So yesterday I was in my city of Hidden Vale.

Just spending time with the local administrator and overseeing this particular corner of my vastly expanded holdings, and it’s an odd thing, you know? Having holdings at all, much less vastly expanded ones. Most curious, that.

Anyway, while there, the Lord-Mayor of the city told me that I really MUST spend time with two of the more colorful characters who inhabit his fair city, a couple of Swampers called Tal and Ezarn.

Swampers aren’t generally “my kind” of people.

I’m more at home in great libraries and universities than I am in rickety, shallow-bottomed boats with a pair of bearded, nearly toothless men who look and smell as though they’ve never actually met a hot bath in scented water.

Nonetheless, the journey that originally brought me here was one grounded in a sense of adventure, and I spent the early part of my time here blazing trails through sections of jungle choked with Devil’s Vine, and worse, so my body remembered, even if my mind rebelled and recoiled slightly.

It was in that remembered spirit of adventure that I said yes to the Lord-Mayor’s proposal though, and I’m glad I did!

The two men, Tal and Ezarn had grown up in the swamps not far from what was now the thriving city of Hidden Vale, and insisted that they knew the best fishin’ hole in the area.

Wanting to show off to their Lord and Master, they guided me through two days of hiking through hellish terrain (much more hellish than I recalled, if you must know), then to their “little bit o’ paradise,” which was a ‘cabin’ (and I use the term generously) on the edge of the water.

A strong wind would probably have blown the place over, but this was their palace, and they gave me the grand tour of both of its rooms.

We sat down at their table on chairs which were little more than the uprooted stumps of trees and supped on a thick stew containing at least two kinds of meat and a variety of brightly colored vegetables, none of which I could identify.

Then, after lunch (which really was delicious, despite my misgivings), they took me to their shallow bottomed boat, and proceeded to row me out into the thickest part of the swamp for the better part of a full day.

It was at this point in the journey that it occured to me that if Tal and Ezarn were more than simple Swampers…if they were, in fact, assassins acting on the orders of Haven’s Lord-Mayor, my goose would be well and truly cooked, as I’d have little chance against them both in their own territory, and even if I survived an assassination attempt here, my chances of making it back to civilization from the depths of this trackless place were next to nil.

It troubled me, yes, but also, it was too late to do anything about it. If they meant me harm, then my fate was already sealed, so I settled back and tried to enjoy the trip.

In time, we arrived, and I must confess, my guides were correct.

The fishing was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

We literally caught more than we could fit in the boat without risk of swamping her. As it was, we were riding so low in the water after only six hours of fisihing that the least disruption would send the swamp rushing over the sides of our tiny craft, so most of the way back home, I spent bailing frantically to keep us from losing our means of transportation through the foreboding bog.

I’m happy to report, however, that Tal and Ezarn were not assassins, that I came through the adventure no worse for the wear, and several pounds heavier on account of gorging myself on delicious and expertly-cooked fish, and that I plan to order the swamp to be claimed as part of our sovereign territory at the very next opportunity.

Fishin_Hole

‘The Boys,’ as they insisted on my calling them, knew an amazing amount about Elven Lore, though they be Human Swampers.

How they came to know such things given the isolation of their home is beyond me, but I shall relay in brief what they told to me.

It seems at some point in Elgea’s distant past, the great burning desert in northern Kumala was as lush and green as the island we all now call home.

Even more interesting was that it was one of the ancient Elven Homes. In this case, home to a wild, painted group of Elves whose hunting prowess and connection to the land was rivaled only by their mastery of magic.

At some point, tall pale men descended from the north and began hacking their way into the jungles taking timber to build their LongHouses and fortresses.

The Elves attempted to communicate with the large, loud-and-graceless strangers, but to no avail. Elves who appeared before the North Men were simply cut down like animals.

The Elves struck back, but it quickly became clear that the North Men were more numerous by far, and fierce fighters in their own right.

True, they may not have been graceful or lithe, but their were fearsomely strong, and their tactics, brutish or not, were effective.

Fearing for their continued existence, the Elves resorted to magic to save them, and Shamans from all the Elven Tribes in that part of the forest gathered together to cast a mighty spell designed to rid the land of the hated North Men once and for all.

Rid the land of them it did, but there was a price to be paid.

The land itself was so poisoned…so blighted by the magicks of the spell that nothing would grow there, and the things already living there began to wither and die, and when the green things died, they turned into a fine, useless ash, rather than being returned to the earth to be reused by our Great Mother.

This is what created the great desert of the north, and legends say that in each of the locations of the forty tribes that once called the area home, in the place where each tribe’s leaders held Council, are the tears of the Elven People.

Today, these tears are highly prized because of their rarity, but in truth, there are few known uses for them. They are mere trifles. Baubles without practical value.

They do serve as a reminder, however, that sometimes, in the quest to solve one problem, we can inadvertently create another for ourselves.

I had heard bits of that before, but as my Gran Pere told the tale to me, the Elves of the forest knew full well what effects the spell would have, and strove to create the desert as a barrier against the North Men, who were known to favor colder climes, on the thinking that such a burning land would prove an impassable barrier to them. Then, the story went, the Elven People could live in what remained of the Emerald Death for the rest of eternity without interference.

Whichever interpretation is true and correct, it was mightily surprising to hear some version of the tale passing the lips of a couple of Swampers on Devil’s Island, and at some point, in listening to their story, it occured to me that history is a tapestry, with each thread being contributed by a different actor on the stage of the world, coming together to weave a whole.

That’s what gave me the answer to the charge that HighLord Velociryx had given me, to develop a strategy to help us grow our alliance.

A recruitment strategy, if you will. The results of my inspiration are below, for your consideration.

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