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…
For those who read the player-redacted version of The Ages Of Existence (presented in Inventing & Reinventing Races in D&D: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3), it should be clear that the story is now deep in The Age Of Genocide, as humans call it. In contradiction to the human history, the Age Of Empires starts before the Age Of Heresies and continues straight through into the age of Genocide. But humans have always thought their own history is the more important than that of anyone else.
That might give the impression that we’re only about half-way through, but as the Ages grow more recent, they also get shorter – which means that I expect fewer chapters per Age. Even with the fact that this entire Orcish side of the story was originally only supposed to be three chapters – not the 17-or-so that it has turned into. Two more weeks should get us past that part of the story, at least.
What’s more, as they advance, there’s more that I can do with a copy-and-paste from existing materials, and there’s less critical info that the players don’t already know – so I can get a lot more compressed. All of which means there should be more chapters per week and fewer weeks to the finish. My best estimate is that the Orcs and Elves series is 70-75% complete as of the end of the end of the Orcish Clan Wars. And that’s a good thing – fiction, even of the campaign background sort, is a LOT more work than a non-fiction article of the same length!
Just thought I’d offer that as a time-check for those looking forward to my posting something else on these Mondays.
Oh yes, one more thing. Once again, this is very much a first draft, as can be discerned from the over-use of “signaler” and “signaling” in Chapter 64.
Clan Wars X: Huyundaltha On Tour
When Corallen set the Huyundaltha aside and taught them how to use their sheer “Elvishness” as a weapon in the defense of their race, he did more than simply create and educate them in a new fighting style and philosophy; he gave them new abilities that set them somewhat aside from their kin. Although the majority of Elves did not know it, the Huyundaltha were not simply a vocation, they were an entirely new sub-race of Elves – one that members of the core race could aspire to and join, for the differences between them were artificially imposed.
One of those gifts was a sharing of spirit, an ability to call apon each other’s reserves of stamina, clear-headedness, and resolve, of strength, nimbleness, and fortitude, and yes, of Elvishness itself, in time of need. Because it was contrary to their purpose for being, this was never revealed to even the most senior members of the Elvish Race; it was a secret known only to the Huyundaltha. When the inherent potential for bloodlust was aroused amongst the Huyundaltha expedition against Molgoth and his Cult Of Stone, those tainted by that disease of the spirit were not merely those present. While most remaining Huyundaltha were able to wall themselves off from it as anathema to their very Elvishness, they could do so only by sacrificing some of their own, drawing apon the spirit of Elvishness within them to protect the whole while leaving those donors unprotected.
Had there been warning, these donors might have been restrained. The reaction of the majority was instinctive, a part of their being. Twelve Huyundaltha gave of their souls and were corrupted in order to save the majority. These twelve were able to call apon the will and sense of purpose of their fellows to restrain their craving for blood, violence, and mayhem long enough to remove themselves from the conflict. Not to put too fine a point on it, they fled, lest their bloodlust turn them against their fellows. They had no inkling that this very bloodlust would become the key to victory against Molgoth. By the time the Demonic Agent of Chaos was destroyed, they were several days removed from the Elven Forest, on a self-imposed journey in search of redemption. They were listed as casualties of the final battle by their fellow Huyundaltha and, in its own somewhat existential way, that was truth.
They felt that destruction, even at that distance, and much of the insatiable need left them with that event; they had come to their senses, but still felt corrupted, tainted, by what they had experienced. Seeing themselves as condemned by their betrayal of the principles for which they stood, they remained resolute in their determination to exile themselves until they could achieve redemption. Travelling as surreptitiously as they could, feeling keenly that they were in hostile territory, they had observed parts of the Clan Wars of the Orcs, and pondered the meaning of events, and the motivations of those involved. They knew virtually nothing of Orcish Society, its organization, clan distinctions, and tensions; they perceived a monolithic culture inherently prone to violence. But their own recent experience opened a window to understanding and sympathy, and as they travelled through the Orclands and saw ample evidence of that propensity for violence, they also observed many acts of kindness and humanity that struck a familiar chord. A mother nursing her child; a beloved grandfather mourned; one sibling protecting another. Orcish society might be martial, and uncaring, and even cruel; but it was not inherently evil, and many Orcs had values in common with more civilized cultures. Perhaps there might even be sufficient common ground for eventual peace between Elves and Orcs.
This thought was something of a revelation to the Huyundaltha, and they decided to explore it further; they had no need to be anywhere urgently, and could linger over each new discovery for as long as desired. Those who dwelt in the walled cities were clearly the most civilized of the Orcs, and so they made the choice to watch events unfold and observe these dwellers in cities of stone. They had watched the betrayal of the alliance by the Bleeding Swords, had watched the division of the Army Of The One Eye, and had watched as Gruumsh exhorted the remnants of that army to cast the spells that would summon his army from beyond the sky.
This last development they had seen as greatly troubling, for the members of that army were not unlike Infelstreta, that which humans would term Demons. And then, their Elven Sight, enhanced by their nature as Huyundaltha, felt the first stirrings of the preparations within the city to repel the army encamped at their doorstep with forbidden magics, and knew they had to investigate. Entering the tunnels carved out by the Troglodyte Sappers at the commencement of hostilities, they had found the first Orcish Guard in sight and surrendered to him, demanding to be taken to the rulers of the city.
Clan Wars XI: The Improbable Alliance
Of course, The Huyundaltha did not explain all of this to the council when presented to them under guard. They spoke of fighting a great evil, and of watching their neighbors, and the common ground between Elves and Orcs that they had unexpectedly observed, and of witnessing the conflict between Orcish factions, and – lastly – of sensing the casting of forbidden magics within the walls of the city.
The council of Orcs refuted the statement, and declared the Elves to be liars, and untrustworthy; the council admitted to ordering preparations made, but had not ordered the rituals to be commenced. The Drow Ambassador, Tathzyr, sneered at them, taunting them with the fragility and improbability of their story. This infuriated the Huyundaltha, who seized the weapons of the guards who held them and moved to attack the Ambassador, the expressions on their faces showing that they relished this turn of events. The Guards attempted to impose themselves between the Huyundaltha and the Clan Council, but the Elves danced between them as though they were no more mobile than trees and closed on the Ambassador.
This turn of events astonished Tathzyr; violence had never been the first resort of choice of his surface kin, and when driven to it, they never exhibited such savage glee at the prospect. Belatedly, he realized that these are not like any other elves of his experience, they stood astride both Elvish and Drow natures, sharing a little of both. A squad of archers armed with crossbows emerged from the shadows and took aim at the Elves, as the Clan-Chief instructed them to put up their arms, the Drow was under the Council’s protection.
Before the elves could respond, a messenger burst into the council chambers, covered in blood. Without waiting for instructions to do so, he reports on the beginning of the Divine Battle on the plains before the city walls, and the citizens of the city are in panic. The Shamans have a strangely glazed look, and have become motionless where they stood, as rigid as statues, and the rituals are enacting themselves without Orcish participation, and he has had to fight his way through the streets to warn the council.
The Ambassador was forced to concede to the council that it sounded very much like their visitors may have been correct, as improbable as it seems. Since they were now as trapped within the city as the rest of the populace, perhaps common interests should be set before ingrained hostilities, as unnatural as that might seem – in the face of the greater unnaturalness that confronted them all – and told everything.
The Clan council mulled this over for a few moments, but the bloodied figure of the messenger, now swaying with exhaustion, served as a sobering reminder and spur to decision. The council demanded the Elves give their parole, and the Huyundaltha agreed. The Ambassador then gave a compressed briefing that synopsized circumstances and events with great economy, and the leader of the Elvish band was accepted as another Advisor to the Clan Council. The most unlikely of alliances began with a council of war.
Clan Wars XII: Council Of War
It might seem, to those who were not there, that the greater intellectual capacities of the Drow and Elves led them to dominate the council, but this ignores several important facts. While the Ambassador was arguably the most intellectually-gifted participant, he had limited understanding and less awareness of magic, much to the surprise of the Elves. The Huyundaltha possessed that awareness and as great an understanding of arcane and spiritual magical forces as could be boasted by any non-practitioner of the arts, but they were unfamiliar with the society, and were few in number. They were a martial order, but one trained to react and work in unison without need for lengthy and involved communications, almost by instinct; their training and abilities, by their nature, were not suited to operations in concert with members of other races. The Orcs, by contrast, were not merely a martial order, they were a martial society who practiced warfare as a professional art-form, and who had developed techniques for doing so in companionship with other races, and the clan council was comprised of the most gifted practitioners from amongst the clan. They were not merely muscle, they were experts, and this was their clan and their city, and that expertise enabled them to participate in the council of war as equals.
Sidebar: The Elvish Sight and Magic
Although at the time noted merely as a fact to be puzzled over when opportunity presented itself and accepted in the meantime, it is worth a brief diversion from the narrative to explore the inability of Ambassador Tathzyr to sense the ‘forbidden magic’ as did the Huyundaltha.
Only in recent times has it become clear that from the moment of division, Lolth began blocking her subjects from their training in the use of this sense. Some records suggest that she sought to transform this ability into another sense, akin to the first, but more adapted to the underground life of the Drow. Without training, “elvish sight” immediately began to stagnate amongst the Drow.
It is now believed that this was deliberate on her part and intended to aid her subjects in seeing her as a single divine being, forgetting her origins – and any vulnerabilities that this true nature might have entailed.
The few throwbacks who emerged in each generation were discovered at birth; the females were inducted into the priesthood, under Her direct control; the males were inducted into the Mages, a caste that were ruthlessly dominated by the rest of society, or marked as sacrifices to be killed in her name in stylized rituals.
It is often speculated that the lack of this sense was fundamental to the difference in character that can be observed when comparing Elves with Drow. While Elven sight can be used to sense arcane and spiritual forces, its primary function is as an awareness of life force and the bonds between all living things. This perception makes the Elves feel themselves to be a part of the natural world, its absence permitted the Drow to perceive themselves as dominant over nature, bending it to their will, and capable of acts of villainy and cruelty beyond anything that could be imagined by their Elvish kin.
There was little that could be done about the rituals casting themselves save to monitor events, and that was of little use if reports could not reach the council; messengers having to fight their way through the streets was entirely too problematic, proposed the Huyundaltha. The Orcs had developed a signaling system using flags that enabled them to coordinate tactics at a distance, replied the Council; the meaning attached to these signals was of no direct application, but new meanings could be assigned to those signals. The information would be simple, but communications would be immediate. It would take time to train the soldiers who knew this system of signaling in the new meanings, however.
Not necessarily, responded the Elves; they could learn the new meanings as quickly as they were devised and translate them into the old “language”, so that the Orcish signalers could convey them – provided they were instructed to signal exactly what they were told. This would require each signaler to be paired with an Elf, but not every site needed to be monitored in this way; what happened at one would match events at another. Some redundancy would be desirable, in case one pair were unable to signal due to events, but three or four such pairs should be more than enough.
Squads of soldiers should be positioned to defend these signalers and take action if instructed; those instructions must also be conveyed by means of this system of signaling, one of the Orcs suggested. Reinforcements should be stationed nearby, ready to take action should the first squad be attacked by whatever was being summoned, suggested another, tactics to which the rest readily agreed. They immediately began listing the intelligence and commands that might need to be communicated by the signals, which several of the Huyundaltha memorized before being paired with an Orc familiar with the signaling system.
One of the shaman should be removed from the place where they were preparing the rituals and brought to the council chambers for observation and examination, suggested the Ambassador. Yes, agreed the elves, and since presumably there were some Shamans-in-training who were not considered adept enough to assist in the preparations, someone should investigate to determine if they were all paralyzed in the same way as the participants were reported to be; if not, one of them may be able to invoke spiritual abilities to gain a better understanding of what problems afflicted the paralyzed, suggested the Elves. Squads were immediately dispatched to carry out these tasks.
The council then considered the problem of the divine conflict, and its participants. Gruumsh they knew, but why did the army summoned from beyond the sky not resemble the army of ascended Orcs that divine lore described? Who was his opponent, and what was his nature?
Did the Bugbears have a deity of their own?, asked the Elves, who had never thought of the creatures as especially spiritual before. They do, informed the Ambassador. When my Queen allied herself with the Ogres in ages past, the Bugbears adopted worship of her from their then-masters; but they gave her a Bugbear mate to symbolize the devotion of their race to her – some fictitious creation of their own delusions that they named Hruggek, who goes amongst his people in the guise of an ordinary Bugbear and delights in ambushing his opponents by means of that deception. They also had a god of the underworld where Bugbears found wanting were eternally tortured, though the Ambassador did not know his name, only that he was a great horned beast. Tathzyr had always been told that no such beings really existed, and it surpassed the bounds of his imagination to contemplate the Queen Of Spiders ever accepting such a mate. It simply wasn’t in her nature, agreed the Elves.
Nevertheless, this description so matched the events at the commencement of the divine battle that it was immediately accepted by the council that Hruggek, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, was now in battle with Gruumsh, the sound of the conflict having punctuated every word that had been said in the council. At this thought, the expression of the leader of the Huyundaltha grew troubled, but he said nothing of the reasons for his concern.
Much had been achieved in the first hours of the coalition between the unlikely allies, and the Clan Leader Agronak called for refreshments, and instructed the participants to take a few minutes’ break to calm their thoughts before the next problem was addressed. During this intermission, the leader of the Huyundaltha sought out the Drow Ambassador and began speaking to him in quiet tones so that the other council members could not overhear.
The similarities in the various situations could not be overlooked, he suggested. Their allies were probably not willing to accept the notion without some more concrete proof, but consider: Each of the forces involved had been disrupted by the intervention of the deity to whom they felt the greatest affinity. Gruumsh had led the Red Eye clan against the Mailed Fists, Ilneval had led the Bleeding Sword clan against the Red Eyes, Bahgtru had led the Mailed Fists in resisting both and advised them to prepare these now out-of-control rituals, and now Hruggek or some pretender to the name had led the Bugbears against the Red Eyes – and put them in position to oppose both the Mailed Fists and Bleeding Swords. If “Gruumsh” commanded an army that was not the one he was supposed to have, did that not cast doubts on his validity as well? None of the Orcish Deities would benefit from this general conflict; ‘Bahgtru’ may have suggested an outside influence, Luthic, as being responsible, but what if that was a half-truth? If ‘Hruggek’ and “Gruumsh’ were not what they appeared, none of the other ‘deities’ seemingly involved might be what they seemed, either.
What he did not mention out of consideration for the current alliance was that he was already predisposed to consider the possibility because the Elves considered Lolth to be a false Goddess – and that the Ambassador’s mind had probably rejected the possibility because it would naturally shy away from any such “heretical” thought. Repeatedly bearing down on the similarities in the way that he had left little room for the Ambassador to evade the proposition, and – by implication – the problem of how to broach the subject with the Orcs.
In the meantime, Goral, the Clan Warblade, had approached another member of the Huyundaltha and broached a subject that had vexed him repeatedly over the last few weeks. How could it be that no matter how secretly they laid their plans, the Red Eyes always knew where they were massing their forces to break out of the siege and were able to position their forces to prevent the success of the strategy? The Huyundaltha considered the problem while minotaur servants began distributing the refreshments ordered by Agronak. There can be only one possibility, he announced: you have a spy in your midst, or more than one, and they must be positioned to monitor the disposition of your forces. Impossible, came the reply; to foil such, we tried my issuing the instructions directly to the tribes concerned without notifying intermediaries, and chose the site at random. Abruptly, all heads turned toward the window as the fall of Gruumsh and the victory cry of Hruggek reverberated about the city.
At the sound of that victory cry, which was a signal as much as an exultation, each of the Minotaur servants drew weapons hidden in their peasant robes and stabbed at the nearest Orc with all his or her might. Only the ambassador remained at the window to witness the transformation of Hruggek into something that resembled both the underworld deity of the Bugbears – who quite understandably fled in terror from the apparition – and a Minotaur!
The Ongoing Elvish Glossary
I’m foregoing this while our attention is focussed on the Orcish side of the story, as it has no relevance to the narrative.
Next time: The Minotaur Revolution, The Hidden Dragon, and The Oracle of Gottskragg! Chapters 66-68!
- 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