The Hyzoh Mountains breach the forests of Tadloe just north west of Suinus where they travel on to stop at the banks of the Rah River. For countless years of prehistory, the earth elven tribe known as the Hyzoh ruled these peaks and much of the surrounding woods between the Saluman and Rah. Eventually, they split into two factions of feuding families. Not only did this allow northern tribes and southern tribes to encroach upon Hyzoh territory, but this division created an entirely new tribe: the Live. In their early days, the Live were exiles forced to creep along the vertebrae of the Hyzoh Mountains. They slowly spread, trickling down the steep inclines to reach into Hyzoh land finally strong enough to fight with their mother tribe. These tribal battles redistributed territory and churned out legendary warriors – one of which being Creaton Live. His cottage sat at the top of a secluded earthen spire, above the influence of the tribes and under the spell of the wilderness.
Much like his tribal ancestors, Creaton was an outcast. In battle against the Hyzoh, Creaton and a band of men were nearly captured. One comrade fled while the rest, including Creaton, fought. Though one died, the rest survived. When they returned from battle, Creaton found the deserter and slit his throat – unfortunately the deserter was the son of the fifth wife of a man named Malcova. This would have been the end of Creaton, Malcova was the head of a Live village, but Malcova was Creaton’s brother. The mother begged for Creaton to be executed and it seemed that would be his fate until the warrior fled to the mountains. Forsaken by civilization, Malcova saw no need to punish his brother further and let the issue die.
It was there, in the Hyzoh Mountains a year before the year one, that Creaton Live shot the love of his life. Every morning he woke up, meditated, then ventured into the wild in search of the day’s meal – normally cloudlings. In fact, he was aiming at a cloudling when it jumped from its perch and something else flew into his arrow. With a high-pitched shriek, the creature plummeted towards the mountainside, snapping brittle branches before slamming into the snow. He was horrified when he found the body to be humanoid. Golden strands of hair intermixed with chocolate hid her face and curled around the shaft of the arrow lodged in her throat. Her wings quivered, crumpled beneath her, but her eyes remained closed. Creaton watched blood trickle down from her neck, painting over her smooth pale skin to soak the thin fabric of her garments, which shimmered in the light of Solaris that reflected off the snow. It took the earth elf a good while to pull his attention away from her flawless exterior and notice the radiating jewel that hung between her breasts. Each trembling breath shifted the medallion. It was a slender kite of teal crystal wrapped in a harness of yarn and as Creaton’s eyes hovered over the stone it began to rattle. Captivated, he reached out to touch it and, as his fingers and the stone connected, words came to his lips. He gently pulled the arrow from his unconscious victim and spoke the first recorded spell in Solarin history.
– – –
“Do you have to have one of those stones to use magic?” Joe asked.
“Nope! One can cast a spell with their mind and mouth alone.” Ekaf answered, taking the interruption as an excuse to toss more wood on the fire as he explained further. “The stone Creaton touched is a chip off the rock we call the Voidstone.” Sparks jumped into the sky in a desperate attempt to join the stars. “Everything that happens in this world has been affected by that Stone – the same may go for your world too though I don’t think anyone knows of the Stone’s whereabouts on Earth. Even you have already come into contact with its powers! That silver key, that was part of the Voidstone!”
“Is it a myth too?”
“In a way, you see, the stone shattered ages ago. We’ve learned about it through the bits and pieces scattered around the world. The most famous shard, the Stone of Krynor, assisted in the creation of the Mystak Blade and the Four Swords. Some consider that myth – but I promise, like the Key Library, the Stone is very real and it and its many pieces have minds of their own.”
“Are they…” Joe fumbled for words, “…alive?”
“That question is up for debate. In this day and age, the question of alive and inanimate has come under heavy criticism, especially from the scientists in Space City. In my opinion, the stone and its dust are animate but its consciousness is not like ours, its on a-whole-nother level.”
“So its smarter than us?”
Ekaf shrugged, “Maybe. It could be dumber. It just seems to me that however it thinks is not how most people think and that’s what makes the Stone and its dust so difficult to communicate with or understand. You see, to most people, it seems to behave randomly. It has been known to whisper coherent instructions to individuals and also to suddenly whisk people away, across dimensions and universes.”
“Has anyone been able to figure it out?”
“A few! Though I’m not sure if you could say they figured it out but they definitely came to understand the Stone better than most. They were called Fate Programmers.”
“What happened to them?” Joe asked.
“Long story short: they realized we were never meant to understand.” Ekaf spat into the fire and the flames hissed. After a moment of silence, the Knome continued, “But anyways, we call the flakes and pieces of the Voidstone found scattered across Solaris void-dust – like that which hung from the neck of the harpy Creaton shot down.”
“And it powered Creaton’s spell?” Joe asked.
“Not necessarily, another way to use magic is by channeling one’s inner energy with specific key sounds, sounds that make up a language we call the Sacred Tongue. This can be dangerous because wording is everything and people have a lot less energy than you’d expect. That’s why I’m not to eager to try and teach you magic. If you don’t meditate habitually and watch your wording, then you’re liable to exhaust yourself and die.”
“And since Creaton was already meditating every morning, when the dust directed him to speak the ‘Sacred Tongue’,” Joe used both his index and middle fingers to make air quotations, “he cast a spell.”
“Okay, and what’s a cloudling?” Joe asked.
“A flying sheep.” Ekaf answered. “Though they’re pretty rare now, almost hunted to extinction. Shall I continue or-”
– – –
Creaton’s spell healed the wound his arrow left in the woman then, partly because he found her beauty intriguing and partly due to curiosity towards the blue stone and partly because he felt guilty for having shot her, he lifted her out of the snow and took her home. She was a harpy. At this time, the only races of man to grace Tadloe were earth elves and humans. Creatures like harpies existed only in legend and, even in myth, were not considered on the same level as other “civilized” beings. Yet, as an exile, Creaton was no longer part of a tribe. To be tribeless gave you a status slightly above beast but below that of a being. There are many reasons people believe Creaton saved the harpy, each as valid as the next, though I think it is a shame that people tend to overlook loneliness..
The spell had only sealed the wound, thus it took Creaton almost a month to get the young maiden back on her feet. As Creaton helped her recover, he taught her his language – which would come to be known as Hyzoan – and she responded with an assortment of motions. Even as her throat began to heal, the scar would never allow her to speak again. She did however manage to spell out her name in Creaton’s spoken tongue: Ali-Iya.
If anything, the communication barrier brought them closer. Creaton taught her to meditate and she gave him the void-dust necklace. Her people called them lineagers and believed void-dust to be the remnants of their ancestors’ energies. Through touch, these lineagers could communicate with the living. The stones had taught her people many things, speaking only to special oracles, and these messages began to mold their culture. She taught Creaton as many of their ways as she could though he refused to practice most. In fact, there was only one ritual that intrigued him – the most highly regarded ritual of the harpies.
When he would hunt and catch his prey, Ali-Iya would place both hands on the animal and drain a cloudy white gas through the deceased creature’s flesh. Afterwards, the beast’s bones would be as brittle as dried leaves. She explained it as a way to ensure no energy would be wasted from a creature’s death. The energy gave her a euphoric sensation, putting her body and mind completely at ease. She left out the part about how miserable one felt after the effects wore off or how to stop consuming this substance she termed “energy” would mean to die.
Creaton wanted to learn but Ali-Iya told him there was only one way to participate in such a practice: to drink the enchanted marrow of a brook. Brooks are one of the two scariest creatures to wander the woods of Tadloe, the other of these being the barren. These long bodied giant lizards are not only fast and agile, but their scales are tight as nails and hard as the blade on the grim reaper’s scythe. Brook scales are often used to construct armor far stronger than any metals could achieve, thus they’re quite hard to kill. Ali-Iya told Creaton this knowing the woodsmen considered brooks not beasts to be tampered with. She did not expect Creaton to willingly pursue such a creature and succeed in slaying it, but he did. They enchanted the brook’s silky black bone marrow then, beneath a full moon, Creaton partook of the concoction and became what would later be known as a necromancer.
Together they lived through the spring, summer, and well into autumn. As time went by, Creaton began to learn more and more from the stone strung around his neck. The more energy he consumed, the more the stone would speak to him. Before long he was able to spark a fire with a whisper and purify water with a sentence. Ali-Iya didn’t necessarily approve of the way he used the energy. She constantly warned him of the dangers. Only the oracles were allowed to speak this language and they never wielded their powers outside of ceremony, especially not to perform menial tasks. She desperately wanted to make sure he knew that this power was not something to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, they had a much bigger problem than magic.
Those happy months spent with only each other’s company in the Hyzoh Mountains were anything but happy times for the villages of the Live tribes. Hordes of harpies soared in from the north to pillage the earth elven settlements. They would come in the night, set fire to houses, tear through the towns, and slay any who got in their path. The Live could no longer hold their own against the Hyzoh and the tribesmen looked to Malcova, ruler of the last village of the Live, for a solution. In Creaton’s absence, legends of Malcova’s banished brother’s excellence in combat became grossly exaggerated along with that of the very reasoning behind his excomunication. He was what mothers would tell their children would eat them if they went out too late. Many believed him to be a demon and others believed him invincible. In reality, Creaton was a magnificent warrior though no greater than his brother. The difference was, the Live looked up to Malcova and despised Creaton. They wanted to send someone capable into the nest of the harpies but did not want to risk losing their beloved leader. For this reason, Malcova decided he would go find his brother and have him deal with their harpy problem.
He wandered the Hyzoh Mountains for two weeks before stumbling across Creaton’s humble abode. Creaton was out hunting when Malcova arrived. Just as Creaton had immediately become obsessed with the beautiful young harpy, Malcova took one look at Ali-Iya and fell in love. When Creaton returned, Malcova’s love turned to jealousy, then to outrage as he realized it was this harpy that the other harpy’s were after. Thus, Malcova told Creaton that if he did not come help the tribe, he would tell the people about his secret guest and they would, undoubtedly, hunt him down and kill them both. (This was an absolute lie. The only soul amongst the Live brave enough to face Creaton was Malcova, but Creaton did not know this.)
Before he left with his brother, Creaton asked Ali-Iya if she wished to return to the harpies. She told him no. Leaving her to maintain his cottage, Creaton and Malcova returned to the Live tribes and prepared for the next raid from the fair-skinned northerners. Ali-Iya had lied. She would have loved to return home, but she knew she couldn’t, for she was a princess, betrothed to the warlord that led the skirmishes against the Live, and now she was pregnant with an earth elf’s child. If only Creaton had known this, he might’ve never left her.
Malcova’s village, Valleyshore, is where the modern day village of Chartree is located now. There they awaited the arrival of the next harpy war party, fortifying along the wooden palisade that surrounded the town. Three days after his return to civilization, the winged assailants came. Creaton fought with the same vigor he’d used in battle years before. His arrows rarely missed a target and each shaft dropped an opponent from the heavens. High in the sky, the leader of the war party’s attention was quickly drawn to this new dark skinned warrior and he plunged down to the wall to face Creaton. There the two men battled, bows cast aside and swords drawn. As they sparred, Malcova watched from afar.
Creaton could kill the harpy but they needed a guide to take him to their home. He saw an opening for victory and severed the man’s sword arm. Instead of retreating into the sky, the harpy’s boney fingers wrapped around the medallion hanging from Creaton’s neck and yanked the void-dust free. He spat on the blue gem, causing it to hum angrily, then threw it at Creaton’s feet. Creaton stood motionless as the one armed harpy fell to his knees, clutching at his stub, all the while cursing his opponent in his foreign tongue. The man would’ve died from blood loss atop that wall if Creaton hadn’t healed him, using the same spell the stone had taught him to save Ali-Iya.
After the battle, Malcova invited Creaton to a tribal meeting. The Live chieftains listened quietly as Malcova gave an elaborate speech asking for permission to send Creaton and a war party into the harpy’s home – the plan the chieftains had agreed upon prior to Creaton’s return. Creaton opposed this, worried that they would be no match for the harpies, and offered a more peaceful plan. They could fill a ship with riches then have the harpy guide them into his homeland where they would bargain for an end to these bloody skirmishes. The chieftains were reluctant but Malcova convinced them and they consented to his brother’s proposal. Creaton received a week to return home and prepare. He ran the plan by Ali-Iya. She believed it was a trap, maybe not for Creaton but for her own people, yet she also saw this as the only chance the two had to be together without being hunted by the elves and the harpies alike. Still, she did not tell Creaton of the child within her even as he left their mountain home and returned to Valleyshore. He and the harpy warrior, along with a rag-tag group of war-virgin soldiers, set out across the ocean heading northwest around the head of Tadloe.
As Creaton and his crew wandered slowly north, it became apparent that the harpy prisoner would not provide any sort of direction. Wandering around the rainforested shores of Munkloe for maybe a week, Creaton was just about to turn back when they drifted into a low hanging fog. No sooner did they enter the vapor-induced blindness, than did they hear the screams of approaching harpies. The harpies stormed the vessel killing all of Creaton’s crew before Creaton managed to subdue them. After the attack, the only living souls left on the ship were the one armed harpy, still bound to the mast, and Creaton, soaked in the blood of foreigners. Finally, the prisoner agreed to lead Creaton into his homeland – down a branch of the Winged River, deep in the jungles of Munkloe.
– – –
“Munkloe, Tadloe, what does ‘loe’ mean?” Joe asked.
“It is land in Knomish,” Ekaf explained. “The first to assign the continental names was a minotaur named Solon Icespear who got the names from his navigator, Polo, a Knome. Even well after the time of Solon and Polo, the tradition stuck as new lands were discovered. There’s Batloe, Manaloe, Foxloe, Darkloe, Dogloe, and Iceload – except a Iceload means iceberg. You want to see? I think I have a map in my-”
“You can show me later. What happens when Creaton gets to the harpy city?”
– – –
Creaton made it into the harpy kingdom. His three-limbed guide brought him to a great stone pyramid that ascended from a crystal-watered pond which acted as a cul-de-sac end to this discreet arm of the Winged River. Atop the pyramid was the throne of the harpy king who was surrounded by winged advisors – scantily-clad, angelic slave girls, who were the oracles Ali-Iya had spoke of – and beast-guards: two brooks chained tightly to the columns that held the rain shield over the harpy leader. Though Ali-Iya could not teach Creaton the language of her people, she had taught him how to communicate with her culture through simple motions that would be easily recognized. In this manner, Creaton translated the script given to him by the Live chieftains, modified for his own motives, to the prisoner who then recited it to the winged emperor.
The gist of Creaton’s request was that if he were to return with the harpy maiden, then he would be allowed to live amongst the harpies and the Live people of Tadloe would no longer have to live in fear of harpy invasion. Plus, all the riches they’d brought would be immediately presented to the winged king as grievance pay.
But Creaton never got an answer.
Familiar trumpets sounded from the shadows of the jungle trees that surrounded the harpy city.
Creaton had been bait. A fleet of Live had followed him. After Creaton addressed the harpy king, they descended upon the city murdering and looting to their heart’s desire. The emperor drew his sword and the one armed harpy warlord jumped on Creaton, but Creaton fought them both off. Within moments, both harpies tumbled down the pyramid, blood spraying from their bodies like the blade of a circular saw. Some of the advisors fled, but some stayed. Glaring at Creaton with hate-filled eyes, they set the two brooks free only to be immediately devoured by the reptiles. Fleeing the monsters, he fell into the mysterious well which the pyramid protruded from and the beasts bounded off into the jungle. He felt as though he’d fallen into a pit of lava, even sank to the bottom, accepting his fate, but he didn’t drown. Eventually, he overcame the pain and swam to the surface. When he emerged, he found himself unharmed. His people, rather the people who had shunned him, were victorious and the great harpy city was smoking like a dying campfire. They praised Creaton as the sole reason for success and, once again, he was a war hero.
As the looting continued well into the night, Creaton found an empty temple to rest in and contemplate the consequences of his actions. The earth elf raiders beheaded the harpy soldiers, mounting their heads on pikes which they posted like a railing around their ships. They threw the bodies of the old, the workers, the women, and the children into the pond turning the once clear water crimson. What had started out as vengeance, quickly surpassed revenge. Creaton prayed to the harpy gods. He feared that even though he did not partake in the atrocities he would never be able to look Ali-Iya in the face again.
Little did he know, his fear would come true.
In the night, the bodies thrown into the lake awakened. Engulfed in unholy flame, they marched back into their city, moaning like cattle, and slaughtered those that had slaughtered them. They replaced the harpy heads impaled along the ships with the heads of the elves. Creaton had been unable to fall asleep. As the undead swarmed the temple, he fought his way through the mob of winged zombies to the docks where he snuck down river in a smaller Live vessel with only the heads of the Live warriors to keep him company. He knew in his heart that this would not be the last he would see of the undead harpies and despite the animosity he felt for the Live tribesmen he was determined to return home and warn them of the monsters they had created.
– – –
“This story is horrible!” Joe exclaimed.
“I haven’t even gotten to the bad part yet,” Ekaf muttered. “I probably never will if you continue to interrupt. Do you have an actual question?”
“Did the harpies come back because of the pond or was it because they were necromancers?” Joe asked.
“The pond. It is called the Well of Youth but, like the Key Library, most people don’t believe it exists – even though it reoccurs in almost every major story in Solarin lore. I think the denial comes from the fact that few have ever visited it and just as few know enough to find it. Legend goes, the largest chunk of void-dust was found floating in that jungle lagoon and the Iyan harpies built the pyramid around it. The water was tainted by the magic of the stone and, according to the myth, once you’ve been baptized in the Well, you become a ghost.”
Joe scratched his hair, “But didn’t Creaton fall in?”
“Indeed he did. Like you do on Earth, we call the spirits of the dead ghosts. If your body dies and you live on, then you’re a ghost. Remember the searing pain Creaton experienced in the Well?”
Ekaf continued, “At that moment his flesh died. At that moment he became a ghost.”
Joe was still confused, “But you said the harpies were engulfed in flames and were brainless, why didn’t Creaton change too?”
“There are many kinds of ghosts. Those baptized in the Well of Youth after death – like the harpies had been – return in a…uh…less rational…state, almost brain dead.”
“Sure, except we call those demons. Creaton, on the other hand, was baptized while very much alive. We call those angels. When an angel dies, they are immolated.”
“And by immolated…you mean caught on fire?” Joe asked.
“Not real fire-”
“Yes,” Ekaf nodded, “And once you’ve been immolated, you are considered a banshee. Demons are just a type of banshee.”
“Good thing I’ll be home in three days,” Joe joked, “because I am not going to remember any of this.”
“Think of it like-”
“Don’t bother,” Joe chuckled, “what happened next?”
– – –
During Creaton’s plight, his brother embarked on an evil campaign for his own dark motives, the foremost of these motives being jealousy. Malcova’s betrayal was eagerly accepted by the villagers when word spread from tribes to the north that Creaton’s ship had been seen creeping around the coast decorated with the heads of Live warriors.
When Creaton returned, the people of Valleyshore were waiting, cursing and spitting on him as he left the ship. The tribesmen split to allow him to pass through the mob and journey into the center of town where he found his brother. Malcova directed a handful of warriors to hold Creaton down then, lifting his weapon – a war hammer – high above his head, he described to the people of Valleyshore how Creaton had kidnapped a harpy witch and kept her in secrecy while the harpies murdered and pillaged the Live, in search of their lost kin. He claimed that Creaton had gone to the harpies and helped them to slaughter their noble warriors. Then, Malcova presented Creaton with a harness crafted from the hide of a barren but with two blackened wings mounted on the back – the wings of Ali-Iya.
With a roar, he fought to free himself, but to no avail, his struggles ended as the Live warriors stabbed him and Malcova rapped him across the head.
January first, year one, he awoke with the harness on, the black wings folded behind him. His ankles were strung together, hanging against a rigid pole of wood, and his wrists were bound to a beam that stretched across his shoulders. The Live had crucified Creaton. They jabbed him with spears, shot arrows into his shins, and hung vipers from his biceps. The crucifixion was not an execution, but a celebration in which all participated. If they didn’t inflict him with physical pain, they berated him with titles such as bird-lover and sodomizer. He had remained unconscious the first two days spent on the cross. His body had yet to give, despite the multitude of wounds ailing him. When he finally died, on the third day, a mighty explosion filled the sky.
The first moon hatched and all watched, mesmerized, as a gargantuan dragon disappeared over the horizon as if chasing after the setting sun. The mob immediately knew they had made a mistake.
Red flames came to life around Creaton and his eyes opened then narrowed upon the villagers gathered before him. He was not dead but something inside of him had died. His heart fell silent and his rage took the reins. What little magic he knew, the bits and pieces the void-dust had whispered to his subconscious, suddenly came frothing forth. Black flames burst from Creaton, engulfing the village, and striking dead every last soul present.
– – –
“Woh!” Joe jerked upright, “Isn’t that a little much?”
“A little much?” Ekaf sat up too, flinging his hands in defense, “They set him up!”
“He didn’t have to kill everyone!” Joe protested.
“He didn’t necessarily do it on purpose!”
“I know,” Joe admitted, “but he’s off to a bad start if he wants to be the good guy.”
“Who said anything about Creaton being the good guy?”
Joe scratched his head, “So he’s the bad guy?”
Ekaf shook his head, “Forget good guys and bad guys, just listen to the story.”
With an eye roll, Joe laid back down.
– – –
The cross crumbled and Creaton fell to his knees. He didn’t move for many days. He knelt mourning the loss of Ali-Iya, not eating, not drinking, until visited by a fire elf. This escaped slave from Batloe, a desert continent south of Tadloe, had heard the legends of the power of the Live’s exile. Having nowhere to turn, as the life of an escaped slave was just as terrifying as the enslaved, the young fire elf decided to seek out this Moon Dragon Man believing him to be the savior of the religion many Tadloens practiced. The elf’s name was Chane, a name he’d given himself in place of his slave name, and he was the first living being to approach Valleyshore since the extermination.
Black fire still danced over the slow rotting corpses of Creaton’s kin as Chane approached the prostrate banshee. When he addressed Creaton, he reawakened the slumbering rage and Creaton, unwittingly, activated the second part of the spell he’d used to destroy Valleyshore. The corpses of the villagers animated. Murmuring much like the demon harpies, they stood and marched towards their conjurer. Creaton rose and, grabbing the fire elf’s sword, slaughtered the zombified remnants of Valleyshore. When the only moving beings left were Chane and himself, Creaton stopped.
After Creaton saved his life, Chane decided it was worth one more try. This time, he started by telling Creaton that Malcova still lived. In the charred dirt, he illustrated a man with a hammer fleeing up the coast of Tadloe into the lands of the Fou Tribe. Alongside the man was a strange woman, a pregnant woman, and – though the details were minimalistic – Creaton could tell this figure was supposed to be recognizably not elven.
Creaton demanded Chane take him to the Fou, but Chane refused warning Creaton that the Fou would kill him as soon as he set foot within their lands. No matter how powerful he was, he could not take the Fou warriors alone. He would need an army. But before the rage returned to Creaton’s demeaner, Chane depicted the many tribes of Tadloe all following Creaton, a burning man, to fight the Fou. After the First Hatching, accompanied with the tale of Creaton’s crucifiction and the destruction of Valleyshore, most who had heard believed him to be either a god or a prophet and it wouldn’t take much to get people to gather behind him. Convinced, Creaton decided to unite the tribes of Tadloe, not only to kill his brother and reclaim his love, but to prepare for the return of the demon harpies – not to protect the people of Tadloe, but to protect the love of his life who he feared her undead kin would target.
There were twelve main tribes in Tadloe at the time: the Fou, the Rin, the Toxica, the Rah, the Soil, the Hyzoh, the Kemplor, the Inton, the Won, the Dagar, the Ragashi, and what remained of the Live. Creaton and Chain journeyed first to take the Hyzoh and were able to do so peacefully. By March, the many families of the Hyzoh had been united under Creaton. Returning to Valleyshore and renaming it Chartree, Creaton built a fortress from which they would embark on a campaign to capture the northern end of Tadloe. The combined leadership of Creaton and Chane turned out to be incredibly successful. They defeated the Rah first, a small tribe to the north which was nearly exterminated by Creaton’s army after they were unwilling to bow to his command. Then, before leaving Rah, a messenger of the Toxica came offering Creaton their submission if he could defeat their leader in a dual: Escano Toxica. Hearing this, Creaton sent Chane and his army to go conquer the Soil tribe then entered Toxica lands and killed their leader within the first second of the dual. Upon winning the Toxica over, a messenger from the Rin – a tribe that settled along the border of Fou lands that provided the Fou with most of their metallurgy – offered Creaton the same deal. Ordering his soldiers to meet him in the Rin capital – just outside modern day Eastport – Creaton went ahead with the messenger. The dual was a trap and, as Creaton killed the man they claimed to be their leader, Fou warriors stormed the city. Fortunately, Chane and the army had dealt with the Soils quicker than expected and arrived right behind Creaton. They managed to force the Fou into retreat and take the lands of the Rin but couldn’t force their way into Fou lands.
– – –
“These people just let Creaton rule them?” Joe asked.
Ekaf sat up in order to put his hands on his hips, “Have you heard anything I’ve been saying?”
“I mean…sure, he conquered them, but that’s the end of it? The man’s surrounded in flames-”
“And wearing the black wings of Ali-Iya-”
“Exactly! I’d be terrified! I’d think he was some sort of demon-”
“I know.” Joe sat up, as if his posture might force the Knome to take his query serious, “Didn’t some of the conquered villagers resist?”
“Well then, what happened to them?”
“They were punished!”
“Not for the most part. Most dissenters were enslaved. Sent to work in labor camps, growing crops, forging weapons, building roads-”
“Sounds like Stalin.”
“Eh…” Ekaf hesitated, “Creaton wasn’t that bad. He didn’t work them to death and let millions of his people starve. Creaton actually wanted them to survive so they could keep working. You could argue Stalin had no intention to preserve his victims-”
“How do you know so much about Ea-” Joe stopped himself, realizing he was about to ask the Knome to go off on a tangent, “Nevermind, what happened next?”
– – –
In the heart of the first summer of Solarin history, Creaton and his followers fortified their northern outposts, to keep the Fou at bay as they turned their gaze south. The Kemplor tribe was nothing more than a band of fishermen spread across the Saluman River founded by Saluman Kemplor (Kemplor was part human part earth elf and had been raised among the Toxica). Saluman Kemplor welcomed Creaton in, treating him as if he were a holy savior. They then pushed further south into the marshlands. By this point, Creaton had mastered necromancy and many other simple magics having even taught many techniques to Chane and other well trusted warriors. To reward his soldiers for their fearless devotion, they gathered on a hill above the massive city-state of Inton and watched as Creaton directed an army of reanimated skeletons to take hold of the city. From there they continued south into the lands of Won. The Won was a spread out tribe consisting of hunter gatherers with very few settled-locations. They lived in hollowed out fallen trees and caves. However, they were not unorganized. They had a mysterious way of communicating through their forests so that – when threatened – the entirety of the Won people would unite to defend their comrades. Together, the Won were as formidable as the Fou. Creaton knew this and had no intention to face the same obstacles he had in the north. Instead of winning with brute force, he made use of his cunningness. They chopped a ring around the Won lands and built a moat using the excellent guidance of Inton irrigation experts and then set the Won woods on fire. Those that made it to the moat joined Creaton or were immediately killed. The rest perished in the ashes of their homeland. Thousands died.
This left only two tribes in the south. Creaton quickly defeated the Dagar, but paused before pursuing the Ragashi. The elders of the Dagar warned Creaton that the Fou waited in Ragashi lands, with Malcova, to ambush him and his men. This only made Creaton thirstier but still he was hesitant until he asked the Dagar if Malcova had a strange woman with him. They said no, but he did have an infant with the skin of an earth elf and the wings of a harpy. Now, Creaton’s mind was set. Chane protested, proclaiming that if the Fou were as numerous as the Dagar warned, even in the case of a victory, the casualties would destroy the morality of their forces and could unravel all their efforts at unifying Tadloe. Creaton reluctantly acknowledged this but refused to retreat. He sent Chane with the soldiers back to Chartree where the men would be distributed between their new territories as Creaton, and his undead, would assault the Ragashi alone.
Chane took his men north into the Peninsula of Banai. There he let the men vote on whether or not they would assist Creaton on this suicide mission. Every single warrior voted to stay. Thus they returned to Dagar only to find that Creaton had left for Ragashi already. With no time to waste, Chane and his men quickly followed making it to the Peace River before Creaton and his minions attacked. To all’s surprise, the Fou warriors took one look at the undead and lost their nerve. They fled towards the river, abandoning the Ragashi to face Creaton’s wrath alone. As Creaton took hold of the battlefield, the fleeing Fou ran into Chane and his men and not a single one survived.
At this battle, Creaton claimed he killed Malcova but the body was never found and neither was that of the winged child.
In the months preceding the return of the harpies, Creaton destroyed the tribal system that had segregated Tadloe. No one tribe could control multiple villages, each settlement ruled themselves according to their own law and bowing only to who they chose – and going to the prison camps if they did not choose Creaton. It took some time to consolidate the villages. Though the major villages of each tribe and the major tribal leaders had either been slaughtered, imprisoned, or converted, many small villages quietly refused Creaton’s authority and clung to the old ways. Creaton created a national police force, the Tadloe Guard, to squash the remaining resistance.
Creaton also renovated his military – namely by establishing some sort of calvary. They caught and domesticated dragons then trained Solaris’s first dalvary – dragon-back warriors – in preparation for the impending harpy invasion. The diverse set of tribal military strategies were mixed together and soldiers in Creaton’s army were retrained so that all were on the same page. One of the strongest forces of detribalization in Tadloe was the sense of national unity forged in the retraining of Creaton’s military.
The Hyzoan language became Tadloe’s dialect as the Fou joined with Creaton under the leadership of Farak Fou, allowing their federation to dissolve, in order to unite with the whole of Tadloe against the harpies. History never forgave the beautiful Farak, many claimed she was one of Creaton’s lovers though banshees are unable to participate in the love exploits of mortals. Her decision may have saved Tadloe for when the demonic harpies returned, the battle was close but their numbers were too few. Despite being baptized by the waters of the Well of Youth, the harpies could not overcome Creaton’s diverse group of soldiers who fought with an ethnic zeal novel to Solaris.
After that, Creaton and Chane turned their attention to distant lands. They conquered Batloe, making slaves of the slave drivers and masters of the enslaved. Next they attacked Sondor, managing to conquer Mannistan before reaching a stalemate against the humans of the desert and the plains. Last, they approached Iceload, Tadloe’s western neighbor, and it was there that Creaton met his match and the First Void War began its decline towards conclusion.”
– – –
“So where is Creaton now?” Joe asked.
“Far away from Tadloe,” Ekaf assured Joe, “busy leading the Black Crown Pact against the Trinity Nations.”
“The Black Crown Pact…with a name like that, I’m pretty sure I know whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy now-”
“Well…he is currently the enemy, but I’d hesitate before we start labeling people good and bad – except for the Queen of Darkness, she’s evil.”
“Who-” Joe stopped himself, don’t get him going, its bed time, he covered his almost-question with a fake cough.
Ekaf continued, “At the end of the day it’s a matter of whose side you’re on.”
“True.” Joe agreed, “And we’re on the…what was it? Trinity Nations’ side?”
“I am.” Ekaf nodded, “Though I don’t exactly work for them, I would consider them an ally.”
“Those heroes you want me to save-”
“Yea…they’re for the Trinity Nations, too, yea?”
“Cool, I think I can remember that. Black Crown Pact verses the Trinity Nations.” Joe yawned, then ask, “Continue the story tomorrow?”
“Sure. Maybe then you can decide whether or not Creaton is good or bad. Though I warn you, even if you come to respect him, I would advise you to steer clear of him and his Black Crown Pact.”
“They would like to keep the Samurai out of the picture.” Ekaf replied, “I believe it won’t be long before they realize you are the one who will bring the Samurai back. They might see you as a liability.”
“They’ll kill me?”
“Well…” Ekaf would’ve tried to argue otherwise if he hadn’t been so tired, “probably.”
“Jesus…” Joe muttered.
“Hey, it’s not like you haven’t died before.”
Joe rolled onto his back and gazed up at the moons. Bizarre bugs chirped, alien amphibians fribbopped, and foreign night-fowl cooed as constant reminders that he was not home, in fact, nowhere near it. If this place is real…if this isn’t a dream…what if I never see home again? Will Ekaf really let me go back – maybe just to say good bye?
Sleep came slow. Homesickness wrapped its cold fingers around Joe’s heart, refusing to let go until the light of Solaris returned.