During the Journey North from Sarldom…
“One thing I never understood…” Cerridwyn stood near the prow of the sailing ship Quintessence, northbound two days out of Ellefreel, pretending she wasn’t sea-sick while listening to Marid’s clumsy attempt to play his sitar as the ship pitched about over the waves. Neither of them felt at home aboard ship: she was an Elf of the Norwood, while he was a Tiefling who’d spent his whole life in the desert, up til three days ago.
Marid gave up on his faltering tune and looked at Cerridwyn, in anticipation of her question. “Yes…?”
“Why is the Spire ruled by a human dynasty? Why do they follow Sarldom customs? And why do they use Farlanthian noble titles?” She crossed her arms and narrowed her gaze at Marid accusingly, as if he were deliberately keeping all this knowledge secret just to annoy her.
He allowed himself a short laugh. “Actually that’s three things, Cerri.” She wasn’t amused. “Um…you know, the histories on that matter were off-limits. And the very first Lord King of the Spire, Yorath, declared the subject forbidden in his court, centuries ago. Under pain of death. His edict was never rescinded.” He shrugged and went back to work on his new poem.
She nodded tersely. “Marid…”
He looked up again, innocently. “Hmm?”
“I very much doubt there’s a forbidden history anywhere in Sarldom you haven’t read. And, we’re not in the Lord King’s court, so his edict hardly matters, now does it?” Cerridwyn knew she had him there—victory was hers. For once.
“Ah. Well, it’s a bit of a complicated story,” he hedged, not really wanting to get distracted.
“That’s alright, I’m bored. Please, do tell.” Cerridwyn smiled pleasantly, but she clearly meant not to let this go.
Marid sighed in resignation. “Very well.” He put away the sitar and took a moment to organize his thoughts. “It began centuries ago, in the early days of the Fourth Age; there was a Pellenese nobleman named Yorath who incurred the wrath of the High Queen, Lyssa. The histories do not say what his offense was; perhaps he plotted against her, or did not serve well in battle, or maybe he was simply an overzealous suitor – I really don’t know. But the High Queen had a problem, because Yorath had a great many followers – indeed, an entire army – and she could not execute him or imprison him without dire political reprecussions.”
“But the political acumen of the High Queen is legendary, and her solution to this conundrum was simple—she exiled Yorath from her Empire, and bade him not return until he had earned her pardon. And when he left, Lord Yorath took all his troublesome allies with him. Thus did Lyssa rid herself not only of a troublesome nobleman, but persuaded entire legions of potentially disloyal troops to follow him into exile voluntarily.
“But Yorath did not go quietly. Determined to earn the right to return to his homeland, he vowed that he would earn the High Queen’s forgiveness by conquering the one country she had – so far – failed to bring into her Empire: Sarldom. This would be his gift to her. And so the rejects of Farlanthia became a scourge upon the shores of Sarldom.”
“Yorath’s legions landed in force and sacked the port city of Ellefreel,.plundering its riches to fuel their conquest. Though it took many years, the invaders held the port, and resupplied their forces. In time, Yorath took the Obsidian Spire which overlooked Ellefreel. But this was not his ultimate goal—in time, he intended to take the rest of the continent. But although he held the great port city and even the Spire, the Tieflings of Sarldom were not easily defeated. In the wastelands of Sarldom, his men burned in the fires of defeat. Yorath very nearly met his doom in Sarldom, like so many other invaders.”
“And then, before he could be killed, Yorath quit the field of battle. His men returned to the Spire, where they could not be assailed. Except for a trusted few, who went with Yorath deep into the heart of Sarldom, taking with them much of the treasures they had found in the vaults of the Spire. Sarldom’s riches became the means of our undoing in the hands of Yorath, as he found his way into the lands of the Fire Giants, and offered them up as payment to ally with him in his crusade.”
“The Fire Giant Chieftain needed little persuasion to fight against our people, but here was a man of the North, placing treasures of which he had only heard legends in his very hands! Although they were cruel and untrustworthy allies, Yorath made the Fire Giants his willing accomplices, and renewed his war on Sarldom. Fire Giants marched down from their volcanic mountain lairs in the west, and from the Obsidian Spire in the east, Yorath’s men came forth with their morale restored. Their victory seemed inevitable, but in the end, it was all for nothing. For while war raged across Sarldom, refugees from Ellefrrel had reached the High Queen’s court in Norrell.”
“They came to High Queen Lyssa with terrible news of Yorath’s sacking of Ellefreel, his plundering of the Spire, his terrifying alliance with the Fire Giants, and of a great many other evils he had committed in her name. The High Queen took them in, and gave them a new home in Yorath’s old fiefdom, but sent word to Yorath that he would never be forgiven for the many acts disgracing his former country. She commanded Yorath to return Ellefreel to the Tieflings, have no further dealings with the Fire Giants, and stop his conquest of Sarldom. She would allow him and his men to live, but as exiles in Sarldom.
“Yorath was to be the Lord King of Her Majesty’s territories in Sarldom, which would extend no farther than what could be seen from the Spire. Its vaults had been nearly emptied to pay Yorath’s erstwhile allies, and he would need what was left to make reparations in Ellefreel. Yorath ended his conquest and began his rule in poverty, and to support his troops, he taxed the Tieflings in his lands heavily. It mattered little, as they hated him to begin with.”
“Yorath never truly came to terms with his fate. A great deal of the heavy taxes he levied were used to build conservatories and arboretems with exotic plants from Yorath’s country, to remind him of home. Over the years, the Obsidian Spire became a place of mixed cultures, with a great many luxuries imported from Farlanthia, as well as the best Sarldom had to offer. After his death, Yorath’s heirs adopted more and more of the customs of Sarldom, having been born there, and raised in the ways of the Tieflings.”
“And so it is today…the Lord Kings of the Spire have kept much of their Farlanthian heritage, but they are truly men of Ellefreel, even to the point that they’ve adopted the custom of keeping slaves, just as the nobles of Sarldom do.”
Marid’s story was finished. He paused for a moment to observe Cerridwyn’s reaction.
She didn’t make him wait for long. “Lucky for us, some slaves are harder to keep than others.” She smiled ferally.
Furtively glancing about to see if any of the sailing crew had overheard Cerridwyn’s remark, Marid replied quietly, “Indeed.”