Monday, January 7, 2013

The Silent Kingdoms

From the excerpted journals of Anis Al-Farid, companion to Nigel the Sage and Glenn, Get of Erwin.

In northern lands, past the Wastes of Asad and the Eastern Mountains, lie the Silent Kingdoms. The so-called Silent Kingdoms is the name the race of Men have given this land as their language cannot be pronounced by Men and they have no written "tongue" to speak of. We approached this region with great care not to give our excursion away, hiding within the forests that make up much of the southern region.

Our first foray into the Kingdoms proper happened after the first month of our expedition. One of the scouts noted that there was a roving band of hunters to the east of our location during the night. The scouts did not give away their location, but noted that these hunters traveled with a strange silence and did not speak to one another. They used weaponry known to men in the hunt, bows, arrows and knives, and were hunting wild deer. Indeed, the scouts noted, the hunters were seen leaving the forest area with several kills in tow.

The scouts indicated to us that the hunters appeared to have some sort of servants with them, who carried their kills and equipment. The hunters themselves were dressed in regal leathers and cloth, taking arms only when they attempted their kills. Indeed, said our scouts, the Thralls (as we later came to call them) were of smaller stature than their masters and seemed to take great care to predict and cater to the silent, unheard orders of the hunters.

Being that our scouts observed that the hunters were not dressed nor equipped for warfare, but for hunting -- apparently for food, we made plans to travel farther north and see if we could locate a settlement. We packed up our camp and made our exodus.

A league north we approached a fortress into the evening, surrounded by great walls made of stone. Outside the fortress were several buildings. As we approached the buildings and southern-most wall of the fortress, we noted that these building were bereft of any windows or obvious portals. Indeed, our approach to the southern wall we noted the same. Additionally, there were no markings or signage of any kind anywhere.

After much deliberating on what to do, we decided to hail the towers above the gates to the fortress, as it appeared the sealed buildings before it had not obvious method of introducing ourselves.  Nigel the Sage, the most learned of us in the histories, stated to us before our excursion north that one of the Six Tribes were supposed to have lived in this region of the continent. Their language, said Nigel, was not known, but he would attempt to communicate with whoever may respond to the hail.

"Hello! We come in peace from beyond the mountains!" yelled Nigel. "We represent two of the Six Tribes in our company! We wish to know you!"

There was no answer from above the walls. Nigel suggested we wait for some time outside the gate. We made ourselves comfortable and sent some of our scouts to explore and map the surrounding walls.

We received our response several hours after we sent two of our scouts out. A group of these silent hunters approached from the east, with our scouts in shackles. There were about a dozen of them, dressed in hunting leathers as our scouts indicated. They were flanked by an equal number of hunched persons, dressed in squalid cloths. These hunters had the complexion of Westmen, but much paler, but each had long, dark hair as the Hassan people, that they had tied into topknots.

We froze as the hunters approached with our retainers.

Glenn, the boldest of us three, called to the hunters, "We come in peace! Do you believe we have intruded? We wish you no harm!"

These hunters wore no expression upon their faces, except for a bizarre grin -- like a mask. They wore no masks, we soon discovered, as the seeming leader of them responded, "Who. . . Are. . . You. . .?" The words were Mannish, but the speech was labored as if they had to force the words out one syllable at a time. It may be bettered described as "coughing" the words.

"We come from lands beyond the mountain, on an exploratory journey. We wish to learn more of this continent." Glenn continued the parley.

"Are. . .These. . . Yours?" the leader hacked as he pointed to our shackled scouts. As the leader pointed, we noted its hand was not the hand of a Man, but something more bestial: clawed, black and hirsute.

It was then I realized why Sage Nigel told me that this land was also referred to as the Land of the Demon Princes in some texts. We may have come in peace, but we came in peace to a monstrous land.

End of excerpt.

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