A Letter to the Duke
Hail to my Good Lord, Duke Malmakan the Tamer of Beasts – may the grace of the One God forever flow in his veins! –
Your humble servant General Danshavlas of Grumya sends this message.
As a token of your army’s great victory, in your hand you hold the sacred dagger of the long-sought King of the Savage Plateau. To the savages this is incredibly powerful and important, for it is their founding god, their creator, called Gor, or sometimes Gorgor.
The Koralint Bay is a spectacular sight, like a land of giants. The immense Arkat Volcano lies to the left, in the west and towers above the clouds in a great green cloak. To the north rises the Uz Plateau, where the Lord of Night broods and hates us. Its steep cliffs are a hundred feet or more tall. Incredibly, far behind and towering over all was the snow-capped Dragon Mountain. And to the east, the stark cliffs of the Savage Lands, backed by bleak mountains and the tall, ice-capped castle of the gods.
Voromosteles “of the green hand” relays these: Volcano at 20; Plateau 15, and see Vesetris line 42; Dragon Mountain, 25! “…and she wept three days, surrendered;” Castle 15; Deep 12, but untouched by burn.
On the propitious day the Forward Eastern Army landed at the mouth of the Uxeler River, and within the day secured the fort. No one was present, save for a thousand corpses long decayed. They did not attack us. Because the cliffs are so difficult I sent the Senthen bowmen in small boats upriver where they landed and scouted for the enemy. The cowards of course never appeared, and so within a few days the entire army followed and assembled at the place that I have named Saint Ostar Field, for the day we landed.
One week later the sorcerers began their fires. Its ignition was hotter than their best minds expected, and so several hundred of my best men were burnt to death in the explosion. But on schedule it swept outward rapidly, leaving nothing but ash covered ground and rock behind. The army followed and scouted through everything. We killed almost everything that we found alive. The contingent led by Bishop Froaler of Beregor allowed the escape of a large flock of leather winged creatures. The Derel Guards were destroyed by one behemoth that had to be dispatched by the wizards. But we found many people, and these of course were the ghost bandits of the plateau. We found two places that were gateways to someplace, which the clerics damned with the holy book, and the Warcrafter sealed with magical stone.
After 25 miles the fire went out. Within its area we killed 42 people and others of the bandits, and their ghosts were hanging from the Yimpish Nets. The clerks read the Grand Statement, and then translators stood on the edge of the circle where the ash met the trees, and they shouted it in the mountain language of the bandits.
A little while later an old man came out of the woods to the north. He is the king of these people, who he called the Hartings, as in the old devil’s legends. He came with his two wives, and with trembling and tears he begged that we stop our magic or else the other half of his people would be killed. He was dressed in furs and leather, and his chain mail was weak and plain iron. One of his wives was young and beautiful, and the other old and ugly, and both were scantily dressed. The king surrendered this weapon, the sacred weapon of his people. The beauty and skill it has is impossible for these savages to do, and so this was either truly what they said-a thing made by the gods of old; or perhaps it is something imported from the Golden Empire, past the dragon lands.
His name is Beserid, and the sorcerers determined that he was truly who he said he was. For King Beserid agreed to all we said, and he swore that he and his tribe would ever after obey the Great Father to the west-that is of course to you my Great Duke Malmakan. Certainly now you may extend that map of yours to include the Savage Plateau!
The king led the army through the rest of his domain. They have no cities or forts, and their two towns are pathetic bundles of sticks and rocks. In the first one, called Urmart, the men destroyed an idol to their wind god, and at the second, called Kersted, burned an idol of naked genitals. Before we returned to Saint Ostar Field many others among them had come forth to see us. They are a small people, dark-haired and -eyed. But their men are puny and weak, and they have only avoided us because of their magic.
I believe, after a month in the company of King Beserid, that it was not they who destroyed the fort and its brave guardians. Beserid first singled out the behemoth we slew. When I explained that such a huge thing would have ruined the castle, he said that it must have been the Kitings-the monster men that live father north, towards the dragon lands. He was quite afraid of them, he said, and was worried that with half his tribe dead they might not make it through the winter. I gave him my deepest regrets and said I would leave behind some food for his people at our fort. I gave him a flag to wave when he came to the fort. It is of your Service Household, of course.
But the uz, the servants of the black prince, are certainly the greater foe in the region. I believe we have credited many deeds to the Hartings that had been done by the uzings. I can not believe those peoples were ever capable of destroying either Anixman’s army, nor the fortress. They are truly dangerous, as the bearer of this letter shall bear witness. He is the sole survivor of three lances who met eight of the krjalki on a road in the daytime.
The land that we burned is useless to supply food. The wild forests, the Larnti Forest said the king, cannot possibly provide sustenance for more than a few hundred people. Hence I withdrew the army. One thousand men, mostly from Beregor and Theuz are now stationed in the fortress, under the command of Bared of Serenenth. The Bishop of Beregor is there as well with his household, for magical defense. Also, Severin and his band.
The fleet shall sail this calm and beautiful bay and in the name of Makan and Duke Malmakan, collect loyalty and tribute from whatever other miserable natives live hereabouts, as has been ordered.
So, I am happy to report that we shall return to the port, as scheduled, but with the army.
In the grace of my lord and my God, I shall ever remain truly your servant, Danshavlas of Grumya. IOL, IOV.
Excerpt from the Nobility of Emperors
Duke Malmakan the Tamer of Beasts was killed while alone in his treasure chamber, by an assassin who was not there, but who wielded a gold and silver knife decorated in the style of the Golden Empire.
The mystery of this was solved decades later when a scholar was combing his records and came upon the famous letter now called the “Danshavlas’ Link,” translated above.
From the tribal storytellers
Oranvil was noted for his cleverness, his courage and battle, and also his care for the people of the land, whether Heortling or foreigners.
In the reign of Oranvil the land was invaded three times by armies from the west. In the first the Esvulari and Slontons marched up from the south. The king evaded them entirely, and they destroyed the foreigner’s towns along the river, but Oranvil had even evacuated those so the people went back afterwards. A young changer set a chaos army on them, and then King Oranvil defeated the Golden Knight and took his armor.
The next time a great army burnt a third of the land between the Bullflood and the Syphon. King Oranvil’s house singer, Stevalis, carried magic from the tribe into the house of the enemy, undetected by their own protection. Stevalis, Deresa and Enaesrola led the enemy general on a long tour, avoiding everything important. The army sailed away.
The long-term efforts of the invaders were generally positive. First, they had actually destroyed some of the major traditional threats to the Hendriki that had resisted them for centuries, especially the “behemoth.” And although the burnt area was unforested for decades, the wide area was afterwards a favorite area for grazing ponies until it was largely covered again by first growth forests.
The evil dogs came third, especially Narangros who had hunted the Hendrikings before. The king fought them sword to fang, and many men and more horses were killed. The king was himself mauled, but the dog killers prevailed. Only ghosts got away, and they attacked the sorcerers who had sent them to such defeat.
These defeats convinced the Slonton pirates that the region was too wild and dangerous. They called it the Savage Forest, and for generations only adventurers went up the fjords to the Savage Plateau.
This is where the Golden Champion comes from. The armor captured by King Oranvil was given to his champion, who never lost a battle against the invaders. It is the focus of power against the invaders, the God Learners. But the pirates became more rare, and the suit was retired to the guardian tomb. At various times a champion is called to the tomb of the last wearer, and enters the tomb and gets the armor without a fight.
The story of Stevalis
Stevalis is a warrior of the hunter people, one of the pony riders of the savage plateau. He wants to marry the king’s daughter but the king demands that he win three great victories against invaders. They had already established several fortresses along the tidal coasts, and “traders” were regularly passing north from Esvulari lands.
One of them, the Golden Knight, led an army north and into wild Heortland. When the warriors were shadowing the enemy Stevalis was nowhere to be seen and the king criticized this, though Ela defended him. “I am sure he has a plan,” she said.
Indeed, Stevalis was in the Stone Forest loading the Ice and Stone Band, upon boats that sailed upstream, against the Syphon. They couldn’t resist the opportunity to escape, of course, even though Stevalis told them what they would face. So one night as the Golden Knight’s army camped upon the shore of the Syphon the little fleet sailed up and its demented cargo fell upon the army. Carnage was great, and when the Golden Knight led other survivors away King Oranvil met them in fair combat, and prevailed.
The king agreed that Stevalis had met one third of the requirements. In secret, undiscovered, Stevalis and Ela made love one third of the way, with pleasure.
Another time the Slontos army invaded, and they were swift. They came up the Bullflood and landed an army at Stoneshore, the first wide landing area after the and simply burned up 600 squire miles of terrain, destroying every living thing in it. However, the king listened to the right voices and brought or sent nearly all his people to safety.
Stevalis planned with the priests and godar, and the Larnsti chief prepared him and two women. They went to the enemy commander, Donshavalas, and Stevalis said he was King Beserid of the Heortlings and agreed to do whatever they wished. He led the army on a prepared tour, avoiding many important places but being truthful in many others. He convinced the invaders to destroy two shrines that his king wanted destroyed. Then they departed, leaving another garrison at the White Shore Fort.
The king agreed that Stevalis had met two thirds of the requirements. In secret, undiscovered, Stevalis and Ela made love two thirds of the way, with great pleasure.
Third came the dogs. They were spirit dogs, the long-hated Narangros, but in the service of this enemy now. The men with the dogs rode upon ponies that were as swift as the Heortlings in the forests. Further, the dogs were both fierce and also great trackers, and many clans were caught even though they were as swift and clever as always. The king took his warband and attacked each pack in turn, killing the hunters one by one. He killed even Kang Rowl, who was guarding the son of the enemy king. He killed the boy too.
Stevalis fought alongside the king, and wherever there was a fight, he was there. He hated dogs and knew their ways. After the year-long hunt was over he had bite scars on every limb, his front, back and head.
The king agreed that Stevalis had met all of the requirements. In public, witnessed by all, Stevalis and Ela swore marriage and lived many years, with many children and descendants who were either famous or good people.