Friday, January 23, 2009

The Great Houses, Part I (by Post Festum)

Since our journey out of the Hall of Betrayers is a long one, let me tell you all of the eary history of the Houses vas Roman and vas Raven.

The first of the vas Ravens crossed the mists into Mordent alongside of the vas Romans, nearly 3000 years ago. No one living today remembers the years before the Great Crossing, but for one brief period the walls of mists that surround this ancient land parted, and the two families of no more than 500 souls crossed into the lands of Mordent, becoming the first humans to ever enter the land.

During this early period of the Great Migration these two human families lived, explored, and settled the low country and the coast land cooperatively, for the mutual benefit of both of their houses. This collaboration was born primarily out of strategic necessity rather than natural affection, for no sooner had the human settlers and explorers crossed the newly parted mists, when the very same mists closed behind them, sealing the new arrivals into their new home land as if they were being sealed in their tomb.

You must understand, friends, that early Mordent was a land filled with the most vile and scurrilous creatures. It was a most inhospitable country, to be sure. And the prospect of being permanently cut-off from any other human civilization meant that life within the boundaries of the mists was going to be nasty and brutish at best; solitary and short at worst. And thus the first years of human settlement proved very difficult living, with much of their day to day life uncertain. What is most remarkable -- and this is how the Mordentish of today remember this ancient time -- is that it was quite possible that both families would not survive their first decade living within the walls of the mists in this land they named Mordent (meaning difficult, a constant struggle). In fact, it is a near certainty that the earliest human settlers would have soon died off had it not been for the reluctant efforts of Naomi.

Naomi was a young nymph when she came upon her first human, but even as a young fey she had already lived a full life, being complete master of the mist-protected world the humans called Mordent. You must understand that the corrupted Naomi that we encountered could hardly hold a candle to her former self. As a youth, Naomi was as powerful as she was proud. And she was a magnificent sight to behold; a fey most proud. And her power was itself a source of beauty, so much so that a few humans choose eventually to give up their lives in human community and devote themselves to a cult dedicated to her honor. Her apostles and cultists were famous for their sweeping painted vistas and broad and endless murals that depict her deeds and her beauty. Perhaps you recall see them in her decaying temple near Dark Lake? But, alas, as we discovered, the Naomi of the Great Migration period ceased to exist some time ago.

In later years of peace and tranquility, Naomi would tell the leaders of the House vas Raven and vas Roman that her first impression of humankind was to be struck by their weakness and frailty. And while she and she alone had held domain over the creatures of the various regions of Mordent before the advent of humankind, it was because Naomi showed something of compassion for the pitiful fledgling human communities that the two Houses were able to survive the early difficult years of settlement. She indeed took pity and worked to help protect the first human settlements near Haddonville and Bakerville on Arden, defending them with the entire arsenal at her disposal in the face of relentless attack by marauding vengeful monsters, thus giving these cities the distinction of being the oldest human settlements in the entire land. And she gave over to human control increasing tracts of land when it suited her purpose, and the early human communities, especially House vas Raven, flourished and multiplied with the increase in resources. From her point of view, the reasoning was clear enough since she believed that both she and the humans desired the same ultimate outcome: to be left alone.

It was my house, I'm ashamed to say, that proved ultimately to be the undoing of the peace and detente of the early years. For the vas Romans could not be trusted even back then -- isn't it little surprise that there are so many foul ghast among my brethren? My forefathers grew restless and desired to move more widely and more freely about the countryside. No limit, no agreement, no accommodation reached with Naomi was tolerable to these men. These men grew to hate the stank dark of their walled towns, and roused the passions of their fellows, directing their frustration into war and conquest and, eventually, into direct conflict with our one-time benefactor. More than anything else, my forefathers wanted to kill and to feel life's vitality streak through their veins. And so, after nearly 500 years of uneasy but relatively peaceful co-existence with their new homeland, they took up open struggle and insubordination against the agreements and the treaties and boundaries drawn and abided by their progenitors.

The insurrections led by fifteen dukes (brothers all) of the House vas Roman produced an open rift between my kin and the peace-seeking vas Raven's. In Bakerville on Arden, the vas Raven's sought as much as possible to ignore the growing threat from the south, and tended to prefer building the walls of their towns and hamlets a little higher to direct confrontation with their petulant neighbor to the south. And besides, when the vas Raven's learned about the malocides, it is no wonder they preferred feigning ignorance to intervention.

The first and second malocides...An ironically dark period in the history of the Mordentish. As Naomi retreated and gave way in the face of the expanding vas Roman dukes and their foot soldiers, the real instigators of this time of bloodlust and tumult needed a new target to direct the forces against. It was only a minor step from seizing once off-limits lands to cleansing and purging the entire countryside of all of its evil inhabitants, and then just a small step further to turning that purge back on themselves. Today, Mordent is largely free of hordes of beasts and monsters that used to roam widely, even the once populous wild giant Athachs, as a result of the two great campaigns against evil now called the malocides.

And while they tried their best to keep their pact with Naomi, and, hence, struck an official stance of "neutrality" in the great cleansing campaigns of the malocides, the House vas Raven benefited greatly as a result of these purges, with many of its inhabitants breaking off from normal life to follow the dukes around dispatching evil wherever it could be found. But for many generations following the malocides, even petty political scores and banal family contests were settled in the name of the cleansing of some hidden evil, and many great men met a sad fate during this time. And it was many generations hence before the fevered grip of the malocides were loosened.

The House vas Raven waited these years patiently, secure in the knowledge that Naomi would soon be pushed to the extreme, and to refuse further treaty and reconciliation with the vas Roman's. And believe me, the members of the once great House vas Raven are very good at waiting for the right opportunity to strike...

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