History and Prophecy

The old troll began a chant the moment he left the camp, waving his arms to shroud Richard’s boars with an acidic fog. The ten boars shrieked, half of them fading into mana particles in an instant. The rest managed to charge up to the trolls, but they were cut down immediately.

This troll shaman left Richard rather surprised. Even when the troll empire was at its peak, those able to cast grade 6 spells were quite highly ranked. Still, since the shaman was exposing himself he wouldn’t be given the chance to cast any more spells.

Richard fired back with an acid fog of his own, enveloping all the remaining enemy trolls. The same spell covered twice the area of his opponent’s, the corrosion 50% faster. The troll berserkers had the tenacity to survive a long time in the mist, but it was not the same for the shaman. He let out a pained scream as the fog burnt his entire body, unable to complete his next spell.

But things didn’t end there. Just as the first spell faded and the shaman was about to start his chants once more, a fireball flew his way. Once the waves of heat passed, he managed to get through half his spell before he couldn’t utter another word; Richard had cast two silencing spells in succession, and while the first had failed the second did not. Then came another acid fog spell covering them all.

The shaman ended up being incapacitated by Phaser, unable to cast even one more spell during the course of the battle. Richard’s army had captured around twenty trolls alive and killed thrice that number, but only three humanoid warriors and a thrower had died in battle.

Richard personally looked through the camp once. The architecture was quite similar to the barracks in Zhubvar, albeit much cruder. The camp was built with huge rock walls, a rare few of the stone houses actually having roofs. It seemed like only the shaman and high-ranking berserkers had their own residences, with the dumb red-headed ones sleeping outside in the courtyard.

Inside the central house was an exquisite rhinoceros statue with a sliver of divinity about it. In front was a stone basin filled with charcoal, still burning with a mysterious blue flame. At the bottom was a thick layer of sticky crimson fluid, likely the blood of some creature. It seemed like these trolls had found a new sacred spirit.

A wooden mask was hung on the wall, with unknown herbs and beast bones on some shelves on another side. This was likely the shaman’s residence. Richard was surprised to find a few stone slabs in the corner, inscribed in troll script. Some looked ancient while the others were rather new, one with a carving so fresh it had to be a product of the shaman they had just seen. The language of the slabs was quite simplistic; inspecting them all, Richard found that even he could read it.

The oldest slab held three paragraphs:

‘We escaped Zhubvar and arrived at Rest Valley. This place still has water and trees, I hope the forest can give us food.

‘Zuka does not answer our summons. The evil spirits keep tempting us, we need a new sacred spirit and water.

‘Most of the forest is dead, and our water is almost gone. We must kill all those tempted, they drink the same water as us.’

This heavy slab had been engraved a long time ago; the content may have been minimal, but Richard could fully understand the writer’s despair. He moved on to the second slab:

‘We have found a new holy spirit, the strong Kum. The Rhinoceros God is willing to shield us, his will keeping the evil spirits away. Many clansmen are still being tempted.

‘Kum led us to a new spring. Now, there is no need to kill the weak children. Still, the old trolls must go.’

The next few slabs continued to recount the history of the trolls. After Kum became their sacred spirit, the crisis of extinction was averted. They found a source of water and the ability to resist the temptation of whatever these evil spirits were, albeit without much success.

One year, a river that had been dry for a long time suddenly filled up again. The entirety of Zhubvar was filled with vitality, the forest beginning to regrow as green covered the earth once more. A simple map was even carved onto one of the slabs, illustrating the River of Life.

Richard matched the simple diagram with the map in his own memories, finding that the source of this river was in the Ashen Plateau; it went through the entirety of Zhubvar before disappearing into the Bloodstained Lands. The river wasn’t very large, but where it passed through was quite important.

The immediate next slab only mentioned one event. The royal family of Zhubvar, the Bloodtooth tribe, had finally succumbed to the temptation of the evil spirits. The entire family degenerated and went missing.

The newest slab had a single brief passage. This shaman of the Bloodpeak tribe wanted to retrieve the three sacred artefacts of Zhubvar, but none of the brave warriors that were sent to the ruins returned. The shaman found strange activity in the city, so he built an outpost near the ruins. He also built a shrine to Kum here so he could slowly encroach on Zhubvar with the sacred spirit’s power.

Richard felt heartache as he read through all these slabs. This was a burden accumulated over a long time, millennia of history frozen into the few blocks of stone.

He shifted the slabs out of the shrine, preparing to show them to Flowsand. He also felt the need to speak to the shaman; the evil spirits mentioned were likely linked to the disappearance of the royal family and the abnormalities all around the ruins. Recalling the slight aura of death permeating the troll capital, he felt slightly uneasy.

Within the courtyard, Flowsand was directing a few humanoids to dig out a stone tablet that was half-buried in the ground. This tablet was similar to the ones in Zhubvar’s ruins, the only difference being the content carved atop it.

The troll prisoners were bound together in the middle of the camp, sitting under the watchful eye of the humanoids. Trollkind had powerful vitality; they could recuperate from any serious injury with time as long as there weren’t any broken limbs or the like. Not far away, Richard’s unicorn was uneasily turning in circles while occasionally pawing the ground. However, its magnificent yet delicate silver hooves could not break through the stone. Io was stood next to the beast, unceasingly petting its mane while casting divine spells in an attempt to pacify it. The creature ignored the berserkers and even the troll shaman, but it was glaring intensely at the regular trolls with no intelligence. If not for the battle priest forcing it back, it would long since have pounced over.

When Richard walked out of the residence, he frowned at the sight. He gave the unicorn a strict command in his mind, using the broodmother’s link to force it to suppress its instincts and quiet down.

Io’s eyes lit up at the sight of the slabs in Richard’s hands, “Let me take a look. There should be some useful information in there.”

Richard handed them to him, “These ‘evil spirits’ keep coming up here, whatever they are. On top of that, I keep sensing an aura of death in Zhubvar. Could the city have been taken over by a powerful undead?”

“That wouldn’t be surprising. Cities like Zhubvar normally have enormous crypts; as long as enough time passes, departed spirits will gather in the best-preserved bodies. The trolls have a unique method of storing their corpses, so they turn into undead more easily.”

“You know quite a bit,” Richard gave the battle priest a rare compliment.

“I was born this way.” Of course, Io did not know humility.

Richard then had the troll shaman brought into a room, preparing to interrogate him. Flowsand and Io were nearby, and a language comprehension spell ensured that communication wouldn’t be a problem. He seated himself opposite the now-awake troll, “Esteemed shaman, I believe there are things for us to discuss. I’m very curious about what these evil spirits are, and what exactly happened within Zhubvar. If you wish for your kin to survive, you’d best tell me everything you know.”

The shaman looked at him, eyes slightly turbid and voice sounding like the roar of a wild beast, “You, are you trying to get Zhubvar’s sacred artefacts?”

Richard laughed, “That depends. I don’t know what these artefacts are at all; what is useful for you trolls might be trash to me. I’m interested in Zhubvar’s history.”

The shaman stayed quiet for a bit, his gaze sweeping past the three present, “Plunderers from another world, why should I believe you?”

That statement shocked even Flowsand, while Richard froze up for a few moments, “How… How did you find out?”

The shaman sighed, “It is a secret passed down amongst the high-ranked shamans of Zuka. Before he left and Zhubvar was destroyed, the mighty Sacred Spirit left behind one final prophecy to pass down only through word of mouth. The prophecy said that thousands of years in the future, when the River of Life started flowing once more, plunderers from a foreign land would step foot in Zhubvar. These paragons of destruction would come for the three sacred artefacts, but they would also be a ray of hope. The holy beast of the plunderers would be the end of the evil spirits, and Zhubvar would thus be resurrected.

“What the hell?” Even Flowsand couldn’t keep from swearing as she exchanged glances with Richard. Io seemed confused as well, turning to glance at the unicorn in the courtyard.

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