Location: Rhokii Pass…and beyond
The very next day after Hacktor’s Coronation (1), the new king made good on this promise to start a war with the Derkka. And so began The War of The Ghast. Leaving Hecla at the capital to manage his affairs, Hacktor took an army and ventured out…To The World Above.
Initially, when Hacktor and his men came upon their rivals, the Derkka were caught with their pants down. Although the Derkka Parliament and The Grand Marduk were aware of the Priory’s destruction of The Siq (2) — and fully expected the Drokka to retaliate, when no counterattack occurred (3), the Derkka assumed that the Drokka had finally passed the point of no return that the pacifistic Baldur had been pushing them towards for the past seven decades. Although Hacktor never knew it, the Derkka’s leadership group had toyed with the idea of attacking the Drokka (4) and had they done so during the time when the Drokka nation was under such instability it’s possible the Derkka could have totally overrun the Drokka. However, The Marduk didn’t want to fight a war in the ‘rat holes’ of the Drokka and quite frankly the Derkka Parliament didn’t desire control of the Drokka’s territory (5). So the Derkka waited…and waited… eventually turning their attention to other things (6).
It just so happens that this is when Hacktor and his men brought war to the lands of Gor — enjoying many early victories.
In the beginning, only a handful of Hacktor’s army had ghasts to fight with, but even those few made a difference. More importantly, the charismatic Hacktor had the magic of the real The Ghast – and the confidence to match – thus his army quickly proved unstoppable in battle – each time gaining a bit more ground and moving further in and further up the great Blackwood Forest.
After every victory, young Hacktor roared out a challenge to his retreating enemies, “Tell your master Garrick that Hacktor Derkillez is waiting! For I am The Ghastwielder and none can defeat me!”
Yet for all his success on the battlefield, King Hacktor soon discovered that his goals were going to take longer to accomplish than he’d anticipated. After that first year, during a rare period of rest for his men, and a return to the capital for himself, Hacktor lamented as much to Hecla.
“My men are weak,” Hacktor growled as he held his sister in his arms after a rather furious round of lovemaking. “Those who don’t have ghasts are nigh worthless, for so lacking is their confidence.”
“It’s no better here at home, love,” Hecla replied. “Hef Fastuz drags his feet with each order – claiming you can’t rush greatness. Meanwhile, Monty (7) has commissioned every smith in the mountains — he’s got them working night and day to produce more ghasts. And knows that if he falls short again, it will be his hide on the line.”
The young monarch smiled, relishing the fact that his sister’s win-at-all-costs passion rivaled his own. “It doesn’t matter to me who makes the ghasts. And frankly, I don’t even care how good the weapons are. I just need the men to believe their weapons are like mine. When they see what mine can do — and believe me it’s awesome — they believe they took can do great things.”
“I’m assuming they really can’t?” Hecla laughed.
“You assume correctly. But that’s beside the point. Right now we have the men and the resources to destroy our rivals – the Derkka’s armies have also lost their skills as a result of father’s policies. They are no match for my Ghast. Victory is a certainty – so long as we get out there again.”
Here Hecla hesitated, not wanted to know the answer, “When do you leave next?”
Hacktor grumbled, “Not soon enough.”
Within the month, Monty’s guilds delivered nearly three thousand ghasts to Hactor’s army. The next day, Hacktor had them on The Byways and off to the next campaign.
Despite the ghasts (real or fake), and despite Hacktor perceived invincibility (8), still, the new king had much to learn about the strategy required to lead successful offensive campaigns in faraway foreign lands. As none of his generals could help him (9), this took time — much time. In addition, many of the Drokka perished in those cursed locales – further dwindling the king’s resources.
In fact, more than a decade soon passed — and in all that time, never once did Hacktor gain complete control of The Blackwoods, nor could he find The Marduk Garrick.
In addition, while Hacktor enjoyed making war, it soon became clear that he wouldn’t be able to dispatch The Derk race as easily as he once imagined — or that The Spirit had led him to believe (10). Thus, the glorious homecoming parades celebrating his final extermination of his people’s rivals continued to elude him – that was a bit of a downer for him. And things only got worse when The Drokka people began to complain.
Some said that Hacktor didn’t want to ‘win’ the war, but instead was trying to prolong it indefinitely – claiming that he was using the war merely to line his own coffers. That was a frustrating complaint for the young Kon-Herr to deal with – for in his mind he was putting his entire heart and soul into the war!
What Hacktor didn’t know is that his wealth (as controlled by Hecla) did increase dramatically during the early part of The War of The Ghast. It was difficult to hide this growth in capital from the eyes of the public, and eventually, Hecla stopped trying (11). Instead, she used Monty as her puppet, having him give speech after speech in public forums throughout the key kingdoms nearest to the capital — explaining that the royal coffers were not growing because of any intentional ‘war machine’ economy. Monty showed countless charts ‘proving’ that wars are actually very expensive to finance — and called upon the people to continue to tighten their belts and ‘do their part’ to contribute key rations that would help ‘their boys’ finally win and come home for good ‘soon.’ (12)
Instead, as Monty assured the people, the king’s wealth had more to do with the intricacies of The Blackwoods – someone had to control the supply of this resource in order to manage the ever-growing Drokka demand for it, so in order to be fair, Queen Hecla set up an Importation Office under Monty’s direction. As The Coinmaster explained, “We use The I.O. to oversee Blackwood imports – ensuring that all Drokka have access to the spoils of Hacktor’s great war!”
What Monty didn’t say is that his I.O. was actually charging a de factor for Blackwood imports — while this concept wasn’t anything new (The Derk had been charging such a tax on the Drokka for nearly fifty years), there were an intelligent few among the Drokka who figured out was Monty was doing. When rumors began floating that the Kon-Herr was making money off his own people, it made Monty’s job difficult (13). Things didn’t get any easier for The Coinmaster when the price of Blackwood continued to go up – even though presumably the supply should also have done up as King Hacktor and his army controlled more and more of Blackwood Forest.
Then it was that Monty recruited more of the Drokka’s Intelligentsia to help him try to educate the people. Sending unbiased, highly respected scholars (14) throughout the mountains — arming them with reports that detailed the simple economics of the situation — focusing on the fact that by ‘stabilizing the price’ The I.O. was helping to ensure an unbiased distribution of black wood – thus protecting the people (15).
Hacktor cared little about how much gold he had in the bank. In fact, had anyone asked him at the time, he’d have given an honest answer if he replied he had no idea. Yet Hecla was different — she relished her wealth and became enamored with it. She also suffered no guilt over the process — in her mind, someone was going to make money off the Blackwoods, and as she was the wife of Kon-Herr Drokka of The Rhokii’s (the person actually responsible for increasing the supply) it was only natural it should be her. Monty was the tool that made that possible.
Unfortunately, not all of the Drokka shared Hecla opinion or bought into Monty’s arguments. Soon it wasn’t just the common folk who began to turn against Hacktor and his long war. Five years into the campaign which had no end in sight, the king began to hear rumblings from my army too when another spring war season was approaching. The problem among the men was simple — while Hacktor never suffered more than a scratch in battle, lots of young men in his armies perished. Yes, the glittering Ghast won the day wherever Hacktor fought, but he was losing men at an alarming rate. Further, King Hacktor was but one man — even with his magical weapon, he couldn’t wipe out all of The Derk by himself. He needed the other Herr generals to win their battles too — often they did, but just as often they did not – ghasts or no ghasts. More importantly, during every battle, more Drokka’s died – more young men never came back to their families. Yet still, Queen Hecla’s wealth grew and grew.
And so the Herr’s got frustrated — grumbling about tradition, defense-first, and questioning the strategy of fighting in The World Above (16). Yet whenever Hacktor (now blood drunk off his invincibility) heard such words, he merely scoffed at that counsel, and instead had the generals push their armies further into the Forsaken Lands to get them out of his own hair. It also didn’t help matters that the aged scribe Grak (17) continually begged Hacktor to visit him in Chaldrea so that he could share some secret wisdom with the king which he had recently uncovered — naturally Hacktor dismissed Grak’s requests out of had — often throwing the missives in the trash without breaking the seal — for the now grizzled king had no time to be bothered with outdated prophecies and other mumbo jumbo (18).
Back on the battlefield, Hacktor continued to enjoy personal success – now fully convinced he was invincible, he no longer just called for Garrick of the Derkka, but advanced his boasting to include the gods.
“Go! Run you vile spawn. Tell your masters that Hacktor Derkillez is waiting!” He screamed, waving The Ghast on high. “Summon Nektar. Call upon Mighty Gwar. Cast a spell for Hekubuz. It matters not to me. Yet, tell them if they do not come soon, I will come looking for them! For I am The Ghastwielder and not even a god can stop me now.” (19)
That was probably not the smartest thing Hacktor ever did…
- See Chapter 14 – The Coming of the King
- And handsomely rewarded The Priory’s top officials for their bravery. (Mind you the top echelon of The Priory had little to do with actual plot to take down The Siq – they just collected the monetary rewards for it).
- After the Siq fell (and King Baldur with it) the Drokka panicked. More than 6 months elapsed between Baldur’s death and Hacktor’s coronation – see Chapter 15 – What Happened.
- To wipe out their rivals once and for all.
- “What good are a bunch of underground caves?” (Ah, ever hear of ‘natural’ resources?!?)
- There was still a lot of money to be made in the Skin Mask industry.
- After the former head of the merchant guilds (Thork Drivingstone) took his life in the aftermath of Baldur’s death, Monty volunteered to oversee the guild operations (mainly because he saw an opportunity to line his own pockets). When Hactor took the throne, he chose to keep Monty in this dual role (Coinmaster and Merchant Guild Leader) – first off because Monty was efficient in his work, and secondly because Hacktor wanted to drive Monty into the ground, little caring if all the extra work sent him to an early grave.
- Actually Hacktor was quite safe — so long as he held The Ghast and battled against another mortal.
- Because, despite their decades of ‘military’ experience, none of them alive at the time had actually fought in a real war – since Baldur had prevented any major conflicts from occuring for nearly 70 years.
- Actually that is incorrect – to be fair to me, I never did give Hacktor a specific time frame on how long it would take him to fulfill his destiny.
- Discovering that she rather enjoyed playing the role of wealthy monarch herself – since the more King Hacktor stayed away at war, the more Queen Hecla became the de facto ruler of The Drokka.
- Sound familiar?
- For her part, Hecla kept herself more and more sheltered from the commoners, and thus above the noise.
- Read: totally biased, very well compensated sell-outs.
- Do I really need to comment on this one?
- Baldur had trained them well.
- Baldur’s trusted amanuensis, whom Hacktor had forced into ‘retirement’ by sending him back to Chaldea – the ‘capital’ of all things Scribe-related.
- In spite of all this, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression – Hacktor was NOT weary of his crown. Nor did he let all the naysayers bring him down -– after all, the fact remained that Drokka prosperity had never been higher in Hacktor’s mind (well at least compared to when they were slaves among the Derks which was the comparison point he focused on). In addition, Hecla was always on top of the world whenever he came back to court (perhaps because the royal coffers had never been fuller. And in Hacktor’s mind, his people had never been closer to accomplishing the goal Rhokii had entrusted to them – namely wiping Mittengarten clean of the cursed that was The Derkka.
- Hacktor got a bit full of himself, don’t you think?