Life of a Newot
I shall now describe to you a bit more about what it means to be a newot in troll society. As a newot, one is treated as an equal with everyone in the clan, but you are also considered beneath everyone who is a full clan member. It is considered a matter of honor to remember your place. For example, although newots are expected to defend the clan and the moot, they work exclusively on menial tasks and cannot participate in activities of high honor, such as raids. The only exception to that, would be if a newot was assigned a specific task or quest, as a way of becoming a full member of the clan. A newot is an equal among a troll family, but cannot rut, flirt or marry a full member of the clan. This meant, that even though Quorra and I were mostly treated as equals, that I was beneath her as a clansman, and any hope I might have had for her and I, was completely out of the question as long as I remained a newot. That fact, combined with my former high status, were a great point of frustration and shame for me, as I come from a long line of proud warriors and leaders, and the disgrace of being a servant was hard to deal with. Had it not been for the kindness and good treatment of my adopted family, I do not believe I would have handled it nearly as well as I did.
Newots spend their days working and tending to things that full clan members do not. Many newots are tasked with menial jobs like maintaining fires, cooking, harvesting crops, cutting stone, tending livestock, or assisting the various craftsmen in the clan in whatever tasks they are doing. Although the life of a newot is not easy, it is not at all like Theran slavery, which many people who are ignorant of the ways of the trolls might insist. Rather, a newot has hope and respect. A newot can be accepted as a full clan member at any time. Many simply live out their lives happily as newots, and are quite content with that status. Many more eventually are made into full clan members, with all of the honor and freedom that bestows. A newot also has a certain amount of freedom even without being a full member of the clan. They are free to interact with the clan and roam around just as any clan member would. The only major difference is status and the work they are allowed to do. I rather liken the newot way of life to that of the serfs that work the lands all over Barsaive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in some ways, a newot has it better than a serf. A newot cannot be mistreated, as the mistreatment of a newot by any troll of the clan would be considered a great dishonor to the clan, and to the adopted family of the newot. A common serf in other places of Barsaive, however, can only hope to have a lord that is just, because protection from mistreatment does not exist for them.
Almost as soon as I was brought into the clan as a newot, I was made to work most days in the stone quarry. This was difficult work. Konigsberg had a marble quarry, so I had seen that type of work done before, but I never appreciated how hard it is. I spent that winter working the quarry with a number of other name-giver newots, including some low-land trolls who had been captured wandering too close to the Eastern peaks. This work was extremely hard, but the clan treated me well. I never wanted for food or sleep, and frankly, we didn’t work nearly as long of days as did many of the serfs in my homeland. The work put on quite a bit of muscle too. By the time winter was coming to an end, my muscles were noticeably bigger and leaner. But I was quite discontent, for I have a spirit that seeks more out of life than to be safe and well fed. I had ambition, and I wanted to go back to Konigsberg and take my rightful place as Thane.
Kerick and Draiden on the other hand, we doing much different tasks. Kerick was put to work with a shipwright, building and repairing airships. He became quite good at it, and as a follower of Uplandal, he was right at home building anything. On his off days, he spend time with an elf girl he met in the city. She too was a newot who worked with the small children of the clan. There was definitely some romance between them, and unlike Quorra and I, they were free to pursue it since they were both newots.
Draiden was put to work mining crystal. Like working the stone quarry, it was hard work. But like me, he didn’t mind it too much and had spare time. When we had chances to meet up, we would spar against each other and he would talk about home. He had parents, a brother and two sisters in the city of Konigsberg and he longed to return to them. Although he was treated well for the most part, he did not seem to have the bond with his adopted family that I did. One of his adopted brothers and him had fought a couple of times, because of perceived insults to his brother’s Katorr, which is his personal honor. One had to be careful when talking to trolls, as their system of honor was complex and it was not uncommon for other name givers to insult them without meaning to. Such was the case with Draiden.
As the winter was coming to a close, I was becoming quite fond of my new family. I could hardly look Quorra, in the eyes anymore, and her me, for the attraction between us was great and we could do nothing about it as long as I was stuck as a newot. Although most trolls spoke some Throalic, I was learning to speak the troll language, and Quorra was teaching me to read and write it, which greatly helped my understanding. I did not get to know Rorik or my adopted sisters well. Rorik was very busy, constantly out on his ship (which was Tago’s old ship) which was proudly named ‘Air Wolf’. He would also spend time dealing with clan elders and other ship captains about this or that. He would one day be the clan chieftain. Vargas, Elgorn and Honus I liked very much. Although I was quite tall and well built for a human, they dwarfed me in size. They all were at least 9 feet tall, compared to my height of 6’4”… they were massive. Although Elgorn was gone often, he taught me to ride one of the great wolves they he was constantly training. I’ve always been fond of dogs, and the wolf is the symbol of Konigsberg. One day I thought, I will ride one of these wolves back to Konigsberg. In what little free time I had, they would take time out to teach me things about troll combat in each of their disciplines. Vargas taught me to drop from great heights and catch myself using nothing but the wind and willpower. He also taught me the art of the Skyraider roar, that intimidates foes. At first, my human voice just made Honus laugh and Vargas frown, but I got good enough at it that I could sometimes affect them as much as they would affect me.
Winter was coming to an end, the weather was getting warmer. We were heading back to the town again after another long, hard day of work. The stone quarry was higher up in the mountain, and the stone blocks were carried back to the town by a small captured airship (I believe a former Theran barge) used simply for transporting heavy loads. All of us stone workers, had to finish breaking down the camp, stowing tools, and making our way back down to the town on foot. It was a long walk down a treacherous slope. I was tired, and looking forward to going home, eating supper with the family, drinking a Scoad (which is a powerful troll drink made of honey and grain), and maybe spending some time on the balcony with Quorra. My day off, Sunday, was tomorrow and once again Elgorn was going to work with me on my rather meager wolf riding skills. It was going to be fun. The wolf that I claimed as my own, we had named Smoke. Smoke was a bit of a runt, and only an adolescent, but he was a good learner and not too big for me to handle. He had grown fond of me, which Elgorn said was good news. Apparently, Crest Wolves are rather finicky. Tomorrow would be a good day.
I was with the last group of workers to leave the quarry that day. The group consisted of about 10 newots of various races and one of the troll stone masons, a full clansmen named Gromar, who oversaw our work. He always walked back to town with the newots at the end of the day. I was near the front of the line, walking only behind Stolod… a friendly dwarf who I had gotten to know a little over the last couple of months. Stolod was captured with Quorra nearly two years ago. He was a merchant from an area North of Travar. He had hired some mercenaries to protect his caravan, but when the trolls of the Stoneclaw moot attacked, they had simply fled leaving Stolod and Quorra alone to fend for themselves.
Stolod was now making his way down the path in front of me. We had been chatting ever since we left the quarry site. He was always full of stories of one type or another. Without warning, Stolod, normally sure-footed, tripped and fell as we were making our way down a particularly steep portion of the trail. I tried to grab him but I was not quick enough. He fell several feet, hit the trunk of an ironwood tree, and then sprawled out another fifteen feet below. For a split second, he lay still and then rolled over and began swearing up a storm. I began to rush down the hill, but he motioned that he was okay, so I stopped. He groaned and started to get to his feet. Suddenly his eyes went wide and he began to yell something, and then screamed as an arrow punched through his shirt and into his ribs. Suddenly there were a half dozen armed enemies springing out of the brush and trees. They were mostly humans, who had been hidden on the side of the trail. The one that shot Stolod was faster than the rest, and immediately took aim at me with his bow. I dove behind an ironwood tree, as his arrow whipped through the air past me. I looked around frantically for a weapon, and Thystonius was with me that day, for a long ironwood branch, the perfect size, lay upon the ground. I scooped it up and gripped it hard. I did not know what these men wanted, but they had wounded Stolod, and had tried to kill me, so a fight it would be.
I ducked my head out from behind the tree to see what was happening. The one with the bow fired at me again, but his arrow thudded into the side of the tree, just inches from my face. Two of them, one a skinny ork wearing leather armor, and another a bearded human, were already fighting against Gromar. Gromar had his hands full, but he was holding his own with his massive troll sword, and the other newots were coming forward with picks and other improvised weapons. It was time for battle. I focused my warrior energies, and felt them course through my body as I lifted ever so slightly into the air. Light as a feather, I now charged the archer with a battle cry so loud it ever surprised me. Startled at my charge and wild shout, eyes wide, the archer did not have time to fire off another arrow before I got to him. I swung at him with a mighty swing. He lunged back swiftly and my blow did not hit him… instead it hit my intended target, his bow. The bow did not break, but flew from his grip and clattered on the ground somewhere to our left. I do not know why I hit his bow, but I feared it. Perhaps it was because Sarus had died from a bow, I do not know, but that’s what I did and it was the right decision. Once his bow was broken the archer backpedaled, and drew a short sword on his belt. He was not fast enough. As his blade was coming out of its scabbard, my next stroke connected solidly with his head. With a loud whack, his head snapped back and he tumbled down several feet, his head spewing blood. His blade clattered to the ground in front of me. I moved my branch to my left hand and I scooped up his fallen sword with my right. As I was coming to a standing position again, I felt someone coming up behind me. I whirled around and barely had time to parry a blade that was crashing down toward me with what could have been a lethal thrust. The man facing me was wearing leather armor, carried a buckler, and had a haggard and unkempt beard. He made another swing at me, but his attack was clumsy, not the action of a skilled warrior. I easily parried this blow as well, and I brought my trusty branch around in a powerful swing. He threw his buckler up to counter my swing, but I changed direction, just as I had planned all along, and brought the branch crashing down hard upon his knee. The force of the blow devastated his knee and crumpled him to the ground. He threw up his hands for mercy as another of the newots, an ork who’s name I did not know, pounced on him with a stone cutting axe. For these bandits, this was a battle they were losing. All of the other newots were contributing, throwing rocks or outright attacking the bandits. I do not believe the ambushers had expected a bunch of haggard slaves to put up a fight like we were. Without the other newots, Gromar and I would have been easy enough to pick off, but with all of us attacking them, they were outmatched by our numbers. This was an example of the troll culture rubbing off on other races, who normally would not have fought back so savagely against such a well armed opponent.
I swung around, and quickly dispatched another bandit with my blade. That was the easiest strike of the day, the man had been stupid enough to turn his back on me while trying to kill another newot. My blade slid under the leather armor on his back, and with a cry of agony, he collapsed to the ground mortally wounded. At that, the battle was over as quickly as it began. Gromar, who was quite good with his troll sword, had slain the ork who attacked him, and the other human was also dead at the hands of one of the newots. The archer was either dead or knocked out cold. A third bandit lay on the ground, moaning incoherently after being hit in the head by a large rock thrown by one of the other newots. The man whose knee I crushed was now being tied up. The rest of the enemy were dead, or had not shown themselves. Two of our newots were dead, one shot with an arrow and the other stabbed in the back by the man I had killed. I went to tend to Stolod, who was still alive but badly wounded. He would recover just fine, the arrow stuck hard but only hit the side of his ribs, breaking some. It is a painful injury that takes a long time to heal. Once again, I had survived a battle that I probably should not have. The Passions had favored me that day.
Our rag-tag party of newots, plus Gromar, rounded up our prisoners and wounded. We had three prisoners total. All three were humans. One was the archer who had shot Stolod, another was the man whose knee I crushed. The third was the human who had been knocked out cold by a thrown stone. We had two dead and three wounded, including Stolod. Stolod would have to be carried, so some of the others went to work making a litter for him. We gathered up the weapons and equipment carried by our attackers, which included a long bow, an Elven War Bow, arrows, plus several swordsm an axe, and a few daggers. My mind was racing, and I realized that their group did not have enough gear to be this high in these hostile mountains. After conferring with Gromar, we agreed that they must have pack animals or a camp somewhere. So we decided to start looking for it. Most stayed behind to guard the prisoners and tend the wounded, but four of us, including Gromar and I, went searching.
One of the newots that left with us, named Alister, had been an accomplished hunter, and had some tracking skills. He was able to track them back to their camp. When we got there, there was a boy there, maybe 12 years old, who was cutting wood when we arrived. He tried to run but Alister and I ran him down and captured him. At their camp they had several large packs, lots of equipment and a few pack mules. Their camp was well concealed against discovery from the air, which was smart since that was the real danger of travelling in the Twilight Peaks. We brought the captured boy back to where the rest of our group waited. He wept as we marched him back, obviously assuming he was going to die. Once we got back to the camp, the archer had woken up and his eyes, one now completely bloodshot, glowered at me. I ignored him. The human with the crushed knee would have to be helped back down the slope. Alister volunteered to help him. Gromar and I carried Stolod on his litter. He swore like an air sailor with every bump.
When we arrived in back at the Steelskull town, word of the attack spread very quickly. Attacks this high in the mountains by lowlanders were extremely rare. I was too busy to pay attention to the storytelling. I helped Gromar carry Stolod to a healer in town. The healer immediately went to work on him and assured us he would be fine. I then made my way home, and by the time I got there, everyone in the household already knew all about it. Honus met me at the door and gave me a big bear hug. As he put me down, he grinned at me and said; “So your ears weren’t full of Thundra dung during our lessons afterall!” Then Quorra ran up and also hugged me. Soon, everyone in the house wanted to know what happened, including Tago and Rorik. So we all sat down on the balcony and I told the tale while drinking a tall pot of Scoad. Tago, Rorik and Honus smiled approvingly at my tale, but I could tell that Rorik and Tago had concerns. I asked them what was bothering them, but neither would say.
Most troll homes have a large hall with a huge hearth in the center. The hall is always big enough so that the entire family can sit and eat, usually at a table, with plenty of room for guests. That night, I approached Tago as he was smoking a pipe on the balcony. He smoked a pipe each night. That pipe was always packed with a type of leaf that usually only orks smoke. He would trade for it sometimes in Konigsberg or Trosk. He told me one day that he learned to enjoy smoking these leaves when travelling with a pair of ork brothers who were Cavalrymen. They were his best friends of old, and I could tell that he missed them. Sometimes he would smoke the pipe over a Hurlg too… a repulsive drink that again, only orks drink.
As I walked over to him, he smiled and said; “Stilicho, what is on your mind, son.”
“Today bothers me.” I said. “What were those men doing this far into the mountains of the troll moots? Why did they attack us? There was nothing for them to gain. It does not make sense to me.”
He nodded. “Nor I Stilicho. Rorik had the same thoughts. There is something amiss with them and their presence here.”
I hesitated and then asked; “Can I speak to them?”
“Yes.” Tago muttered back. “We shall go tonight, for tomorrow they will face the Truth Stone, and I do not believe that they will be accepted by the clan.”
After a moment, he went on. “You did well today Stilicho. The others say that you fought with a fury, and that Thystonius would approve of your actions.”
I nodded at that. “This is true. But I also got lucky today. Had Stolod not fallen down the hill before me, they would have been able to shoot me in the back. Also, the others, including Gromar and Alistar, fought bravely.”
Tago smiled. “As my old friend Han would say, luck is the whim of the Passions Stilicho. They favor you, and so you were lucky. If they did not, you might have died today with an arrow in your back.”
Han was an old adventuring friend of Tago’s who was of the Skrang race. We had heard many tales of Han Kray Zomay, the ork brothers, Jaral and Braun, an Obsidiman named Ivan, a human wizard named Gavelin, and once in awhile, we would hear about a Wyndling named Ruel, that apparently Tago despised, and who later died, much to his relief.
I did not like Tago’s philosophy that the Passions spared me, but I could not argue with it. Tago was a wise troll, and he knew more about the Passions than I thought I ever would. A few minutes later, Rorik summoned Honus and I into the main hall of the house. Waiting there was Tago. I sat down, as did the others, then Tago instructed us that we were going to speak with the prisoners from our fight earlier in the day. He wanted to be there, and wanted me to do the questioning with Honus and Rorik there for support. I was happy to have the opportunity to find out what these men were all about.
The prisoners were being held in a small stone structure near the center of town, known as a Koarta, that is used to hold prisoners from raids before they could be taken before the clan and made into newots, or put to death. The building was essentially a stone box, with a roof and a single entrance. There was no other way out. Guarding the door were a pair of veteran trolls, each well armed. They were sitting in front of the door looking bored, but as we got closer they stood up and greeted us with respect. They did not question us as we went inside.
All four prisoners were in the room, all bound and looking miserable. The archer glared at me. The man with the crushed knee was sleeping. The boy looked up to me with fear in his eyes, and cowered in the corner. Then, the man who had been knocked out by a thrown rock stood and faced us. His face betrayed no emotion, and I knew that he knew why we were there. I nodded to Honus and we lead him out of the door. Once outside, we sat him on the ground and the four of us, Tago, Rorik, Honus and I, also sat. I was facing him. He looked up at the sky and broke the silence. “It is a nice night… the stars are very bright in the mountains.”
“Yes.” I replied. “They are.” I looked him over. He was scruffy, but stockier than the others. His arms were muscled and he had a few tattoos. Then my eyes locked onto one of them on his forearm. It was a symbol of Thystonius. “You are a follower of Thystonius?” I asked.
“Yes, he is my favorite passion.” The man replied. “Though, I follow many.”
I nodded. “I am Stilicho. What is your name?”
“I know your name, Stilicho Alaricson. My name is Tekil. How may I be of service, lord?”
At this I was taken aback. He called me lord, and knew my name. “How do you know my name?”
At this he sighed. “I know your name because we were sent here to kill you.” I looked at him, my eyes narrowed as it sank in what he had said. He ignored my reaction and continued; “I am not an assassin, but I was forced to swear an oath to serve Calamon, the archer back there.” He nodded toward the Koarta. “So I have, and as I feared, this is where it lead me. To these mountains, to you, and to my death on the morrow, I assume?”
I nodded. “Yes, you will probably be put to death, but perhaps you will be spared. Treachery does not sit well among the Stoneclaws. Who sent you to kill me? How did you know I was here?”
At this, the man smiled. “Let me live and I will tell you what you want to know.”
I shook my head; “You know that I cannot do that. But I do have something that you want, which I will give you if you tell me everything that I want to know.”
Tekil looked as though he might laugh, but wisely, he held is tongue. “And what could that be?”
“The manner of your death. You see, you are probably going to die tomorrow when facing the Truth Stone. As a man who follows Thystonius, if you want to feast in his hall, you will want to die with a sword in your hand. Either that, or you can face death on your knees.”
He grimaced at that. “You are right… you do have something that I want. I have your oath that should I be put to death tomorrow, that I will be allowed to die in combat?”
“You have my word, if you tell me all that I ask.” I replied.
He simply nodded. “Very well.” He then began to answer my many questions. Occasionally Tago or Rorik would interject with questions of their own, which Tekil answered readily enough. I was unfortunately not mentally prepared for the answers I was to receive. To go through our entire dialog would take to long, so I shall summarize. Apparently a merchant from Trosk arrived in Konigsberg at the Quicksilver inn, and had news that somehow, I might be alive and well in the Steelskull clan of the Stoneclaw moot. Apparently the merchant had overheard two drunken members of the Swiftwind moot blabbering about some Konigsberg Thane being a made into a newot by the Stoneclaws, which, in Scoad induced drunken stupor, they found to be hilarious. The archer Calamon was then hired by my uncle Elfric to find me, and kill me. The group left Konigsberg more than a month ago, and had been trying to navigate their way through the mountains without being detected for quite some time. They saw me from afar that day, working with the newots in the quarry. Then Calamon had the group move in to set up their ambush. The rest of the story, I have already told.
I then learned Tekil’s story. Tekil had been a bandit warrior from the forests near Kratas, and had been captured by the Konigsberg guard. Elfric made him swear an oath to Calamon that he would serve him faithfully on his mission, or else he would be executed. He did not know any of the other prisoners. He did not like Calamon either. He indicated that he believed Calamon to be a servant of Vestrial, the mad passion of chaos and disunity.
As our conversation wore down, he then had a request of his own. “You would do well, to let the boy live. He is a good boy. His name is Wheeler.” At this I simply shrugged, it likely wasn’t up to me.
On the way home, Tago asked me if my plan was to fight Tekil on the morrow, to fulfill my promise. I said that it was, and that I planned to fight him in the hazel branches, which was a custom of the trolls. He then said that it would be interesting to see if Thystonius would intervene, as Tago believed Tekil to be a more advanced warrior than I, as well as a believer in Thystonius. But Thystonius favored me. I was young and arrogant, and it had not occurred to me that Tekil could beat me in combat, although it should have. I would not sleep well that night.
The next morning, after breakfast, the entire family and I walked into the center of town where the Truth Stone was, and where the Koarta housed the four prisoners. Already, a crowd had gathered to see what would become of these men. I was wearing leather armor and carried a sword today, for I would fight Tekil and fulfill my promise. I had decided the night before that I would first fight Calamon, for he had tried to kill me, and in the back of my mind, I wondered if he might have had something to do with the death of my brother Sarus. If Tekil would prove victorious, at least I would die knowing that lowly archer had died by my hand in single combat.
After a few minutes, one of the clan wizards named arrived with an entourage of Sky Raiders and clan leaders. He would activate the Truth Stone. The fate of the prisoners would be decided. The four were filed out, the one with the crushed knee was half carried, whimpering all the way. The boy, now calm, just looked at us all with awe. Tekil showed no emotion, and walked without resistance. Calamon, the archer, glared at all of the spectators, and spat in contempt. He was the first to be prodded onto the Truth Stone.
The questioner that days was a one of Farnis Longknife’s sons. The archer refused to answer even the first questions. The wizard nodded to a warrior behind the stone, who began to draw his blade, and I intervened. I had four hazel branches with me, and I threw them on the ground in front of the stone. The noise the crowd went to silence. The archer just looked at me with a bit of surprise on his face.
I shouted: “You came here to kill Calamon… now is your chance! Fight me in the hazel square and die like a man, or die on your knees like the slug that you are.” He did not know the troll challenge of the hazel branches, but he understood that he would have a chance to fight me, and he took it. He stepped into the square and a troll handed him a longsword. I would like to tell you that it was a good fight, but it wasn’t. Calamon was an archer, and he did not have much of a chance against me. He opened with a clumsy rush attack, which I easily fended off, and then he spent the rest of his remaining moments in this world trying to dodge and parry my attacks. After I severed his sword arm, nearly cleaving it in two, he fell to the ground and started to beg. I finished it quickly, which is a better death than he deserved.
The next prisoner up on the Truth Stone was the thief with the smashed knee. When asked why they were in the mountains, he flat out lied. He had been asleep when we spoke to Tekil, so he must not have known that we already knew why they were there. He claimed they were simply there to trade with trolls from another moot and had gotten lost, and that the attack on us was a mistake. The wizard saw his lie, nodded to the trolls near the stone, and one killed him with a quick, clean blow to the throat. Tekil was next, and I was sweating now, for I knew I was in for a tough fight. Tekil answered all of the questions honestly, as I knew he would. Then, much to my surprise, he was offered a chance to join the clan instead of facing death. He agreed… and I was spared having to fight a good man. Last, was the boy, Wheeler.
The boy was then prodded onto the Truth Stone. His knees shook, and he begged, which was probably the worst thing he could have done. The crowd got quiet when they realized he would not live. Then, I watched him conquer his fear. He stood, and faced the trolls in front of him so that he could die properly, facing his enemy. There was a long pause, and then the crowd began to murmur as they realized he might have a chance. The wizard resumed his questioning, and in the end, the clan had two more newots. The humans Tekil and Wheeler.
The next day, I got up in the morning. It was the clan’s day off, so I got up late. I was met in the great hall by Rorik and Tago. Both were smiling. Before I could ask what was going on, Tago spoke. “Stilicho, walk with us.” As we walked, I could tell that we were heading to the center of town again. Tago was telling me a story of his adventuring days again, this one was about the giant snake skull mounted in the great hall, and how he and one of the Ork brothers killed the beast. I still did not know what was going on, but as we rounded the corner I could see there was a large group of trolls and other name-givers there. It was most of the clan. I saw all of my adopted family, including Quorra, Honus, Vargas and Elgorn. The newots that I knew well were also there, including Stolod and Alister. Grimlock, Gromar, Draiden and Kerick were all there, as well as many other friends who’s names I have long since forgotten. That day, there was a big celebration. I was being accepted as a full member of the clan. It was a great honor, probably the greatest of my life to that point. I was nearly speechless as my friends and clansmen cheered for me. There was no fancy ceremony… just a big celebration with lots of food, drink and friendship. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
I ate and drank all day. There were many games, and competitions of strength, endurance and mental toughness. As the guest of honor, I had to participate in almost every one of them. By the end of the day, I was exhausted. I got home fairly late. I was a little drunk, very sore, and I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I would not get it. Just a few minutes after I laid down, Quorra walked into my bedroom. As soon as I saw her, I realized that I was no longer a newot, so we could be together! I sat up, but before I could say a word she slipped off her gown and slipped into my bed. I would sleep very little that night.
After being initiated into the clan, my life became much more fulfilling. Quorra and I were now openly together. Nobody in the clan seemed to mind, which made sense considering that in troll society, romance is encouraged. I could also now do the things that a warrior is supposed to do. I could wear metal armor and travel as a warrior on the air ships. I was treated as a complete equal by all of the clan. I could even go on raids.
It was after a long trip to patrol the skies over the Grey Forrest, that I got an unexpected visit. I was just getting back to the Steelskull home one day when I was greated at the door by Quorra who had a bigger smile that usual on her face. I smiled back at her and gave her a quizzical look. She merely nodded toward the main hall just inside the door and kept smiling. I walked through and I saw that food was already on the table, and most everyone in the family was sitting down. In addition to the usual members of the family, there was a human man sitting at the table, looking at me with a smile. I just stood there for a moment, my brain unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Sitting at the table among my new troll family, was Malikeos, my father’s friend and the household wizard from Konigsberg. Quorra came into the room behind me, her hand brushing my lower back as she glided by.
“Stilicho is here.” She said to the room. But it was mostly for the benefit of Tago, who could not see me from this far away with his old eyes.
Malikeos rose to greet me and I crossed the room and shook his hand vigorously. He smiled broadly. “It is my honor to be here Stilicho, I am so glad that I found you.” I could see that he genuinely was happy to see me.
At this point, Tago rose and motioned for everyone to sit. So we did. Tago said, “I’m sure you two have much talk about, but now, we eat. Later we can talk.”
I could not eat fast enough, and after I was done, I had to wait for everyone else. Especially Malikeos, for he was a slow eater and I’m sure he did not want to offend the women by eating too little of the food. Although it was good and hearty food, it was not tasty by human standards. Eventually we finished and the women went to work cleaning up the meal. Tago insisted that the men go up to the balcony to talk, and he asked that Quorra and my adopted brothers come along. I did not know what to make of this, I longed to return to Konigsberg, but Elfric would not welcome me and would most certainly try to have me killed if I came back. I also liked my new family here, and there was Quorra, and I did not want to abandon her or my new family and friends in the clan. Millions thoughts were racing through my head as we walked up the stairs.
Once we got to the balcony, Tago decided that we should all have some drinks while we talked. So that meant someone had to fetch everyone (myself included) mugs of Scoad, which is a strong troll brew that is made from honey and grains. It is powerful stuff, and isn’t for those with a weak belly, but it actually tastes quite good. I was now longer a newot at this time, but I was the youngest member of the family, and without a newot present, the job of filling up the mugs fell to me. I went downstairs and filled up enough mugs for everyone, and carried them back upstairs. There were six of us on the balcony that night. It was Tago, Malikeos, Honus and Vargas, along with Quorra who was sitting with Tago, and myself. Rorik and Elgorn were gone that day, Elgorn in the mountains looking for griffin eggs, and Rorik was out on the air ship, probably raiding or scouting. Honus, Vargas and Quorra mostly listened, but occasionally would ask Malikeos, Tago or I questions about Konigsberg, my uncle, or other things that they were unsure of.
Once everyone was settled and drinking, I sat down with my mug and took a long pull. Then the talking began. Malikeos first told me about the battle. My father had realized they were doomed, and knowing he could not get away, he sent Malikeos away. Malikeos then answered the question I’d been wondering since I saw him in the doorway of the Steelskull home, by telling me that he found me mostly by luck. He came here by magical means, simply wanting to inquire about how he could go about discovering my fate, and was surprised to find out I was here. In the past, he came here on occasion for my father, as an emissary to the Stoneclaw moot, so his presence did not raise any alarm with the clan.
He then told me about Clapa. Apparently Clapa had survived the Battle of Ore Mountain. He returned to Konigsberg and told Aldhelm, Malikeos and Elfric his story. He managed to get to the top of a hill after our lines collapsed. From there he could see the end of the battle from the safety of the deep woods. He saw me struggling as I dangled by my sword arm from Chorak’s grip as the battle ended. He saw me get knocked out, and then hauled aboard one of their ships along with two more of our men who also appeared to be unconscious. The trolls then loaded up the relics from the ore cart. Clapa could do nothing but watch. When they left, he went back down to look for any survivors he could help. He ran into a pair of other guardsmen who were doing the same thing as he. One was badly wounded and would have to be carried. The trolls however, had left the ore carts and many of the scattered horses. Clapa managed to gather up a handful of surviving miners, and they loaded up the carts with the dead (who had been stripped of armor and weapons) and hauled them back to Konigsberg.
At this point he grimaced as he spoke his next few sentences. Aldhelm, he said, wanted to immediately send emissaries to the Stoneclaw and Swiftwind moots to see if they could negotiate for my release, or at least find out if I was still alive. Elfric, insisted that, since Warrick was in Travar and not capable of ruling anyway, that he, Elfric, now ruled Konigsberg and that sending any emissary to the Twilight Peaks was out of the question. I was dead, and that’s all there was to it. As far as Elfric was concerned, the Bloodlores probably just took me for questioning and would kill me once they were done.
After the bodies of our fallen troops were documented by our historian, a great funeral pyre was lit with the bodies of my father Alaric, and our fallen brothers in arms. The whole of the land mourned their loss. A week later, Elfric came to Malikeos wanting to know where the Rites of Konigsberg were. These were documents that proved who owned the land, and outlined the boundaries of the land. Those documents could prove that I, or Whitrick, was the rightful heir to Konigsberg by Throalic law. Malikeos had hidden them when he returned to Konigsberg. He then told Elfric that he had taken them to his home in Travar for safe keeping, where he and Whitrick stayed. At this point, Elfric flew into a rage but Malikeos insisted that the rites were safer with him, at least until my fate was discovered.
A few weeks later, Elfric brought in a handful of new soldiers to function as his personal bodyguards. These men were foreigners, which was against the Konigsberg tradition of only having household troops that were from the territories within borders of Konigsberg. Rumor circulated that these men came all the way from Vivane. That meant that they were from a land that belonged to one of our historical enemies… Thera. Vivane is a city that is a Theran puppet in Barsaive, a blight on the land and a thorn in the side of all who remember their pre-Scourge atrocities. Malikoes believed these rumors to be true. He also said that Elfric had a new household socerer, a nethermancer named Mephisto. Malikoes firmly believed that Mephisto was an evil man, and he believed that Mephiso also came from Vivane. Once Mephisto arrived, Malikoes decided Konigsberg was no longer safe for him, so he left to try to find out my fate.
I could not believe was I was hearing. I always knew that Elfric was a worthless bastard, that he was a weak man who I did not believe could be so ambitious, let alone treacherous. But Vivane??? Why would Vivane, or Thera for that matter, care one bit about Konigsberg. We haven’t had trouble with the Therans since before the Scourge. None of this made sense.
It was then that the news filling my head got even worse.
Tago then filled us all in on what Chorack had told him when he left me here. Apparently a war leader of the Bonecracker clan had been told by an elemental messenger, which sometimes gave them tips about juicy raiding targets, that a bandit king from the Southern hills of Kratas had found an ancient troll kaer, and that they were raiding the contents of it. They would be shipping all of their plundered artifacts back to Kratas, using the road that we had been travelling, and they would do it the night when we were travelling with our ore carts back to Konigsberg. The Bloodlores, believing that information, attacked us, thinking our carts were loaded with the treasures of a lost troll kaer.
Later I would learn that the trolls from all of the moots of the Twilight Peaks have long been looking for something called the Staff of Aromod Whitewind. Aromod Whitewind was the former leader of the Whitewind clan, who used to be part of the Blackfang Moot from the days before the Scourge. Supposedly, his staff contained the long lost plans for building the great stone Sky Raider ships, called Vikings. Those ships ruled the skies over the Twilight Peaks in the days before the Scourge. Like Tago’s crystal ship… the Theran spells and fire cannons were largely ineffective against them. Aromod’s flag ship crashed somewhere North of the Twilight Peaks during the battle of Sky Point, and his clan was later decimated by the ruthless Therans. The rumor is that the survivors of his crashed ship, joined a clan of lowland trolls near where they crashed. However, that clan disappeared during the Scourge and has not been seen since. Some trolls think the rumor is just Thundra dung. Others think it’s true and that the clan simply hasn’t emerged from their Kaer yet. Most believe that they perished in their Kaer during the Scourge, but nobody knows for certain.
Tago then said that had the Bloodlores known we were from Konigsberg, an attack would not have happened. Tago believed, the elemental messenger was sent by my uncle Elfric, or by the nethermancer, Mephisto.
At this, Vargas piped up. “Why the ruse? Why would the Bloodlores give a damn about Konigsberg? Wouldn’t they just attack them out of principle? They are good enemies, strong and disciplined. There would be great honor in such a battle.“
Tago began speaking again, slowly as he always did, as though the words were hard for him to speak. “It is true that the Bloodlores are a blood-thirsty moot, but among them are many voices of reason. The Bonecracker clan, lead by the young Chorack, is one of those voices of reason. Their moot is facing grave dangers from without, and from within. Some moots have followers and even questors of the mad passions. There are almost none of them in the moots of the Eastern Twilight Peaks. There are very few followers of the mad passions in the Central Peaks. But in the West, the mad passions are stronger. They are nowhere near as strong as Thystonius and Uplandal… even in the West, but they keep growing in strength. Chorack understands the self-destruction and madness that they bring. They have not only followers, but there are questors to Raggork.”
Tago paused, then continued. “The raiders from Cara Fahd grow more bold every day. They no longer fight each other, so the Scorchers and Raiders of Cara Fahd expand their raids, encroaching on Bloodlore raiding territory. The Bloodlores and Blackfangs, also face a growing threat from Vivane and the Therans. They know too well the devastation the Therans wrecked upon them in years past, and the blood-thirst, hate, and need for revenge is growing among them. Those things feed the mad passion Raggork. His followers in the Western peaks grow steadily. The more followers Raggork has among the Bloodlores, the more mad the Bloodlores become. They continue to distance themselves from the other moots, and even from each other, with their own clans feuding internally. Chorack sees these things, and although he is not afraid, he seeks to prevent the spread of disunity and chaos among his people. Like his father before him, he sees the value of the troll moots allied with one another. He also sees the value of cooperation with other races, instead of constant conflict. It is for this reason that the Bloodlores have left Konigsberg untouched for years. Konigsberg, Chorack, and many other troll leaders, view as a potential ally, or at least as a shield between the the Twilight Peaks, and the ambitions of Kratas, the raiders of Cara Fahd, and the bandits spawned there. I agree with him. That is why the leaders of the Swiftwind and Stoneclaw moots would like to see Konigsberg stay as it is. They are an ally to the troll moots of the Twilight Peaks, even if they do not know it. If the Therans have a foothold there, they will use it to try to create problems for us. For as long as the trolls of the Twilight Peaks are strong, Thera cannot defeat Throal for fear of uniting Throal and the trolls of the Twilight Peaks into a force capable of pushing evil Theran influence out of all of Throal, forever.”
We all just sat there, letting Tago’s words sink in. I could scarcely believe what I was hearing.
“If what you say is true…” Malikeos began; “Then the presence of men from Vivane serving the usurper Elfric must be of concern to you. Would the great trolls of the Twilight Peaks wish to partake in a glorious fight to restore Stilicho to Konigsberg?”
At this point, I interrupted and spoke what I knew in my heart to be true.
“It cannot happen that way. If the trolls of this great moot were to descend on Konigsberg, it would play right into the hands of the bastards from Vivane. Such an attack would make the people of Konigsberg resent my rule, because they would lose many men in such a battle. It may also result in driving a rift between Throal and the moot. Konigsberg is a province of Throal, and although Throal is weak, they would not respond favorably to an attack, even a justified one, on one of their provinces. Throal cannot go to war against Konigsberg either, as that would also play into the hands of the Therans. No. It must be I who kills Elfric and his sorcerer. Only then can justice be done correctly. I must have a small, but potent and loyal group of men to aid me. Good men. Followers of the passions who are not afraid of fighting against difficult odds. Thystonius would honor such a noble quest, and would aid us on our way. So I must honor my father, my ancestors and Thystonius. I will see to it that this comes to pass.”
I did not say this with any drama. I said it as fact, which I knew to be true. I could feel something, something powerful stirring deep within my soul. I looked around the balconey. Malikeos was frowning, rubbing his chin in deep thought. Honus grinned at me, and saluted me with his mug before taking a long drink. Vargas looked grim, his eyes locked onto mine. Then I saw Tago. His eyes were looking at me as though he were no longer blind and could see me with complete clarity. He was beaming with pride. I’d seen that look before in my life, on my father’s face, the day I joined his household troops and first donned the tabard of the silver wolf… the symbol of my ancestors… the avatar of my destiny… Konigsberg.