The Skadivers' Tale

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The Jawann

THE JAWANN

The group of barbarians, the Jawann, had seemed to rise from the undergrowth like mushrooms. They carried weapons of a variety of other peoples since the Jawann were not technologically advanced enough to make metal weapons. They depended on stealing them or taking them off of the dead. It was not hard to see that along with sizing up these trespassers, they were also eying the well-made arms these strangers all carried.

The large, muscular warriors were tensed for the attack, when Dorsea stepped forward. He held out his hand flat, and boldly stated, “Woc zent frendann.”

The phrase had some effect on the dark-skinned men, for they eased. The surprise that an old white bearded man in robes could speak in their tongue, strange though the accent was. A large Jawann, who had stepped up into the road before them took several strides toward Dorsea.

“Wen zent Zine?” he demanded.

“Woc zent fendann auk Geltmann Enzill,” answered the old Wizard.

“Watunn zent zine frendann amm Jawann?” he asked harshly.

“Wylykt woc kemme har fer dene helfen kaafann,” Dorsea replied, and whispered aside to Gildenhanna, “I have told them we come to buy their help.”

“Good,” replied the Lord.

“Wasfur?” intervened the tall man rudely.

“Woc zent am caryk fuhrn nine ne mann schlimmer, Styric,” he said explaining their cause briefly. There was a stirring in the Jawann when Styric’s name was mentioned.

“Woc wisane Styrikk,” said the Jawann leader.

“He says he knows Styric,” Dorsea told his Lord.

“Styrikk macht yok sklavanns, ok Yhre yoh finndenn.”

“ He says Styric sends men from Kyre to make slaves of the Jawann when they can capture them. Wolann zine yok vrennigann?”

“Whvall zent yok zinann koafann?” inquired the man.

“He wants to know how much we will pay them,” Dorsea translated.

“Tell him they may have the city of Kyre. We will help them in their retribution if they help us cross to Styric Isle,” Gildenhanna said, looking into the eyes of the barbarian.

“Woc kanne ene schtatte ziine gaybann. Yyre. Jawann woc helfen fahr Styric landenn,” Dorsea relayed to the Jawann leader, whose eyes opened wide in amazement at such a reward.

“Yhre?” he repeated. “Jee, woc zent zine vrennigan an dizah caryk nitn ene mann schlimmer, Styrikk.”

“He says he shall join us,” announced Dorsea.

“Excellent, Wizard,” said the relieved Lord. He then approached the Jawann leader and extended his arm with his hand out flat. The man returned the sign, and the deal was struck. The entire crew breathed a collective sigh of relief, amazed at Dorsea’s knowledge and skill.

“I had no idea you could speak such a remote dialect so well, my friend,” Gildenhanna remarked.

“I cannot,” answered the Wizard. “The barbarians intellect may be good, but they keep little in their heads. I assumed it would be a good test of a translation spell that Kemann and I developed. You shall have to remind me to tell him it worked when next we see him.”

“Indeed I shall.”

The evening was spent eating and resting in the village of the Jawann. The crew was treated to a fruity wine and some baked lizard as the leaders got to know one another better. Dorsea played at trying to stretch the spell to also cover Gildenhanna, and some of the early attempts yielded some amusing slips. The barbarians laughing heartily when several misplaced words were spoken by the old Lord. Apparently, the Jawann word for barbarian was ‘Nishdann’, and when Gildenhanna had used the term, in a strictly descriptive way, it had turned his phrase into a clever play on words to the Jawann. Maybe the wine had something to do with it.

In general, the Jawann were relatively happy folk; the tribesmen were laughing and bullying one another playfully. And the group grew as the evening wore on. Word had spread about the upcoming raid on Kyre, and the prospect excited them. They looked forward to a good, bloody battle—especially on Kyre, for they had made unsuccessful attempts to raid it before and suffered losses to the slavers. They had also raided the neighboring Kala with a limited amount of success. Their neighbor to the northwest, Passway Hold, had never been attempted, for the population was too great, and the Jawann did not want them as enemies. But aside from Kyre and Kala, the only real fighting the barbarians had experienced was with the lizard men on the outskirts of the Doranstean Tidal Swamp. The thought of actually taking Kyre--and venturing even farther—elated them, and that brought out their wild side. Maybe the wine had something to do with that too.

During the course of the evening, Dorsea had explained about their journey by ship, and the need for haste on the rest of their journey. Having to traverse Jawa Island and the battle at Kyre—whatever that might turn out to be—needed to consume no more time than the foiled ship’s voyage would have taken. The Jawann leader, Todmensche, agreed that they should depart in the morning to make it to the edge of the swamp by nightfall, and to then march all day to Kyre, and take the city by night.

Dorsea had noticed some foul running about loose in the village and asked as to their disposition. They were, in fact, stock—for food. He requested that they slaughter one and seal its intestines into a vessel so that he could do some specific divinations on how to enter the city of Kyre. In his estimation, twelve of Gilden and perhaps a hundred Jawann were not enough to lay siege in any traditional manner to a city of that size. They would need an advantage.

Todmensche looked at him with a huge question on his face, and Dorsea explained that he was learned in the ways of Wizardry. It was then that a huge hush fell over the festivity. Wizardry had never been a friend to these people, and they took a pretty severe prejudice to the idea.

To ease the tension, Dorsea created a display over the fire—basically a Wizard’s version of a firework’s display. The barbarians shrank back at first, but as there were no ill effects from the spectacle, they began to show interest, and eventually cheer for various illusions he would bring to bear. So there was more reason to believe that this new venture would be all-the-more exciting. A Wizard working his wonders for the Jawann? Hard to believe. Once again, maybe the wine.

The three leaders talked for some time while the villagers were still in a state of revelry, but as the evening grew late, the Jawann barbarians and the Gelts broke up and went off to sleep.

In the morning, they buzz in the village awakened the Gelts. They shared a quick breakfast of fruit and tangy wine, and walked out of their hut into a crowd of Jawann already assembled and ready to go. Dorsea and Gildenhanna joined Todmensche at the head of the uneven column of men, and all was silent.

“Farren woc,” Todmensche commanded. He turned and began the march east, and out of the village followed the small army.

Dorsea turned to Gildenhanna and said, “He said we should go.”

“Thank you, Wizard,” he replied, “I could have divined that much myself.” Dorsea laughed. “They seem very optimistic to have us on their side. With only twenty-two of us, it does not seem like enough to stay the tide.”

“They have legends in their own tongue that tell of Gelts and Wizards,” Dorsea explained, “but in their generation they have never seen any. I do not mean to slight their legends, but they do tend to exaggerate a great deal. At any rate, barbarians are very fearful of magic, for they do not understand it.”

“Who does?”

“I do,” said the Wizard with a confounded look. Apparently the exertion of the entire day’s march the day before—and a substantial amount of wine—had left the old magician a little stiff and irritable. Regardless of his condition, he kept pace with the younger men as they kept moving on and an upward slope toward the swamp at the center of the island. It was just after midday that they reached the first of two crests, the West Swamp Crest. The afternoon would be spent descending to the lowlands at the north edge of the Jawa Swamp. The swamp existed because of a natural depression in the middle of the island, not unlike a bowl. As with many such wetlands, it was dependent on many factors as to how big it was, how wet, or how passable. It had been a moderate year, as far as rainfall, so the swamp was an average size and not too deep. That was good, because the group would still have to get their feet wet even staying to the north edge. True dry land to cross would have been a luxury nearly half a day’s march farther north. That way had been considered and rejected in favor of the more direct course, straight to Kyre.

Eventually, they came to the point where they would have to actually get their feet wet. The Jawann had crossed here many times before, but the Gelts stood on the edge of this, looking in. The canopy of the trees cancelled out most of the day’s light. What filtered down reflected off of murky water and damp vegetation. The air was still, but that was the only thing that wasn’t moving—there were all manner of things climbing, flying, crawling, slithering, or swimming.

“Haffen zine dene zwarte barayt,” Todmensche quietly told Dorsea as he made his way past the standing Gelts and strode into the water.

“He says to have your swords ready,” Dorsea translated for his men. The sound of swords unsheathing split the air, and then the only sound to be heard was the sloshing of feet moving into the black water.

Walking in swamps is not usually a fun thing to do. The walking itself is fairly laborious—not only does one have to deal with walking through water of varying depths, but the footing of each step is questionable. The ‘bottom’ is not the bottom; the bottom is where one’s foot stops sinking in the soft silt of decaying things. Lifting one’s foot at each step becomes a chore. The water itself starts as black, but only for the first person in the line. That same silty decay is disturbed immediately and turns the water into a swirling brown mess. Visibility into the water is not even a thing to be considered. However, walking through a swamp is not necessarily a dangerous thing to do. There may be snakes and other reptiles, or even fish, capable of doing harm, but mostly they don’t want anything to do with people. Any encounter directly is by accident--like stepping on a sleeping Grizbilt under the water-- and that is why walking in one’s or two’s in the swamp could be potentially more hazardous than, say with an army of over a hundred. Most wildlife is long-gone by the time the first few people have noisily come into their territory. So, that’s most wildlife. The exception, of course, is with predators.

The small army had been moving through the murky water path for over an hour. Only a few times had the way become waist deep, but remained knee-deep for the most part. The pace had been slow and steady until they came into an area thick with broad-leaved plants on frequent raised mounds. The Gelts, who had been near the middle of the line, noticed the Jawann beginning to pass by them from behind. In ten minutes, they found themselves last in line, and it dawned on them there must be a reason for that.

It wasn’t long before the reason became clear. It seems the lizard men, who inhabited this area, prefer to pick off the last few of a group, rather than attack the head of the line. These were not totally wild predators, no, they were slightly intelligent ‘men’, who used tools and weapons—they just happened to be lizards and live in a swamp. It wasn’t inconvenient for them to live there. Their feet were webbed for swimming or walking on the silt without sinking in, their skin was waterproof, and they happened to like eating snakes. But the occasional barbarian was good eating too, and here was passing by a veritable smorgasbord.

The last man in the line heard a swish from behind him to his left, and he instinctively ducked as he turned toward the sound. The impact of a javelin landing in his pack’s side knocked him off his balance, and he fell into the muck. Instantly, a four lizard man hunting party was charging him. They moved quickly and efficiently, where the Gelts flopped and swayed. An archer from futher up the line killed one of the charging lizards, and the fallen Gelt was just finding his footing when he was put upon by another coming with claw and knife. The Gelt’s sword sliced the water on its way up to take the arm of the creature. The closest man to him came back to finish the beast off and stand back to back with his friend.

The other two lizard men reconsidered the attack and disappeared into the foliage once again, but not before throwing a snake at the men. So, the two Gelts had time to free the lance from the last man’s pack and break it. The man who broke the lance dropped it quickly and drew his sword again. His friend was taken aback to see him lift the blade high above him and swing down right at his feet into the murky water. At that moment, he felt his boot get hit by something. The other was continuing to hack at the water around them, but when the man lifted his leg out of the water, there was revealed a snake’s head stuck to his boot. Fortunately the reptile’s fangs had only just pierced the leather of the boot when the sword had cut through its neck. His friend could see that his swing was successful, and the men eased, pulling the rest of the snake’s body out of the water and holding it up.

“Evening meal,” the smiling soldier said.

They did not linger at the scene, but quickly caught up to the rest of the group to soon be done with the swamp. By evening, the small army had made its way to the top of the east crest and decided to make camp. The morrow would take them to Kyre and battle.

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