Elyria at War Part 3: The Janoa

Elyria at War: The Janoa

He looked at the babes in their cribs, his twin sons born under a red moon, a Hunter’s Moon. He knew deep in his bones that one day, they would face each other for the position of Prime. On that day, one of them would die. He hoped that the winner would have the sense to consume the other. The merging could only strengthen the survivor. He was almost sorry that it would come to that. Almost. But such was the way of things, the strong would live to hunt another day, the weak wouldn’t. He would have to teach them the ways of the Hunt, to ensure that they weren’t wasteful.

Ha’laq was interrupted from further thoughts by the entrance of his wife. Twelve years of marriage and yet she always took his breath away. The patterns on her skin intricate and delicate, standing in stark contrast to her bronzed skin. An honored hunter in her own right, Kalassa wore her trophies in her long bound hair. She hadn’t hunted in years but her trophies were impressive all the same.

Electing to stay and strengthen the whole at home carried no shame with it, not for someone who had proven herself time and time again in the hunting grounds. “Husband,” she said with a warm smile. “Your warriors gather.” Ha’laq nodded. It was time. Time to enter the Hunting Grounds once more. This prey was special though, unlike the beasts that roamed the Hunting Grounds their quarry was more dangerous in some respects. Foolish these plainsfolk were to enter the Hunting Grounds of the Janoa.

Ha’laq’s hands rose to take off his trophy necklace of bird skulls when Kalassa stopped him. “Let me.” She said.

Ha’laq allowed her to. It was their tradition. Whenever he went out to hunt, she would take his trophies into safekeeping.

Trophies were the pride of any hunter, but only the truly foolish would bear them into battle. A hunter moved quietly, blending into his surroundings, testing his skills against the best the Hunting Grounds had to offer. Trophies were meant to be displayed after battle, not before. It was also a measure of the trust between them. Nothing was more personal than a trophy, something you spilled blood to obtain. A measure of his worth.

When she was done, Ha’laq moved in to kiss her. Long and slow, like every time he went off to hunt. Certain that he’d return, yet wise enough to know that nothing in the Hunt was certain. Only its eventual end.

“It’s time.” Ha’laq said, his voice hard yet cheerful.

“Hunt well,” Kalassa purred. Desire and jealousy burned in her voice. Well did Ha’laq understand that desire. For a brief moment he was torn, wishing to stay here for a few more moments to indulge himself with his wife, but the thought of the warriors waiting in the courtyard below dashed those flames quickly. So he turned away.

Ha’laq walked through the intricately carved halls of the villa until he reached the balcony into the inner courtyard. The sight below him would be enough to send shivers down the spines of any prey and set his blood racing.

In the middle of the courtyard stood his trophy tree, thrice the height of a mann and adorned with the skulls of beasts he’d slain. Many were the skulls of menn as well, small Kypiq skulls, fanged Brudvir skulls.

Those were Ha’laq’s favorites, the two legged beasts. Strong yet slow. Fitting quarries.

Of grasslander skulls there were none to be found. He’d killed many of them, that was true yet he had not found a single one worthy of being called prey.

More like vermin than even the tiny Kypiq in their woodland trees, at least hunting those required cunning and skill.

Fifty of his best warriors stood around the tree, armed with bronze tipped spears, their black lines thickened by paint to resemble a war cat’s markings.

The way they moved was pleasure to the eyes. Lithe, graceful, powerful, every movement of the wrist or step screaming dominance, yet there was also a restlessness in their movements that was so characteristic of his people. Patience they had only for the hunt.

Ever the individuals it took some time until they all noticed him or deigned to notice him. Respect he might command and what passed for loyalty but none could command the warriors with anything but power.

“Our Hunting Grounds are invaded. Filthy grasslanders drawn by tales of cities of gold and riches undreamt of.” Ha’laq began. He knew he need not explain yet he still did. The hunters would hunt either way. “They will find only death waiting for them. ”

The assembled warriors gave a half cheer. Disappointment, that was what Ha’laq could see in their eyes. They’d been expecting some great beast or at least something more exciting than a group of grasslanders. Too bad. Despoiling the Hunting Grounds would not, could not be born.

Ha’laq gripped the balcony railing and vaulted over, rolling as he landed. It was a foolish move, yet he enjoyed the look on the warrior’s faces. The grudging respect they offered. Ha’laq considered his people to be like the great cats, difficult to herd and hard to control but vicious and often victorious. Impeccable hunters above all else.

“No weapon for you, Talar?” A young warrior asked, but recently Blooded. Ha’laq struggled to remember the name. He rarely concerned himself with the affairs of the Unblooded.

Then it came to him. Kir’ahl. Powerfully built, with broad shoulder, he exuded strength and vigor from every pore.

“I won’t need it.” Ha’laq replied easily. It was both a boast and the truth. He wouldn’t need a weapon. He was the weapon.

A few of the more seasoned Blooded gave him friendly nods, Ha’laq nodded back respectfully. Two of them, he knew from his days as a mercenary on the plains, Cahal and Dorsiq. Those he favored with a smile. The camaraderie of battle was different to that of the hunt. “I look forward to seeing you fight Talar. Much has been spoken of your prowess.” Kir’ahl’s words were a compliment, his tone a challenge.

“Indeed,” Ha’laq smiled. “And I look forward to seeing what passes for Blooded these days.” Ha’laq said. It was an insult, a calculated one.

The young warrior bridled but didn’t take the bait. A shame. Ha’laq had been looking forward to a brief warm up. “We march.” Ha’laq finally said, starting to move towards the exit and not looking back to see if they followed, but follow they did.

The hunting party moved swiftly through the undergrowth, almost unseen in the gloom of the forest. A few stray sunbeams dappled their skin here and there. The rainforest ignored their presence as they blended into their surroundings, birds of paradise passing overhead without a glance, tree frogs heedless of the bloodthirsty warriors passing within inches. Single file they ran, each foot claiming the space its predecessor had left, leaving no trace as to their numbers.

Ha’laq knew the Hunting Grounds well, as a child he’d played here, as a mann he’d hunted here. This was home more than even his own villa.

The air was thick and muggy but the hunters were all accustomed to their surroundings, avoiding the breeding grounds of some creatures, the fields of poisonous spores or the defensive traps that surrounded the Gleem. To them it was not a danger.

Ha’laq smiled. Too long he’d been confined to his Ring, overseeing the affairs of the Gleem. Before his rise to Talar he’d been fighting for the grasslander, hired by petty barons and penny pinching counts too cowardly to fight for themselves. At least that’s what his people thought. Only Kalassa, Cahal and Dorsiq knew the truth.

Ha’laq had been an assassin, paid to hunt counts, dukes and even a prince. He’d slain Hrothi and Brudvir, Neran and Dras all for coin and the chance of finding worthy prey. He’d been disappointed. Only the Brudvir had offered a true challenge, but even that had been over too quickly.

But this… this was better. The air of hunting grounds filled his lungs, moist and soothing, it tasted of freedom. The freedom to fight and to die, to glory in a contest of strength and cunning and to triumph over what the hunt could offer.

They found signs of the invaders easily enough. From the signs it was obvious the intruders had made no attempt to hide their tracks. Their bootprints were clear, the remains of the campfire easily seen.

“Fools.” One of the warriors said, disbelief in his voice, kicking at the ashes. “Do they want to be found?”

“Perhaps they seek to fool us, to trap us.” Another chimed in. Ha’laq said nothing. He doubted the grasslanders were preparing a trap, but caution behooved a hunter to not underestimate his prey. “Fan out.” Ha’laq said after a while. “Find their trail and follow but make certain you are not seen. Observe them, tell us their strength, their equipment.”

This entire campsite was filthy, despoiled. He wanted more than anything to burn it all, but knew the wild would reclaim it all in due time. No need for him to intervene.

“Shit and ashes.” He spat. That was all the grasslanders left. Shit and ashes.

One hundred and three. That was the number. Ha’laq observed them from a distance. They were loud and unwary, confident in their numbers. The warriors had surrounded the small encampment and were observing their quarry in perfect stillness and silence.

“I don’t like this place. Feels haunted.” One of the invaders said. Ha’laq could hear them bickering by their campfires. In the silence of the jungle only his heartbeat and the sounds of the enemy could be heard.

“Shut your mouth.” Another said. “Place is about as haunted as grandma’s outhouse with less cause. No need for fear mongering.”

“If you take after her, no wonder it’s haunted. Ain’t ever met a mann who could fart as much as you Darren.” A third put in. That got a laugh from the troop.

“Think we’ll see any stripes today, captain?” A new voice asked, calmer and more quiet.

“I doubt it. Your average stripey is elusive. Ain’t good for much but violence when riled proper but otherwise they’re just thieving beasts that steal whatever ain’t nailed down and come to torment us virtuous folk with their wanton ways.”

Stripeys? Not a term Ha’laq had heard before and not a term he was likely to hear voiced in his presence. The wanton ways bit was true however.

The grasslanders were a tight assed people, prone to ignoring the true pleasures of life in favor of their supposed ‘gods’.

“Should we take them, Talar?” Kir’ahl his voice barely above a whisper. The young blooded’s voice was on tight, on edge.

Ha’laq nodded. “Yes.” He replied inching forward. “Wait for my signal, then attack.”

Ha’laq kept low, careful not to be seen by the two lazy drunken guards keeping watch. It was all too easy to infiltrate the encampment, merely by moving in a timely manner. It always surprised him that a people so prone to indolence and exploitation could build the wondrous cities of the grasslands. The first time he’d seen them he’d gaped like an ignorant savage. Now though, he saw only the corruption that lurked in the people there.

He moved between badly set up tents, careful not to disturb the sleeping figures there. He half expected to be caught, half expected the alarm to sound. He was being careful, but not very. He wanted a challenge, craved it. It was what had first drawn him to the world outside the Hunting Grounds, the desire to be challenged. Yet no challenge had come, not then and not now. Perhaps the Klaves or the Prime could offer him a suitable challenge, but the outside world had offered him none.

He was disappointed when he was within striking distance of the captain, a man of middling year with a paunch, floppy mustache and ill fitting pair of pants.

This was what the grasslanders sent in to despoil the Hunting Grounds? This sad excuse of flesh and bone?

The silent anger in him grew, rising to a vengeful flame. No, these people were not prey. They were vermin.

Throwing caution to the wind Ha’laq stood up, towering above the grasslanders. He moved forward swiftly, faster than any of them could respond and with grasped the captain’s neck from behind drawing him close. Forearm against throat, head tilted slightly forward, he twisted. Up and sideways. Vertebrate snapped as the man’s neck broke like a twig with a satisfying crunch.

Two more larynxes were crushed by his angry fists, their owner’s dying slowly, starved of air, before any of his warriors made it into camp.

It wasn’t a battle, it was pest control. Exterminating rats. The grasslanders offered no challenge, and died by the scores within mere moments.

When it was done, and his warriors had mutilated the corpses enough, out came the trophy knives.

“Stop.” Ha’laq said. “I forbid you from taking trophies.”

An angry murmur rumbled through the bloodstained warriors.

“Why?” Kir’ahl asked, voice petulant. He had his knife ready to carve a feat man’s head from his shoulders. “It is our right as victors of the hunt to claim the spoils.”

Ha’laq sneered. “You call this victory? This wasn’t victory. This was… time wasted. These people…” He motioned to the dead. “don’t deserve to be called prey. They don’t deserve to become trophies. They are pests. Leave them here to feed the hunting grounds. Let their spirit become something worthy of hunting. Come, let us hunt some proper game and cleanse our spirits of this necessary waste of time.”

The elder warriors nodded in agreement. They saw it as he did. When the Hunt didn’t offer challenge, then it wasn’t a hunt or a victory. The younger warriors wore a more resentful cast, but followed their elders guidance.

The warriors had hunted well, claiming a multitude of strong and cunning prey and Ha’laq had let them return home. Meanwhile he returned to the site of the ‘battle’.

“Where are your Holy Swords? Your champions?” He asked, his bare feet prodding a corpse. “Do you think so little of us to send us your refuse?”

“Perhaps they think so little of you Talar, perhaps they reserve their greatest warriors for the Klave and the Prime…” Kir’ahl’s voice broke the silence of his own thoughts. “And send only the worst of the worst for you.”

Ha’laq chuckled. “Perhaps. Perhaps they feel that the Blooded here are too weak to prove a challenge.”

Kir’ahl growled in response. “Pick up a weapon and once I kill you, I shall become Talar.” He held his spear, ready to pounce.

“Boy, it doesn’t work that way. We both know it. And I need no weapon for you. I’ve had more dangerous Kypiq confront me.” Ha’laq laughed, a response sure to provoke the young warrior.

Kir’ahl pounced.

The warrior was swift, crossing the distance between the two in a few strides but Ha’laq was more than ready.

Grabbing the shaft of the spear, directly beneath the head he drew the shaft close circling it around his body and sending the young warrior tumbling with his own charge. Ha’laq followed with a kick to the back of the knee and a Kir’ahl screamed in pain.

“I should kill you.” Ha’laq said, not waiting for the warrior to respond. “But I won’t.”

He threw the spear on the ground next to the warrior. “Grow stronger and fight me again.”

Ha’laq left the young warrior alone then, a small smile on his face. Perhaps, just perhaps, the young Blooded might offer a proper challenge in the future.

Humiliation and wounded pride were ever a great motivator.

Part 1: The Kypiq

Part 2: The Bruvir

Part 4: The Neran

Part 5: The Waerd

Part 6: The To'Resk

Part7: The Hrothi

7/1/2017 11:51:40 PM #1

((awesome writing! i went back and read your earlier entries, i hope the races fit this idea of them that you have!))

7/2/2017 12:00:09 AM #2

As usual awesome reading!

7/2/2017 12:00:12 AM #3

❤ you've made them a very physical people

7/2/2017 12:04:01 AM #4

Another fabulous entry!
I can't help but feel bad for any Neran you happen to encounter in game no matter what tribe you end up playing.

Friend Code: B8ADDD

7/2/2017 12:07:49 AM #5

Poor Neran.


7/2/2017 2:57:18 AM #6

This was my favorite one thus far. I appreciate what you did with Ha'laq here and hope the young Kir'ahl gets his second chance. Indeed great character building and overall story crafting.

7/2/2017 7:59:45 AM #7

I get the feeling you don't like the Neran @Scylurus lol they seem to die easily in each story!

7/2/2017 8:13:31 AM #8

Posted By Darhk at 09:59 AM - Sun Jul 02 2017

I get the feeling you don't like the Neran @Scylurus lol they seem to die easily in each story!

I have nothing against the Neran. However for the purposes of introducing a foreign enemy invading home soil they seem like the best redshirt candidates. It doesn't break plausibility to have them invade each type of biome,

As to why they die easy... well... I put them in situations where the native tribe displays territorial dominance.

None of the Neran I've presented except for the Holy Sword in the Brudvir tale, seem like the most competent individuals... Chalk it up to greed and underestimating their opponents. :D

7/2/2017 6:33:31 PM #9

Well written and insightful as usual! Have you decided which one you are going to do next?

7/2/2017 10:07:38 PM #10

Well done.

Friend code: FF2B6D
7/3/2017 5:33:13 AM #11

Posted By Rofus at 8:33 PM - Sun Jul 02 2017

Well written and insightful as usual! Have you decided which one you are going to do next?

Either the Hrothi or the Neran. Not sure which yet, so I've started on both. :D

7/3/2017 7:11:25 AM #12

Looking forward to the next, you actually have improved my opinions of the non-human type tribes.

Disclaimer It's my right to have an opinion on whether they are human like or not. Please don't corrupt this thread by arguing with my opinion here.

7/4/2017 6:28:52 PM #13

Time for SBS to take notice 😉