Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spells from the 10th Age: Raya's Rose

Raya's Rose -- level 2, priest spell
(Enchantment/Charm, Illusion)

Sphere: Charm
Range: 10 yds.
Duration: 1d4 rds.
Area of Effect: 60 ft. Radius
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 2
Save: Neg.

When a priest casts this spell, it creates an illusion of a gigantic, glowing rose, beautiful and filigreed. The rose slowly, over the course of 1d4 combat rounds (15-60 seconds) opens, revealing a beautiful figure within it's heart. This figure appears to be the epitome of form and beauty to all those who observe it, and the magic of the initial spell is such that those who look on the rose will be enchanted into watching the flower slowly unfold.

Enemies of the priest who are within 60 feet of the rose must save vs. spell, or they are mesmerized for the entire period of the rose's unfolding, plus an additional 1d4 rounds while they hallucinate and stare into its heart. Those who are mesmerized cannot act, except to gawk at the unearthly beauty of the thing before them—they cannot speak, cast spells, or use magic. Any mesmerized enemy who is attacked or otherwise takes damage is freed from the enchantment, though they may accidentally see it again and be enthralled anew: for each round they remain within the 60 foot radius, they must save again or be re-enchanted and fall still.

Any enemies with 4 levels or hit dice, or with a 16 Wisdom or higher, are immune to the effects of the spell.

The material component is a handful of rose petals.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Pantheon Monday: Brynjar the Oakenshield

(The Armorer, Oakenshield)

Lesser God, LN
Portfolio: Armor, fortifications, armorers, warriors
Aliases: Calëron, Haeron
Domain Name: Valingas, the Golden Halls
Superior: None
Allies: Eiri
Foes: Agírni
Symbol: An oak roundshield
Worshipper Alignment: LG, LN, LE, NG, NE

Brynjar (BRINN-yar) is the god of armor, order, and fortifications. He is the dwarven interpretation or aspect of the powerful mannish god, Haeron. He is known by the dwarves to be brother to Eiri and Vodulfr. Where Eiri Jorfather is the god of particularly dwarven law, Brynjar represents the dwarven conception of order.

As the most revered positions in dwarven society, Brynjar is a craftsman and worker. He is the god who embodied Eiri’s dictates in gold and stored them in the Hall of the Ancestors.

In dwarven lore, Brynjar always appears as an ancient dwarf in a smith’s garb. His long white beard is unplaited and unjewled. When he goes to war, Brynjar is depicted in full dwarven plate armor, with a face-concealing helm of the dwarven style, complete with beardplate.

The Church
Clergy: Oakenshields, smiths, warriors
Clergy’s Alignment: LN, LG
Turn Undead: Yes
Command Undead: No

The church of Brynjar is omnipresent in Iron Dwarven lands and often one of the first supplemental faiths in a Green Dwarven fortress. The temple of the Armorer is strictly hierarchical; it is governed by the Master Armorer (Aíslan) at Hilmirhol in the Arinnfal, who often sits in council with the Vísorthr, the high priest of Eiri Jorfather.

Each of the great city-temples in the Arinnfal may nominate a replacement for the Master Armorer when the previous one dies, but they always vote in a bloc for the heir that the Armorer himself has picked while alive—many of the secrets of the master smiths are passed on to the Armorer’s apprentice.

Standing below the Master Armorer are the Wardens, or Gaetta, who rule each major temple. These are chosen from the Oakenshield ranks within their constituent temples. Gaetta of the Arinnfal are known as the Aígaettrinn, the Great Wardens, and are empowered to vote on the new Master Armorer.

In each individual temple, the Gaetta is attended by a council of Journey Smiths, usually numbering ten or fifteen. These are the highest ranking priests in the temple. Each is usually placed in charge of a specific aspect of temple administration.

Below these are the rank and file of the Oakenshields. In some rare cases, Oakenshields may be detached from their mother temples in order to pursue adventure, and the interests of the dwarves, outside of their folkhall.

Dogma: The doctrine of Brynjar is twofold. One, to protect the strongholds of the dwarves, to fortify and strengthen the dwarven folkhalls, and to see the cessation of the near-constant erosion of dwarven supremacy in the mountains. The other, to preserve the ancient law, and to preserve the lives of individual dwarves.

Day-to-Day Activities:
Priests of the Oakenshield often help train the all-women militias of the Iron Dwarves, bless warriors heading out to battle, repair armor for the hall prince, and help design and replace major fortification works.

Holy Days/Important Ceremonies:
The dwarven Feast of the Wyrmslayers on the 25th of Hording. This is a pan-dwarven feast, celebrating the conquest of the dwarves over the foul dragons that have been the mortal enemy of that race.

Major Centers of Worship: Hilmirhol, the Princely City.

Affiliated Orders: None.

Priestly Vestments: Priests tend to wear well-made painted leather jerkins and carry smith’s hammers.

Adventuring Garb: Splint and plate armor are common for adventuring Oakenshields, as are oak roundshields.

Oakenshield of Brynjar
(Specialty Priest)
REQUIREMENTS: Strength 9, Wisdom 9
WEAPONS: Short sword, axe, spear, knife, dagger, hammer
MAJOR SPHERES: All, Combat, Elemental (earth), Protection, Wards, Guardian
MINOR SPHERES: Elemental (air), Healing, Law, War
MAGICAL ITEMS: The same as priests
REQ. PROFS: Weapon and Shield proficiency
BONUS PROFS: Shield specialization, engineering or armor smithing

Oakenshields are tireless fighters and are never fatigued no matter how long battle lasts. Any fatigue from long marches or long work is halved, and they can work themselves for half again the time any other dwarf would be able to work before becoming exhausted and needing rest.

At 3rd level, an Oakenshield may cast heat metal upon a hammer that he carries once per day; this spell does not injure him at all, but anyone struck by the white-hot hammer will take additional damage based on the phase of heat the spell is going through.

At 5th level, Oakenshields receive a further +1 bonus to the saves normally bolstered by dwarven constitution.

At 7th level, the Shield of Brynjar may cast stoneskin as though he were a level 7 wizard three times per week. This spell may only effect the priest.

At 10th level, as long as the Oakenshield has his shield at the ready, all hostile spells and magical attacks have a 15% chance of failing to affect him. If they do affect him, he is still allowed his save.

At 15th level, the Oakenshield is magically protected by Brynjar himself; the priest suffers only half damage from any physical attack.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

War Report: The Vales

X.511, Emineas, 4th of Festing

The expansion of Essad's borders continues uninterrupted. Rumor has placed a contingent of High Master Endreth's forces crossing into the Vales at the little town of Northford. Supporting him, word says, is Uldos, Commander of the West, in full panoply with some hundred Iron Guard. The war against Dorlan in the east has woken to a furious front this year, spurred on by the activities of Reynarius di Llun behind the enemy lines.

Word comes from the captured provinces that hundreds of Iron Guard have been deployed to reinforce the Essadi position south of the mountains. Local lords have been made to swear allegiance to the Exactor and implement his policies, including rounding up Dorlishmen to serve as fighting-slaves in the ever-growing armies. Solothen captives and wizard-tribute from the City of the Wyrm King keep the Magron Thur's armies fresh and prepared.

Whispers tell of a hurried meeting of all the great Vecchii of the Protectorate, a furtive council of state held somewhere in Silano, where great magics will be worked. The Tower of Mourning has been abandoned by its gaolers, and the political prisoners of the Dorlish nobility have been set free on the grounds that they fight for the Protectorate. The hope in the rest of the cowering land is that this will add tens of powerful mages to the defense of the Protectorate before the Exactor can conquer any more.

There has been no word from the mission of the Valelander diplomats under the Mage-Resident Salermo of the Petrucci. It is certain that he has dispatched messengers to Northmount Abbey to negotiate the joinder of the remaining Vales in the Protectorate. Indeed, with rumors of an Essadi army crossing into Northvale, one can only hope that his offer of aid is taken seriously so the war may be opened on another front.

In news from the south, the Milean civil war has returned to open hostilities after the conclusion of a brief treaty throughout the winter. A large goblin army has passed through the Free Baronies, which themselves have pledged to the emperor. It is suspected that the goblins will descend on the Serpent County within the next few weeks, finally cutting off rebel support near the Heartland. If the maneuver is successful, the rebellion will be contained to the littoral of Mermarche and the valley of Paix.

Monday, November 28, 2016

City Sketch: Syrol, City of Peace

Syrol has been inhabited on and off since the Age of the Rime Lords. It began its history as a temporary camp at the foot of the Balisár glacier were sacrifices were made to appease the Frost. It gained prominence as a trading post after the end of that Age, when the Bay of Silence was opened up by the withdrawal of the glacier. During the Age of the Storm, Syrol became the site of a temple dedicated to Syrse, and was soon one of his chiefest places of worship. The ancient sacrificial Temple of Balisár was overhauled and rededicated, to become the center of the Wheel of Faith in the heart of the city.

It was subjugated by the the armies of Dyrak four generations ago. Worship of Syrse was banned, leaving the heart of the Wheel empty. The emperor Ancabulis established a palace inside the city to serve as a retreat during the winter months when the northern frontier was frozen. Since then, Syrol has become a major center of administration for the southwestern Empire of Dyrrakos and is also known as the City of Peace -- when there is war, the emperor dwells in the east at Carnafon, the City of War.

Syrol is characterized by a number of hills, sloping down toward the Bay of Silence. The Wheel of Faith is the northernmost district of the city, located in a shallow depression between the Palace Hill and the Balisár Hill. This is a religious district that is constructed in a very clear hub-and-spokes format, with the long-shuttered Temple of Syrse at its heart.

Eighteen gates pierce the walls of Syrol, each with a unique name, and each with a detachment of the Carifex Guard stationed there. The city is home to the Carifex Reserve, the emperor's personal army of wizard-functionaries and mercenary-soldiers, number about 400 men, who inhabit a large porphyry barracks in the imperial palace. Their commander, the Phidrian Lahkud, is second only to the Imperial Secretary when it comes to rule in the city.

Districts of Syrol.
The Imperial Palace.
The palace sits in a district of its own at the northernmost curtain wall, between the Argetgate and the Highgate, and has its own gate in the curtain wall that is most often known as the Dyrangate, though it may also be called the Emperor's Gate. The palace proper is a huge compound with walls of its own. It contains the Carifex Reserve (400 hand-picked men who serve as the elite garrison for the city, and which contain five imperial wizards in their ranks) as well as the Peacewarden Army (1,600 heavily armored soldiers who serve the palace and emperor). When the emperor is present, the inhabitants of the palace can swell to as many as 4,000 people.

The district immediately surrounding the palace is the quietest and most peaceful in the city. It abuts the Wheel of Faith and the Ancabuleum. Peacewardens under Reserve Captains patrol the city streets fairly regularly. The area is peppered with the great manors of the wealthy nobility and the ministries and chancelleries of the Winter Palace.

The Wheel of Faith.
Once the center of life in the city, the Wheel of Faith does still contain the Syrsen Market at the Balisár Temple. However, since the coming of the Dyrakkon Conquest the Temple of Syrse has been shuttered and the priesthood all but extinguished. The other great temples of Syrol are situated around the central depression where the Temple stands.

Peacewarden patrols are also fairly frequently found in the Syrsen Market, though there is a significant amount of crime here compared to the palace district.

The Ancabuleum.
The great gardens built by Ancabulis contain the Horvedic Baths, the Statuary, and the manors of the highest imperial relations and allies. Located in the north-west of the city, the Ancabuleum is a vast and nearly trackless region within the city walls. For this reason, there is a great deal of crime hidden within the confines of the Ancabuleum. The Peacewardens maintain patrols near the Baths, the Statuary, and the manors, but do not regularly check the illicit dicing and unlicensed whorehouses that spring up in the Ancabuleum's darker corners.

Merchant's Height.
The mercantile interests in Syrol are obviously some of the most powerful in all Dyrakkos. To this end, they have apportioned an upper region of the city to themselves, in the northwest. There, the great manses of the merchant-lords, who are just below the imperial nobility, are to be found. They benefit from proximity to the imperial household and the Secretary, as most of them make at least some portion of their living from imperial shipping commissions.

Private guards patrol merchant's height at all times, and the manors are staffed with them. Each merchant-lord is thought to be partially responsible for the city's defense. The Secretary has the authority to draft their bodyguards into the general militia, should necessity arise.

Along the water there is a district at the western edge of the harbor known as Scowline, which boasts the largest concentration of rope and sail-makers, shipwrights, tar-boilers, and other nautical equipment in the western empire. Scowline is where most of the ships built in the western empire originate from, and is a particularly seedy area of the city.

The Murks.
The central city is known as the Murks. This is a network of stews, slums, whorehouses, and other places of ill repute. The only law in the Murks is the private law of individual "entrepreneurs."

A district settled originally by retired imperial soldiery, Reefsend occupies the south-western segment of the shoreline in Syrol. Here, there are a number of farms, mills, and imperial granaries.

The approach to the harbor is guarded by Watchlight Isle, which boasts a massive sorcerous lighthouse in the form of a pyramid with the blazing Watchlight fire at its peak. It is maintained by the Carifex Reserve.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Toward a Universal Understanding of American Bigotry

The Myth of Race is a foundational one that powers much of the hatred in America. However, attacking the Myth of Race on its own terms cedes, I think, important territory to the racist: that race, as a concept, is valid, exists, and can be used as a metric by which to judge others. The discourse on racism allows dangerous notions about race to fester and grow by giving it the space to do so. We must deny the racist the very battlefield.

To begin with, we must adhere to some concepts developed by social science; for one, that the center is always defined by its periphery. American bigotry is a reflexive sociological construct that exists solely to keep the dominant group in power, to help define its membership, and to repress and disenfranchise those who would seek to make inroads against it.

Race is a false category. It was first deployed to justify the enslavement and maltreatment of colonized regions by defining the inhabitants as possessing less advanced civilization. This argument slowly transformed, in the wake of Darwin, to a physiological one, and replaced the notions of more- and less-advanced civilizations with that of more- and less-evolved races. Scientific racism was used to justify the brutal enslavement of Africans in the Americas. Yes, scientific racism, just like eugenics, is a peculiar aspect that arose not from our European ancestors, but from America.

What, then, is the purpose of scientific racism today? We cannot have a "race problem" in America, because race is not a real, extent category in the objective world. It has been proven again and again by geneticists and other researchers to be a meaningless subdivision of a single, undivided, human race. However, the theory does give the American Bigot some important markers that are very difficult to hide. Racism establishes a coded language of power. Racism feeds into a complex and semi-permeable caste system that has existed in this country since its inception, known or unknown, on the surface or below it.

Indeed, without the presence of scientific racism to code dark skin as a caste marker, we would have no conception of the "white race." There would be Irish, and Italians, and Slavs, and all the other maligned peoples of Europe, and then Anglo-Saxons. This division was the way it was in the early 20th century. The caste system had yet to embrace Western Europeanness as the marker of the ruling class. It only went so far as English Protestant Europeanness.

But now, we have a starkly divided caste system. So-called racial markers join a host of others that determine where in the structure of power people are meant to fall. These markers include gender (women have less structural power than men, those with fluid or non-normative gender-identities have even less power than women), sexual identity (only a rigorous and narrow interpretation of heterosexuality is permissible, all other types subordinate), ethnic identity (certain ethnic markers, regardless of race, cause subordination: South American heritage, middle eastern heritage, under our new president-elect the old bugbear of Jewish heritage perhaps), religious identity (Islam is a subordinating marker), and so on, and so on.

These are expressions of power. The architects of these systems did not design them because they are white men. They designed them because they were powerful, and they wanted ways to secure their power. In all places, in all times, there is a center. In all places, in all times, this requires them to define a periphery. In this place, we must be alert to the fact that the center is the white male, that all power flows from the definitions that white male politicians and intellectuals have created; be wary, then, of being asked to despise others, of being asked to take certain markers and apply them to sort out the American castes. For we undoubtedly have a caste system more complex than most in history, one that is insidious, vile, and disgusting, that hides behind terms like race and gender.

In this time, in this place, as in many times and places in the past, white men hold most of that power. Whiteness has no meaning in and of itself, but because it is used as a marker for the dominant caste, we must always be wary of whiteness expressing its self-interest. Its interest is in subordination and disenfranchisement.

Do not forget that it can be resisted.

Do not forget that this is the work of individuals. Individual people must perpetuate this system. Individual people are to blame.

They should be held accountable for their actions.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Voice Cried Ruin

Exhale. The wine merchant is asleep. I will reach him before he wakes, because I am soft and silent. As a eunuch of the palace, I may go where I please. No one will ask me what I am doing in his chambers. Grip the sword. Feel the wood beneath your hand. That length of tempered steel is the killing tool. Breathe. I creep with silent steps across the marbled floor. Look at him. His skin sags. He is like a flaccid bladder when he sleeps. Can this be the Butcher of Tarsus?

It began in the third year of the Drought. Back then, we could still remember rain. The three rivers that fed the capitol where like trickles of piss in the mud. Emperor Lazhar appointed me minister of the public granaries. I took his tally-stick and seal and I passed a host of new laws. I froze the cost of grain and bread. I ordered imports from the lush lands beyond the hills. I begged Lazhar to authorize a new trade policy, and after many long nights he agreed to pay a bounty of weighty gold to the little kingdoms that were yet filled with rushing waters.

When I was twelve, my manhood was taken from me by the imperial physicians. My father, yearning for an ear close to the triumphal seat, made this decision for me. I have older brothers, of course. They would inherit the great estates of my family name. I inherited only the pain of the heated shears, the training of the rhetors, and the discipline of the lash to learn humility, service, supplicance. I did learn those things. I learned to crawl on the tiles and to eat dirt so the mighty would know I was nothing. This, my family gave to me.

Still, the city was glorious. Even with the wailing that filled the streets, the marble avenues and public temples reminded us that we were part of a lineage that stretched back to a time before time. Gods of all shapes and sizes gazed down at me as I did my work, and never did I find more comfort in it. They had come from all the corners of the world, brought on the backs of the conquered and the conquering, come to give their people comfort. For, until she died, until she squirmed like a ravished matron under the hands of cruel war, the city of Tarsus was the very heart of the world.

It beggars belief now, to say it, but you could walk down the colonnaded street at any hour of the day or night unmolested and unharmed. Lights were always burning. Every building was required to provide lamps and lanterns, every shop and warehouse, every manor by law to provide a portico so the Emperor could walk, if he so chose, from the heights of the Sarasant Palace to the very mouth of the Harbor even in rain without so much as feeling a drop of water.

This, then, was Tarsus-that-was.

In that third year of the Drought, there were riots in Tarsus. My own policies and recommendations to Emperor Lazhar caused the Bakers Guild to tear down a statue of Hormus, the god of Androgynes. It was not lost on any citizen what this meant. “Kill the Eunuch!” the bakers sang. But the Guardsmen protected me, and the riots were dispersed.

In that third year of the Drought, there were many deaths. Tarsus ate up all the food. My trade policies guaranteed that outlying provinces would have less than enough to eat. The City consumed it all. I wept in my chambers. Emperor Lazhar made a great show of divesting the imperial household of its excess. He sold plate and golden statues. With the proceeds he bought and distributed grains from the little kingdoms to those who were suffering. It was not enough. I begged him again. This time I said, “Take away the great banquets of the wealthy. Strip the nobility of their golden necklaces. Please, my emperor!” You see, I plead so hard because I knew these horrors lay at my doorstep. But this, this final act, Emperor Lazhar stopped short of doing.

I understood why. His other counsellors advised against it. It would weaken his power, threaten to topple the very state, if the nobility felt he was against them. Still, I wrote him frantic letters in the darkest hours of the night, wasting precious oil to compose them. He returned them unread, the seals unbroken, his own rescript in crimson ink on their parchment faces. “ENOUGH.”

In that third year of the Drought, there arose in the southern provinces, many hundreds of miles away, a great and awful rumbling. Generals along the borders could not keep their soldiery in check. Clashes with the desert peoples became full scale battle. Emperor Lazhar gave them permission to lay siege to ancient cities long choked with sand. And before that year was out we heard the first whispers of the name Dorai.

Who was this Dorai? A wine merchant. Fat with profit, he evaded imperial tax collection, shifted his coin into foreign lands, and bought up grain, spelt, millet, and rye to sell to the imperial household and the city grain supplies. But that is not why we heard of him. News came that a new general had been acclaimed without the emperor’s word. As was usual in those days, when an emperor died, the Senate and the Army proclaimed a new one. But this was unprecedented—a merchant being elevated to the status of General, a sacral position that required decades of training under the rhetors and priests? Who was this Dorai?

He did not seek the wars on the southern borders. As soon as he was acclaimed, the fat merchant called Dorai began to speak against the Emperor and the imperial family. He shrieked that the old gods were offended by centuries of laxity. His words reached us in reports from the imperial spies as the soldiers under his new command moved with him toward Tarsus. “Emperor after emperor, year after year, line after line, spits upon the old cults and adds these new, foreign devils to the city that was once sacred. Burn the new temples! Tear down the new gods! There are foreign slime in our holy city even now, brought by generations of failed wars against the East. Execute them! Sell them back into the slavery from whence they came! We need no Eastern weakness!”

The emperor raised his armies. I wish I could tell you more of the fight, but I was never privy to the war councils. I know only that, like lightning, without warning, he was at our gates. The Guardsmen were summoned. I steeled myself for a siege that we would undoubtedly win. Tarsus, as you know, had never been taken by force since the walls were built. Nor would it be—not now, not ever. As Emperor Lazhar stood upon the Field of the Guardsmen and summoned up his last armies, I stood by his side. From where we stood on the Hill of Executions I could see the whole city.

The Guardsmen were arrayed before us in the field. A wind whipped through the grass and their armor jangled like bells. Beyond, Tarsus, swollen with heat and sick from lack of water, was a marmoreal tomb yard. Dorai’s armies, which had sounded weak and feeble from the dispatches, were large enough to encircle us, to cut off every gate, to stand before every stretch of wall. No matter which way I turned I could see their hateful red cloaks.

As the Guardsmen drew up into final formation, as I readied my heart for rough-faced war, a messenger came from the Harbor Gate. He was crying. “My lord emperor,” he shouted, breathless. “My lord emperor. The guard posted at the Harbor Gate have betrayed you.” Like that, Tarsus fell. Those foul men had sided with Dorai. Why? The price of grain. The elevation of many foreign-born men to high positions of rank. The prominence of the Imperial Eunuch. May the Gods hound them to their graves.

The Harbor Gate was thrown open. The armies under the wine merchant poured into the city. The Emperor did not fight. He met Dorai in the Plaza of Judges and bowed stiffly. Our Emperor Lazhar gave the imperial baton, the crown, the belt, and the gloves of his sacred office freely from his hands, knowing it would spare a greater butchery. And so Dorai became emperor. Emperor Lazhar was permitted to leave the city, but he would not live long. The wine merchant’s soldiers strangled him two years later, in the villa Dorai had appointed for him.

The rule of the wine merchant was swift and brutal. “Tarsus for Tarsens,” he said. There was not enough food to feed the city? Very well, he would execute those who had been born outside the empire. The three rivers were no longer trickles of piss. They became torrents of blood. To appease his men, all the gods from strange lands, the gods that had long been held in Tarsen hearts and taken to Tarsen chests as our own gods, were torn down. Their statues were burned for lime. Their temples were looted for gold. Their priests were chained and taken to the very fringes of the empire, where they were expelled. Every man or woman who had a name that sounded strange to the ear was stripped of their office.

I remained. The wine merchant, fat and flush with victory, swaggered to my chambers on the day of his conquest. He was truly a hateful man, face cracked with hideous pleasures. “You’ve been useful to the bastard,” he said, referring to Emperor Lazhar, who he now publicly maintained was the product of incest with a goat. “You’ll be useful to me.”

Coward that I am, I could not say no.

In those first months I wrote him many letters of advice. I drafted edicts. I tried my best to convince the wine merchant to stop his campaign of slaughter. He did not send them back with rescripts. I do not know that he knew how to read. His chief advisor, a silver-haired general named Parthon, told me to stop up the flow of my ceaseless complaints. It was Parthon, I learned, that had supported Dorai at the critical juncture, when it was unclear if the soldiers would actually turn and march on their homeland.

Parthon was, if anything, worse than the merchant. Here was a studied politician of the old imperial caste, but who wanted all the things the wine merchant wanted… and more. He was clad in the upright dignity of imperial garb, unlike the swaggering buffoon of an emperor who, even on the day he set for his own coronation seemed to be little more than a clown from the mime. But Parthon and his clutch of serpents… ahhh! There were men who, I pray, the Gods will send to eternal punishment like the villains of old.

Now, I have heard that there were those places in the empire that resisted the wine merchant. Even in the throws of his goriest moments in Tarsus, there were governors and generals who defied his laws. The other great cities of the empire cast out his emissaries and shut their gates. But I did not know that then. All I knew was that the capitol was in his thrall.

He listened to my advice, the wine merchant did. But he mocked me as well. He burned a statue of Hormus before me as a jest, but let me keep mine own in my chamber. It was Parthon who, later, stalked me in the halls of the palace and stripped it from me. With frothing anger, he reminded me of what I was: “A weak, womanish thing, fit only for raping!”

For three years, for THREE YEARS, I was counsellor to the wine merchant and Parthon. For three years I tried to temper their rule. Rebellions broke out across the empire. Fires began which would not cease. The Drought continued.

Tarsus is not a city I recognize any longer. New Gaurdsmen, from the wine merchant’s own armies, patrol its streets. His face has replaced the panoply of gods. Great stone heads of the wine merchant lay before each gate. His name is etched into the stone of the palace. I wept in my cups.

Now I crawl like silent vengeance. My heart is in my hand, in the length of blade I hold. I will send him down to the screaming shadows of the underworld. I will do this thing. It is not for me that I strike. No, though Parthon may take the seat. I will slay him, if I can. But my life is already forfeit. It is for you that I strike. It is for you, now, the future, that I approach the bed of the wine merchant who would be emperor. No longer will I watch idly by.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Books of Arunia: On Alth'is and the Wild

This book was found by Fenrus' Very Best in the rooms of the Red Lances after their slaughter at Stock. It was first written in X.439 under the reign of King Lucas by the scholar Theodosius of Elborg.

IN THE SIXTH AGE the northern reaches of Craftsman's Reach were the location of a new revival of half-elven ancestry; the kingdom of Al'this, in response to the formation of Calantheas and Teraspis in the central Reach. The Althissan state encompassed the southern portions of what are now the Untamed Lands and the northern portions of the Reach, particularly around the Aelfwater. Rulership was confined to a number of families that grew up in and around the borders of the elven kingdom—many of the Althissan rulers were trained magicians and sorcerers who learned their craft in the haunts of Tailimisiä. This, of course, set the stage for the later antagonisms between the Thessalian lords and chiefs of the Reach and the elves of Talimisiä.

The Althissan capitol was built south of the Low Plain, straddling a number of small hills. It is, today, a windswept moor. Unlike other great cities of the past such as Temeros and Cathadria, the old city of Altem has no treasures, no secret caches of hidden gold, and no mysterious vaults. The rain and acidic soils have reclaimed most of the stone, leaving only a few great plazas of mosaic stone exposed to the bleaching sun. Perhaps it's because the kingdom was tenuous, small, and only lasted for a brief time. Perhaps it's because old Altem was never a city of any great size.

For a few brief centuries, Al'this clung to the north and its roots as a heritor of Ys. Part of that connection rested in the Al'thissan requirement that, like the later-to-follow Protectorate of Dorlinum, its supreme leaders and highest levels of functionary must all be magic-users. Wizards were the order of the day in Al'this, and a number of sites were chosen to serve as magistracies throughout the north of the land.

Contest with the dwarves of Mount Sirune and the foemen of Hard Heath and the Untamed Lands further north was inevitable. Battle rocked Al'this almost from its very first days, and Calanthea and Teraspis gave the Al'thissans no quarter along their southern border. It was with great perspicacity, then, that the Al'thissan rulers, who were known as Altharchs, made bargains with the remaining populations of stone giants throughout the Reach, drawing them inexorably northward, and awarding individual giants with generalship of the Al'thissan armies.

Even within Al'this, there was an intrinsically dangerous tension: the subjected Thessalians of the Reach, who thought of themselves as a noble people descended from the Spear-bearer, and resented the presence of Al'thissan sorcerers, who considered themselves to be descendants of the half-elves of Ys. The Thessalian retaliation that emerged in the centuries after the fall of Al'this was, of course, a concerted hatred of the Elvish powers, which ended with the war between Tholnia and Tailimisiä.