Nations and Places
Table of Contents
A Map of the World
The Calendar of Gushémal
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
and Historical Overview
Personal Account of the Tragedy
Overview (continued again)
then, in the king’s great hour of need, another courier appeared at the
castle’s gates – one of the veterans who had travelled with Pharlee.
Surely he would bear a message from the advisor, Teargelt believed, but
found that his advisor had done much more. The veteran (his name is not
found in the records we have) explained that Pharlee ensorceled him, so
that his own mouth could carry the wizard’s voice, while his eyes and
ears would carry sight and sound back to the chief advisor. Thus, the
veteran said, the king could treat him as if Pharlee himself were present,
not just his conduit of speech.
accepted the explanation right away, even though some courtiers raised the
question how this could have been possible. A wizard’s normal magic
could not affect that which already exists, after all – the spell
described by the veteran should have been impossible for a wizard.
Priests, it was reasoned, might be able to pull off this effect, but not a
wizard. Unless that wizard had expanded his powers in an unnatural way.
put the question to the veteran – yet it was not the soldier who
answered but Pharlee’s own voice. “Your highness,” the wizard spoke
through the soldier’s mouth, “the courtiers only know the
rudimentaries of magic. In those terms, they are correct. To my great
fortune, our convention here has been joined by a selection of clerics who
assist us in our inquiries. What the courtiers are not aware of is that
both clerical and wizardly magic can be joined; it is through that joining
that I can now speak to you.” (This conversation took place in the Royal
Audience Hall and was recorded by the court scribe, therefore we have the
rare occasion to know the actual words spoken.)
explanation was sufficient for the king. There were kernels of truth in
the words, enough that the courtiers quieted their protests.
that first explanation, Pharlee apologized that he had underestimated the
dangers. “Yet rest assured, my liege, that my colleagues and I are aware
of the problem and are working to resolve the matter. We have devised some
ideas about what the darkness consists of. Unfortunately, we have little
information that could ascertain the nature of the darkness – wherefore
we cannot draw up plans on how to combat it. Your highness, I would ask
you to send a selection of wizards and clerics into the zone, guarded by a
troop of experienced soldiers. I am aware that the most powerful and
knowledgeable wizards are secluded in our abode here, yet there are still
enough in Keroull who could provide us with the necessary information.
Moreover, the highest priests of the clergies are at your disposal.
Considering the threat we face, it might be prudent to call upon their
had Pharlee finished speaking that King Teargelt called for the clerics
and put the wizard’s advice into motion. Three days later, the
expedition sent out from Markellavey.
week later, the zone suddenly expanded to encompass a diameter of ten
the news reached Markellavey, Pharlee reacted in outrage – and fear
wavered in the words spoken from the still features of the veteran.
“Your highness, the dark zone must contain evil far beyond what I
imagined. If the powers of the priests and wizards could not protect them,
then we are in grave danger. I urge you to consult with the lords of the
provinces that they levy troops and rush them towards the zone, that they
may stand firm against whichever leaves the zone.”
king asked, “You believe that the evil will enter our land?”
voice answered, “My liege, it has already entered Keroull. I see no
other purpose but an invasion in this; an invasion of unholy creatures
that gather in the protective shadow. We must prepare! We must not let the
fate of our noble expedition go unpunished!”
should we not send our army into the zone, towards the evil?”
a moment, the wizard did not answer. Then, more firmly than before, he
said, “The enemy may have prepared places of ambush within the darkness.
In my opinion, it is too dangerous. Let us be the ones who ambush the
would disagree with that notion, not a single one of the courtiers who
openly disliked Pharlee. So it was done as the advisor said. Not all the
lords allowed their soldiers to leave their shires – another sign of the
king’s weakness and the provinces’ strength, not to mention their
interior squabbles. Especially the northernmost rulers decided that the
troubles of distant Glessynbur did not concern them. Yet the army that
gathered around the zone of darkness in the month of Glymarion 3098 –
two months after the plan had been agreed upon – numbered more than ten
thousand men, levied from more than half of Keroull.
king himself stayed in Markellavey, with Pharlee – through the
veteran’s mouth – advising him on how to position the troops and
prepare the ambush. The generals agreed with some of his proposals,
appended them in other cases. But Pharlee was as well informed as the king
himself where the soldiers were located and what their plans were.
anyone see the irony in this? According to our sources, a few seem to have
recovered their distrust in Pharlee, wondering why the advisor had not
bodily returned to the castle, and neither had any of the wizards at his
secret meeting place. Yet the king was always swayed by his chief
advisor’s words and his assurances that the wizards and he were working
to assist the army in the battle ahead. Moreover, Pharlee’s suggestions
were always sound – which his erstwhile detractors had to admit
the twenty-first night of Glymarion, the evil broke out of its shadowy
shelter. Skeletons, those raised from the graveyards in the preceding
half-year; undead zombies who had once been the villagers within the dark
zone; ghouls created from the latter numbers as well as some of the
abductions reported earlier. They made up the bulk of that army –
supported by less familiar and less numerous creatures of evil -, but
their commanders were of an even more fearsome sort. There were vampires,
the night scourges – some of whom must have been ancient while others
were freshly created, also from the ranks of the abductees. And some of
those vampires wore faces familiar to the Keroullian generals of that
battle, for those faces belonged to the wizards, high priests and soldiers
of the expedition from Aqualun of that year. They had been turned into
undead creatures, enthralled to their masters. Their magic had not
completely been lost, and it was loosened on the Keroullian army in short
order. Aside from them, other magical forces attacked the Keroullians as
well – the spells cast by blood wizards, the unholy wielders of magic
who draw their power from the blood of living beings.
Keroullian siege force was routed in short order. The men’s fright rose
when they saw their comrades first slaughtered – then reanimated to
fight as a zombie in the enemy’s army. Within half an hour of the
attack, Keroull had lost more than three thousand fighters, all of whom
were added to the ranks of the undead forces. The crackle of magic
discharges hung in the air, brightening the night and revealing so much
terror that the living soldiers fled in despair, as quickly as they could.
held firm, tried to put the plans for ambushes in motion, but not one
ambush worked. In every single case, the undead army seemed to know
exactly what was in store for them.
the morning came, the undead stood victorious. We do not know whether they
celebrated – if so, only the necromancers, the blood wizards, did. The
vampires had to take shelter from the sun, after all. Not a soul was left
alive on the battlefield, except for the necromancers, whose souls were
already tainted by death.
the final act of the drama had yet to unfold. News of the disaster reached
Markellavey on the 23rd of Glymarion through the surviving
soldiers who had fled and now come to the castle, to defend it and recover
their honor. (That was what the majority said; some only passed through
the capital, telling their tale and causing a panicked exodus of the
citizens.) Teargelt screamed at the veteran, that Pharlee must bring help
immediately, somehow, anyway. The words that the court scribe notes have
little cohesion, seem almost inarticulate. The king was losing his mind,
said calmly through the veteran’s mouth, “Now it is time. I will
return to the castle, with the wizards, and together we will see our land
freed from the festering boil, your highness.”
the king shouted, still desperate and his mind as frayed as before. During
the next day he repeated often that Pharlee was their last hope, while
more news reached the castle: the undead army had continued to move
towards the capital, beating all of the scant resistance. Glessynbur had
fallen on the night of the 23rd, the very day when the castle
learned of the original defeat.
castle’s defenders numbered now one hundred forty-eight men, all
equipped from the royal armory. Teargelt had girded on Lochlyen, the sword
of his ancestor Chustaff, who had united Keroull from the three kingdoms
that had existed before. (Chustaff lived in the 25th century,
officially the Year of Union was set as 2467 A.E.) A blessing preserved
Lochlyen’s edge, that it was as sharp as in the days of Chustaff. The
king’s lieutenants were given other swords of renown, among them Nyblun
and Hronwert. The blade that was second only to Lochlyen was kept for
Kristo Pharlee: Trugmar, which had been forged by the swordsmith Anwasson
in the fires of the Deadcrossing’s lava in the 27th century.
(Documents of the day, preserved by Darawk priests, state that Anwasson
went into the Deadcrossing with only two apprentices, no protection except
for a single talisman. He returned alone, scarred by heat and falls and
what might have been taken for clawmarks – bearing the finished Trugmar
for his liege, King Ernolf III. Ernolf would win two wars wielding the
month of Glymarion was coming to an end, when on its twenty-eighth and
last evening, a company of hooded riders approached the castle’s gate.
At their point Kristo Pharlee rode, signaling his return to the guards who
gladly lowered the drawbridge and opened the gate. While the riders
entered, King Teargelt climbed from the battlements to greet his advisor
effusively. His words were recorded by the court scribe, but those were
the last letters the man brought to paper. The page of his notes still
exists, covered by blood. The scribe’s own, we presume.
happened in the courtyard after Pharlee’s arrival? We cannot say for
certain. None of those who have survived the debacle ever spoke of the
horror in more than vague terms, including the younger Pharlee,
Eyan-Makellan (who at the time was inside the castle and hadn’t yet
heard of his brother’s return).
can only assume that Pharlee responded to the king’s greetings with a
cold statement, then ordered his companions to doff their hoods and
cloaks, revealing themselves to be indeed the wizards that had secluded
themselves three months earlier – but now their skins were pale, without
blood’s warm glow, their eyes seemed to burn in the night, and their
teeth had turned into the fangs of the vampire’s brood. Some were still
alive, yet they were also changed, their faces consumed with a dark
passion. These wizards had succumbed to the temptation of blood magic,
offered them by Pharlee during their ill seclusion.
attacked the assembled guards at once, using the moment of frightened
realization. Screams echoed through the night. Magical fire brightened the
darkness momentarily, like a storm that had broken loose in the courtyard.
Terror gripped the castle, when the vampiric wizards continued their
onslaught, quickly joined by the undead army that had reached the castle
under the cover of night. The slaughter continued through the night. Only
five souls were left alive in the morning, all of them bearing the family
name of Pharlee: Eyan-Makellan himself, his wife, and his three children.
the first day of Gloreshton, Eyan-Makellan was called to the Royal
Audience Hall. His is the only report that we have of what occurred in the
castle that day:
wizardess had once been called Herlindis. I had seen her a few times
before, on visits from her academy in Dyekieron, and I hadn’t liked her
much, as self-aggrandizing as she had been. Seeing her now, I pitied her.
The greed for blood was painted in her face – not to swallow, but to
feed her magic with it. She had lost her haughtiness, driven by a primal
urge and little more. Strange that I could think so clearly and rationally
about her fate, when everyone in the castle had been murdered the night
before. Perhaps I truly am the brother of Kristo.
did not fear Herlindis. I knew that she lusted for my life, and that of my
family, but I also knew that she would not dare draw a jot of our life
force. She was my brother’s pawn, perfectly under his control. In later
days, she would probably develop better control of her urge – I had read
about blood wizards in the short week since we had first heard about their
appearance -, but now it was only Kristo’s will that kept her on a
leash. Still, that was more than enough.
vampires had been set to guard my family and me throughout the night. They
were ancient and powerful, never showing the least desire in drinking our
blood, instead showing us great courtesy. (To a degree, I am grateful to
them. They spared my children the sight of our friends and acquaintances
being murdered, including those of our friends whom these vampires
themselves killed, taking their victims to a separate room.) At the first
sign of daylight, the vampires had left, to be replaced by two men who
looked like ordinary human beings – except that their eyes were empty.
Ghouls, a vampire’s or blood wizard’s thralls, they kept us safe.
Herlindis had entered our quarters and told me that Kristo wished to see
me. She did not once mention my safety, clearly taking it for granted –
as did I. I had already known what my brother had become. Not through fact
or through words, but through the pieces of a puzzle put together in my
it was that the blood wizardess brought me to the Royal Audience Hall,
leading me to corridors that were filled with signs of battle, broken
furniture and armor, spots of blood drenching the walls, scorchmarks from
exploding fireballs and other magic. No corpses were in sight; most likely
because they had been re-animated into zombies. The realization did not
frighten me at all. My family and I were safe, that was all I cared to
Hall was much as I remembered it, with no sign of the previous night’s
carnage. But few of the seats were filled, which was uncommon, even at an
hour this early. Those present in the seats were blood wizards, those who
had joined Kristo’s secret convention. They chatted amongst themselves,
clearly pleased with themselves. As soon as we entered the Hall, Herlindis
left my side and joined her friends. Neither of them paid much attention
at his desk before the throne pedestal was the court scribe, Sibragt, his
hand holding a pen hovering over a page, ready to note every word spoken.
If his clothes weren’t torn open by claws, the chest beneath caked with
dry blood, he might have appeared the same as the previous day.
sorry, Mak,’ my brother commented, and only now did I see Kristo, in his
chair next to the empty throne – the chief advisor’s seat, not the
throne itself. He smiled gently at me, as if we were at my home, away from
the eyes of the court. Maybe we were. Everyone beside us in the hall was
Kristo’s tool. ‘There hasn’t been time to clean Sibragt. I’ll have
that done in the course of the day, when there’s a pause in business.’
nodded slowly. ‘What is he?’
shrugged. ‘Only a zombie. Enough for his task. Maybe I’ll turn him
into a ghoul later on, lest he rot and stink too much. Sibragt, make a
note of that.’ (That was the only time that I felt disconcerted, when
Kristo addressed the scribe about Sibragt’s own fate.) He shook his head
and sighed. ‘Cook is preparing breakfast right now. It will be served in
half an hour or so; fortunately the castle’s stock will last very well,
considering that there are only twenty-seven mouths to feed now. How does
steak sound to you? Steak in the morning…’ He sighed again. ‘Only
the king allowed himself that pleasure before. Well, that is over, and we
can share in the repastes.’
asked, ‘Are you now the king, Kristo?’
he said, ‘What? No, of course not. You know that only a descendant of
Chustaff can rightfully be the monarch of Keroull. I am only the court
wizard, after all.’ He got up from his chair and stepped down from the
pedestal to stand before me, stroking his white beard. ‘Oh, Mak, things
will be so different now. What use do we have left for Keroull? Let this
land henceforth be known as Rek’atrednu, the Land of Justice! Sibragt,
have you got that?’
scribe did not look up, his fingers continued to write, while he spoke in
a mangled voice, ‘Yes, my lord.’
Land of Justice?’ I commented. ‘Kristo, it does not seem just what you
have done here. You have taken lives, many of them. You have overthrown
I?’ Kristo smiled, then snapped his fingers. ‘But Teargelt is still on
door which led to the royal quarters opened. A man stepped out, wearing
the purple robe of the king over Teargelt’s steel armor. The clothes
were clean of blood. So was the face, empty and dull, but very much the
king’s own face. But sticking through his chest, cleaving the armor on
both sides, was Lochlyen, King Chustaff’s sword, its edge as sharp and
dry as ever.
in measured steps the creature that had once been Teargelt stepped up to
the throne, turned around and sat down. Lochlyen’s tip, pointing out
from its back, cut into the silk pillows.
see now,’ Kristo said, ‘that the king is still where he ought to
killed him. With his own sword.’
nodded calmly. ‘More than he deserved. Chustaff would have put him in a
dungeon and let him starve. Teargelt was a blemish on the history of
now is Rek’atrednu,’ I said.
brother smiled. ‘You’re absolutely right, Mak. I ought to get used to
that name quickly. The Land of Justice.’ He put his hand on my shoulder.
‘Mak, we’re going to give honor to that name. Our people shall know
justice, true justice, not the paltry shadow doled out by noble fools.’
said nothing. After a while, Kristo began to frown and dropped his hand
from my shoulder. ‘You’re not convinced, are you, Mak? You see the
lives taken and wonder how this could be justice.’ He shook his head
slowly, then walked a few steps away, to stand next to the court scribe.
‘You see Sibragt here, devoid of the mind he once had. You think that
his body should lie in a grave, not sit here and take notes. There was a
time when I would have shared your outrage. But it really doesn’t
matter. He still fulfills his function, he might do so for a century hence
– which is far more than he could have done as a mortal being. And his
life force has made me stronger. Along with others, Sibragt has given me
the strength to lead our country into a bright and just future. A future
that shall be a good place for living.’ He paused, patted the dead
scribe’s shoulder casually, then strode back over to me. ‘Yes, Mak, I
still value life. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. Not
because it fuels my magic, but because I have felt its power. Life
is so precious, it needs to be supported. It needs to be treasured.’
Kristo sighed. ‘Was it treasured before? No, it wasn’t. You and I have
spoken so many times about the injustices of our land. Some years ago, you
yourself wondered whether a rebellion would bring about a change for the
better. You said, ’’’Perhaps blood needs to be spilled to bring a
new hope.’’’ Mak, you were right. The few have to give their lives,
so that the many can live better. That is the justice I will bring to Ke-,
assume that my family will have the treasured lives you speak of?’ I
frowned at me uncomprehendingly, then he shook his head in confusion.
‘Obviously, Mak,’ he muttered. ‘I want you to run the Treasury.
Liodburga and the children could live in the castle, but I thought about
giving them Whitford Manor, the royal retreat. The children can play in
the park, and you know that Methilda will love being around the horses.
She can have the pony she’s been pestering you about for months.
Although we ought to wait a year before allowing her to ride, she’s only
four years old, after all. Of course you’ll have living servants. They
can take much better care of the little ones.’
if I want to leave?’
face fell. He half-opened his mouth, then closed it and turned around to
gaze at the windows set high in the walls of the Hall. ‘I have given it
much thought, little brother. You have so much of Mother in you. You even
smile like she did. She wouldn’t have understood this, not right away.
Perhaps if she saw that good would come out of the terror of these
days…’ He turned back to me. ‘You can do whatever you want, Mak. You
are my brother, and I love you. In the coming days I will mindcast your
image and that of our family to each and every undead in this land, that
they know and obey you. Leave, if you will. Go to Cayaboré, or Ibrollene,
or the Thousand Islands. But think on it, that is all I ask of you. Think
what we can achieve. Mak, you – you could be my direction-finder, to
keep me pointed in the right way.’ He took my hand, cradling it to his
chest. ‘Promise me that you will think about it, please.’
there a trace of fear in his eyes? I cannot say for sure. Sometimes I
think it was there, the fear that he could not stay true to his own hopes,
that he wanted to rely on me. I did not realize this on that morning, or I
would never have left. Kristo is still my brother. To hear talk about him
having become a monster is so difficult to bear – and hard to believe. I
should not have left him.”
Ibrollene (ca. 3101 A.E.)
years after the younger Pharlee wrote the texts I have quoted, he left
Sirap and returned to his homeland. We do not know what happened to him,
nor to his family. His wife went with him, and his eldest son, Hanno,
followed a few months later.
more than fragments are known of what has been happening in Rek’atrednu
since that day. Few living souls have ever managed to leave it. The
merchant fleet has never been rebuilt; Eyan-Makellan speculated that the
undead could not manage to build and/or crew seaworthy ships. There are
fishing boats, though. (We know that for certain, since there are refugees
arriving every now and then on the shores of the Thousand Islands and
popular myth has it that no living souls remain in Rek’atrednu, Kristo
Pharlee has not reneged on that part of his statement. (Of course it needs
to be remembered that we only know of his intents through the biased words
of his brother.) At the very least, the blood wizards of Rek’atrednu
need to be fed. We can also assume that the living provide a base from
which to recruit new blood wizards; otherwise, their ranks would die out
in the course of time. Necromancers are living people like we all are. At
best they can prolong their lives for some two or three decades beyond the
normal span, but no more.
Pharlee would today be well over one and a half centuries old. There are
signs that he still exists (I hesitate to use the word “lives”) –
which is impossible if he remained only the necromancer that he had been
in 3098. I cannot believe that he would permit himself to turn into a
vampire, since that would enslave him to the mind of the vampire who has
drunk his blood. Perhaps he has become a brastok, the supreme form of the
unliving. Then he would seem to be a living being in every respect, yet
have the abilities of a vampire – without any need for blood as
nourishment – and could expand his magical powers at leisure.
is another part of the story that I would like to mention. In the first
paragraphs of this article I spoke about how Keroull was seen by the
outside world, and how the people of Gushémal were shocked when they
learned of the invasion of the undead.
result was that suddenly all wizards were considered suspect. If a man as
– apparently – trustworthy as Kristo Pharlee could turn out to be a
necromancer, what about the wizards of other lands? Some rulers banished
their court wizards immediately, others were executed on the spot, without
any questioning. The majority escaped such punishment, mostly because they
hastened to swear the strongest oaths of loyalty and denounced necromancy
– both done in a Decirius temple, binding their own souls to the God of
Justice in lengthy ceremonies. Breaking an oath like that would bring
divine penalty on their heads. That was the only way for wizards to retain
their lucrative positions at the courts of kings and princes. It still
took several years before the general suspicion faded away.