Elyria at War Part 5: The Waerd

This one was a hard one. The Waerd are fascinating and at the same time very unique. It took a while to get a proper grasp on what I imagined them to be. Especially since this series is titled Elyria at War and the Waerd do not wage wars :D So without further ado.

Elyria at War: The Waerd

Jaken-that-was looked down from the plateau.

The Waerd were sheltered by a rocky outcropping that offered a perfect view of the scene below. Along the canyons that served as passages through the broken plateaus that were the border, there marched an army. An army of unbelievers.

Jaken-that-was almost spat on the ground in disgust; the thought of unbelievers tainting the holy soil of the Waerd was almost too much to bear. He did not. Water was life in this land, wasting what the Queen had given them was akin to blasphemy. So the disgust was swallowed. A vivid reminder that emotion was a surefire way of straying from the path.

“What shall we do?” Loosespear asked, leaning in close. “This Waerd counts two thousand.”

“This Waerd counts closer to two thousand five hundred.” Another voice said from behind. Brokenshoulder. With the keener eyes, Jaken-that-was trusted that count more. Loosespear was but recently unnamed, his moniker still too fresh. Named for his habit of having too many opinions for a lowly Waerd.

Jaken-that-was considered it. Two thousand or five hundred more mattered little in the eyes of the Queen. They were interlopers.

“What shall we do?” Loosespear asked, repeating the question.

Jaken-that-was did not respond at first. Too many thoughts vied for his attention. Where were they headed? What was their purpose? There was even the dim possibility that they were true believers come seeking the path, though that would be ridiculous.

“We seek consensus.” Jaken-that-was finally said. “The wisdom of the collective. Perhaps the Familiar knows the purpose of these interlopers.”

“I doubt it.” Loosespear said. Jaken-that-was cuffed the boy. It was traditional. The young always had problems becoming unnamed. Losing self. Self was the root of all ills though. Without self, there was no selfishness. Without self there was no conflict. Self was the Waerd and the Waerd were you. If one acted for the benefit of the Waerd, one acted for the benefit of every Waerd. If one harmed the Waerd, one harmed every Waerd.

Children could not understand this lesson, children and the truly selfish, the Named. In children it could be forgiven. Every child was selfishness. It was the way of things. Asking a child to abandon self was the height of foolishness. Yet the transition was harder for some than for others. So it was the responsibility of the Waerd, of every Waerd, to teach and reinforce.

He nodded to the troop of five Waerd behind him. This group of Waerd had been together for many years. Together they had gone into the green lands to help the Great Work. Together they had learned at the knees of elder Waerd how to abandon self. So when Jaken-that-was moved, they moved with him. They moved as one, except Loosespear, their bodies in tune, every step in sync as the troop walked along the rocky path that lead to the top of the plateau.

As they passed from the darkness of the outcropping into the harsh light above, they covered their faces in dun colored shemaghs. They moved swiftly through the harsh landscape, blending into the background, underneath the shemaghs sweat flowed freely and breath came hard as their feet pounded the unmarked paths through the reddish wasteland.

High above Jaken-that-was saw the raptors circling. They seemed to know already something that Jaken-that-was suspected. It would end in blood. It always did when self ruled ones actions.

They circled along the rim of this particular part of the broken plateau, shadowing the vanguard of the invaders. Jaken-that-was might have hoped that the army would roast in the sun, that they would get lost among the rocks and die of exposure but that was a fool’s hope.

What was certain was that the Queen’s will would happen. Her path was the only certainty offered. Death would claim all of them, sooner or later.

Soon enough their path diverged from the gorge’s as Jaken-that-was led the way to the east, back to the Rook.

They reached the edge of the plateau and Jaken-that-was led started his climb down. His finger and toes moved deftly along the razor sharp wall face, as did the others. This was their land. They knew it like no other could. There was no need for ropes or lines to secure them, no need to mark the paths.

The sun’s glare was harsh and unwavering as calloused fingers found handholds where there appeared to be none. Jaken-that-was hung from only the fingers of the left hand and swung to the side, grasping another hold too far to reach.

Reaching the bottom in good time Jaken-that-was called for a halt near a cave entrance.

“Drink, eat. The journey is long and we shall need strength if we are to move swiftly.” The Waerd said, leaning against the cool stone of the cave. The cool air made them all breathe easier as they unmasked and drank from waterskins.

Loosespear appeared to be suffering the most, draining the waterskin in one long continuous gulp. Unnamed perhaps but greener than a new cactus, Jaken allowed himself to think.

The Rook was located within a plateau itself. From above it looked like a tiered hive with proper houses built atop shaped pathways and hollowed out alcoves and curtained caverns side by side. Home. Jaken-that-was breathed and allowed himself a brief moment of pleasure at the sight. It always relieved him to see home, to get rid of that feeling of uncertainty when he was away from the Waerd.

He looked back to see the others breathe a similar sigh of relief. Too long spent away from the Waerd left one feeling too much of oneself. So he was glad to soon be basking in the collective glow of the Waerd, to merge into the Waerd and feel less… alone, even if the tidings he brought were ill.

He dismissed the others but Loosespear insisted on coming with Jaken-that-was to speak to the Familiar.

The Familiar held court out in the open, sitting only on a humble stool next to a group of playing children. This was the heart of the community, as others sat around weaving or playing. One group of Waerd were practicing their singing. They needed more practice in Jaken-that-was’s opinion.

The Familiar set eyes upon them and smiled.

“This Waerd is glad to see you old friend.” The wisened older Waerd said with a smile, aged leathery skin wrinkling at the corner of his eyes.

He stood up and moved to embrace Jaken-that-was. They’d known each other for many years, with Jaken-that-was serving as the Waerd’s eyes and ears for as long as that Waerd had been the Familiar.

The Familiar knew of his struggles with self whenever Jaken-that-was returned. It was hard to be gone from the Waerd for so long but the Familiar always insisted Jaken-that-was was strong enough to bear the temptations of self and still return unnamed.

“This Waerd brings grave tidings.” Jaken-that-was said, not returning the embrace. “Tidings of unbelievers come to sully our holy lands.”

The eyes of the assembled Waerd turned to them.

The Familiar looked into Jaken-that-was’s grey eyes and nodded. “So they have come again. Come then, tell us your tidings. But first you must eat. We do not let hard travelers weaken. Eat, drink first. The Waerd must gather to hear your tidings.” The Familiar took Jaken-that-was to his stool and sat him down.

The Familiar turned to the crowd. “Our brother needs food and drink.”

Jaken-that-was ate and drank his fill, then ate and drank more. His body needed it. Weariness had entered his bones and all he wanted to do was rest in the shade and enjoy his time back home but duty came before self, always. So he ate and drank, to recover his strength.

Only a healthy body could serve the Waerd well.

“Eat as much as you can.” He told Loosespear, who sat by his knee. “The Waerd need you strong and capabale.” Loosespear’s chest puffed out with pride and he proceeded to eat with a fervor as if his life depended on it. The temptation to cuff the young Waerd was great but Jaken-that-was let it go.

This time.

When they were done, the Familiar himself took their plates and handed them off to another.

“Brothers, sisters. These Waerd come to us with grave tidings.” The Familiar began. “Speak brother. Tell us, tell the Waerd what has been seen.”

Loosespear was about to speak when Jaken-that-was put a hand on his shoulder. Given half the chance the young Waerd would probably shame himself.

“This Waerd has seen an army.” Jaken-that-was spoke. “Together with six others, this Waerd witnessed a force of over two thousand cross into our lands.”

A collective gasp came from the Waerd. Every now and again interlopers dared to tread on this holy soil but rarely so strong and never in their lifetime.

“This Waerd saw them move through the broken maze, polluting the ground with every step.” Jaken-that-was continued. “So this Waerd comes to the Waerd seeking consensus. Seeking guidance. Seeking action.”

At first there was silence and then it began, like a hushed whisper, a slow trickle and like the bursting of flood gates it became an argument, a shouting match as each Waerd wanted to be heard.

The Familiar held up his hands, motioning for silence.

“Our brother brings news of interlopers.” The Familiar said. “And seeks counsel and consensus. Step forward if you wish to speak.” A half dozen Waerd stepped forward into the impromptu circle the Waerd had formed around them.

“Speak Blacksmith.” The Familiar said. The older Waerd had always been good at handling a crowd, Jaken-that-was knew. And his actions spoke volumes about how he led the Waerd.

“This Waerd has spent hours folding metal. This Waerd says we need to use that steel. This action cannot be borne. This action cannot be allowed.” The Blacksmith was of an age with Jaken-that-was but built for strength not endurance, with a thick neck and well muscled arms.

“Words of strength, brother.” The Familiar said.

The Familiar motioned to another. “This Waerd has born four children. Two claimed by the Queen in her wisdom. This Waerd does not wish for the others to go as well.”

The Familiar nodded. “Yet more words of wisdom. The strength of the Waerd lies in the whole. We weaken when we lose a part of the whole, though the Waerd remain.”

The next Waerd spoke without being called on. “This Waerd serves the Queen in her Great Work. This Waerd questions if dealing with the interlopers is a part of the Great Work or does her holiness have another plan.”

The Familiar smiled warmly. “True faith should never shy away from questions. A valid point, brother. We must as always seek the answer of whether our actions serve her holiness.”

The fourth was older than all the others, grey haired and bearded with aged skin and milky white eyes. “This Waerd has not seen for a decade.” He said. “But this Waerd has seen what happens when interlopers are allowed to roam free. Many Waerd died the last time our land was assailed. The collective survived but suffered. It took generations to recover. This Waerd does not wish for the past to repeat itself.”

The Familiar was silent and bowed his head to the older Waerd. He placed a hand on the mann’s shoulder.

“Yes, brother. History is our teacher. We must learn what we can from it, use its wisdom to guide our actions.”

The fifth came forward unbidden, a young firebrand well-known and zealous. “This Waerd says the Waerd do not war.”

The Familiar did not speak again for a while letting that sink in. “Indeed, brother.” He finally said. “The Waerd do not war. We start wars, we end wars, but we do not war. For war is not of the Great Work.”

Then the Familiar turned to the last Waerd to step forward. “What say you brother? What shall the Waerd do?”

“This Waerd was going to argue against action.” The nondescript Waerd said. “But then this Waerd heard the others speak. Talk of war, of metal, of the Queen’s will. This Waerd does not believe it is so complex a matter. It is simple. It is pest control. These invaders pollute our lands with their mere presence. They are an affront to the Queen and to every one of us.”

There was hatred in his voice. Real hatred.

“This Waerd lived in the green lands once. We sought to spread the word of the Queen’s grace to all mann. Yet our pleas fell on deaf ears. Our entreaties met with scorn. The Waerd were slaughtered by the people of the green lands for trying to unite the world under her grace. So this Waerd argues that now that they have come to our lands, they must be met with the same. There must be balance. There must be a reckoning.”

Jaken-that-was sensed the change in mood. Those word held power. The effect on the Waerd was obvious and he knew there would be blood.

The Familiar probably sensed the same looking around. “It seems the Queen’s will has been stated. There must be balance for the interlopers actions against the Waerd. There must be a reckoning.”

The Familiar turned to look at Jaken-that-was and he knew, deep down in his bones he knew what would be asked. What the Waerd would need of him.

So began Jaken-that-was’s campaign against the interlopers. It wasn’t to be a war. It was to be pest control.

It took one hundred Waerd, twenty days to kill an army. They moved by night clad in black robes, swiftly and silently. As the interlopers huddled by the fireside as the Queen’s breath descended upon them, bringing chills and ice, the Waerd moved through their native soil like ghosts. Unremarked and untraceable.

Every night he asked the Waerd to bring back a sign of their success and every night they returned to the caverns that served as shelters with teeth and rings, ears and eyes. Jaken-that-was had it all burned.

They were not trophies. There was no glory in this. Only duty and sacrifice.

On the third night, the first Waerd fell. An accident, unfortunate but a sacrifice for the greater good. Night time in the arid lands was deadly as treacherous paths could give way, not to mention the varied and numerous deadly beasts that abounded. They laid him to rest with a lonely duet sung in a low hum.

Over the next week more Waerd fell. Some to accident but increasingly more to the interlopers. Say what one would about the interlopers, selfish, greedy, foolish, and vainglorious but even the dumbest beast learned with time. Their patrols were more organized, their watches more vigilant.

By Jaken-that-was’s count nine hundred and fifty three of the vermin had been eliminated. Over a third. With only twenty Waerd lost. The problem was from now on it would get harder. The Waerd would need to be more creative.

And so more ambushes began. The Waerd appeared to the invaders in few numbers, drawing them close into traps and ambushes. Rockslides, arrows, barrels of poisonous snakes. Every trick they could think of and some that were happy accidents. It did not matter if it claimed lives or just demoralized.

It did not matter how many of the invaders fell. How many Waerd it cost. As long as the Waerd were safe, then a single Waerd was a noble sacrifice.

Even a hundred Waerd were a sacrifice if need be. It was something the collective knew which was why there was no fear. No doubt.

They followed with unhesitating determination because it was for the good of the Waerd, for the glory of the Twofold Queen. They were relentless, tireless, fearless. Even as he ran them ragged and left some broken in caverns and alcoves. Still they ran and still they fought.

Day in, day out the Waerd harried the invaders. The harshness of the wasteland broke their bodies, feet cracked and blistered, dehydration, heatstroke or sheer exhaustion. It all broke the Waerd’s bodies but never their spirits.

Dead on their feet they ran ahead of the army to prepare ambushes, to set traps.

Twenty days. That was how long it took to reduce an army of two thousand five hundred invaders to a group of a hundred soldiers. All it had cost was the lives of eighty Waerd. A steep price but well worth paying in the eyes of the collective. Jaken wasn’t so sure but his will did not matter, nor did his opinion. The threat had been dealt with and the Waerd would live on.

Jaken-that-was led the final ambush himself.

They began the twenty second day by throwing spears at the final troop of invaders who were fleeing, heading to the border back to the green lands.

Some might question the wisdom of this decision. They were fleeing after all, but if any questioned Jaken-that-was’s actions none voiced them.

The vermin had dared tread upon Waerd lands and so they had to pay. There would be no mercy except death, no quarter except death.

Twenty Waerd threw spears and stones until they had no more to throw but at the end still too many invaders remained. Too many vermin.

So Jaken-that-was made a decision.

“Attack!” He called out and the Waerd responded.

They had set lines for precisely this purpose the day before and rappelled down the cliff walls at speed, protected by their comrades above who sent boulders too large to throw on any who dared interfere with the climb.

Then it was Jaken’s turn and he swung over the top, allowing himself no time to breathe.

His feet touched the ground and already the battle was begun. He ducked underneath a sword blow, readjusted the grip on his spear and stabbed the mann’s armpit.

The butt of his spear broke another’s nose.

A third took a blow to the groin, the spear tip angling just behind the codpiece with perfect precision.

The Waerd moved methodically through their enemies. Spears stabbing as screams and the scent of dust and blood filled the air.

The battle lasted mere moments and yet felt like forever to Jaken-that-was. Each movement felt slow and sluggish, each heartbeat like it would be his last.

He saw no movement around him anymore except a mann lying on the ground in front of him, struggling to speak.

Jaken-that-was held the spear at the ready, ready to plunge the point into the Neran’s throat.

The mann was dying, that much was obvious, the wound to his gut would fester and rot. He could be merciful and make it swift, or let him bake in his armor.

Jaken-that-was shook his head sadly. The choice was clear. He was not one of the bone men, so fascinated with the rot of life, the putrescence and putrefaction that lead to new life.

He was a Servant of the Goddess. Quick or slow, the Queen would always get her due.

He plunged the spear into the man’s throat, ending him. There was relief in the man’s eyes and gratitude.

A bitter smile graced Jaken’s lips. “Do not thank us friend, for we are the Waerd and resistance is futile.

Jaken-that-was looked around him.

Dead, they were all dead. Waerd and invader alike. He walked among the corpses of the combatants in a daze. The weight of what he had done sat heavily on his shoulders. A hundred Waerd. The Waerd were lessened because of his actions. His choices. His.

He stumbled over a corpse and looked down at the corpse of one of his people. He unwrapped the shemagh and was confronted by the face of Loosespear. The young Waerd had held out well, better than most, surviving to this final battle.

A hundred Waerd, twenty two days. Twenty two days in the crucible.

Jaken-that-was spent the rest of the day dragging the corpses into a cave. He unwrapped their shemaghs and burned their faces into his mind.

“This Waerd… no, I was honored to lead you. Honored to have fought with you.” Jaken said. He had shamed himself. He needed to shame himself. He had acted for the greater good, but that did not absolve him of his own guilt, his own pain.

Only penance could do that. Only the shame of naming himself could begin to help him back on the Path.

Part 1: The Kypiq

Part 2: The Bruvir

Part 3: The Janoa

Part 4: The Neran

Part 6: The To'Resk

Part7: The Hrothi

9/7/2017 2:00:31 AM #1

Great job! This is my favourite so far! Guess I'll have to play the Waerd

Oh hey there

9/7/2017 8:44:07 AM #2

Not gonna pick a favorite yet 😂 Bear is not done. Love it though

9/7/2017 5:39:19 PM #3

Well done, I am honestly surprised that the Waerd could be protrayed in a likeable way to me. I thank you on giving me insight on them, if only a little bit.

9/8/2017 10:45:16 AM #4

Good story and well written! Just one thing bothered me, the use of "this Waerd" instead of "we". In Caspian's writeup about the Waerd he said that they always refer to themselves in plural so speaking about themselves in 3rd person threw me a bit off. An oversight or just artistic liberty?

9/8/2017 11:05:11 AM #5

Artistic license mostly.

I gave it a great deal of thought and the 'we' seems very apt for many things, especially when dealing with outsiders, however what about when the Waerd argue? How in any practical sense do the Waerd differentiate ?

It started out with me thinking about the Waerd seeking consensus. But from a practical standpoint, when the Waerd argue about the best decision, how do you differentiate the arguments? How do you define a personal observation?

I felt that the use of 'I' shows individualism, something the Waerd do not wish. So how to deal with that? How to create a realistic interaction that is not all too confusing?

So I went with the third person. The use of 'this waerd' highlights to me that while the individual pair of eyes or thoughts have one observation or opinion, they do not consider it removed from the whole.

It's an acknowledgement of the Waerd being not just a collective but also the bodies that make up the collective.

9/20/2017 1:54:50 PM #6

Well said, Scy. The whole this Waerd caught me off guard too, but you make a good point. Saying "this Waerd" is a good way to identify the source of any ideas while still identifying as part of the whole.

And you say what we were all thinking... "We are The Waerd. Resistance is futile." =P

9/20/2017 2:08:05 PM #7

Posted By Scylurus at 1:05 PM - Fri Sep 08 2017

So I went with the third person. The use of 'this waerd' highlights to me that while the individual pair of eyes or thoughts have one observation or opinion, they do not consider it removed from the whole.

It's an acknowledgement of the Waerd being not just a collective but also the bodies that make up the collective.

Smart move. I think that was the only solution without losing their individualism in a collective society. I personally don't believe that Waerd can't be individuals as well.

But how do you differentiate from other Waerd, so you can lock your house from everybody who is not part of the collective? Do you have to give the whole family all your keys?

Or are Waerd not bothered when complete strangers walk through their houses?

9/20/2017 9:21:56 PM #8

Same lock on all the doors in a community 😉 only one key needed

1/6/2018 11:42:09 PM #9

I've just started with CoE, Scylurus, so commenting late.

Your explanation about 'This Waerd' resonated and reminded me of my time living in Japan from 1987 - 1991. Compared to many, they are a proud and 'collective-type' of nation who see the behaviour of the individual as far less of value than the strength of the Whole. There is a phrase there - 'Ware ware Nihonjin...' which means 'We Japanese.' It's used to confirm and strengthen Group behaviour and values above Individual actions. Thus 'We Japanese' are - for example: black-haired; straight haired; brown-eyed; unique and proud of our culture; homogenous; Therefore, during the years I was there, there was the occasional article/newspaper report detailing about how young students in Japan were maybe punished by the school for looking 'too individualistic,' and they'd be sent home to straighten their hair, or get their hair dyed black if they were unfortunate to have merely darker-brown hair compared to others. The justification of any punishment for being different usually involved the phrase 'Ware ware Nihonjin...' - We Japanese are like this - all of us.

I should say that I would particularly value the response of any Japanese person on the forum, concerning my comment. I love Japan and miss so much about it which is wonderful. I married a wonderful Japanese woman whilst there, Like every other country, it also has its problems. This is comment not criticism, My comment is made only because - for me - there is an immediate 'resonance' between Scylurus' excellent description of the 'group behaviour' of the Waerd and the group behaviour of the nation of Japan.

Physician, Alchemist & Herbalist to the Duchy of Anor, Al-Khezam - Selene (EU) Server