The Beginning of Royan
January 13, 2012
I am an atheist, and I’ll not apologize for it. However, I’m also a writer and as a fan of good writing there’s a dearth of good atheist High Fantasy. There’s some high fantasy where gods and religion are never mentioned but I wanted something with teeth.
So I started working on Royan, a high fantasy world where they killed their own gods because of the danger the gods posed. Here’s the first part of my (admittedly flame-baiting) story.
Kaidar blew a ring of smoke as he surveyed the battle before him. Blood, thick as wine, dripped from the edge of his axe and the acrid smell of burning pitch filled his nose. A green spread over his features as he followed the line of decimation, showing where the warriors of Orkriss have pounded down their human neighbors.
He placed his cigar back between his teeth and mounted his war-buck, a massive horned beast designed to plow through the grunts before him, and rejoined the battle. Horns, brass and tin, rang out as the humans, The Severate Churches, redoubled their efforts against the Orcs and their Chief, Orkriss. Their God, however, did not give them the skill to stand before the onslaught of professional, experienced warriors. Axes and heavy blades flashed in overhead and underswept arcs, throwing chunks of man and metal into the air. Kaidar grinned and bellowed out a war-cry, rallying his fellows to push deeper into their lines.
Sevarai, the capital, was in their sight. Soon, the plague shall be washed from the beaches of history and all shall be as it should be.
“I do not know why they drove us to this, Kaidar. Nor do I feel comfortable with the glory and lust that our brethren inspire when descending upon them. I know that combat is a joy to our kind, that war is a skill we hone well, but to see such naked aggression it is…disheartening. Are we but monsters to be put to the blade before our anger wells up and pushes us to atrocity?” Orkriss set down his heavy double-edged sword, setting it on a cleaning stand on his desk, then brought out a bowl of scented water and oils with a long towel.
Kaidar, his lieutenant, swung a chair in front of his desk and sat down with indignity, though with respect. He chewed a cigar for several long moments before exhaling a cloud of smoke, “It is not our way to be peaceful, yes, when we’re called to action. However, we have given them every opportunity to be civil. Do we not have peace accords with the Fae races? Do we not find peace with Undertown and the Dark Anvil Brotherhood? It is only the crush of these humans, their insufferable anger brought by their God that causes us to march to true war, the first war in centuries. Truly, we are saved by the luck that their firearms no longer work. Even our greatest alchemists cannot discern the nature of the enchantments woven in them, some kind of mechanical magic from the Human’s other-place.”
Orkriss sighed and placed the towel into the bowl, “This is not a time for tactical discussion, Kaidar, I am curious on if we go to far. If we are too quick to anger, too quick to bloodlust.”
Kaidar smiled again and slapped his friend’s shoulder, “We would not have elected you Chief, Orkriss, were you not our voice of reason. For this alone I stand at your side and take your order. I may be quick to anger, all my blood and mind may be quick to anger, but you are our guiding voice. You maintain reason and focus through the haze of battle. We are your tool, you are our mind.”
Orkriss nodded slowly, “I only hope your trust is well placed. At times I understand what stress causes these humans to invent delusions of men outside of time who listen to their problems.” A grin crept over Orkriss’ face, “However, that only means they lack the strength of character to struggle and succeed on their own. We need no sky-man to lead us to victory. Truly, their faith is a duplicitous beast. Extolling the weak and hammering the strong. And yet, they do not even protect their weak, instead calling it ‘will of the lord’, whatever that’s supposed to mean. No matter. Tomorrow we march on their stronghold, tomorrow we find how they come from their other-place. Tomorrow, victory.”
The sun shone weak over the battlefield the next morning. The humans huddled together against the coming cold, the bleak light of the sun shining off of their cobbled together armor and swords, made of pounded high-carbon steel weapons that they had brought with them from their other-place. In the center of each collective of men and women stood a preacher, a man in black clutching a bible like a shield. They prayed for victory, they prayed for simple survival.
Orkriss was certain they were to have neither. Standing upon a hill overlooking the small valley of Turesh’Khanan, the ravine where the walkway to the other-place was, he signaled his archers. Eyes bound to See Beyond, they raised their longbows and took their targets. With a soft grunt from their Chief, four-foot arrows spread out over the valley like silent bolts of thunder. With screams sounding from the valley, Orkriss watched as each of those priests exploded in blood, gore, and thunder. The arrows had done their job.
With grim determination, war-bucks descended into the valley. No screams, no war-cries, no blood lust. The Orcs rode in and offered surrender first if the humans laid down their arms and fell to their knees. Those that didn’t were reaped, torn from where they stand by the great weight of the Orcish battleblade. Within the space of an hour, it was over, with only one man and one woman left. Both had fallen to their knees, and both were crying about having forsaken their god.
They were brought before Orkriss and he offered them peace if they renounced their ways of warfare. If they renounced their god. Both wept before him and said they had forsaken their god already. They were made members of the community, given a place to live and work. Shown the sciences of Alchemy and Evocation. They were given homes and made whole.
Three months after the end of the war, Orkriss went to check on Alan and Jean, asking them how they felt. If they were comfortable. They talked long into the night, about religion, about philosophy, about the orcs, the humans, and the other-place. He taught them Kre’desh, the tongue of the Orcs, and explained how it was different from Urdo, their language that they called English. He told them of the ancient histories, of the fall of the gods as science showed that there was no influence. He traced for them the shape of the universe and explained why his people had never left their planet, the lines of power did not permit them to travel beyond their own sun, unable to power their ships with the lines of force that make their sciences possible. They told him of their sciences and their god, the limitations of both. They told him of the other-place, the place they call Earth. They told him of the Last War, where the People who followed their god triumphed over those that didn’t, and the horrors made in their god’s name. Orkriss cried hearing this and, in anger, forbid them from speaking of their god again.
After that, Orkriss went back to his tent and summoned his wizard and his alchemist, he told them to go to the ravine and to study the walkway to the other-place, to Earth, and come to know it. In time, he told them, demons in the shape of men and women would come back, bearing a creed that allowed them to set children to the torch and crush whole civilizations with impunity. God, he told them, was a toxin to the mind of the living, and he would not permit it to come through again.
“Ask first,” he said, “what their intentions are. Should they seek to spread the word of their ‘god’, destroy them. Immediately and without consideration. I am curious of these Earth peoples but I shall not see the spread of this poison into the weakened minds of our people. To know god is to know war, know death, know pain and suffering. To revel in these things as part of some insidious plan of self-destruction. The world of Royan does not need this, the peoples of the Orcish Lands do not need this, the people of Earth did not need this. The virus stops here, and we are its wardens.” And this is why the Orcs ride our hills to this day.