Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
The Testament of Balazar Lightson
This account was discovered written in Firespeech on a roll of thick copper foil in the "archives" of the Yemalio temple in the citadel of Elkoi. No one had been able to read it in hundreds of years.
My name is Balazar, called Lightson, and this is my story. I write this not in an attempt at self-aggrandizement but as a favour to a dear friend. He asked me to write this account of my life to leave to my children. I asked Trilus why this might be so and he just looked at me with one of those sad knowing looks of his and I wisely refrained from asking further. All know me as a man to who does not brag of his accomplishments so I will refrain from boasts and just tell you the truth as I know it. My god Tharkantus, known to outsiders and women as Yemalio, expects no less of me.
I was born in the land of Vanch to a family not of the lowest order of society nor of that of the highest but rather somewhere in between the two. My father was a follower of the God of the Sun Dome, Tharkantus, of some standing in the cult. No strange portents, omens or mystical events heralded my birth just a lengthy, difficult and sadly, ultimately fatal delivery for my poor mother. My father was pleased at the birth of his first and as it turned out only son and in true stoic, Tharkanti style he seemed unmoved by my mother's death. Yet he never remarried and lost standing in the cult because of this. I realized much later that my father had been greatly saddened by the loss of my mother who he must have loved dearly but that he had forced himself to go on for my sake. His aunt, a stern, unloving but extremely capable woman was put in charge of me as a young child. It is to the rejection of certain aspects of her personality that I feel that I owe the best aspects of my own character.
When I was old enough I gladly moved to the Temple to continue my training and from that point on my upbringing, training and eventual initiation into the cult were no different from that of hundreds of other boys so I will not bore you with the details. I did well enough at most tasks to earn praise from my stern teachers but in two areas I excelled. One was spear fighting and the other was in the leadership of men. Right from the beginning of my time at the Temple I became a ringleader, even of boys much older than myself.
After initiation my progress in the cult was steady and much more rapid than that of my age mates. Yet I feel pride in stating that I never sensed any feelings of resentment from them. I did what I had to and never bragged of my deeds for my deeds spoke for themselves. I rejected no man and was proud to call all of them friend. I averted my gaze from no task and did what my God and my Temple expected of me. I was one of the youngest initiates to ever reach the status of lord in the cult and soon thereafter I became an acolyte as well. As a reward for my accomplishments and my loyalty I was given command of one of the famed Spear Legions of Vanch that served the Emperor so well in his battles against his enemies. I led it to its and the emperor's glory. I had risen rapidly and it was as if I looked out at my future from a lofty precipice.
It was from this precipice that I fell. I will not speak of the past, let it lie where it is and may Dayzatar shield it from all eyes. All I will say is that my crime was felt to be great and many who had been my peers and my mentors called for my blood. I felt that I had not committed any crime and demanded the right to travel the Otherworld to let the God judge me. This they could not deny me and when I returned from my Quest bearing the Spear, Light of the Dawn, a clear sign of the God's favour they could not have me killed. But banish me they could and I was forced to leave Vanch.
I left alone, on foot wearing my armour and carrying Light of the Dawn on my shoulder. As I marched away from the Temple I found myself being followed, first by Trilus, (true, loyal Trilus), and then by others. Soon I was being followed by a small band of spearmen. This lightened my sorry heart considerably. I turned to address them, climbing on a large rock to do so and begged them not to taint themselves and ruin their chances in the cult by following me. To a man they refused and I was so moved by this that I was unable to speak for some time. When I had recovered I told them that if we were to travel together we would have to vote for a leader of our band. Trilus leapt up on the rock beside me and put forward my name as leader. I waited to hear other candidates named but no other was put forward. Then I myself nominated Trilus but when we came to take the vote no mans voice but mine spoke for Trilus. So I came once more to lead a group of men. We embraced and swore oaths to each other proclaiming our brotherhood. I had not planned where I was going not really caring but now that I had followers again I could not be so careless. I called for suggestions and many different directions were suggested. No consensus could be reached. I called for silence and said that we should let the God decide. This suggestion met with general approval and finding a flat place I sanctified the ground and gently drove Light of the Dawns butt spike into the ground a short distance. I called upon the God to show us the direction to travel towards. We all held our breath and waited. Shortly Light of the Dawn began to glow brighter than normal and gently toppled over to point in a north easterly direction. North east it would be. What we would do once we were there I left to the God to show us.
We collected our goods and headed east. As we went more followers joined our band and it slowly grew. Usually these new followers were young men who were restless but occasionally an older Tharkanti joined up. All of these agreed to follow me and we soon had an army, a very small army, but an army none the less. We drilled as we marched and learned to fight as a true unit.
Everywhere we visited we asked about the lands farther to the northeast and everywhere we visited they told us about their lands and how they knew the Sun and the Light in the Hills. Finally we arrived in lands where Tharkantus and Yelm were unknown and the Great Rebel himself was worshiped! These people lived in such error! They knew of the Sun and called Him Elmal but they denied Yelm. These Tarshites, unfortunately were a strong people and we decided not to show them the error of their ways. They told us of a land to the northeast called Votankiland where people lived in sad ignorance of civilized gods. They farmed not the land, kept no animals but dogs which they called kin and worshiped spirits and gods found nowhere else. The Tarshites told us that the Votanki, named after their common ancestor, occasionally came out and raided but for the most part they kept to themselves. All these lands, both that of the Tarshites and the Votanki had been ruled by the cursed dragon worshippers whose empire had been overturned in my grandfathers time. The Votanki who had been part of the empire were being oppressed by the darkmen and treemen they had in turn oppressed under the empire.
We wondered whether this was where the God was guiding us. We decided again to ask the God to guide us. A lottery was held and seven were chosen. The seven fasted for seven days and nights. The seven were thus purified, shrived, and finally blessed. These seven put off all their bindings and sky clad each took up a javelin which had been dedicated to this purpose. Each stared at Holy Yelm to the point of sunblindness and then spun around three times wildly before letting their javelin loose. All seven of the javelins landed in the direction of Votankiland. Thus did the Gods make their intentions known.
We decided to learn as much as we could about the Votanki while we served one of the Tarshite nobles as mercenaries since that served to improve our working together as a true unit. We purchased some Votanki slaves from the Tarshites and set about learning their language and their ways. We decided that freeing them would best serve our purpose since adherence to old ways was in no fashion a part of our plan. We extended our arms in brotherhood to these Votanki and taught them the ways of the God. These became our first Votanki followers. We asked them what course we should take to gain the trust of the Votanki and as one man they replied that we must seek out the favour and approval of one of their shamans, Blueface. This Blueface they affirmed was of the clans but not of any specific clan and was respected by all Votanki. He, they told us, had lived forever and was the wisest of them all. Where were we to find this man we asked and they told us that he was always found where he was needed. We decided to seek this Blueface out after we felt that we were finally ready to enter Votankiland. Finally after a year or so we decided we knew each other well enough and spoke Votanki passingly well so we left our employment in Tarsh.
We halted on the border between Votankiland and the last civilized kingdom, Tarsh and made sacrifice to all our gods, Tharkantus, Yelm, Polestar, Dayzatar, even the Good Goddess for success in our venture. Lacking any means of finding the shaman Blueface we decided in council that we would be slow and sure in our approach to the Votanki and try to approach one group first with offers of alliance against the darkmen and the treemen.
Our Votanki brethren suggested that we approach the Redwyrm clan first as they were the clan closest to the border with Tarsh and this we agreed to do. We sent our Votanki brethren to the Redwyrm and their leaders agreed to meet with us. The Redwyrm had been sadly decimated by darkmen attacks and were eager to secure our aid. They were however somewhat suspicious about our intentions since they had not the means of hiring us and in fact the Votanki had more experience in hiring out as mercenaries than they did in employing them. Their leader, Elder Burrfoot, asked us flat out what we wanted in Votankiland as it is a hard, poor land, suited only for hunters. I answered that my God had led us here for some reason and that we wanted to make ourselves a home here. He replied that his people only had land enough for themselves and had none to share. He thought that if we could drive off the darkmen perhaps we could have the land they were living on, however even this would have to be agreed to by all the clans and they had not been united under one of their own for many, many years. Not since the days of their legendary king Hargaard Silverfist at least. We had a quick council meeting and agreed that we would start by aiding the Redwyrms and see where matters went from there.
The darkmen were complacent and unwary. Using our magics of light and anti-darkness we fell upon them like a hammer on an anvil. The combination of our stalwart Templars and the native scouts proved to be an excellent one. Despite the darkmen's best efforts, fighting as demons when we had them cornered, we rooted them out of their lair and drove them off into the wilderness. Our success and the effectiveness of our magic against them caused many of the young men to forswear their traditional ways and vow to follow only Yemalio spurning all others. This did not of course sit well with the elders of the Redwyrms and I feared the dissent that it would bring. During the celebration for our victory I called for silence and stood up before all the Redwyrms and my own followers and made a speech to them. I thanked everyone for their help in routing the darkmen and praised the bravery of the young men and my own Templars. Before the utterances of the elders got too vocal I also praised their traditional ways and told the young men that I could not accept them among my followers of Yemalio until such time as my God was accepted by the Votanki. I told them that I had to find the shaman Blueface and ask him what I would have to do to get Yemalio accepted by the Votanki.
"He must be accepted as kin, accepted as a leader and warrior", replied someone in a loud, clear voice. Startled we all looked for the source of the voice and we saw a powerful looking old man whose body was covered with blue tattoos of power. Beside him was a huge saber toothed cat with rune carved fangs. This could be none other than Blueface himself and his helper Greyrunner Runefang. Once past their shock everyone fell over themselves to make a place for the shaman at the fire. We asked him why he was here and he replied that he was here because he was again needed. He told me that my God was needed but that to be accepted I, as my god's representative would have to marry into the family of the Votanki. But first I must earn the respect and love of the Votanki. How was I to do this I wondered. Blueface suggested a course of action. If I aided the clans in driving the darkmen out of Votankiland and stepped lightly on their ways I would make friends with them. If I accepted their ways and gave myself to them and their gods they would love me. In private, words in my ears only he later told me that I should seek out and woo Rigtaina the hunting nymph, daughter of Foundchild and the Wild Mother. I thought briefly on this and said that I thought this sounded like a wise course of action. I would have to consult with my followers first though. Blueface said that he would stay on long enough to hear our decision.
The next morning we met in privacy and discussed the course of action Blueface had suggested. It seemed to us that the God had led us here for just this purpose, hard though it was for us to see why Yemalio would want us to live here bereft of his holy kin. However the ways of the gods are sometimes strange to all so we voted and agreed that we would stay in this harsh land and make it our own. We made our decision known to Blueface and he told us that he would be back when he was needed. He turned and left the camp.
What to tell of the following years? We drove the darkmen farther and farther out into the wilderness. We made truce with the treemen and they agreed, partly based on their friendly relationship with my God that they would leave the Votanki alone. Fortunately the Votanki dislike the forests the treemen prize so as long as the Votanki agreed not to burn the forests the agreement was easy to keep. We worked very hard to keep them from doing this. The stonemen who lived nearby in one of their underground cities we saw not at all and counted ourselves glad of that fact. The darkmen though we drove mercilessly and slew wherever we found them. It took us almost four whole years to do so but finally we drove them out into the aptly named Elder Wilds. More and more clans came to rely upon and follow us and I kept my word about not allowing the young men to join Yemalio. I respected their ways, seeking membership in their hunter cult of Foundchild, and living my life following their rules. I urged my followers to take Votanki brides and respect their ways and most did so. Not loyal Trilus though.
In our fifth year in the land I was taking part in their Great Hunt when I noticed man sized shapes flitting through the brush. I quickly realized that these must be the dread hunting nymphs, or vily, the Votanki hunters told me of. These vily are the followers and children of Rigtaina. I went about my hunt, making sure not to break any taboos. The prey I was seeking was one of the mighty aurochs bulls that haunted these woods and which had been getting quite rare due to darkmen depredations. I had been assured that only a fool would pursue one of these monsters singled handed, especially without armour or metal weapons. In a spirit of foolish bravado I decided though that I would seek no lesser prize. Using the tracking skills I had learned from my Votanki friends I had found and tracked one of the great beasts. Carrying three javelins and a strong spear with a razor sharp stone head and a sturdy cross-piece I followed the great creature. Assuming itself rightly immune to normal threat the great beast was moving slowly through the brush. Soon I spotted it. It was indeed an absolutely monstrous example of its species and trying not to be distracted by the ever vigilant vily I moved within javelin distance.
The Votanki use a device called an atlatl to propel their javelins and give them more force. Calling upon some magic of Foundchild I hurled the dart using all my force at the great beast. The dart imbedded itself deep in the bulls side and using some preternatural sense it turned toward me and began to charge. Offering up a prayer to Tharkantus at the sight of the monstrous beast charging towards me as fast as a horse I hurled another dart at it. Another good shot, but not good enough to kill. Then I hurled my last missile and had just enough time to prepare my spear. Rather than a futile attempt to halt the monstrous beast's charge I used it instead to vault over the great creature. It went crashing through the brush, smashing small trees like kindling. I dashed off running for a nearby rock outcropping and I could hear the maddened beast tearing at the ground behind me when with a great snort I heard it moving towards me! I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw it tearing after me like one of the great landslides of my homeland. It was gaining quickly and I managed to find a desperate reserve of speed from somewhere and managed to use my spear again to vault onto the rock outcropping just before the bull reached me. It struck the outcropping with a mighty blow that momentarily dazed it and nearly dislodged me from the outcropping. Screaming a mighty oath to Tharkantus and Foundchild I jump to the beast's shoulders and using all my strength and the razor sharp blade I drove the spear down into the beast's back. The pain from this blow shook it out of its shock and it started bucking and jumping all over the place. It took every bit of my strength to maintain my grip on the spear and stay on its back for if I had let go I would surely have been trampled dead in an instant. Its wild gyrations knocked the javelins loose and its wounds bled freely. I managed to force the spear farther and farther into the great beast and it moved slower and slower. I did not let go of the spear and jump off until it finally stopped turning around and dropped to the ground. I waited until it had completely stopped moving and then let go. Pulling out my knife I slit the beast's throat and uttered the prayer known as the peaceful cut to allow the great beast's spirit to be reborn. I offered thanks to Foundchild and Tharkantus for their aid in helping me kill the beast, and especially to the Wild Mother for giving me one of her children to slay.
"A great feat human, worthy of my father Foundchild himself," said a mighty and otherworldly, though unmistakenly female voice. I turned slowly in the direction of the voice and saw one of the hunting nymphs standing in the shade of an elder tree. Her beauty was beyond description though there was a wildness there, a sense of danger there that made me wary. Her form flickered, changing from supernaturally beautiful human to a wild, winged and clawed thing and back again. This was obviously Rigtaina, leader of the vily, daughter of Foundchild and the Wild Mother. I prostrated myself before Her glory and offered up my kill to her. She tossed her head back and laughed, a sound that put a chill in my soul yet was at the same time strangely stirring as well. "You offer me your kill, little one? A kill that would surely win for you the Great Hunt? And what in turn would you want for this great offering?" I dared to raise my eyes to her face. Her form had stopped flickering now and she stood legs akimbo, hands on her hips, looking like nothing more than a beautiful woman with tiny feathered wings on her ankles. "I would like a chance to win your heart," I dared. Her laugh this time had nothing chilling in it and was very stirring. "Little one, my heart is a fickle thing, hot one moment, cold as ice the next. I can offer it to you but I cannot promise you can keep it," she paused and what I would have to call a mischievous smile bloomed on her face, "My vily have been watching you for years now and the shaman has spoken to me of you. You are a worthy one I think. Yes, I think that I can let you try and win my heart." I started to speak wanting to thank her but she held her palm up forestalling me. She walked up to the aurochs stroking me on the flank as she passed by. Reaching the bull she effortlessly thrust her hand deep inside. She pulled it out, bloody to the shoulder and showed me the auroch's mighty heart. She squeezed the heart and when she released it it had begun beating again. She tossed it to me and said, "Eat." I ate the heart, which seeemed to struggle against me, eventually devouring the whole thing. As I ate I could feel my body being filled with the strength and vigor of the mighty beast. I felt so powerful, so strong, so lustful. After I had finished and licked the blood smeared on my face I looked at her and said, "Now what?" She tossed her head back and laughed a wonderful, trilling, exciting laugh. "And now you must catch me." And off she shot like an arrow from a bow.
What to say of that chase? I have never before nor never will again run like that. My muscles felt like iron and I felt like there was nothing I could not do. My need for her was great and I remember little of the specifics of that chase. I vaguely remember tossing trees and rocks aside as if I was in reality an aurochs bull. I let nothing get in my way and she led me a merry chase. She was always just ahead of me, always just out of reach. She teased me and hid from me and drove me mad with need. But finally she let me catch her.
Afterwards they showed me the devastation I had wrought on the countryside and I could just shake my head in wonder. My followers wondered what would come of this but I could only shake my head in wonder. I never saw her again. Three moons later Blueface brought me three infants, you, that the vily had brought him. You were taken as a sign that I had been accepted by the Votanki's gods and I was acclaimed leader of all the Votanki. Having no experience of infants and little time I gave you into individual fosterage among the hearths so that they could be raised as Votanki.
What to say of later events? In our seventh year among the Votanki I undertook a great hero quest and was proclaimed their king. I tamed some giants and built two citadels on the rocky ground the Wild Mother allocated for this task. I tried to introduce agriculture to the Votanki but the hard soil thwarted this. Instead, I stole the pig mother from the dragons for my people and henceforth they raised pigs. I tried to be a good king, respecting the old ways but introducing new ways to help my people. At first I wondered why my god brought me to this primitive wasteland but I have grown to love these people and wish them only the best.
And what of my children? You have all been mighty warriors as befits my children and mighty hunters as befits your mother. You are all headstrong, quick to temper, rash in action and easy to love. I have loved all three of you but foolishly I could not choose one of you to be leader over the others. You have all grown up strong and opinionated, each wishing to be leader after me so I that know that violence will follow sooner or later after my death. For this I am sorry. I wish that I had been stronger or kept you together so that you would love one another more. But now the Emperor has remembered me and forgiven me and He calls and asks, asks mind you, not demands, that my kingdom join his Golden Horde in war upon the dragon men. I still owe him something so I have promised to lend my aid and have answered his call. And Trilus, brave loyal Trilus, knows something in that annoying, prescient manner of his, knows that I will not be back so I leave you in his care and hope that you can rule this kingdom in my stead. For a promise made is a promise I must keep. My god demands nothing less.
And now Trilus comes and it is time to don armour once more and take up Light of the Dawn once more and march into battle once more. Farewell and the gods keep and bless you.
This story was started sometime in early 2000 and finally finished April 12, 2002
Last updated October 07, 2016
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