Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for violence.
The Long, Brutal, Complex, Violent History of Tlelk and Gentleman’s Guide
Thathnak Nerkog the Bookish
A detailed map of Tlelk:
What we know as Tlelk emerged as a power around the year 134 when a conglomeration of ancient states united into the country of Tleth. The rulers of this country were an ancient race of aquatic beings known as Depothians. They resembled large crab monsters about the size of a grown man. Possessing both gills and lungs they quickly grew very powerful due to an innate ability to flee into the ocean whenever somebody invaded, build up their strength and take back the country. This cowardly, fleeing tactic, along with their frail appearances, earned them the nickname “True Sea Elves.”
Because of their frailty, they couldn’t build the imposing cities we think of today when Tlelk comes to mind. This is because they built these mighty citadels and fortresses on the backs of slave labor. Their crab appendages made them very skilled at torture without using any types of machines. Using this skill, they quickly subjugated the native orcs, reptile men, and gargoyles. For over 600 years they were oppressed. During this time, resentment built up among them. And while the Depothians had chosen strong, hardy people to enslave, they hadn’t accounted for what would happen should these naturally warlike races choose to revolt.
In 736, the first of what we now call the Tlelkan revolts occurred. Led by an orc named Kithvar the Untamed and a reptile man named S’lith V’Tok, an army of around one thousand overworked and oppressed slaves took up their pickaxes and hammers, slaughtered their overseers on the 17th night of November and fled into Thackwood Forest. From November 736 to January 740, they ran lightning raids against trade caravans and lightly armed scout divisions. It came to a stop in March of 741 when the Depothian Overlord sent waves of troops into Thackwood Forest, the known base of operation for Kithvar and S’lith, and slaughtered everyone within. Kithvar was brought into the capital, was drawn and quartered and his mutilated body was set into a cage to feed the crows. S'lith was bled to death and his pale corpse was hurled into the Edged Ocean off the walls of the city of Traudenlr. As the legend goes, The White Spectre of Traudenlr is the spirit of S’lith V’tok. Thackwood Forest is now often considered a place of evil, death and superstition.
The Thackwood Forest Massacre marks the beginning of an almost open conflict that lasted for the next ninety years. The races that were oppressed did not care for subtlety and did not fear death. Most of the revolts consisted of armed uprisings and their subsequent violent deaths. However, a good number of the forty some revolts are noteworthy.
Perhaps the most famous revolt was led by a gargoyle by the name of Crovezz the Unready. He assembled a few dozen of his gargoyle brethren along with a few reptile men and one orc (Rogbath Tresad) and attempted to take over a small military outpost in April of 753. Having neglected to do any reconnaissance work and marching a week ahead of schedule, Crovezz and his force were quickly destroyed by the experimental bear training program that was housed therein. As the story goes, Rogbath had missed breakfast and was eating a piece of rabbit jerky as he marched. The twenty odd bears in the outpost smelled his food, and went on a rampage. Amazingly, Crovezz was the only survivor. He fled from the scene losing his right hand and left eye. Search parties were sent after him to make an example of him, but he was never found. It is rumored that he died of his injuries in the very same forest that was the scene of the Thackwood Forest Massacre.
The first minorly successful revolt occurred in 756 when Okelk Frengda, an orc from the seaside mining city Skathka, roused his fellow workmen in the dead of night, and quietly snuck his way into the town’s armory. Using the broken head of a pickaxe, he killed the three guards on duty and led his fellow revolutionaries into the armory, kicking off the seven year incident that would come to be known as the Skathka Panic.
After arming and equipping his troops, Okelk dispatched a small group consisting of a half dozen men from his total of about twelve hundred to storm the governance building and take out or capture key targets there. Namely the local Ga’Sek’Toth (ancient Depothian for “he who rules”) and his entourage of three advisors and four court ladies. The advisors were defenestrated, and the Ga’Sek’Toth was tied up in the middle of the town in a square frame, each limb tied to a corner. Unusually, the court ladies were treated well, and were given the option of serving the new regime or seeking their fortune elsewhere. While he was given food and water, the Ga’Sek’Toth perished after three weeks due to exposure to the elements as well as the regular floggings.
Okelk recruited, or rather enslaved, some of the remaining Depothian guards for his growing army, and brutally executed the ones who refused. Ironically, he had them all throttled. After swiftly stamping out any counter-revolutions and destroying the remnants of the old ruling system, Okelk declared himself the sovereign ruler of a new nation, one he called Tlelk in honor of himself and as a slight insult to his former Depothian rulers. He had the shells of his slain foes built into his own lavish throne and ate their crablike meat at his coronation feast.
For three years, Okelk ruled Tlelk as a normal orc society with everyone submitting to him but being treated fairly so long as they kept in line. He even fought off a small force of four hundred Depothian infantry half a year into his reign. After three years, a gargoyle named Dotsuakor grew dissatisfied with Okelk’s regime and challenged him to single combat with the Shelled Throne as the stakes. Okelk had already been middle-aged leaning towards aged when he assumed power. Thusly, when Dotsuakor challenged him, he was defeated without too much of a fight. Dotsuakor took the Shelled Throne in July of 759 and he ruled till October 763. Dotsuakor was more of a scholar than Okelk and had attempted to establish peace talks with the rest of Tleth. He invited a rather important Depothian ambassador, Zocohaus Ugga, and his entourage into Skathka on the third of October 763, stupidly bringing thirty heavily armed and well trained Depothian supersoldiers into his city. They kept up the pretense of diplomacy until they were brought into Skathka Hall, where they swiftly painted the walls with the blood of Dotsuakor and his court.
Almost immediately, Tlelk was reabsorbed into the Tlethan empire and just as Okelk had done, Zocohaus quickly executed anybody he thought had a hand in the revolt, including a handful of the recruited Depothian guards. Zocohaus was named the new Ga’Sek’Toth of Skathka and ruled with an iron fist until his untimely and sudden death of a heart attack in May of 769. He was succeeded by his daughter; Ninsuji Ugga who tightened the iron fist even further.
Interestingly, Skathka was also the sight of what many historians consider the actual beginning of the Tlelkan revolts. Two years after Ninsuji Ugga came to power, she was violently ousted by Okelk’s eldest son, Vidarok Frengda. The difference being that Vidarok was only twenty three when he murdered Ninsuji in her sleep after poisoning her elite guard. Vidarok had gained the trust of the rulers of Skathka in a surprisingly complex plan for an orc. Vidarok had been watching from the stands as Dotsuakor slew Okelk. After watching Dotsuakor’s regime fall into ruin, he wrote in his journal that he felt Dotsuakor had taken the beautiful idea of Okelk’s and ruined it with his feeble ruling technique. He planned to avenge Okelk by recreating the state of Tlelk. After murdering the entire ruling class of Skathka, he assumed power using the allies he had built with his substantial reputation he inherited from Okelk. He kept one Depothian (Joka Thenzo) alive for the purpose of making it seem as though the city was still in Tlethan control. Vidarok kept this pretense for a quarter of a year while he sent covert messages to cities and villages all over the southern half of Tleth rallying the oppressed people to act as he had. Amazingly, every single settlement followed Vidarok’s lead, slew their Depothian lords and seceded as one from Tleth. They all formed up into their own country, centered around Skathka. Vidarok was unanimously decided upon for their ruler. He named the new country Tlelk, in honor of his deceased father.
In what is perhaps the greatest single atrocity in the history of Cidri, every single Depothian in Tlelk was slaughtered on the nights each settlement pledged their loyalty to Vidarok. The fourteenth night of November 771 was the very beginning of the Tlethan civil war. Somehow the war dragged on for fifty years, finally ending in 831. By all rights, the Tlelkans should’ve lost due to an inexperienced military and a horrific logistics system. However, the Tlelkans had one advantage that the Tlethans did not: specialization of races. The Depothians had ventured too far inland and they had just been cut off from their greatest strength. Whereas the Depothians were weakened by the lack of water, the orcs, gargoyles, and reptile men were in their natural swampy habitat. While the Depothians were busy fighting through the tough thicket and gorse, the Tlelkans could storm out of the brush, slay a few dozen Depothians and set fire to their supply carts, and as quick as they came, stream back into the forest and out of sight. The first few years of the war from 771 to about 775 consisted of the Depothians attempting to invade Tlelk and turning back as their caravans were destroyed by guerilla attacks. The Tlelkans used this time to organize their forces and start improving their infrastructure by building better roads to better supply themselves.
The first major engagement of the war occurred at Griffinhook Glen in September of 776. Having gotten word of an attempt to capture the key farming village of Brug Varza, the Depothians moved a force of three thousand infantry along with a mounted division of five hundred down from Ishnograg (a merchant town along the Crackmud River) to defend the village. The village sat in the middle of the fertile land in Griffinhook Glen and it was on that recently tilled land that the two armies met. The Tlelkans were outnumbered with only twenty five hundred infantry. However, they devised a peculiar tactic. Rather than attacking the enemy head on like one would expect, they dug in. Holding positions in a trench system in the fields, the Tlelkans waited. Because of this trench tactic, the Tlethans lost their biggest advantage other than their numbers: their mounted troops. The Tlelkans then started roofing the trench with their shields. This allowed for the occasional archer or slinger to lift up a shield, with the help of a partner, and pick off a Depothian who had strayed too close to the trench.
This tactic continued for several days. The Depothians made several attempts to destroy the trench ploy but were unsuccessful. Every time they sent a force to confront the trench it was destroyed with arrow fire until only one or two dozen men made it to the trench, who were pulled in and butchered almost instantly. After two weeks, the Tlelkans finally made a move. Under cover of night, they very carefully snuck out of their trenches and sprinted towards the village. Raising the dead with their war cries, they engaged the Depothians in the town. Fierce and brutal fighting ensued. Both sides suffered large losses but the Depothians were outmatched to the Tlelkans. Urban warfare suited the Tlelkans because many of them had turned thieves because of their oppression and were able to stealthily kill officers who were caught up in the rush of the fighting.
After two hours of ravaging conflict, the Depothians were forced to cut their losses and the survivors fled in the direction of Ishnograg. The Battle of Griffinhook Glen had been fought and the Tlelkans had emerged victorious. This victory instilled confidence in the Tlelkans and a new strategy was emerging. It was in a fledgeling state but it would soon mature and shape the world we know today.
In the meantime Tlelk also had to go on the defensive. Towards the eastern border of Tleth and Dran, conflict was about to rear its ugly head. A very important and wealthy port city had been in the eyes of the Tlethans since the war broke out. Now, they aimed to take it.
The city of Nithdar was built up onto a peninsular outcrop similar to a lighthouse. Other than its fabulous wealth, the city also boasted an impressive wall. In 784, the Tlethans decided to break it. Looking out at an army of ten thousand soldiers accompanied with hundreds of battering rams and siege towers, the defending Tlelkans must have known their work was cut out for them. When the Tlethans arrived their commanding officer (Ektheern Danto) was allowed into the city, alone I might add (they did not want to repeat Dotsuakor’s mistakes), for negotiations. Being orcs, reptile men, and gargoyles, his unconditional surrender was immediately demanded. Multiple sources say that Ektheern laughed in the faces of the three city commanders and told them that he could wait them out until the day of doom. Ektheern returned to his siege camp and informed his men that they would attack at dawn.
The day of the siege came. Ektheern rolled his siege towers up to the wall. Unfortunately for him, the Tlelkans had prepared for this. Seeing the siege towers, the Tlelkan defenders were ordered to prepare fire arrows. The quality of pitch in Nithdar was not exceptional. Because of this the fire arrows had a tendency to go out. Only three of the five towers caught fire. And then still only two were deemed unusable. It still took a lot of worry off of the Tlelkan defenders that they only had to deal with three siege towers rather than five. The Depothians raced up their siege towers to confront those they were siegeing. Fighting ensued on the massive wall. Interestingly, the single greatest cause of death during the siege of Nithdar was falling. Hundreds of men fell to their death off the top of that mighty wall. The second being the men who were burned to death inside the blazing siege towers.
The fighting continued for six hours until noon. Eventually the Depothians decided to pull back and rethink their strategy. Obviously a frontal assault would not work. Ektheern realized that he wouldn’t be able to defeat the Tlelkans by sheer force. That was where they were most powerful. He would have to defeat them through cunning. Unfortunately for Ektheern, he hadn’t remembered the deadly “Long-Shell” tactic used at Griffinhook Glen. It was a mistake he might not live to forget. He created a plan to tunnel under the wall. It was a time honored tactic. It worked, but only if your defender was immensely stupid. Ektheern assumed his enemy was.
The three commanders at Nithdar were also cunning and were busy devising a plan to counteract the ridiculously predictable tunnel idea. Not knowing where he would attempt to tunnel through, the commanders would have to create a defense mechanism that would work along the entire wall no matter where the enemy tunneled through. What they came up with was brilliant. They set the general town populace to work digging a trench one foot deep right at the base of the wall. After that was done they started filling it with pebbles, rocks, boulders, broken wall sections, anything they could find that was heavy and would kill anything it fell onto.
The Depothians started their tunnel operation. They started at the same place but eventually split off into three different directions to confuse the enemy when they appeared in the town. After about two and a half days, the tunnelers made it to just outside the wall. The Depothians started under the wall, finding there to be more wall than they remembered, the Depothians tunneled past the debris trench and were crushed underneath the thousands of pounds of detritus. Some managed to escape and they reported to Ektheern that the tunnel operation was not going to work. Ektheern was under pressure from the Depothian Overlord to either take Nithdar or die trying. He decided that he would try once more to take the city by force. He grouped all his forces together, raised their shields and marched as one large mass towards the city walls. Once there he slammed his battering rams into the wall. Debris and dust rained down on his forces but his fear of the Overlord was greater than that of being crushed by a massive wall segment. He continued pounding at the wall for two hours. He saw stress lines run through the wall and ordered a full retreat. He and his troops backed away one hundred meters or so and watched an entire section of the wall come crashing to the ground.
The Tlelkans came rushing out to meet the Tlethans knowing that their advantage lay in their brute force and savagery. The Tlethans were unprepared as they weren’t expecting a counterassault. The Tlelkans slammed into the unready Tlethans and started annihilating them. The Tlethans could barely get their swords and shields up in time. After about ten minutes they finally got organized and started fighting back. They did manage to bloody the nose of the Tlelkan army, but ultimately they were defeated and had to flee to the Capitol. The Tlelkans had successfully defended their city.
However, the Tlelkan/Tlethan civil war was not an easy ride for the Tlelkans. At the Battle of Hawthorne Creek in 792, for example, the Tlelkans were outmaneuvered by a surprise force of two hundred mounted Tlethans.
The Tlelkans were expecting an easy caravan raid on one of the few roads Tlelk had to offer. This road ran along the sizable Hawthorne Creek. At the time the creek had been dry from a two month drought. A force of one hundred orcs hid along the dry creek wall while the rest of the force of three hundred assorted men took positions in and behind the trees. As the middle of the caravan passed their positions, the men in the trees raced out and set upon the caravan. Fighting continued until one orc gave a prearranged signal and the orcs in the creek leapt out and attacked the other side.
It looked like just another rank and file raid until the Tlethans gave their own signal. Lakchu riders dove out of the caravan and attacked the Tlelkan raiders. It was obviously a trap. There were no goods. But now Tlelk had a problem bigger than a simple four hundred man defeat. The only men who knew about the attack were the ones who planned it and the man put in charge of it. Tlelk had a spy or a traitor in its midst.
The rulers of Tlelk at the time were actually based on the city commanders of Nithdar. Nithdar had three commanders, one from each tribe, so as not to let one tribe get an unearned edge over the others. The orc ruler was named Maladar the Fierce, his reptile man comrade was named T’acch Re’den. And their gargoyle comrade was simply called Thren. When news of the defeat at Hawthorne Creek reached them, they were furious. They immediately decided unanimously that something had to be done. Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into the works when Maladar was assassinated by defenestration. He was succeeded by his fifteen year old son Jrak the Young. Jrak, being so young, was not an adept commander. He consistently tried to divert forces to protect the Tlelkan capital at Skathka. This continued for four miserable years of military defeats, reduced territory and still no leads on the spy. T’acch became fed up with this and took matters into his own hands.
T’acch told Jrak that he wanted to confer with him and the Court of Lords about possible invasions. He met with Jrak in front of the entire thirty strong Court of Lords and proceeded to beat the living hell out of him. After he was through he yelled at him to pull himself together and act like a man. The war effort improved considerably after the Court of Lords Beating. Jrak began to act much more like his father and even headed a successful invasion into Tleth that captured a substantial amount of territory and Fort Treaugh in the mountains of Quekevek.
But most importantly, they had caught the spy. A gargoyle named Yethfer had been passing information to the Tlethans for almost a year. He was the reason that the war had yet to be one. Ironically, it was his incredible spying capabilities that caused his untimely death. Yethfer had found the entire battle plan for Hawthorne Creek and had handed the entire thing over to the Overlord. The Overlord decided to implement his mounted surprise attack idea, and Yethfer’s cover was more or less blown. Yethfer was caught trying to flee to Tleth and was brought before the three rulers to decide his fate. They agreed that espionage, and therefore treason, was most certainly punishable by death. But how to carry this out? The solution was simple. Yethfer’s wings were rent from his body and he was hurled, bound, into a pond inside the walls of Skathka. His body is still, supposedly, there.
For a period of about ten years, nothing much happened. The Tlethans and Tlelkans launched the occasional raid on each other’s countries, but for a little while, it seemed as though the war was about to end and Tleth would be split in two. But Jrak had become a seasoned war veteran by now. And in 806, he was going to prove it. Jrak went to Thren and T’acch and informed them that he felt the war should not stagnate like this. They had fought too long and too hard for it to simply peter out. Jrak voiced his idea. An idea that had been in the making for almost thirty years. Jrak wanted to go on an extreme offensive. He wanted to not just win independence for his people and his brethren, but to free them all. He wanted to conquer Tleth and completely coup the Depothian government. This was a kind of strategy that appealed to Thren and T’acch.
In October of 807, T’acch, Thren, and Jrak took fifty thousand men and marched into Tleth. They did leave behind another fifty thousand to defend the country while they were gone. Jrak and his army struck quickly. They marched into Tleth from somewhere in the vicinity of Nithdar. Quickly, the armies of Tleth fell before them. Not expecting an attack from Nithdar, the Depothians were unready and had to march their main forces away from the Quekevek mountains. Jrak marched his army into Tleth for the better parts of 807 and 808. However, disaster struck when both Jrak and T’acch were killed in the same battle at what was soon to be known as Bloodspatter Hill.
As it’s told, the Tlethans had been training an elite archer division and they took out Jrak and T’acch. The arrow simply bounced off Thren’s stony skin. Thren, knowing he did not have Jrak’s tactical prowess, took the army back to Tlelk and assumed defensive positions while he waited for new people to assume power.
The trio had conquered almost half of Tleth in just two years. Sadly most of that territory would be regained by Tleth while Tlelk underwent its own power struggle. The normal system of succession in Tlelk is and was very similar to that of most orc societies. The leader was succeeded by whoever could best them in a duel. The problem was that T’acch and Jrak had both fallen in battle and Jrak did not have any close relatives to succeed him. He had one fourth cousin and his wife’s nephew. Traditionally this dispute would have been settled in a trial by combat. In this instance it couldn’t because both of them were under the age of fifteen. His cousin was thirteen and his wife’s nephew was fourteen.
Ultimately it was decided that they would still be put to a trial and that Jrak’s twenty year old wife would act as regent until the winner became of age. It was to be a trial of wits. The nephew (Kathkon Dirnew) set it up. He devised a test in which there were two wine glasses. Both contained wine, but one had been poisoned with root of gripthorn. Kathkon knew which one was poisoned, but he allowed the cousin (Vizzini Thethrun) to choose who would drink which glass. The day of the trial came and a small table was set up in the castle courtyard of Skathka. Kathkon and Vizzini came and sat down. Vizzini considered himself something of a master of wits and considered the challenge to be completely in his favor. The challenge lasted less than ten minutes. The dialogue that follows is slightly incorrect due to age, but you have the general gist (references to games and puzzles are something Kathkon and Vizzini played as smaller children):
Kathkon: Alright, where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink - and find out who is right, and who is dead.
Vizzini: But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine it from what I know of you. Are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you...But you must have known I was not a great fool; you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Kathkon: You've made your decision then?
Vizzini: Not remotely! Because gripthorn comes from Zelacar. As everyone knows, Zelacar is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me. So, I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Kathkon: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
Vizzini: Wait 'till I get going!! ...where was I?
Vizzini: Yes! Zelacar! And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin,so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Kathkon: You're just stalling now.
Vizzini: You'd like to think that, wouldn't you! You've beaten my games, which means you're exceptionally strong...so you could have put the poison in your own goblet trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you've also bested my puzzles, which means you must have studied...and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!
Kathkon: You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.
Vizzini: It has worked! You've given everything away! I know where the poison is!
Kathkon: Then make your choice.
Vizzini: I will, and I choose…(pointing behind Kathkon) What in the world can that be?
Kathkon: (turning around, while Vizzini switches goblets) What?! Where?! I don't see anything.
Vizzini: Oh, well, I...I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. (Vizzini laughs)
Kathkon: What’s so funny?
Vizzini: I...I'll tell you in a minute. First, let's drink, me from my glass and you from yours.
They both proceeded to drink.
Kathkon: You guessed wrong.
Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha, you fool!! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Nedden; and only slightly less well known is this: Never go in against a human, when death is on the line! (Vizzini continues to laugh hysterically. Suddenly, he stops and falls right over...dead).
Kathkon had succeeded in outwitting Vizzini and told the crowd how he had done it. According to him, he had poisoned both goblets, knowing for years that he had a natural immunity to gripthorn ever since he had accidentally eaten it as an infant.
However, it seems that Kathkon had celebrated too early. His aunt acted as his regent for a further four years until 812 when Kathkon came of age and his aunt (Yotul Dirnew) was supposed to relinquish the throne to him. It did not pan out in this manner. It seems that Yotul was a much loved ruler as Kathkon was garroted to death the night before he was set to inherit the throne. Yotul herself wasn’t even tried as she was out of Skathka at the time visiting the commanders of Nithdar as a last act.
Yotul proved to be an adept ruler and worked well with Thren and Rak’Ith Ye’rul (T’acch’s son). She even followed in her husband’s footsteps and helped reconquer the majority of the land that had been lost to Tleth. In 814, at the battle of Silent Swamp, she even slew the Depothian general; Yakhuzhak Chuhxuszaaz using his own clawed arm as her war hammer had been broken. Her rule greatly revitalized the war effort as she continued to be even more violent and bloodthirsty than Jrak. She created a force of elite gargoyle assassins and sent them into Tleth to take out key military leaders. They weren’t particularly effective due to a penchant for assassinating people with very large rocks. However, they did manage to assassinate the Overlord’s closest advisor, Sacox Nezaq.
Yotul ruled for fifteen years until she was challenged to a duel by her son from her first marriage, Thewrak Dirnew, who slew her and assumed her seat in July of 829. It was still two years before Tlelk was officially free. Due to Yotul’s influence, Tleth was a miniscule fraction of the size it had been. Depothians in conquered territory were slaughtered without a second thought. Jrak’s dream of conquering Tleth was coming to fruition. Thewrak decided that he would conquer and destroy Tleth once and for all in his reign. In October of 829 he amassed a force similar to Jrak’s and launched one final invasion of Tleth with Rak’Ith and the aging Thren.
The remaining Tlethans knew that they would be brutally massacred should they allow their remaining territory to be conquered and fought harder than ever. However, the Depothian Overlord was careful to not take any undue risks. For a while it was mulled around; they should go on a brutal offensive and crush Thewrak’s army. This was quickly dismissed as they most likely did not have the numbers or strategic terrain nearby. They were boxed in and had no other options. They had to mount a defense. They never went on the offensive but simply engaged the Tlelkans whenever they attempted to invade Tleth. This continued for a further year with the Tlelkans making several attempts to spearhead an invasion and the Tlethans somehow managing to push them back. Finally, in January of 831, the Tlelkans made one final push with absolutely every soldier they had, punching through the Tlethan defensive lines and slaughtering any Tlethan who stood in their way. They marched as fast as they could to get to the Tlethan capital which had been their goal since Thewrak assumed power. They quickly surrounded the capital and demanded to see the Overlord, Okot Ukoukseth. He was brought out to them with a small entourage of ten guards.
It is unclear whether he knew what was about to transpire or not, but it is certain that many Tlethans were. He was taken into the center of the camp where he was brought before Thewrak, Rak’Ith and the now-aged Thren. Immediately, Thewrak ordered his guards restrained. They were held at dagger point. Thewrak stood up from his chair and walked up to Okot. He informed him that he was no longer fit to lead and that the Tlethan empire had come to its end. He told Okot that his life was coming to an end just as the empire had. He condemned Okot for his actions of oppression and told him that he would be allowed a few last words. It is said that Okot did not fall to pieces when he was told he was about to be publicly executed. He simply bowed to Thewrak said, “Kill me quickly” and kneeled down. Thewrak treated him with equal dignity and swiftly and cleanly decapitated Okot. With Okot’s death ends the “True Sea Elves.” The Tlelkans destroyed the entire race in their fury. It is possible that some Depothians embraced the age-old tradition and fled to the sea during the early days of the revolt but it’s impossible to know as a Depothian hasn’t been seen since 831. Interestingly, Okot had been the Overlord since the very first revolt with Kithvar and S’lith.
Now it may seem to you that this isn’t overly violent. And that is because, amazingly, most of the violence involved in Tlelk’s history came during the internal power struggles after it’s creation. For one thing, Thren died three years after the Tlelkan victory. He was laid to rest at the graveyard of Silent Swamp. Thren died a war hero but his children weren’t exactly cut from the same cloth. His eldest son, Ovnuz, was more of a hedonist than an actual leader, his second son, Diamag, wasn’t the type of leader that Tlelk liked either. More content to sit in his library and research science and history than fight duels or drink heavily, he wouldn’t be respected by his people. And his daughter, Shemna, was more of a rogue than a warrior. She had a reputation for petty theft and the occasional cowardly murder. Naturally she was a perfect fit but she was not in line for the throne. So she did what any third in line heir would do.
Ovnuz was found dead in the middle of his own party. It seems that, like Kathkon, Shemna had a penchant for poisoning. Or at least whoever killed him did. Poisoned with the very same type of root that killed Vizzini Thethrun, Ovnuz died quickly and quietly and it’s speculated that it was actually a half hour after he died that he was recognized to be dead. This is rather strange as gripthorn causes the consumer’s eyes to turn one hundred percent green and they lose total motor control before death.
Diamag was found stabbed (thirty times) in his library. At least seven books were to have been ruined by his blood. According to various sources, Shemna kept these books and used them to build a footstool for her own throne, as a message to any prospective coups.
It is unclear whether or not Shemna committed these murders herself or if he hired an external force to do it for her. Because of this, it could never be flatly proven that Shemna was behind her brother’s murders, but it was and is widely believed that she was. No matter the case, Shemna proved to be just as much of a ruler as everyone thought she would be. For example, in 840, six years into her rule, she had killed Rak’Ith and Thewrak killed in a tragic “hunting accident.” Because of this, she instituted a law saying that the remaining rulers were to select the next rulers should some of them be slain outside of a formal duel. She immediately stacked the other two thrones with an orc and a reptile man she knew would be loyal to her. The orc was named Braknar Yurten. The reptile man was Y’Irn Tret’Herj. The most obvious reason why she selected these two men was that they were big and strong compared to her slight frame. In the event of a personal attack, she could count on them to protect her. The less obvious, but more believed, reason is that she had had relationships with the two of them and didn’t particularly want them straying.
Nevertheless, Shemna basically had total control over the other two and therefore Tlelk until the time of her death ten years later. But there is plenty of history to go through under her reign. Shemna had a reputation for flying into violent fits of anger and killing whoever had made her fly into it in the first place. The most famous example of this came in 835 when the Lord of Quekevek approached the Shelled Throne (the triple throne of the rulers of Tlelk) and informed Her and His Majesties that a group of bandits had been marauding in his territory and he needed more government sanctioned men to defeat them. Shemna asked why he couldn’t make do with the force of two dozen warriors he had been given. The Lord responded that the group outnumbered his and was much better at navigating the mountainous terrain. Shemna angrily told him that he should be able to destroy simple marauders with his standing army and that he should leave now while he was still ahead. The Lord refused to go, telling Shemna that if he left now without any more troops, his people were condemned to die. Shemna stepped off the throne, approached the Lord and swiftly plowed her dagger into his gullet, saying that he had condemned himself to die with his insubordination.
Shemna let him fall to the ground, staining the flagstones of the throne room with his blood. There he laid for the rest of the day before his corpse was cleaned up the following morning. His blood was left there and remains to this day along with the rest of the blood that has ever been spilled in Skathka Hall. It is there as a warning to anyone who sets foot in the Hall native or foreigner. In any event, Shemna and her two consort’s reign did not last particularly long. For only ten years did Shemna rule, due to the fact that she cared more for herself than any of her people. Braknar and Y’Irn went with her as well, due to the interesting manner in which Shemna was ousted. A young unknown reptile man named Te’Rej Thi’Uru challenged all three of them to a simultaneous duel. All three of them were to fight him at the same time. It would be a fight for the ages.
Te’Rej was armed with nothing but a war hammer. Braknar had a one handed mace and a large shield. Y’Irn chose a shortsword and multiple daggers. Shemna simply had the dagger with which she slew the Lord of Quekevek, as well as a small bag that nobody had questioned her about. The triple duel was to occur at noon on the fourteenth of May, 844. The following description of their battle is one I got from the Sage of Tlelk, a wise (some even say prophetic) leprechaun who would have been about one hundred and three years old at the time. He is still alive to this day, which is how I got this testimony.
In the words of the Sage:
“Oye, now dinna oi tell ya, what a fascinatin’ an’ ehnrapturin’ stury was tha’ fight. Oi’ll tell ya again, then shall oi? Yeas, oi think oi weel. Ye see, tha’ ol’ reeptoil maan was right maad a’ Sheemna, so he coomes roonin’ uup to har, an’ he trois to maark har fayce with his grait beeg ‘ammer an’ yoo kno whut shay doos? Shay raeches inta har baag, an shay pools out thees leetle’ boll. An shay takes thees leetle’ boll, an shay throos it a’ the groound. Weel, tha’ leetle’ boll barsts oopen, an’ smooke roons froom et en ull derections. Shay yoosed tha’ smooke ta’ roon awah froom Tay’Rehj an’ laeves heem bloinded. Braknaar snook oop bahheind heem and hay took a swang a’ Tay weeth tha’ mace. Tay dodged tha’ bloow and he swoong ‘is ‘ammer inta Braknaar’s heid. Braknaar dinna geet oop. So now i’ wahs joost ‘im an’ Sheemna an’ Yee’Eern. Tay’Rehj knoo tha’ Sheemna wasn’a threa’ so hay foocoused ahn Yee’Eern.
Nawh, Yee’Eern wahs coomin’ ah Tay weeth has shartsard and Tay wahs rady far haem. Yee chahrged haem an’ swoong haes sard a’ Tay. Yee wahs a’ batte’ coombatant tha’ Braknaar boo’ naw’ as goo’ as Tay. Tay doodges haem, grabs haes arhm, and trows haem anta haes baeck. Gouin’ fahr ah dramahteeck fahnahsh, Tay laeps inta’ tha’ aihr and braengs haes ‘ammer doun antah’ Yee’s haed. Nawh et wahs joost haem and har. Shay knoo tha’ shay canna mahtch haem fahr strength, so shay daycided tah trah tah outwaht haem. Shay throos mahr oov thaem leetle’ bolls, and faells tha’ orena with smooke. Thaen, shay quitely roons at haem and joomps onta haes back. Ahmaezenly, shay tried tah’ choke haem daed. And shay wahs doin et! Shay wahs acktooahly chokan a fool grrooen reeptoil mahn! Hae drooped haes ‘ammer and et looked lahke shay wahs about tah wen tha’ dah! Oontile, hae pooled out haes seecraet dagger and raemmed et oop inta har siede. Shay sleed ooff haem and he stabbed har thrae mar toimes. Shay jooined Braknaar an’ Yee’Eern un tha’ flooor.””
Undoubtedly, this was a fight for the ages. Te’Rej Thi’Uru had defeated the entire Shelled Throne and made use of Shemna’s law for the last time. He selected his own allies and abolished the law. The orc he picked was called Jin Nodor, the gargoyle was named Garthen.
Te’Rej is perhaps, most well known for his famed triple duel, but he also was, supposedly , a benevolent ruler. Some of his first acts were to repeal most of the extensive tax laws that Shemna had passed as well as her standing army requirements that stated that every family had to contribute at least one healthy male to the standing army of Tlelk. Many families couldn’t afford this due to the hardship of farming in a swamp. Due to this climate the primary crop of Tlelk is and was rice. As I’ve said, rice takes a great deal of effort to farm, along with the threat of Uncle Teeth hiding in rice patties. The average farming family couldn’t afford this loss and so, Te’Rej’s decision to repeal this law immediately made him a very popular ruler. Garthen and Jin were also well respected leaders due to their connections with the people and their tendencies to help the common man if and when they were passing through a rural village.
In 846, Tlelk encountered its first exterior threat and the country was plunged into another thirty years of war dubbed the “Tlelkan Wars.” The king of Felton at the time (Jehen the Slayer) saw the new country as an easy territory to conquer. Now, an impartial historian would recognize that Jehen was dealing with his own overpopulation problem and he saw Tlelk as both a solution and an easy target. In May of 846, Jehen marched his armies toward the border of Tlelk along the Feltonian Peninsula and told the garrison at a border crossing that he wanted an audience with the Shelled Throne. This message was relayed all the way back to the coast at Skathka and the Shelled Throne agreed in a two-to-one vote that Jehen should be allowed to come to Skathka, but he would not be armed once he set foot in the hall. The memory of Dotsuakor was not to be forgotten.
Jehen informed Te’Rej and his compatriots that Felton vastly outnumbered them and that they should just surrender now and be peaceably absorbed into the empire. Te’Rej was not a man for diplomacy. He very quietly got up from the Shelled Throne, walked up to Jehen, and simultaneously knocked him on the floor and kneeled on his back. He drew his dagger and placed it under Jehen’s throat. He told him, in the softest of tones, that he could kill him here and now, but he would not. He roughly picked Jehen up and bodily heaved him out the doors of Skathka Hall.
Enraged by this embarrassment, Jehen immediately ordered the launch of an invasion of Tlelk through the Feltonian Peninsula. He was immediately met by the Tlelkan army which used the same tactic as they had at the Battle of Griffinhook Glen. Any scouts they sent towards the trench were pulled into it and stabbed to death. Jehen and his tacticians would have to get creative in order to defeat the Tlelkans. And he did.
Many historians agree that the relatively new substance of Feltonian Fyre was invented either by Jehen or his chief alchemist; an elf named Nyana Permoira. Feltonian Fyre is a special alchemical mixture that ignites at the touch of a spark. Faster than dragon fyre, it scorches landscapes and ravages navies. Naturally, the trenches on the border of the Feltonian Peninsula was the best place to test this newfound power. Jehen called in the stealthiest men from his intelligence unit, equipped them with daggers and bags of Feltonian Fyre and instructed them to lay the Fyre in and around the trenches. In the morning, a single flaming arrow was loosed from the Feltonian ranks.
It is said that it was seen with contempt as the single arrow arced across the morning sky. It was watched with disinterest and boredom. Then it hit the ground. As described by certain survivors it “was as if Karnalak himself had joined the Feltonians.” Karnalak was a dragon that had famously plagued Tlelk during the days of Tlethan rule. The defending Tlelkans were decimated. Of the four thousand that had marched to defend Tlelk, four hundred and eight survived. Fort Treaugh was reconquered by the Feltonians.
This loss rattled the Tlelkans. They couldn’t compete with the brains that developed Feltonian Fyre (it is important to note that orcs have no cognitive inability, but simply no desire to expand upon their minds). The Feltonians could simply use their Fyre whenever they wanted to annihilate the enemy. Something had to change. Standard Tlelkan battle strategy wouldn’t work. Something had to be thought of, something new. And it came.
In September of 846, an alchemist by the name of Yonzev Nerkog made a brilliant discovery. Feltonian Fyre was rendered useless if it came into contact with water. Immediately, dispatches were sent to every Tlelkan officer, ordering them to increase the amount of water their troops carried. Although in the dispatches it was dubbed “AntyFyre” in an attempt to throw off Feltonian spies about what this new tactic was. Te’Rej also gave certain soldiers the job of “spotting” or watching for signs of the Fyre so that it could be destroyed and the person who planted it would be killed. These spotters along with the discovery helped shift the tide of the Feltonian/Tlelkan War. However, it was far from over. While the Tlelkans were repelling Fyre attacks, Te’Rej felt that they could do more.
He sent a spy to capture the formula for Feltonian Fyre and he started training soldiers to safely remove the Fyre and use it against the enemy. Along this line, Yonzev also discovered that simply focusing light on the Fyre could detonate it. He told Te’Rej that he should equip all his soldiers with looking-glasses and order them to attempt to detonate any Fyre that could be spotted among enemy ranks. Te’Rej trusted Yonzev and followed his instructions to the letter. It was here that Yonzev started to realize this. However, that tale comes in a different book.
Te’Rej outfitted his army and set them off to repel the Feltonians. His trust of Yonzev was not misplaced...yet. The next confrontation between the two nations at Crushstone Pass left the Feltonians on the receiving end of their own creation. And what was more; a Tlelkan Warg (literally means “dishonored” in the old gargoyle tongue. Warg is the name given to a gargoyle born without wings, and therefore without honor), posing as a wounded Feltonian, made his way into the Feltonian capital with the retreating army and stole the formula for Feltonian Fyre. Now the Tlelkans could start manufacturing their own. The only problem being that the majority of the ingredients used in the Fyre were not native to Tlelk. The recipe is as follows:
Take yellowrock as well as rock salt and mix them in a metal vessel. Take ashes from a hot fire and add them with a crushed thunderstone. Add silverrock as well to the mixture and pound all into a fine paste. Once it has become so fine, the mixture shall crave the juice of black mulberries and the blood of the earth. Once added together, these materials should form soot colored material the consistency of bloodtree sap. Once this material has formed, the alchemist must combine more yellowrock with charcoal from a cold fire and Peter’s Salt. Once this mixture has mixed evenly, it should also be mixed into the bloodtree substance. Keep the Fyre away from any source of heat, or it’s blessing will become your curse. Once prepared, the Fyre can be spread on any substance, excepting water, and will unleash its power when it is heated sufficiently.
Many of the ingredients listed here, such as thunderstones, silverrock and black mulberries, are not natively found in Tlelk. They come from Felton, this being the reason why Felton had the monopoly on the Fyre. Tlelk would have to capture Feltonian territory if it wanted to be able to produce the Fyre. And Te’Rej wanted to be able to produce Feltonian Fyre. So he decided to enact the age-old Tlelkan tactic of going on a brutal offensive and slaughtering tens of thousands of enemy troops. Te’Rej’s plan was clear. He outfitted his military with the best arms he could procure and launched a counter invasion of the Feltonian Peninsula. The main weapon they had was Feltonian Fyre. The first target the Tlelkans went after was the fortified city of Braovern. Braovern is and was a very productive industrial city. It sits next to Widetrunk Forest and harvests the wood from it to make various items. If Tlelk could capture it, they could force Felton to surrender simply by threatening to destroy the city. But first they had to capture it.
The Tlelkan military arrived at Braovern on the eighth of June 847, Te’Rej’s army marched to the gates of Braovern and demanded an immediate and unconditional surrender. Needless to say, this order was refused. Te’Rej decided to unleash the weapon they had developed expressly for this purpose. Dubbed the “Maw” Te’Rej’s beautiful war machine was a thirty foot long tube of stone. We do not know how it was developed or how it worked, but the Maw was designed to be loaded with vast quantities of Feltonian Fyre, which would be fired at the enemy (or wall, home, village, town, really anything you want) and obliterate them. The problem was that Te’Rej had a few victories on the way up to Braovern, but he had only captured enough Fyre to load the Maw once. He decided to make it his opening trick. The Maw began preparations immediately after the diplomatic meeting and was finished the next day. It was aimed at the wall of Braovern and a spark was touched to the fuse.
What proceeded was described as “a brief glimpse into the end of all times.” A terrible roar came from the Maw and a massive, radiant object burst from its mouth. All the men within fifty feet of the Maw were thrown to the ground. Then the missile collided with the wall. There it stuck, burning the enemy troops and exploding due to the black powder contained within and without. The initial impact had destroyed the upper most part of the wall, but it was far from over. As the object continued to burn and explode, more sections of the wall crumbled, more Feltonians were killed. And as quickly as it began, it was over. Te’Rej and his men picked themselves up and stared in awe and horror at what they had done. The circular wall of Braovern seemed to have just vanished in places. Broken, charred bodies were strewn about the field in front of and on top of the wall. The fighting ceased as both sides stared solemnly in horror at the chaos wrought by the Maw. Te’Rej immediately raised a flag of truce and sought out the officer in charge of the defense. A man named Richard Danerson met with Te’Rej, informed him that the previous commanding officer was killed in the blast from the Maw, and told him that he was now the commanding officer.
Te’Rej was a man of honor. He saw the sorrow and pain the Maw had created. He immediately judged it too powerful for war. He told Richard that he would give him three days’ time to treat his dead with dignity and remove any wounded without chance of recovery. Te’Rej would be back to wage war, but in a civilized manner. Three days passed with Te’Rej peaceably agreeing to his own terms and camping within sight of Braovern. Richard himself was also an honorable man and he respected Te’Rej. He had actually thought that Felton was wrong to invade such a fledgling country and had nothing but contempt for Jehen. Most people did. On the evening of the third day, he rode out alone to Te’Rej’s camp and requested a meeting with the Centercrown. Te’Rej allowed him into his tent unarmed. Richard told Te’Rej how he felt about Jehen and that he was willing to hand Braovern over to Te’Rej and Tlelk as long as no malice was felt between the two militaries. Te’Rej agreed under the condition that the subjugated Feltonians aid in the destruction of blueprints for the Maw and magickal containment of it. Since Fort Treaugh was in the conquered territory and was already immensely difficult to get to, as well as abandoned, it was decided that the Maw would be sealed inside the bowels of the fortress. A harrowing adventure ensued that is a story for another book (some say the Fog of all Souls was originally made of the souls slain at Braovern). But the Maw was sealed in Treaugh and Braovern and much of its outlying villages were ceded to Tlelk. Jehen was shocked.
Jehen was quick to anger, and a very impulsive leader. This is why the war was started in the first place. In his rage, he rode to the new border and challenged Te’Rej to a duel. Te’Rej was a man of honor and normally he would’ve declined knowing how much of an advantage he had. But he saw this as an opportunity to aid the people of Felton. The main reason they had problems was because of Jehen’s poor leadership skills, so Te’Rej took him up on it and leaped at him declaring the duel to start at that moment.
He pulled Jehen from his horse, struck him heavily in the face, and threw him to the ground. Jehen immediately saw his mistake. As he tried to rise, Te’Rej kicked him hard in the stomach. He fell back to the ground. Te’Rej was toying with him, that much was obvious. Jehen managed to scramble to his feet and pulled out his small shield and a broadsword. Te’Rej was armed with his own brutally modified, double handed spear. Jehen charged at Te’Rej who simply stepped to the side and clotheslined Jehen with the spear. Jehen went spinning into the dust once more. He got up and this time, he was more calculating. The Tlelkans and absorbed Feltonians had surrounded the combatants and were mostly cheering for Te’Rej. It’s even speculated that at one point, a man in the crowd tripped Jehen. Te’Rej wasn’t inclined to defeat Jehen so easily, he wanted to humiliate him before he defeated him.
Jehen tried to mount his horse, but Te’Rej swung his spear like a club and caught Jehen squarely in the face. The horse was quickly absorbed by the crowd. Jehen had to make a move or he was doomed. Realizing it did him no good, Jehen threw his shield like a boomerang. Te’Rej hadn’t expected this and it connected with the bridge of his nose. Te’Rej was stunned and on his back. Jehen jumped at this opportunity and quickly shoved his sword against Te’Rej’s throat. Te’Rej still had his spear, but couldn’t do anything with it. Sensing that his victory was imminent, Jehen decided to attempt to humiliate Te’Rej and prove himself more masculine and a better ruler. He insulted everything Te’Rej held dear from his family to his country to his fighting style. He should’ve just slain Te’Rej right there, but Jehen was arrogant. And he continued insulting everything Te’Rej knew until he went one remark too far. He slandered the honor of Te’Rej’s wife; Re’Sen Thi’Uru. Te’Rej roared with the fury of every god, picked Jehen up by his neck, broke his broadsword against the ground and slammed him into the dirt. He proceeded to rend every limb from Jehen’s body and when there were no limbs left, he rammed the broken blade of the sword into Jehen’s faceplate.
The populace of Tlelk had never seen their leader so enraged. They backed away noticeably and a doctor was shoved forward to see if Te’Rej was stable to be around other beings. Tentatively, the doctor approached Te’Rej and, from the burning in his eyes, told everyone that he was just coming out of the most powerful berserker rage the world had ever seen. Te’Rej promptly collapsed. The mess of Jehen was surrounded by a small cairn and is still outside the limits of Braovern to this day.
When he awoke two days later, his physician and his aides informed him that the war had ended. Felton had ceded all conquered land to Tlelk but requested that they maintain that border. The physician warned Te’Rej that, while berserking was a powerful gift, he should try to refrain from it as it put unnecessary stress on his hearts. But nevertheless, Te’Rej had led the Tlelkans to victory in the first exterior war it experienced (the record for most powerful rage has never been broken, but mostly because no one wants to incur the wrath of Te’Rej.
Of course, now knowing that the Tlelkans were weakened by years of civil war and one of just plain war, another country would undoubtedly try to move in and conquer the country too. And there was. Two countries in fact. One after the other. The first country to attempt to invade Tlelk was the archipelago of Scatterfield. The islands were populated by a race of sentient turtle people called Tortles. They still populate the islands and are a fairly peaceable, friendly race. Scatterfield had the best navy in the world at the time and they were going to use this advantage to conquer Tlelk.
Almost a year after Te’Rej’s victory over Jehen, the first of the Scatterfieldian ships appeared on the horizon. The night was dark and stormy. Te’Rej, Jin and Garthen took as much of the military as they deemed safe to the southern coast of Tlelk and debated what to do. Tlelk had no sizable navy. Their navy was outnumbered by fishing ships and cargo haulers. But they would have to make do. Te’Rej and his two comrades took control of the smallest ship they could find and ordered all their troops to board any ships they could and sail off to meet the Tortles. They were also given the order to send any ships they captured back to the shore. Te’Rej and the other two had an entourage of two orcs, two reptile men, and two gargoyles to help them, but they were more shield bearers than actual fighters, they would leave that to the Shelled Throne itself. Te’Rej’s vessel was quickly bearing down on a Scatterfieldian warship. They heard and felt the two scraping along each other and quickly, all nine of them scrambled aboard and came face to face with forty armed Tortles. They saw they were outnumbered and knew it. The Tlelkans knew it too. With a terrifying war cry, Te’Rej charged into battle swinging his greatsword like a mighty hammer. Almost immediately, he cut down three Tortles and there was no stopping him. The other eight set into the crew as well and the deck was soon slick with blood. The sea around them turned dark red and frothed underneath the battle-filled ship. In almost ten minutes, the deck was clear of any living Tortle. Te’Rej quickly rigged the ship to sail towards the Tlelkan coast and motioned for his comrades to follow him back to the dinghy. The rest of the battle was in full force. Screams filled the ocean and Tlelkan and Tortle alike were cast, dead and alive, into the raging ocean. Many ships were being sent back to the Tlelkan coast and the Tortles were retreating back out to deeper waters where the Tlelkans would not follow. Once there, they dropped anchor to concoct a plan for landing on Tlelkan soil. The Tortles were not usually a warlike race and so were unprepared for the unmitigated fighting spirit of the Tlelkans. They had to adopt a plan that played to their strengths. Unfortunately for them, they were fighting an offensive war and had no offensive talents.
Te’Rej and his army decided to camp on the beach in order to keep their eyes on the Scatterfieldian fleet. Te’Rej knew that there was no way they would attempt another sea battle, but he was uncertain where the Tortles were planning on landing their vessels. He was willing to bet that they didn’t have enough food for a lengthy excursion and would have to land somewhere within a three kilometer stretch of land in order to not starve. The only problem was where exactly they would land. He didn’t have enough troops to spread across three kilometers and he couldn’t chance having his troops grouped up in one place in case he was wrong, but he couldn’t lengthen his line either. Then the idea came to him. He called Jin Nodor to his tent and told him that he needed a favor, that Tlelk needed a favor. The plan was to send him out into the Tlelkan fleet in the very same dinghy that he, Garthen and Te’Rej had sailed out into the first sea confrontation, and steal the Scatterfieldian battle plans. Jin agreed readily and put out that very same night and rowed quietly for the Admiral’s ship. An hour passed. Suddenly, the Tlelkan camp could hear the sounds of fighting. Cries echoed through the air. A splash. The sound of rowing. Jin slowly appeared out of the night and rammed the dinghy into the soft sand. He lurched out of the boat and collapsed onto the sand oozing blood from a wound in his right shoulder. Te’Rej ran to his aid, picked up his comrade and carried him to the medical tent. After a brief inspection, the physician told Te’Rej that Jin would live but that he would lose the use of his weapon arm.
This was devastating news to Te’Rej and it would be to Jin when he came out of his unconscious spell. Jin was a fantastic warrior and half the reason why the three of them were so devastating in battle. Jin, Garthen and Te’Rej had been close friends in their childhood and this was terrible news. Te’Rej blamed the Tortles and immediately ordered fire arrows to be rigged and fired at the Scatterfieldian fleet. This order was quickly followed and hundreds of fire arrows were produced there on the beach. Te’Rej’s rage actually paid off for the Tlelkans in this instance. As the fire arrows arced toward the ships, they illuminated everything around them and showed that the Scatterfieldians had started to move in the night. They were planning on putting in about a half a kilometer away from the Tlelkan camp. Luckily, the fire arrows illuminated this plot and Te’Rej regained control of himself. He ordered the archers to continue firing in about the same position while he took the bulk of the army stealthily up the coast to ambush the Tortles.
The plan was put into action with only a little mayhem and the army snuck off to confront the Tortles. Just as the Scatterfieldian ships put in, the first Tlelkans leapt from the beach and drove grapnels into the ships and anchored them to the sand. Then, they swarmed on board the anchored ships and went into battle. The ensuing bloodbath was partially influenced by the just rage of the Tlelkans. The Tortles had dreadfully miscalculated when the best time to attack the three most warlike races in all of Cidri would be. Coming off of six hundred years of oppression and one hundred of civil war, the Tlelkans were not prepared to lose the freedom they had gained. The fury of thousands of men was loosed upon the invading Tortles and any crewman that stupidly put in at the soon to be Victory Beach was savaged by the Tlelkan military. Seeing this carnage on the beach and his ships, the Tortle Bolay ordered a full retreat back to Scatterfield to reassess his battle plans. As he retreated, it was said that he could still hear the deafening war cries of the Tlelkans three kilometers away.
The year was now early 849. Te’Rej’s reputation was growing. He had already technically won two wars and defeated a king in single combat as well as the entire Shelled Throne. It was no wonder that many, many people were worried about him. Not that he would be killed, but that nobody would kill him. This was emphasized by him taking the kenning “Te’Rej Thi’Uru the Immortal.” Many people considered his extremely aggressive ruling and tendency to berserk as a threat. None of these happened to be citizens of Tlelk. In fact, the most prominent of these happened to be the Bolay of Tlelk, Handa Ituzs. It is widely believed that all of the five hits taken on Te’Rej were ordered personally by Handa. It should be noted that five hits were ordered because Te’Rej had a tendency to spot and kill them before they even had a chance to react.
The most famous of these would be when Te’Rej saw a bowman on the walls of Skathka that he knew should not be there. So he walked up the stairs to the wall, approached the hitman and spoke genially with him for a few minutes. He then reached behind him and snapped the bow with two fingers. Unarmed, the hitman began to shiver in fear, knowing of his impending demise. Te’Rej informed him that he would have to die, as Te’Rej had every intention to keep living. So, he picked the hitman up by the feet and heaved him over the wall into the sea as though he were performing a caber toss.
But I think that the most interesting incident was when Te’Rej outwitted a hitman very similarly to how Kathkon had outwitted Vizzini. Te’Rej was sitting down to a banquet in honor of the recent single combat champion. He was toasting the combatant and had raised the glass to his lips and just before he tasted it, he smelled the poison it concealed. He pretended to take a sip as he fervently scanned the crowd knowing that the assassin would hide to make sure the job was finished. His eyes alighted on the assassin and a dangerous light flitted across them, but he quickly dispelled it. Having spotted the assassin, he now needed a way to kill him. He couldn’t lunge at him, he was unarmed. He figured he would have to switch his glass with the assassin’s and clevely kill the assassin with his own trick.
He decided to enlist the help of one of his servants. He called the page over to him and told him that in reptilian culture, glasses are traded between dinner guests periodically during meals. He told the boy that he should collect the glasses and return them to different owners. Except for one. He subtly pointed to the assassin and told the child that he should give the man his own glass. The page bowed to Te’Rej and collected the glasses. He gave the assassin Te’Rej’s glass and randomly distributed the rest. It seemed odd to the partygoers but nothing worth disrupting the festivities. The assassin went to take a drink. The champion choked. He turned blue. A hideous gurgling sound issued from his throat and slid sideways out of his chair. It was a miracle for Te’Rej that the assassin didn’t act upon the glass-changing, but the real question is how Te’Rej managed to spot the man.
It’s not clear, but the most accepted theories are that Te’Rej could either smell the poison in the man’s pockets after identifying it from his glass, or that he had noticed that the champion had tipped a page using Scatterfieldian currency. Regardless of the reason, this “victory” only increased Te’Rej’s reputation and the nervousness foreigners felt in his presence. Because of incidents like this, the Bolay of Scatterfield decided that the best way to eliminate Te’Rej was to launch a second invasion of Tlelk and slaughter the royalty. In mid 850, the Scatterfieldians took their navy and decided to attack Nithdar rather than Skathka. They put ashore, all the while being rained on with arrows and rocks, and set up a camp just before the wall of Nithdar. They were now faced with the exact problem as the Tlethans more than sixty years prior. The Tortles had to manage to break through the wall in order to take Nithdar, but they had brought no siege engines except for the naval ballista on the Bolay’s personal war vessel.
The Bolay knew he couldn’t pull off the tunnel technique. He would have to get creative. He came up with an incredible plan. He ordered his soldiers to start making ropes and ladders out of any fibers they could find. He told them that he planned to string these around the sides of the wall and climb across the sheer rock face of the raised plateau that Nithdar sat upon. It was a risky plan, but if it were to succeed, it would give Handa’s soldiers just the edge they would need. They built ropes and ladders out of anything from seaweed to grass to spare bits of cloth. They strung the ropes along the west side of the wall and started climbing across them towards the city. A good number of them, about three dozen, made it across the ropes before they were spotted by an eagle-eyed guard. His name was Tranzak Prendserk. He raced along the wall calling his comrades to him and charging towards the Tortles.
As he got there, he shield-bashed them and sent almost a third of them spiraling off the plateau. He had managed to rally six allies and had dispatched another man to ring the alarm bell. He put up a good fight, but six men couldn’t match an almost endless amount of oncoming enemies. Tranzak and his comrades managed to defeat twenty six Tortles before they had fallen and bought their allies some time. The alarm bell had alerted the militia who could, in turn, rouse the official standing guard of the city. All of these soldiers raced to the breach point and a fierce melee proceeded for about ten minutes. The unready militia were no match for the Tortles who quickly gained control of a section of the town and were spreading through it in force. Once the momentum was gained the battle was lost for the Tlelkans. Nithdar was swiftly conquered by the Tortles and they gained a foothold in mainland Tlelk. This greatly displeased Te’Rej.
Being of such a warlike mind, Te’Rej immediately rallied his army and marched to Nithdar. He immediately requested an audience with the Bolay as he dispatched a good number of his forces to kill the boat guards and cut the Scatterfieldian military off from their ships. The Bolay anticipated this tactic and had set large numbers of guards at the boats. The easy overpowering that Te’Rej expected quickly turned into an all out battle between “dock” guards and the Tlelkan military. But, through that famous Tlelkan determination/indomitable rage, they managed to slaughter the boat guards and cut off the Scatterfieldian’s chances for escape. Now, the Bolay had no choice but to meet with Te’Rej.
They met six hours after the capture of the boats. Te’Rej was said to have appeared confident and almost haughty. Granted, he had good reason to be; he had defeated Felton (and their king) and he had already sent the Tortles running once. Handa knew that he would have to get creative in order to even have a chance of returning safely home. Te’Rej knew this too, and so he took every step imaginable to limit the assets of the defending Tortles. He first destroyed all the ropes the Tortles had made in order to fully cut them off. He then started preparing scaling ladders fit with little iron hooks at the top to bite into the wall and hold fast. Some might argue that he would’ve been better off using the exact same tactic as the Tortles had used to invade the city, but in one man’s opinion, the Tortles would have expected that and would have had guards stationed there.
Te’Rej offered Handa a surrender that was abnormally merciful for his governing pattern. He told Handa that he and his men would be allowed safe passage back to Scatterfield, but only with half as many ships and one less island. Te’Rej demanded half of the Scatterfieldian navy and one of their key islands. It was a heavy price, but it would guarantee the lives of the men Handa still had. Naturally, due to the insult of both being defeated once before and being cornered now, Handa refused Te’Rej’s offer. Te’Rej told him that should he be captured, He would either forfeit his own life, or his son. Handa, being a very callous man, immediately promised himself that if he was captured, he would sacrifice his own son rather than his life. But it hadn’t come down to that yet.
Te’Rej was getting worried. He had been to Nithdar several times and had watched wall defense trainings. He knew that the wall could be easily defended for months, assuming the people on it knew what they were doing. He needed something more than scaling ladders. He briefly considered the idea of returning to the Maw, but this was quickly dismissed as grounds for a war crime. The siege had dragged on for half a year. It was now 851 and Handa was sealed safely behind the wall of Nithdar. Then it hit Te’Rej; he didn’t have to attempt a heroic storming of the citadel. He could just sit and wait for the Tortles to starve. And then he came to his senses and realized that that would not be the Tlelkan way to reclaim Nithdar from the invading Tortles. He decided that he would attempt a grappling hook strategy coupled with scaling ladders.
The day of the attack came. He set up his grapplers and ordered them to launch their hooks. Except they weren’t armed with hooks. Each line had a small bag of Feltonian Fyre inside attached to the line rather than a hook. The devices looked more like lopsided bolas than grappling hooks. They landed softly on the wall and were met with some interest, until the concealed fuses went off and cleared the top of the wall. Scaling ladders were quickly put up and Tlelkans swarmed over the top of the wall and laid waste to any guard who was still alive. From there, they stormed down the walls and plowed into any Tortle walking the streets. This continued until the Tlelkans made it to the governing hall of Nithdar, killed all but two guards and cornered Handa on the “throne.” He was issued the ultimatum that he was told before, and he brought his three-year-old child into the room. He handed the boy over to Te’Rej without a moment’s hesitation and he and what remained of his army fled to the two ships that Te’Rej allowed them to keep.
The name of the boy in question is not quite known. Undoubtedly he was, and possibly is, and Ituzs, and we believe him to be named after one of the ancient Bolaes of Scatterfield. Perhaps, Freden or Gurendar. No matter his name, the Master Ituzs lived with Te’Rej at Skathka for the better part of two years. By then, Master Ituzs was beginning to wonder why he did not live among others of his kind. Rather than answering this question, Te’Rej turned the boy out on the streets and left him to become an orphan. Wherever that boy may be, assuming he is still alive, he might have a claim to the Scatterfieldian Throne.
However, Te’Rej’s rule of ordeal was not yet over. The period of Tlelkan Wars lasted ten years. I have covered only five of these years. The longest war that Tlelk was involved in, besides with itself, was when its neighbor, Dran, decided to invade it as well. Dran was in political turmoil itself as the Duke at the time, Darenvar Vern, had been ousted by a military group known as The Crossed Blades of Heronalk. The Crossed Blades had instituted a military dictatorship and decided to go to war with Tlelk thinking it was weakened by three separate wars in almost as many years. Just like all who had come before them, they were incredibly wrong. Their leader at the time was a man named Erik Sheenson. He was an exceptionally violent man and ruled Dran and anywhere else he conquered with an iron fist. Stylizing himself to be the great conqueror of Cidri, he felt that since he had overthrown the most powerful player on the stage, he thought he was assured of a victory. He was gravely mistaken.
He launched his first invasion of Tlelk in 852 and made a dash straight for Nithdar thinking he could use it as a base of operations due to the massive wall that almost always kept invaders away. Yet again he had grossly miscalculated because the only people who had ever succeeded in conquering Nithdar were the very people he was invading. Regardless of his idiocy, Erik marched into Tlelk and approached the bastion of Nithdar. He figured that he would just attempt to last out the “defenders” until they were forced to give in. It would not turn out that way for Erik. Exactly like those who came before him, he hadn’t accounted for the rage and bloodlust of the Tlelkan people. He hadn’t counted on them trying to fight him. But, as he approached, his army was rained with debris and missiles throughout the entire day. He set up a camp nought but, one hundred feet from the town wall. Erik tried to get his men to rig tarps to defend from this constant, flying detritus. It reduced casualties slightly, but Erik would have to make a move.
Erik wasn’t the most creative of people and the only siege weapons he brought were a few battering rams. He charged his army up to the wall and slammed the rams into the wall. Unsurprisingly, the 7.6 meter thick wall resisted Erik’s rams and only a few miniscule cracks appeared in the wall. In the meantime, his troops were being rained on by rocks, arrows, flaming arrows, bits of metal, broken furniture, and diseased animal corpses. Erik quickly lost favor on that particular endeavor. However, he didn’t give up. He retreated all of his forces except for the rams and set them to work at the wall. After almost a week, all of the rams had managed to chip away a collective cubic meter from the wall. Erik was forced to retreat everyone out of range from the soldiers on the wall. He reviewed the many ways people had attacked Nithdar over the years and the only successful attempt that came to his mind was the Tortle invasion and subsequent recapturing by the Tlelkans. He didn’t have any scaling ladders, grapples, or Fyre, so he decided to go with the side-scale rope strategy. Yet again, it was grossly miscalculated.
The Tlelkans had learned from this strategy and had posted guards at these strategic points. After a half hour spent watching the cables they were putting up be destroyed, Erik called his troops back once again. He determined that no normal means could break through the wall. So he decided to launch a smaller expedition (including himself) to Treaugh, break in, and find and capture the Maw. The rest of the army he ordered to return to Dran and protect it from counter-invasion. The group he took with him to Treaugh consisted of twenty-nine men and himself. Rather than tell the story myself, I managed to procure his journal entries from the only surviving member of the expedition (Veret Denthen) and I have transcribed them here:
6 September, 852
I have sent the army home to defend against any counter-invasion from those blithering orcs. I imagine they must have had Elven help to keep Nithdar from my grasp. No matter how they did it, the important thing is that it was done. Now I must find the most dangerous weapon in perhaps all of Cidri. I’m going with the men for it. I mostly need them to help carry the damned thing.
9 September, 852
We’ve been on the road for some time now. I know that Treaugh is in the northern, snowy region of Tlelk, so I imagine it will be some weeks before we finally get there. I must now contemplate the idea of what to do with it after I get it. I have no Feltonian Fyre, nor the resources necessary to make it. Perhaps I might steal some along the way?
14 September, 852
The weather’s getting colder. I can’t imagine we’re close to it yet, but I’ve heard the old wives’ tale about the Fog of All Souls radiating cold. I don’t believe it. I’m not even sure I believe in the Fog. I imagine it was just an excuse the blasted Tlelkans made up to keep people away from the awesome power of the Maw. Regardless of its existence or not, it doesn’t worry me.
22 September, 852
It’s much colder now. I’ve sent Briggs into the nearest town to procure winter clothing with which we may continue on our journey. I sent him away a few hours ago. I hope nothing happened to him. I told him to wear a disguise and travel with the money disguised.
22 September, 852 Supplement
Briggs is dead. We went after him and found him stabbed to death on the road. I checked him for the money. It’s gone. We may have to turn to banditry to make it out of this.
24 September, 852
We’ve had a stroke of good luck! We were passing by what seemed to be a traveling merchant, and he happened to be dealing in winter clothes. The funny little man was dressed head to toe in a strange, green garb. Havar lunged at him, but he just disappeared, leaving his cart behind. Eerily, we heard a voice after he disappeared telling us about an ill fortune that we would experience should we take his goods. The men were spooked and Teran was in favor of leaving it be. I don’t believe that strange little man.
28 September, 852
We must be getting close to the fortress by now. The temperature has plummeted. We’re running low on food, but we can just ransack one of these little rice paddies. It won’t be tasty, but we’ll live. I’m still worried by the lack of Fyre. Perhaps the Tlelkans buried their Fyre along with the Maw?
1 October, 852
We’ve lost another two men. I sent Kemb and Irent ahead to scout for rice paddies and we came along their remains. The wolves didn’t leave much. We took their weapons and moved along our way. We would’ve given the wretches a proper funeral, but there wasn’t time. I feel that infernal king of theirs [Te’Rej] has caught on to us and has sent a party after us. I’ve told the men to quicken their pace. We’re moving at a practical field jog now.
5 October, 852
Today is a bittersweet day. I can see that blasted fog up ahead. We must be getting close to Treaugh. However, one of my sweepers confirmed for me that there’s a party of almost a hundred men following us. I can’t imagine how we haven’t heard them by now. No matter, we’ll be in the Fog by tomorrow.
6 October, 852
This wretched country baffles me. At the pace we’ve been going, by all rights, we should be in the Fog by now. And what’s worse, it seems those men behind us are starting to catch up. We can’t even shake them off. We’ve come out of the forests. It’s nothing but a stretch of tundra from here to the Fog.
7 October, 852
Finally, we made it into the Fog. It seems those cowardly orcs won’t follow us here either. They almost nicked us as we went into the Fog, but immediately implored us to return to them. Safety, they called it! Those prats thought that was actually going to work. A couple of the men sent arrows and rocks after the Tlelkans. No confirmed hits, but they must’ve been scared senseless.
10 October, 852
This Fog is not good for the mind. I swear to the gods that I keep hearing this evil hissing sound throughout the Fog. The men say a growl, a scream, one man even said a wing-flap. It’s not good for the body either. If the rest of Tlelk is a swamp, this wretched place is the ocean. I’m eagerly awaiting the doors of the fortress.
13 October, 852
It appears I have some deserters in my ranks. Havar, Yuril, and Wrenap were nowhere to be seen this morning. They weren’t at roll-call or the morning meal. Even stranger, they left their kits here. There aren’t any signs of a struggle, although how would any of us know with this Fog as thick as the walls of Nithdar? Perhaps the fog became too much for them and they bolted in the night?
16 October, 852
I swear there is magick affecting time in this Fog. We only came upon the fortress steps today when we should’ve found it two days ago. Even worse, there’s some riddle on the doors. It seems that this is one of the famous Treaughan riddles you have to solve to enter the castle. I hate riddles. I’ll have the men work towards it tomorrow.
17 October, 852
Teran is dead now too. He guessed at the riddle and I suppose he was too loud. An icicle came loose above him and split his head open. I’ve now lost seven men on this expedition. I always thought the most dangerous part was supposed to be inside Treaugh. That’s what worries me the most. I can’t afford to lose more men.
19 October, 852
I don’t know how, but one of the men cracked that blasted riddle and got the doors open. He told me that he could swear he could hear something warning him not to go in, but I don’t believe him. I’m taking my men in there. We are getting the Maw. We are conquering Nithdar.
21 October, 852
This is the second night we’ll be spending inside this fortress. What’s peculiar to me is that the building isn’t built like a fortress. It’s built like a prison. Tlelk built this fortress and abandoned it long before the Maw was made. They have their prisons and their chopping blocks. What was this building made for?
23 October, 852
Rudders and Bethna are dead now too. It seems that Te’Rej trapped the place before leaving the Maw here and they were cut down by unseen arrows before they even took two steps. I’ve instructed the men to be more careful from now on. I’ve estimated it’ll take fifteen men to carry that thing and if I can’t take it out of here, I’ll have lost weeks of time and several men for nothing.
25 October? 852
We’ve delved deep into this place. The longer we stay here, the more convinced I become that this place wasn’t even built by the Tlelkans. Maybe not even the Depothians. It doesn’t look like those strange, coral shaped buildings the Depothians made. It’s not jagged and brutal like the Tlelkan buildings. And it’s certainly not Feltonian. It’s a mystery.
27 October? 852
The men are ready to turn back. Earlier today, a blood-curdling roar echoed through the halls of this fortress. One of the men ran off. We heard his screams add to the din. I have nineteen now. I can’t call off the mission. I don’t know why. Every time I try to tell the men to turn back, a lump gets in my throat and I urge them on further. What’s worse, I can’t even stop myself.
We’re in too deep now. Some unseen force made off with another three men. We’re down to sixteen. I would go looking for them. But I must find the Maw. If I can find it, we can leave this damnable place and finally conquer Nithdar. I just need the Maw.
I went to sleep today and when I woke up, Traver’s was dead. I think I might’ve killed him. I can’t see blood on my hands, but I can’t see anything down here. We’ve run out of torches and we’re navigating simply by the light from someone’s tinder box. It glints off our swords like the silver we’re after.
2 March, 851
The men are getting mutinous. I killed that imbecile in front of them to make an example. He tried to steal my maps. They don’t think that Nithdar is worth this. Nithdar is one of Zelecar’s wealthiest cities. I don’t think I chose the right men for this invasion. Perhaps I’ll execute Havar tomorrow. Govern by fear rather than respect.
October? November? 852
A man’s blood stains my hands. I know not who’s. The men no longer sound off when I give the order. Do they not trust me or are they all dead anyway. I’ve been suffering random bouts of amnesia. It seems I lose a man for every bout. Judging by the sounds of their footsteps I only have five men left. I hope Veret is among them. He seems to be the only one who trusts me.
42 February 863
Nithdar is proving difficult to conquer. I imagine we’ll have to last them out. Good thing we managed to get some battering rams. They’ll have that puny wall down in no time. After that, all we have to do is oust Darenvar and Tlelk will be ours. If only I hadn’t lost my troops to that blasted dragon, Karnalak.
I imagine this will be my last lucid entry. Giske ofajer jfhw. I’ve only five men left. JIUhwhwifu. JEEJ. We managed to breach some sortswojf of treasure room. There was a small island in eorf the middle of the room. It was surroundedeaawaiojf by water with a small stepping stone path thaw. Beneran crossed it and grabbed fruaweof the staff resting oeiirjfon a pedestal. As he did it, a horrible being reared its head out of the water and savagely destroyed Beneran. The rest of us fled. esoaffka.
Blood and death coats the walls. Visions swim before my eyes. A great being, shrouded in smoke. It darts from the wall, hungry, murderous. Tiny, ravenous monsters swarm the floor. I can feel them, biting, tearing, burrowing.
It appears that Erik went violently insane due to his expedition in Treaugh. As far as is known, nobody made it out of Treaugh. They were either brutally killed by Erik or the monsters held within Treaugh. It is unclear whether Erik died in the halls of Treaugh or if he is still there. The indecipherable nonsense at the end of his journal entries are evidence enough of his madness. Regardless of what happened to Erik, he needed a successor. His son, Ivar was the most obvious choice. Ivar was a much better ruler, but he still wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of conquering Cidri. He wasn’t going to make an attempt to exhume the Maw from Treaugh, but he still needed to make a move against Tlelk. Tlelk had proven itself to be a military power and the key to the rest of Cidri would be to conquer Tlelk.
Ivar invaded Tlelk in January of 853. He decided to bypass Nithdar in favor of capturing another key port city; Traudenlr. Traudenlr was not famous for its military aptitude. Traudenlr is a shipping hub for Tlelk. It’s defense relied on the enemy attacking either Nithdar or Skathka first. Conquering Traudenlr would hamstring the economy of Tlelk. Not only would it destroy the Tlelkan economy, but it would bolster that of the turmoil-filled Drannish economy. Ivar pushed his troops past Nithdar and laid siege to Traudenlr. Te’Rej was unable to lead the main army over to Traudenlr, quickly, due to Ivar sabotaging most of the roads in the western half of Tlelk. He was forced to lead them on a lengthy journey following roads to the north and eventually led the army back to Skathka. Traudenlr fell within two days of the beginning of the siege.
This was a terrible defeat for the Tlelkans. Their economy was hogtied and they needed to get the city back as soon as possible. Te’Rej marched the army down toward Traudenlr but soon, he found himself the victim of lightning raids that robbed him of half a dozen men and a supply cart almost every night. By the time he finally got from the Drannish border to Traudenlr, he had lost nearly a quarter of his force and supplies. By then, he decided it would be better to take the military back to Skathka to rest and resupply while he tried to think of a way to break the hold Dran had on Traudenlr. Purportedly, the idea came to him at two in the morning. He leapt out of his bed, called a page, and had him write a letter to the lord (Richard Danerson) of Braovern. It said that Tlelk needed Feltonian immigrants for a very important mission. Richard sent almost two hundred men and women to Te’Rej and he immediately sent back all the men.
Te’Rej was building a formal spy and counterspy unit to sabotage anything and everything as well as to assassinate key enemy players and steal their battle plans. It was astounding that Tlelk had survived for as long as it did without this unit. He carefully selected the members through rigorous try-out programs involving unseen movement, the ability to kill without notice, the ability to steal without notice, and destructive capabilities. Only five women managed it, however Te’Rej did impose a year-round try-out program in the hopes of recruiting more women. While more women tried out, he sent the original five to Traudenlr on, unsurprisingly, an extremely dangerous and covert mission. He wanted them to split into a group of three and a group of two. The trio would try to assassinate the commander in chief of Dran, Ethenhar Rennat. No small task considering the man’s large, combative build. The pair would sneak into Ivar’s war room and steal or destroy his battle plans. Their instructions were to kill only when they wouldn’t be discovered.
They snuck into the city pretending to be a group of traveling dancers who were there to entertain. They were let into the city where they took out rooms in a tavern of somewhat-ill repute, as would be fitting of women of their talents, and waited there, looking for their opportunity. It came two days after they initially entered the city. A group of about seven drunken guards had entered the tavern and used what they believed to be their animal magnetism to attract the fair ladies back to their home in the barracks near the fortress. After following these men back to the barracks, they quite literally stabbed them in the back, hid them in their beds, and helped each other over the wall into the fortress grounds. Once there, they discarded their flowing dresses and put on more suitable form-fitting, black clothing. They wished each other luck and went their separate ways, agreeing to rendezvous back at the tavern in three hours. The group of three hoisted each other up into a nearby window while the other two spread off towards the south end of the fortress to get into the war room window they knew to be there. The group three found themselves in the bedroom of a well known Drannish lord who was known to support the Tlelkans. As the story goes, they woke him up and told him they could smuggle him out of Traudenlr and into Tlelk if he waited here for them to come back.
With this unexpected element dealt with, they left his room and stole down the hall in the direction of Rennat. Encountering minimal resistance, only killing one guard and stuffing him into a nearby closet, they reached Rennat’s chambers. Rather embarrassingly, he was entertaining his mistress at the time. The women burst into the room to find him in bed with the frightened woman. Supposedly, they were restraining the urge to laugh. He told them that he would very happily give them large sums of money should they choose to leave and not breathe a word to anyone. They told him that they were not there to extort, but to kill. One of them jumped over him, catching her garrote around his throat. He reared up and the other two charged at him, slashing him across the throat, chest, and stomach with their daggers. Fearing she would call the guards, they killed the mistress too. Their task completed, they escaped the fortress and made their way back towards the tavern.
The other two did not have as smooth a task. Finding the window they were looking for to be too high, they slipped into the dungeon from a ground level window and headed off in search of the exit. After a brief run-in with the jailer, who they murdered and stole the keys from, they managed to find the door. Exiting the dungeon, they found themselves in a grand hallway seeming to be the makeshift Great Hall. Knowing the war room to be located behind the raised dais that Ivar set his throne upon, they scurried off in that direction. The woman in front noticed something disconcerting and motioned her comrade to halt. She had noticed the moonlight glinting off the helmets of two guards standing in front of the door to the war room. She and her companion had a hushed debate about whether to kill them with throwing knives or not. The problem was that the armor and weapons of them would make too much noise were it to fall against the flagstones of the floor. They decided to throw the knives as they ran up to catch the men before they fell. One of the men’s helmets fell off and the woman who caught him fumbled it. It fell to the ground with a slight metallic clank. The women froze. They set the men down and rushed into the war room.
Once inside, one of them went to work searching for invasion plans while the other grabbed a torch off the wall to destroy the plans if need be. Their assumptions that they had not been heard were misfounded. As they searched for the plans with growing anxiety, they heard the noises of the guards in the Great Hall. Their searching grew more and more frantic as the sounds of the guards grew closer. Within two minutes, the guards burst through the door. Realizing the mission was discovered, the woman with the torch threw it onto the large pinewood table in the middle of the room. The papers therein immediately caught fire and the table was soon alight as well. The guards were blocking the door in their attempts to put out the fire, so they were forced to make their escape through the window. The fall was about twenty feet. The first spy made her way out of it and landed with a soft thud on the ground. The second, it seems, slightly caught her foot on the windowsill and broke her arm on her fall. They raced to the wall and they threw the crippled woman over and the second followed suit. While running, they turned around and found that the entire fortress was ablaze, including some buildings outside it. They continued to flee until they made it to the tavern, met up with their companions, and fled as quickly as they could back to Skathka.
The 854 Great Fire of Traudenlr is known to have been started by these women. Over three hundred people lost their lives and half again were severely burned. It was a tragedy, but it showed the Drannish that Tlelk would not surrender and that the rulers were quite possibly insane. Ivar himself was badly burned in the fire and his mutilated face earned him the kenning “Ivar Half-Life” due to the fact that half of his face had been practically burned away. This horrific disfigurement filled him with rage and a lust for revenge. He vowed that he would slaughter the Shelled Throne if it took every last man he had. Ivar pulled the majority of his troops out of Traudenlr and marched them at a furious pace taking Enthelvert, Venderth, and Ithyllvak and then turning the army south towards Skathka. The route he chose was taking him through Thackwood Forest, the site of the massacre of Kithvar the Untamed and S’lith V’Tok’s armed uprising. The Drannish would be marching straight through the almost forbidden location.
In September of 854, Ivar Half-Life led his army through Thackwood Forest. Not many would live to regret the decision. The army started out from Ithyllvak, full of confidence, sure in their ability to defeat, as they put it, “those dirty orcs.” Like so many that came before them, they were wrong. And that would to the demise of many. However, unlike most who had underestimated their enemy, the Tlelkans would not be their undoing. At least, not the living ones. Ivar led his army at an almost breakneck speed. He wanted the war over quickly, and he wanted his revenge. He was making good time until he reached the forest. The road narrows quite a bit due to the disuse of the Thackwood Forest road. Because of the superstition surrounding it, the road fell into disrepair and has stayed that way since. Ivar had to form a bushwhacking team in order to clear the way for his troops to move through. As the team moved forward, they supposedly began to hear strange noises in the forest before them. Ivar urged them forward, his horse chomping at the bit to keep moving.
They cut through a few more bushes and found themselves in an eerie clearing in front of them. The mist was thick, reminiscent of the Fog of All Souls. Except this mist drifted around the knees, obscuring just one’s feet. In the center of this clearing, was a small statue. It took the form of a stone-hewn sword with the blade partially buried in a sizable pile of rocks. An inscription of the cross guard reads
In glorious memory of those who first rose up against the hand of oppression and were so violently struck down by it.
This memorial is perhaps the most sacred non-holy site in all of Tlelk. Hundreds of native and foreign pilgrims attempt to visit it every year. Most are turned back by fear of the forest, but a handful make it through every year to visit this sanctified location. Ivar’s men destroyed it in an ill-advised attempt to sap the morale of the Tlelkans. All they managed to do was incur the wrath of the Tlelkans. However, these Tlelkans were not alive. The spirits of Kithvar, S’lith, and their revolutionary forces were enraged at the desecration of their memorial. They intended to show this. It is not strictly known how they murdered the Drannish. It is only known that Ivar and a group of about fourteen men stumbled out of the forest, on the side they came in, almost completely coated in blood. Three thousand men had gone in. This massacre of Drannish forces further added to fear that Thackwood Forest generates, but more importantly, it staved off the impending threat of a defeat to the Drannish. Te’Rej was infuriated that Ivar had managed to push so far. He decided that now was the time to push back. Ivar was disorganized, hurt, and his pride was badly wounded. It would be the perfect time to attack him and shove him out of Tlelk.
He rallied the troops in December of 854 and fearlessly marched through Thackwood Forest. Later, he claimed to have seen the carnage of the Drannish army had been turned to. He described it as though “a pack of Grymvyrns had come upon them and ravaged the army.” He appears to be referring to the massive claw-shaped scars on the countenances and the bodies of the dead soldiers. He notes in his field journal that he would’ve given them funerals but there were too many and he wouldn’t bury them in the sanctified ground of Thackwood Forest. He pressed the army forward, itching to attack Ivar and force him out of Tlelk. His troops made it out of Thackwood without incident. The road spread out before him, and he drove the army forward. He would not allow the sacrilege of the memorial to go unpunished. He had not felt rage since his single combat duel with Jehen the Slayer.
The army surrounded Ithyllvak and cut Ivar off from any reinforcements. He was alone in the town with the fifty or so men he had left to guard it in its stead. Te’Rej selected ten men from his army to march into the town with him. He unslung his swords from his back and marched at the head of a wedge formation. He found the soldiers adopting defensive positions in a tavern on the main street. He told one of his soldiers to fetch him a makeshift molotail from the main force. It was brought to him and the ten other men blocked off the street so there was nowhere to run. Te’Rej stared at the molotail in his hand. Thoughts filled his head. His people had been oppressed. They had been invaded. He and the Tlelkans had been battered and beaten all their lives. The Tlelkans had been spat on by every creature in existence. These thoughts filled his mind and a war cry that words cannot describe, issued from his mouth. It was filled with the pain and rage of every Tlelkan to walk the earth. He seemed to grow twice his size and instilled fear in even his own troops. A terrible thing was happening before them. He deafened everyone around him and hurled the molotail into the tavern. It exploded, killing five men in that instant. The rest sprinted out of the building like rats from a sinking ship. They would’ve been better off burning in the tavern.
Te’Rej laid into the first six men out with a savageness rivaled only by Depothian torturers. He bisected three of them about the waist, beheaded two, and struck the sixth from shoulder to hip with the blade of his sword. The remaining thirty-nine in the building (including Ivar) were faced with a decision; they could burn alive in the building, they could run out the back and confront the Tlelkan military, or they could run out the front and face Te’Rej. Strangely, none of them chose to run out the back. Some decided to brave Te’Rej, others figured they could reasonably survive in the burning building while they waited for Te’Rej’s hearts to explode.
Eleven men ran out, bracing on their numbers to kill Te’Rej. The peculiar thing was that they thought he was just in a berserker rage. They were wrong. Te’Rej had somehow managed to tap into an heretofore unknown source of combative power. He had drawn on something called “The Spiorad of Tlelk” or “Spirit of Tlelk” in layman’s terms. He had called on the life force and the rage, the hatred, of all his troops around him and connected their souls (at least that’s what the mages tell us). The eleven men were faced with an almost mystical combat avatar when they exited the tavern. They couldn’t run back inside either. A beam had collapsed across the door. Te’Rej advanced on them and knocked the first’s head clean off with the flat of his blade. He crumpled to the ground. The ten charged Te’Rej and found him to be a much worthier adversary than they had expected. The first four slashed at his front while the other six circled around behind him. He parried the men in front of him with ease, pivoted, and sliced two behind him across the chest. They fell to the ground as well. The remaining nine, backed away from Te’Rej, seeing the situation in all its hopelessness.
They decided to fall into a defensive position and fight Te’Rej as he came at them. He charged at them, scattering them like tenpins. One of them he even stabbed through his shield. They sprung to their feet, charging Te’Rej one final time. He parried the first, spinning as he did so to catch his neck with the blade of his sword. The man fell, tripping another, whose head was crushed by Te’Rej’s mighty boot. Te’Rej then swung his sword in a massive, sweeping blow, crushing two shields and one sword. He advanced on these three men, stabbing one in the chest and crushing the heads of the other two together. The five left charged Te’Rej as one and he dropped to his knees, tripping them up, hacking and slashing for all his worth. When he emerged, he was covered in blood and dust. But he was not finished.
Te’Rej chopped through the beam across the door to the tavern and entered it. What proceeded next is not strictly known. A great noise issued from the tavern. Blood-curdling screams and the sounds of combat. This continued for ten minutes, until a large figure forced his way out of the now crumbling tavern. It was Te’Rej. In his hand was the head of Ivar Half-Life. Te’Rej appeared extremely drunk, as the Spiorad of Tlelk was leaving him. He ordered the army to continue the removal of any Drannish from Tlelk and went on his way back south towards Thackwood Forest. He wrote in his journals that he placed the head of Ivar at the foot of the memorial. After this, he used what little magick to place protective enchantments on it so that it would stay there, forever.
After Te’Rej drove the Drannish out of Tlelk, Tlelk entered the period it is currently in, known as “The Great Peace.” Tlelk hasn’t been in a major conflict since 854. Being such respected rulers, Te’Rej, Jin, and Garthen were given the honor of an uneventful death and the hero's funeral. They were succeeded by Dek’Urah, Eker, and Sev. These three gave way to our current leaders: The Centercrown Rekved the Humble and his Sidecrowns: Hui’Sen Yeo’Rew, and Theth. They have ruled for the better part of fifteen years. Tensions have recently been growing between Tlelk and Hulfel although it is uncertain whether it will lead to war. We pray to Souz that it will not.
The Gentleman's Guide On How To Survive In Tlelk
Tlelkans are a simple and a complex people all at the same time. On the outside, they are a warlike and violent people. However, they do have a rather complex system of societal rules. The violation of which, might possibly trigger their warlike tendencies. Tlelk also has an interesting judicial system, mostly that retribution is the sincerest form of punishment. Given this, this guide will be a loose conglomeration of laws and social rules arranged into subheadings with dos and don’ts. Follow this advice to the letter, and you probably won’t die.
Murder and death by combat occurs quite frequently in Tlelk. It’s rather overlooked at this point. The general rule is that if someone tries to kill you, you kill them right back. Self-defense is a well recognized defense and the law will quite often ask a person how the fight went if it is a clear case of self-defense. Unfounded murder often results in your death. If you don’t die, you’ll be arrested and a council of nine members (three from each tribe) will decide your fate. This council rules on all judicial cases that come before them, however few that may be.
Trespassing is a very interesting crime in Tlelk. The governance of Tlelk is of the belief that as the crime concerns you and your property, the fate of the criminal is up to you. The tried-and-true, traditional punishment is a hand-done kneecapping. It is not required, but the vast majority of trespassing victims kneecap the trespasser (if they catch him) to discourage him from walking onto anyone’s property.
Thargs, Tailless, or Bulth
Thargs, Tailless, and Bulth are the dishonored members of each of the three tribes. A Tharg is a gargoyle born without wings, a Tailless a reptile man born without his tail, and the Bulth are orcs born without tusks. All of these are members of the tribes born without their tribe’s symbol of honor. They are shunned by their tribes and are often forced out of Tlelk. When they return, they are treated with contempt and even hatred. A Tharg, Tailless, or Bulth should avoid traveling to Tlelk whenever possible.
Mages, Warlocks, Sorcerers, and Wizards
The Tlelkan people greatly value physical strength. As such, they look down on those who choose to study the magical arts. They don’t openly disrespect them, much, knowing that while they are not burly and strong, they still have the capacity to inflict great amounts of damage upon a person. While not openly revered, mages are given a sort of grudging respect. A mage in Tlelk should be on his toes, but not paranoid.
Elves are greatly disliked in Tlelk. They remind the Tlelkans of their ancestor’s oppressive overlords. Any elf who enters a settlement in Tlelk is immediately regarded with animosity and a certain level of suspicion. The Tlelkans believe that the Belantian elves are always trying to conquer Tlelk insidiously. Any elf traveling through or to Tlelk should endeavor not to. If it is a matter of necessity, most elves wear shawls or hoods and pretend to be eggars and monks. Neither of these are good alternatives as Tlelkans are relatively intolerant of new religions and look down upon the poor, but they are better than being an elf.
Scholars like myself are a rare breed in Tlelk. They are not disliked but are regarded with a certain level of confusion. The average Tlelkan does not see the worth of study and learning when one could just bludgeon all their problems with a heavy stick. Scholars are often denigrated, but the worst recorded incident of abuse toward a scholar came in 903 when Erithial the Intelligent was hit in the ear with a rotten leek. Scholars should be wary of verbal abuse, but not much else.
They don’t exist. Eat however you want. You just don’t insult the food.
Tlelkand view civility as a lie. They don’t like lies. They view civility as a form of acting different to different people when you should really just speak your mind and do what you want. If it gets you beaten or killed, that’s part of life. Because of this viewpoint, people who are the rudest, most vile, cruelest, or most violent, often end up in positions of power. So, the gentleman’s job is to be just as rude, vile, cruel, or violent, right back.
The Tlelkan Duel
The Tlelkan Duel is the last thing I shall be covering in this book. It is one of Tlelk’s most sacred traditions and comes from Te’Rej’s legendary battle against the entire Shelled Throne. It is a vicious, no-holds-barred, fight between any number of people and groups. The Tlelkan Duel is the traditional way to settle an especially bad offense or grievance. An outsider will know when a Tlelkan Duel has been leveled against him when the person issuing it says the words “Akth, rexvet yewrk, irof wezve.” This is Raog for “You, the offender, shall perish.” Once issued, it cannot be revoked and the person it had been issued to cannot leave. The Tlelkan Duel ends with one group dead. Nobody, save the participants, can fight or kill the other participants. However, breaking this rule is a time-honored tradition. After the duel has been issued, combat does not necessarily take place. The issuer can choose to back away and prepare himself for an ambush at a later date, the person it had been issued against can choose to bumrush the issuer and attempt to kill him then and there. Anything goes. The participants can attack each other at any time and anywhere. Once combat breaks out, the traditional and polite thing to do is for all of the townspeople nearby to form a ring to prevent escape and force death. The Tlelkan Duel is upheld by the law and is difficult to use as a defense as you must prove you issued the challenge. No traveler should ever become involved in a Tlelkan duel. If you do, it’s easier to just eat an entire gripthorn root.
I will leave you with this final piece of advice: endeavor to follow these rules and your travels through Tlelk should leave you relatively unscathed. Many scholars would argue that it is much easier to just go to the north through Hulfel, but the true adventurer will take the road through Tlelk. The Tlelkans are an interesting people. Don’t harm them and they won’t harm you. A Tlelkan can be your closest friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on you.