Location: Monthaven (1)
Timeline: Sixth Age, 45th Year, Mid-Autumn (2)
I guess I can’t delay this part any longer – it’s time for me to finally tell you about the pesky little Emcorae Azop and his old fool of a grandfather Alfranco, Al-Corragio, or whatever his real name was. I must lament again the fact that I knew nothing about this pair until it was too late in the game – had I known these insignificant little mortals and their backwater town I’d have wiped it off the face of Terra lickety-split. But alas, even a god overlooks things once in awhile.
“A bar is no place for a boy.” Little Emcorae Azop muttered as he pushed open the heavy door of the Brandonale Inn. Looking through the smoke-filled air, the lad searched for his grandfather, trying to appear casual, yet feeling out of place among the older crowd.
The Brandonale wasn’t a big structure, but outside of the church in the town square not much in Monthaven was.
Like other nights the tavern’s hall was filled with locals – some eating supper, others playing cards, lots of them smoking, and ALL were drinking. Behind the bar, Aldom Mercaldo, owner of the establishment, was already pouring more drinks — for upon Emcorae’s entrance, Aldom quickly realized that not only was the boy not another paying customer, but more importantly he was here to take away the Brandonale’s garrulous entertainer — Alfranco Azop — giving many of the other patrons a reason to go home as well.
Just past his eleventh summer, Emcorae could have lived without his almost daily trips to the Brandonale; yet it wasn’t up to him – whenever his father or grandfather were here and didn’t come home for dinner, his mother or grandmother would eventually succumb to their frustrations and send Emcorae to bring them back. He hated the job, and looking at the crowd wondered, Why do you people want to spend your time drinking that terrible ale and talking to the same tired people day after day? DO something else, go outside, stop wasting your lives! (3)
Similar thoughts as these raced through his mind whenever he came here; he wanted to shout them at the patrons, but he just didn’t have the courage. Instead he tried moving nonchalantly through the scattered tables, searching through the haze that wafted from the pipes and smoke sticks as he screamed inside his head, C’mon, where is grandpop?!?
“Emcorae! Get over here, you little rascal!” Alfranco called from the center of the bar.
I should have known, Emcorae thought, there he is — the life of the party, as usual.
With a smoke stick in one hand and a tankard in the other, Alfranco Azop was sitting amidst a crowd of people, looking very much like a king with his court — albeit a rather old one – for now that he was past his sixth decade, Alfranco’s leathered face reflected the effects of his hard living; some among the town wondered, not half in jest, if all the ales Alfranco had consumed over the years had actually begun to “pickle” him – yet the oldster refused to slow down. And while age preyed upon his body, Alfranco still boasted a fine head of thick, black hair – well-groomed and slicked back via a style he picked up from his past travels.
Although adventure had long since left Alfranco’s life, nothing could keep him from The Brandonale — for there he could still relive the excitement of his youth – only now with a live audience, much to everyone’s delight.
“Aldom, get Em some nuts and a cherry water.” Alfronco commanded the barkeep. Then to his grandson, “Here, Em, hop up next to me while I continue my tale.”
Despite his grandmother’s command to come straight home, Emcorae knew that resistance was futile if Alfranco was in the middle of a story, so he climbed upon the stool next to his grandpap. As he plopped a few nuts into his mouth, the boy realized that even though he didn’t like being here, he couldn’t help feeling excited — for although he too had heard all of his granddad’s tales before, they were just as fascinating to hear again.
“C’mon, Franki, get on again with yer yarn!” one of the regulars called out.
“Hmm, now where was I?” Alfranco replied. (4)
“You was about to tell us how you found that dagger during The War,” reminded Jon Middleswarth, a local farmer.
“Yeah, Franki, please do,” others agreed, eager to see Alfranco’s only keepsake from his military tour.
“In time.” Alfranco tapped his right side, where the ancient weapon was hidden. “Patience is a virtue. But even better is a wet whistle.” And he held up his mug, showing to all that it was empty…again.
“Aldom, get Franki another.” A husky mason named Hal Sutton tossed a copper on the table, while he took a long puff on his smoke stick.
The spoken order was unnecessary — for the bartender already had a fresh tankard ready for his best customer. “Here you are, Franki.”
With another ale between his wrinkled palms, Alfranco fixed his audience with an ominous stare, “Well, now, if I recall, it was just Old Man Newberri’s son Jak and I who heeded the call to arms, while the rest of ya hide yer tales here, now ain’t that right?” And before any could object, he continued, “The Last Great War, that’s what it came to be called after the fightin’ was done. But let me tell you, there ain’t nothing that was ever great about war. Oh sure, before we got there, Jak and me, we was all excited to beat on some Derkka hides, but what did two lads from Monthaven really know about the true terrors that were lurking out there?”
Alfranco paused, his face pained. Aldom laid a hand on the oldster’s shoulder, not sure if Alfranco was struggling with unwelcome memories or if this was just a storyteller’s trick, “Ahem, Franki, you all right, old boy?”
“What? Oh sure.” Alfranco shooed away the memories with a wave. “Well the fact is, nothing and nobody was gonna hold Jak and I back from going off to war – not our folks, and certainly not Monthaven’s high and mighty church council who had that messenger chap hauled out of town. We boys saw how that stranger was treated and where they sent him, so we caught up to the man on the road and asked him what we ought to do. The traveler smiled and told us if we really wanted to help, we should get ourselves to Crux. He gave us a map and told us how to go, then he rode further east to spread the warning and try to muster more troops because the Derkka hordes were growing by the day.
“That’s how Jak and I ran off.” Alfranco continued. “Me, I was always good with maps, so I guided us to the crossroads at Crux with no problem. When the recruiter heard that, he put me with the scouts, but Jak, well, poor ol’ Jak wasn’t too bright, so they just assigned him to the foot soldiers.”
“Weren’t you afraid to be separated?” Hal asked.
“It wasn’t that Jak and me had wanted to be split up, but it all happened so fast. Jak was whisked out of town with the next regiment, while I was sent to learn about my own mission. Now, just like the rest of y’all, I weren’t much of a good reader, but I sure didn’t tell anyone else that, because suddenly there I was, only 16 summers under my belt and now in the middle of a world war!”
“But if you couldn’t read, Alfranco, how did you know what to do in the war?” Jon Romaine wondered.
“It’s a funny thing,” Alfranco said, “I think my enthusiasm is what helped me understand enough to get by. Too, I was good enough with distances and such that when I got a chance to see the maps and hear what the captains wanted us to do, I always figured it out. But, if you really wanna know the truth, the way I figure it now, probably the real reason they kept me around was that they were just desperate for more men – for the Derkka hordes far outnumbered our ranks.”
“Weren’t you afraid to fight against them goblins?” the barkeep asked.
And before the old storyteller could answer, others in the crowd begged Alfranco to tell them about the Derkka’s appearance – knowing the legends about these goblin-like men, yet having never seen such beasts on their side of TerrVerde.
“Spooks, Goblins, Orcs, Ogres – call them what you will,” the gaffer obliged, eagerly recognizing a chance to frighten his listeners. “The Amorosi name them the Boogiti and their legends claim they are men like you and I.”
The crowd erupted, with cries of “It can’t be,” “Never,””the elves are liars,” and similar disputes levied at the story teller.
Alfranco merely laughed them down and when his audience finally begged him to continue, he cautioned, “I’ll not argue with you on this, for I learnt long ago that ya can’t change a man’s mind. But if ya wanna hear my tale then keep yer traps shut. Then decide for yerselves later if my words be true. Now, where was I?”
“You was going to tell us what the goblin people looked like.” Ben Wirtz, the town doctor, reminded his friend.
“Boogiti men are about the size of the Drokka dwarves, but they are horribly mishappen — with short legs, long arms, and melon-like heads that wobble atop their flabby bodies.” Alfranco advised. “I’ve seen ’em with green and black skin or sometimes a mix of both. All have scraggly black hair, ears like a bat, and bulbous noses . They smell worse than the most rotten onion ya ever dug up, but that wuz’ a good thing because it meant they could rarely sneak up on us. Yet rather than wash, they seemt to relish in their ugliness, and their leaders were the most comically ugly of ’em all – usually dressed in burlap sacks that were covered with a smattering of tin and what I assumed to be military trappings of rank.”
“Were they good fighters?” Aldom asked.
“It depends.” Alfranco replied. “In small groups there were cowardly and they only attacked if they had the numbers and felt they could win. In that case they were fearsome indeed — for that’s when the Derkka could overwhelm our ranks with their sheer frenzy. But they could easily be broken and as soon as they doubted themselves they quickly looked for ways to escape the fight.”
“I still don’t understand — why did the goblins attack us in the first place?” Jon asked.
“Why does any war occur?” Alfranco replied. “Power. In this case, maybe the Derkka wanted more Kanenite slaves to plow their fields in Gor? The only place on TerrVerde with a supply of free men is here in the East – that makes us the perfect target.”
“Damn those spooks! May Yahway send ’em all to The Fires!” Neil Belzer shouted out from the back of the crowd, with others raising their glasses as well. (5)
Alfranco held up his hands, “Pipe down, you crazies, remember I told you before, even the Derkka are not all bad.” And before any could object he quoted a passage from The Psalms of Enok – Monthaven’s holy book. “There is none so good that never sins, and none so evil that is all bad. That goes the same for the other races of men as it does for we Enoks. I know y’all don’t believe it but the Derkka are the ancestors of the Kanenites, and so are the Drokka.”
“There’s no way that’s true!” Sally gasped.
“Can you explain that one further, Franki?” Doc Wirtz asked. “It’s hard to fathom goblins and dwarves as being from the race of men, given their strange anatomies.”
“If I’ve told you people once, I’ve ya you a thousand times.” Alfranco sighed. “Oh unbelieving generation, how much longer must I be saddled with you? Remember, unlike we Enoks, the Kanenite people are made up of many tribes. Their path of migration to TerrVerde was different than ours…older than ours. Don’t forget that the Amorosi elves were in these lands long before our Enok ancestors arrived. The elves claim they lived on TerrVerde before the any other men came here – Drokka, Derkka, or Kanenites. And if you can believe it, Amorosi elders told me that the Derkka did not always look like goblins – but alas for them the Derkka worshipped Baal and the Evil One cursed his people into the travesties we see now.”
“Oh that’s horrible!” Sally clutched her husband.
“Be that as it may,” the gaffer continued. “It’s the same for the dwarves – for the Drokka also worship false gods, and all that time spent under the mountains has deformed them as well. Only the Kanenites that settled on our side of the mountains give us a glimpse into their heritage – for they look just like us. And although it’s hard to fathom I’ll tell you this too — did you know the Amorosi claim that all men are descended from a single family that once lived in far away lands across the seas?” (6)
“That’s crazy!” Neil barked. “This loon is off his rocker. Why are we even listening to him?”
The barkeep quickly steered the conversation back on track, protecting his revenue stream. “So Franki, the Kanenites are our allies, right?”
“That’s true.” Alfranco replied. “The Kanenites that live on our side of the mountains have many tribes that our Enok brothers have married in to – although we may not be the best of friends, those men were our allies in the war and they made up the bulk of the army – for they were fighting for their homeland too.”
“I don’t trust any man who’s not an Enok – they’ve all got the stink of Kane’s Sin on them.” Neil grumbled, again trying to incite the crowd.
“You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, boy, so sit back down!” Alfranco felt his dander rising. “The Drokka and the Kanenites repented of Kane’s Sin long ago, and lucky for us because those clans keep the western hordes at bay.”
“Don’t forget the dagger.” Emcorae whispered.
“Ha! My grandson is a smart one, fellas!” Alfranco patted Emcorae on the head. “You’re right, Em, I’m supposed to be telling you about my dagger. But, gee whiz, all this talkin’ sure makes a man thirsty.”
“Aldom.” Jon Middleswarth pulled a coin from his pocket.
“Thanks, Jon.” Once Alfranco had a fresh lager, he continued, “So there they were — the hordes of Gor, fifty thousand strong, had invaded from the North, down through Stax, and all the way to Pennal’s western border! And for us, our forces were split, for more than half of the Drokka had to remain in the mountains to guard the passes, while less than ten thousand Kanenites and only five hundred or so Amorosi were left to fight the in the swamps of Stax. That don’t sound like much of a fair fight, but I guess when you have Nefilum on your side, anything is possible.” (7)
“Oh c’mon, Franki,” the troublesome Neil interrupted again, “You’re back to that legend? Nefilum? You still trying to convince us that the elves are descendants of spirits, and not the ill-fated Kane like the rest of the spooks?”
“Now little Neil Belzer, you listen to me,” Alfranco stood up, wagging a finger at the bigger man, who was also 40 years his junior, “neither you nor your daddy ever was one to believe anything y’a hadn’t seen with your own two eyes, yet we all know you guys ain’t seen much ‘cuz you’re both too ‘fraid to leave this sleepy little town.” And as the crowd chuckled, Alfranco downed the rest of his pint – yes, the one he had just been served, and demanded, “Now how about making yerself useful and buying me another?”
But before Neil had a chance to act, Alfranco one-upped him again, “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction; instead how about a round for the house — on me?”
With that, the Brandonale erupted in cheer, as Alfranco’s wit (and generosity) scored big yet again.
For his part, Neil kept his mouth shut – for the time being.
“Now if you are quite done, I shall proceed.” Alfranco took his seat again. “To answer young Neil’s question: yes The Amorosi are Nefilum – children of spirits called Lumenarcs. They live in the big forests on our side of the mountains – Regalis, Meridia, and of course Arbola near us. Some of you have seen elves before so you know what they look like: they’re tall and lithe, beautiful really. Although they are incredible warriors, they seem to hate war and only fight when forced. The rest of the time they prefer to live in the seclusion of their woods. Ya know I’ve lived with them a few years after the war – that was some of the best years of my life. I’ll never forget their music, their celebrations, and their happiness. Course I always found it strange that they didn’t eat any meat – but I guess when you can talk with animals like the Amorosi, it gives ya a different perspective?” Then getting himself back on track, the old man said, “Y’all should be grateful for Nefilum like the Amorosi, because if not for them, we’d probably all be slaves in Gor. Instead those elves have sent more of Kane’s people to Illusia where they belong than Enok ever did.”
“By Illusia he means Hel.” whispered Jon Romaine to his wife Sally, for his spouse wasn’t as familiar with the tale and didn’t know Alfranco’s penchant for using Amorosi words.
“Even still, when I heard the captains talk about the odds we faced, it didn’t look good – especially knowing that Myzentius was calling the shots on the other side.”
“Myzentius is who Franki calls the evil ‘god’ of war,” Jon quietly explained to Sally.
“Oh, that’s sacrilege!” Sally was aghast – for as anyone in Monthaven knew, there was only ONE god – Yahway – and Saint Enok was his prophet.
“Shhhhh!” Jon silenced his wife, not wanting to miss any of Alfranco’s tale.
“…Myzentius’ plan was good as far as strategy goes,” Alfranco was still speaking, “for he had his generals secretly bring down a massive host of Derkka from the north during the spring, when the mountains were passable and the waters in the bogs of Stax were still thin. The god of war then led his army through Chakor – the only forest in the East which The Amorosi don’t control – and that’s how he brought those evil bastards all the way to Crux — putting them in perfect position to rip Pennal and Mersia in two.”
“It was a maneuver that would have divided our allies from us, right, Alfranco?” asked Ben, playing along with Alfranco’s method of tale telling.
“That’s right, doc,” Emcorae’s grandpap agreed. “And don’t forget, Myzentius still had another trick up his sleeve – for as we later learned, more of the Derk were amassing on the western side of The Rhokii’s and threatening to attack The Drokka there too.”
“And if the plan would have worked,” said Aldom, once more filling Alfranco’s mug, “the entire evil legions could’ve run rampart through the East – sweeping the Enoks off the face of TerrVerde, eh?”
“Too true, my friend, too true,” Alfranco said after taking another gulp. “’Course Myzentius’ plan didn’t work, because The Eastern Allies did get fair warning and we was waiting for them outside Chakor – much to their surprise.”
“But how did we know about Myzentius’ plan?” Hal wondered.
“It was The Azora’s – The Amorosi’s special forces.” The Oldster proudly boasted. “And one warrior in particular – El-Janus, the greatest swordsman who ever lived, and my personal friend…”
- Monthaven was a small town in the far Eastern corner of TerrVerde. Looking at this map, you can barely see Monthaven buried in the forests as it straddles the shores of the Suskil river, to the north of Sylvania and northwest of Primcitta. If you don’t see it on the map, that’s because Monthaven was so entirely unimportant, nobody cares about – including me. As you’ll learn, my oversight of Monthaven was one of the great mistakes of my life.
- Note the date – as I open Part II of this book, I’m taking you back a couple years. The events described in this chapter take place during the 45th Year of the Sixth Age of Substance – that means they were occurring between the events of the Part I chapters called “31 – The Viperz” and “32 – A Slight of Hand.”
- To be clear, I did NOT know Emcorae Azop’s thoughts at the time these events were taking place. The same goes for the rest of the characters in Part II of this book – anything I am relating to you know is all coming straight from knowledge given to me much later by A’H Himself. Since I didn’t live it at the time, I can’t attest to its veracity, but then again I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not wise to question A’H, so I suggest we all just accept this story as true and leave it at that. The alternative is, of course, facing punishment from A’H’s enforcer Michael the Mighty – you saw what Michael did to Lucifer and the rest of us for our past transgressions and, trust me, you don’t want to have any of that happen to you so do yourself a favor and happily accept whatever A’H tells you to believe – life is much easier that way.
- In point of fact, Alfranco never forgot exactly where he was in any of his stories, no matter how liquored up he was; however he often asked that question to be sure he had everybody’s attention. His listeners knew well this little game, yet they happily played along.
- Kanenites was the name given to the descendants of the people of the man Kane who’d migrated to TerrVerde back in what was the Third Age of Substance (approx 3870 BC). Recall that Kane made that journey with his people because my made up god persona Baal had encouraged him to find the”Promised Land” and made a pact to remove Kane’s Mark of Immortality if he was successful. As a result of Baal’s prodding, Kane and two of his three sons (Drok and Derk) left their original homelands in your modern day Middle East. Migrating west, they crossed their main continent (your Asia), traveled over a land bridge in the far north to discover a new continent (TerrVerde) and then eventually made their way south to the land of Gor. Recall that at that point Kane himself went crazy when he discovered, much too late, that my Baal had lied to him about removing his Mark – Kane thus wandered alone into the wilds of a region that would later be called Loco Land. For their part, the peoples of Drok and Derk happily learned that Gor was a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (just like my Baal had promised them), however, as is always the case with humans, some of the people were not satisfied – as a result, a portion of the Drok and Derk clans continued migrating east along the continent of TerrVerde – those that crossed the Rhokki Mountains and eventually settled in the eastern half of TerrVerde eventually called themselves Kanenites (because they developed a religious system around the worship of their patriarch Kane). The remaining clans of the Drok and the Derk initially remained in Gor (because that’s where the Drok enslaved their Derk brothers). After the Drokka hero Ajax helped his people escaped their bondage, the Drokka settled within the Rhokii Mountains, while the Derrka continued to remain in Gor. Meanwhile, Emcorae and the people of Monthaven, were descendants of the mysterious man called Enok – not the forgotten Enok that was the 3rd son of Kane who had remained behind in The Middle East when Kane, Derk, and Drok left, but instead the Enok of Adam’s son’s Zeth’s line. Unbeknownst to me, Zeth’s Enok was ‘pure of soul’ and it was this Enok who apparently secretly rejected my made up Yahway god and instead worshiped a supreme being he knew only as “The One True God” (which I later learned was A’H Himself). Zeth’s Enok was also in communication with my hated rival Mannah (that Son of God persona whose resurrected himself in your world and caused me more troubles than I can count). It was Zeth’s Enok who also migrated to TerrVerde – although he led his people via an eastern path across the Aravan Ocean and arrived about 700 years after Kane’s people. Enok himself then returned to his old home and went on to have other heavenly adventures. Meanwhile, with the Kanenites already firmly ensconced in Eastern TerrVerde, many of the clans that Enok had settled in TerrVerde mixed with the Kanenites and were absorbed into their ranks – sharing cultures and religions. (Although while the Enoks worshipped A’H as their One True God, those who mixed with the Kanenites later accepted my made up persona god Yahway as synonymous with A’H – thus placing the latter under my control). Meanwhile, a select few of the original Enok peoples didn’t mix their blood and it was from these small clans that the people of Monthaven (including Alfranco and Emcorae) had descended. For pureblood Enoks, ALL the descendants of Kane were referred to as Kanenites, which for Enoks was synonymous with Others.
- As you can see, Alfranco Azop was not only a good storyteller but he was well versed in the truth too. As to whether he acquired this knowledge from the Amorosi Elders like he claimed, or whether it was from another source, I never knew, but given his relationship with a fellow godling, I had my doubts about things. MEANWHILE, you might be amused that cliche characters such as goblins, dwarves, and elves have entered this tale – yet let me remind you, these ‘stuff of legend’ archtypes are cliche because they are true, and the tale I am telling you is the very start of that cliche.
- Nefilum was the term which the men of TerrVerde used as a catch-all for the non-human humanoids of the time. Nefilum roughly translating to “Men of Renown” in your modern day language. This included the Amorosi, Centuars, and the little Sprites – although the latter two were only the stuff of legends for the little-travelled people of Monthaven.