I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it here, I’ll never get it done in time…
Chapter 44 was already in first-draft form, but Chapters 45 and 46 were only a very rough outline and needed considerable expansion to achieve first-draft status.
I feel it necessary to warn that some of the violence in Chapter 45 is graphic, and draws apon the post-event analysis of several modern-day tragedies such as the events at Columbine and Australia’s Port Arthur Massacre. As such, it may be distressing to some readers.
While it is part of the writer’s job to get inside the heads of their characters, I condemn such thoughts and actions in any real-life setting, and urge anyone suffering from depression, intense feelings of isolation, or self-hatred to seek professional assistance – NOW.
I fervently wish that the emotional states that I describe in chapter 45 remain forevermore existent only in works of fiction. I don’t expect it to be so; the potential to enter dark places within a psyche is present in all of us. But I wish it, nevertheless, and reserve my sympathy, first and foremost, for the victims of such tragedies and their families and friends left behind.
Dwarfwar III: A Suspicion
There was one elf, named Ulassor Fairstep, who was both privy to and greatly troubled by what he overheard at the council. He was the elf who had slipped through Dwarvish Lines to consult the human genius, Dejua Carnassian, who had taken the time to instruct him in the fundamentals of logical thinking, so that he might more correctly relate his findings to the Elven Council. After giving his report, he was dismissed, but chose to stay close to answer any further questions the council might require. He had heard the testimony of his fellow, relaying the wisdom of the human Archprelate, and he had heard the report of the Huyundaltha, and the subsequent debate in the council.
How, he wondered, would Molgoth have twisted the spell being woven against the Dwarves? For if the Dwarves had captured the Circle Of Harmony, there would have been no Spellweaving against them to complete; and if they had not, Molgoth could not, from within the Dwarven realm, have reached it in order to influence the shaping of the spell. Logically, therefore, Molgoth could not have achieved his ends from the location in which he was encountered; he could only have done so from within the Elven Lands, indeed, from amongst the ranks of the Spellweavers themselves.
Further, the rhetoric of the council debate had been suggestive. A proposal to continue working the great spell against the Dwarves even after the signing of peace terms, and the mere suggestion that it would be better to strike without warning and without good cause, these were not normal for an Elf. They more closely resembled the actions of a Drow; but no Drow could penetrate Elvarheim undetected. Elven sight would reveal their allegiance to the Spider Queen immediately. However, if it could be stated that the corruption of the Drow were reflective of the influence of Molgoth without being symptomatic, the pattern could be termed diagnostic, an indication that Molgoth had indeed corrupted one or more members of the Elven Race. Two different sets of evidence alleged then that Molgoth had manipulated the Elvish Council. in the absence of evidence (as opposed to wishful thinking) to the contrary, he therefore had to assume that it was so.
How could that have been done from beyond the Elven borders? it could not, he concluded. It would have be performed within close proximity, and subtly, and slowly, or it would have been detected. That indicated that not only had Molgoth or his agents been lurking within Elvarheim uninvited, they had been doing so for a very long time, undetected. Again, a Drow could not do this; only one with the skill and power of a God could deceive so many Elves so completely. And if Molgoth was here, then he was, logically, not within the chamber of the Dwarves; what had been defeated there was an Avatar, a representation, nothing more. It must be so, for how else could it be explained that they had all returned, sustaining no casualties in that final battle? The Huyundaltha were skilled and wise, but that seemed improbable under the circumstances, to the point of total absurdity.
How would matters have proceeded without the bravery, sacrifice, and success of the Huyundaltha? The Dwarves would have slowly but surely devoured the ranks of those sent to defend the Circle, until the council became desperate enough to authorize the use of the Spellweaver’s final solution. Molgoth would then have twisted the spell, probably revealing himself in arrogance in the process, redirecting it to achieve his goal.
And if he was here at that time, then he must logically still be here! Waiting, while the council deliberated; waiting while work continued on the weaving of a spell so despicable that no Elf would escape the spiritual taint of responsibility; waiting until the spell was ready. And, once it was prepared, then what? Either he would be in a position to launch it without council approval, or he would once again issue forth an avatar, and cause an immediate and unexpected resumption of hostility by the Dwarves, persuading the council to invoke this dreadful ending, or perhaps he was continuing to twist the hearts and minds of the Council in order to persuade them to use the spell once that horrific device was complete. Perhaps this had been his plan all along, for some obscure reason.
Could he discern the identity of the infiltrator through sheer logic? No, for he had clearly influenced many, and extremely subtly. Molgoth might be concealed as any of those who still pressed for the use of the Genocide Spell, or even – if his corruption were sufficiently strong – one of those who had changed their vote, so as to maintain his hiding place. Well Ulassor remembered the words relayed from the human Archprelate when speaking of the Chaos Powers: “They are masters of Deception”, and while Molgoth had claimed to be only an Infelstrata, the plans he had revealed were too broad, too enduring, and his actions too subtle and profound.
Even supposing that at each step he had simply taken advantage of whatever opportunities were presented to him, in the way of a child of chaos, with the apparent depth of planning something overlaid apon events by hindsight, it was too much for a mere Infelstrata. His powers were clearly greater than the common Demon, and there was nothing in any human Canon that he knew of to prevent a Chaos Power impersonating a lesser threat. Could a true Infelstrata have manipulated both Lolth and mighty Corellan – without their knowledge? Could he have done so and been completely confident that he would remain undetected? Only the might of a full Chaos Lord would suffice, and even then only if the Humans were more right than the Elves had ever credited.
And finally – if this logic were truth, how might the lurking Chaos Power be unmasked and undone? Without knowing who to target, all must be considered suspect – only a danger that threatened the lives of all Elven Spellweavers would suffice to drive the true Molgoth from hiding. Perhaps in binding himself to a mortal form in the fashion of the Infelstrata, he had himself become mortal; perhaps not, but the inflicting of a mortal blow without discernable effect would also expose the infiltrator for who and what he truly was. But it was not going to be that simple; it was forbidden for one Elf to strike against another to kill, it was for that monstrous act writ large that the Drow had been banished. No matter the provocation, Ulassor simply could not pursue such a course; his hands trembled, his grip became palsied and weak, and his legs grew rubbery at the mere thought of assaulting another Elf with harmful intent. What could he do when the act that needed commission was one forgiven to him?
Even as he agonized over this painful conundrum, Ulassor remembered that the Council had given reluctant leave to the tainted members of the Huyundaltha to exile themselves, which reminded him of the reasons for the Huyundaltha demand. In a flash of insight, Ulassor realized the answer: only by turning Molgoth’s corruption against itself could catastrophe be averted. Swiftly, he moved to intercept those who were intent on denying themselves the home they loved out of love for that home, and he told them “Abide a moment, honored Huyundaltha; for your people still have need of you, and more especially, of what you have become.”
Dwarfwar III: The Revenge Of The Huyundaltha
Swiftly, Ulassor summed up his arguements to those who had sacrificed everything they held dear in defending their Homes. To suggest that they were outraged does not do justice to the towering anger and sense of outrage they experienced. Unlike most Elves, these were trained Huyundaltha, accustomed to swift and decisive action. There were only three exits from the clearing beneath the branches of the Ciltherosa where the Council gathered to debate, and by tradition only one was used by the representatives of the Comesdhail Osfadara Litrithe. They could not count on the hidden Molgoth using this exit, however, nor were the Huyundaltha entirely convinced that the hidden Chaos Power lurked amongst the spellcasters; any within the Elvish Council, the Gilandthor, might be the hidden viper.
The only solution: strike with deadly intent at all who attempted to depart that gathering until no more sought to do so; then move inward to the Council Glade to attack any who quailed within. Most would fall, killed or wounded at the first stroke; others would seek to defend themselves in natural Elvish ways, either by Spellcraft, by invoking the power of the glade, or by personal ability at arms; but the Huyundaltha were specifically trained to penetrate those defenses, and all would thus fall, until the one was threatened who would be forced to reveal himself or fall in the manner of an Elf.
Splitting their numbers into three, they concealed themselves at the entrances to the Ciltherosa Glade, concealed by their Elven Cloaks behind the many bushes that surrounded the Glade and gave the Gilandthor privacy while in session, all-but-invisible to even their fellow elves – if the latter did not search for them most intently.
As with meetings everywhere, some participants lingered to discuss issues, and others to exchange pleasantries and gossip, while some waited to add one final contribution before departure and others left the meeting area immediately. As the Siurthua (“Tainted”) Huyundaltha observed these initial departures, they struck from their places of concealment without warning, killing swiftly and silently, and covering the mouths of their victims to prevent giving warning to those who remained within. With the first such blow, repugnance for these acts filled their spirits, but at the same time the maddening lusts for blood, violence, revenge and domination rose once again, fueled by the hatred they felt for the being who had inflicted this necessity apon them. To avoid being overwhelmed by remorse and self-loathing, they yielded fully to the madness. They hated what they were doing, hated being forced into exile by that hatred, hated Molgoth for bringing this defilement apon them, hated the council for their naivety in permitting the Evil of Molgoth to dwell unnoticed in their midst, hated Corellan for unknowingly singling them out to bear this burden, hated Lolth for her Hatred of the Elves which had led to the necessity of Huyundaltha in the first place, and above all else hated themselves for feeling this way; and into each blow they invested the full force of each of these hatreds.
Knowing that each successful killing of a council member only confirmed the innocence of the deceased, each further fueled the fury of the Siurthua, and added to their determination that those who fell would not have been sacrificed in vain. Inevitably, driven by such intense malevolence that conscious awareness of their actions withered and was consumed by it, the violence became an end unto itself, and the attackers stopped caring whether or not they remained undetected. Almost half the council members had fallen, struck down with little or no warning, before one managed a startled exclamation. Another member of the Council, hearing this, went to investigate as the remainder watched; when he was struck down, his severed head bouncing and rolling back into the glade, those present became fully aware that they were under attack.
They shouted for help, and several other Elves came to investigate, and then, to intervene. These, too, were struck down indiscriminately, but in the process the alarm spread. Only a handful of minutes had passed since the initial killings, but Elvarheim was already buzzing with the news, conveyed from tree to tree. The entire Elvish race became simultaneously aware of the acts of despicable villainy being committed by the Siurthua, including many of the lesser Huyundaltha who had not been selected for the mission into the Dwarven Tunnels. Abandoning whatever they had been doing, thought and deed synonymous, these raced toward the scene of the ongoing slaughter.
As they approached, Ulassor attempted to persuade them not to interfere, knowing before breath was taken that this was in vain. Nevertheless, it hinted to the Huyundaltha that there was a reason – be it good or bad – behind the actions of the Siurthua. Rather than attacking, they attempted to seek an explanation from those whose exile had been pronounced by the Council, and even managed to draw one or two out of their monomaniac focus on destruction. To the Huyundaltha, though, their allegations sounded like deranged and paranoid ravings; the popular belief amongst those witnessing this brutal clash was that the thought of abandoning their homes had driven them into a despair so great that they had gone insane, a malady to which Elves are not normally susceptible.
Even as some of the Siurthua fought to keep their former friends and allies back, the balance began advancing into the glade, killing any who stood in their path. Finally, only Therasalle, one of the Spellweavers on the Council remained, backed into a corner by one of the Tainted while the others hold off their brethren. After a murderous stroke had been deflected by the Spellweaver’s Alkaith, and a second dodged by the narrowest of margins, Therasalle gave desperate voice to one final utterance: “How dare you? Do you know who I am?” The only response was another flurry of blows by the approaching Siurthua.
Dwarfwar III: Corruption Incarnate
By now, there were several Huyundaltha dueling with the Siurthua in the clearing. None had seen anything that might indicate that matters were not as they seemed; on the contrary, the elderly Therasalle had said and done nothing that seemed inappropriate to his station and expertise. No special skill with the blade had been evidenced, his defensive moves had just the right amount of desperation and nimbleness to be plausible in an Elf of his years and condition. Even that slightly arrogant expression of disbelief had exactly the right tone of desperation to be believed.
His reaction when the Siurthua pressed their attack was a different story. Abruptly, the aged Spellweaver gripped his curved dagger with a new and unsuspected skill, and it moved with impossible speed to deflect each stroke of the incoming flurry of blows. In a multitude of voices too large to be contained within the slight form of the aged Elf, Therasalle exclaimed, “Pathetic Eflling, you have ruined everything!”
Black sparks began to erupt from beneath the skin of the Spellweaver, streaming from his body like a horrible dark smoke and gathering into a swirling black cloud overhead; as each was added to the totality, the counselor shrunk inwardly, withering into a desiccated husk. The edges of the cloud roiled and pulsated in a sickening manner as lightning as black as night played across its surface. With Elven Sight, those in the glade began to perceive, dimly, other forms within the still-growing cloud – Human, Halfling, Verdonne, Dwarf, Spider, Dragon, Bugbear, Troll – and none doubted who or what they were witnessing. Molgoth stood revealed, and instantly the Huyundaltha and Siurthua were reunited, and turned their hostility against him in full measure.
Flocks of arrows were unleashed, but these passed through the cloud without harm. Swords sliced naught but empty air. Clerics began prayers for Corellan for guidance and intervention, but as each began to chant or gesture, they were transfixed by the bolts of black lightning, exploding into fragments which rained down.
Suddenly, without quite understanding how, the Elves knew that the cloud was smiling at them – a smile of infinite hatred and malice. “Perhaps you would enjoy confronting me in this form,” the unholy chorus of voices in pain wailed, and the cloud began to coalesce into a humanoid figure standing thirty feet tall. “You beloved Other thought me a God when first I moved amongst them in this guise,” it added, as the form began to reveal details. Muscle rippled beneath the surface of the dark leathery skin wearing gleaming black mail and armed with an impossibly large curved sword. The face was improbably square-jawed, clean-shaven (save for a pock-marked stubble) and broad; the features included puffed lips, scarred cheeks, upturned nostrils flaring with an expression of permanent disgust, two fan-shaped ears protruding from either side of the monstrous head, and beneath a single heavy brow, a single central eye, pink and red-veined. Greasy hair swept back into a rude knot at the creature’s waist level. “They named me Gruumsh, and in this form they empower me with their prayers and sacrifices. Do you not appreciate the irony? Joke about this, if you can.”
With savage blows, even while his form was still indistinct, the immense Orc-God swung his sword, and with every stroke, one or two of the Elves in the glade was cleaved in twain. The creature threw its head back and roared in exultation. “I had forgotten how good the taste of destruction was within my mouth! For centuries I have been imprisoned within the weak and effeminate confines of Therasalle. No More! I AM AGAIN MOLGOTH, and you are as much my creations as those of Corellan the Usurper, to destroy or to remake as I see fit! On your knees! Prostrate yourselves before me, or face utter ruin!”
Most of the surviving Elves within the glade were already blown down, bowled over by the hurricane force of these exultations, which could be heard throughout the forest. Only one, pinned to a tree at his back which had supported him, was still on his feet. Even as several of the surviving Huyundaltha dragged themselves to their feet and – through moans of pain from the sheer presence of the nihilistic spirit – announced “Never!” in a single ringing tone, that lone Elf, last survivor of the Siurthua, fell to his knees in seeming supplication, his head bowed as he cowered before the revealed Chaos Incarnate. And then, as his fellows gaped in disbelief, he raised his head to look Gruumsh square in it’s lone eye, and with a wicked grin, gave his answer in a spiteful, hate-filled whisper: “Never.”
Suddenly, the entire forest began to sing. Trees and birds and squirrels and insects and deer and sheep and bears and all manner of other creatures joined in. Each may have been able to contribute only a single note, or may have contributed many; and they sung not to Gruumsh but to the Circle Of Harmony. And to this song, the circle responded, singing counterpoints and harmonies, extending the melody in richness and in depth, and the song they sang was one of confinement. Suddenly, and clearly against his will, Molgoth’s huge Orc-God form collapsed in apon itself, and shrunk and shriveled, until all that remained was the shape of a Halfling. “While it is confined in mortal form, it is mortal,” sang the last of the Siurthua, echoed by the entire Elvish Forest, completing the Spellweaving, the ultimate rejection of Chaos by Life itself.
Having completed this secret spellweaving, only possible because Molgoth had forgotten what made Elvarheim different from any other stand of trees, the last of the Siurthua collapsed. only now revealing the broken-off branches of the Ciltherosa that had pieced his vitals when he had been slammed against the tree by the force of the Chaos Power’s eruption. Even as the surviving Huyundaltha fell apon the squealing Halfling shell which contained and constrained the vital essence of Molgoth and hacked it to pieces, the ultimate winner of the third great Dwarfwar rolled over and looked up at the branches of the Ciltherosa. With his final breath, he announced, “In this place I renounce the name I have born, for it represents what I was. To this place, I bequeath my spirit and the curse it carries. I will not sully the blessed isle with the taint of my shadow; I entrust it to this sacred tree to guard forever, that others may feel the shadow of that shadow, and learn from it the truths of this conflict.”
He gave a gasp and lay still. “He always was long-winded,” commented one of the surviving Huyundaltha, “and always did have to have the last word.”
As if to prove his former companion right, the dying Siurthua roused himself once more. “Never again must the Children of Corellan ignore the threat of Corruption Incarnate, the Chaos Powers.”
“Has he finished yet?” asked another Elf.
“Not yet. He was a bard, once, and would never be able to resist holding on for one more dénouement,” came the reply. “He has earned that right.”
Again, as if to prove this statement correct, the dying elf rallied once more to croak out, “I surrender my spirit to serve as a reminder of this… for all… time.”
For several minutes, the elves waited respectfully, waiting to see if there was any more to come, but the Siurthua had finally entered the great silence.
Then, several Elves entered the glade cautiously. With the interference of the would-be destroyer-of-all removed, Clerics were able to heal the wounded Huyundaltha; none of the Tainted had survived the battle. They also reported that several council members had survived long enough to receive curative magics, and would eventually recover. Porters arrived with litters and began to remove the bodies of the fallen, all save that of last of the Siurthua, which the Huyundaltha directed be left in state until the Forest reclaimed it. With these instructions, the Elves lifted the litters of wounded and dead, and turned, and left the glade.
The Ongoing Elvish Glossary
- Alkaith: Curved 14-inch dagger favored as a weapon and general cutting tool by Elvish Spellcasters and some High Elves.
- Arnost: Simple Speech (Modern “Common”, a human tongue)
- Arrunquessor: Plains Elves
- Ayer: Nuthanori word meaning “Squat”. Mont Ayer is the name of one of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands.
- Calquissir: High Elves
- Ciltherosa: A variety of tree which grows very tall before erupting into successive crowns of branches of diminishing size which arch and curve horizontally.
- Comesdhail Osfadara Litrithe Congress Of Spellweavers
- Corellan: The First
- Drow: “Those Who Dwell Apart” (in Nuthanorl). Added to Ogre by the Drow with the meaning of “Smart”.
- Ellessarune: The “Shining City” of the Tarquessir, home of the Elvish King and capital of the Elven Lands to this day.
- Eltrhinast: “Guiding Spirit”
- Elvarheim: “Blessed Leafy Home”: The Elven Forest, homeland of the Tarquessir and the centre of Elven Power in modern times
- Gilandthor: “The Gathering”, the formal title of the Elvish Council.
- Hithainduil: High Elven Language
- Huyundaltha: “Masters Of The Ondaltha” (literal), “Bladedancers” (colloquial). Formerly Noletinechor, now Guardians Of Elvish Society.
- Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
- Infelstreta: “Demon” in Hithainduil.
- Isallithin: “The Sundered”, a name applied to Aquatic Elves
- King: A human title interpreted by Elves as “speaker to others” and defined as such within their language.
- Lesiatrame: “Bright Ego”, a deprecating term used to describe Human Gods, rendered suspect during the commencement of the third Great Dwarfwar.
- Magi: A corruption of the Zamiel word “Machus”, which means “of the wise.”
- Magfelstreta: “Devil” in Hithainduil.
- Mithryl: the Elvish name of an extremely fragile metal given in trade by the Dwarves to the Elves. The word is imported from Dwarven, who in turn obtained it from the Zamiel Tongue name of the metal, “Mithral”. “Mithryl” means “Moonsilver” in Elven. The word also enjoys popular usage as a metaphor for a treasure found which appeared initially worthless.
- Mithral: the Drow name for Mithryl. A literal translation from Zamiel is “Shadowsilver”.
- Mont: Nuthanori word meaning “High Place”. Used human-style in the naming of Mountains.
- Noletinechor: “Lore Shields”, an elvish historical vocation
- Nuthanorl: Low Elven Language, Common Elven
- Ondaltha: A two-weapon combat style based apon Elvish Dance, practiced exclusively by Huyundaltha.
- Osfadara Litrithe Spellweaver, literally ‘Weaver of Harmony’.
- Sarner: A human abbreviation of the Hithainduil word “Saranariuthenal” which means, literally, “Swift and Wide”. The River Sarner runs through the central valley of Elvarheim.
- Siurthua: Tainted
- Tarquessir: Forest Elves
- Thonsutriane: “Dark Egos”, a deprecating term used to describe Chaos Powers, rendered suspect during the commencement of the third Great Dwarfwar.
- Thuyon: Nuthanori word meaning “Tall Spires”. Mont Thuyon is the name of the taller of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands; Modern Elvarheim lies between the foothills of Mont Thuyon and the River Sarner.
- Verdonne: “Quickbranch”, an artificial race created by Elves to be “The Guardians Of The Forest”.
- Zamiel: Drow Language
Next time: Final victory in the Third Great Dwarfwar has been achieved, but not without exacting a toll on everyone involved. Chapters 47 to 51 examine the Dwarfwar Legacies…
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Orcish Mythology
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 52-54
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 55-58
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 59-62
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 63-65
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 66-68
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 69-70
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 71-73
- Who Is “The Hidden Dragon”? – Behind the curtain of the Orcs and Elves Series
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapter 74
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 75-77
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 78-85