Title: Warrior's Tale
Author: Kree Morlain
In a misty bog far off in the dark and dreary jungles....
"You must remember, my resourceful friends, the strong shall survive! Only the strong! You are the Dhe'nar, the Dhe'nar are strong! You WILL survive!" the High Priest rose his hands triumphantly with these words, and the previously frustrated and angry crowd burst into cheers.
"There is no way you can fail. All others quiver at the mention of your name. Merely sweep away the foolish weaklings, and take what is theirs for your own! The strong shall survive!" the High Priest sounded once again, and the cheers came even more emphatically.
"THE STRONG SHALL SURVIVE!!!" The crowd roared in unison, their voices ringing throughout the hall with earthshaking resonance. The crowd became even louder and uglier in the harsh Dhe'nar tongue. "THE STRONG SHALL SURVIVE!!! THE WEAK WILL BE DESTROYED!!!"
So long had they lived, the lowest of the Dhe'nar, at the base of Gierkroal Uotonga; or in the common language, The Great Mountain of old. So long had they been lower than the rest, mere pawns in a seemingly endless game of chess. The sacrifices, the resolve, all for naught but poverty and loss of bloodlines. "The Dhe'nar must rule! The strong must rule!" These words were the rallying cry of thousands. When the pawns became restless, a priest was sent from atop the mountain to calm them, to reassure them that all would be won and that they were strong. That the Dhe'nar were strong, and that they were Dhe'nar.
The base of the mountain of old was inhabited by the foot soldiers and lower class families within the Dhe'nar elf structure. The middle of the mountain was divided in three parts: the lowest part was inhabited by the archers and bowmen of the Dhe'nar kingdom, the middle by the great craftsman and architects, and the portion closest to the top by the Dark Cavalry, or so they were called; the dreaded horseman of the Dhe'nar whose skill in battle was unmatched by any of the Humans who had ever encountered them along the jungle's frontier towns and villages. The horses were kept by the workers and farmers at the base of the mountain, treated better than most of the people who resided there. At the very top of the mountain stood the Gierkroal Ekapter. The Great Keep. Here lived the great magi and priests of the Dhe'nar, with their dark magic, secret rituals, and powerful gods. They were regarded as deities and treated accordingly.
Also within each city resided a Mayor or Enforcer as they were more often called in the lower parts of the mountain. These people were responsible for their cities and were regarded as mediators between the High ones and the common elves.
Every month a representative from the Keep, a High Priest or Mage, would come down and check on each of the villages. In each village the representative would spend a day and resolve any conflicts that had took place the previous month, most often in the usual violent fashion. Each village had a set day every month to meet with this High Priest or Mage, and a warm reception was customary, for if a High visitor did not enjoy his stay, he might have the Enforcer of the village burned on the spot.
The difference in the quality of life between those who lived at the base and those who lived even one level above was astounding. From farmers to respected militia, from people living in barns to those who lived in long halls, there was no doubt that preferential treatment was involved. It was important that the lower villages remained impoverished, for poor meant misery, and that misery led elves to find comfort with the love of others, and that love led to large families. Those families led to tough fighters, brought up in hardship. Strong pawns in a never ending game of chess.
"Whizzz!" a Whip-Blade, or so they were called, made a sound like a reed swung at high speed. An almost relaxing humming sound caused by the displacement of air. It was a weapon with slits in it, giving it little weight and making it easy to swing. Used against lighter armed opponents to simply knock away weapons with a flick of the wrist, while a similar flick could part a man with his internals.
"Whizzz Whizzz Whizzz..." The sound continued as a young man beat his Whip-Blade ferociously. So many swings, so fast. A conundrum of sounds and motion, almost a solid mass to the untrained eye. Over shoulder, side swing, then up again, then down swing, and then back over the opposite shoulder the pattern repeated.
"Whizzz Whizzz Vrooom," the blade was swung too hard and the youth lost control. He breathed deeply, but not in fatigue. He breathed in awe of his own strength, for he was strong, he knew it, and he was Dhe'nar.
"No, no!" out walked the tall and wiry instructor. His frame was thin, but still possessed agility and strength in fluid motion. He Drew back his whip and took a cruel lash at the young Dhe'nar, knocking square in the jaw, sending him sprawling back.
"Swing strong, then whip back into position! The first swing must have power, else you will lose you sword you fool! Try again, and concentrate this time!" The instructor snarled and spat, then stood back waiting for him to get off the ground and begin again.
The Dhe'nar stood up and looked back at the instructor with disdain. Griping the Whip-Blade tightly, he began facing the instructor and slowly started the rhythmic swings. Strong then whipped back. He swung across his body, ripping the air with his strength. "VROOM" went the blade as it crossed his torso. "WHIZZZ" went it as he whipped it back across his body, flat of the blade on his shoulder. He glared at the instructor, who smiled smugly as he watched his student's anger grow.
The young Dhe'nar's face was an almost constant scowl. His eyes were cold grey and unblinking in the blinding sunlight. His skin was a dark black, yet lighter that of his distant Faendryl cousins. Many muscles wrapped his body, as he was the deadliest warrior-youth in the village and that demanded perfection in both form and body. His braided black hair was pulled taunt down his back, held in place by a black headband.
"VROOM, WHIZZZ!!" went the blade in his hands, each successive swing more powerful than the previous one.
"Hah! Yah! Hah! Yah!" He began to chant, his face wrinkling up in hatred as he approached the instructor. The swings were coming stronger and stronger and the sounds of the Whip-blade becoming quicker and less defined. The chant went faster and faster, the world around the Dhe'nar youth seemed blurry and confusing through the whirling blade. A rare look of concern washed across the instructor's face as the pain his student was feeling became physically visible. Grinding his teeth, though still chanting, he was swinging so hard at this point he was losing his balance again. The instructor became angry at this and completely furious when the Dhe'nar fell to the ground as his shoulder dislocated from a mighty swing. The whip flew out again.
"AARRRGGHH!" groaned the student as the whip connected with his bare chest. Blood seeped from the wound. The instructor knew he had torn flesh; maybe he even did it on purpose. The young Dhe'nar was down on the ground, kneeling, holding his dislocated right shoulder. He saw the torn flesh; he felt the rage in his heart, the blood of his family flowing from the gash. Muscles pulsed a moment, then the rage was gone. The sweat covered him, cooling him both physically and mentally. An almost gritty feeling. Slowly raising his head, he winced at the instructor with hungry eyes. Slowly he stood, and slowly approached the tall figure who beat him for so long, who had whipped him when he was down.
The instructor was visibly afraid for the first time he could remember. He recognized the look in his student's eyes. It was the look of a man who felt no pain. A man who would never stop until you drained all the life's blood from him. And truly, these things were now true of this young one. He was Dhe'nar.
"Thanks," grinned the boy mockingly, "I must have forgotten I was Dhe'nar," there was a long pause. "Well, Tyru? Are you going to help put my shoulder back in or are you going to stand there gawking like a fool human?" Tyru was silent. The instructor knew not what he just witnessed, but he never used a whip on him again. After another awkward moment, Tyru helped him relocate his shoulder, a painful experience to say the least. Pain meant little to this Dhe'nar now, he felt it, but he no longer respected it. Pain was a necessary thing in life, he knew, but it was a force that would not get the best of him.
The pounding sun, a rare thing indeed in the swampy bog surrounding Kragg Mountain, was unforgiving that season. The summers were very humid and many Dhe'nar passed out from heat exhaustion. But only the young, for that was acceptable. If the adults were to pass out, they would have to be punished for their weakness. Such weakness could not be passed on to the next generation. That would be seen to.
Tammorkorpla was the Dhe'nar art of brawling. In translation, it meant "Strong Pain." The translation did the style no justice. Few Dhe'nar mastered the art, as it was gruesome and considered too crude by those of weak stomach, but others enjoyed it. The monthly competitions would draw large numbers of hungry young Dhe'nar, looking to prove themselves to the older warriors who looked on. The greater the pain inflicted, the greater the pain received. The more face won and the strong with the way they were.
The long blade became the favorite weapon of Dhe'nar. The blade was a deadly weapon in their hands, as the Dhe'nar swords were both durable and thin, as well as incredibly sharp. The long blade made a broadsword look as crude an cumbersome as a cudgel. It was wieldable with either one or two hands, making up for its lack of mass. Along with their Stalking Leathers made by tanners who had perfected an art that made the armor all but invisible in darkness, Dhe'nar raiding parties were silent Assassins who's feats made for many human stories to scare their young with.
All the arts of war they learned were grotesquely distorted and rewritten until they took on an almost unrecognizable form. Their style was unlike any other. They seemed to want to punish everything and everyone, the only exception being their weapons. They were the only things that earned their respect. A Dhe'nar saying was," They will not lie, cheat, or pester me as other elves do. They are extensions of my being and I trust them with my life, as I must for that is what they are; my life."
Although they were warriors, they were still mortal. They had the needs that all mortals do. Companionship, love. These were two things the warrior's life was lacking. Many Elven warriors took wives at the age of one hundred, and courting began about two years before an actual marriage would take place. There were ancient rituals that had to be observed. Aspects of the way that was said the Arkati themselves had taught long ago when they walked among the Elven.
They were the Dhe'nar, true Elven and keepers of the mysterious "Way" that only the Dark Priests truly grasped. They were like no elf, and while they were of one blood and once race, their way, their path was their own.