Elyria at War Part 6: The To'Resk

Elyria at War: The To'Resk

An arm wrapped around his throat and Nagoc struggled to breathe, to move. His hands clawed at the forearm trying to loosen the grip but he couldn’t. So he did the only thing he could think of, trying to get grip on his opponent’s arm and throw him over his shoulder. He didn’t quite manage, as he tried the throw, which resulted in two figures rolling in the packed dirt.

At least the arm holding him was gone.

“That was well done brother.” Tanlan said. “You almost managed it this time.” The older To’Resk stepped forward and punched him the shoulder. “We’ll make a Tooth of you in no time. Strong enough to protect our village.”

Nagoc beamed. He yearned for the acknowledgment of his elder brother. Five years the elder, Talan was everything Nagoc was not. Strong and well muscled, tall and good looking with even ridges and evenly spaced sharp teeth that were ever ready to smile and laugh.

Nagoc on the other hand was shorter than the average To’Resk, at least for now. His ridges ran deep and were lopsided and his teeth felt too big for his mouth.

“So what now? Clubs? Spears?” Nagoc asked, wanting more. He didn’t feel tired although the sweat atop his brow was dripping down into his eyes, salt stinging and burning.

“Beers.” Tanlan chuckling at his own rhyme. “or at least rice wine. We’ve done enough for today. Anymore and one of us might get hurt.”

Tanlan led the way through the village. Bowing and greeting the Elders, ruffling the children’s hair while Nagoc followed silently in his wake. The entire village loved Tanlan, that much was obvious.

The village was built atop a hillock overlooking the rice paddies and waterways of the wetlands. The embankments separating each field serving as the roads and flood protection. Nagoc thought it looked beautiful as always but Tanlan just sighed at the sight of it.

“What’s wrong brother?” Nagoc asked.

“Don’t you ever feel… like this isn’t enough.”

“Enough of what?”

“Everything. This village. This life. Farming rice. Enduring flood and famine. Don’t you ever wonder what lies beyond this small world? Don’t you want to see it? The Forests of the Janoa? The Swamplands of the Unblemished? The grasslands of Ne’ran?”

Nagoc hadn’t really thought about it. But now that he did, he realized there wasn’t really anything keeping them tied to this place. Not really. Their parents had passed a few seasons back. During a storm an embankment had burst mid harvest. His parents had been there hoping to scrape together what little they could before it all drowned.

“We could just go.” Nagoc suggested.

Talan looked at him for a moment as if judging the statement. “Don’t be silly. We can’t just go. The village needs us. Two strapping lads such as ourselves… with us gone who’d woo all the eligible maidens, eh?”

“Oh I’m sure they could manage.” Nagoc said. He saw the uncertainty in his brother’s eyes. Nagoc had surprised him. He hadn’t expected his younger brother to be willing to go. And deep down Nagoc understood something about Talan then. He was afraid. Talan was afraid of what was out there. His curiosity was great, but his fear greater.

“Come on.” Nagoc said, changing the subject. “I recall someone mentioning wine.”

Talan smiled down at his younger brother. “I seem to vaguely remember something about that.”

Talan took the lead again.

Their house was about a mile from the center of the village, an old, solid abode of wood. Built by their great grandfather, it had weathered storm and tide, war and plague. A large veranda encircled the house and Talan sat down on reaching it.

He looked expectantly at his younger brother.

“What?” Nagoc asked.

“Wine.” Talan said lying back against the hard wood floor.

“Why do I have to get it?” Nagoc protested.

“Because I’m the elder and you have to serve me.” Talan replied sharply. “So hop to it. I’m thirsty and time waits for no mann.”

Nagoc grumbled as he stepped on to the veranda and through the main door. He touched the foreheads of the To’ran and Mydra carefully, bowing as he did so, showing his respect for the Qin. One could find them in every home. Carving of the gods. Said to protect hearth and home.

The stories said that Mydra and Ne’ran were in love and it had pained him to look upon To’ran so he gave him to the wetlands, but that couldn’t be true. For what kind of father would abandon his child by his beloved? What kind of god could be so weak? No, Ne’ran was faithless and unworthy of To’ran’s or Mydra’s love.

Nagoc remembered the day his parents had passed like it was yesterday. They’d died to protect the village, giving their lives so the village would endure. That was true love.

He walked through the house. It felt empty with just the two of them. Nagoc wondered what it might one day be like. When Talan got married, Nagoc would continue to live here but once he married he’d need to find a place of his own. No house could have two mistresses.

Nagoc returned with the wine to find his brother fast asleep on the veranda, gentle snores escaping his lips. An impish smile graced his face as he opened the bottle and poured a measure down his brother’s open and snoring mouth.

Talan jumped up as if he’d been stung, splashing wine everywhere.

“What’d you do that for?” He shouted.

“You said you were thirsty.” Nagoc countered, laughing.

A wordless cry issued from Talan’s throat and he charged, tackling Nagoc to the ground. They tussled in the dirt, wrestling with each other both half laughing, half raging; the bottle of wine slowly dripping into the dusty ground, spilled and forgotten.

Nagoc awoke to screaming.

He was in his room and it was dark but the screams pierced the veil of night like a blade in the dark. He shot up and rushed out of his room to find his brother standing by the open door. In the distance they saw the flames rising. The screams rising above the roar of the fire. This wasn’t an accident. This was an attack.

“The village.” Nagoc said.

Talan nodded wordlessly.

“We have to help them.” Nagoc said.

He looked around for anything and then noticed his brother’s spear propped against the door frame.

“We will do no such thing.” Talan said. “You’re not a Tooth yet.” There was a hardness in his voice Nagoc hadn’t heard before. “I am.”

Talan turned to look Nagoc in the eye.

“I want you to run. Run to the paddies and hide among the rice. Stay there until you are sure it is safe. Until you know you are alone.”

“No, Tal.” Nagoc said. “I can’t. I can’t leave you out there all alone.”

“Oh yes you can. You’re half trained. Out there.” He gestured towards the flames. “You’re a danger to everyone else.”


“No buts.” Talan said. “Promise me. Give me your word that you'll try and be safe."

Nagoc hesitated but against his better judgment said. “I promise.” With that he knew his fate was sealed. A To’Resk would never go back on their word. It was sacred.

Nagoc gripped his brother’s shoulder. “Good luck and stay safe.”

“You too, little brother.” Talan said.

Nagoc watched him take up his spear, watched him walk towards the screams and the flames. A part of him knew it would be the last time he ever saw him again in this plane.

“Haven guide you.” He whispered into the night. He looked at the carved faces of the Qin and nodded to himself. He had a promise to keep.

His path took him down the hillside, which was treacherous on the best of days but in the sheer night it was suicide. or it would have been were not the horizon burning brightly with the flames of the village.

Still Nagoc almost lost his footing more than once and feared a fall would kill him.

He reached the paddies without incident and hunkered down to wait until it was safe.

At first there was nothing but then he could see tiny lights moving in the darkness.


The smell of smoke filled the air, leaving an acrid taste in his mouth. He wanted to cough but didn’t, even as his eyes watered and he felt like heaving his lungs out.

Still he did not make a sound, instead dunking his head underwater periodically whenever the lights approached closely.

He hid as the screams grew louder. He hid as the fires blazed brighter. He hid as his village died. He hid. Because he had given his word.

The morning came and the screams died down at some point. Nagoc couldn’t remember when, couldn’t remember because he’d clawed at his ears until they bled to make it stop.

By the time he felt it was safe to leave, he was half mad from self inflicted pain and the knowledge that he’d done nothing. Nothing but survive. How was he supposed to live with himself? How was he supposed to endure?

It looked to be late afternoon and for a few hours there hadn’t been a single sound. The fires seemed to have died down and so had the screams.

As Nagoc moved for the first time in over half a day, his muscles screamed in pain; his eyes still burned from smoke and lungs felt like they’d been seared by hot iron.

He walked through the ashes of his former home. Nothing remained. To’Resk houses were built to withstand storm and tide, but fire; fire was a rarity in the wetlands. So the flames had torn through the village like it was made of brush, leaving little but singed beams and collapsed verandas.

All around him lay the dead. To’Reshian corpses mostly but a few that looked to be of Neran stock. The To’Reshians had been mutilated, violated, their limbs chopped off, their heads thrown around. He recognize no faces. It was all a blur of terror and agonized expressions.

Blood and ashes, that was all that remained of his home.

When Nagoc found his Talan’s body, he knew, finally knew for certain his former life was over. His skin had been pierced multiple times and it looked like he had not gone easy to the Astral. It hit Nagoc then.

He was alone. Completely alone. No friends left, no family. Not even money or a legacy. Just himself.

Then the tears came, an unending stream that burned fiercely. His body wracked by sobs fell down in the village square. For the longest while, he would not, could not move.

They found him a few days later, a mixed group of Janoa and To’Resk patrolling the far reaches of the wetlands . Nagoc was still lying in the town square. Still trying to come to grips with his new reality. He knew he should endure. Knew he should fight to survive but he just didn’t have the strength.

The patrol took him in. They nursed his body but his mind refused to budge. Nagoc didn’t register as they travelled. Didn’t register being brought to the Minister’s Palace or given his own bed.

His was a torment of the mind, the soul. All there was of him was guilt, shame and heartbreak. A prisoner of his own mind.

A few nights in, nights spent like the dead, he had a visitor. An elderly To’reshian, an honored Elder with grey in his hair and yellowed teeth.

“My servants say you do not sleep nor eat.” He said sitting down on the corner of the bed.

Nagoc gave no response. No indication whether or not he had heard.

“Well I know the pain of surviving. Of losing it all.” The Elder continued. “In my life, I have lost three sons and two daughters. Four grandchildren. Yet I remain, like that last gnarled tree that emerges from the storm unharmed. So are you, the hurricane has come and shattered your life and now you are adrift. Lost in pain and confusion.”

Nagoc still said nothing but there was the slightest flicker behind his eyes. A motion not lost on the Elder who smiled.

“I am Talgac, Minister of the To’Resk and you?”

At first Nagoc said nothing but the Minister’s patience was like a never ending tide. It wore away at him. That hypnotic pleasant stare that insisted and insisted.

“Nagoc,” He finally said. “A Tooth in training, at least I was.”

Elder Talgac smiled widened. “Ah yes, the Teeth. Oh in my younger days I was very fond of them. I imagined myself among their ranks. A warrior of great renown. Stalwart defender of the To’Resk an the homeland. Quite the romantic notion. But as I grew older, I realized that war is not about martial prowess. Nor peace bought with blood and swords.”

“How then?” Nagoc asked, moving slightly. His voice was raspy, like burning nettles.

The Elder did not respond.

“My menn are holding off the invaders for now. But it won’t be long until they come in greater numbers than before. Seeking gold and easy prey. Such was ever the way of the faithless sons of Ne’ran, who refuse to acknowledge the love Ne’ran has for the sea, who envy us for our position as the favored sons.”

Nagoc shook his head. He didn’t think it was religion that mattered.

The Elder seemed to understand him.

“Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is only the greed of menn at work. But religion is a tool like anything else. The Sons of Ne’ran have abandoned their faith to become pawns of dogma. Their songpriests preach of the unworthiness of all who do not bow to their Virtues. So must I use my tools to convince and cajole, to influence and imply.”

Nagoc stayed silent.

“So tell me young one. What is it you wish? What do you desire? To continue your training?” The Elder asked.

Nagoc shook his head. “Water.” He said.

Talgac laughed and poured a glass from the pitcher by the nightstand.

Nagoc drank.

“Anything else, besides a humble water?”

When Nagoc didn’t say anything for a while the Elder spoke again.

“What about vengeance?”

The young To’Resk’s fists tightened and a wordless growl escaped from his lips.

Nagoc’s reaction elicited a brief chuckle from the Elder.

“Good. Then vengeance it shall be. But first you must rest. Regain your strength.” The older To’Resk patted Nagoc on the thigh and stood up.

“Observe. Understand. Act.” The Minister said, repeating the well known mantra. “Do those things and vengeance will be yours.”

“Follow me." Talgac said.

Nagoc followed him down the intricately patterned paper wall lined corridor, past several sliding doors into a part of the compound that at first glance looked unassuming. He couldn’t help but notice how pristine and unblemished the paper was.

None of the traditional ostentation that was expected but a bare stark functionality that spoke even more of the wealth of the mann he was following.

This was a statement of wealth if ever he saw one. Patterns and emblems, colors and variety hid flaws but white was harsh that way.

It showed every flaw.

And Nagoc saw not a single blemish as he walked.

The older To’Resk slid open a door and motioned Nagoc inside.

The study looked small and cramped at first glance, but Nagoc soon saw that it wasn’t small, just filled to the rafters.

Row upon row of bookshelves and scroll cases lined the walls and formed aisles through the room. Here and there piles of loose paper were pressed down by heavy bound ledgers or even simple stones. A haphazard mix of paperweights.

“Sir what are we doing here?” Nagoc asked. To be honest, he was really confused.

He’d thought he was going to go somewhere to start planning, to recite his observation on troop composition, to use his experience to prepare for the oncoming conflict.

Instead he was in a musty study.

“We are here young Tooth, to fight a war.” The Elder said with a toothy smile upon seeing Nagoc’s confusion. War? That made no sense. How could you fight a war with books and scrolls? With paper?

“In this room is a record of every contract and every transaction this duchy has ever made. Every single loan, every merchant caravan, every purchase, every trade. It’s all here. And it is a weapon.”

“I don’t understand.” Nagoc said.

“You don’t need to understand yet. First you observe. Then you understand. Then you act. Believe me, once we are done the faithless, treacherous and irresponsible sons of Ne’ran will pay. Now fetch me that ledger over there. With the gold filigree. No, not that one. The green one. Yes.”

Nagoc brought the ledger to Elder Talgac. “What is it?”

“This is an accounting of all trade with the Neran border for the last four years. Every trade, taxed and weighed. This is a weapon. One with which we shall win our war.”

“How?” Nagoc asked.

Talgac grinned. “Diplomacy.”

“Remember young Tooth.” The Elder said with a twinkle in his eye.

“This is your sword.” He tapped the quill in his pocket. “And this is your shield.” His fingers danced along the crocodile hide ledger.

“Let’s go into battle, shall we?”

The Elder led the way and Nagoc and the Janoan guard followed in his wake.

They met the negotiating party halfway down the road. An arrogant and officious looking man clad in steel atop a destrier and his guards. He did not dismount on seeing them, merely sneered.

“Say your peace, you water rats and have done with it.” The noble said.

Nagoc bridled at the insult but the Elder merely smiled, waving it off.

“Gentlemenn, let’s set up a table and negotiate like civilized people.”

The noble sniffed, eyes boring into them. “Very well.”

The Elder motioned for the Janoa to bring forward the folding table.

They set up the table and four stools and the Elder motioned for the Neran to be seated. It was only good manners for the guest, no matter how despicable to be seated first.

The noble took his seat slowly, eyeing the waters as if expecting an alligator to jump up and bite him in the backside.

Nagoc had no idea where the Elder’s steel came from, because the smile never faded from his eyes or his face. He kept an ever present pleasant expression plastered to it. Nagoc wanted to rip the noble's throat out with his teeth.

Once the noble was seated he motioned for Nagoc to take a seat, then followed suit.

“Let us begin the negotiation then.” The Elder said. He clasped his hands on the table, elbows at an angle and bowed his head.

“May the wisdom of the Qin lead us down a fruitful path.” Nagoc mimicked him, while the noble only sneered.

“Enough of your heathen claptrap. State your business.”

The Elder sighed, the first sign of exasperation. “Very well, as you wish my lord.

We, the aggrieved party hereby request recompense and satisfaction from you, the aggressors.” The Elder stated simply. “For the crimes of territorial violation, rape, murder, destruction of property, seizure of unlawful assets…” He would’ve continued but the noble interrupted him.

“What nonsense is this?” He fumed. “I came here to hear terms for your surrender. Not to be treated like some customer who hasn’t paid his grocery bill! I swear by the divine light of the Virtues that if you surrender now, I shall be merciful. Surrender yourselves and all your valuables and I swear no harm shall come to your people”

The Elder’s mouth formed an O of surprise. “Oh my lord, I’m afraid you are very much mistaken. We have come here to collect restitution for your crimes against the To’Resk. But we shall never surrender to the likes of you.”

“Ha! I have the menn, I have the means. I shall burn down the hovels you call homes, I shall slaughter your children and after my people are done with your womenn, I shall have their heads removed so as not to have our seed take hold and breed even more of you mongrels!”

The Elder sighed. “Such a pity. I thought this could be settled amicably. But I suspect this is sadly not to be.”

Nagoc sensed a change in the older To’Resk, a hardening of the features and the pleasant smile was replaced by a cold one, so cold in fact it sent shivers down his back.

The Elder opened the ledger unstoppered an ink bottle and dipped his quill in it.

“Now let us see here. Your wife will be dead. So will your children.” He started checking off the list with all the nonchalance of a tax collector tallying his harvest. “Your fields will lie fallow."

“What’s that supposed to mean?” The noble asked.

“Oh nothing,” The Elder waved him off. “Just a list of things that are about to happen. Or might have already happened.”

“What?” The noble spat. “What in damnation is this?”

“You, my lord, are a brute. An uncivilized, uneducated brute. You play at war, swinging your sword and killing my people as if it’s a game. A game you can grow rich off of. You are a novice. A fool. A blustering idiot of a mann. With a few strokes of the pen, I shall unmake you. I shall break your lands. I shall break your economy. I shall destroy any reputation you have ever possessed. And I shall take your family, just as you have taken his.”

Nagoc felt the Elder’s hand on his shoulder.

“Trade caravans are poised on your borders, willing to offer the same goods you produce at below cost, every debt you, your kin and even your king have ever incurred is about to be called in. Mercenaries are about to have a prosperous season as each and every one of your caravans and fields are about to be burned. Assassins are about to find contracts with rewards undreamed of.” The Elder tapped the quill against the paper.

“It is quite simple. We shall collapse your economy and unmake you. Stone by stone, brick by brick, your warehouses will fall, your fields will lie fallow, your people will starve.”

“You’re insane, you’ll bankrupt yourselves in the process!”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. But money can be remade. Reputation however, that, once lost is irreplaceable. Once we are through with you, I doubt you’ll find a beggar to piss on you if you were on fire. That is, unless…”

“Unless?” The noble asked. Nagoc couldn’t help but feel a pleasurable tingle running down his spine at the arrogant Neran, his face white as a sheet, eyes bulging. The desperation there was simply awe inspiring.

“Unless you agree to our terms.” The Elder took out a folded piece of paper from between the ledger and slid it over to the mann.

“This is impossible! It’s more than I have. More than I could ever afford.”

“Oh no, I assure you it is not. Our assessors were quite clear, this sum is well within your ability to procure.” The Elder gave another icy smile, showing his sharp teeth. His fingers drummed the paper, the feather of the quill bouncing with each cycle.

Just like that the game had changed. The noble was sweating profusely now, his skin turning a sickly green.

“So if I accede to your demands. You’ll call off your forces? You’ll not attack my economy?”

“My word on it.” The Elder said. “We will not attack your economy. We will not hire mercenaries.” That was a significant thing Nagoc knew.

A To’Resk’s word was his bond. There was no way anyone would ever consider breaking it.

“I even happen to have a contract here. A peace treaty if you will. Agree to our terms and we shall agree not to act.”

There was a bitterness to it all. Nagoc still wanted to throttle the mann, wanted to watch him bleed and die. But Elder Talgac was right about one thing, revenge would get him nothing but pain.

With the money he could build himself a new life. With the compensation he could erect a monument to mark the passing of his village, to let them never be forgotten. In a world of changing tides and flash flood, it mattered. His people would have a legacy.

So he swallowed his rage and anger and watched silently as Talgac called for the contract to be brought. The noble read it thoroughly, once, twice and a third time then asked for a quill and ink. He signed his name then and there and Talgac affixed his name to it as well.

As Minister he had the authority to act on behalf of all the To’Resk in his lands.

“It is done.” Talgac said. “Now get your menn and get out. We shall arrange payment at a later date. Expect our messenger within a fortnight.” He stood up and turned to walk away from the still shaken noble. Nagoc followed suit silently, glancing back a few times to see the noble wobble towards his horse.

Once they were out of definite earshot Talgac spoke to one of his Janoan guards.

“Spread the word once payment has been made. A hundred weight in gold to whoever kills the Count. Fifty for his wife and each of his children.” Talgac’s voice was harsh and brooked no defiance.

The Janoan guard smiled. “As you will.”

Nagoc’s brows knit in confusion. “Elder?” He asked.

“This is how you win a war. Negotiation, diplomacy and a swift blade. The Neran are not to be trusted. His word is not his bond. Remember the lesson, young Tooth. Observe. Understand. Act. I observed this mann and understood he is motivated only by greed, by selfishness. So to prevent future bloodshed I shall act.”

“Elder, I don’t understand. Won’t this break your word? You swore to him that you’d not act upon your threats.”

The Elder chuckled and handed Nagoc the contract. “I swore to him that I would not collapse his economy or send mercenaries to harass his lands. Go on. Read it. Nothing in there about assassination.”

“What if he noticed?” Nagoc said as he unrolled the scroll. Talgac was right. There was nothing in the contract preventing assassination.

The Elder gave another smile. “I said I would not act. But I know several private individuals who would have happily paid to get rid of such a vile creature, without a word from me.

This is the lesson. War is intellect. War is art. You thought to fight with tooth and blade, when mind and purse work so much better. If you attack a mann’s army. You take one of his tools. If you attack his purse. You take all his tools.”

The Elder rolled his neck. “We are not fighters, but in this world of blood and steel, there is a need for violence that cannot be quenched. So to survive we must be better. We must be smarter, more cunning, more ruthless.

Once the Count has paid up, no doubt he’ll start dreaming of reclaiming his gold. And no doubt he’ll be dead within a week after the last payment, as will his family. Though it shames me to involve the innocent. Blood must have blood, the gods demand it. Justice demands it.”

Nagoc nodded. He had observed. He had understood. Now was the time to act.

“Teach me.” Nagoc said. “Teach me to war.”

Part 1: The Kypiq

Part 2: The Bruvir

Part 3: The Janoa

Part 4: The Neran

Part 5: The Waerd

Part7: The Hrothi

9/28/2017 4:16:15 AM #1

I think this is the best one yet :)

Friend Code: B8ADDD

9/28/2017 4:34:05 AM #2

This is an excellent breakdown of how there is more than one way to fight your enemy. SBS has been saying it for ages, but this is a beautiful illustration of the concept. I look forward to your next writing.

Also known as AvA in Discord.

9/28/2017 5:24:55 AM #3

Beautiful and incredibly well-written, as always. Really an enjoyable read, thank you @Scy!

"Stupid questions make more sense than stupid mistakes."

9/28/2017 8:13:42 AM #4

Love it😄 but then you know that!

9/28/2017 12:10:46 PM #5

Nice read again @Scylurus. They keep getting more exciting!

Gunnr County

10/3/2017 1:19:57 PM #6

Brilliant! You do such a good job capturing the unique distinctions of each tribe and that's especially true in this case. I'm sad that there are only 2 left. :(

10/9/2017 8:19:04 AM #7

I was hoping you would write the To'resk story with diplomacy, negotiations and strategy and you didn't let me down. Nice one!

Too bad there's only 2 stories left but I guess there's a chance to see 4 more once we learn more about Mydarri, Owem, Erishe and Yoru ^_^

10/13/2017 11:21:22 PM #8

Wonderful stories - I read all 6 and althoug I have not logged in and commented on each of them, I do love all of them. You really bring the tribes to live for us. Thanks so much, Scy. I'm looking forward to the next two stories - and hopefully even more!

10/26/2017 5:09:33 PM #9

Posted By Rofus at 10:19 AM - Mon Oct 09 2017

I was hoping you would write the To'resk story with diplomacy, negotiations and strategy and you didn't let me down. Nice one!

Too bad there's only 2 stories left but I guess there's a chance to see 4 more once we learn more about Mydarri, Owem, Erishe and Yoru ^_^

I actually do plan on writing those stories as well, at some point, but would need more information :D

With what we have now, I'd be leaving most things to my imagination.

Plus thank you all for the compliments :D I don't really know how to respond... blushes in embarrassment