The Unknown Past
Shakalan History Part 2
Shakalan History Part 2: The Elven Wars
s the harvest was being put into winter storage, farmers began streaming into the fort. They carried all of their most valuable possessions on their backs and spoke of the “avenging ghosts of the forest” that destroyed their farms.
The ranger patrols were sent out after the first attacks to try and determine what was happening. They returned with detailed descriptions of the flattened homes, fences, and barns; and the smooth ground that had once been fields. They also had records of the locations that they had also seen these “ghosts” and some descriptions of the few that they had fought.
They were real men and real … women!
The reports from the rangers stated that these “ghosts” were about the same height as an average man, maybe a little smaller. They were thin and graceful. Most had lightly to darkly tanned skin, lobe less, up swept, pointed ears, and hair that seemed to match the colors of the trees they hid in. All of them were masterful bowmen and nearly all made use of a one handed sword. The creatures seemed more interested in destroying the homes and farms then fighting and would run away whenever possible.
The refugees streamed in all autumn, until the first snows began. When the snows began the attacks stopped.
The scope of the stories told in the streets grew with the increasing number of refugees and the truth began to get blurred with the fiction. Ersintine called a council to gather the facts together before they were lost. The council’s solicitors collected all the stories from the refugees and all the reports from the rangers. They met with the few remaining dwarven and barbarian leaders. Then at midwinter, they presented their findings to Ersintine.
The creatures are the elves. The elves have lived in these forests longer than any one can remember. They deem themselves the forest’s guardians. They are determined that the forest should reclaim the land that the humans had taken. They would rather not kill others but will do so in defense. If the humans and dwarves would leave the forest, the attacks would stop.
Ersintine sat quietly while he considered the new information. At the same time, his knights erupted into a vigorous debate over whether to stay or go.
After a few hours, when the room had quieted, Ersintine stood from his simple chair and spoke clearly, “I was sent to stop the invasion into my homeland, Anairia. That has been done. BUT…in the process we have befriended many displaced peoples and provided them a new home. We have a responsibility to protect these people. Surely a person’s or dwarf’s life is more valuable than that of a tree or two. Since the attacks have ceased we will take this time to strengthen our defenses, retrain our soldiers, then when the spring comes we will meet these elves a peace that is guaranteed by our strength of arms and settle this dispute like civilized peoples, so that justice can be served to all and we can finally return home.” Then as he turned to leave the room he was overheard to be mumbling, “Barbarians, Dwarves, Elves, Demon Spawn, Undead, what kind of land have I been sent to.”
Ersintine also sent a dispatch to Anairia about the situation and his plans for the spring.
The army of Ersintine marched out of the fortress to confront the elves the same day that the first refugees arrived from the farms. They marched for almost two weeks before they saw the first war party of elves. When Ersintine attempted to make contact the elves made a firing retreat. A confused Ersintine pursued the elves hoping to stop them and parley.
They were led into a trap.
The battle was short and vicious. The elves did die it seemed, but not as fast as his men did. Ersintine stood in a clearing surrounded by arrow covered human corpses and blade mangled elves as he silently wept. “What have we begun?” he asked the silent trees. He turned his men toward their fortress home.
A messenger from the king was waiting for him when he arrived at the fortress. The messenger met then in the courtyard of the fortress and read aloud his proclamation. The Emperor had declared all lands east of the Dragon Razor Mountains as the Eastern Realm of the Empire of Anairia. He named Ersintine, Duke Ersintine Shakala the Supreme Consul and protector of the Eastern Realm. He was also sending a small garrison of troops to fortify the eastern defense force.
As the cheering residents congratulated their new duke, Ersintine questioned the messenger and ordered him to carry a message back to the king…Emperor. He then turned to his men and said, “The emperor has made this our home now. We need his land to sustain our peoples. Retreat is not an option. Failure is not an option. Commanders, you will collect the intel from your officers and meet me in my chambers in two hours. Be clean. Be Fed. Be ready for a long night, my friends.”
The troops flowed sporadically into fortress from Anairia all spring and summer. The continuous battles kept the human population from overtaking the available resources.
By autumn the fresh soldiers from Anairia had stopped.
By winter the fighting had stopped.
In the spring everything started over. The death. The destruction. The chaos.
The cycle continued with the population of the fortress community slowly growing even though the reinforcements from the homeland had ceased during the eighth year of the war.
The Anairian and barbarian humans and the dwarves lived, fought and died beside one another for ten long years. The camaraderie between the races and cultures that was built with the two year demon spawn struggle was blended and strengthened to be as stable as the mountains. These settlers slowly spread through the forest setting up relay and supply communities to assist Ersintine’s constantly advancing forces.
In early summer during the eleventh year of the war, Ersintine had pressed the elven cohort into the plains south of the forest near the joining of two major rivers. The looming battle looked to be the largest one of the war, a war that had already claimed tens of thousands of human lives. Ersintine, frustrated by the twelve plus years of near constant fighting, angered by the waste of life, and desperate to end the suffering once and for all rode to the front of his forces.
Across the wide rushing river stood the whole of the elven army.
He charged his stallion into the torrential water and surged across the river’s width. By the time he reached the other side he was armorless, horseless, and exhausted. Yet he stood defiantly and yelled at the nearby elves that he demanded to speak to their leader.
An elf of uncountable years rode his gleaning white horse bareback into an opening in the elves. He gracefully slid from his mount and walked up to Ersintine. “What do you want, human” he said in lilting Anairian.
“I wish to end this struggle once and for all” said Ersintine.
“That would seem wise for both our peoples. Just leave the forest and return across the mountains.”
“I propose an alternate solution. You and I in a duel. The loser’s army must retreat from the field and renounce any claims to the disputed lands.”
“Why would I agree to that?” asked the elf.
“Because you have been losing this war. We are nearer to your home glade then we have ever been and your forces are dwindling. You may drag this out for 10 or 15 more years but we outnumber you and seem to replenish our soldiers faster. This allows us both to resolve this and allows our people deal with the consequences of this before the consequences become unbearable.” said Ersintine.
“So me in my armor and refreshed against you half-drowned and defenseless? That hardly seems fair. And how do I know you will keep your word?” questioned the elf.
Ersintine glowered at the elf. “You question my HONOR?! The only thing a man has that is his alone is his honor. Honor is the only thing that keeps me here in this battle so far from my family. Honor is all that makes me wring the blood from my tunic at night and put it back on in the morning. I swore an oath to do my king’s bidding and protect his realm and I will do so! I ask that you give me an opportunity to end this cycle of death. Accept my challenge so that if you win my honor will require me to put my word to you and my responsibility to the people of the realm at odds with my king’s directive so that I may choose to make the just choice rather than the honor bound one.”
“Pretty speech human.” The elf smiled, “What do they call you?”
“I am Paladius. Yes. Let us do this, but first you should rest for I will not have it said that I took advantage of the situation. Eat something and recover from your long swim and in the morning we can end this forever.”
Paladius led a weary Ersintine to a quickly erected tent. Soft clothes and strange but tasty food was brought. Then a pallet was laid and Ersintine slept.
As the sun rose so did Ersintine. To his surprise his last ten Knight-Justicars stood at attention holding a new suit of armor, a new sword, and the surcote of the Captain of the Brotherhood of Justice.
Paladius watched with an amused look as Ersintine’s men help their lord into his armor. Then he slipped a light chainmail shirt over his short robe and accepted his sword from a nearby young elf. Ersintine also drew his sword, then he turned to his men and asked, “Do you know what was agreed to?”
“Aye my lord,” they answered in unison.
“Then you hold my honor if I am defeated. Do not sully it. I am trusting you with my most prized possession.”
“Your will, General!” they barked.
“I am ready. Let us begin.” stated a resolute Ersintine.
With that the duel began. The details of the battle have been lost in time but it has been claimed that they struggled all day with both warriors requesting and granting recesses.
Regardless of how long it really took. It ended as unceremoniously as it began. Ersintine reached out with a feint to Paladius’ head and as he dodged to one side Ersintine deliberately stepped on the elf’s foot causing him to fall. The feint turned into a downward swing and knocked the still glistening sword from Paladius’ hand. Ersintine then dropped onto his opponent’s chest and pushed his sword with both hands into the elf’s bare neck.
“Yield. Please. Do not make me take another life. I tire of all this death.” panted Ersintine.
With the elven sword out of reach, a much heavier and plate clad Knight sitting atop him, and a still sharp blade slowly cutting into his neck. Paladius whispered, “I yield.”
Ersintine rolled off him with a flop. The elf leapt to his feet, grabbed his sword, raised it to the sky and yelled, “The human has won. I yield. The lands they have taken are theirs.” He turned to Ersintine, “But no more human. Touch any more of our forest and you will have to kill all of us to stop us from killing you.”
The elves departed. The humans began the long trek back to the fortress.
Before he got three weeks away Ersintine received a letter from the elven queen asking that he come to the site of the last battle to formalize the end of the war. So Ersintine turned his brother knights and himself around, but sent the rest of his soldiers home.
When the knights arrived the elves had already set up a massive and beautiful tent city. Cloth in every color of the rainbow wove, and draped, and flapped as far as the eye could see.
Ersintine was led to the center of the city where Paladius stood with two hauntingly beautiful ladies. Paladius stepped forward and introduced his sister, Aeruanna, the queen of the elves. Then he introduced his daughter Beslia. Ersintine in return introduced the Knights Justicar to the elven royal family.
The elves informed him that elven tradition required a celebration to be had before the exchange of gifts that marked the end of the war. Ersintine assented and sent his youngest knight with their two fastest horses to get the first thing worthy of a queen that he could find.
Little did the humans know that the elven celebration would last for a month. Little did Ersintine know that his knight was bringing a host of humans to the camp with him.
Everything came together at the same time. The elven party ended, the human spectators arrived, and Ersintine’s knight arrived bearing a gift for the queen.
The ceremony was short. The victor presented his gift first. When the queen opened the large wooden box inside was a small potted tree. She giggled and said, “I have never seen its kind, what do you call it?”
The knight who brought it stepped forward, “My mother called it a red leafed maple. She loved to look at them so when we came here she brought a sapling with her. She said they had delicate leaves. I have not seen any in these woods so I thought, well since she has passed on, that you might like it too.”
The queen leaned forward and kissed the knight on the cheek, “It is perfect. Your humans are not all bad, lord Ersintine. I see now that my brother was right I think we can make this work.”
Paladius and his daughter stepped forward, “I give you my daughter’s hand in marriage so that our royal houses and fortunes are forever linked”
“And I bless this union, in the name of Corellon.” said the queen, “You are wed.”
Ersintine had a look of complete confusion and almost horrific surprise on his face. The elven princess Beslia took one look at him and laughed, “I agree completely my husband.”