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The History of the Truefolk
Age of Chaos and Beyond: The Trinity of Truefolk

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The Birth of Tribal Magic

The halfling tribes gradually recovered from the ravages of the Undead War, both in terms of population as well as pessimism. Tales of Truefolk becoming silent and withdrawn, and finally riding off never to be seen again, finally ended. This irrecoverable depression was seen by some to be a scourge born of their Gods' disapproval with the Truefolk, a punishment for having been associated with the demon summoning. They called the malady the Maelaish, and likewise used the term to refer to those claimed by its darkness.

For many years the halflings vehemently avoided contact or interaction with outlanders, or 'Others.' If any, especially elves, approached their encampment, they acted as if the intruders did not exist. They carried on with their normal activities, simply walking around any outsider as though he or she did not exist. However, at dawn of the next day, the visitors awoke and found the whole community had vanished.

At a historically significant Trine some fifty years after Maelshyve, the Truefolk arrived at a monumental decision guided by a Trine Father named Finryst Carlsonne. Carlsonne was a visionary leader in terms of historical far-sightedness, and urged his people to embrace magic and develop it, for purposes of not only advancing their population's success in making a living, but in their ability to protect themselves from others' magical workings.

His proposal met with great resistance at first, fueled by the memory of magic gone awry at Maelshyve and its punishments on the halfling tribes. However, Finryst, an admirable orator with great charisma, was finally able to convert his opposition to his opinions and gain the unanimous ruling necessary for passing the Trine. Magic was embraced and a search was initiated to find those Truefolk youth who exhibit a talent for the art. Guiding this endeavor was an expatriate Illistim elf by the name of Memailly Rachidesic.

The Horse War

Memailly Rachidesic, the Avatar

Having been expelled from her home in the city of Ta'Illistim in her early adulthood, purportedly for breaking certain rules regarding the casting of dark magic, Memailly traveled north and eventually happened upon a settlement of Mhoragian halflings. Although weak from the hardships of her journey, she was fascinated by the small, hardy folk and smitten by the ritual-rich existence she observed in them. As they worked at their normal activities all around her without apparently noticing her, she carefully watched all that they did. At the end of the day, she knew that she had found what she set out to discover months before. She had found the Malghava tribe. She was home.

That night, although near physical exhaustion, Memailly sat before the main campfire of the settlement and pondered the problem of convincing the tribe to accept her, to recognize her and communicate. The problem and its possible solutions denied her the comfort of sleep. She was heartily grateful for this when, in the last couple hours of darkness, the camp silently came alive. Gers were struck with amazing speed and nary a sound was heard other than a slight rustle of canvas bags and tack.

As the whole settlement set off into the darkness, Memailly followed them, leaving most of the small amount of provisions and gear she still retained. She was simply too exhausted to carry much more than herself.

The halflings walked all the coming day. In mid-afternoon, the group stopped for a rest. Thankful for the chance to sit, Memailly drew her water bag to her lips for a much needed drink. It was empty. The seemingly endless expanse of the steppes stretched into the distance, with no sign of water in any direction. None-the-less, she said nothing to the halflings sitting in groups around her, sharing water and tough, brown strips of jerky.

Hearing a small rustle, Memailly realized her eyes had fallen shut. She blinked in confusion for a moment, and saw the group was already on the move. Leaping up, she stepped forward to follow, and almost tripped over her water bag. It was now full. She drew a blessed mouthful of cold, sweet water, and set off once again, following the tough little people she hoped so desperately to join.

For three days and nights, the halflings marched. Memailly only allowed herself to doze fitfully during their rare rest stops, constantly afraid they would slip away if she truly slept. At the end of the third day, as the halflings stopped for their evening meal, Memailly sat down heavily and tried to focus her eyes. She knew she could not get up again once the halflings returned to the march. In resigned despair, she slumped over on her side and fell instantly into a deep sleep.

The following morning, Memailly awoke to find a bustling settlement of gers erected all around her. As she blearily glanced about her, an ancient little halfling grandmother knelt beside her and offered her a cup of warm tea. In surprise and gratitude, Memailly accepted the cup. As she drank, the woman chuckled and said something to her Memailly didn't understand. The thing she did understand however was that the ordeal was over, and, against all odds, she had passed the test. She lived the remainder of her life with the Mhoragian halflings and became the subject of many legends told among the Truefolk.

The Coming of Magic
Memailly Traithmok had been with the halflings for many years, and though she was still young in terms of being an elf, she'd slowly gained the trust of the halfling tribe. Finryst Carlsonne had come to depend upon her as an advisor. Finryst had long since discovered that Memailly was a wizard trained in the venerable halls of Ta'Illistim's finest academies. She had given up any allegiance she might have once felt for her Elven ancestry with the commencement of her marriage to a halfling warrior named Einaz Traithmok, a union that lasted over 70 years. The marriage ended when Einaz was killed in a conflict with an Ardenai hunting party, leaving Memailly a widow. When Finryst told her of his plans for bringing magic to the tribes, she agreed and willingly took on the organization of the endeavor. Time proved that Memailly's enviable talent in magic was equaled by her skills at management.

Young halflings with magical promise were located during the coming years, and brought to Fraelshire. Here a structure was erected, a large building where the tenets of magic began to be taught, and it was called Grinstoff Roth.

The children who studied there turned out to be surprisingly adept, and Memailly was amazed, then delighted, with their promise. Who could have known that such a vast well of talent was lying undetected in the small, hardy people?

During her teaching, Memailly was at first puzzled why spells she cast at the halfings would be resisted as though they had not worked. With experimentation, she discovered they had an innate ability to withstand elemental magic to a degree she had never encountered before. While she was never able to fully explain this, she eventually deduced it derived from a combination of the halflings' close relationship with the land and their natural inclination to disdain hostility. Memailly gave it a name, calling it the 'reshchleiv' or as translated in halfling, 'Land's bounty.'

As Finryst passed from Trine Father, his successors continued to support the work, trusting Memailly's administration with unquestioning approval. With her Elven longevity, she schooled year after year of new initiatives, and watched their children, and their grandchildren follow in the magical arts. And as time passed, the initiatiates grew into their power as though they were growing in height. The other races, meanwhile, had no suspicion that the halflings possessed any knowledge of the arcane arts.

For many years, the halflings had lived on the steppes and along the borders of the Houses Ardenai and Illistims' lands. For the most part, the elves, as they did with most other races, completely ignored the halflings, beyond asking their help in the final push against Despana's minions. The elves had no use for others.

In about the year -14823, during the dark times after the defeat of Despana and the exile of House Faendryl, a ravaging blight began to reduce the crops surrounding the city of Ta'Ardenai. For five years running, the blight persisted, to the point that the city was on the verge of starvation. Given the schism that had developed between the Houses since the exile of the Faendryl, none of the other Houses had offered assistance to the Ardenai.

The Ardenai hunters ranged further and further north in an attempt to feed the city's populace, which eventually brought them into direct conflict with the Brughan halflings living in the forests surrounding the lake Khesta 'Dahl. Isolated incidences of conflict became a growing threat among the Brughan tribes.

As racial bigotry prohibited cooperation in feeding the starving populace of Ta'Ardenai, skirmishes between Elven hunting parties and halfling settlements became increasingly more common. The halflings began to conceal their settlements. The elves often underestimated their small adversaries. The small elven hunting parties, formed less of soldiers than true game hunters, found themselves at the mercy of lightning-fast strikes by halflings mounted on the agile Brughan shire ponies. The halflings were not only consummate riders, but also exceptional archers, a fact that took the Ardenai marksmen off-guard.

The ruling king of House Ardenai began to take notice of the difficulties the hunting parties were reporting in their attempts to gather game for the city's consumption. With typical elven arrogance, the king decided to send a small legion of soldiers northward to deal with the diminutive harassers.

As Brughan settlements were found and burned, Ardenai hunting parties attacked and Truefolk killed in retaliation, the conflict escalated in the eyes of the Ardenai from a minor annoyance to a major issue. The proud Elves of Ta'Ardenai would not countenance such aggression and insult from a people they viewed as itinerate poachers, in fact little better than vermin.

The populace of Ta'Ardenai grew more and more unruly as famine and disease claimed their victims. The Ardenai ruling family saw the halfling insurgence as an expedient culprit on which to blame all the woes of the city. The blight, while a devastating punishment to the population of Ta'Ardenai, was a natural one. However, it was easy to spread rumors that halflings had infiltrated the Ta'Ardenai countryside, bringing the scourge with them and leaving it in the fields to multiply, spreading death and suffering in its wake. It was an insidious blight, leaving the crops rotting in the fields, and herd animals -- dependent on the fields' bounty - dying a painful death of mouth and brain disease. Gradually, the city's ire was redirected from the ruling family to the 'halfling menace.'

Seeing an advantage, the Ardenai king discussed attacking the halflings and claiming all the lands of the northern forests as Ardenai provinces. This encompassed the entirety of the Brughan homelands, a region rich in timber, water and game, to which the king intended to promote migration and settlement by the populace they were unable to feed. Thus, the Ardenai claimed it as their eminent domain and sent several legions of seasoned warriors northward to safeguard the area for Elven migration. Meanwhile, distant Elven settlers, acquainted with the Brughan tribes and -- after years of trade -- friendly to them, warned the halflings of the threat. The halflings found it difficult to believe that the Ardenai would initiate something so radical, and expected to meet only an enhanced version of the raiding parties they had previously experienced.

While the Ardenai military leaders are adept strategists, they believed the halfling population would be easily subdued, and expected the initiative to last only a few weeks. With this in mind, they formed a small preliminary strike force to move into the Brughan lands, wipe out any resistance, and then occupy the land until a larger group of warriors could arrive and relieve them. The first strike force was only a few hundred troops; however they had the added advantage of having been on numerous campaigns before that and were fairly seasoned fighters.

In the meantime, the halflings contacted the other families. A large number of seasoned Malghavan warriors, as well as a good number of fearsome Mhoragian horse warriors joined the Brughan army and prepared to meet the approaching Ardenai strike force.

The Ardenai legions reached the Brughan territories and set up camp in a beautiful valley bordered by tall, wooded hills on three sides. Although ringed by thick forest, the valley, called Saens Valaire, was wide enough that the Elven commanders considered it safe, plus it had the advantage of a running river to the north. The troops made camp while reconnaissance parties began to explore and map the surrounding countryside.

Despite the survey sorties, the Elves did not discover the main Brughan outpost. Instead, they found another town, inhabited for the most part by old men, women and children. The Elven scouts, viewing the settlement from a distance, saw a large number of the curious, round halfling tents, as well as a bustling population and a large herd of Shire ponies. It was this settlement, known as Ragalatan, which the Ardenai strike force chose as its first initiative.

As the Ardenai army surged across the river bordering the town of Ragalatan and swept down upon the settlement's population, halflings ran desperately for shelter. Screams echoed across the valley as they died, and Truefolk fled while clouds of Ardenai arrows rained death upon them. At the conclusion of the Ragalatan massacre, few halflings who had dwelt there were left alive.

The halfling army, massing at another settlement on the other side of the hills, heard of the attack on Ragalatan and the general reaction was one of stunned dismay followed by rage. All doubt that the Ardenai Elves were bent on all-out war in order to push the halfings from the surrounding land was gone. The halfings prepared for attack.

As the small group of Ardenai troops returned to their camp, they brought the few survivors of Ragalatan with them, a group that included a few women and children. While the command staff of the Ardenai troops knew that the initiative was just beginning, the general mood of the troops was one of victory, despite the questionable fact that the victims of the Ragalatan Massacre had been essentially harmless.

Three days later, the halfling army attacked an hour before dawn, taking the advantage of surprise. Arrows rained out of the sky and sorties of armed horsemen rode into the disorganized mass of half-awake Elves, cutting some of them down as they crawled from their tents. The small force of Elves was effectually routed, and surviving hostages were recovered. By noon of that day, only the commanders of the Elven troops were left alive. They were sent home carrying a message that the Brughan homelands are not open to transgression.

The Ardenai king, incensed at the defeat of his legion, lost no time in sending several more legions of troops northward. These well-trained troops were familiar with battle tactics and ready for a fight, having heard of the loss of the first legion. Still, in the coming years spent in the wild Brughan lands, there were no large-scale confrontations. Instead, the Elves and halflings engaged in covert attacks on each others' scouting parties.

For the first time, the Ardenai Elves began to find themselves the targets of magical attacks from unseen halflings hidden in the trees and vales. This was an immense surprise, since the halflings had previously been considered a race unskilled in magic, hence primitive and unworthy of notice. Over time, the troops were lowered in number and eventually recalled, their numbers so reduced that they were no longer considered to have any tactical advantage. It was at this point that the Ardenai King, already suspect among his Councilors in terms of reliable judgment, began to consider another option. Despite the fact that the blight had finally ended, and prosperity returned to the Elven city of Ta'Ardenai, the Ardenai King could not accept defeat at the hands of a people he respected so little.

In secrecy, at the bequest of the Ardenai King, sorcerers were consulted, and after much conjecture, a plan was put forward. It was considered harsh, but the general consensus among the King's advisors was that victory must be achieved. The King, still angered over the abuses visited on his legions, agreed. They would repay the halflings' magical attacks with sorcery. Under a strict vow of secrecy, the sorcerers began their convocations.

The spells took ten years to perfect. During that time, the conflict between the Elves and the halflings decreased and finally stopped, as the legions had been recalled and few Ardenai remained near the halfling lands. The halflings returned to living, and the city of Ta'Ardenai returned to prosperity. At length, the Ardenai Sorcery Master arranged a meeting with the King and his advisors and there, declared the magic ready to use. The result was immediate conflict within the small group of advisors. Some individuals voiced their opinion that the situation was now healthy and saw no reason to proceed. However, when it was pointed out that the dreaded pacifist element had infiltrated even the highest court, the King pushed his advisors to agree with the plan. The Ardenai Sorcerers, vastly powerful and eminently knowledgeable in the dark arts, initiated the spells.

Within weeks, the halflings discovered their prized herds of ponies were ill. Despite anything they knew to do, the animals began to die. In two months time, every pony across the Empire of the Truefolk was dead. In the first weeks, the halflings tried to bury them, but soon the sheer numbers of the herds necessitated that the halflings burn the carcasses. In time, the great Northern Steppes were strewn with the bones of the wild herds, numbering in the thousands, which had once roamed the land.

Unfortunately, the Ardenai failed to take into account the breadth of their sorcery; their buffering spells, cast to protect their own herds, proved ineffective. Soon, the Ardenai horses began to die as well. Within six months, all the halfling ponies and the Ardenai herds were dead. The advisors were aghast at the ineffectuality of the buffering spells, and quickly insured that the shroud of death silenced every sorcerer associated with the project. While the horse owners and Ardenai horse breeders were in an uproar at the demise of their prized equines, the Ta'Ardenai King's advisors prayed that the truth would never be discovered.

Among the halfling tribes, the Mhoragians were the hardest hit by the annihilation. They burned the carcasses of their valuable herds, and then tried to follow the antelope by foot. Many died of starvation. And some died of despair at the death of their ancestral heritage.

While all ponies were gone from the halfling way of life after the sorcery, the hardy people managed to evolve and in time, proliferate. The Ardenai Elves, preoccupied with their own troubles and concerns, paid the small people little attention afterward. The Ardenai herds were rebuilt with bloodlines purchased from the other Houses. It was likely the Ardenai were grateful that no further scrutiny was cast upon the ill-fated venture. And in a few years, with the death of the Ardenai King (who was considered most certainly mad in his later years), the Elves had forgotten the whole incident.

The halflings would always mourn the passing of the great herds. They would always continue the rituals they practiced while the ponies were living, in hopes that someday, the horse tribes would return.


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