Location: Chaldea and Rhokii Pass
By the time the royal family arrived in Chaldea, Hacktor found himself eager to meet with Grak, for the generals who’d accompanied him to help strategize had been no help at all and the king was thus frustrated beyond measure. Nobody had any answers as to why it was taking so long to cleanse Mittengarten of the Derkka, how to deal with the new Myz threat, and why, even with the Ghast, victory seemed farther away than ever – despite the prophecy from The Spirit.
The great Kon-Herr met his father’s former scribe in the Library of Chaldea – that famous repository that housed not just every edition of the voluminous Drokka Kronillz, and all the original works of the great Snorri Sturleson (including, of course, the epic Nebulungillgalad), but also uncounted scrolls and tomes from throughout TerrVerde. A veritable catacomb of dusty parchments filled the massive hall for as far as the eye could see. Yet the sight did little but to increase king’s unease, for in spite of his now legendary reputation, Hacktor the man still feared the unknown — having never been one for bookish wisdom, Chaldea made him nervous, for he was afraid that what he might learn this day might not be what he wanted to hear.
The library was of course cleared of all other visitors and scribes and it had been arranged that Grak would be waiting for Hacktor in one of the most secluded alcoves to ensure their privacy — a requirement actually proposed by Grak.
When Hacktor finally found the meeting spot he was already perturbed that it had taken him to long to locate Grak, but the sight of the aged scribe took him by such surprise that he forgot his agitation. My god, the man looks like a bag of bones! His skin is like the parchment of these scrolls.
And indeed it was, for Grak, already an old man by the time Baldur rose to power, was now well past his 13th decade on Mittengarten. Paper thin described more than just his yellowed skin, it also described his flesh and bones – for he was naught but a skeleton covered with a dried out psoriatic husk. Completely bald, Grak’s face was so hallowed out his visage was nigh terrifying to Hacktor (1) and it took the younger man great effort to focus on more than just the scribe’s appearance.
Grak broke the ice, “Great Kon-Herr, you are here because you seek answers about The Derk.” Dressed in the simple course browns of his guild, the old man didn’t rise to meet his king and instead remained seated in a small wooden chair, his hands concealed in the sleeves of his robes.
Hacktor overlooked Grak’s insult – grateful that the man hadn’t tried to stand up, afraid that it might have him to die in the effort. Instead, he took a seat in the only other chair in the alcove, “How did you know?”
“Wisdom comes with the job, my lord.” The skin on the scribe’s face literally cracking as he attempted a forced smile.
Hacktor had already made up his mind to make the most of this meeting by tapping into Grak’s immense knowledge, so he didn’t hesitate to begin asking questions. “I need to understand the Derkka more. Where did they come from? Why are they here on Mittengarten in the first place?”
At that Grak pulled his arms apart, revealing his hands – in one he held a small clay cup, which he now handed over to the king, “It’s from The Chasm – drink.” (2)
Hacktor tried to look into the cup, but the liquid was so clear that he couldn’t even tell anything was in there. It didn’t help that the alcove itself was dark and that all the dust floating around the library cast a haze over everything. Yet not one to back down from a challenge, the king tipped the cup back and downed the shot.
Immediately Hacktor lost all sense of time and place. Whether he was conscious or not, he couldn’t say and later he didn’t even remember being in the room the room with Grak. But one thing he did recall, one thing he would never forget, was the sound of Grak’s voice – it became deep, rich, and full of knowledge…
Grak began teaching, “The Kroniklz tell us that In The Time Before Time, He Who Has No Name created our world – Mittengarten and gave it to his son Rhokii. Mittengarten was a planet blooming with life, but Rhokii had no people to dwell in it — so he spawned The Drrukka — a race fashioned in his own image.” (3)
“You mean ‘The Drokka,’ right?” Hacktor heard his own voice interrupt.
“No, Hacktor, The Drrukka. They were our ancestors.” Grak corrected. “The Drrukka lived within the bowels of Mittengarten before the Drokka. It was our lord Rhokii that promised them endless peace and prosperity if only they would but follow one rule: they were never to venture into The World Above.”
“Yes, The Rule. I’ve heard of it. A forgotten tradition.”
“Is it? Well, for time uncounted, The Drrukka obeyed The Lord’s command. Millennia soon passed while they enjoyed their promised peace, living in prosperity beneath the mountains. But then one day, the legends say that while Rhokii was away, his rival Shedu Mazai secretly appeared at the Well of Wyzdom, tempting The Drrukka with knowledge about The World Above – enticing them with riches beyond their imagination if only they would trust him and venture Outside.”
“He spoke of The Blackwoods?”
“That I cannot say. But what we do know is that by this time the Drrukka population had grown without measure and the caves alone could no longer sustain them. Shedu Mazai’s advice appeared to be a timely solution; some of the Drrukka disobeyed the command of He Who Has No Name and followed Shedu Mazai to The World Above. So marked the beginning of The First Age.”
“What happened to them?”
“Those Drrukka left behind thought they would never hear from the rule breakers again, but soon enough they were proved wrong, for some members of the group that had ventured Outside returned – telling strange tales of a vast new world that was indeed filled with the riches Shedu Mazai promised!”
“To the bold, go the spoils.”
“Although others soon followed the rule breakers, most Drrukka chose to remain in the caves — not wanting to incur the wrath of God Rhokii. However, contrary to expectations, the rule-breakers did not suffer any ill-effects for disobeying. In fact, they quickly prospered – capitalizing on the chance to trade their own abundant resources with their home-bound brothers. Centuries passed and the Outsiders eventually found themselves wealthy beyond compare; and more importantly, they had found a nearly limitless world to populate.”
“Interesting, but what does all this have to do with The Derk?”
“Don’t you understand, my lord? The Drrukka race was fractured by Shedu Mazai’s treachery — with the mountain people evolving into The Drokka, and the rule-breakers into The Derk.”
“Impossible! Are you really trying to tell me that The Drokka and The Derk come from the same ancestors?”
“So say The Kronilz.”
“But…but…” The king struggled. “It doesn’t make any sense – our races look nothing alike. We Drokka are short and squat, yet I’ve never seen a Derk shorter than a pony. Our people have milk-white complexions, well-oiled beards, and broad, stout bodies; they ruddy as potatoes, rail thin, and can barely grow a decent beard.” Then gaining confidence in his argument, he added “And as for Garrick The Golden, if he even exists, legends say he’s the ugliest of all: with long hair the color of straw, brown skin, and the lithe frame of a lady. Tell me what Drokkina would have him in her bedroom? Ha, they’d laugh him away!”
“The answer to your question is the flowering of the species.” Sensing Hacktor’s confusion, Grak spoke on, “The Saber-Tooth change their spots over time, my lord. The hair of the Woolies too. The Derk have now lived in The World Above for uncounted millennia. During that time, their bodies have flowered in different ways in order to live more efficiently in their surroundings. Perhaps in the future, all of us will look completely different too – after we also bloom?”
“I don’t want to bloom! I like the way we are.”
“We are all always changing, my Kon-Herr, some more than others. If we don’t continue to grow, one day we may no longer exist.”
“The only ones who are going to go extinct are The Derk – I’m going to destroy them all!” And then sensing a hole in Grak’s lesson, the king offered, “If The Derk were our brothers as you say, then why didn’t they share their resources with us?”
“The same reason we are at war with them now – Greed. As you might expect, the Drokka soon became jealous of The Derk’s wealth and eventually, more Drokka wanted to venture into The World Outside.”
“Ah, but The Derk were not so accommodating — those living near the borders of our mountains refused to allow new immigrants into their lands. Tensions rose, yet none knew what to do about it.”
“Simple – make war. Like we are doing now.”
“The concept of using violence to take what you want did not yet exist — until Rhokki (4) appeared again at The Well of Wyzdom. When he saw how the Derkka disobeyed his command, our lord seethed with rage. He commanded us to take the borderlands by force and destroy the Derkka for their insolence – so began The Great Commission. Our forefathers agreed and War was the inevitable result – the first battle ever fought upon Mittengarten — with the occurrence marking the end of The First Age.”
“OK, so what happened with the war? I’ve never heard of it. Who won?”
“The Drokka were no match for The Derk – our rivals had greater resources, a larger population, and the ability to cut off trade to us. That first war quickly ended and when it did, scribes lamented that The Derk would rule the world – both Above and Below.”
“History has a strange way of settling the score.”
“You are correct – for soon after The Second Age began, a great famine swept throughout the kingdoms of the mountains. The Drokka population was decimated by The Blight (5). It was our penalty for disobeying the Rhokii’s command.”
“For our failure to destroy the Derkka.”
“So the scribes of the original Kroniklz documented it. So savage was the famine that the Drokka who survived had no choice but to abandon their caves and beg the Derkka for help.”
“And thus began our enslavement!” Hacktor grumbled. “So the scum took advantage of our plight? I will destroy them for it! Why, Grak, you’ve given me the inspiration I need. There’s no way they will escape my wrath. This is a holy war now!”
“It always has been. But before you race off, you must know something else.” The scribe raised a bony finger in caution. “To win a holy war, you must possess the weapon of the gods.”
Hacktor literally beamed. “I have such a piece – The Ghast.” And with that he stood up, eager to escape this now tiresome scene and get back to his war strategies.
Grak reached out to detain him, “Wait, my Lord.”
Yet the king didn’t listen, after a quick bow of appreciation, he thanked the scribe, waving off the old man’s additional words and rushing out of the library.
As a result, neither Hacktor (nor I) had a chance to hear Grak’s warning about The Grim (6).
Yet any knowledge the Hacktor supposedly learned during his talk with Grak proved of little value. And while the scribe continued to reach out to Hacktor, begging him to return to continue their discussion, the king dismissed such missives out of hand. Besides the fact that the old man’s appearance was ghastly, his wisdom never panned out. And when the king was told that Grak died in the summer of AO318 he actually relieved.
Unfortunately, none of this helped Hacktor’s war, and two years later, however, with any hope for Oz now gone, Hacktor’s now battle-hardened generals beseeched him to reconsider his plans for foreign wars when they met at a military summit at Rhokii Pass, prior to the campaigns of AO320.
“My lord, we must pull back our fronts and fortify our defense networks again. This war is folly,” Haraclez pleaded. “Oz is lost and more of our kingdoms in the Rhokii’s will perish if we do not better protect our homes.”
“I will never stop!” Raged an angry Hacktor, upset with the old general whom he now regretted having made a Kon-Herr. “I realize that this war requires us to pay a costly price, but when at last we are successful, the people will be grateful for my perseverance!”
“Then, we need a better plan,” spoke up Lancel, the young Kon-Herr of Kel-De-Kaba, himself now combat-scarred from having taken part in the past three seasons of Hacktor’s war. “The Myz are scything us from the field like wheat, and little can we do against them.”
“Nonsense,” Hacktor scoffed. “I shall retake Oz again and thence proceed on to cut down mighty Gwar as well! As for his Myz, I fail to see what is so difficult about the proposition!” Then, standing up in ire, he accused, “And frankly I grow angry at your cowardice, Brother! Remember, WE are the Drokka, they are scum! Why do you all have so little faith? I am The Ghastwielder. Do you not remember the prophecy?”
“Did the prophecy call for us to lose so many of our brothers?” asked Hacktor’s uncle, Rawf V, Kon-Herr of the faraway Akka Mountains who had made the journey to Rhokki Pass to offer his advice as this important meeting. Not liking what he’d heard so far from his nephew, Rawf stood in frustration as he advised, “Every month I’ve heard reports that our noble warriors have died — too soon. Do you really want to be remembered in the Kroniklz as the Kon-Herr who lost more men in battle than all the other Kon-Herr’s combined?”
“Why should I fear what the history books write, brother?” Hacktor genuinely laughed. “My legacy is sealed, for I know the truth — He who controls the present controls the past. I am the Kon-Herr. Therefore I decide what our history books say about my reign.”
Rawf was aghast, “Don’t you care about the truth?”
“What is truth?” Hacktor chuckled, dismissively. “If I tell the scribes to record the loss of 100 men instead of 10,000, they will do as I say. If I tell them to write that I won a battle instead of lost it as you say, who do you think they will listen to?” (7)
“But, but…” Lancel tried to jump into the fray but quickly lost his courage.
Having grown weary of the subject, Hacktor raised his magic battleaxe, and glowered, “History will say what The Ghastwielder tells it too.”
Yet Rawf wasn’t done, boldly contending, “Perhaps you have trusted too much in The Ghast, Brave Hacktor, for your men follow you carelessly into battle and seem to forget the disciplined order that for so long led our armies to victory. Our troops are ill-prepared and tired, our people at home are weary of this war, and our kingdoms are crumbling. We must do something. Surely you can see that, can’t you…my lord?”
“Am I not doing what needs to be done?” Hacktor anger rose. “What more would you have me do, Brother? I took my host to Oz, and did win back our kingdom there, only to move on to another battle and later hear that Oz had fallen once again!” Then pointing a finger at his former mentor, he laid blamed, “I told Kon-Herr Harazlez specifically what to do to defend Oz, but when it came to the moment of truth he fell back instead of charging forward!” To the entire assembly, he roared as he pounded on the table, “Would Rhokii approve of the cowardice on display here? Would Ajax have let his enemies escape? Would Volzung have dropped his weapons to run and hide?? Pah!”
“No, Hacktor, but our forefathers would not have gone willy-nilly into the fires of certain death!” Haraclez defended himself (8). “My Lord, you have our armies stretched too thin. We cannot hold down all these fronts and still have the resources to protect our mountain strongholds. Can’t you see that is why Oz will never be retaken if we continue on like this?”
However, Hacktor could not be convinced and thus refused to even ponder ending his war campaign. The meeting had long since tired him and he was ready to end it.
“Let the Drokka who opens a door, be ready for the enemy who stands behind it,” he said, quoting that ancient Drokka warrior epitaph. “I began this war with my words, so shall I finish it with my might!!”
That essentially ended the debate, and to their credit, in spite of their doubts, because Hacktor Derkillez was still the Kon-Herr Drokka of the Rhokii’s, and therefore the unquestioned leader of all the Drokka people, the other Kon-Herr’s remained loyal to him and made ready to join him in the spring wars.
For his part though, during those dark winter months, Hacktor held numerous secret meetings with the scribes of Chaldea. During those clandestine affairs, the Kon-Herr levied numerous proclamations that legally required the scribes to ‘revise’ large swaths of texts in The Drokka Kroniklz – surreptitiously changing the official records to make them read more like Hacktor’s version of the past. Thereby did Hacktor attempt to influence future generations to view his reign through the lens of ‘truth’ that he wanted them to believe. (9)
Meanwhile, Queen Hecla and Monty Redstone had been working their networks hard all winter to quell the people’s fear. When it became clear that the common folk were growing ever restless with fear throughout the lands, Hecla and Monty solicited Hacktor for help – he declined. Choosing instead to ready himself and his men for war yet again — caring little for the uneducated fears of the populace, and trusting instead in his own designs.
And so it looked as if the fighting would continue on forever.
Until one day when The War of the Ghast came to an abrupt and unexpected end…
- Although I actually found Grak quite beautiful. He was almost like looking in the mirror at myself.
- Chaldea’s Chasm was famous for its supposed healing and life-extending properties. Rumor had it that Grak drank from the Chasm spring every day and this was the reason for his long life. Monty Redstone had long ago capitalized on this ‘fact’ and had an army of men selling Chaldea’s Chasm water throughout the eight kingdoms for over a decade. Fortunately for the Coinmaster, the people bought into Monty’s pitch and the product increased his wealth. Unfortunately for the purchasers the claims about the Chasm being a de facto fountain of youth were entirely false.
- Warning – none of this is true. It’s yet again more religious puffery masking itself in dogma pretending to be an accurate history. Hopefully, you can see through these mere fairy tales.
- Actually, that would be yours truly posing as Rhokii.
- I’m sure you can guess who was behind that little famine too?
- Such knowledge would have changed the fate of the entire war – for Hacktor, his people, and yea even for me.
- Before you laugh at Hacktor’s pettiness, I’d caution you to see the bigger picture. For the so-called ‘truth’ of your history books is one of the biggest shams of all-time. Personally I’ve always been amused that so few of you have realized this over the years. Visionaries like your modern-day Orwell who managed to pierce the veil of these historical lies have been few and far between, while the rest of you sheep lap up the milk of falsehood that your governments feed you about what ‘really happened’ in the past. As Hacktor said, “What is truth?” I wonder do YOU even know? The only truth about history is what Hacktor spoke – namely that whoever is in power controls what the history books say. Don’t you realize that what you read about that happened a decade ago, or in a bygone century, or even a 1,000 years in the past, is only what the current government says happened? Whether that’s what really happened doesn’t matter, because unless you lived it personally ,how can you argue with what the official records say? And even then, the knowledge in your mind is a poor contender with the power of the official written word — for that History is what the sheeple believe. Hacktor well knew this truth and acted accordingly. Perhaps you should ponder what’s really true too?
- Haraclez really had no chance to hold Oz. With the superior numbers of the Derkka and the all the Myz I was producing back then, Haraclez was hopelessly outnumbered. His band of allies had little hope against the overpowering onslaught. It hurt him still to think about all the Drokka who fell there before he was forced to give the order to abandon beloved Oz once again – less than a month after Hacktor had last re-taken it.
- It didn’t work – for what Hacktor didn’t know is that the scribes of Chaldea actually kept two sets of historical books. The first was a set of records that they showed the Kon-Herrs and let those Drokka kings revise (for surely you realize that Hacktor was not the first to want to rewrite history, right?). And the second set was a secret version known only to the scribes themselves. During the reign of each Kon-Herr, the scribes used the “Kon-Herr approved” versions, but when said Kon-Herr passed away, the scribes acted clandestinely to revise the official records over time to match their secret version. Thereby did the Drokka scholars protect their history – or at least their version of it – for again I tell you that even these records were colored by personal ambition, prejudices, and simple scribal errors, thus once again proving that the ONLY truth about your History books is that they are no more true than that dime-store novel you read last week. And thus your eyes are opened by me yet again – you’re welcome, friend.