The Lesaneth, the Heola Protectors

The Heolas

The Heolas

Since ancient times, heola have served the world of Tamarra by becoming Protectors of something they choose – land, folk, or even an idea. Here Aktil Na Baylarrasa, a long-lived and well-travelled martle, shares his encounter in the Suong Mountains with Drammar, a heolas Protector of the Land.

From Aktil Na Baylarrasa:

In the year SP~4,988*, my journey took me to the Suong Mountains, in the far southwestern corner of the Tamarran Continent.  These lands are dry and hot, with little vegetation. Nestled among the twisted chains of long cordillera, the ranges of the mountain, are many high, flat shelves.  These are usually small, measuring at most a few miles in length and typically far less in width. It is on one of these shelves that I found safety from a band of goblins that had been following me for days.  Many of these evil creatures infest the Suong Mountains. They have built their own kingdoms within the mountains and claim parts of them as their own.

Here I encountered Drammar, the heolas who served as Protector of this land of Suong Mara, nestled between two high peaks.  Not knowing which languages this heolas spoke, and since I know many, as is the custom for my folk, I chose to speak in the native tongue of the heola, Sahan.

“Greetings, heolas of the mountain.  I am the martle named Aktil Na Baylarassa.”  I held out my hands in recognition and bowed slightly.

Drammar also bowed, saying, “Greetings, martle.  You and your cousins are known to me and my folk.  I welcome you here if you come without harm in your mind.”  I was struck that Drammar knew the reference, “you and your cousins”.  Most do not understand that we, martles, refer to ourselves in this way.  We are cousins to each martle and each of them to us, even to our ancestors.

I could see from Drammar’s bearing, firm but polite, that this heolas was a Protector, one of those those known as Lesaneth.

“I come here to seek shelter and, in return, I would bring what aid I might to you and the this place that you Protect, if you are indeed a follower of Lesaneth.”  It was the proper greeting, and I could see that Drammar recognized it as such.

“I am Drammar.  Come and rest from your travels.  This land is protected from any that might do them harm.”

As Drammar finished speaking I heard a sharp sound of barks and squeals –  clearly the sound of goblins, no doubt those that had been following me. There were a number of goblin voices, and they were close.

Drammar did not have time to lead us to a safe place before a band of perhaps a dozen goblins appeared, slouching their way out from behind an outcropping of the mountainside.

I prepared to defend myself, but before I could do anything Drammar, with face cold and furious, moved forward to stand between me and these barbaric creatures.  Drammar faced the goblin leader and called out clearly and with unmistakable threat, “I have not given you permission to enter Suong Mara. I give you warning.”

The lead goblin hesitated, seeming to assess the situation.  As vile as these creatures are, they are surprisingly rational when it comes to war and fighting and do not often make mistakes.  After its momentary calculation, it clearly arrived at a decision. He screeched a loud, intimidating reply as he and his cohort, lunged at us.

I reached for my knife, but before I could touch it, I heard a soft incantation from Drammar, whose long, sand-brown cloak billowed up and swept back as a swirl of sand and dirt rose up from the ground in front.  A wall of earth suddenly spun before us, higher than our heads and as wide as the band of goblins that faced us. It sounded as if a caravan of wagons was crashing down a ravine.

The last thing I saw of the goblins before they were wholly consumed by this powerful storm was the look of shock on their faces.  Then, with one more spoken word and a pushing motion, Drammar sent the storm careening into the goblins, carrying them far back into the ravine from which they had appeared.

The wind dissipated, and Drammar’s cloak settled into stillness.  We both listened for a minute and heard the sound of many goblin feet heading down the mountain away from Suong Mara.

It was the first time I had witnessed the fury of a Lesaneth protecting their land, though it would not be the last.

Drammar turned to look at me.  “Are you hungry?”

* The current year is SP~5,019.

Death in the Quiets

Hanni Rethki

Thank you. Yes, the blanket helps. No, I… just give me a moment. I’m just… I’m still kind of reeling. We would have been dead — or worse — if you hadn’t shown up. I promise I will never again insult the Guilds.

Right, well, I suppose what happened would be important. I suppose you’re planning on going in there or some such. Enforcers… I’d heard of you, but I never fully realized just how strong you are.

Yes, hurry, I understand. Time is of the essence. So here’s how it went.

Our caravan was cresting that hill over there. There were four of us then, plus the merchant. Me, my friend Alric, and… and the two you had to kill.

It was a warm day, but out of nowhere this chill suddenly hit us. And not a natural one, either. It was this cold feeling down in your bones, colder than ice, colder than cold. The pigs started squealing and all of us stopped in our tracks. Why would we continue on that route? No good could come of it. But the merchant was a greedy one, and he wanted to take the shortest route or some of his cargo might spoil. And we needed to get paid, so… on we went.

The cold feeling persisted. As we pushed onwards, it became quiet. Huh. Never thought about that before. I suppose that’s how they got their name? Quiets.

Right. Sorry. Anyway, there were no animals in that cold area, and while it was getting slightly colder, we had no real warning. Alric and I were behind the caravan, and Korchal and Guelswue were in front. And the two of them, they just suddenly dropped to the ground. The pigs started squealing like crazy, and they bolted out off the road and back in the direction we’d come. The merchant got dragged off with them. I have no idea what happened to him. Nor do I really care. You found him? Well, I did like those pigs, so I suppose that’s for the best.

But Alric and I were standing there, our two comrades in arms suddenly lying dead on the ground. We had no idea what to think. Until they began to stir, of course. First their fingers started twitching, then their arms and legs, and finally their eyes opened and they picked themselves up off the ground. They had these terrible vacant expressions in their eyes, and suddenly the cold was coming from them, too, only worse. There was this horrible sensation in my chest, like my heart was being torn out of me, and when the pain cleared they were stumbling towards us. Shufflers. We’d heard of them. And that meant that we’d just walked right into a Quiet.

We didn’t know what to do. Everyone knows you can’t kill Undead. They were coming towards us, and we knew we were going to die, maybe even become shufflers like them… and then suddenly, this bolt of brilliant purple fire came from the heavens! And then another! And like that, the two were nothing more than burning corpses. And I saw you.

Well you know that part. You’re the one who did it. Not you? The Dwaheely over there is the… “Evoker?” You’re a… what’s a Charismatic? Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter — you seem like a good guy to me!

Hey, I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong, but… what were you doing here? You sure as hell weren’t here to save us.

There’s ambient… ambient Stillness here? Instead of ambient Spirit, like most places? Look, I have a spear and I stab things with it. That’s what I do. I have no idea what anything you just said meant.

Ha! There I agree with you. All I need to know is to stay away from Quiets. And if me and Alric might be able to get a ride home from you? Or, really, to any city? Or any place that is far from Quiets? I swear on my life that I will stay away from them forever.

Really? Thanks! Wow, it’s been great meeting you — it’s such an honor! All of you are just so impressive! Do you think maybe I could get your autograph? Just make it out to Hanni Rethki…

Mnemonic Recording, Tasz 10, SP~5,018. Interview with Hanni Rethki, survivor of chance encounter with Quiet #0093.

Annaudia, First City of the Plains of Lochuum

Glenrah, Elder of Stories

I am Glenrah, and I tell the stories of the Lochuum Ushen. My life was, is, and always will be lived in these oceans of grass that are called the Lochuum Plains. I listen to the sounds of the many winds that live with us on these lands. I listen to the grasses and land itself as they speak, without words. And I listen to my kin, the ushen who live alongside me in this place.

I know many stories. Today I will tell one. It is the story of Annaudia. You who come from other places call it a city. We call it by the brutach1 word, habach, meaning a place where many live.

Habach Annaudia is very old. As time is measured on Tamarra it began in the year SP~524, very early in the years of our current era of the world. Now our time is the year SP~5,018, so you can see we ushen have lived in this place for thousands of years. For several hundred years now, a very short time, two or three thousand ushen souls live in this place, with some several hundred brethren of other races. There are no other habach on the Lochuum Plains. All other places where ushen live together are small, only several hundred people or fewer, and remain where they are for only a few years.

Habach Annaudia is centered on the top of the Estherauch Hills, dozens of which run for over a hundred miles west to east across the middle of the Lochuum Plains. The Estherauch are the tallest hills of the Lochuum Plains, and Annaudia is on the westernmost, Estheria Hill, which rises almost 700 yards above the plains.

Habach Annaudia was formed when the ushen sisters Annak and Chaudia and their small tribe of ushen came to the top of Estheria Hill and felt it to be their home. They decided it must be their home forever, and so they gave the place a name. The name of the habach came from the names of the two sisters. The name they chose was Annaudia.

Habach Annaudia, is where we, the ushen people, come to celebrate that which makes us ushen. Every year thousands and tens of thousands of ushen come to Annaudia for festivals and celebrations. At these times Annaudia grows in size to cover Estheria Hill and the hills and plains surrounding it. Every four or five years comes the festival called Achantoch, which means the Harmony of Every Ushen. During this time the Habach Annaudia reaches a size of many more than 100,000 folk.

When standing on the Plains a few miles from Estheria Hill, Habach Annaudia appears to be a yellow grassy covering that surrounds and caps the upper parts of the hill. But Habach Annaudia is made up of many dwellings, almost all of which are dommach. The dommach are made by the ushen craft of weaving together the tall grasses of the Lochuum Plains into domes of many shapes and sizes. Some of the dommach are fortified by those who wield Spirit Energy to make them most sturdy. With this blessing, these dommach may endure even the harshest winds of Lochuum.

As folk get closer, and walk through the Habach, those who are not ushen are surprised that it is actually a “city” with no streets. Their eyes do not detect the worn paths that cross the hill and wind through the grasses that cover it. These paths mark the frequently traveled routes through Annaudia, which change as the traffic of the city changes.

Annak and Chaudia, with their long, beautiful, shimmering red hair, are a part of ushen legend, and their story is its own telling. It is a long telling, with many trials, but with an ending of great joy. This story will be told elsewhere and not here. Because of their lives, Habach Annaudia has prevailed in this place and has endured as the heart of ushen life on the Tamarran Continent.

— Glenrah, Elder of Stories of the Ushen People

1 Brutach is the ushen language.

Hammool Riders of the Plains of Lochuum

From Glenrah, Ushen, Elder of Stories

Hammool riders are ushen who have chosen to live a life of exploration united with a hammool, one of the largest beasts on the Tamarran Continent.  These riders are virtually always ushen and the hammool they ride are wild, unlike the domesticated ones driven by many races and used for transportation over the many roads of the Continent.

To properly understand the hammool riders of the southern plains, it is first necessary to understand a little something about the southern plains themselves.The Plains of Lochuum (LOCK oo um) make up the largest expanse of open land on the southern half of Tamarra (see the map of the Tamarran Continent).  They cover an area that runs almost 700 miles west to east and 400 miles south to north, with land that stretches all the way to the Zhemshen, the Inner Sea on the south, and the Yomoros Mountains, and the Kellith Sea on the east. The Lauggash Mountains serve as their northern and western borders.

The Plains are a lush expanse of gently rolling hills, rising and falling like the waves of a deep, ancient ocean.  The lowest parts are covered in high grasses, six to ten feet tall, that come in waves of yellows, tans, and browns.  The grasses are interrupted by enormous varieties of flowers, some small and delicate and others that tower tall and flamboyant above the grasses, sometimes reaching out above even the crests of the hills themselves.  The higher rises and hills are often covered in dark green and gray grasses that lie close to the black, rich soil of the Lochuum region.  In the center of the Plains of Lochuum, running northwest to southeast, is the dramatic Long Lochuum River, which begins as a series of small streams in the eastern outreach of the Lauggash Mountains and ends its journey south of the Yomoros Mountains, where it tumbles off high cliffs and crashes into the Kellith Sea.

The ushen were the first of the Ten Races to populate the Plains of Lochuum.  The free and open space of the Plains spoke to the ushen, who value individualism and have a great love for nature. The hammool were already there when the ushen first arrived on the Plains.  Hammool are giant creatures*:  an adult is typically 20-25 feet tall  (with some as tall as 30 feet), 15-20 feet wide, and anywhere from 30 to 60 feet long.  With eight sturdy legs, they are some of the strongest creatures on Tamarra.  Although they are one of the largest and heaviest creatures on the continent, their natural affinity with Body Energy makes them one of the fastest and most graceful.

It is no surprise that the ushen and the hammool would find each other.  They are similar in temperament, having the same love of family, with strong bonds to even their most distant cousins and kin.  Both species have a love for the Lochuum lands so strong that it can, on occasion, surpass their own love of life.It is unclear when it began, but there is little doubt that the ushen have ridden hammool for millennia.  

The relationship between a hammool and its rider runs deep.  Both of these proud creatures must agree to the partnership: the hammool must select the rider, and the rider must want the hammool.  The commitment is lifelong.  We do not yet know how the hammool and the ushen communicate; the ushen won’t say, but it is believed that song is at the heart of it.

Once an ushen has found their hammool companion, the ushen’s tribe performs a ritual: in the hour before sunrise, the rider-to-be feasts, welcoming the abundance of the life and the journey that is about to begin. They demonstrate the sacrifices that may come with a fast that ends at sunrise of the following day.  At sunrise, songs and chants begin and the leader of the tribe bestows blessings, ending after several hours with a sudden silence. The ushen will then eat three leaves of the crussra, a short, spiny plant that grows only on the tops of certain hills, and walk out into the grasslands, returning the next morning on the back of their hammool companion.

For the rest of their lives the ushen and the hammool companion will roam the Plains of Lochuum.  Most will find other Hammool Riders and become a part of an existing troop of Riders, or form their own.  Their lives will consist of travel and exploration.  They will learn all that the Plains of Lochuum can teach them, from each kind of grass, flower, and root that grows on and under the Plains, to each hill and contour that gives the Plains their shape and texture, linking them to the pulse of life, and the Energies, that drive Ethem.

*See “Imbelnhi’s Bestiary: Being a Traveler’s Account of Our Continent and Her Creatures