Monday, December 12, 2005

Torch Light (part 2)

(Source of pic, Leonid Mamchenkov)

Continued from Part 1...

Did I just mention our bitter northern border enemies, the Witches? That is a rather sensitive topic. Nonetheless, since I have mentioned it, I feel obligated to fill the (still?) interested reader in with some details. So bear with me whilst I delve into the history of our little town.

Our town, named Southeigen, once existed under the threat of the Witches. That happened before our Founder discovered us. The origins of these witches were and still are unknown to us. What we do know was, they collaborated with our long-time northern neighbours, the hobgoblins, against us shortly after appearing on the scene.

Before the witches' appearance, we had enjoyed a truce of some sort with the hobgoblins. Whilst they outnumber us greatly, their small physical size and our superior wit always kept them at bay. After a few abortive attempts to bully us into submission, they realised the only way to exist is co-existence. On our part, being a docile race, we chose not to undertake potentially costly reprisal actions. The uneasy peace we enjoyed with our longtime neighbours was about to be shattered by their unlikely alliance with the witches. Together, they planned to invade and subsequently enslave us.

The hobgoblins, by virtue of their sheer numbers, and the witches, wielding potent black magic, formed a formidable force. The black magic cast on the hobgoblin army made them larger and stronger than us on an individual basis. Our army, though well trained, was simply swept aside by these vastly superior enemy forces. Despite last ditch attempts to defend our town, Southeigen was overrun in a single day.

Strangely though, all the witches asked for in return for their war efforts was the exclusive use of a certain fountain located near the centre of our town. The hobgoblins were allowed a free hand at looting our town and enslaving our people. In the meantime, the witches took aside part of our enslaved population to construct a castle on the wasteland sandwiched by Southeigen's northern borders and the southern borders of hobgoblin country. On completion of the castle, named Mursk, they continued utilising some of these slaves to ferry water from the fountain to them daily. Which was strange to us, to say the very least.

The rest of our population was put under the control of the hobgoblins and used for mainly agriculture and farming purposes. Needless to say, most of our produce was for their exclusive use and we were left with the bare minimum to ensure our continued survival and slavery. It was hard to imagine how my forefathers made it through such testing times but I believe our hardy nature helped pull them through the ordeal.

This was to remain as the new status quo for the next forty odd years, until our founder descended upon our town. As with the witches, her native land was unknown to us. But it was her who eventually discovered the secrets behind the fountain's waters. It turned out that our fountain has the ability to enable the drinker to recover his or her spell power at double the normal recovery rate. This will allow research on new spells to be carried out in double quick time. For us non-magic practitioners, the great potential has gone unnoticed. It is ironical that for all this while, we have just treated it as a normal but conveniently positioned drinking place.

Our best guess on how the tragedy happened was a witch in disguise could have passed through Southeigen and discovered via sheer fortune the powers of this fountain. The plotting of the witches with the hobgoblins to seize the town and take sole possession of this fountain now seemed logical. Our founder noted that the hobgoblins never found out about the fountain's secret.

This led us to venture a further guess. The witches might have been bidding their time for all these thirty-eight years. They could be waiting for their powers to reach its pinnacle before unleashing it too on our hapless neighbours. That way, they'll be able to enslave and effectively control both populations and lands. What treachery!

We never waited to prove our hypothesis. Time was the essence. Our founder rallied and organised us into our former armies again. She personally picked a handful with potential in magical practice for personal coaching. Thus, the first generation of Southeigen wizards' was born. Aided by the fountain's powers, their skills were to improve by leaps and bounds over the next few months.

When we eventually struck, the hobgoblins and witches were taken by complete surprise. Any semblance of organised defence broke down as our army outflanked and pushed the alliance towards Southeigen's north borders. The witches fled into Mursk, which had the additional protection of their black magic. That left the hapless hobgoblins to fend for themselves against our jubilant army. Our founder wisely called for a temporary truce and invited the hobgoblin king for an armistice talk. The witches' possible evil plot was revealed to him, much to his rude shock. He henceforth denounced all ties with the witches and entered into a new non-aggression pact with us.

Because of the heavy defences built around Mursk, neither party decided to risk further losses in undertaking another war to bring the witches to justice. Instead, both populations built a long defensive wall along their respective borders, complete with warning towers, to withstand any siege the witches might attempt in future. We also pledged mutual support should such a siege occur.

These measures were essentially precautionary. Our founder reckoned that the witches would not be much of an offensive threat in future, since they no longer have access to the fountain's powerful potion. At best, their advances in magical research can only mirror that of ours. With this in mind, we settled down into an uneasy peace with our two new "neighbours".

Our founder then constructed a mage next to the magical fountain, settling in it to continue her research of wizardry. In honour of her, the fountain was named Fountain of Kath. She became the first of twenty-seven generations of wizards to hold the title Grand Wizard. The Grand Wizard, leading all the wizards in Southeigen, and the Army Commander, commanding all ground forces, were put in sole charge of our town's defences. Our army, operating with the wizards supporting from the rear, would form a formidable force. This has been the defence command structure of our town ever since.

Katherine was to spend the twilight years of her fabulous career constructing "Cave of Certain Return". It has since became a symbol of her legacy and a reminder of the trying times our race endured to survive to this very day.

As for the witches, they never ventured out of Mursk again. In fact, no one from any future generation has seen a witch in the flesh. Memories of our great battle are so distant now, it has become difficult for us to visualise and appreciate its significance. It is also hard to imagine that the distant grim-looking castle as seen from our warning towers contains an entire bevy of witches that had threatened and continue to threaten our very existence. As the generations go by, we still had to keep our focus on our town's defence and not get complacent. Though it is possible that the witches might be an empty threat now (through natural death or quiet retreat back to their unknown homeland), we have never allowed our guard down. The historian's records are proof enough of the danger they might still pose.

Our relations with the hobgoblins have also improved as each subsequent hobgoblin king made attempts at repatriation for past atrocities committed. Although we suspect that it is probably done out of the need to rely on our economic aid, as well as the fear of our new found military might, we decided wisely to reciprocate their non-aggressive behaviour. As memories of their aggression fade, relations have improved to the extent of establishing trade between the two populations. The only barrier to a more flourishing trade with the hobgoblins is the hazardous trip over no-man's land to their country and vice versa. Even if there have never been reports of raids by the witches, fear always strikes at the hearts of travelling merchants as they travel between the two entities.

Akan Datang: Parallels

109 days to go.


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