Story of Unkhe-Mahn

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Being an Account of the Fall of the Race of Unkhe-Mahn
And the Coming of their Children

As Told by Kele-Mohk, History-Keepers of the Kobolds

Kele-Mohk limped into the teaching hall. The waiting audience of eyases held still, politely not acknowledging the elder's slowed gait. The venerable history-keeper's creaking joints reminded him constantly that he was too old to travel, but by now he had mostly come to peace with his people's loathing for a sedentary life. Mostly.

Kele-Mohk looked around with age-bright eyes at the young eyases, holding so still they were hard for his eyes to pick out clearly; their dark, dull grey skin blending in to rock of the room they sat in. The few older children, fledgings out of their first decade and old enough to travel, visiting the hall today were clearly visible, their lighter skin stood out in greater contrast from the children and rock around them.

There were seven of them today. It was a testament to the esteem held for the storyteller, that so many of the adolescents passing through the city with their caravan-groups would choose to come to his hall.

The children held themselves contained until he sat down. Then their energy started escaping, the restraints of courtesy passed. Rustlings and whisperings, and then requests lit into the stillness of the room.

"A story about Isu-Anin?" An eyas called out.

"Isu-Anin and the Rock Giant!"

"Ah, I could tell you about Isu-Anin and the Rock Giant. But it seems to me I already told you that not too long ago, didn't I?" Kele-Mohk smiled. "And I told two stories of Isu-Anin yesterday, I recall. Perhaps a history instead this morning."

His audience strived to be polite, but they were visible less interested in a history than an exciting story of the Old Times.

"What if I told a history older than Isu-Anin?" He suggested.

"Older than Isu-Anin?" Asked the eyas. "But he's from the Old TImes. He's the oldest of the Old Times."

"Indeed he is. But there was a time before the Old Times. A city, before the Old Times." Kele-Mohk's voice shifted. It was not very loud, but somehow it filled the hall. "A city built before any other known, in a time when the Elves were all one people, a time before the Dwarves learned to draw out the metals of the Living Stone, or Gnomes learned to speak. Listen now to the story of the city of Unkhe-Mahn."

This opening caused a sudden stir and then rapt stillness among the storyteller's young audience, and the fledglings grinned to each other in anticipation. No ordinary history or children's story, this.

"The People of Unkhe-Mahn had come across the Sea of Stars and the city that they had built was a city of wonders," Kele-Mohk continued when his audience had settled, "a city where the sun was kept alive at night, and cold fire burned in the hearths, and no one ever died.

"But as all things come to an end, so did the Age of Unkhe-Mahn end. For there came a day when a dark cloud appeared on the horizon across the plains toward Sun-Rising. The People of Unkhe-Mahn thought nothing of it, it was after all just a cloud, a dark line at the edge of sight.

"But soon City's Outgatherers brought word that it was no cloud, but a great host of beings, clad all in white, and with black standards painted in alien symbols. And then the People of the City were startled; for all their people lived in that one city, and they had not known the world held other peoples.

"The People of Unkhe-Mahn were peaceful by nature and had not fought a war in many ages, and it did not occur to them that the Strangers might hold hostile intent, and they sent emissaries to the Strangers when they came to the City.

"These emissaries were slaughtered, with no cause given.

"Startled the People had been, but now they were truly shocked; for they could not conceive of any reason that the Strangers might kill their emissaries. But they overcame their shock and hastened to defend themselves. They threw from their walls rocks which turned to flame, and the earth screamed and shook with their weapons, and the ground ran with blood. And during all this time the Strangers never once spoke a word to them, not to treat with them, not to explain, not even to threaten. And in the end the City, for all its wonders, was too ill-prepared to defend itself from the horde of the Strangers, and the power of the People was tied to the Earth and the Stone, and was not suited to war, and they were destroyed but for a few.

"For though the People were unused to armed conflict, guileless they were not, and some few escaped into the cavern world; and there they fled far and long. They lost much in that flight, but eventually they regained some of their old arts, the making of healing powders, and light molds, and paper tubes that danced with flame." The elder paused in his story and looked around at his audience, "Ah, I see a light dancing in your eyes, some of you. You understand?"

The eyases had been listening enraptured, kept quiet and still for fear of interrupting the story, and now a quiet murmur ran through them in the pause. This was more interesting than climbing stalagmites or catching large-eyed fish in the stream-caves. Little could match their people's fascination with what had gone before.

"The near destruction of their race left permanent changes in the survivors, never again would they fully trust another people, nor live exposed on the surface. It was many centuries before any of the multitude of peoples in this new land became aware of them at all. Mystery became their weft and their warp, and they made great tapestries of it; and mystery became their shield and their sword and they wielded it with confidence; mystery was the apothecaries allowing them to live on the edge.

"And so we will never walk this land as freely as others, or be accepted as readily, for we . . . are Unkhe-Mahn's Children."

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