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The Rijom Mound

"Warriors of many races with powers beyond Normal ken." - A Hearthstone Tale by Relion Lem

 

Overview

The Rijom are an ancient group of travelling tribes, but even wanderers have some holy sites which they return to year after year. The Mound is one of these. From its humble beginnings as a stone cairn made by travellers asking the gods of the grassland for protection and blessings, the mound slowly grew into a great building, covered in carved and painted pictures - images of hunts, spirits, gods. As the centuries passed Spur rose not too far away, and the tribe's hunting paths were altered. The mound became more a place of rare pilgrimage, though a few holy men chose to live there, and tradition led warriors on dreamquest to spend part of their days there as guards. The mound became overgrown and nearly forgotten as the city to the northeast grew larger. With the recent floods, the Rijom tribe closest to Spur were driven from their ancestral caves. They moved, grudgingly, deeper into the forest; now they shelter at the Mound, hiding and building their strength, until the day comes when they will be ready to retake their caves.

 

 
from THE BOOK OF DRAGON: VOL III CHAP 4

  • This Article first appeared in Vol. 5, Issue 1 of FIRE IN THE SKY: The Spurian Chronicle. Titled: Our Origins -- A Hearthstone Tale by Relion Lem.]

    The city of Spur was in its infancy;
    Like a babe left alone, cries unheeded
    Was it rent time and again by southern hunters.
    And they came over tight stone walls,
    Tide in midsummer, crashing, reaving.
    The Spur was a rock against the tide,
    Until the mind of Gaia joined with the
    Arm of the hunters to form a hammer
    To smite the Spur.
    But hammers forge as well as destroy.
    It was then that the Great Stone, in need,
    Called the Heroes of the Spur into being,
    Warriors of many races with powers beyond
    Normal ken.

    ************************

    Tulla the Rijom rode about the periphery of the walls, gaze sliding over the well-built granite, slowing only to gaze minutely at the areas of weakness, be they unsound foundations, cracked stone, or old mortar. The Spur was well-placed and well-built, but before his eyes, rendered expert by years of smashing at these very structures, it was a door to by opened. Finally, after many years, the Rijom had the might to bring low the hated city and reign supreme in this corner of the world.

    Tulla's general, Galimar, also gazed at the walls, not with the familiarity of a foe but rather with the attention of a lover. He was a master of the siege; breaking through walls was his profession, and he did it rather well. He hailed from the city of Gaia, to the south. The Spur's appearance right on the waterfront had made it a bitter trade rival with Gaia, a rivalry long, feud-ridden, and quite bloody. So bloody that it had led the Elders of Gaia to form a truce with the nomadic Rijom.The Rijom provided the warriors, and the Gaians provided the siege engines: the Spur would be looted and burned with ease.

    "Attend me, Gaian," Tulla said, stopping his pony before a particular section of the wall. Galimar complied, muttering beneath his breath. This Rijom fellow, be he Clan Lord of Whatever-Whatever or not, had no right to take such airs over a city-born. Tulla continued, "This is the section I spoke to you about. Notice the little steam running from beneath the rocks."

    "Mmmm...mmmm," hummed Galimar, nodding his head, indignance forgotten. "Yes... Yes. The steam will have weakened the foundation so that a concentration of boulders will bring it right down."

    Tulla clapped his hands together and positively beamed. There was such malice in his eyes that Galimar was taken aback somewhat. Hoping to curb the Rijom's blood-lust, Galimar modified his earlier statement: "The Spurians aren't fools. They'll have noticed this steam some time ago. I'll bet real gold that there are more than a few buttresses holding that section up." He spat in the sand to punctuate his sentence.

    Tulla, however, was not to be daunted by small complications. "Nevertheless, this is the weakest section, so you will concentrate your siege engines on that spot." "It won't work. We'll be at this till winter," Galimar said, still disliking Tulla's easy manner of command.

    Tulla laughed at that. "Ah yes, I forget that you city folk cannot stand winter. Your armies always drop like flies when it starts getting a little chilly. One would think you were desert lizards or some such." This statement, alluding as it did to hundreds of battles over the years between Rijom and Gaia, set Galimar's teeth on edge. The Rijom had never taken Gaia itself, but Gaia's regulars had been defeated time and again on the field. The Rijom, a nomad nation, was quite able to campaign all winter long, while the Gaians, used to warm barracks, did in fact 'drop like flies'.

    Galimar, as annoyed as he was, decided he'd rather not confront Tulla on the issue. "Have it your way," he muttered, and galloped off to attend to his engines. He looked over his shoulder to see Tulla still gazing at the walls of the Spur. Even from here could he see the hunger on the nomad's face.

    The ballista and catapults, under Galimar's supervision, began flinging rocks at the walls of the Spur. They were careful not to concentrate overmuch on the weakened area, knowing well that the defenders, if alerted to their enemies' plan, could shore up the wall as fast as the boulders weakened it.

    The siege lasted for several more months. One might think that the Spurians could ignore a siege, subsisting as they did on the water rather than land. Such was not the case. The Southern Trade Way was the staple of the Spurian economy then, with ship-borne goods a small, if growing, percentage. The city did its best to bring in food and water by boat, but in the end many went hungry.

    As winter approached things got a bit more frigid for the besieging army. The Rijom bore it well, bundling up in their firs, but Galimar's men, unused to being outdoors in the snow, became miserable and restless. Galimar brought the issue up with Tulla, who said in so many words that if the Gaians tried to leave the Rijom would slaughter them.

    It was nearly midnight when the weakened section of the wall toppled. Tulla, exultant, immediately led his men in an attempt to take the breach. The plan had been laid long ago: a thousand Rijom, on foot, would charge for the gap while covered by a mass of mounted archers. The Gaian regulars would then be let in through the front gate.

    Galimar formed his two thousand men in the traditional square, front shields interlocking, stabbing swords ready, and marched them to the front gate. The Rijom detailed to open the gate had, it seemed, been waylaid, for the Gaians were greeted with a hail of arrows. "Shields up!" he shouted, and the square of men used their cylindrical shields to create a roof above their heads. Even then the Spur was famed for its horrible bowyers: the shafts clattered off the Gaian shields without hurting a single man.

    The hail of arrows soon stopped, and cries could be heard behind the thick steel gates. The gates soon opened, and the Gaians were greeted by a group of Rijom led by none other than Tulla. "Come, Galimar, take your fifty best men and follow me," the clan leader said, his eyes burning feverishly. Galimar did so.

    Tulla led Galimar and his men into a nightmare. The Spurian soldiers and the Rijom fought in the streets, a whirlwind of manic combat. There was no finesse involved in the midnight street fighting: the dagger in the back reigned over crossed swords and dueling postures. Many Rijom were laden with loot, human and otherwise. There was no order to the pillage, Galimar noticed. Strange indeed, for the Rijom's sole interest in taking the city was for loot. Why wasn't Tulla organizing parties to find valuables and other prizes before enterprising Spurian survivors made off with them?

    Tulla's path skirted the knots of fighting, leading them north up a street of rich houses and expansive lawns. Tulla ignored the splendor, his eyes fixed forward with an intensity of purpose that was quite alien even to the straightforward Gaian siegemaster. Soon they reached a gate defended by a small knot of guardsmen. Tulla nodded to Galimar, who with a shout sent his fifty men to take the gate. When the guardsmen were on the ground, Galimar had his men force open the gate.

    Galimar noticed that at this point they had penetrated so far into the city that the sounds of fighting were quite distant. He silently prayed to Odarous that no large band of guards would find them, for the end would be swift. Tulla led them through an arch into a sort of town square. The square was, strangely enough, filled with animal droppings. Tulla strode through the mess, his eyes still fixed forward, and led them to the northeast. They came upon a building, an inn perhaps, where Tulla lifted up a rug to reveal a trap door. The men opened it, and down they went.

    The cavern was the largest that Galimar had ever heard of. Its vaulted ceiling made the great temples of Gaia pale in comparison, and Galimar, in a moment of fancy, surmised that a bird could fly about and not be hampered by the rocky confines. Tulla did not stop to gaze about in awe, however, so Galimar and his men were forced out of their reverie: "Hurry up!"

    The cavern, it turned out, housed a lake, which in turn carried in its center a small island. Galimar could see, to the north, a bridge connecting the island with the shore. Numbed by the sheer size of it all--a lake in the middle of a cavern!--, Galimar followed Tulla as the Rijom led them around the eastern edge of the water. It was then that Galimar realized that the island was the source of the eerie light that suffused this underground paradise.

    A gem, a beautiful, stupendously beautiful rock sat in the center of the island, glowing with a radiance easily rivaling that of the sun. The power of the gem, Galimar surmised, was greater than anything ever conceived of by human imagination. Not to mention its monetary value, a corner of his mind added. No wonder Tulla wanted the gem so badly. Suddenly Galimar's thoughts stopped short. If Tulla gained the power of that gem, he could easily bring low the city of Gaia. Visions of the Arch of Ages burnt to a crisp came into his head, and he came to a quick conclusion. Galimar, taking care not to be heard by Tulla (who seemed beyond hearing anyway), took two of his men aside and whispered to them.

    When the party reached the bridge leading to the island, Galimar's men seized Tulla from behind and held him. "Traitor!" Tulla cried, eyes blazing and tears streaming down his cheeks. Galimar felt a little guilty, but he felt that his cause was just. Gaia had to be saved. Leaving Tulla and his two captors on the far side of the bridge, Galimar's party crossed and walked over to the stone.

    Galimar's hands, shaking and sweaty, were just about to touch the beautiful gem when a voice stopped him cold. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, naughty naughty!" The Gaian turned about to see a four foot tall man with an enormous axe.

    "Kill him!" Galimar cried to his men, and they set upon him with all their skill. The dwarf, however, easily fended them off, taunting them all the while with gibberish such as "Hah, I'm in prot!" and other nonsense. The dwarf eventually tired of his sport and began slaying the Gaians one by one, great sweeps of his wicked axe severing torsos, heads, arms, and legs.

    Soon only Galimar and the dwarf were standing. The dwarf, his bloodlust seemingly abated for now, was looking about in confusion. "I know not why I am here, but I have a powerful urge to protect yonder stone. Hmm." He moved to dispatch his last foe when he was startled by shouts from across the bridge. Galimar saw Tulla standing over the bodies of his two men, chuckling in glee.

    "You see, Galimar," Tulla cried, "why I took your men instead of my Rijom. I knew the Stone would protect itself, and now I know how it does so. Know this, dwarf, that I know the nature of you and your kind! There will come a time when Rijom shall own the Spur and I shall hold the Stone." The Rijom clean leader began running away in the direction of the stairs to the surface.

    "I don't even know why I'm here," the dwarf muttered. "Nice speech, though!" He then dispatched Galimar.

    The adventurers who inexplicably appeared about the Spur proved too powerful for even the Rijom. Tulla quickly withdrew his forces into the plains where even the newcomers with their impenetrable "Prot" and their lethal "Desp" were too few in number to harm his people. The adventurers came out once in a while to kill a few Rijom and sell their pikes, but the two groups, Spurians and Rijom, lived in relative peace after the Siege.

    To this day, however, the Rijom clan leaders search for a way to possess the power of the Jewel. It is well that they haven't found a way, for the Stone happens to be what keeps the Spur from falling through the roof of the cavern. Fate will tell.

  •  
    Rijom Star-Key Legend.

  • As told by Kurakan a Rijom

    We Rijom have an ancient tale concerning the first appearance of the Star Key. When the land was young, there was nothing but the sea of green, the sea of blue and the wind that danced across them. From this, the five tribes were born. The Sseki, the Rijom, the Jhadra, the Mherrin and the Voicu.. each tribe birthed from one of the five animas of the land."

    The wind created the Rijom.. she danced across the sea of green, plucking leaves of grass and earth to weave into dolls. She made the beasts of the plains for us to hunt and herd. Our animas is wind. The Sseki were the spirit, the Jhadra sprang from the ocean waves, the Mherrin shaped from stone and the Voicu birthed in flame. For ages, there was naught but the tribes and the land.

    The Sseki became the enemies of all of the Korun, for at that time we were one people. They became corrupt, grasping for souls to serve them in the spirit world. Sacrificing even the children and the unborn in their lusts for more strength for their dreamers and their tribe. But that is a dark tale for other times.

    The story of the star-keys starts with the Rivakorun. Perhaps they were always here, our legends do not speak of their origins. The Rivakorun, what you would call the Old Ones in your tongue, were beings of power unlike our animas and totems. God-beings who graced the land with new tribes. The Frontacians, The Psycians, The Elves. The tales speak of the Rivakorun seeking to create a people of their own, that the first tribes and the new tribes were not the vessels the Rivakorun sought to bless with their powers and knowledge. Some of our shamans learned at the feet of the Rivakorun, returning with the knowledge of magick. Other shamans learned of this gift and discovering its power knew fear. For it was a terrible gift we were given.

    They believed the Rivakorun only shared a portion of their power with each of the tribes, for the shamans could see that the Frontacians and the Elves were like a hunter of many seasons to the child that was us. They used the knowledge gained to create protectors, the tribe you know as the lhuminor.

    The Lhuminor are the Muatana-al now. Those that were not changed were all trapped with the Foe in the octagon, according to legend"

    The tales speak of the moon rising above the first of the lhuminor, that when the moon's light first touched the first of the lhuminor the Rivakorun Knew. And they sensed their Doom. The moon and the stars went dark that night, a sign of the darkness to come. The Rivakorun made plans for their coming Doom. Every night for the next week, a star fell from the sky. A gift from the Rivakorun.

    After the stars fell, the dreams came to those chosen to Seek.

    We Rijom do not worship the gods you do today. We revere the land, and the animas that walk it. Your gods are a different power, but a power nonetheless.

    The dreams spoke of the Gifts of the Rivakorun, their knowledge and their power. But such gifts are not to be given lightly or freely. The Rivakorun devised a test. The star-keys. For the Seekers could only find the star-keys, they could not use them. The star-keys would not awaken for those who first claimed them."

    It was not just my tribe that was tested, all tribes were tested as the Rivakorun believed all of the tribes to be their children. Though not the images of themselves, they were created by the Rivakorun.

    The Seekers must choose the one to bear the star-keys they found.For the Rivakorun's Gifts would create gods, and a god must have followers. The star-keys would awaken only for one a Seeker had faith in. One the Seeker believed to be worthy of the Gifts of the Rivakorun. The tales speak of the star-keys being found, of warriors and kings attempting to gain control of one of the star-keys for their own.

    Greed, it is the root of all sins.

    The tribes are still children in many ways. But, the Seekers did find the ones they had faith in. The seven Chosen who would be given the Gifts of the Rivakorun.

    According to legend, once a star-key awakened to someone could it be passed on once again. There are tales that speak of one star-key that the Seekers found twice. The first Chosen was lost on the journey to the home of the Rivakorun. Another Seeker found the lost star-key and chose another to bear it.

    But if the Chosen can give up the burden ... This the tales do not speak of.

    The seven Chosen journied to the Rivakorun's hidden land, some traveled together like the two sisters. Others used hidden ways for they were hunted. But other than the one who was lost, the Chosen found the home of the Rivakorun.

    The tales speak of the home of the Rivakorun as having seven doors, one for each of the Chosen and their star-keys. Once the last of the Chosen had entered the Rivakorun's home, they received the Gifts of the Rivakorun. An age passed while the Chosen learned all that the Rivakorun would teach."

    The Rivakorun then gave the Chosen their task, to guide and protect the tribes against the Doom that came for the Rivakorun. The Chosen ascended to the heavens, returning their star-keys to the skies.The Rivakorun's land was once again hidden from the tribes, some talespinners believe they dwell their still. Others say the Rivakorun passed into the stars themselves. But one thing is certain, the Rivakorun spoke to the tribes no more.

    *****************

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "But the Rivakorun, you said they were Frontacians, Elves.... They are still here"

    Kurakan says, "The Rivakorun made the new tribes."

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "So the Chosen, the ascended to the heavens and became... gods?"

    Kurakan says, "The Frontacians, Elves and others were not the images of the Rivavkorun they sought to create. Some tales speak of the dragons as the tribe created in the Rivakorun's image, but those are cradle tales told to children who will not sleep."

    Kurakan nods to Methoss.

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "But the doom that was to come wasnt stoped."

    Kurakan says, "The Doom came, and after great cost was snared."

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "But then what caused the star-keys to fall again?"

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "Should we assume that the Doom threatens us again?"

    Kurakan says, "The sages do not think the tales of my tribes are 'history' for we still tell them rather than put them in books to be forgotten. The star-keys were the catalysts that awakened the Chosen. Either the Gods seek to pass their gifts on to others, or they seek to have the home of the Rivakorun opened again in hopes it will let them touch the land again as they are sundered from it."

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "But, then why would anyone seek to destroy the keys?"

    Kurakan says, "You are the people of the gods, my Dreams do not speak of them."

    Kurakan asks Methoss, "Have you seen a dam before?"

    Kurakan says, "The dam holds the river back, but the dam must have gates to allow the river through at times. The river flows more easily and swiftly through seven gates than it does through four. Or none. The Nightmare Lands opened when the Gods were sundered. Should they return, the Nightmare Lands would close. The shamans of that land seek to keep it open."

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "So it would seem that those of us living must seek to find the home of the Rivakorun"

    Kurakan nods to Methoss.

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "And, did the Chosen have to do something to awaken the keys? Or simply receive them?"

    Kurakan says, "The Chosen simply *Were*. Something in each of them made the Seekers decide to pass on the star-keys. Perhaps it was what each Chosen came to stand for."

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "Times are more confusing now, I believe who the chosen are might not be so clear"

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "One key is awake, three asleep and three destroyed. It would seem we need to hurry before more are taken"

    Kurakan says to Methoss, "Two are awake, but one of them is denied by the Chosen."

    Saakaar asks Kurakan, "you did say that those that have found the keys are not the ones who can awaken them, no?"

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "Two?"

    Xarus blinks at Kurakan.

    Xarus asks Kurakan, "Denied?"

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "I know only of the one denied. Who is the other Chosen?"

    Kurakan says to Xarus, "There is one who does not wish to bear the burden I have been told. The other awakened heard this tale tonight. I could hear it sing."

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "Oh... But that chosen passed it on as well"

    Xarus asks Kurakan, "If this one does not wish to bear the burden, what will happen?"

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "Wait. The other awakened you speak of, are they still here, or have they left already? All this is confusing me"

    Kurakan says, "There is one nearby, but it still slumbers. The one I ould hear the song upon has left."

    Kurakan says to Xarus, "That I have no answer for other than if the shamans of the Nightmare Lands obtain it, they will destroy it."

    Methoss asks Kurakan, "One more question... How are we to know where to take the keys to use them, and when?"

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "Or, how are the Chosen to know that is"

    Kurakan says to Methoss, "The star-keys speak to the Chosen the tales say. I believe the star-keys will guide them."

    Methoss says to Kurakan, "Let us hope that the other two Chosen will be found quickly then. Though I fear one Seeker might not be willing to look"

    Xarus asks Kurakan, "If one seeker does not look, what will happen?"

    Kurakan says, "Perhaps the Chosen must accept their burden before the path is revealed. Or perhaps the Seeker plays a role as well. The tales do not speak of such things, only the journey of the Chosen."

    Kurakan says to Xarus, "One less open gate in the dam."

    Kurakan says to Methoss, "As does the river when it must."

    Xarus says to Kurakan, "You spoke that the star-keys fell again because the Chosen wished for their to be new Chosen, or they wished for the lands of Rivakorun so they could touch the lands again. If the Seeker does not give the star-keys to the new Chosen, what will happen to the old Chosen?"

    Kurakan asks Xarus, "The old Chosen? Do you speak of the Gods?"

    Xarus nods up and down.

    Kurakan shrugs.

    Methoss says to Xarus, "Like all tales this one must not be taken absolutely literally. The Gods have always existed, I would view the original Chosen more as guides. Guides that allowed the ancient tribes to know the Gods..."

    Kurakan says, "That I do not know, but the star-keys are not aligned to a particular God. They were all created by the Rivakorun, the tales speak of them as being identical."

    Kurakan says to Xarus, "Since three of the star-keys have been destroyed and the seven Gods appear to still exist, it would seem if the Seeker does not Choose or the Chosen does not take the journey it would not banish the god."

  •  

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