The War Companion
The War changed every life in the Known World. It was fought in corn fields and in forests. In city streets and even underground. Members of every race fought and died in armies greater than the world had ever seen before. And the world has never been the same since.
Scholar and historian Donnington True spent his entire life researching the events and lives that brought the world to war. His book, The History of the War of the Kingdoms, is the inspiration for this documentary.
We will learn the beginnings of The War. Listen to the testimonies of those who lived to tell firsthand what happened at the Synven Forest Massacre and the Battle of Knot Creek. About the rise of the High Lord Protector and his eventual assassination. And the tragic second Battle of Everwood.
The stories are told from the pages of diaries and journals. Real men, elves, dwarves and orks who lived through the three year apocalypse that we have all come to call "The War."
The Reign of Men
And this is the Reign of Men. When all are king. Not subject to any gods or tyrants, men choose their own destinies. Free to wreck or ruin our own lives or to lift ourselves up from the muck and sing songs that no voice has ever sung.
And this is the Reign of Men. We are free. And so shall we always be.
Men have always been here. They are the Old Race. Newcomers—such as the elves, haffuns and uvandir—bring with them their strange ways and gods, but men and their Kingdom have always been here. From the first fires of creation to the moment when the heat of those flames die, men will be here. First to step from the fire, last to walk into the darkness.
The word “Kingdom” is accurate, and yet, misleading: a term the New Races use when speaking of humanity. While men do have a King, their own word best translates as “reign” or “rule.” Not the Kingdom, but the Reign of Men.
Established by a line of warlords in the earliest days, the Reign of Men has transformed itself many times. Once a tyranny, now something very different. Five centuries ago, the Kingdom of Men suffered a plague of philosophers, all asking questions of liberty and social duty. The movement transformed the Kingdom and inspired a young and newly-crowned king—Mantias Colevale—to change the way men were ruled. Some called him “the Philosopher-King,” and others ridiculed as “the King of Mans.” But the laws Colevale passed forever changed the direction of the Kingdom, creating something the world had never seen before.
Now, to be human is to be part of something larger. A citizen of a self-deciding government, each man has liberty and responsibility. He has what the philosophers called courage: the ability to recognize you are not the most important thing in the world. As such, men do not serve themselves: they serve the Reign. While human achievement is always self-satisfying, satisfaction is not the end goal. “What betters the Reign?” is the prime question. The King serves the Reign. His magistrates serve the Reign. The citizens serve the Reign. And the Reign provides them freedom to pursue happiness.
At least, that is what was true. These days, the bones of the Kingdom are old and beginning to brittle. The blood is thin. And where the word courage was once shouted from the rooftops, it is now a chorus in a song: repeated over and over again from habit. True, there are those who still remember the passion of the philosophers and their transformative magic, but those days are long gone. The selfish reward themselves while the needy suffer with naught. Temples of foreign gods are on every street corner, their luring voices calling to the weak. And the King sits on the throne a bitter and broken man. Where is the courage of men? Where is the glory of the Reign?
Not all is lost. The courage of men remains, although it may be asleep in their hearts. There are those who carry it still. Those who inspire others through their deeds. Stories spread of young men and woman whose actions may yet ignite the quiescent fire. Even now, word of their deeds are told throughout the Kingdom through by voice and printer’s ink. Some even speak of a second Reign when men will rise up as they did before.
Rise up and take hold of their own destiny. Rise up and claim what is theirs. Rise up and Reign.
The Elevation of Men
“If we only contemplate on what we are, we will never see what we may become.”
— Valir Severin, The Philosophies
Humans are bound not by a common faith, but by a common philosophy: that all men may become more than they are through rigorous training, insight and learning. The Kingdom of Men builds schools and universities to bring this insight to all men and women.
While other races seek insight and power from external entities, humanity looks for power from within. Will, self-determination and dignity are the virtues of men and these virtues provide men with powers the other races can only describe as “magical.” But men would claim these abilities are the exact opposite of magic; instead, the abilities taught to children in human schools and universities are only tapping into latent power within the human spirit.
Instead of temples, men have universities. Each town and village has at least one building dedicated to knowledge and learning; a place where men go to cure their curiosity.
Instead of priests, men have philosophers (sometimes called “travelers” or “seekers”). These scholars bring books with them wherever they go, teaching and learning both, bravely baring the fragile light of knowledge to a dark and haunted world. These philosophers are not simply book-bound clerics, but men and women trained to find and fight wickedness and evil, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. They can be found everywhere in the Reign of Men, armed not only with knowledge, but also with armor, shield and sword.
In these dark days, many men fall away from the path of philosophy and take up the faiths of enemy gods. As it turns out, some of the most fanatical and devoted of any god’s followers turn out to be human.
Look in the temples of the elven or dwarven gods. You will find humans there, chanting prayers. Most of their human cousins upon these apostates sadly, seeing them as misguided fools, but more than a few even look upon them with a deep hatred, seeing them as traitors to their own race.
When the other races speak of humans, instead of “human will,” they often invoke “human ego.” Instead of “human pride,” they talk about “human overconfidence.” It is no secret humans are a proud race, but that pride can get the best of them from time to time. Tales of humans rushing into danger with no thought to their own safety or well being. Courage or hubris? It is hard to decide.
Elves: The Fallen Ones
Man’s first encounter with the elves was the source of what historians would later call “the Great Forest Wars.” Lumber was essential to building the Kingdom of Men and when they reached the deep forests of the world, they found the elves waiting for them. The Wars lasted an entire generation but eventually ended with the elves seeking peace. They gave no mention as to why, but one hundred years later, their secret was out.
The elves were losing their souls.
Birth of the Great Trees
When the uvandir broke through the soil, bringing with them their strange magic and strange gods, they transformed the world forever. One change that was no immediately noticed by men was the birth of the Great Trees. These immense timbers reached up higher than any mundane tree, covering the sky with limbs and leaves, plunging the deep forests into darkness. And for a reason no human scholar can determine, the Great Trees had souls. Guardian spirits. How unfortunate mankind’s first encounter with these spirits was during lumber expeditions.
The Great Forest Wars lasted for nearly a generation and ended with the elves suing for peace. Mankind had nearly killed all of the Great Trees with fire, axe and saw. But King Aseph was a wise man and he recognized the need for peace. The elves retreated back into the deep woods and men expected to never see them again.
But this was not the case. Hundred of elves came to the borders of the Reign of Men seeking asylum. These wandering spirits, the fallen elves, had lost their Trees during the Forest Wars. Their Trees were dead, but they survived, clinging to life as it fled from them. They were tall and beautiful and elegant… and dying. Disconnected from the source of their live, the lost elves were like ghosts trapped in a dying prison. Knowing their own demise, most fell to utter despair.
Opportunistic men captured them and put them to work in brothels and dens of inequity. Others wasted their lives in taverns drinking until they died. But a few—a very few—recognized the opportunity they had. To live a brief life full of experience, joy and wonder.
Fallen elves die when their time is up: gorgeous, ethereal, wise and clever beyond their years, going to the grave like children robbed of their potential. For a single generation, they lived among men. And, by the time that generation grew to adulthood, the fallen elves were gone. Ghosts of the Great Forest War, it was if they never were.
But that was not the last men heard of the elves.
The Dance of the Fallen
Whenever a True Tree dies, it leaves its guardian spirit alone in the world. The spirit dies quickly thereafter, but in the time it has left, the elf has the opportunity to live a life of celebration and song. Or, a life of pitiless despair. Or, a combination of both. Most elves seek any experience they can find. They seek out a lover who will break their heart so they may feel the longing of desire, the passion of love and the desolation of heartbreak. They join an army so they may feel the terror of warfare and the bond of camaraderie. They seek fortune and then throw it away. They drink and make merry, then suffer the next day. An elf seeks all experiences so he may die with a head and heart full of life.
Over the years, men have learned much about the elves. One unfortunate truth—for the elves, at least—that has come to human attention is the relationship between elves and iron.
Here’s a familiar story. An elf strays from the forest. He has heard stories of these men and wants to get a good look at them up close. He comes to the local city—where his bare feet cannot feel the earth below for the cobblestones—and he is surrounded by scents and sights that blind his eyes and capture his heart. These men are alive! He stops in a tavern and has his first drink of wine or mead or some other sweet thing. He eats meat. The smell of fresh baked bread. The kiss of a beautiful girl. Her skin under his fingertips. She lures him upstairs and with his head full of wine and his belly full of food, he follows her.
And in the morning he wakes with an iron band around his ankle. He cannot leave. He belongs to the men who bound him. A beautiful male elf. How many noble women would pay well for a night with a beautiful male elf? How many noble men? And what would they pay? What would they pay?
Iron does not cause elves discomfort. A weapon made of iron will not cause a deeper injury. Nothing so mundane as that. Iron binds an elf to you. Makes him yours. Yours to do with as you wish.
Once the iron band is on his ankle or wrist or about his neck, the elf loses connection with his Tree. Both he and the Tree begin to die. As if his Tree were already dead. How many elves have been captured thus? How many men have gone into the Deep Forests armed with torches, swords and iron bands?
Many. Far too many.
You would think the elves would declare war upon the men again for such atrocities… but they have not. They know better. They remember the days of the axe and fire. They know the men are too many. And the decadent days of the Reign of Men means the King will do nothing to help them. Those who are captured are dead as are their Trees. And even with their number dwindling, the elves have no choice but to stay in the forests and wait. Wait for the day when men will come with their iron and make slaves of them all.
Never call them “dwarves.”
That’s one sure way to get yourself killed. Maimed, at least. That’s a human word and dwarves—I mean, “oo-van-deer”—do not like that word. I’ve worked with many oo-van-dir and I can tell you what they would say. “’Pride’ is a tiny, little fragile human word and too small to describe van-dir-too-val-din-shan.”
Yeah, I had to learn that word the hard way. Had a dwarf hold me down and slap me across the face every time I said it wrong until I finally said it right. And let me tell you: they’ve got damn hard hands.
— Luca Adrente, street thief
One word in the uvandir tongue is key to understanding the relationship between us and them. “Oo-man” is the uvandir word for “pig.” Soft, fat, pink and stupid.
—Adrotus Valus, human scholar
Why did the haffuns go to meet humanity first? To sweeten us up for the uvandir.
If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. They stand almost as tall as a human child. Just up to your waist. They have big, thick beards and eyes as wide as saucers. They’re almost as wide as they are tall. And their hands… hands big enough to hold your head. Hands that can squeeze stone until it shatters. Just one of them is strong enough to lift three men on his shoulders and carry them ten miles before breaking a sweat.
But they always smell like work. No matter how much you wash them, no matter how you perfume them, no matter what oils and soaps you use, an uvandir always smells like work.
Like their haffun cousins, the uvandir have found a place in human society. A curmudgeonly place. The haffuns brought service, the gnomes brought their gardens and the dwarves brought invention and innovation. Their skills with mechanics and mathematics amazed human scholars, leaping human knowledge ahead by generations. Of course, the dwarves did not give up such knowledge easily. While there are human clockmakers in the cities, none can deny the craftsmanship and artistry of a dwarven—I mean, uvandir—masterpiece.
It was this innovation that brought the underfolk to humanity in the first place and without the uvandir, they would have never escaped. The cunning of dwarven mining opened up veins of iron, gold and other metals that humanity never dreamed existed. Metalworking unknown to humans. Craftsmanship unknown to humans. Skills undreamed of by humans.
The uvandir never miss an opportunity to remind humans of this.
This word has many meanings and cannot be completely translated into the human tongue. The best attempt was made by the scholar Adrotus Valus: “We do not rest.” (Apparently, this got him kicked in the knee; the slightest injury a human has ever received from a dwarf while attempting to translate their language.)
The uvandir do not sleep. They do not eat. They do not drink. They work. They always work. Always making, always crafting, always always always. Uvandir do not get bored. In fact, it has been noted that uvandir who are kept from keeping their hands busy complain even more than usual. Almost as if a secret pain inflicts their blood.
But vandirtuvaldinshan means more than just a need for work. It is, for lack of a better word, a kind of racial pride. The uvandir know they are better than men. They know they are better than haffuns. They know they are better than any of the races. This, they know. They are stronger. They are more clever. They are masters of art and craftsmanship. They are better. And they don’t tolerate being told otherwise.
Let a man make a better clock. Let him try.
Let a man tell a better story. Let him try.
Let a man dig as we have dug. Let him try.
Let a man walk until he drops. Let us see how far he goes.
It isn’t a matter of belief. For the uvandir, it is a matter of plain fact.
Uvandir do not rest because they need no rest. Let that be said of men.
Sidebar: The Uvandir and Beer
And about that drinking part… well, let’s just say they didn’t drink until they encountered humanity. For some reason or another, it seems the uvandir have an overwhelmingly powerful aching in their bellies for beer.
They love beer. They drink it and drink it and drink it. Unfortunately, their anatomy has no means of disposing of it, so often, it comes back up the way it went down. Not a very pretty sight, but most tavern owners and innkeepers have converted large spittoons and other vessels for “uvandir drinking binges.”
At the same time, uvandir recognize virtue in others—even other races. While no other race is equal to the uvandir, sometimes a fratha (non-uvandir) earns the right to be called “friend.”
The uvandir word is vandra.
A vandra is not only someone who demonstrates remarkable virtue but also shows a respect for uvandir superiority. Uvandir show vandra a modicum of respect, even going as far as protecting him if necessary.
You are not uvandir, but you are also no longer fratha.
The Last of Their Kind
One thing humans noticed after a few months with the uvandir was a curious fact: there were no women. Not one. Of course, no human would dare to ask an uvandir about it—for fear of getting his hair ripped out and shoved down his throat—but no female uvandir has ever been seen by human eyes.
This is because there is no such thing as a female uvandir.
The uvandir are what they are. They are not male, they are not female. They are uvandir. They are androgynous. They have no sexual reproductive ability whatsoever. The very idea of “male” and “female” confuses them. They are uvandir. That is what they are.
Unfortunately, this also means the uvandir cannot reproduce. All the uvandir are all the uvandir. There will never be another. This means each uvandir that dies brings them closer to extinction.
Also, uvandir do not seem to age. The only distinction a human can make about an uvandir’s age is his beard. The longer the beard, the older the uvandir. It could be that uvandir never die of old age… but no human could ever confirm that.
Digging for Their God
The uvandir love to tell stories. They will go on and on and on about any given topic, throwing in seemingly irrelevant details… until the story ends and all of it makes a kind of strange sense. But one story the uvandir tell, they only tell to themselves. Themselves and those who are found worthy to hear it, that is.
Back when the world was very young, you see, the Sky and the Earth were brother and sister. (Adrotus Valus has pointed out that the “brother and sister” relationship is odd for an uvandir story, considering their complete lack of gender.) They loved each other more than any brother and sister in all the world. At night, Sister Sky danced for him with all her children: the many, many lights of the night sky.
But Father Sun did not approve of their love and he separated Sister Sky and Brother Earth from each other. He put her high above the clouds and the blue curtain of the world where she could not see her Brother. He banished Brother Earth deep within the soil where he could not see his Sister.
And then, to further punish Sister Sky, he set her to dance forever. For if she ever ceased dancing, all her children—the Lights of the Sky—would fall to their deaths to the world below. Sister Sky started dancing. She danced and danced and danced. But soon, her legs grew weak and she fell. And when she fell, her children began falling from the Heavens. And she wept to see it: all her beautiful children plummeting to their doom.
When Brother Earth heard her weeping and saw her children falling, he went to his great Forge. He took a jewel of each color and created Him an arc to hold across his shoulders. And then, he lifted the Arc on his shoulders—his Arc of Lights—and held up the Heavens so they would not fall down upon the world.
And that is why when the Sky weeps, Brother Earth puts up his great Arc of Lights. He holds up the Heavens so she may rest for a little while before she must begin her dance again.
And once in a great while, Sister Sky sends one of her children down to the world. It smashes into the soil and seeks out Father Earth. And he takes the child into his hands—still hot from the Heavens, but nothing may burn his hands—and he puts it upon his Forge. And there, he hammers out a child of his own. Forged from the Sky and Earth. Uvandir.
The uvandir dig. They create great mines the world has never seen. And they dig for a purpose.
Not for gold or jewels or gemstones.
They are digging to find lost brothers. They are digging to find their god.
All Content © John Wick 2011