Table of Contents
:: Please submit Hithual History ::
:: Section 1 ::
:: Section 2 ::
:: Section 3 ::
:: Section 4 ::
:: Section 5 ::
:: Section 6 ::
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The Battle of Wraith Pass ...
Following the end of the Dragon Imperium and the fall of the Lords of Chaos and their followers across the continent of Aradath in the year 3600, a single race stood at the threshold of the world's power. That race was the Frontacians.
Approx. that year of 3600 (marked in the historical calendars as the Age of Morning, or the epoch of Sa-Odarous, the founding of civilizations under law and honor) the Frontacian Empire began to expand its influence across the world.
The Frontacians quickly overtook the Hithuals of the Great Divide, conquering all the smaller cities and cutting off trade routes into the capital of the Hithual kingdom, Aerhauven
The Hithuals, rather then starve to death, made a desperate attack on the Frontacian forces, this battle was the first major military battle for the Frontacians, known as the battle of Wraith Pass.
The Hithuals launched on assault on the Frontacian camps early in the morning, using their advantage of darkness sight to try and cause chaos in the Frontacian ranks and bring them apart.
The Lord General of the Frontacian army, the then young Telfast of Penthania, expecting the early attack by the Hithuals, had brilliantly surrounded the camp in spectral illusions of thousands of Hithuals.
All of them writhing about in great pain from some sort of wound.
The Hithual armies charge on the camps of Telfast quickly turned into a mad retreat as each unit (or axe as Hithuals refer to their battle groups) thought all the others had been slaughtered.
Realizing the Hithuals resistance to direct spells of attack would be too great to bother with a further frontal assault, Telfast and his troops continued to summon illusions, images and horrible nightmares to terrify and confuse the Hithual forces.
Within two hours almost the entire Hithual army had been captured in the chaos of their mad retreat, only King Dunuth and his hundred-man high guard ever managed to engage in combat with the Frontacian forces.
Dunuth, wielding the legendary hammer of Klendar led his most loyal and skilled troops into the very center of the Frontacian camp where they slew the Lord Mage of the Frontacian army, along with almost all of Telfast's commanders.
The Frontacians proved to great for the mighty warriors, and they were all eventually killed to a man, King Dunuth himself falling under the massive onslaught of General Telfast's most powerful spells.
Though his hammer mysteriously disappeared with his death, to this day it has never been recovered, and Hithual legend claims it is buried deep within his hidden tomb.
Makorek's Triumph ...
For as far back as any history records the Hithual people lived in family groupings called clans. After Talon's defeat of Balmoran, the clans taught themselves the arts of combat. Hithuals are a proud people, often easy to take offense at some slight to their honor and slow to forgive. At any given time, a number of clans would be battling each other. Strife between the clans prevented the Hithuals from organizing as a people.
One day long, long ago the Blackstone Clan began digging a new mine in a mountain valley along the southern edge of the Great Divide, in the area known today as the Wraith Rim. After many generations of working the mine, they uncovered a large cavern with molten lava, which they called the Miassek Colinth, or Great Forge. For reasons lost through the mists of time, the Blackstone Hithuals began to worship a god they believed lived within the magma, whom they called Colinth-tareik, or Forge-God. They would take Hithuals whom they had captured in battles with other clans, and sacrifice them to their god by throwing them alive into the fiery pit.
The Blackstone Hithuals began calling themselves the Prophets of the Forge-God, and started preaching their faith among the other clans. Back then, the Hithuals knew nothing of the true gods of Aradath. Many began to worship Colinth-tareik, although just as many did not. Wars broke out between the clans that followed the Prophets and those the unbelievers.
As the Prophets expanded their territory, they found another large cavern, and within built a city for their growing following. They called the city Colinth Niharn, or Forge Home. Over the years the city grew and became a place of great evil as the Prophets of the Forge-God lead the Hithuals there in vile and unholy practices.
Elsewhere, the Silverheart Clan, one of the Hithual clans that despised the Prophets, received an unusual visitor, a Human missionary of Odarous. The Silverheart Hithuals marveled at the words of this cleric who's name has sadly been lost over these many years. Makorek, the Colinth-tek, or Chieftain, of the clan was among those that began following this new god.
Several years after becoming Odarian, Makorek began to receive visions from Odarous. In the visions, Odarous continued to teach Makorek his ways and told him to spread His gospel to the Hithual clans. And thus Makorek started preaching the word of Odarous and doing wonders in His name. And over the course of several decades many of the Hithuals that had not fallen under the sway of the Prophets became followers of Odarous. The followers of the Prophets hated these new Odarian clans, and attacked them at every opportunity.
Odarous started sending Makorek new visions, visions of the destruction of the Prophets of the Forge-God. Odarous also showed him visions of a new leader, a king uniting the Hithual people into one mighty nation, bringing law and order to the chaos that had befallen the clans of the Great Divide. Makorek organized the Odarian Hithuals against the Prophets and their followers and the Hithual people were soon embroiled in the Hithual Royal War.
The war lasted many years, at times the Prophets had the advantage, at other times Makorek's forces did. Before long, however, the Odarians began to take more and more land, as Odarous blessed his followers during and after battle, while the false god Colinth-tareik did not. Soon, the Prophets and their followers had retreated to their great city of Colinth Niharn.
With their victory at hand, Makorek lead his forces into Forge Home, his son Kaslok at his side. The Prophets fought with a desperate frenzy, and for a time they began to press back the invading Odarians. Kaslok was killed by several Prophets. Makorek dearly loved his son, and cried out to Odarous to return his son to the living. To everyone's amazement, Odarous answered Makorek's prayer, and resurrected Kaslok! The Odarians thus divinely inspired and the Prophets and their followers demoralized, the battle was soon finished. The Hithuals proclaimed Makorek their King!
King Makorek had the evil trappings of the Prophets vile and decadent Forge Home destroyed, and built a new city in its place, called The Citadel, or Aerhauven.
Clan Bloodstar ...
[Note: This story first appeared in the Vol 4, Issue #3 of DFC on 28th day of the 11th month of the 97th year in Spur (April 29, 1994) titled: A Tale of Clan Bloodstar by Jedico Bloodstar.]
The great events and day to day turmoil of life (and death) in Spur are most capably covered by the contributors to these Chronicles. I leave the words to those who can best wield them. But the following is a piece of history that some may find an entertaining break from the world of today. Even in this I cannot claim authorship, for the tale I first heard as a lad from the clan chanter. It is a bit of Hithual history, and more important to me, it is a bit of my own family and clan history.
* * * * *
In ages past, very few of the Hithual race were seen beyond the confines of the mountains known as the Great Divide. Hithual traders would appear in the plains cities and villages to barter metals and superb tools for grains and other foodstuffs, then vanish again to the mountains. Eventually these traders discovered that the precious gems and metals the Hithual mines produced as byproducts were coveted by the plains races far more than iron, copper, and nickel they were bartering. It was when the Hithuals started trading with gems that the trouble began.
Rumors circulated that the Hithuals lived in deep caverns strewn with gems, in palaces of diamonds, and walked on streets paved in purest gold. Foolish, of course, but greed knows no reason. The dreams of easy wealth drew many adventurers to the mountains.
The Hithuals of that age knew nothing of fighting or battle short of their skills in hunting game for food. They lived quiet lives mining the deep caverns of the Divide and had little contact with other races. These treasure hunters disturbed them hardly at all, for the Hithuals merely moved deeper into the mountains. But that was before the coming of Balmoran, and the years of the Black Despair!
Balmoran was not a treasure seeker. His goal was power, and power came to him through conquest. In the Hithual race, Balmoran saw the slaves he needed to arm and armor his ever growing forces. To Balmoran, the situation was perfect; a ready-made, skilled work force and the raw materials right at hand! His army marched into the Great Divide.
Balmoran was a battle-wise general and his troops were well trained. The Hithuals were easily taken and enslaved, clan by clan, cavern by cavern. Those that fell under the blades of Balmoran's soldiers were later felt to be the lucky ones for their suffering was quickly ended. The rest were taken to die slow deaths chained in the mines or to the forges.
Ever did Balmoran widen the scope of his slave hunt, hoping to bring all of the diminutive race under his control. For the army he planned to build was vast indeed, and would need all the weapons and armor the Hithuals could produce.....before they died.
Granted there was some feeble resistance but it was poorly organized and even more poorly equipped. Balmoran made examples of these small pockets of courage and wiped them out swiftly. After nearly two years, only a single small band of Hithuals remained unchained. This group had managed to elude Balmoran's troops by fleeing ever deeper into the caverns that had once been their homes. But they knew little of weaponry and less of fighting, so the idea of armed resistance simply never crossed their minds. They were hunted prey on the run....hounded always by Balmoran and his legions.
The leader of this ragtag collection of many Hithual clans was Star of the clan Forge. He and his only surviving son, Talon, were the sole remaining members of that once thriving clan. Now it seemed that even the meager fortune they had cherished these past years had at last run out. They had fled so deeply that they had run out of tunnels and caverns. One last cavern had been one too many and they were cornered...trapped...and the troops of Balmoran knew it. Word was passed and in time Balmoran arrived to take personal charge of this little loose end. With his warriors and torch bearers, he strode confidently into the cavern.
The fear the Hithuals had known for months on the run had turned to pure terror when they first realized they were cut off from any escape. But while Balmoran was summoned, days had passed and terror cannot be sustained for long. It was replaced by an almost calm resignation to their fate....their deaths seemed inevitable. There was no plan, no strategy, only a single unspoken thought; to bring down, before they died, the murderer of their race.....Balmoran! Their hatred had a focus now, though their weapons were but mining picks and hammers and their armor only leather forge aprons. All that Star Forge told them was that they could surrender if they would without shame, but he would rather die here than be a slave. All he wished was to swing his hammer one final time. It is said that when Balmoran entered the cave, he faced a deadly grim and silent band of Hithuals.... not a single one of them uttered a sound.
"Fetch me their leader! He will see the rest die before him!", shouted Balmoran, and one of his knights quickly moved toward the silent Hithuals. Star Forge stepped forward to meet the giant knight almost twice his height. The huge creature was helmed, mailed, and bore both shield and greatsword which it wielded in one hand. Chuckling behind its visor, the knight bent low to stare at Star and said, "Give me dat little hammer, slug! Or I gonna havta make you eat it!". This was not Balmoran that Star faced, but he knew that it was the closest he would ever get.
With all the strength he could muster, Star swung his hammer at the huge knight bending before him. The knight merely shifted to bring his shield to bear to block the stroke. The hammer smashed through shield and arm and skull in that single swing....the knight fell dead at Star's feet!
Balmoran raised an eyebrow and said, "A pretty swing, small one...but it shall be your last!". With that, Balmoran stepped forward and his sword whistled as it clove the haft of Star's hammer even as it clove his body nearly in two! Star crumpled and dropped to the cavern floor to lie in his own blood....dead.
The cry of anguish and rage that burst from Talon's lips shook the cavern walls! He hurled his small pick at Balmoran, but missed wide of the mark in his madness. Talon then grabbed for the nearest weapon he could find....the dead knight's greatsword. With the blade raised, he turned to charge Balmoran....and die beside his fallen father.
A voice both deep and powerful stopped Talon cold in his tracks. He felt more than heard the voice say, "Never do battle in anger, My son! Feed your emotion to the flame!". As those words echoed away in Talon's mind, they were replaced by an image of a tiny flickering flame, as of a guttering candle. With an instinct he never fully understood, Talon felt all of his rage and pain and hatred flow into that small flame until it exploded into a white inferno...leaving him calm and at one with his life...an empty vessel waiting to be filled!
The voice spoke once more to him saying, "The time has come, My son! I guide your stroke!".
Balmoran was laughing loudly with his men at the sight of this small creature standing before his fallen father wielding a sword fully twice his size. The evil smile on his face was replaced by a slightly bemused expression....as his head rolled slowly on the floor!
The fighters behind Balmoran stared in amazement as the decapitated body slid slowly down to join its severed head. Before they could react, a great blast of icy wind screamed through the cavern extinguishing every torch! Never down in the caves had the Hithuals felt such a wind; only when they were high in the mountains of the Divide where the great eagles wheeled and soared. It brought them memories of their ancient homes; wide skies and high peaks. To the knights of Balmoran, it brought only darkness and a numbing cold that seemed to bite into their bones. The last sight the knights had before the pitch black of the cavern closed over them, was that of a band of deadly silent Hithuals moving slowly toward them....with weapons raised! The only sound they heard was the measured power of Talon's voice saying, "By the blood of Star, I vow that it shall end here! The Hithual shall never again feel the yoke of another!".
With Talon's final battle cry of, "For the Blood of Star!", the Hithuals charged their former oppressors, who broke and fled blindly... and died!
The Hithuals had at last awakened....and found themselves strong!
Recounted by Jedico of the clan Bloodstar
Hithual Pre-History ...
[Note: This story first appeared in the Volume 4, Issue No. 2 DFC on 17th day of the 9th month of the 97th year in Spur (March 25, 1994): Hithual Pre-History by Jedico Bloodstar.]
Today we view the Hithual peoples as a separate race; distinct from all other races by one physical trait or another. But this was not always so. Ages upon ages have passed since the Hithual race began the slow branching from its Human ancestral stock. Many believe that the Hithual race is still evolving, though none claim to know where the changes will lead. The point at which the Hithual and Human races split apart seems to be when the cave-dwelling ancestors of the Humans moved out of the caves and began building shelters on the surface. The pre-Hithuals were those that remained underground and even moved deeper into the subterranean world. As generation after generation flourished in this cavern environment, slow changes were worked upon the pre-Hithuals through natural selection. The tunneling in mountain rock and mining of mineral ores demanded tremendous strength. Likewise, those of smaller stature were much more able to cope with the often cramped tunnels and mines. So much time spent in the heavy darkness below of course favored those with the best night vision. All of these traits and more were reinforced over many ages until the race we call Hithual came to be.
Hithuals and Magick
Although virtually unknown in pre-history, magick yet existed. Lines of force, paths of magick power, course through and around our world. In places these paths are strong, sometimes weak, occasionally even crossing each other and amplifying power immensely. The prime home of the Hithual race as it evolved was the vast mountain range we call the Great Divide which splits our continent from west to east about a third of the way down from the northern coast. This range is now known to be a major center of magick forces and many lines of power pulse deep in its bedrock foundation. Although they did not know about this power, the ancient Hithuals were bathed in it constantly. After so many generations, they became somewhat immune to its effects (or so they claim). Many now believe that this magick may have been one of the major forces which helped shape the Hithual race in the first place! Most Hithuals today can sense magick wherever it lies and some are even able to channel its power to their own ends. But these few are unable to control enough of the power (or to be controlled by it?) to be called rune mages. Their racial heritage does not allow them the tremendous intellectual strength needed to wield the runes with power.
Hithuals and Weaponry
What Hithuals can wield with power are weapons! A hammer or pick in the hands of a Hithual can pound through stone like a hot knife through butter! They have worked the earth for generations and their great constitutions allow them to keep working for long periods with little rest. There is also small difference to a Hithual between using a hammer on bedrock and using that same hammer on a helmeted head or an armored body. Some even say that those Hithuals who choose battle and war are just looking for an easier way of life than working in stone!
But the adaptation from the mines to the battlefield is also shown in the weapons they forge. A mining hammer must be strong and durable to withstand the daily abuse a Hithual will dose out. Those same forging techniques they have put to use in making weapons and armor for war.
Other Racial Attributes
Possibly the greatest advantage the race has gained from it great strength and constitution may be its very long life span. Some Hithuals have reached the ripe old age of 300 years while still remaining quite active! With this extended life span has come wisdom. The average Hithual is seldom stupid, but by the same token none would ever be considered a mental giant either. However, their long years have allowed them the time to think things through slowly and deliberately. Once an idea has been considered from all sides and thoroughly evaluated, the Hithual either accepts or rejects it. After that, no power can change their minds. The Hithual people work with their hands. Whether working a mine, forging a sword, cutting a gem, or shaping a golden goblet, the hands of the Hithual can carve a delicate magick all their own. Though not as agile as some races, their dexterity is seldom matched. It is probably most fortunate that so very few Hithuals would even consider a life of crime; a Hithual thief's fingers would be in every purse but his own!
The majority of the Hithual nations live deep within the mountains of the Great Divide, usually in quasi-family groups or clans. Each clan has a primary specialized function within the greater Hithual society and the clan or family names often are drawn from this specialization. The warrior clans will have names containing words such as Sword, Axe, Blood or Hammer. Hithual mining clan names often use Quarry, Stone, Rock or gemstone names such as Opal or Ruby. Clans that provide the forging of tools and weapons take on names like Forge, Fire, Shield, Steel, Iron or Bronze. The merchant clans that handle all inter and intra-racial trade for the Hithuals take on names containing Hand, Wind, Wheel, Sea and Sail. Those clans that perform the hunting and foraging functions have given themselves names based on Bow, Archer, Forest, Tree or Hunter. Most of the names are merely the Common translation of the true Hithual words. Seldom, if ever, will a Hithual use his own language except with other Hithuals, so very few words of Hithual are known outside the race.
There are, to the Hithual's shame, a few loosely grouped "clans" that the true Hithuals shun completely and call "Kragar". These are the deviants of the race; the thieves, the lazy, the dishonorable dregs of Hithual society that have been exiled from the rest of the race. For one Hithual to call another "Kragar" is the basest insult possible.
The clan sites deep in the Great Divide are all interconnected by a vast network of tunnels. It has been said that any Hithual who knows all the passwords can walk from coast to coast and never see the sun nor the stars. Rumor also has it that some of the merchant clans living on the coasts have extended their underground living areas out beneath the ocean floor...and are continuing to tunnel!
Hithual Personal Codes
The Hithual's strongest bonds are those with his family or clan and those not of the Hithual race whom he has chosen to call "friend". These family and chosen bonds surpass almost all others, even racial ties. Inter-clan wars and disputes have occurred due to a single insult, whether real or imagined. And all Hithuals, of course, despise the Kragar! The bonds of friendship outside the race seem to be strongest when formed in battle. Hithuals as a rule are always honorable and fair dealing...not that a good haggle isn't appreciated. The sworn word of Hithual is never broken, even at the cost of life, for they value personal honor above all else. Next comes family honor, then clan, then racial honor. It is because of this code that a Hithual turning to thievery is virtually unknown. Such would be shunned by the rest of the race and declared "Kragar"; without honor.
Hithuals and Religions
Hithuals as a race do not follow any specific Deity in the pantheon, but they totally shun Taath and Set. It would also be very unusual, (due to Hithual magick resistance), to find one that follows Sa. Many of them are agnostic and follow no Deity, but none can truly be deemed atheistic. Not surprisingly, Odarous has a rather large following among those of the warrior clans while Elindale leads many of the hunter/forager clanspeople. But religion is a very personal thing among Hithuals and they almost never attempt to force their own views upon others.
There are a number of myths regarding the Hithual people spread by some who should really know better. Foremost among these is the incorrect stereo-type of the bearded Hithual. Actually, facial hair is seldom seen except on the eldest of Hithual males after they have retired from active life. A Hithual warrior would never have a beard that might get in the way or be grabbed during combat and used against him. And certainly no Hithual male appreciates a beard or mustache interfering with his most favorite pastimes; eating and drinking! But the very worst lie of all is that of the bearded Hithual female! Just as with the Humans they branched from, Hithual females have no facial hair at all.
The myth that Hithuals hate and fear open water is just that; a myth! It is true that Hithuals, due to their extreme body density, do tend to swim exactly like lead bricks! But this has made them merely cautious, not hydrophobic. In fact, the merchant clans of the Hithual nations long ago saw the need for ocean travel and began building and crewing sailing vessels in which they ply their coastal trade.
One last myth about Hithuals is still being debated in pubs and taverns across the land; that Hithuals can drink forever and not get drunk! No one knows where this myth began and even the Hithuals themselves deny knowing the truth of it. However...they are always most willing to join in the research of the question...so long as someone else is buying!
-- Jedico of the clan Bloodstar
Journals of Armonins Undermount, Lord Priest of Unknown ...
Panick my love,
Already I begin to question the wisdom of taking this journey without ye. I find that the sun shines the less brightly, the birds sing the less sweetly, and the summer breeze is not as comfortable as it ought be with ye gone from my side.
Tis been but one day and my heart sorely grieves for the sight of ye, the loving touch of ye, and the blessed sound of thine voice whether it be speaking words of love or telling tales fraught with humor and jest.
Ye are my world and this day has but shown me the truth of things.
I have decided to keep a journal of my travels not only to share the journey with ye, but for a selfish reason - for in scribing these words, I feel as if ye are all the much closer to me and it fills my heart with joy.
I left straight from the Temple training grounds after completing sharp weapons training, loaded by pack, and took the Southern road from Spur. It still grieves me to see how many have left our home due to the unjust taxes. Were that I could aright this wrong. I fear that only time will demonstrate the folly of trying to bleed our people dry.
Once clear of Meetpoint and the trade route I saw nary a soul but for some Rijom hunters who looked on without interest and I made good time. The road is lonely yet it gives me time to think upon not only the recent changes in my life but upon the request of my uncle to return to our mountain home with great haste.
I am filled with trepidation for this summons, for it has been nigh on five years since I left and have little idea what to expect upon my return. I am not the Hithual that left there so long ago.
I set camp this night on the plains below the Southlands. The Great Bluffs are still in sight and something familiar to mine eyes provides some comfort in my loneliness.
I awoke much refreshed from the weariness the last weeks of events had imparted upon me. I should say, though, that I begrudge not the lost hours of slumber, for my life has been much enhanced by the presence of ye in my life. The long and sad series of farewells and the constant strife to fend off chaos have also taken their toll on my spirit.
Today I reached the crossroads where I hit the Great Throughway. I could take this route to the Great Divide, yet is a roundabout path. I am considering a much shorter, yet infinitely more dangerous route - the road through the Dagskraad.
It has been many a year since I passed that way last and then only in company with my father, a warrior of Odarous and a party of our finest Hithual warriors. The remembrances of what we found there can still bring a chill when I reflect upon it - for there we discovered a host of undead and our blades barely served to fend them off as we made our escape. It is primarily from this experience that my desire to gain some degree of skill at turning these foul spirits originated. We never did discover the source of this evil, yet it appeared focused in the ruins of the large keep which guarded the pass in olden times. We never reached the keep, as the horde of undead could not be defeated by our party of warriors. Although none fell, several of our number refused to venture forth from our home for a long time afterwards.
Armed with my increasing ability Unknown has granted me to return these tortured souls from whence they came, I fear this path perhaps less than I ought, yet I am keen to take advantage of the much shorter distance it affords.
The day dawned but dimly at my camp not far west of the crossroads. The clouds have rolled in and brought a light summer rain which does some to lessen the heat of the season.
Toward mid-morning I had a bit of excitement to break the routine of my journey. A band of brigands thought to take advantage of a lone traveler on the highway in a stretch of thick woods. A quick survey of the four ragged youths told me I had little to fear so I drew the dagger ye gave me to carry and danced the blades for but a short while with the four. I marked each so as to leave a few scars for thought, relieved them of their barely serviceable weapons and bade them good day and to mend their wicked ways. It will probably not do much good, yet I continue to hope that peace will spread in our world.
I left the road at mid-day and began to travel the much-neglected path into the Dagskraad. I camp now on a sheltered bluff overlooking the Greenwood. Tomorrow will see the climb to the pass and the keep ruins.
I give great praise to Unknown that I live to write this entry - for today was one I shall not soon, if ever, forget. I apologize for the raggedness of my penwork, but I have suffered a wound that is beyond my healing capability.
Yesterday's light rain turned overnight into full-blown thunder and lightning storms. The traveling conditions were not ideal, but with little choice I wrapped my cloak tightly against the weather and continued on as I was already somewhat exposed on the winding mountain trails.
I pressed on towards the keep and as I neared I could sense an increasing focus of hate and chaos. I saw nothing and came within sight of the ruins by early afternoon. The keep itself straddles the narrowest portion of the pass and the road leads through two great walls with a tower, gate, portcullis, and causeway on each side of the pass. Although much of the keep has fallen to rubble, this central portion is still much intact. I suppose one could climb around the keep to either side after many hours of effort...but the poor weather and my confidence to face whatever was contained therein, led me to choose the direct route through the gates. This confidence almost proved the end of me.
There is much magick I have never seen and today I learned of a bit more. As I entered the keep I saw that the gates were in such disrepair as to be inoperable....they literally hung from the hinges open wide. Yet even as I passed through, a great wailing and keening filled the air and where the gate should stand appeared a great wall of bluish flame.
Near-simultaneous with the wall's appearance, a fair-sized host of undead began to issue forth from the shadows around me. I managed just to reach a raised dais in the center of the square formed between the two keep walls and here made my stand. Twas little approached me that I had not encountered before and I gave a short prayer of thanks to Unknown that he had bade me to improve my skill in this gift he had bestowed upon me of turning the undead. I found myself surrounded on all sides by skeletons, zombies, wraiths, wights and spirits.....but this was not the same Hithual they had faced years ago. Each fell to my scathing touch and dust and ashes piled around the dais in ever-deepening layers. Their sheer numbers made taking the time to cast spells of vigor and comfort impractical, yet Unknown heeded each and every one of my urgent prayers to refresh my fatigue.
Although seemingly long, it could not have been but a half hour that this encounter lasted. I had received but a few minor wounds and after quickly healing them I rose and found to my surprise that walls of the blue flame still filled each of the gates. I scanned the courtyard and saw four skeletal knights , one approaching from each quadrant. I had faced such creatures before, but knew not my ability to turn these foul denizens of hell. They appeared shrouded in an orange mist and small flames flickered o'er their drawn greatswords. Each was arrayed in full battle plate and where eyes would be seen in a man only two orbs of red glared in hate. As I prepared to call upon Unknown to channel the turning power through me, my Master spoke unto me...."These are beyond even your skill at turning my faithful son...ye must rely upon your skill at the blade".
I thereupon drew the blade the master Rehas crafted for me and set my shield against their oncoming attack. I cleared my mind and set about the business at hand. Set upon form four sides, I was sorely pressed. Swing, parry, block, spin...over and over in an intricate dance of steel, sinew and strength. Wound after wound these creatures of death took and I but a few, yet I continued to grow weary as they seemed not to flag even a bit. It was well into the battle that I discovered their weakness. A high swing to the head resulted in the helmet of one being cloven from its shoulder.....a high-pitched shriek filled the air as the form before me quickly turned to ash and pieces of mail clattered to the stones. As the odds evened, I concentrated my attacks high and in this way dispatched the other three knights. Again I sat and treated my wounds, cast a few magicks to restore my flagging strength and said a prayer of thanks to my Master. Yet even as I accomplished these things I became filled with premonition that the fight had not yet seen its end. Warned by this second-sense I turned and looked behind me....
There stood a tall dark form arrayed in tattered robes of black, the borders of which were decorated with arcane symbols. Its ghostly white skin was mottled and wrinkled as if with the deterioration of death's decay and even at a distance of ten cubits the stench of the grave filled my lungs. It carried a staff of some dark-hued twisted wood, atop which stood a small globe of red clutched in fingers of wood which much resembled a creature's claw. I had never in my travels seen such a creature, but it was clearly not of the living world. After but a brief moment, but I do not know how or why, I recognized it for what it was.....a lich; the foul spirit and body of a once-live necromancer, whose soul had been given over to chaos and evil to extend its presence in the world of the living. By its looks, this one had been long drawing together its followers and I realized now what was the focus of the troubles in this region of the mountains. As it approached I saw its twisted mouth open and a mere hissing whisper come forth from its tortured face. I heard words in my head, yet they had not come as sound unto my ears. It spoke thus..."Ye have done great damage unto the forces of my Master and have delayed that which had been set in motion long ago....yet ye have not won. Take what pride ye may in your courage and strength, for the feeling will be short-lived....as will ye be. When your heart be stilled and your eyes be dimmed know that I will make ye even like mine self and ye shall stand beside me before a Master greater than any ye have known".
Beyond the lich a dark shadow appeared. It coalesced into the shape of a great vulture and I knew now who was the Master he spoke of. Yet as the first shadow appeared so did another which stood beside me....this one appeared into a shape I have come to love, that of a great tiger. Time seemed to stand still as the Vulture shrieked at the Tiger and the Tiger roared in return. After but awhile, Unknown spoke to me a second time..."Today the Balance must be maintained. Ye must face this champion of Taath without my support, though it grieves me to say so. Yet as I may not interfere, nor can my brother Taath, for the day of reckoning between he and I has not yet come. Remember, my son, the healing touch". Both shadows, the Vulture and the Tiger, vanished and I stood in the falling rain in the deepening gloom with only this undead necromancer before me.
I attacked with fury, yet this creature's staff met and parried each of my blows as if he could read the strike ere I began it. Even while the right hand manipulated the staff so the left wove spell after spell and the runes that encircled its damned head coalesced into all manners of magickal attack. It threw fire, lightning, acid, fear, darkness and chaos in multiple forms and for each I resisted two more found their mark and I was soon bleeding from a number of not inconsequential wounds. Knowing that calling upon Unknown would prove fruitless, I relied upon what skill I possessed in non-magickal healing and this at least let me arrest the loss of life-giving blood from my wounds.
It was at this point that the lich closed and instead of casting another of its foul magicks reached out and grasped my blade arm. Its touch to my shoulder brought a searing cold pain which rapidly spread down my arm as my sword clattered to the ground. I dropped my shield as well and scrambled away as the coldness was replaced by numbness and my sword-arm rendered useless.
I turned to the other form of attack available to me....magick. I let loose with every runespell I could muster. Fire, lightning, blindness, sleep in every form I knew and magick clashed against magick as we both wove runes in the air above our heads. Yet this attack too, seemed to have little effect on the creature and I began to despair even as my wounds increased and worsened and my strength flagged. I knew this could not last much longer and my thoughts turned to all that I should lose should I fail. Then I recalled the last words of my Master..."the healing touch".
If skill at arms and mastery of magick could not touch this creature, perhaps another way was needed. Even as it closed for the kill I cast a healing spell at the lich....at last a reaction! For this creature of death, healing was an anathema. I cast comfort, strength, healing, restore life....every good strengthening and healing spell I knew. As each contacted, the creature's discomfort and obvious pain grew. I prayed for its soul and blessed and forgave it as it screamed in that scratching, whispered shrieks and moans that were its voice. At the last I embraced it and smiled. Even as my strength failed, I saw it fall and stir no more.
I know not how long I lay there, but it was nigh on sunset when I awoke. Where I had seen the lich fall the rough shape of a man was etched as if by acid into the stones of the courtyard, yet nothing else remained. I healed my remaining wounds, yet my sword arm still recalled the cold of the lich's touch and resisted all of my healing efforts. I could at least feel my hand yet was unable to hold a blade in its grasp.
I scanned the courtyard one last time, but all was quiet and I felt nothing of the earlier aura the place had possessed. I hurriedly gathered my things and left the ruins through the other gate and traveled until it became too dark to safely do so. After setting camp I said my nightly devotions to Unknown and knew that he stood behind me once again. It is not mine place to question the affairs of the Gods, yet I cannot but wonder what this affair might have been to involve both Taath and Unknown in such a direct manner. Perhaps one day I shall find out.
I slept till long past the sun rose and woke much refreshed. The ache of my arm has lessened and my grasp is stronger, yet at this rate it will be a while longer ere I can handle a sword. Should the need arise, I bless Panick for the gift of the dagger which will be light enough to wield with my sword-arm. Perhaps I should learn to fight with my left-hand as a precaution.
The storms have passed and the day is filled with sunlight and a light breeze. My spirit was much uplifted today as I wound my way down from the Dagskraad and regained the highway in the vicinity of Gleron's Ford. Towards sunset, as I exited the northern reach of the forest and entered the Plains of Nanthe, I gained sight of my mountain home - the Dragon Spire, a lone peak far from its neighbors in the range which forms the northwestern reach of the Great Divide. This journey to my ancestral home will end tomorrow after a long day's march. What I will find there is a mystery to me, yet I will be glad to see kin and friends I have not seen these five years and more.
Even as I write this my eyelids droop, as it is very late. The final leg of the journey was uneventful. I was surprised to meet a heavily armed party of my clan on patrol while still quite a way from the cavern entrance. This spoke much for the concern of my people over the security of our home and the Captain told tales of strange creatures and wanderers in this section of the Divide. I suspect this is true elsewhere as well.
My homecoming was a joyous one. I was met by my uncle, Relgarius, the current Colinth-tek (Forge Master) of the clan; my mother, Alyssa; and a multitude of cousins.
A great feast was declared in my honor and the festivities lasted until late in the evening. I was truly surprised to find myself given a high degree of deference and respect, and it turns out in part to be due to several of our traders having met Kraggon Rockhard, of our own Forge in Spur, on his travels through the region. They, my kin, were well aware of many of my exploits and accomplishments in Spur and I found myself blushing Panick, even without ye here. Would that ye had been here by my side for the feasting, drinking and dancing I would have been the happiest Hithual in the Divide.
Ere the feast began, my mother drew me aside and together we walked to the Shrine of Rinanni. I have not spoken much yet of my family, but it is due to her that I am much of the Hithual ye have wed. Ye should know that my clan follows but two of the Gods ye are familiar with, Odarous and Rinanni. It was nigh on fifty years ago when Unknown first spoke unto me deep in the tunnels beneath our home and from that day forward I was marked as different from the other young of our clan. For a great while I kept this encounter as a secret and my increasing distance from Odarous and my frequent wanderings to find my own way led my father to ever-growing anxiety over my behavior. It was my mother, and I bless her for her great wisdom, who told me I must follow my destiny and showed me at the same time how that did not necessarily have to conflict with the destinies of my father, family or clan.
My mother is perhaps the greatest Heart of Rinanni in the clan and she used all her power to heal my wounded sword-arm. It is much better now and she assures me that in but a few days it will be as good as new.
We spoke of our marriage, Panick, and I told her of ye and my feelings for you. Ere I could even finish speaking, she smiled broadly and said ye must be the one for me, for she could but see the light of love in my eyes and hear it in my words. I could think of no greater compliment from my mother, for she is very wise in the ways of love and friendship and a great match-maker amongst my people. Many would judge a mixed-race marriage like ours with some degree of scorn, yet I am my mother's son in this and people are people. She blessed our happiness and looks forward to meeting ye. She did add, jokingly, that not a few of the Hithual lasses I grew up with were sorely grieved at the word that I had married.
At last I asked her of the business that had caused my uncle to summon me here, but she would not speak of it. She urged me to enjoy the festivities, for tomorrow at council would yield answers to all my questions.
Today was spent in council with breaks only for meals. I was given the seat of honor on my uncle's right in the Council Chamber. The oldest and wisest of our clan were there for discussions which covered a wide range of topics.
The first, and the prime reason my uncle had summoned me was Agouth Sira! I swear that I am cursed to have to deal with that Taathian rebel until the end of my days. I might add as a side note, that I noticed his name on the Guild List ere I left, indicating that he had trained after he had said he left Spur for good. It was about six months ago that Agouth first left Spur and returned to the Divide. It was upon his subsequent unanticipated return to Spur that he spoke of converting many of the Hithual clans to the worship of Taath. Khain Greyheart, the First Warder of Odarous and myself were much grieved that this might even be a possibility and the subsequent chain of events led to Agouth being labeled Kragar, or "disowned" in the common tongue. It turns out that in part what Agouth said is truth. Many Hithual, although their total number is undetermined, of the other clans and a few of my own, have left their peoples and are gathering in the Divide somewhere north of here to start a clan devoted to Taath. This sorely grieves all of us and the number of Kragar grows daily. Trouble will soon grow of this turn of events, I am sure.
My people know little of Taath and have asked that I share my knowledge not only of Taath, but of the other Gods in our world. It was agreed that education would do much to help our people see and understand the beliefs and viewpoints of other faiths.
Along these same lines, I was much surprised (an pleased) to find my Master, Unknown has been busy too in the Divide and a small number of the younger Hithual have had "visitations" and now worship Unknown. The council has authorized the establishment of a Shrine to Unknown and I am to dedicate and sanctify it and establish a hierarchy while I am here. This fills me with great joy to spread the good word of my Master amongst my own kin, and I feel the less lonely here for being able to share my faith with others.
The last major discussion focused on my brother, Draffut Sabrestrike. I know I have not yet told ye the story of how my surname, Undermount came to be, yet that it involved a dragon. It is a long tale and I shall not tell it here, but at this point it is only relevant in that ere my clan lived here in the great cavern of the Dragonspire it was the home of an ancient fourth stage dragon, long since departed from the world.
With the increasing chaos and evil in the world and the unrest amongst the Hithual clans, the council fears for the long-term security of our home, and rightly so. It is for this reason, and I am greatly honored for the trust they put in my judgment, that they have asked me to approach Draffut and Danaira about making their lair and home here in the Dragonspire when they reach their later stages. Oh, what a beautiful way for us to remain close all our days, for I know that they should be happy here and my clan do them great honor. None of us know what the years may bring and third and fourth stage are decades away for my brother and sister, yet I shall plant this seed in him and see what grows of it.
Tomorrow I shall leave to begin the return journey which will bring me back to you and for this I am exceedingly happy. Today was one I shall never forget, for it was filled with many simple joys.
At dawn today, I dedicated the new Shrine of Unknown. Call it fate if ye will, but the site chosen was none other than the small grotto in which Unknown first spoke to me those long years ago. Our new followers number but ten, but the one who was elected to be their leader reminds me much of myself in younger days before I became the sometimes too-serious Hithual ye have come to love. I shall be interested to see how this new group develops as time passes, but they are a group of our finest youngsters and I am sure will do our faith proud. They have promised to keep in touch with our Temple in Spur that we may aid them in any manner possible.
The remainder of the day was spent in visiting various places and groups....I spent time with the High Priest and Priestess of each of the other Shrines, visited the Hithual school and spoke to the youngsters of the clan, dined with the garrison and spent some time with the warriors in training. My sword-arm still aches yet I did not embarrass myself at handling a blade.
I spent dinner with only my mother and uncle and we talked of old times, my father, and the many misadventures of my youth. For once I was slightly glad that ye were not here, for many of the stories made me blush. My mother reminded me that this pain is but delayed since she will tell them all unto ye when at last ye meet.
Tonight, ere I retired for the evening, I visited the grave of my father. I wish he were here to speak with, for he would be surprised to see that his son had become much like him. I miss him greatly and there were too many things unsaid between us when he fell.
My home is a much simpler place than Spur and this visit has been a much-needed break from the intense activity that seems to surround us wherever we go, you and I.
I am on the road again, traveling in company with a small group of our traders. We have a wagon and horses and will make good time along the highway....no shortcuts this time, yet with wheel and horse my return trip shall take about the same amount of time.
This morning ere I left, I again met for a short while with the council. Both ye and I, Panick have been inscribed in the Clan Book of Life! This is a great honor for both of us, for the purpose of this book is to document for posterity the deeds and accomplishments of our clan. Not all are entered, but only those who have made some contribution to the betterment of the clan. I am the youngest ever to be entered in its rolls and ye are not only the first non-Hithual, but the first follower of Sa so to be honored. This also signifies that, at least among the Undermount clan, ye shall be accorded all the rights and honor due to one of the blood.
The council has also determined to send a party of our warriors to the keep ruins to establish an outpost and ensure the shorter route remains clear. This will do much to enhance trade and communications between the Divide and Spur.
Although the good-byes were long and sad, it shall not be as long ere I return here and the next time ye shall be with me. My mother sends her love and welcomes ye to the family as her daughter.
Yesterday and today were very uneventful. We have made good progress and met few on the road and there have been no untoward incidents. I fear for the trader's fortune though, as a good portion of his cargo is in casks of Hithual Ale. We have been steadily drinking his profits at each and every rest and they have resulted in much jest and merry-making far into the evenings. I am sure the din of drunken Hithuals singing loudly and raucously has done a bit to scare away even the heartiest of potential foes.
Early today I left the caravan as they continued east from the crossroads and I turned north towards Spur. I am camped at the same spot I chose the first evening of my journey. I am looking forward to being home and seeing ye and the "family". I am even looking somewhat forward to diving back into my work, for I am much refreshed in spirit and mind and there is much to be done.
The Story of Valentin'a ...
[This article was originally presented in the Feb. 2, 1997 Issue of the Dragon Fire Chronicles, entitled "The Story of Valentin'a" by Exyx Worldview.]
Among the Hithual, as among many races, there are stories of legend, fear, inspiration, etc. This particular story is one of love, the kinda love that surpasses the fleshy, scaley, or winged folds of racial being.
It was during the year of Colinth, or in the common tounge: the forge. King Maldon, the explorer, had begun an incredible project of linking the isles of the north with vast underground caves.
Trade had begun flourishing with the Drag-als, the Arachnians, and even some remote villages of Humans. Unfortunately, several bands of brigands had become troublesome. So, King Maldon had devised this project as a workable solution.
It was during the month of Moltelth, that several miners had broken through to a vast cavern. The Hithual miners were immediately stunned and blinded by a hill of gems, gold, and silver that lay upon a tiny isle in the middle of a small cavern lake. Just as Grolthar, the leader of the miners, was going to approach this wealth, a heart-wrenching and peircing yell echoed throughout the cave. Its source seemed to be some type of humanoid creature upon the treasured hill.
"Where are you, my favored little companion?", came the voice upon the hill.
"I's here Valentin," was the sound of a second yet unseen voice.
"Ahhh...Cupyd, dear Secian friend, the time hath come. I ask of you again, wilst thou become mine bondmate?" The voice seemed racked in pain, yet soft and gentle as well.
"Is always ready," came the little clear voice.
Without warning, the Hithual began to feel the powers of arcane magics at work. A little fearful, but always curious, Grolthar made his way to the edge of the lake.
There, glowing in a warm hue of a multi-colored rainbow, was the smallest, winged creature he had ever seen. This must be a Secian Gralthor thought to himself.
Suddenly, the rainbow colors began to dance and play off the water and the many gems. Dazzling to the point of blindness, Grolthar had to advert his eyes lest the image be the last he'd ever see. At the same time, what sounded like a million, singing voices, began to fill the air with the sounds of joy and relief. Just at the crescendo of lights and harmonic singing, two distinct and recognizable voices lifted above all others. Though true, unimposed love, could never be truly described, these two voices sang that feeling with such magnifisence, that the Hithual miners felt tears of unabashed joy stream through their beards. And then...It all stopped.
Grolthar looked up to the hill of wealth and beheld a sight that would live in his eyes fer all his days. A tiny, almost sparkling, winged Secian was delicately perched upon the might of a scaled, winged Dragon.
"Mes Valentin'a is alls better noos," came Cupyd's voice.
"Thanks to thee, Cupyd." Valentin'a's voice was powerful and confident.
Grolthar led his miners away. He then gave orders to reseal the entrance they had made to this cavern. Another way around could be found, and Grolthar was not going to have anything disturb or spoil that perfect feeling and event he had beheld.
This is one of the oldest, yet most well remembered stories of the Hithual race.
Written this day from childhood memories by:
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