Ever since its discovery by human explorers from across the vast, uncharted waters of the Vaet ocean, the strange bizarre world of Tarrod and its even more strange denizens had become the subject of intense fascination. A perpetually submerged land inhabited by various varieties of sentient amphibious beings, Tarrod had become a holy grail or a veritable El Dorado for explorers for young adventurers determined to make their fortune in an exotic land and win everlasting glory.
The truth as always is more prosaic. While the exploration and conquest of a vibrant, dangerous realm infested with an endless array of some of nature's more twisted creations may seem the sort of enthralling fantasies that great epics are made, Tarrod's colonizers found little in the way of glory or riches. The once mighty empire of anthropomorphic eel-men who called themselves The Brave People, had long since faded way due to internal strife, leaving only fractured feudal chieftains who paused their endless tribal wars solely to inflict their savage fury on the vile air-breathing invaders who had dared to violate their sacred realm.
Years spent braving the horrendous climate and the savagery of its monstrous inhabitants had long since soured the dreams of more adventurers who had risked everything to sail all the way to a hellish land located on the very periphery of the civilized world. It's horrible experience when your illusions perish but never more so when flesh hungry leeches are chewing off your skin or you find yourself writing on the prongs of a bone trident wielded by a hissing eel-man that looked as it crawled out of the darkest depths of your nightmare.
Nevertheless, there was one source of recompense for the human adventurers . In the booming markets of the civilized world, there was a burgeoning demand for the exotic and alien. The first native inhabitants of Tarrod that were taken as enslaved captives to the kingdom of Caladin, quickly became a spectacle drawing crowds of thousands. Enraptured with these outlandish creatures from another realm, the reigning monarch paid a truly princely sum for them. This sparked a trend, with wealthy nobles determined to outdo one another in terms of the varied specimens of Tarrod natives that they stocked their menageries with. The more unfortunate among these benighted captives met their end at the hands of curious alchemists and wizards determined to discover what novel potions that they could brew with the use of entrails and organs taken from the still thrashing carcasses of their new acquisitions.
Such may very well have been the fate that could potentially have befallen the youngsters of the Anura tribe of Lake Tiarassi. Brave amphibian warriors cast themselves at the steadily advancing circle of armor clad human invaders, determined to prevent the accursed monsters from taking their offspring captive. Death came swiftly to these doomed heroes as their primitive bone spears proved to be of little use against the steel cutlasses of the humans. Casting a mournful glance at the butchered, dismembered remains of their parents, the surviving adolescents unleashed a deep, plaintive croaking as they were led by their captors to a bleak future.
They were thrust into the stinking, filthy hold of a slave ship along with numerous other hapless denizens of Tarrod who had similarly fallen into the clutches of the mercenary humans. Hailing from various species, these hitherto bitter enemies were united in the spirit of despair so clearly stamped upon their monstrous faces. Keening Eshal wails were interspersed with the anguished bellowing of massive Curd warriors. Death eventually came as a saviour to free them from their bondage, with less than half the initial number of captives surviving their horrendous journey across the Vaet Ocean.
Through the intercession of some forgotten god, all the Anura survived their ardours ordeal. Finally, they found themselves in a vast slave market, where thousands stared at them with a gaze of horrified fascination. They returned the gaze, baleful hatred emanating from their massive, bulging eyes.
Striding his way through the front of the crowd, a tall, elegantly clad man promised to pay no less than 500 gold ducats for all of them. With a greasy smile of satisfaction, the slave merchant handed over their rope halters to the fearsome looking retainers who accompanied the generous customer. It was under such circumstances that they fell under the tutelage of the Joachim Harker .
Expecting to be devoured by the frightful demon and his minions, they instead found themselves in a situation that they had never envisaged. Harker treated them kindly, allowing them to live along the shores of the lagoon located on the vast grounds of his estate. Initially wary and fearful, they gradually succumbed to his kindness, greedily feasting upon the abundant supplies of fish that he was generous enough to provide. And yet the twin shackles that chafed against their limbs reminded them that they were yet slaves.
Slowly, Harker begun to address them. He employed the aid of his powerful sorcery to bridge the yawning chasm between the human mind and that of the Anura. As he cast his amethyst fuelled enchantment, his powerful voice filled their heads, dispelling the mute terror that had previously dominated the minds of these primitive begins. He spoke of a great spirit called Jove. Searing flames emerged in their mind as they beheld the radiant deity in all his resplendent glory. Here was a being far more powerful than any mere spirit of water. As awe mingled with raw fear, begun to course through their minds, Harker begun to speak to them. He spoke of how the great god Jove had been betrayed the race of men. Inclined to corruption and greed, they had forsaken the pure ideals of the faith, forsaking an existence of piety for one tainted by a craving for the baser luxuries and comforts of life. Even the supposed leaders of the faith, namely the Jovian clergy revelled in living extravagant lives of debauchery. No longer did man dedicate himself to the service of Jove, instead choosing to immerse himself in sin. From afar, the minions of Ma-O, The Great Demon of the Ocean watched the decline of man from afar, knowing with grim satisfaction that this corrupt, enfeebled race of beings would not be able to withstand the onslaught of the great evil when the day of reckoning came.
But Jove had foreseen the weakness of man. Opposition to the evil plans of Ma-O would spring not from the denizens of the land, but those of the water. Chosen by Jove, they, the transplanted children of a mysterious, submerged land, would one day dive into the depths of the ocean to do battle with the minions of Ma-O. The radiance of Jove would penetrate to the darkest depths of the ocean and endow them with invincible and unstoppable power, enabling them to slaughter the Great Demon of the Ocean himself. With the carcass of this foul being offered as a great sacrifice, great Jove Himself would take mortal form and lead the Anura into a land of eternal life where there would be no disease or starvation. The game would be plentiful and none would even endure suffering of any kind. Filled with rapture, the Anura now understood what their true destiny was. With a resolve borne of transcendental devotion to the immortal and glorious Jove, they swore to patiently bide their time until the day of reckoning came.
Every month, new Anura captives would arrive to hear this sermon. Soon, heretical Jovian doctrine mingled with Anura tribal beliefs to spawn an army of ferociously dedicated inhuman warriors, determined to extinguish the forces of evil. Harker took great satisfaction in this fact, secretly awaiting the day that he would overthrow the corrupt Shogun and the decadent church, ushering in an era when the forces of good would prepare for the final confrontation with the Great Demon of the Ocean.
But fate has a way of frustrating the grandest designs. Word had reached the Shogun of Harker's treachery and the foul army of monstrosities that he was breeding. One night as Harker was riding home with two of his retainers, he was seized. Tortured brutally and subjected to unendurable agony, he confessed his entire scheme. However, he was still determined to exact his final act of vengeance. A gruesome death awaited him, of that much he could be certain. The Shogun was not one to forgive his foes. Nevertheless, before his execution, he would leave a final thorn in the side of his enemy, a final legacy that would torment the underlings of evil. There was only one place where they could find sanctuary and he hoped desperately that they would be able to discover it.
Summoning the last of his strength, he cast a powerful enchantment and bade his far-away amphibian followers to flee the sprawling manorial grounds that had hitherto been their refuge. Trusting utterly in the wisdom of their learned teacher, they fled instantly. The primitive instincts of the amphibians lead them to a nearby river. They cast themselves into its murky depths. Over the course of the following couple of weeks, they swam stubbornly upstream, intent on finding a refuge out of the vicinity of any nearby human settlements. The humans were foul infidels and sinners, unwitting slaves of Ma-O. They would eradicate the true followers of Jove if given the slightest opportunity to do so. Nay, until the day of reckoning arrived, they would need to find a sanctuary free of the human taint. Miles of swamp and marshy ground did they traverse in their flight, seeking to escape man and his casual cruelty that was borne of his deeply rooted impiety.
Finally, in the course of their frantic voyage upon the turbulent waters of the river, they stumbled across the large inland sea known by men as the Sea of Snot as the river finally terminated at its natural end. Located in the heart of the Great Woses, a fetid expanse of swamp infested with ogres as well as other unwholesome denizens, it guaranteed a secure haven for the followers of Jove. To any other band of refugees, it would have offered an unwelcome refuge, being little more than a gelatinous mass of goo teeming with multitudes of repellent and slimy amphibians. But to the Anura, this seemingly foul and uninhabitable morass evoked a deep yearning in their hearts, reviving nostalgic memories of the watery homeland that they had been compelled to leave so long ago. In the lands of men, this was the only place that resembled their half-forgotten homeland, a place where they could spawn and thrive, free from human persecution.
Naturally, in their own tongue they named it Â‘'Tshaloo'' which roughly meant Â‘' land of plenty''. Here, far away from the closest human settlement, the band of renegade Anura forged a new existence. The old tribal structure re-appeared, albeit in modified form. Imitating the example of their of forbears, various tribal bands of the frog-folk roamed around the vast shores of the Sea of Snot, feasting on the other amphibian species that were found in such profusion in the watery depths of the inland sea. With their powerful limbs that enabled them to swim swiftly in the thick, cloying waters, the Anura found themselves perfectly at ease in their new home. Even the most ferocious aquatic predators dwelling in the Sea of Snot , quickly found themselves at the mercy of the Anura. Even the deadly giant rays were easily dispatched by swift bands of determined hunters among the frog-folk, their nimble movements enabling them to leap quickly out of range of the deadly stinger of their prey while their flint-tipped spears shredded its flesh. The only creature of the sea safe from their hunger was the mysterious sea-serpent called Grunlum by the ogres. Identifying it as an avatar of Jove, they worshipped and honoured it There were times when Grunlum would actually seizes and devour some of them, but rather than mourning such deaths, they would celebrate, claiming that the Sea Serpent had been sent to slay the wicked and unworthy among them.
Important innovations had been introduced among these transplants during the course of their long tutelage under Harkin. The old spirits of water that they had worshiped, underwent an extensive change. The ones with benevolent aspects were transformed into the messengers of and servants of Jove, acting as intercessors who would heed the prayers of the Anura and appeal to the omnipotent deity on their behalf. The ones with malevolent tendencies however, were relegated to being the minions of Ma-O, the great demon of the ocean. Sacrifices of toads were offered to the former by fetish priests, the entrails removed from the still struggling amphibians and draped around crude wooden effigies depicting the particular deity being appealed to. As for their more sinister brethren, invocations were made to Great Jove in order to ensure that He protected his followers.
It was their faith in Jove which prepared them for the terrible ordeal that was to come. The native ogres, enraged at finding these newly arrived intruders in their domain, launched a ferocious war against them. Initially taken aback by this savage onslaught of the foul brutes, the Anura faltered. For a time, it seemed as if their extirpation was inevitable. But they soon rallied to the war cries of their fetish priests who invoked the protection of great Jove and convinced the Anura of their own invincibility. Soon, the tide of war turned as the Anura launched furious counter-assaults against the ogres. Vengeful guerrilla bands would spring from the waters of the Sea of Snot to wreck bloody havoc among ogre war-parties before leaping back into their aquatic sanctuary where their hulking, clumsy foes could not pursue them. As casualties increased among the ogres, they realized that the Sea of Snot was lost to them forever and retreated, leaving hundreds of foul ogre cadavers behind them.
This resounding victory over the ogres emboldened the Anura further, demonstrating that great Jove truly favoured them as the instruments of His will. The time had come to take the war to the true enemy. From the safety of their watery refuge, they began to dispatch small bands of fighters who traveled up the numerous river tributaries and streams to launch attacks on official vessels bearing the Shogun's insignia. For now though, they avoid open war, biding their time until the day comes when they are strong enough to overrun the humans and thwart the vile designs of Ma-O.
Organizations • Ethnic/Cultural • Regional
Isolated from the known world by the seemingly endless watery wastes of the fabled Vaet Ocean, the Eshal rule the watery continent of Tarrod with an iron fist, ever ready to carry out plundering raids on the subject races at the slightest excuse. Proudly calling themselves the Brave People,the Eshal are a race of savage warriors and fanatics that are driven by the consuming need to find an ever larger number of victims to feed the monstrous thing known simply as the Matriarch .
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? Responses (5)
They remind me of the Knights Templar. 5/5
Thanks for the vote! :)
Maggot, the very same? In which case; welcome back?
Loved reading this, and it also reminds me of the Templar's.
Well done :)
Rather than a Knights Templar vibe, I was left with an impression of tribalism infused with outside faith, much akin to the Voodoun and Santeria cults in the Caribbean, but much more martial in nature, and zealous in faith. I see the anura painting themselves with war paints, but instead of old tribal patterns, they were symbols devoting themselves to Jove, and invoking his power and protection. I enjoyed this read very much, and good to see you back in the Citadel Maggot.
You're right, Scras. This sub was actually somewhat inspired by a book on Vodoun that I was reading at the time. I've always found syncreitic religions to be fascinating. Also, thanks for the welcome, Kassy and Scras. It's good to be back. :)