Under Aelain Tara=
Most historians consider 4E 25 the birth of the Gar’leth Tribal zu'aan as most know them. It was during this year that Aelain officially took up her inherited role of chieftess (passed down to her from Prince Duhain, who had died the year before). However, rather than simply lead the Zypronians, she opted for a grander scheme, aiming to unite the tribes of the Snowy Beach. An initial proposal of confederation was rejected by most of the clans, resulting in the Unification Wars (4E 25-29). The conflict pitted the newly crowned ‘Queen of the Gar’leth’ and her 300-man Legion against no less than 15 tribes totaling approximately 2,250 able-bodied warriors. Though drastically outnumbered, the Gar’leth Legion was suitably better trained, and with Aelain’s leadership were able to isolate and destroy the tribal armies in piecemeal before they could unite. Devoid of an effective military force, defeated tribes were forced to surrender and assimilate into the Gar’leth.
For five years after, the Gar’leth would direct their attention to Varaat’s growing kin'toni threat. The fearsome kin'toni, Uron Drak, had turned many of the central region’s tribes and began to harass those on the Snowy Beach
The Calm Before the Storm: Reign of Haldain the Just
Upon the death of their founder, the Gar’leth swore fealty to her oldest child and heir, King Haldain Tara. His 27-year rule would be among the most peaceful known to the tribe. During these years, much effort was undertaken to improve the stability, safety and economy of Lakon and the Snowy Beach. Before the tribe could settle, however, Drak’s scattered kin'toni horde had to be dealt with. As his first proclamation, King Haldain ordered the Legion back to Mount Gar. There, he set them to scouring every inch of the central region in a year-long campaign that would become known as the ‘Bleeding Year’. From 4E 65-66, all 300 legionnaires set out across cliffs, forests of ice pillars, pressure ridges and cave networks to hunt down the remaining kin'toni.
As many as 400 beasts were slain in the 67 minor skirmishes fought; Legion casualties were drastically lower, with official sources stating a mere 30, though this is likely embellished. Wagons full of kin'toni heads were retrieved and shipped to Lakon to be mounted upon the palisade.
“Even the cold could do little to abate the stench. Not that many cared. Men and women alike gathered at the foot of the great wall to marvel at the bloody sight. Row upon row of rotting heads lined the wooden ramparts, monstrous eyes open, forever halted in the fear they undoubtedly felt before the Legion cut them down. It was a proud day for all of Lakon. would hear a proud father gloat to his neighbor whilst pointing up at the collection.
‘That one there,’ they would say. ‘My son killed that one.’
How they knew such a claim to be true, I do not know. But those around them only nodded in admiration…” -From the Journals of Tabjorn Rulfsson, Dated 4E 66
Years of persistent campaigning had drastically lowered the male population of the Snowy Beach. While a constant recruitment drive kept Legion numbers stable, it also drained the Gar’leth’s manpower at an alarming rate. In 4E 69, King Haldain declared a tribe-wide cessation of hostilities in order to cultivate a new generation. While he did not wish to force marriage upon his people, he publicly encouraged it, even enacting a series of marital benefits to legionnaires who took a wife. These proclamations, known as the ‘King’s Blessings’, awarded soldiers a slight increase to their pay for the purpose of ‘maintaining an adequate home for wife and child’. Their implementation was an immediate success, and in the following year of 4E 70, a record number of weddings were held in Lakon.
4E 70-80 saw the tribe expand up the Jorungund River. A growing populace had quickly occupied the entirety of Duhain’s Bay, leaving little space for much needed agriculture. Under orders from the High Council (It is recorded that King Haldain had fallen ill), the Gar’leth demolished Lakon’s old palisade and began constructing a new one farther from the river mouth. During its building, the site would come under attack by still more kin'toni of Uron Drak’s shattered horde. One such incursion in 4E 75 led to the partially completed wall’s destruction and the occupation of the area by the kin'toni. A swift counterattack headed by Prince Edain forced the beasts to retreat, however. And an increased Legion presence thwarted any further assaults until the new palisade was completed by 4E 76.
Haldain Tara would launch numerous sea-borne expeditions serving an observational purpose. Whilst the palisade was being raised, he commanded his nephew Prince Sarhain to oversee the building of a sturdy fleet of canoes. The armada began construction in 4E 73 and was duly finished late in the same year. These boats, measuring 20 feet in length, became a normal sight along Varaat’s coastline for many decades. Most famous of all was Prince Sarhain’s Ice Maiden, a 30 foot vessel that traversed much of the Northern Province’s coast. It would later become the foundation for the prince’s galley bearing the exact name, a ship that charted unknown waters and earned Aelain Tara’s grandson the moniker of Sarhain the Seafarer.
The Eight-Year Strife
In 4E 92, King Haldain passed quietly in his sleep. Though official Gar’leth records indicate his cause of death to be cardiac related, it is widely speculated that poison hastened the king’s demise.
“It would be difficult for an outsider, after having met the noble King Haldain, to believe anyone but a kin'toni could have held him in contempt. But with Uron Drak long-dead, which cunning monster possessed the ability to pierce the heart of Lakon and strike at its sovereign? If the fishwives are to be believed, this cruel killer was no beast at all. It is often said that poison is a woman’s weapon. And there was not a fair creature more knowledgeable in toxins than Sighelda Gornwulfsdotter, the healer’s child, wife of Prince Edain, who became ever more bitter the longer her father-in-law lived to deny her the title of queen…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Edain was hailed as king following Haldain’s death. However, trouble commenced mere hours after his coronation. Prince Sarhain rowed into Duhain’s Bay bearing news of hostile zu'aan tribes residing on the eastern edge of Varaat. Eager to see his grandmother's dream of a united Varaat fulfilled, the new king set out east using the Gar’leth fleet, accompanied by the Legion’s IIIrd wing. Upon arrival, they were immediately beset by murderous tribesmen. The ambush would become to be known as the Battle of the Red Shore, and proved to be disastrous for the Gar’leth despite their victory. Around half of the IIIrd wing succumbed to the initial onslaught of arrows that assailed them as they disembarked. The remainder, quickly rallied by King Edain, managed to drive their attackers off by assaulting the surrounding hills. An immediate withdrawal to Lakon was ordered shortly after.
The retreat proved to be equally harrowing. Rowing away, Edain was shocked to see the eastern tribals pursue him in a fleet of their own. The crippled IIIrd wing would be harassed for a significant duration of the withdrawal, constantly in the enemy’s bow range. Casualties mounted as a result, with the dead growing to include two sons of Naila Tara, Prince Gawain and Odain, and Edain’s brother, Prince Duhain. The king himself was nearly captured when the easterners managed to close distance with his vessel. It was only the bravery of Sarhain the Seafarer that he escaped. The last-living son of Princess Naila fearlessly rammed his canoe into the would-be abducters’, boarding them and slaying many with his own blade. Edain safely withdrew onboard the Ice Maiden, eager to make it back to Lakon.
But at home things had also taken a turn for the worse. Never popular amongst the Gar’leth even before Edain’s ascension, Queen Sighelda found herself under the tribe’s ruthless scrutiny. Many believed the royal consort to have been the harbinger of beloved King Haldain’s death. And with Edain Tara away, rumors began brewing.
“Though scholars unanimously agree that the slurs directed Sighelda Gornwulflsdotter were little more than gossip, it is important to note their contents as well as consequences. Like any good court rumours, most of these verbal attacks were directed at the queen-consort’s fidelity. Tribesmen whispered that Sigehelda was an unfaithful harlot, having been involved in an affair with an unnamed chieftain. Others claim a more familial scandal, that the queen was abed with none other than Prince Sarhain, or even more scandalously, the king’s own sister, Princess Falain. Some took this a step further, going so far as to say that none of Edain’s three children were his own (though a quick glance at their white hair and green eyes would dispel this).
The most prominent hearsay, however, were the beliefs encompassing Sighelda’s loyalty to the tribe. Her staunchest enemies labelled her a traitress in secret. An ambitious adventurer who sought to usurp her husband’s throne. A kin'toni spy with sycophantic ties to a cult said to revere Uron Drak…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Late 4E 92 would see tensions reach a boiling point. Spurred on by their vehemence toward the queen-consort, the zu'aan of Lakon amassed to surround the royal lodge. They demanded that Sighelda face justice for her perceived disloyalty and that she be taken into captivity until Edain returned. Furious, the queen refused. She ordered the Tara Praetorian Guard to disperse the dissenters, using lethal force if necessary. But even against the heavily armed royal guardians the crows refused to back down. The ensuing massacre stands as one of the blackest days in Gar’leth history. Reinforced by the Legion’s Ist wing, the praetorians cut down hundreds of protesting tribesmen. Many innocents were even pursued to their homes, where they and their families were met by sword point. Countless others fell into Legion custody and were thrown into military dungeons.
The queen’s work did not halt there. Claiming that a greater conspiracy was at play, she ordered the immediate seizure of the High Council and her husband’s siblings, including her rumoured lover, Princess Falain. She held them under house arrest for two days before announcing a private trial. Safely within the council lodge, Sighelda then tried each individual. Every member of the Gar’leth High Council, save the Legion’s legates, were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. The queen’s in-laws suffered similar sentences. But it would only be the boisterous Falain Tara who would be strung from the gallows, where she supposedly made an infamous proclamation:
Bed her!? Of course I bedded her! You should have seen the three us! That’s right, the three of us! The queen, the king and myself!” -Princess Falain Tara, 4E 92
The legitimacy of this statement is dubious at best, being brought to light a decade after the incident. Falain’s execution nonetheless sparked outrage throughout Lakon. As the youngest grandchild of Aelain Tara, she had gained the popular love of the Gar’leth, who once again marched against Sighelda. Even the Ist wing doubted her, standing idly by and allowing the protesters to approach the royal lodgings. Yet the queen would avoid bloodshed. She emerged from the Tara household and declared that open hostility meant the immediate execution of Edain’s other ‘traitor’ siblings. Not wishing to see more of Aelain Tara’s blood spilled, the crowd melted away.
When King Edain finally returned to the Snowy Beach in 4E 93, he was greeted by a grim sight. The bodies of his High Council decorated Duhain’s Bay, stripped naked and hanging from wooden poles (Princess Falain’s corpse was immediately removed and buried following her execution). The first to greet him were Lakon’s fishermen, who swarmed the docked Ice Maiden and related to all present what had transpired. An angered Edain marched over to the royal lodge with Sarhain and the IIIrd wing’s survivors. There they were met by the praetorians, who wasted little time in submitting to the sovereign's orders. Queen Sighelda was taken into custody, and Edain’s siblings freed. The king had Prince Sarhain subsequently purge the ranks of the Ist wing and.
All 100 men, including their Legate, Serva Godensdotter, were executed personally by the Seafarer for the harm inflicted on Lakon’s people. The praetorian’s received a lighter sentence on the grounds that they were simply ‘exercising their unwavering loyalty to those who occupied the throne’ (Halawin Slor, 4E 215). A new High Council was quickly brought together for the trial of Queen Sighelda. It was held out in the public, on the shores of Duhain’s Bay where makeshift galleries had been constructed. The accusations leveled at the royal consort were those of treason and murder (it is interesting to note that adultery was absent). Sighelda defended herself with pleas to the king, claiming that she thwarted a plot devised by his siblings to overthrow him, and that she only acted to protect their children.
Scant proof existed of such a coup, however. In the end, the queen was damned by her own son, young Prince Duhain, who testified against his mother. A furious Edain promptly condemned Sighelda to death, contrasting the High Council’s suggestion that the queen be exiled. She was later beheaded by Prince Sarhain. Her body was either buried with the Tara family or, as some have it, tethered to stones and hurled into the sea by the maddened king in revenge for his ‘beloved’ sister. Edain Tara never remarried. From 4E 93-95, the Gar’leth experienced a bloody spike in their history. The eastern tribes of Varaat proved to be more hostile than initially expected. In these two years they would launch numerous seaborne raids on the Snowy Beach, picking off Legion patrols and hunting bands.
Edain ordered an immediate counter stroke against the raiders. He mobilized the Gar’leth Legion, assigning each wing a flank along western Varaat; the Ist took up the central region, the IInd the north and the IIIrd the south. Prince Sarhain was given command of Lakon’s fleet in order to effectively strike at the easterner’s swift canoes. The Seafarer found much success combating the tribe’s enemies. Leading the Gar’leth armada from the Ice Maiden, he scored a number of victories, swiftly crippling the eastern clans’ direct supply route. The most famous engagement of this period came at the Battle of Deyandra Gorge, where Sarhain surrounded and destroyed over thirty canoes after being ambushed.
The Gar’leth Legion, however, could not replicate the success of their marine counterparts. With his cousin obliterating their fastest means of escape, the king expected the raiders on land to surrender. However, Edain and his Legates found themselves mired by frustrating hit-and-run tactics employed by their foes on soil known better to them. Varaat’s eastern tribes often struck at a distance, using the natural cliffs, forests and hills for cover. When the legionnaires finally drew close, they would find the clansmen gone. So effective the eastern tribals were at guerilla warfare that on multiple occasions Lakon itself was harried by passing arrow volleys. And fears only grew when in 4E 94, Legate Forg Trygsson of the Ist Wing fell to a raid that very nearly saw King Edain’s death as well.
Once more, it would be Prince Sarhain who played hero. With approval from Edain, the Seafarer undertook the long journey from west to east (aided by the implementation of sails. and turning the Gar’leth canoes into galleys). There he scoured the coastline for tribal villages. Those found were set alight by flaming arrows, their tents and remaining boats burned to ash. Sarhain continued his assault well into 4E 95, when the bloodied easterners commenced turning on each other. While the news would be slow to reach their troops stranded out west, a lack of supplies forced the eastern raiders to withdraw over land. It was during their plight that the Gar’leth enacted some measure of revenge. Tired and hungry, the easterners could do little to fend off Legion pathfinders who spearheaded the pursuit.
Many clansmen were killed or taken prisoner. 4E 96 heralded an unofficial peace. The Gar’leth, though in a vengeful disposition, had not the vigour to strike back their eastern kin. Their attention was instead drawn to the deepening cold winds. Temperatures across the Snowy Beach and all Varaat steadily plummeted between 4E 96-100. The four years brought about a severe lack of land fertility, damaging the Gar’leth’s already sensitive agricultural system. Hearty vegetables that could once withstand the cold failed to grow. Worsening conditions spurred the tribe to further increase their reliance on hunting and gathering. But even the assigned workers often came back empty ended.
Due to a lack of food, many Gar’leth perished in the decade’s final years. Many more succumbed to the worsening conditions, freezing to death in their lodgings as ice winds froze the land and deep snows buried Varaat. Not even the Taras were safe. A great handful of second and third generation royals fell prey to the deep freeze. 4E 98 claimed Princess Naila, daughter of Aelain Tara, who passed shivering in her bed at the age of 69. Prince Sarhain would be stricken with grief over his mother’s death, but the cold pitied him not, killing off his two sons and leaving his daughter, Princess Varain (the betrothed and later queen-consort of King Duhain I) in a coma.
King Edain himself was mortally struck by a fever in 4E 100. Despite the best efforts of the Gar’leth healers, he died a mere three days into his illness. King Duhain I succeeded his father, crowned at age 20.
Terael ’s 50-year malice would assail Varaat ferociously. The freezing temperatures prevented Legion Pathfinders from normally scouting the landscape in and around the Snowy Beach. Devoid of their eyes, the Gar’leth were unable to detect the growing tremors shaking Mount Gar. In 4E 101, the mountain erupted.
“I was abed in my quarters within the Legion barracks when I heard the skies roar. Handsome Laufe was with me, his shocked cry as loud as the sudden noise. I scrambled to don my hunting furs and left the room. The hall beyond was full of curious legionnaires, young men whispering away with each other about the sundering echo. I ordered them to equip themselves and form up. With our wing closest to the royal lodgings, only the king was on my mind. I raced out into the snow alone. What I saw stopped me.
The eastern sky was on fire. Great pillars of smoke billowed into the heavens from Mount Gar, unfurling like the dark wings of some demonic wyvern. Flaming boulders, visible from even so far away, traced glowing streaks in the night as they rained down upon the world. The mountain wept simmering orange tears that turned its stone chest to ash and cinder. Horrible death throes escaped its shattered peaks, moaning into the void like a dying God.
Lakon was immediately filled with gasping zu'aan. But even their chatter could not overcome the howling of the wulfpriests.
‘The World Eater has come!’ said they. ‘Malgrog has awakened! The end is upon us!’
Though I was no follower of Wulfen, in that harrowing moment I was inclined to believe them…”
-From the Journals of Centurion Aelain Sruvgarsdotter, Dated 4E 101
King Duhain ordered precautionary measures undertaken for the evacuation of the tribal city. He sent Prince Sarhain north, commanding him to observe Mount Gar from the sea. A detachment of pathfinders was hurried east up the Jorangund River, serving as warning eyes should the magma spill head westward. The king himself sought to join them but was forcefully restrained by the Praetorian Guard. His brother, Prince Desdain, went in his place.
Fortunately for Lakon, the valley down which the Jorangund ran was to be unaffected. The ash issued from Mount Gar’s explosion would darken the skies over Varaat for many months. During these ‘Black Days’, the already freezing winds bit deeper into Gar’leth society. Temperatures plummeted beyond post kin'toni war records, falling to sub-zero numbers only seen before in the course of the cataclysm that shook the ancient world. Hundreds of zu'aan residing on the Snowy Beach froze to death. It is estimated that Lakon lost around 300 occupants, many of them children. The Black Days also claimed much of the Tara household. The Gar’leth royal family was reduced to a pitiful few as the cold killed off the children and grandchildren of Haldain and Naila Tara.
Tribal scholars indicate that by the time the sun finally broke through the ash veil, only King Duhain, Prince Sarhain the Seafarer, Princess Varain and the king’s brother, Prince Desdain survived. An increase in temperature accompanied 4E 102. Though still far from suitable, the Gar’leth were able to resume important societal functions without fear of imminent death. Problems with food, however, began to materialize. Between the eruption and the cold, the Snowy Beach saw a reduction in animal life. The immediate waters of the Varaati Sea yielded a lack of fish. Many of the creatures hunted for meat fled south to escape the harsh conditions, leaving the Gar’leth with a shortage of nourishment.
The High Council proposed to the king that a Legion wing be dispatched on a great hunt in order to stockpile as much food as possible; fears of another negative temperature spike were rampant. Duhain agreed and honored the III wing, commanded by the willful Dirgur Gorne, with this duty. Prince Sarhain was also ordered out, sent by his nephew on a sea-borne mission to find appropriate fishing reserves. The events that followed became infamous to Gar’leth history. For years since Aelain Tara crowned herself queen, Clan Gorne had begrudgingly submitted to Tara rule. A line of competent sovereigns kept their dubious loyalty secure, though many still doubted the tribe. As the initial effects of the Shattering gripped Varaat, the Gorne saw an opportunity to raise their voice.
Legate Dirgur amassed the IIIrd wing to complete the king’s request. He brought the 100 legionnaires south in a feigned attempt at a large hunt and lingered there for more time than required. While the Gar’leth staved off starvation thanks to Prince Sarhain’s swift work, Lakon’s weary inhabitants began to grow apprehensive about the absence of the IIIrd wing. After a month’s passing, King Duhain sent pathfinders after the missing Legate Dirgur. They would find him and his forces encamped in the Haunted Gallows in a fortified position around Vond’s Defile. Before the Gar’leth scouts could approach, Dirgur Gorne ordered his troops to slaughter them. The pathfinders were cut down mercilessly.
A few managed to escape, however, and limp their way back to Lakon where they informed the king of the legate’s treachery. A wrathful Duhain ordered the other two wings to immediately mobilize. They were directed south under the command of Chieftain Brodbok, High Council member and Yuust leader. Upon arrival, Brodbok had his 200 legionnaires spread out in a wide arc to the east of Vond’s Defile. He descended upon the traitors slowly, advancing to meet their wooden barricades. However, rather than hold their ground, the IIIrd wing surged forward and made straight for the centre of the attackers. Led by a rampaging Dirgur Gorne, they cut through the surprised Tara loyalists, quickly enveloping the IInd wing.
Brodbok turned the Ist to aid them, but by then the damage was wrought. 40 loyal soldiers lay dead, young Prince Desdain among them. Legate Dirgur fled east with the IIIrd wing, casualties minimal. Late 4E 102-104 marked the period known as the Gorne uprising. Fearful of the king’s vengeance, many Gorne tribals made an exodus from Lakon to join with the now ‘Chieftain’ Dirgur. Those that remained in Duhain’s Bay were promptly apprehended and jailed.
“His (Duhain) anger knew no bounds. Droves of zu'aan men, women and children were hurled into the dungeons beneath the Legion fort for the crime of being a Gorne. Many of these unfortunate souls faced the king’s unbridled wrath in the form of torture and mutiliation. He would pry from them confessions, whip them until they admitted to being complicit in Legate Dirgur’s treason. I confronted him over this. He only snapped at me to keep my mouth shut and know my place as his wife…”
-Queen Varain Tara, 4E 103
The king left command of the split Legion to Chieftain Brodbok despite his initial failure. Eager to redeem himself, Brodbok launched a bloody campaign against the rebels. He led the Ist and IInd wings into a string of minor ‘battles’ due south of Mount Gar. The engagements smashed rebel outposts designed to be Dirgur’s eyes and ears. Though, the Gar’leth could scarcely find a garrison numbering more than 3 men. As they swept the hills and cliffs, divided rebel warbands struck at them in a fashion much like the eastern tribes did a decade earlier. Thus did Chieftain Dirgur avoid open confrontation with Brodbok’s superior forces.
Seeing the enemy fracture their troops, the loyalist commander opted to do the same. Brodbok split the wings into their respective 50-man cohorts, assigning them each an allocated zone in which they would operate. He believed that by sundering his forces he would successfully match the speed and mobility of the rebels. The stratagem proved fatal. Observing that the loyalists had divided so, Chieftain Dirgur rapidly amassed the full strength of the IIIrd wing to hunt down the cohorts. The Ist wing was effectively removed as a fighting unit, its divisions isolated and destroyed in two separate battles. Brodbok himself was slain, as was the legate of the Ist wing, Hronar Daufsson. Slow to realize their peril, the remaining loyalists of the IInd wing kept independent of one another. However, a stroke of fortune brought them safely within operational distance when Centurion Aelain Sruvgarsdotter misinterpreted her orders and marched in the direction opposite her legate desired. The confused centurion would arrive in time to save her superior from complete obliteration, as the two cohorts united just as the rebels descended on them. Yet the chaos was adequate enough for Chieftain Dirgur to achieve victory. Disorganized, the IInd wing retreated, losing only 30 men.
Chieftain Dirgur was eager to strike at Lakon as swiftly as possible. The rebels pursued the loyalists to Gar’s Fingers, where they hampered them all the way down the Jorangund River, smashing through even the advanced outposts watching Mount Gar. Sentries atop Lakon’s palisade alerted the tribal city of the oncoming forces. The ensuing conflict is well documented.
“King Duhain emerged from royal cabins shouting for the tribal militia and praetorians to follow him. He was clad in nothing save a pair of fur breeches, muscled brown skin dripping with perspiration. If the whispering servants are to be believed, the king had been engaged in a rather ‘fierce’ love-making session with the queen-consort prior to the interruption. And being pulled away from his beautiful young bride had only flamed the sovereign’s volatile anger.He led his forces through the palisade, where he rallied the shattered IInd wing and quickly stormed towards Dirgur Gorne’s charging troops. The two armored masses collided with great fury. An iron song filled the mountain valley as swords rang shields and spears cleft helmets.
Onlookers gathered atop the palisade, gasping as the balance of power waxed and waned on both sides. It was the traitor legate who first pushed the loyalists back. He sent them reeling with swings from his mighty two-handed blade, tearing men in two and impaling them as a bull would its prey. For a harrowing moment it appeared Clan Gorne would strike down Tara rule and take Lakon for themselves. But the king was of a different mind. Angered and vengeful, Duhain Tara plowed headlong into the ranks of the rebels with his praetorians in tow. Those guarding him that day swore his roaring curses were louder than that of Mount Gar’s eruption. He fought his way to Dirgur, challenging the traitor to single combat.
The chieftain agreed, and the two engaged in a spectacular dance of death. Dirgur Gorne moved as a lumbering giant would, heavy strokes drawing blood from the wind itself. King Duhain countered not with a panther swiftness, but with seething rage, eagerly throwing up his shield to meet the blunted edge of the traitor’s blade. In the end there could be only one victor. And history saw fit to repeat itself. As his great-grandmother once slew Gorros Gorne in the Haunted Gallows, so did Duhain I fell Dirgur Gorne before the walls of Lakon…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Devoid of suitable leadership, the rebellious IIIrd wing threw down their arms and surrendered. King Duhain, however, refused to grant the traitors quarter. He had them slaughtered to the man in an infamous display of fury that would earn him the posthumous sobriquet the ‘Wrath of the North’. The rebels’ corpses were hurled into the sea following the incident. The heads of their leaders, predominantly from Clan Gorne, were mounted atop the palisade. King Duhain also sought to exterminate the entire clan, but was halted by his high council and queen-consort, who urged him that the Gar’leth needed the manpower. Instead, Dirgur’s infant son became a ward to the Taras (it should be noted that the families of rebels accompanied them, often setting up camp not far behind the main force).
This 2-year-old boy, Ulor Gorne, would be betrothed to Duhain’s newborn daughter and heir apparent, Princess Aelain. The bloodshed left the Gar’leth Legion crippled. In order to quickly bolster their ranks, fresh bodies were levied from an already strained Lakon. Many of these new recruits were mere boys, with a significant handful being younger than fighting age. Young women were also encouraged to enlist. It was during this period that the Legion boasted three female legates; Aelain Sruvgarsdotter, Hilda Gromsdotter and Matheld Argorsdotter. The trio, titled the ‘Swordmaidens of Lakon’, would go on to serve Duhain I and his daughter faithfully throughout the Shattering.
From 4E 103-110 temperatures again fell to dangerous levels. The Gar’leth suffered heavily in these 7 years, as a lack of food resulted in mass starvation. It is believed that the mortality rate surpassed the birth rate for a slight duration, with inadequate nutrition leading to high cases of infertility amongst women. Lakon was only saved by the iron-fisted Duhain. The king sent his own praetorians on hunting expeditions near and far, as well as implemented a strict ration system that saw families fed what they needed. Prince Sarhain’s seafaring ability also played an integral role in keeping the tribe alive. The grandson of Aelain Tara conducted many of his famous journeys during these years.
He travelled Terael ’s seas upon his Ice Maiden, exploring territory lost to the old Xerean Xerea Empire. Most significantly were his journeys to other ports, such as Xuran-Varus, where he traded for salted meats and vegetables which would keep the Gar’leth from dying out. The beginning of 4E 111 would bear even worse fate. On a grey morning, a horribly wounded praetorian stumbled through the palisade. The Gar’leth were shocked to observe that one of the king’s elite guardians had been mangled like a vakt by a gronar. Duhain met with this man, who revealed their long-awaited worst fear: Varaat’s dormant kin'toni had emerged from hiding in great numbers. The news caused an uproar in Lakon.
Their volatile king called for the mobilization of the Legion, whom he prepared to lead to Mount Gar, the kin'toni’ ostensible home. Thus began the 40-Year War. In sporadic bouts, the Gar’leth Legion would find itself in and around the central mountain, waging campaign after campaign against the kin'toni. Though King Duhain personally commanded his forces, persistent sickness relegated him to a predominantly overseeing role. The fieldwork he left to the Swordmaidens of Lakon. Initially, the legates found success combating the kin'toni bands that lurked in the vicinity of Mount Gar. They defeated their monstrous foes in separate battles, each Legion wing earning substantial honors. Though, it would be the IInd wing’s legate who gained lofty praise from both her king and scholars.
Aelain Sruvgarsdotter commanded the 100 men of the IInd with a cunning befitting her name. She wiped out entire kin'toni packs completely, routing them in engagements and pursuing the survivors until they were slaughtered. Like Aelain Tara, she would also venture into the mountain’s cave system where her wing brought the fight to the kin'toni. Legend rather than verifiable fact has it that she even fought and slew a resurrected Uron Drak (scholars believe her men were responsible for spreading this rumor in an attempt to bolster their commander’s reputation).
With success, however, came setbacks. In the latter years before 4E 120, the Gar’leth Legion suffered heavy casualties. Between the cold and ruthless kin'toni raids, losses piled high as the war drew on. A string of defeats in 4E 116 nearly wiped out the IIIrd wing and left Legate Matheld Argorsdotter a cripple. The Ist wing, headed by Hilda Gromsdotter, were drawn into a narrow defile by the kin'toni and nearly butchered. It was only by the intervention of King Duhain and his praetorians did the division escape relatively unscathed. Even Legate Aelain saw her fine military record blemished when in 4E 118 multiple kin'toni packs routed the IInd wing twice, pushing them back as far as the Jorangund and exposing the flanks of the entire Legion.
Such a gap allowed the kin'toni to assault Duhain’s central position, catching him off guard. Legate Matheld, in the main camp at the time, is recorded to have personally saved the king.
“The monsters came at night as they always did. Yet now they descended upon our rear! Every man in camp took up their arms in surprise, quickly forming ranks to face the vile fiends. The chaos served the foe well, however. They charged into our confused formations, biting and scratching at any they could grab. Somewhere in the madness, I heard a man yell ‘to the king, to the king!’. Many believed him to have fallen at that moment. But in the shifting torchlight, I witnessed the one-armed Legate Matheld breach the kin'toni horde swarming the praetorian’s defensive square and drag from it a cursing King Duhain…”
-From the Journals of Prince Sarhain the Seafarer, Dated 4E 118
Constant levying of men from Lakon placed a great strain on the Gar’leth. Many families, including titular clans, began to voice their displeasure towards the king. They could not keep supplying the Legion with able young men. In 4E 120, Duhain returned from the war front due to his worsening condition (further harrowing him had been news that Queen Varain had passed due to a fever). Upon his arrival, he was immediately beset by protestors, who demanded he withdraw the troops so that the tribal city could recover. Never a man to back down, King Duhain refused, drawing his blade and ordering the people to return to their homes. When they stood their ground, the Gar’leth sovereign unleashed upon them a roaring speech attacking their loyalty, labelling them traitors.
In the midst of the tirade, Duhain’s voice slurred. He eventually ceased speaking and collapsed. Legion apothecarions and tribal healers present rushed to aid him, carrying him back to the royal lodgings. Shortly after, however, the king was pronounced dead at hands of a stressed heart. His daughter, Princess Aelain, succeeded him as Queen Aelain II. Not long after a small coronation, the new queen set about enacting ‘justice’. She sent her dull but brute of a husband, Ulor Gorne, to seize the zu'aan who were at the forefront of the protest. 20 men and women were arrested (as contemporary scholars agree, on rather dubious charges of ‘treason’) and summarily executed. Aelain II subsequently declared all forms of dissent illegal, a crime tantamount to treason and punishable by death.
She then resumed the war effort. Queen Aelain II’s rule is marked predominantly for its involvement in the latter portion of the 40-Year War. She doubled taxation, reaching deep into her subject’s coffers for Iron Taras to pay each soldier. Every family was pressed to supply the Legion with men; the young, elderly and sick were not exempt by new conscription laws. Fresh troops under her command, the young queen set out towards Mount Gar to finish what her father started. Though Lakon would not know peace for another 3 decades. The injection of inexperienced but new soldiers into the Legion bought the Gar’leth positive results. Queen Aelain pressed them to constantly undertake the offensive and spurred her legates into attacking the kin'toni.
Pathfinders sought out roaming packs under Mount Gar, relaying their locations to the Legion wings or dealing with them personally if a numerical advantage existed. In a role reversal, nightly raids were carried out by the Gar’leth to harass kin'toni encampments. Aelain II commanded a significant portion of these swift assaults, dashing into battle with a tamed gronar, Shadowclaw, at her side. Because of her rash behavior, the queen was want to suffer wounds; the number of improperly healed gashes she possessed lent her the nickname ‘Aelain Ever-Scarred’. By 4E 122, the Gar’leth began facing more than just divided packs. The Legion wings reduced their operational distances between each other as the kin'toni bands began forming small clans.
Minor skirmishes that plagued the first half of the 40-Year War gave way to battles. Within the hundredth year’s third decade, a plethora of inconclusive engagements would be fought. Renowned amongst these battles were those that transpired for control of the Queen’s Heights. As many as 5 separate clashes took place on the famed plateau where Aelain Tara slew Uron Drak. It would pass from Gar’leth hands to kin'toni and back again, only to have another kin'toni clan remove the tribals after a day’s fierce bloodshed. Multiple scholars point out that the goal behind these engagements was purely symbolic.
“In the end, control of the heights meant nothing to grand stratagem. It was an obscure plateau, accessible by unfriendly passes, that lay in a position no sane commander would deem a strategic asset. Why then did great military minds like the Swordmaidens and Aelain II waste precious lives on securing such a worthless landmark? The answer lies in history. It was upon that collection of ice-laden stones that the queen’s ancestor and namesake felled the accursed Uron Drak. To allow the monsters to possess those hallowed grounds was considered by the Legion to be utter blasphemy. And so, one too many Gar’leth zu'aan perished so that Aelain Tara’s legacy may be preserved.”
-Vasos Xhar, ‘A Discourse on Varaat’s Military History’, 4E 232
After returning to Lakon to give birth to the twins Olain and Naila in 4E 124, Aelain II received intriguing word from her naval scouts. On the eastern edge of Varaat, the zu'aan tribes that once threatened King Edain I’s domain had rebuilt their seaborne power. The queen believed them to have gone unpunished. She ordered her grandfather, Prince Sarhain, to transport the IIInd wing east and lay waste to the rival tribes’ fleet. Such a decision was met by protest by the High Council, who argued that fighting a war on two fronts was ill-advised. Unbothered, Aelain set out with the Seafarer and Legate Matheld’s IIInd wing to the eastern edge of Varaat. There she would spend the year sailing the coastline, scouring beaches and bays for the Gar’leth’s eastling rivals.
The sudden appearance of the western fleet threw off the tribes. They acted too slowly to salvage hundreds of small vessels from Aelain’s fury. Those that responded with haste were no match for the experienced Prince Sarhain, floundering as he led the Ice Maiden and Gar’leth fleet to a score of naval victories against them. Treacherous weather, however, would force the queen to harbor in an occupied village for several months. There she fortified her position, hoping to wait out nature’s rage behind hastily scrawled palisades. At Mount Gar, the situation worsened for the Ist and IInd wing. The Legates’ Aelain and Hilda faced ever-dwindling odds of victory as the kin'toni packs grew larger. Much of the kin'toni territory secured by King Duhain I was lost, retaken by the beasts who diligently took advantage of the undermanned Legion.
Crippling defeats at the Battle of Wulfen’s Spire and Icewind Pass forced Aelain Sruvgarsdotter (granted position of Legate Primus for the duration of the queen’s eastern expedition) to withdraw all Gar’leth forces from the mountains. They retreated into the Jorangund Valley, travelling down the eponymous river to the frontier outpost guarding Duhain’s Bay. kin'toni packs trailed after them but were checked by the Legion and Gar’leth militia stationed at the border fort. Bogged down in a hostile village, Queen Aelain II too soon found herself in a precarious situation. Though she had crippled the eastern tribes’ naval ability, their combined land strength far outmatched a single Legion wing.
They camped out in the hills surrounding the Gar’leth’s position and waited for the westerlings to respond. Much like her father, the hot-headed Aelain II desired to sally forth to meet her enemies. Legate Matheld sycophantically echoed her queen’s sentiment. Yet Prince Sarhain and the IIIrd’s centurions objected to the rash plan, stating that it would be better if they remained behind the defenses and waited for an opportune moment to sail away. Despite her grandfather’s protests, the Gar’leth sovereign would have her way. A rainy sunset prefaced the ensuing Battle of the New Wall (named for the palisade constructed by the IIIrd wing). Aelain II charged from the occupied village flanked by her men. Disaster met them instantly.
With constant eyes on their foe, the eastern tribals predicated an attack before it even manifested. A quick volley of arrows downed many legionnaires before the IIIrd could reach the hills, followed by a descending charge into their ranks halted the advance. The Gar’leth, better trained, avenged their initial casualties as they regained cohesion. But with superior numbers, the easterlings quickly enveloped them, extending the bloody combat into an hour’s affair. Aelain II and her beast Shadowclaw dove right into the chaos, tearing gleefully into the easterners, heedless of bleeding wounds. In the midst of the fighting, the queen was struck over the head by an iron club. The blow, taken mostly by her iron helmet, merely knocked Aelain II unconscious.
However, witnessing their leader fall proved fatal to the IIIrd wing. They turned and cut through Varaat’s eastern tribals, whisking the queen safely back into the village. The battle claimed roughly half of the wing’s strength; notable casualties included one-armed Legate Matheld, an unnamed centurion (records indicate several possible names, prominently a Dhror Ulfsson, believed to be Matheld’s lover) and Fornu Gorne, younger brother to King Ulor. Prince Sarhain ordered an immediate withdrawal from the east. Their return to Lakon a month later only preceded a resumption in the campaign against the kin'toni. After recovering from her injury, Queen Aelain II would again set out to Mount Gar, where the Legion’s presence was to be made for the next three decades.
The Ever-Scarred solidified herself in Gar’leth history during these years. She led the soldiers of the Snowy Beach to many impressive victories, winning battles at the Queen’s Heights (4E 126), the Maw of Grom (4E 131) and White Ridge Ravine (4E 140) among others. Her efforts drove the kin'toni back deep into the central mountain where she pursued them even further. Though, success came at an exorbitant toll. By the conclusion of the Shattering, many Gar’leth had died for the war effort. Estimates place casualties at anywhere between 500-900; a shockingly high percentage of the dead towards the end were women, forced into service due to a shortage in the male populace. The kin'toni threat would also claim many important figures.
Legates Aelain Sruvgarsdotter and Hildagromsdotter fell in battles between 4E 137-145. 4E 135 saw King-consort Ulor Gorne bitten and mercifully killed by the praetorian guard before he could turn. The queen’s loyal gronar Shadowclaw succumbed to kin'toni talons, saving his mistress at the Battle of White Ridge Ravine. Even Prince Sarhain the Seafarer went on to die in late 4E 146, passing when his pathfinder cohort was ambushed within the depths of Mount Gar. It was her grandfather’s death that spurred Aelain II to slowly relieve her grasp around the central region. The Gar’leth sovereign herself did not survive. On the eve of 4E 150, as the last of the Legion troops were withdrawing from Mount Gar, the kin'toni made one last effort at war.
Three large packs assailed Aelain II’s marching column near the Jorangund Ravine’s eastern opening. They fell upon both flanks, quickly inflicting great losses and breaking through to the praetorians safeguarding the queen. The Legion managed to repel the attack but the damage had been done. Aelain Ever-Scarred lay amongst the fallen, throat ripped open by a kin'toni’s claws. Her death marked the end of the 40-Year War as well as the Shattering for the Gar’leth.
One More Year of Bloodshed: The War of the Sisters
“Princess Olain the Older, elder of the Ever-Scarred’s twins, stood beside her mother as she died. Those who participated in the battle record that the royal Tara Praetorians did not fail to protect their queen but were acting on her orders to guard the heir. They surrounded Olain in a wall of iron, shields throwing back a ceaseless tide of kin'toni, swords rending those who dared reach for the older twin. When the carnage ceased, Princess Olain wept with Aelain’s lifeless body cradled in her arms. She swore bloody vengeance upon the kin'toni. An oath that brought a cloud of gloom over the Legion, for it meant the slaughter was far from over…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Queen Olain the Older was crowned on the battlefield. Unlike her twin, Princess Naila the Younger, she took well after Aelain II, possessing a bellicose, warrior-like demeanour. Unlike her twin, Princess Naila the Younger, she took well after Aelain II, possessing a bellicose, soldier-like demeanour. Following the Legion’s return to Lakon and burial of her mother, Olain summoned the High Council. She was eager to recommence hostilities against the dwindling kin'toni, adamant that regicide was a deed that could not go without retaliation. The tribal leaders, however, had grown weary. Duhain’s Bay was a mere shadow of its former self.
Half a century of near constant warfare drastically reduced Lakon’s population, both military and civil, to levels precariously close to irreversible; a significant number of lost women heralded a drastic decline in births. Yet even with the facts in opposition to her, Olain wished to press on. In 4E 151, the Gar’leth Legion was summoned to the queen's side. She addressed her legates and centurions, urging them to prepare their wings for a march up the Jorangund River. Men who had served under the Ever-Scarred obliged; many were anxious for a chance to avenge Aelain II. During this military gathering, Olain was approached by her reserved twin. Princess Naila the Younger, soft-spoken and even softer of heart, pleaded with the queen to reconsider such an aggressive course of action.
Joining her was her father-in-law, the Ist wing’s gruff commander, Legate Dregore Laufesson (an illegitimate child of the Swordmaiden Aelain Sruvgarsdotter), and her greying uncle, IIIrd wing Centurion Vandal Gorne. No compromise would be reached. Furious that her sibling had ‘turned’ against her, Queen Olain the Older ordered Princess Naila and the dissenters be seized. Such an order, however, failed to register quick enough with the loyalists; a hesitancy to see the bloodshed of 4E 93 repeated stalled the soldiers. Legate Dregore and Centurion Vandal acted swifter. Supported by their men, they absconded from Lakon with a reluctant Princess Naila, tailed by Olain’s legionnaires.
(According to both Halawin Slor and Vasos Xhar, Dregore and Vandal had possibly been plotting a rebellion weeks in advance, having removed Naila’s young son, Prince Edain, from the city beforehand. Whether Naila the Younger was implicit in the scheme is unknown.) The War of the Sisters began with the rebels’ escape north. It was to be a terse but violent affair, consisting of minor skirmishes and culminating in a final battle that secured peace; eerily similar to the Gorne Uprising orchestrated by Olain and Naila’s paternal grandfather. For a year, the queen’s loyalists sought out their foes amidst Northern Varaat’s ice plains. Using tactics employed by the traitor Legate Dirgur, the revolters avoided engagements, fighting them only when necessity dictated.
Dregore Laufesson divided his wing into multiple new cohorts and scattered them in a web-like pattern. Each unit operated within supporting distance of the other, effectively creating a net to harass Olain’s troops. But where Olain the Older shared in her mother’s temper, she also partook of her martial aptitude. She kept the IInd and IIIrd wings together and occupied a central location from where her forces operated. Unable to combat a larger, cohesive army, the rebels were forced to linger in the loyalists’ shadow. Pathfinder ‘kill squadrons’ were further deployed by Lakon’s queen to track down Legate Dregore’s portioned troops. It was the engagements fought by these specialists that constituted the majority of the war’s violence.
Small, 20-man battles with each side fielding 10 men; Loyalist scouts against rebel line soldiers. Though unable to inflict significant damage upon the revolters, the skirmishes tended to end in tactical victory for Queen Olain. A prolonged conflict favored the elder twin. It would be the intuitiveness of Centurion Vandal Gorne that brought about the conflict’s end. Acting independently of Legate Dregore, he slipped his IIIrd wing cohort back south, bypassing loyalist forces and entering Gar’s Fingers undetected. In the Jorangund Ravine, he captured the border outposts watching Mount Gar from the Gar’leth Militia with minimal casualties. Then he marched to Duhain’s Bay, where Lakon fell to his guile.
"The Siege of Lakon was an ingenious plan enacted to the letter. It is also a prime example of how a minute force could capture a heavily guarded stronghold, provided both leader and troops are up to the task. Centurion Vandal knew his foe well. Having trained the Gar’leth Militia who now manned Lakon’s garrison, he was aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Although martially schooled, the men upon the palisade were not iron-disciplined legionnaires. They were civil at heart. Tribals with a penchant for the esoteric. Exceedingly superstitious. Vandal made sure to exploit this chink in their resolve. He had his men covered in twigs, branches and decayed shrubs, cloaking them so that they resembled the northern shrub known as the moranmur.
The Gar’leth avoided this strange plant, claiming that they were ‘slumbering demons’ who slowly answered to the ‘call of the mountain’. Queer disguise donned, the rebels crept towards Lakon. Darkness veiled their approach. The moon, obstructed by grey clouds, failed to coat the ravine in its normal silver hue. Only when Centurion Vandal’s troops crept into the capital’s dim fires did the militia react. Their response was one of abject horror. The mysterious shrubs discovered on the northern shores over a hundred years ago had now appeared before the walls, falling closer with every passing breath of the wind. They abandoned their posts and fled. Without its defenders, Duhain’s Bay was open to rebel hands…”
-Vasos Xhar, ‘A Discourse on Varaat’s Military History’, 4E 232
Word quickly reached Queen Olain in late 4E 151 via naval scouts. Rage stoked to an uncontrollable flame, she immediately boarded her Legion followers onto the Gar’leth fleet. They sailed back to Lakon in hopes to quickly liberate it from Naila’s rebels. The ensuing struggle became known as the Battle of the Crimson Tide. In the shallows of Duhain’s Bay, the loyalists were met by the rebels, who struck them as they formed up behind a shieldwall. Though outnumbered 3:1, Vandal Gorne’s small force refused to give ground. The rebels fought bravely as the loyalists surrounded them, waters turning red with every zu'aan slain. Queen Olain the Older eventually pushed her way to the forefront. She harried her sister’s men using spear and sword, cursing them as fools destined to die as traitors.
Slowly, the jaws of the loyalists clamped down upon their beleaguered foes. When it seemed the end was near, however, a strange spike in fortune secured decisive victory for the rebels.
“No man would go on to claim responsibility for what occurred. It was an abnormal twist of fate. A reversal of fortune one can only procure from legend or myth. A loyalist legionnaire swung at his rebel counterpart, splitting the head of the revolter’s spear from its shaft. The iron blade spun away with such force that any soul caught in its path was sure to perish. Unfortunately for Olain the Older, she would burden that ignoble end. The spear tip embedded itself in the queen’s helmet and drove deep into her skull. Death was instantaneous. As was the inevitable mass surrender that followed…” -Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Leaderless, those loyal to the dead queen laid down their arms. By law, the sovereign of the Gar’leth was now Princess Naila the Younger (Queen Olain, though married, bore no children; the basis of her alternate sobriquet ‘the Childless’). Legate Dregore returned to Lakon with Naila and her son shortly after receiving the news. It was said the meek daughter of Aelain II wept an entire month for her sister before finally agreeing to the crown. She was coronated in early 4E 152.
Pax Varaat: The Tranquil Century
Queen Naila the Younger would reign for 28 years. During the period of her rule (and beyond), the Gar’leth experienced an era of peace unknown to them since the days of Haldain the Just. While kin'toni threat still lingered, few roaming packs threatened Lakon. Those that dared harass tribal hunters were swiftly discovered by pathfinders and eliminated, or tracked to their lairs by the Legion wings where they would be slaughtered. Systematic warfare was all but non-existent. Any problems the Gar’leth faced originated in the fabric of their society. Naila Tara was undoubtedly a beloved figure. Though shy, her soft heart became a source of pride for the tribe. She was known to pay for any orphan’s expenses; ridden with guilt over the suffering caused by her mother’s war.
Extravagant meals she was want to eat, preferring to feed the downtrodden with whatever excess supplies the Tara household possessed. And she and her son Edain would often tour Lakon, much to the delight of the populace who rushed to greet them (the verbose young prince did all the talking). However, scholars unanimously agree the queen was also an incompetent ruler. Her meek character entailed an arbitrariness that polluted the judicial system. On matters of trial, Naila routinely made quizzical decisions when a case was brought before her. Blatant murderers were released because she wept at their own tears. Thieves got off freely when they claimed their situation forced them into crime.
Even when evidence pointed to the accused’s innocence, the weak-willed queen condemned them to death, too shaken at the supposed transgression to consider the facts. She tended to leave the governance of Lakon to a fortunately able High Council. Yet this did not prevent her from occasionally mandating some ludicrous policy or calling an end to council meetings because the aggressive debating brought her to cry. peacetime allowed the Gar’leth to employ their small fleet for purposes other than military. Sanctioned by the High Council in 4E 165, galleys were loaded with non-essential goods and sent off to surviving ports charted by Sarhain the Seafarer. Most would eventually dock at the Imperial City of Xuran-Varus.
There, like the Seafarer years earlier, they traded for various supplies; food, hides and even empire-forged weapons. It was in the midst of these economic interactions, circa 4E 169, that the Tara name was finally reintroduced to the Xerean Xerea Empire (Prince Sarhain never did reveal himself to the imperials out of fear that they would apprehend him for Prince Duhain’s desertion). Initially, the Empire’s response leaned towards hostility. Gar’leth vessels were seized and their crews detained while Imperial bureaucracy argued over the appropriate course of action. Many officials argued that Emperor Verus IX’s mandate still stood, that the princely House of Tara were traitors to the Empire.
Others believed the proclamation defunct, as Verus had only called for Prince Duhain and Aelain’s head; now that they were both long-dead, such an order could not be valid. The latter point won out in the end, and the Gar’leth traders were freed. Sometime in 4E 176, a decision was made to attempt peaceful interaction with Varaat’s eastern tribes. Prince Edain, then a young man of 24, was tasked by the High Council with leading the expedition. He took the Ice Maiden, four galleys and several Legion men east. There, they were met with predictable vehemence, shot at before they could dock at the first tribal encampment found. Edain kept his ships out of bow range for two hours. Aboard the Ice Maiden, he calmly negotiated a meeting.
“For years we have fought as enemies! Bled as foes! Too many have died in the senseless violence enacted by our ancestors! Why cannot we be the better men!? Is Varaat not home to us all!? So why then should zu'aan spill blood in their own abodes!? The time for war is past! Lower your arms and let us discuss peace! For us! For our children! Our future!” -Prince Edain Tara, 4E 176
The eastern tribals (the clan mentioned in record is the Sun-Hairs, headed by a Chieftain Vrongor) dictated their terms. Edain was to come ashore alone to be a hostage while other tribes could be reached. Against the wishes of the praetorians accompanying him, the prince agreed. Only, however, if an equally important easterling figure was handed over to the Gar’leth. An agreement was reached. Prince Edain willingly gave himself into captivity, swapped for the chieftain’s daughter, Olga Sun-Hair. A week passed before multiple eastern tribes assembled in the Sun-Hair village. The details of their gathering is unknown, but written history concluded that a general peace was reached between the Gar’leth and 6 of the 10 clans that attended.
Most prominently among them being the Sun-Hairs, who not only agreed to a non-aggression pact but also to an alliance and trade agreement. Sealing the diplomatic bond was Edain’s marriage to Olga. A cold winter in 4E 180 stalled the Gar’leth’s growth. Queen Naila the Younger would be stricken with a terrible fever due to the dip in temperature. Although failing to kill her, it left the monarch frail and weak, susceptible to pain and other minute diseases. Unable to carry out her royal duties, Naila abdicated in favor of Prince Edain. The new king was subsequently crowned Edain II. Like his mother’s reign, Edain II’s 30-year rule was starkly marked by an uneventful tranquility. The Gar’leth population and economy boomed two-fold.
Novel resources like silk, gold, and spices were imported to Lakon from Xuran-Varus. The Legion was reequipped with Imperial weapons and armour and trained by retired Empire troops who came on as hired blades. Lakon was again expanded in 4E 185, palisade demolished, rebuilt further up the Jorangund to make room for new lodgings. King Edain II and his beautiful warrior-queen Olga Sun-Hair became even more universally loved than Naila the Younger.
“Edain II, commonly known to the Gar’leth as the Elegant, was a markedly handsome fellow. Tall and broad-shouldered, he possessed a hero’s body as well as heart. He kept his long mane of white-gold hair prim. Its thick strands lined his long, square-cut face; white fire that highlighted the soft brown of his skin. Upon his lips was regularly donned a bright smile. A welcoming grin outshined only by his radiant green eyes, the depths of which his lovely Queen Olga swore she often got lost in…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Princes of the North: A History of the Exiled House Tara’, 4E 215
Only 2 minor conflicts would brew during these 3 decades. The first occurred in 4E 190. Called upon to honor their alliance, the Gar’leth sailed east to aid Clan Sun-Hair in a war against their rivals, the Snowshods and the Ice-Runners. They would not linger there long, finding immediate success in two seperate battles that nullified the hostile easterling’s power. With the leadership of Edain and the familiarity with eastern Varaati martial dogma possessed by Queen Olga, the Gar’leth Legion easily gained the offensive. The rival tribes were pushed back, forced to formally surrender only 4 months into their campaign. 4E 195 brought about the second quarrell. From Mount Gar arose a kin'toni pack led by a beast who claimed to be the ‘son’ of Uron Drak .
(such a claim is biologically impossible, as the kin'toni are unable to bear children). Rather than embroil Lakon in yet another conflict near the mountains, King Edain II opted for clandestine action. He, along with 15 handpicked pathfinders, quietly made their way to the central region. There they spent several weeks spying on Drak’s ‘son’, the self-titled Ossar Drak. After careful observation, the king and his men successfully drew near to a war gathering where Ossar fervently addressed the kin'toni. Edain the Elegant then assassinated the supposed son of Lakon’s arch-fiend. He slew Ossar with a thrown iron javelin, impaling the kin'toni through the chest. He and the 15 pathfinders supposedly fell upon ‘countless hundreds’ of disorganized beasts, slaughtering them all with ‘righteous northern fury’.
This account, however, is widely discredited by historians; being written by Queen Olga to no doubt glamor her husband’s reputation. In truth, most military experts believe that the king simply fled after he had skewered Ossar Drak and left the kin'toni to fight amongst themselves. King Edain II would rule the Gar’leth peacefully until his untimely death in 4E 210. Whilst out at sea with Queen Olga and his two older sons, Sarhain and Ewain, a sudden storm overturned their galley not far from Duhain’s Bay. Many Gar’leth looked on in horror as the event transpired. Among them were Princess Naila the Younger and the youngest of the king’s children, Prince Duhain. Other galleys rushed to save the royal family but arrived too late.
Edain the Elegant drowned, perishing at the age of 59. Though the bodies of Queen Olga and the older princes were recovered, his was not. The Gar’leth hailed Prince Duhain king shortly after. The 16-year old zu'aan ascended as Duhain II and currently still reigns in Lakon. Although not the kind soul his grandmother and father were, King Duhain II is widely regarded as a harsh but fair monarch. Under his rule, Duhain’s Bay has continued to flourish. No conflicts have broken out in the 40 years since he was crowned*, and the Snowy Beach has quickly become one of Terael ’s major trading posts.
- Since this condensed history was transcribed, Duhain II and the Gar’leth Legion are currently fighting a war against a confederation of kin'toni clans.
The core of the Gar’leth mindset is the defense of the tribe. They are a warrior people, bred for war and conflict, with every male required to undertake military service in the Legion. As a result, they tend to be aggressive, though in a controlled manner. 250 years of relative isolation have led them to hold a suspicious attitude towards outsiders, and depending on the circumstances, they may even detain travellers for an unreasonable duration. However, they do not kill without just cause, so unfortunate wayfarers can expect to be imprisoned in adequate conditions.Any hatred they possess is reserved for the kin'toni. Gar’leth children are taught from an early age that kin'toni are a ‘disease’ and must be ‘cleansed’ from Terael lest the entire world become infected.
Creatures they encounter are dealt with harshly with a strict rule for no prisoners. Hunters and soldiers often bring sacks full of severed heads back to Lakon to be displayed on the palisades, and Legionnaires are known to craft necklaces from kin'toni fangs. This unbridled rage also contributes to their greatest fear: turning.
“The night was deep, bathed in a blackness so stark the campfire made giants of all our shadows. Most of the squadron had retired to their tents. Only Optio Magnus and my brother remained to waste away the dark hours. Skavi sat to my left, sharpening the blade of his bone-hilt dagger. The steely hiss of a whetstone licking iron sent shivers down my spine.'
‘You are unwell, brother?’ said he. ‘Your shoulders jump with each stroke I make.’
‘The cry of your blade unnerves me,” said I. ‘It sings like the beasts when they growl at us. Or when a man is bitten.’
Skavi laughed, his pauldrons heaving with each breath. ‘You liken the kin'toni’ bite to a soldier awakening a dull sword? Truly, Bjorn, you are the most colorful of mother’s brood.’
‘It is the voice, Skavi,’ said I, peering over my shoulder into the night. ‘Have your ears ever listened to the ones the kin'toni get? The cries they make… a melody seeped in dread and fear. Fear of what comes next…’
He replied not. But I scant needed my brother’s words to swear upon the terror in his eyes. I spoke in a hushed whisper.
‘Swear to me, should a monster’s teeth ever find my neck, you will drive that dagger through my heart before I turn.’”
-From the Journal of Bjorn Rolfnorsson, 4E 82
While hostile to the monstrous populace of Terael , the Gar’leth are fiercely loyal to their own. They view the unified tribe as a single family unit, headed by the king or queen. Love for one’s neighbors must be unconditional, and while faults can be tried and punished, forgiving a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ is encouraged. According to Gar’leth custom, if one cannot forgive a fellow clansman, then they are possibly unfit to serve the tribal monarch. Their reverence for the ruling Clan Tara bears an almost master-slave dynamic, though most scholars label it as nothing more than admiration for the bloodline of their founder.
Most experts describe Gar’leth culture as a crossbreeding of Imperial military traditions and tribal beliefs. While their lives at a glance may seem simple, the Gar’leth have developed a refined society much like city-dwelling zu'aan to the south.
The Gar’leth place a significant emphasis on family life. Homes are said to be a place of harmony and contentment, havens where a zu'aan can find respite from life’s tribulations. The family structure resembles a tribal unit, with the father traditionally holding the role of ‘chieftain’, the mother a ‘caregiver’ and ‘warrior’, and the children ‘serfs’. It is the father’s responsibility to protect, lead and provide for his family and himself. He is supported by the mother, whose duties are divided between maternal and spousal care. Children are expected to serve their parents during youth and adulthood. However, the responsibility of caring for one's elderly parents typically falls on the oldest son
Family also extends to tribal society as a whole, with members of the social hierarchy overseeing symbolic roles.
“The Gar’leth King and Queen Consort (or Queen and King Consort) are the father and mother of the entire tribe. Society is the home they must oversee, protect and provide for. Chieftains, Legates, Religious Leaders and other important tribe members are the grown children of the King. They support him in his endeavours, and look out for his health when he can no longer. All others are the youngest scions, boys and girls whose duty is to listen and learn so that they may to one day lend their support to the tribal family.”'
-Prince Edain Tara, 4E 72
Marriage and Relationships
Like many cultures, marriage to the Gar’leth is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is the foundation upon which the family unit is built, and so younger tribe members are encouraged to choose their spouse wisely. Males are legally allowed to court a desired wife as early as 16, though most tend to wait until they have reached physical maturity at 18. There are no restrictions as to freedom of romantic relationships; boys are freely allowed to mingle with their desired even without the permission of the girl’s father. However, in order for a union to take place, the boy must seek the blessing of his ostensible in-laws. If not granted, the groom may still pursue his bride through ‘honorable’ means.
Often, this boils down to an armed duel between the boy and the girl’s father or brother. Victory precedes a forced acceptance of the challenger into the challenged’s family. Defeat can entail two outcomes, the boy is never again to speak to the girl, or, if the father was impressed by his fighting ability, the marriage proceeds. It is not uncommon for Gar’leth fathers to test the mettle of prospective son-in-laws by challenging them to a duel. (Mothers are also known to probe their son’s chosen brides in a similar fashion, though it is far less common.)
Should a marriage be accepted, the news is spread across the Snowy Beach. Ceremonies are made a public affair, with all clansmen invited to attend a gathering usually held on the shores of Duhain’s Bay. Gar’leth weddings, as described by Halawin Slor, leading scholar on Varaat, are usually grand spectacles that last from morning till nightfall.
“The cheers were astoundingly clamorous. They filled the sunlit air like the boom of thunder, and echoed off the overlooking cliffs far into the sea beyond. The groom, a handsome youth of 24, stood by the glittering shore, all clad in the Legion’s iron attire. To his right and left simmered the excited crowd, both his family and his to-be’s and what was undoubtedly all of Lakon. Duhain’s Bay was alive with the Gar’leth. Men, women and children singing and laughing, brimming with anticipation for the arrival of the bride. Above the throng on a raised plinth sat the King and his Queen. Even they stood and beat their hands together when the flowery procession finally began making its way down the living aisle.
Bright frost grasses were hurled into the air by white-robed little girls skipping at the head of the bridal column as it came. Behind marched a grim square of dour men, armed much like the groom, led by a stout older zu'aan; the bride’s father and brothers. Between them, held tightly by her mother, was the petite girl herself, garbed in a dress of fur and grey, iron-lined cloth…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘My Northern Journey’, 4E 210
Though frowned upon, divorce is an accepted legal process in Gar’leth culture. Either husband or wife may approach a representative of the ruling monarch (typically a chieftain) with proceedings for seperation. Before an official annulment can be given, the quarreling partners are given a month’s grace period to attempt reconciliation. If peace cannot be made, the marriage is annulled.
The Role of Gender
Both men and women work to keep the tribe functioning. Males of mature age are usually employed as hunters, fishermen, smiths, miners and, most commonly, soldiers in the Legion. Women both young and old are utilized as foragers, seamstresses, cooks and healers. They are, however, also taught to fight, and serve as the final line of defense should appropriately aged men become in short supply.
Because of the nature of Varaat and the Snowy Beach, the typical Gar’leth diet consists of meat and small vegetables. The Varaati Sea provides the tribe with an ample supply of fish, as does the Jorangund River, in which resides the species known as the bluug, a staple Gar’leth food. Land-faring creatures are also rarely absent. Tribal hunters encounter vast amounts of diminutive vakts wandering the shoreline, which they prey on with ease. Anthropomorphic hygls are wont to sleep lazily on the rocks, and are valued by the Gar’leth for their nutritious blubber. Hearty vegetables are grown throughout the year in the sheltered valleys of Gar’s Fingers. Other greens are consumed by the Gar’leth during the warmer months. It is theorized that these plants are not native to the region, and were introduced to Varaat by zu'aan refugees fleeing north at the end of the Third Era.
The Gar’leth Tribe is an absolute heriditary monarchy, with the king or queen holding full governing power over the chieftains. Succession of rulership is cognatic primogeniture, where the oldest child inherits regardless of sex. Clan Tara (formerly the House of Tara) currently resides as tribe sovereigns. All matters of state are to be overseen by the ruling monarch, including economic, military, civil and, to a certain extent, religious issues. As stated by Aelain Tara, the Gar’leth king or queen bears the responsibility of ‘parenting’ the domain of the Snowy Beach. When a problem is brought before them, they are mandated by legal code to address it either themselves or by deferring to the High Council.
A sovereign who neglects this duty can be lawfully forced to abdicate in favor of their heir. The inheriting prince or princess will then be crowned if of age, however, if they have not yet reached maturity, a regent from Clan Tara rules in their stead. Supporting the ruler is a cabinet of 20 ministers from each of the tribes encompassing the Gar’leth. This group, known formally as the Gar’leth High Council, is populated by chieftains of the vassalized clans, the oldest of the tribe’s healers, a selection of religious leaders and the three Legates of the Gar’leth Legion. The High Council shares in the monarch’s responsibility towards the tribe.
In addition to ensuring that the king or queen is adhering to royal code, the council also drafts legislation and proposals, which are brought to the sovereign for final approval. Council members suspected of corruption are to be tried by the High Council, and if found guilty, executed on charges of treason. Despite the total control of the Gar’leth sovereign, the tribes maintain a high degree of autonomy. They are represented and governed by a chieftain or chieftess chosen by their own tribe members. Like the ruling Tara monarch, these tribal leaders burden civic and martial (at least defensive) duties. Elected for life, a chieftain addresses the problems of their respective clans, solving them where possible, or bringing it to the king or queen. They are assisted closely by a Legion liaison, who acts as both advisor and judge in legal disputes. But as many critics have pointed out, this liaison exerts Tara influence on the supposed autonomy of the vassal tribe.
As of 4E 250, the Gar’leth High Council consists of the following members:
King Duhain II Tara
Princess Olain, Heir Apparent
Chieftain Navor of the Yuust
Chieftain Kaga of the Kaalur
Chieftain Dur of the Vorsha
Chieftain Morg of the Borg
Chieftain Borg of the Morg
Chieftess Hilda of the Jotun
Chieftain Thror of the Crowl
Chieftess Gorna of the Hedleg
Chieftain Hurgrist of the Droft
Chieftain Gord of the Gorne
Chieftain Durim of the Garor
Nor Dromsson, Healer Elder
Legate Kagur Servensson, Commander of the Ist Wing
Centurion Nils Karsson (standing in for Legate Gurst Drogsson, Commander of the IInd Wing, missing, presumed dead)
Legate Haldor Odomsson, Commander of the IIIrd Wing
Wulfpriest Elder Favur Lromsson
Symposiarch Siggy Cromsdotter
Sunspeaker Nord Nordsson
Shadowpriest Gornal Guffsson
The Gar’leth army is formally titled the ‘Gar’leth Legion’. Being descended from the Xerea Empire’s VIIIth Legion, they maintain a strong emphasis on old Imperial tradition. Thus, it is not uncommon to see them sporting the same banners as the Brave Eighth (zu'aan numerals representing ‘8’, engulfed by a white sun) in addition to the royal Tara sigil. Pre-Shattering estimates place their strength at approximately 300, with numbers rising to 400 during Queen Aelain I’s wars against Uron Drak. During the cataclysmic shattering military experts theorize the Legion’s operational capacity was reduced by as much as 50%. Though, in the 100 years since their numbers have recovered. Males of fighting age (16-60) are required to supply the tribe with two years of mandatory service.
Incentives are given to encourage them to stay on for longer, such as increased pay or tokens of recognition from the Tara family (the most sought after prize is a marriage to a Tara princess, given only to those whose performance is nothing short of heroic). While the Legion’s ranks are predominantly filled by males, female Gar’leth have been known to enlist. Though, these occurrences are rare due to high physical requirements. An organized tribal militia also exists, though their role is purely defensive.
Overall command of the Legion belongs to the Gar’leth King or Queen, with the monarch possessing either the functional or titular title of ‘General’. Martially inept sovereigns are known to hold the latter, passing leadership to the ablest legate whilst serving as a figurehead. In this scenario, the promoted legate gains the position of ‘Legate Primus’. The 300 legionnaires are divided into 3 wings, the Ist, IInd and IIIrd. Each wing consists of 100 soldiers and is commanded by a ‘Legate’. While amassed into a single unit when the need arises, the Legion wings tend to function individually. Campaigns see them spread out along a frontier, with the Ist usually occupying the centre of an area of operations, and the IInd and IIIrd taking up the right and left flanks respectively. All wings are structed to keep within supporting range of each other, with the obligation to reinforce their comrades if called upon.
Wings are split into 50-man cohorts, supervised by a ‘Centurion’. A single cohort often serves two purposes, that of a vanguard when advancing into hostile territory, and rearguard when withdrawal is required. Cohorts are further broken down into squadrons of 10, led by an ‘Optio’. These units are the smallest subdivision of the Legion, and are considered its backbone due to the camaraderie fostered between members. Squadrons are often employed in highly specialized roles:
Tara Praetorian Guard- Modelled after the Imperial Praetorians, this pair of heavily armored squadrons is selected based on battlefield performance to serve as guardians of the royal family. Divided into two units, Praetorian Solus (Morning Guard) and Praetorian Noctis (Night Guard).
Pathfinders- Legionnaires who excel at scouting and reconnaissance. Additionally, they undertake covert missions pertaining to subterfuge of all kinds. Often described as ‘scathingly proud’ due to their formation by Aelain Tara herself.
Apothecarions- Legionnaires with advanced training in medicine. They are required to study under a village healer for three months prior to military service. Distinguishable by their white horse-hair plumes.
Peltasts- Legion marksmen. While every soldier is equipped with 2 javelins, peltasts are given a quiver of 20 due to their assignment as ranged infantry. Work in tandem with pathfinders to hunt for food.
Due to their Imperial heritage, the Gar’leth Legion employs weapons and armour resembling Xerean Empire make. Each Legionnaire is supplied with a set of fur-lined leather clothing, over which is donned the actual protective gear. An iron ‘hoplite’ helmet with a red (white for apothecarions) horsehair plume is worn on the head. A Breastplate, forged in the likeness of a muscular torso, guards the chest, abdomen and back. Pauldrons secure the shoulders, extending down to the elbows. Iron vambraces are worn around the forearm and often include a set of light gauntlets; some troops prefer the flexibility of simple leather gloves. A red skirt studded with iron scales covers the legionaire’s waist, falling to just above the knees. The lower legs are protected by iron greaves strapped over a pair of thick leather boots.
An iron gladius, spear and large shield are the standardized outfit for every Legion member. They are also supplied with two smaller javelins for ranged attack; specialized peltast squadrons are given 20. It is common for soldiers to carry with them personal weapons such as axes are tribal daggers, though these only see use when shieldwall cohesion is compromised. Tara Praetorians don a thicker variation of the Legion armour, dyed according to their unit. The Solus regiment sports a bronze hue, while their Noctis counterparts are decked in pure ebon black. Both wear blue capes. Legion ranks can be distinguished via helmet. Troops of the line wear the standard hoplite helm and red plume. Optios bear an engraved fist on the sides of their helmets.
Centurion plumes run horizontally instead of vertically. And Legates are most easily visible, elaborate headgear dyed bronze.
The Gar’leth Legion functions on the principles of speed and aggression. They seek to end engagements as swifty and as decisively as possible, pursuing a shattered foe as far they possibly can. Most common among their battlefield strategy is what has come to be known as ‘Aelain’s Grasp’. It is a maneuver that involves a strong ‘pinning’ attack by a determined force against the enemy's center, while a larger group moves to strike against the weakest point of the foe’s line. Once they have broken said area, the latter unit then falls upon the opposition’s exposed rear. At the micro level, legionnaires fight in a shieldwall. Though, Queen Aelain I implemented a slightly more dynamic iteration of the formation.
A Gar’leth shieldwall is spread more thinly, sacrificing stability for mobility, and allowing a greater degree of individual action in place of a sympatico unit. The frontmost rank engages the enemy at close quarters using their blades shields. The line immediately behind them offers spear support, thrusting the long weapons over the shoulders of the frontal line
There exists no singular Gar’leth religion. Even pre-kin'toni records indicate that Varaat was heterogeneous in its religious beliefs, with different tribes holding to varying Gods. However, many faiths died out during the course of the initial outbreak and the years of kin'toni spread across Terael . As a result, three religions came to dominate Aelain Tara’s Snowy Beach. In accordance with her proclamations, amalgamated tribes are free to practice whatever spiritual teachings they so desire.
The Followers of Wulfen
A warrior faith practised predominantly by the aggressive Gorne and Jotun, this religion is simultaneously scorned and respected amongst the Gar’leth. It centers around the worship of the lupine God Wulfen (also Wolfgror, Wolgrim or Wulfhaarg), whose physical remains gave life to Terael after he succumbed to wounds received in a battle against the serpent Malgrog the World Eater. The Followers of Wulfen are warlike by nature. Their tenants focus solely on the art of battle, holding that bloodshed is the sole way to please the Wolf God. Fighting in any form is regarded as holy, however, organized war is considered worship in the purest sense. Those who engage in such violence claim that every conflict is a recreation of Wulfen’s battle against Malgrog.
Adherents are therefore encouraged to pursue a military profession, whether it be as a tribal militia or a lifelong member of the Legion. The latter is often the case, and has led to an unorthodox number of ‘Wulfpriests’ in the Gar’leth armed forces. Mount Gar holds a significant role in follower beliefs. It is said to be the tomb of Malgrog the World Eater, whose corpse is hidden well beneath the mountain:
“And when Great Wulfen did end the World Eater’s life, such was his fury that his claws rent earth and stone to pry a hole deeper than the void. Within this black maw he cast the unholy serpent, and upon the ebon pit he placed a cathedral of grey rock whose precipices breached the nascent heavens with ice-tipped fingers…”
-Wolgrim, Chapter 62 Verse 111, Date Unknown
Followers believe that the final apocalypse will begin when Malgrog is resurrected and ‘casts down his stone prison’ (Songs of Winter, 4E 2889). They hold that without Wulfen, the serpent God will destroy Terael once and for all. There exists no religious head or dedicated temples. For guidance, followers often defer to the most senior in their ranks. This ‘Wulfpriest Elder’ holds a seat on the Gar’leth High Council, and brings any religious concerns to the king or queen.
The Sungazer cult is among Varaat’s oldest religious groups. They possess roots that grow deep into the province’s history, with some evidence indicating a pre- Xerean Xerea Empire existence. Their spiritual doctrine focuses on the sovereignty of the sun over all other celestial bodies. The sun, in accordance with these beliefs, is the ultimate giver of life, and thus is deserving of divine praise. Contrary to previous scholarly assumptions, Sungazers do not actually worship the sun. Instead, it is regarded as the ‘father’ of all space-faring bodies including planets. It does not possess any seraphic power outside its innate life-giving properties.
“Cult followers express what can only be described as ‘child-like’ reverence for the sun. They are its children, brought about and sustained by the radiance it showers on the world. ‘Worship’ for a sungazer is merely appreciating the benefits granted by the fiery star, such as warmth and light. Though it is not uncommon for certain sects to extend such gratitude by conducting ceremonies in a manner pagan cults would…”
-Halawin Slor, ‘Gods of the Far North’, 4E 200
Sungazers maintain a series of ‘Sun Rings’ in the vicinity of Lakon. These stone circles serve as gathering places for the cult, where members come together during the day to listen to the de facto ‘religious’ head, the Sunspeaker. As suggested by the name, the Sunspeaker talks on behalf of the sun. He/she reminds the cult of the star’s gifts, delivering sermons pertaining to the numerous life processes made possible because of its light. When the Sunspeaker passess, a successor is chosen by the cult’s older members. Like the Wulfpriest Elder, the Sunspeaker holds a seat on the Gar’leth High Council.
Very little is known of the third most popular religion of the Gar’leth. They are a secretive group, often shunned by Followers of Wulfen and Sungazers for their clandestine nature. Their religious doctrine revolves around the moon and shadows, with some indications of worship of some unknown ‘dark’ entity. While their exact nature is still debated by theologians, it is verifiable that the Nightkin are staunch enemies of the kin'toni. They are known to launch raids after dark against the kin'toni, armed with ‘moon-blessed’ (properties unknown) iron and a poison known as ‘Shadow’s Kiss’ held in a crescent vial worn around the neck. Should a Nightkin be bitten they are to drink the substance, which kills them instantly.
There exist unconfirmed reports that kin'toni are captured by the Nightkin and brought back to one of many hidden temples on the Snowy Beach. Subdued kin'toni are then sacrificed to their ‘dark’ God, with blood of the deceased being shared by the communion (this is unlikely, as it poses a high risk of infection). Due to their covert disposition, many Nightkin are recruited as Legion Pathfinders. Their religious leader is titled ‘Shadowpriest’, who holds a seat on the Gar’leth High Council. It is not known to experts how a Nightkin obtains this position.
“Aeli went out with the Pathfinders today. I hate it when she does, as most of them are silent monsters who call themselves Nightkin. They are good scouts, no doubt, and formidable warriors whose hate of the kin'toni rivals my wife’s own. But I still do not trust them. Their gatherings are held under the shadows in places no one knows. They stalk the snows in the dead of night like the creatures they hunt. They are disquieting men. Soft spoken and hollow of eye. It is like they are a tribe of their own…”
-Gornal the Bastard, 4E 34
Worship of the Xerean Xerea Empire’s pantheon of Gods within Gar’leth society is limited to the Legion. The decision to remain faithful to Kariah, Goddess of War, was made by Aelain Tara, and adheres more to a cultural purpose rather than a theological one. While all Legion recruits are expected to pay homage to the Goddess, they are permitted to retain their traditional religious identity. Keeping with the tradition of the VIIIth, a Symposiarch, Herald of Kariah, is chosen from among the Legion priests to serve as their leader. This figure also holds a seat on the Gar’leth High Council.
Line of Clan Tara
Aelain I* (4E 25-65)
Haldain (4E 65-92)
Edain I (4E 92-100)
Duhain I (4E 100-120)
Aelain II (4E 120-151)
Olain (4E 151-154)
Naila (4E 154-180)
Edain II (4E 180-210)
Duhain II (4E 210-)
Bold- Inherited from parent Italic- Inherited from sibling
- Aelain I is unmarked as she is the founder of the Gar’leth line of Kings