
"To know the Horde it must be acknowledged that they have resided for such a length of time in these lands that their histories have faded into nothing more than legend and myth. It is said that they are the product of EarthMagic, created from the soils of Arborell itself by a race of Beings who have long since fallen into ruin. Once they were slaves, made for the sole purpose of service to their Masters, and held by a powerful Word of Command that kept them obedient and subservient.
If we are to believe the legends of the Horde, it was the Jotun that found a way to break the Word and visit death and destruction upon their Masters. In a great insurrection the Oera'dim threw down those that had oppressed them, destroyed the great works of their cities and temples, and took dominion of the world for themselves for more than eight millenia.
It is true that when we first encountered the creatures of the Horde, we looked upon them as cruel and barbarous. Without apparent society or culture we viewed them as primitive and made war upon them, our need for lands and power blinding us to the true nature of their strength. Seven destructive Horde Wars have been fought to push them into the great northern wastes, and yet they are not defeated. Hundreds of thousands of our number have died, and we have prevailed in every contest of arms, but still they survive, threatening us from the cold wastes of the Sanhar. It must leave us to wonder whether we shall ever know peace.
And yet we too survive. As we remember those first refugees from the Old World we must look to the future and know that Men have a place in this world, even though it must be one forged with blood and iron. If we are to believe the legends of our own great voyage we must recognise that we have nowhere else to go.
It may seem that nine centuries is an ocean of time, a vast gulf within which we have earned the right to say that Arborell is ours, and that our nemesis, the Horde, can now have no claim. If you were to think that you would be wrong. Men may have walked these lands for over nine hundred years, but the Hordim have been here for time without recording, and even now covet that which we have. Arborell was once theirs, and they have not forgotten the bitter taste of defeat that tore it from their grasp. The Hordim may be cruel but they are patient. Above all else we must remember that..."
As described in the Book of Moot
There are few children of the Four Nations that have slept easily after hearing tales told of the Horde. It is a fact of life for all Men that the relative calm of their daily lives is edged with the shadowed threat of the Hordim, and the surety of their existence. It is a truth however, that there are few living Men who have ever seen a Hordim, or had the need to confront one. Apart from the Rangers of the Watch, who guard the many mountain passes of the Great Rift, the southern lands of Arborell have been the domain of the Four Nations for many hundreds of years. In this manner the separation of Men from the Hordim has been total. Because of this the nature of these creatures is cloaked in myth and superstition, only the hard truth of the Horde's existence a certainty that no man can ignore. What follows is a short review of each of the creatures that make up the differing tribes and allegiances of the Oera'dim, or as we know them, the Horde.
It is said in the lands of Men that there is nothing feared more than the Hresh of the Horde. Roughly humanoid in size and stature they are weapons of destruction, purposefully designed by their long-dead masters to fight and die in the forgotten wars of the ancient world. Constructed from the dark earth of Arborell and imbued with a spark of EarthMagic that sustains them, they are the ultimate warriors of their kind, lethal fighting machines who live without fear or the restraint of mercy.
The Hresh of the Horde are easily recognised from amongst their fellow Hordim. Although slightly larger than most men they are heavily muscled with flat uncomplicated features. Each sports a long braided tail of black hair from the back of their heads, and all display the tattoos of their kin and status burned deep into their right arms. As is the practice of all Hordim, Hresh also tattoo the sign of the Three Tears under their right eye. Why this is done is unknown to Men, the meaning of such adornment a mystery that has not yet been uncovered.
Unlike other members of the Oera'dim the Hresh have no specific skin colour, the ancients who created them having given them the ability to change their skin tone to match their surroundings at will. It is recorded also that Hresh have excellent night vision and acute hearing.
Since the end of the Third Horde War all Hresh live within the cold wastes of northern Arborell, in an area of tundra and crater lakes known as the Lands of Perdition. As is the case with most Hordim they maintain a strong loyalty to the Mutan of the Clavern'sigh. Only the Hresh of the Denmar Kraal have been known to operate independent of the dictates of the Sigh, and they have suffered much because of it.
Although it is not common knowledge, it has been ascertained that the ancients, who we know as Trell, did not bother to provide their warriors with a finite lifespan. Unless killed in combat or by accident Hresh are for all practical purposes immortal, and it is rumoured that at least one of their number has survived more than eight thousand years.
It is recorded in the histories of the Trell that the Hresh proved to be effective weapons of war, but served poorly when turned to other pursuits. With a need for farm and construction workers the Trell turned their magical artifice to creating a worker Being that we know as the Morg. For reasons known only to their creators the Morg are small, emaciated creatures, but strong for their size and possessed of an unbreakable loyalty to the Mutan.
In the lands of Men these creatures are known for their skills as saboteurs, and their habit of travelling in groups of up to thirty individuals. It is recorded that the Morg have shown a liking for the application of torture, and to be found alone by such creatures can lead only to a long, painful death.
In the ancient history of Arborell the Mutan were the willing Slavemasters of all other Hordim. Used by the Trell to organise the day-to-day affairs of their great Empire, the Mutan were designed as intelligent and ruthless administrators. Generally around two metres in height, the Mutan are slim of build, dark grey of skin colouration, and possessed of considerable intellect. Such creatures possess no specific features of note except for two dark, sunken eyes that mark an otherwise featureless visage.
For Men the Mutan are the most important of the Hordim. In these modern times they maintain dominion over all of the Horde, all power being centralised with the eleven Mutan of the Clavern'sigh. It is rumoured that this power is exercised with the utterance of a Word of Command, a powerful spell that binds all Hordim to their will.
Jotun are the largest of the Hordim, and in many respects the least understood. Standing between three and four metres tall they were originally designed as miners and engineers, but proved ultimately to be the downfall of the ancient Trell. Possessed of great intelligence and immense strength, these creatures are formidable adversaries and certainly the most imposing of all Hordim.
Although these giants were designed as builders and delvers of the deep earth, they have proven themselves powerful warriors. At war the Jotun equip themselves with intricately carved chestplates and other armour worn over heavy leather jerkins. It is known that they carry long-handled warhammers as their weapon of choice. Physically Jotun are similar to Hresh, only much taller and longer of limb. Unlike the Hresh however, Jotun sport a white-grey braid of hair and have ochre coloured skin. It is rumoured also that they adhere to a strict code of discipline, and are the most socially organised of the Hordim. Whether this is true is unknown to Men.
Almost nothing is known of the Vardem except that they were the personal hand-servants of the Trell. With the demise of their Masters and the ascension of the Mutan, these creatures disappeared from the world. Their fate is unknown.
All creatures of the Horde give their primary allegiance to the Mutan of the Clavern'sigh but differentiate themselves from other Hordim by their Kraal, or Homeland. Whether Jotun, Hresh, Morg or Mutan, each Hordim has a Kraal allegiance that signifies their status within the Horde. Only the Jotun find cause for further differentiation, having formed a division into two separate affiliations. The larger of the two is the Jotun of the March, loyal to the Sigh and made up of the more numerous Bruhaj, Amdahl and Traebor Kraals. The smaller is the Jotun of the West, comprising the Delving and Oldemai Kraals; whose loyalties have proven less reliable and who have suffered for it.
From the time of the great voyage that brought Men to the New World, the Four Nations have fought to find a secure place is a harsh land. From their initial settlements upon the shores of the Dromannion Free State these nations have spread out into the wilds of Arborell. What follows is a short description of each. Detailed maps of all these nations, and of the Horde homelands, can be found within the pages of the Atlas of Arborell at www.arborell.com.
Largest of the nations of Men is the Kalborean Union. Composed of twelve united city-states, the Kalborean Union lays claim to most of central and southern Arborell. Descendants of settlers who made their way to the New World aboard the Kalborean Fleet, they are physically tall, well known for their adventurous spirit, and diligent in their pursuit of wealth and power. Over the years the Kalborean Union has grown into a powerful and sophisticated nation, but they have used that power to subjugate the Dwarvendim of the Stone Kingdoms and the smaller Faeyen Provinces of western Arborell. At the time of this adventure only the NomDruse of the south remain independent of the power of the Union.
As the only Men to master the mysteries of EarthMagic the Dwarvendim have held a unique position amongst the Four Nations. Physically very different from the other nations they are identified easily by their muscular build and short stature. Most Dwarvendim stand less than shoulder high to other men, but make up for their lack of stature with a grim determination and impressive physical strength. Known throughout Arborell for their skill in building and an unusual affinity to stone, their greatest skill lies with their knowledge of the Lore of Stonewood. It is the Dwarvendim who counter the magical power of the Clavern'sigh with the Grand Circle of LoreMasters, and it is the power that these Men once wielded that is the focus of this adventure.
The history of the Dwarvendim is longer than man's habitation in Arborell, and it is one littered with violence and treachery. Many times during the years of settlement in Arborell the Dwarvendim have risen to leadership amongst the Four Nations, only to have that leadership tested with betrayal and warfare. In an effort to bring security to their number they migrated from their first settlements surrounding the Kalborean Lakes to a safe haven within the high peaks and mist-covered valleys of the Krodestaag Ranges. It was there they founded the Stone Kingdoms, and until the destruction of Menion'Barac during the War of Three Nations, maintained a strong presence amongst the nations of Men. At the time of this adventure the Stone Kingdoms lay in ruins, the peoples of the Dwarvendim subjugated to the power of the Kalborean Union.
To be Faeyen is to live a life of privilege and ease. Descended from the Merchant and Professional classes of the Old World, the Faeyen have maintained a life different from the other nations. Slim of build and cultured in the arts, they control most commerce within the Four Nations, mainly through a network of Trading Houses and Merchant Guilds that manage the production and distribution of fabric and leather goods, fine metals and spices.
Although the Faeyen frequently travel into the wider world, they do so hesitantly. Very soon after the end of the Fourth Horde War the Faeyen migrated to the rugged west of Arborell where they raised a series of magnificent mountain citadels. Skilled in trade and unsurpassed in their artifice with fine metals, they have grown rich and idle, content to keep to themselves and let their Agents do their work for them.
It is a truth however, that no man in Arborell underestimates the determination of the Faeyen, or the pragmatic ruthlessness of their government. Unlike the Dwarvendim, who fought against the Kalborean Union to the point of their enslavement; the Faeyen, who were allied to the Stone Kingdoms in the War of Three Nations, could see no benefit to such an end and betrayed the Dwarvendim, ceding sovereignty of their lands to the Kalboreans. They do as the Kalborean Union asks, pay a regular tribute and have been left alone because of it.
Very little is recorded of this people, except that they dwell in the far south of Arborell, and protect themselves with a powerful magic unknown to the other nations. Since the time of the Horde Wars the NomDruse have had no contact with the outside world, except to make it known that they wish to be left alone. Apart from the aging figure of the Venerable Siddigh, who resides at the National Academy in Castaal, Kalborea, no other NomDruse has crossed the Rabatte that separates the NomDruse Homelands from the rest of Arborell. Why they wish to live in such isolation is a mystery yet to be uncovered.
Condensed from a lecture given by the Tak Mah Horan in the year of settlement 931
to the Combined Assemblies of the
Synod of the LoreMages' Guild of Kalborea. Horde translations of certain words are given in brackets.
It is said that the creatures of the Horde were created out of darkness, moulded in the depths of the Earth and given life with the power of EarthMagic. Long are the tales that describe the rising of the Hordim from the Earth, and of their subjugation by the ancient beings known to them as the Trell'sara, and to Men as simply the Trell. Such is the antiquity of these events that there is little that remains of any factual records. Of the stories and sagas of the Hordim (Oera'dim) there is much that is unclear but the history of the Horde is long, and it cannot be disputed that they are our greatest nemesis. Only through an understanding of this enemy can we ever hope to defeat them.
From those records that still remain it is certain that the first of the Hordim were created by the Trell many thousands of years prior to the arrival of Men in the world. At that time the Trell were engaged in a vicious struggle with another race known only as the Forgotten Ones. There is nothing in this world that describes who they were, or how such a conflict arose, but it is sure that the Trell were losing, and in their desperation to turn the tide of the war created the first of the Hordim. These creatures we know today as the Hresh (Hresh'na). Although it is unknown how the Trell were able to harness the powers of EarthMagic to create the Hresh, it is a matter of Hordim legend that they turned the war. Designed as disciplined and merciless weapons the Hresh were totally loyal to their masters, and with the strength of these creatures at their command destroyed the Forgotten Ones and took dominion of Arborell.
The Hresh had proved themselves as potent warriors, but with the fighting done the Trell turned their creatures to new tasks. In their arrogance they put their slave-warriors to work, tending fields, creating the goods needed by their civilisation, and building the great cities and temples whose ruins can be found spread throughout our world. It can be said that in these endeavours the Hresh could not satisfy their masters. They had been created as warriors and that could be their only true calling. The Trell looked instead to new creatures to fulfil their needs and it was then that they created the Morg (Ah'marg).
Used purely as farm workers and manual labourers the Morg were hardy slaves, resistant to all extremes of weather and like their Hresh brethren, completely loyal to their masters. It is believed that a Word of Command held all the Hordim in bondage, and until it was broken by the Jotun (Jotuni) the Trell lived their lives at ease, sure in the knowledge that they were supreme in the world.
There came a time however, when even the need to control their slaves was given over to a new creature of their devising. The Mutan (Ahmutani) were created as slave-masters, controlling all the work done by the Hordim, ensuring the efficient running of all aspects of Trell society. More and more power was concentrated in these creature's hands until eventually it was only the Word of Command that separated the Mutan from their masters. Whilst held in bondage by this most powerful of spells the Trell could not be challenged, and for thousands of years such was the manner of their lives.
It came to pass that in this time two new creatures were created to further the decadence and excesses of the Trell. The first were known as the Vardem (Vardemi). These were the personal household servants of the Trell. All other creatures had proven inadequate to their ever-increasing indolence and it was so that the Vardem served their most basic of needs. It is unknown as to what they looked like, or where they might now be, but of all the Hordim they are the least known, and the most mysterious. The second creatures created in this Golden Age of Excess were the Jotun, and with them the Trell made a fatal error.
Designed as engineers and miners of the deep earth they were given intelligence and strength. Unlike the other Hordim the Jotun were powerful beings, imbued with the knowledge and intellect to serve without need of supervision. What the Trell did not realise was that some of the Jotun had come into the world immune to the power of the Word of Command, and as their brethren took their place beside the other Hordim, they worked secretly to bring down their Masters.
It is one of the greatest mysteries of the Jotun as to how they broke the Word of Command, but with its fall came violence and death as the now unrestrained slaves of the Trell rose against their masters and obliterated them from the world. In this time of destruction the Vardem disappeared; some legends say they fled to the east, but by the end of their insurrection the Jotun had control of the world. Arborell was now under the dominion of the Horde.
All should have ended in that manner, except that the Mutan coveted power for themselves. Apart from the Vardem the Mutan had been closest to their old masters, and knew much of their ways. They used this knowledge to harness the powers of the Earth for themselves, and revived the Word of Command to bring all the Hordim under their thrall. To this time it has remained so, the Mutan in command of the Horde, the Hordim once again subjugated to the powers of those who can harness EarthMagic.
There is a question that must be raised however. What happened to the Jotun who were immune to the Word of Command? There is no further mention of them in the sagas of the Horde, and no indication that they have attempted to wrest control from the Mutan since their rise to power. If ever there was a possible ally to be found amongst the Hordim it would be these Jotun, but the question remains. Where are they?
Excerpt from a lecture given at the Academy of Histories at Landfall in the Year of Settlement 419
If we are to understand the history of Arborell it is important to accept that little written evidence survives. What we know of the time before Men made landfall here is taken mostly from the oral traditions of the Hordim, and the scant texts that can be found carved into the many temples of this world. What is clear is that the story is a long one, and it stretches back into a prehistory that is difficult for Men to comprehend. It is a story however, that is compelling, one which explains the state of our world today, and gives an insight as to why the ancient works of this world lie in such ruination.
For all that will follow it is important to remember that the Hordim believe in a world where the supernatural and the unseen are as important, and as real, as their waking lives. The history I am about to unfold must be viewed from the perspective that for our mortal enemies the world is controlled by three great Powers, and everything that has happened, or will happen, is their doing. How these Powers came into being, and how they are bound into a single existence is the essence of Hordim mythology. It is also where we must start.
Long before the arrival of either Hordim or Men in the world there existed only the Shan'duil, the River of Life; and it alone wielded all power, creating all that breathed or grew in the world, intent on balancing the rhythm of its creation as it is expressed in the relentless cycle of the seasons. For time unrecorded it stood in solitary dominion of the world, a pulsing life-essence that bound the fate of all living things together.
In the oral histories of the Hordim it is said that the dominion of the Shan'duil remained unchanged until the roots of a great Tree came into contact with the River of Life. Somewhere within the vastness of the Malleron forests a monstrous Oak delved deep into the bedrock of the world and touched the Shan'duil, turning it instantly to white stone . In that moment a new Power was born, a sentient, immortal Tree possessed of all the powers of the Shan'duil, that spread its dominion over all other trees. From that chance encounter arose the Silvan Tree, the Lord of all Trees, and under its stewardship the forests of Arborell flourished, spreading to all the corners of the world.
In this manner the balance of life was maintained; the Shan'duil continuing its dominion over the cycle of life, the Silvan Tree its lordship of all the great forests. Amongst this quiet existence the Two Powers grew in strength, and together found comfort in the verdancy of their world. It was a quiet dominion that lasted for untold millennia, until the coming of the Forgotten Ones.
It is not known who the Forgotten Ones were. There are no records of their origin, or carven images that might give hint to their nature. All that is known is that they lived in this world and then were gone, but their story is a turning point in the history of Arborell.
From a place beyond the borders of our world the Forgotten Ones arose, settling in Arborell and making a life for themselves amongst the great Trees. Theirs was an existence without material want, nomadic and simple in their desire to do no harm to the world they ventured in. In the course of their wanderings it was inevitable that they encountered the Silvan Tree, and not being creatures of greed or distrust gave their fealty to that Power. In return the Silvan Tree introduced them to the Shan'duil, and in that meeting the Forgotten Ones learned of the great energy that the First Power had woven into the world. This energy they called EarthMagic.
Time flowed on and the world, which had only known the quiet dominion of trees, became filled with the voices of the Forgotten Ones. Favoured by the Silvan Tree they flourished, and soon their multitude found homes wherever the trees of the forest spread their boughs. Of all things that found favour with the Second Power it was the voices of the Forgotten Ones that intrigued the Great Tree most. In all the long years of its existence it had never known the clarity of the spoken word, and given the opportunity learned the language of these peoples and bonded it with EarthMagic. The words of the Forgotten Ones became one with the life-force of the world, a key that could be used to manipulate EarthMagic. The Silvan Tree offered this power to the Forgotten Ones but they declined the offer, and left the control of such magic with the Two Powers. It was not for them, they said, to have such a boon for it would surely be their undoing.
In truth the Forgotten Ones knew the dangers of unrivalled power, and rather than wield it themselves built great Temples, and gave homage to the Silvan Tree in gratitude of her offer. Each of the Temples was built near a tributary of the River of Life, and each delved far into the earth, their builders' purpose to find solace with the pulse of the world. These dorum grew in all the corners of Arborell and so the world again continued for many more millennia.
As is the way of things there came a time when even a great Power can fall into folly. Without the care that should have been given the Silvan Tree created a race of Beings it called Trell'sara, or Guardians. The Guardians were to be custodians of the trees, as selfless and caring as the Forgotten Ones themselves, but instead their ambitions proved both treacherous and destructive. In secret the Trell'sara plotted a great war against the Forgotten Ones, their aim to destroy the followers of the Silvan Tree and then tear down the Tree itself. In their minds the world had room enough only for themselves, and in their plotting and scheming had no intention of doing the fighting themselves.
Out of the living earth the Trell'sara, who had been given the power to harness EarthMagic by the Silvan Tree, created the Hresh, vicious warriors designed as weapons of war. With a great host of these creatures they swept the Forgotten Ones from the world and brought down the Tree, breaking it up and throwing it into a deep abyss. In one violent act of betrayal the Trell'sara took the world for themselves.
But the Silvan Tree was not dead. In the depths of the earth the Tree struggled to survive, its tenuous grip on life growing stronger as it gained strength from its proximity to the Shan'duil. Far from the sight of the Trell'sara the Tree recovered its resolve and waited, mourning the loss of the Forgotten Ones and lamenting the folly of its actions.
In the light of day the Trell'sara knew nothing of the Silvan Tree's survival. Quickly they took dominion of the known world and began creating new creatures to meet their need for slaves. The Hresh were effective warriors but had no talent for the domestic, so the Guardians created the Jotun to serve as builders and engineers, the Morg as farm labourers and menial workers, and the Mutan to oversee them all. Only when all these creatures had been brought into the world did the Trell'sara create the Vardem, their personal servants for which little has been recorded.
Again the millennia passed as a flowing ocean of time. The slaves of the Trell'sara laboured hard at the behest of their masters, and no threat came to bother their dominion until the Silvan Tree had grown strong enough to act.
Such was the need for slaves required to meet the indolence and excess of the Trell'sara, that it came to pass that the balance of life and death in Arborell began to falter. All of the creatures created by the Guardians carried within them a small glimmering of the River of Life, and with that spark came sentience and a will to find a better existence. The Trell'sara were cruel masters and thought nothing of the loss of multitudes of slaves in the building of their great citadels and pleasure palaces. Such losses released these sparks of existence into the world, but they had nowhere to go, and soon the burden of such unrestrained energy began to weigh heavily upon the Shan'duil.
In the dark recesses of the abyss within which it had been thrown the Silvan Tree came to an agreement with the River of Life. The cycle of Life and Death had to be restored, and it could only be done one way. In that deep abode the Silvan Tree created a mirror-image of itself, a third Power of the world concerned only with Death, and the force by which the sparks of existence now roaming freely in the world could be gathered up and returned properly to the Living World.
Such a tree was given the name Dreya, and its dominion became known as Hallen'draal. In its domain the sparks of Life were gathered and scourged, to be reborn as new Beings into the world of light above. The Dreya Tree took to its task with great energy and in doing so scourged the memories of those it brought into its Underworld. It was through the Dreya Tree that the Silvan Tree found its opportunity.
It must be understood that the Trell'sara were indolent but they were not stupid. They knew the nature of their creations and placed upon them all a Word of Command, a spell that kept their slaves submissive and controllable. Without it they knew they would fall prey to the unrestrained hatred of their charges, and ensured diligently that the Word would never falter.
In the darkness of the Dreya's domain the Word of Command was scourged from all creatures memory only to be reasserted when a Being returned to the world above. On a few select Jotun the Silvan Tree assured that the Word of Command would have no effect upon them once they were reborn, and as was the wish of the Great Tree they laboured in secret to throw down their Masters.
Although it is unclear how the Great Insurrection started it has been recorded that the rebellion grew quickly, the Trell'sara caught unawares as they pursued their interests in sloth and excess. In a wave of violence and death the Trell'sara were themselves destroyed, their vast cities and palaces torn down stone by stone. When the slaves of the Trell'sara had finished, their masters had been scourged from the world and their empire laid waste; their memory lost to a world that did not wish to remember them.
In a world where there was no longer control the slaves found themselves without purpose and soon spiralled into violence. Within this great upheaval the old overseers of the Trell'sara, the Ahmutani, or Mutan as they are known to Men, took the Word of Command for themselves and Uttered it again into the world. It was a cruel irony that Arborell now belonged to the slaves of the Trell'sara, and it was the Mutan that now ruled them all.
Eight long millennia saw no change to the power of the Mutan. The Oera'dim, as the creatures now called themselves, divided into a series of tribal allegiances that spread into all the corners of the world, and such was the power of the Mutans' Word of Command that no challenge was made against them. Then came the arrival of Men.
Out of the great eastern ocean a ragged fleet of ships arose into Arborell. Settling first on the island of Dromannion the Nations of Men then made landfall upon the shores of Arborell itself. Neither Man nor Hordim, as we have come to know the Oera'dim, understood each other's nature and misunderstanding and mistrust soon turned to open warfare. The result has been centuries of war, and the untold losses that have been endured in those great conflicts.
And now this tale is almost done. Our part in the history of this world began with our arrival upon the shores of Dromannion, but the history of this world stretches far beyond the borders of our understanding. We can only wonder at what the future holds for all of us.
From a manual on Bushcraft distributed by the Brethren of the
Deep Guild in Das Vallendor
For every traveller of the wilds of Arborell there is one mainstay that must be carried, and that is Nahla Bread. Made from wild wheat and the soft pulp of the Nahla fruit it is an adaptation of a recipe used by the Horde for millenia, that provides a light and easily stored food for long journeys. Whereas the Hordim prefer to bake the fruit into large cake-like loaves, it has been the practice of Men to create smaller breads that are more easily carried.
On the Nahla Tree itself, and the unusual properties of its fruit, there has been much research. Unlike any other fruit native to Arborell, the Nahla has powerful regenerative properties that can kill a man if eaten raw. It is only when the Nahla fruit is properly processed and diluted to one-twentieth of its potency that it can be safely baked and consumed.
How Nahla Bread affects the traveller eating it is one of the more elusive mysteries of our world. After eating a portion of the bread, energy is restored in a rush of tingling heat, and fatigue fades quickly after its consumption. The only danger after the bread has been properly prepared comes if too much is eaten. Generally only one small loaf, about the size of a finger, can be consumed at a time. Any more and a man will find himself intoxicated. Indeed the effect of too much Nahla has been described as an overwhelming need to run, to somehow burn away an overflow of energy that has no release.
It is rumoured that the Faeyen have developed a way to process Nahla fruit into a liquid, one capable of being stored for long periods. Such potions have not been seen in the wider world, and their existence has not been confirmed by the Faeyen themselves.
There is only one important point that must be mentioned here. Properly processed Nahla Bread is an important food source for travellers, but it does have one curious property that must be know to all who might purchase it. A few unfortunate experiences have shown that Nahla Bread must not come into contact with beer, or any other form of malted beverage. For reasons that are unclear it becomes highly unstable when soaked or eaten with beer, and such contact should be avoided at all cost. In its unstable form it changes into a low-grade explosive dough that is quite capable of killing a man if knocked or thrown. Nahla is truly an unusual food.
From a report forwarded to the High Prefect at Maenum by the
Tak Lovar in the Year of Settlement 947.
As per your request I am forwarding this report regarding the origins and recent activities of the Dwarvendim prisoner known as Halokim Vesh. As you would be aware, this man currently resides in the dungeons of Maenum, and is scheduled for public execution within the next 21 days. Investigation of his background has revealed a number of curious facts, and an uncharacteristic lack of information, that has led me to believe this man to be a particular danger to the Kalborean Union. The facts that have led me to this conclusion are noted below for your consideration.
Enquiries indicate that there is no verifiable date of birth for this individual. Research undertaken by the Administrators' Guild shows no record of his birth, the earliest information available being a document regarding his indenture as a child labourer at the age of 4 to a small farm upon the western edges of Kalborea. This document does indicate a Mother, but no details have come to light and all efforts to find out more about his heritage have proven fruitless.
As a child the subject spent five years at the Truvo Farm, a frontier settlement specialising in Sempaca meat production. This farm still operates along the west road to Melem's Fork, but apart from the facts of the duration of his stay, little can be determined except that he showed considerable aptitude for languages. It was this aptitude that brought him under the scrutiny of the Novitiate Selection Committee. It is here that the facts of this man's history blur even further.
Although Vesh was placed at the age of 9 into the custody of the Temple of the Suns in Das Frontiere, I can find no documentation within the records of the Selection Committee that he was ever actually selected for placement as a novice. Further investigation shows that there is no record of who brought him to the Temple, however it is documented that his studies were intensive during his attendance, and that he was a student of particular note. What is certain is that at the age of 11 he was thrown into the streets of Das Frontiere and quickly merged into the criminal underworld.
On the matter of why there are no records regarding the subject's admission to the Temple, I have contacted the Administrator General and an investigation has begun. So far the Administrators can give no reason for the lack of documentation. I must put forward the opinion that there are unseen forces at work here, and I have the suspicion that the true nature of this Dwarvendim is known only to whomever has been guiding his education. I can only surmise that whatever the purposes of this subterfuge, it is not for the benefit of the Kalborean Union.
After the closure of the Temple of the Suns, and the dispersal of its novices, Vesh disappeared for almost two years, only to be subsequently arrested in Das Nephrim on larceny and assault charges. By some unknown device he escaped custody, and was only recaptured six months later during a raid by Kalborean Army units upon a bandit camp on the fringes of the Faeron Marshes. Again he escaped custody, and until his capture four months ago has been outside the knowledge of the Union. As far as can be ascertained he is currently aged 22.
Although this man has long escaped capture, and the inevitable punishment that must be his to endure, there is evidence that implicates him with a string of burglaries, smuggling enterprises and involvement in at least three forgery gangs. Of greater interest to the Guild must be his possible involvement in the theft of a number of priceless artifacts from Hel'garad. On this matter alone he should be interrogated, as some of these artifacts have not yet been recovered, and their loss has stalled a number of important investigations underway within the Guild.
In the years that I have given to my calling as an Inquisitor I have never found a subject with less documentation. I can only conclude that there has been a systematic alteration of records to hide the true nature of this Dwarvendim, and that fact alone should give cause for concern.
Although I have not been asked for an opinion regarding this individual I feel compelled to provide the following recommendation. This man is an Enemy of the State and should be executed without delay, and with that complete a full investigation should then be begun on the nature of the conspiracy that surrounds him.
This story is set in the northern frontier lands of Arborell, in the sparsely settled regions of Northern Kalborea.
Your journey begins upon the ramparts of the frontier fortress of Maenum. Good luck.
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