The Roots in Peace
The Elves have always been a philosophic and creative people. The first sculpture, painting and music came from them. These arts then spread to other races and the seeds of free thinking were sown in the hearts of men and elves.
Yet it is not unheard of for that which was born to rebel against that which birthed it.
Free thinking led to the founding of a guild that would grow to despise any freedom of thought or idealism. They saw what many saw as a race’s finest achievement to be the symbol of everything tainted.
The founding of this guild took place at the now famous Debate of Sacrese. This was a confrontation between a radical group of philosophers known as the grey cloaks and a repensentory body of the finest philosophers of the day.
During that heated argument the leader of the grey cloaks, Taliz proclaimed that all art was wrong. According to him art was a lie. It allowed individual opinions to be spread far and wide among the people. Music and poetry were capable of controlling peoples emotions pure and simple. This was far to great a risk for already stunning statues of patrons and paintings of heroic deeds biased the people to feel the way the artist did.
At the core of Taliz’s argument was the assertion that with art people were persuaded by glamour and artistic skill, whereas in debates like this one, people were persuaded by logical arguments supported by fact and reason. Art however could persuade without needing to give any reasons.
Thus every philosopher was persuaded to join swear an oath on the spot to The Truth. This was an ideal that would be worshiped as men worshipped a god. For these philosophers reckoned that what Taliz had argued was a universal truth.
It is regrettable that they were not the first to hold an idea as something that was just right, no matter where in the world you happened to be or if more people followed an opposed idea. This lead inevitably to the conclusion that everybody else was wrong.
At first the Grey Cloaks did not want to used violence against the arts. Under the illusion that they would never cause another harm, hundreds were convinced into joining the organization.
Over three generations hundreds became thousands and like wildfire the fanatics spread.
It must be said that the organization never planned violence. But it also must be said that they were quite dense in not realising where such fanaticism would lead.
The Blossoming of Violence
It was nearly three hundred years later, -when the ideals of The Truth had grown outside of the authority of the grey cloaks as if the idea had taken on a life of its own- that the conflict began.
A war against the Human Empire was taking place to the north and whatever military power the Elf Nations possessed was thrown into a desperate struggle for survival. Hence with no-one to enforce the law, Maileu an obsessively active grey cloak took action. He called a grand meeting of the entire organization at the Gasean Auditorium. Only 600 grey cloaks came but it was enough.
Maileu preached to the men that the time had come to prove their devotion to ‘The Truth’ and that it was time to seal their vows with blood. Bloodlust had been building for centuries and all Maileu had done was unleashed it.
Event spiraled out of his control then. A former general known as Malance took charge and the Truth Swords were formed, becoming a military force sworn to enforce ‘The Truth’ by destroying art and killing artists. Few of those present refused Malance’s idea. Yet it was other ideas that allowed this pestilence to spread. Truth Swords were separated into small Strike Columns, consisting of 20 to 30 men and lead by a Blade Judge. The idea was that they would put artists to ‘trial’ and then execute them.
After the gathering, Grey Cloaks throughout the Elvish nations took up weapons and formed Strike Columns. For the first few days the slaughter was controlled and organised. Show trials took place before the killings and women and children were spared. The only damage to property was the destruction of artistic works and writings.
Soon however no limitations existed. Strike Columns where formed by men with no connection to the grey cloaks and others were just thieves and murderers in diguise who just used the conflict an excuse to plunder artisan’s and rich patron’s homes. It wasn’t long before the original strike columns joined in this practise as well, so the the two were indistinguishable.
The region known as Golden Meadows was home to some 300 villas all adorned in mosaics, frescos and murals and filled with sculptures. It was fortunate that the area was evacuated before a mob of True Swords got there, nevertheless the ransacked villas were burned to the ground after they had been striped of everything of value. Other villas were less fortunate with rape, torture and death dealt out ruthlessly.
A more concentrated force centred around Malance. With 2000 men he went from city to city, destroying major universities and academies of art.
After two weeks of blood curdling slaughter, the victims fought back. Zeri an evacuee from Golden Meadows organised the contracting of several mercenary companies. These men formed the base of what was soon to be known as the Defenders of the Truth. The title was chosen to oppose the True Swords’ claim to rightiousness. It worked.
Joining this force was a mixed flood of artistic volunteers, ex-soldiers and common people who all simply hated the True Swords for what they were and not what they claimed to represent. The army was funded by nobles and merchants, the people who could afford artistic works and who paid for the indulgence.
So it was that the Defenders moved out to combat the flood of Strike Columns. But it was hard to fight an enemy that did not have any strongholds and was spread out like shattered glass. Zeri -who had taken on the title of Lord General- decided to split his force. Half of his men he deployed to find refugees bring them to nearby towns and cities. These urban centres should then be fortified and protected. Militia would be recruited where possible.
With the other half he went off to engage Malance. Yet Zeri knew that an open battle would cause both sides to lose too many men. As well as that Malance was an experienced general giving the True Swords an advantage.
So the Lord General laid a trap. He sent 200 men to attack an institute of philosophy and oratory. It was these people that the original Grey Cloaks consisted of so he thought it fitting.
Everyone in the institute was butchered. It is I feel crucial to explain however that these men and women had had no involvement with the Truth Swords and were as innocent as the artisans.
Not long after, Malance’s army arrived and in turn killed every Defender they could find. And so the True Swords left the slaughterhouse and set up camp far enough away so that the smell did not bother them.
It was that night after the unenthusiastic celebrations that the camp was attacked by Zeri’s Defenders of the Truth. Taken completely by surprise and comfortable of their victory the fanatics were easy meat. In the panic most of the True Swords tried to flee and were cut down by a special detachment of Defenders that Zeri had positioned to block the escape.
Malance had despite the massive loss survived and days later he called more men to him. Zeri took advice that it would be better to allow the enemy general to gather the disparate True Swords and thus make it easier to kill them. With this in mind Zeri did not attack Malance
But Malance gathered more men than anyone in Zeri’s camp had predicted with over 200 strike columns. Malance had taken on the Title of Prime Lord General to rival Zeri and it seemed he was entitled rightly when Zeri retreated.
For several days he fled with Malance at his heels until finally he turned to fight. And so with three times the men of the Lord General, Malance decided on sending his True Swords forward in a bull’s head formation, so as to encircle the Defenders. It took several hours to get the disorganized True Swords into formation but when he did they marched forward confidently.
Both sides were kept in formation despite the obvious lack of discipline. The Defenders of the Truth marched directly into the bull’s head which now resembled a shark’s jaws.
Suddenly lightning poured from cloudless skies.
The elven socerors’ guild had been ordered not to participate in civil disputes but after so much death fifty of them rode out to give Zeri aid.
That lightning was joined by fire and jagged stone and whirlwinds. Not a single sword was used that day. It was the next day that Malance’s body was discovered. From then of the violence ceased to escalate.
A day later 3000 deserters under the leadership of a rouge sargent came to support the Defenders and help protect the people from the remaining Strike Columns. Not long afterwards 5000 men from the war to the north were recommisioned and positioned in the worst affected areas.
About three months after the speech made by Maileu, the fighting ended.
Zeri, and most of his Defenders of the Truth entered the army combined with those deserters who had aided them as a separate legion.
This decision was more than anything a way to prevent reprisals. The grey cloaks were outlawed but an amnesty was offered to those that reknownce The Truth.
Yet the results of the war had longer lasting effects. Economically the elves suffered and funding their armies is now difficult. Also so many of the soldiers wanted to aid their families that were caught in the conflict. The order to remain where they were practically pulled the soldiers who did not desert apart. The choice had left these elves shamed and destroyed by guilt. The breaking of so many elves could yet cause them to lose the war.
The PCs’ Involvement
The PCs can fight with either of the sides as mercenaries. They can believe in what they are fighting for or simply fight for plunder or their pay.
They can of course play any role in the conflict from obedient/greedy mercenaries to heroes that seek to end the turmoil and stop the bloodshed.