- L.L. Stephens
LORE: Report to King Erydon
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
When Khelds first invaded lower Tahlwent, entering through a Rift event, King Erydon sent his kinsman Eldhan to find out more about the invaders.
Eldhan sent back this report.
To my King and Uncle, the Thrice Royal Wall Lord Erydon, master of Essera and Prince of the Royal North — Greetings and Wishes for the continuance of our good communion.
I have done as you have requested and spent these many weeks making acquaintance of the new people who descended so suddenly and violently upon the towns of Macena and Rammes.
As you commanded, I traveled to Trulo and took custody of the captive Gormak held by your general Ezeor Vasileos. I used my talent for knowing minds to learn that the captive is a son of their leader. This information proved to be of great use. I demanded this Gormak Almson as a companion, to be always at my side, and this I was granted on Your grace. Thus I endeavored to learn their language and enough of their ways to attempt contact as an emissary of Your Majesty.
I communicated to Gormak Almson my sincerity to understand his people and help them engage in a constructive way with ours. To convince him of our power beyond that of the military and the might of our cities, which he already had seen for himself, I revealed that you, my King, could foresee the future and that my mission was one favored by a god. Gormak agreed to serve as my safe passage to meet with his people in their encampment at Macena.
The invaders call themselves Khelds.
Their name for their people comes from their word -keld, which means “immediate clan” or “close kin.” By their tribe’s name they include all their people as kin. A related word, kilth, means “family.”
The number of Kheld people who crossed over is most likely several thousand. They came to Tahlwent from the Fen after passing through a portal from one of the archived pasts; only the Wall would know which one. As is usual, their name for their place of origin was simply “the world.” They undertook the journey because an enemy of hostile nature and greater numbers had invaded their valley and was slaughtering the Kheld people. They claim one of their gods, named Lud, appeared to a woman named One-Eyed Bess and disclosed to her the location of the portal that conveyed them to our World.
Gormak described the portal thus: “… a cavern in the earth, the entrance found between the roots of two great trees as tall as the sky. Deep it was with a roof of teeth and a floor aglow with death-soft things, but on the other side we saw the green land we were promised and so we passed between the jaws of stone to enter it.”
The woman named One-Eyed Bess met with me, as did the Kheld’s great spear-wielding chieftain Alm, Gormak’s father, and several other of their leaders both male and female. Upon hearing my petition that I be allowed to learn from them and our two peoples meet to forge an understanding, two of the militants called for my head to be stricken and that be the understanding. However, the leadership argued that the losses they had suffered already were grave and agreed that I should be kept whole, possibly to be used as a hostage.
Bess, as chieftain of the women, undertook my custody and it was in her house and with her kilth I lived in relative freedom. At no time was I mistreated.
These things I learned during my time among the Kheld people:
Khelds are in every way that I could determine of human stock. We are already acquainted with their visible physiques and traits.
Though these newcomers are rustic, and by our standards uneducated, their healers are quite knowledgeable in medicinal plants and skilled in the art of treating many bodily ills. Their Old Mothers teach anatomy and bone-setting, wound stitching, and the preparation of potions for sicknesses from itching to gout and cramping of the gut or heart. Most of their healers are women, called faetha, meaning “learned daughter (of the Mother-implied).” Men too learn a form of healing, mostly applicable to battle wounds and injuries, from priests called faeduadan, which means “learned son (of Lud-implied).”
Kheld females practice a form of magic that involves stones and sticks. It was explained to me that the sticks have powers of the earth and by placing special stones among them a woman trained in this art can discern secrets and foretell events. I did not witness any instance of this happening. Kheld belief in this practice, especially among their women, is very strong.
Though as a people on the edge of warfare, Kheld food supplies are limited to what they plunder, they have fed me generously. Men and women alike are excellent cooks. They are especially good at eel. As for drink, the only reason they are not drunk more often is that good beer cannot be made with stone. I was served a drink very like Ardaenan mead and found it excellent. Around a table, Khelds are good company and tell many tales of doubtful deeds.
Though Kheld males are boastful, fierce, and cunning, they worship a female deity alongside their male one, and bestow great power upon their women. Kheld females only can own or inherit land, according to status and clan. Each child is accorded the clan and status of its mother. Women sit in judgment for all crimes or transgressions.
Kheld women choose their own bedmates and decide whether to wed them. No man commands their property or decisions. To wed a woman, a man is expected to bring value with him in form of livestock, a useful craft, or a gift of wealth. He is also expected to build her a house. She will make him a shirt.
A child whose father is known is named after its father, -son for a male and -da for a female. A child whose father the mother does not wish to acknowledge takes the mother’s name with -son or -beorn for a female. Some children are fathered by way of a secret ceremony conducted through their female deity, wherein a man and a woman couple anonymously in a burrow in the earth. Children conceived in this way, male and female, are considered fortunate and blessed and forego parental designation; these children are designated by the surname Rhys for males and Rhysda or the mother’s kilth for females.
Male respect for women is high and the ability to “win” a woman’s regard and bed — to be her choice of man and father of her children — is held in great esteem. Khelds believe their female deity rewards such men with offspring and prosperity. A wealthy man is one with herds or well-established craft and a landed wife. Though warriors are respected, most men I met were only warriors by necessity and had never seen battle until confronted by the people who drove them out of their homes. Now they face us and have no homes to which to return, so they are determined to hold what ground they have. Their weapons are primitive: spears and axes augmented with battle-looted swords and armor. Their archers are better at hunting.
Khelds have a system of laws, most to do with property rights. They do not imprison people or hold captives for any longer than needed to ascertain their benefit. Our men captured on the battlefield were put to death as enemies. Only recently have Khelds realized captives could be ransomed; we are seeing more of that now, because wealth is a benefit of which they approve.
Rapes (female and male) do occur but are rare. Rapes that have been perpetrated against our people during the recent hostilities are condemned when perpetrators are known. Men found guilty of rape, which is also a crime against their goddess, are executed.
A man who would hold captive a woman and lay claim to her property is considered not a man at all and, in Kheld eyes, should be run off. I witnessed one such case; our woman whose farm in Rammes had been claimed in that way was released from the offending man, though a Kheld woman then took her farm as spoils of war.
Our greatest obstacle is not that Khelds are brutish or unjust, but that they wish to lay claim to a new homeland for their people. They hold no special hatred toward us or wish to kill us, though they are willing to do so. They want land — and they do not want to be dispersed or assimilated, but to keep their own ways.
Khelds have at present three clans: Thegn, Vesl, and Darm. The Thegn clan is most numerous. Most of its men are warriors and engage in husbandry; they seek land for their women to own and upon which to graze the herds they have plundered from our villages. The Vesl are mainly farmers, though the men are currently also warriors; they seek land upon which to grow crops and are quite determined to settle where they are, as the land is good. The Darm clan favors rivers and wetlands and would settle along the Dazun; the land they seek would be on a river.
As my relating indicates, Khelds are proud and stubborn about their laws and customs. Neither the men nor their females are candidates to change their ways of life to better fit with ours.
Khelds have no knowledge or understanding of either the Wall or the Rill and just as little understanding of our people, either godborn or common. Though our military would ultimately prevail, the loss of life on both sides and the disruption to our society would be significant. Our strategy to put this matter to rest will most likely have to be political. My great prayer is that the Wall reveal to you a path to a gentle resolution.
The relationships I made with One-Eyed Bess, Alm the Spear-Wielder, and his son Gormak have seen me freed. I have reached Trulo and my safety is assured whatever Your Majesty chooses to do with the information I have obtained.
This report submitted and sent with your nephew’s sincerest gratitude for this opportunity to serve our great purpose.