However their leader was an old warrior, and knew that there was more in life then simply the thrill of the hunt and the kill. Instead the humans were taken as slaves and dragged away to the Torma city of L'ersa on the banks of the Ish'mark river. Once there, the lives of the humans became brief and brutal, perhaps even more so then that of a slave of the Pravaii. The humans, the Southar as the Torma called them, were sold and bought in exchange for meat or fur or even occasionally a few hunks of metal.
Their lives for half a millenia were practically worthless. They were viewed as weak, pathetic creatures, worthy only for manual or demeaning labour, for building new houses or walls, or even, in times of famine, as a last food resort. However one human was destined to change all of this. She was sold into the slavery of a Torma Shaman and was forced to assist in the creature's rituals. The Torma was a unique individual, a monster yes, but on more interested in magic then in abusing his new slave. Indeed the Torma spent much of his time in his humanoid form, as the incantations and gestures were harder in wolf form.
It took time, but the human began to learn the basics of Dark Magic and though she was not the first, she was the most powerful. Perhaps it was accidental, or maybe it was part of an experiment run by the Torma Shaman, but after she had learned the essence of Dark Magic, the rest came much quicker to her. She escaped and freed several other slaves in the process. They were in the process of fleeing through the streets of L'ersa, a full Beast Herd in hot pursuit, when they were confronted by a more powerful figure then they could have expected, the Wolf King himself, the ruler of the Torma.
The Wolf King, a master of Dark Magic himself, easily disarmed and disabled the humans. But rather then killing them, as might be expected, he offered the escapees a deal. He would set them free and give them one month to return with an equal number of Northar slaves, or he would personally kill them, and five times their number. With slavery having ground down their moral objections, the Southar agreed.
They returned a couple of weeks later, fresh from an abortive assault on Larlia, but bringing with them almost four dozen slaves, more then enough to ensure their own freedom. The Wolf King was pleased, pleased with both the damage they had wrought and the number of slaves they had returned with and so he expanded on the deal. For every Northar brought to him, one Southar would be set free. Naturally the Southar eagerly agreed to this deal, feeling no compunction for throwing the Northar into the same hell that they had suffered through for so long.
Within a few years, many of the Southar were free, more then enough to make them into a powerful force in their own right, often running along side Torma or Beast Herds in their hunts. However the Dark Magic was not serving them well. The Southar mind set didn't seem to be able to grasp it properly, distorting the spells into something different. It took a few years, but eventually the Southar Shaman began to embrace this alteration, until finally the Magic they were casting was far removed enough from Dark Magic to be given it's own name. Corrupt Magic.
Focusing up the aging, rotting and rusting of objects, rather then then pain and torment, like Dark Magic, Corrupt Magic was a powerful tool to use against the impressive walls of Larlia. Not only that, but it allowed them to summon up powerful diseases and viruses, infecting large portions of the Larlia population on several occasions.
For a long time, the Southar believed that they were natural to Tal'Vorn, having forgotten the truth a long time ago, and no Torma feeling the urge to tell them of any other reality. However, this changed when a Southar hunting pack found the ruins of their colony ship. Somewhat scared, but curious, the hunting party cautiously began to explore it's rusted innards.
One of the hunters found a small device and, perhaps in a rather stupid move, decided to poke it. Programmed to react to the DNA of the colonists, the device activated. A holographic projection of a man, dressed in a simple jump suit, shimmered into life. A moment later an axe flew straight through his head, thrown by a startled hunter. Seemingly oblivious to the 8 pound hunk of metal now quivering in the wall behind it, the hologram began to speak. At first the Southar were startled, but after a few moments, they fell silent.
"After the colonisation of Mars, humanity began to cement it's hold on the Sol system, terraforming both Venus and Titan in order to set up fledgling colonies on those stellar bodies as well. In the year 2078, the first method for faster then light travel was made safe for human use. Using a linear accelerator, crudely known as a 'rail-gun', scientists were able to 'fire' one man pods out to the Neptune Deep Space Research Lab, all the way from Venus orbit. It took less then seventeen minutes.
"The accelerator basically works by projecting a magnetic field around the object, and then using opposing magnetic forces to accelerate it down a long, straight tube. Early experiments had resulted in accelerated objects being crushed by the gravitational forces involved, but recent breakthroughs in the magnetic moulding technology allowed for the people within the cockpit to be cushioned from the impact, even as the ship was accelerated. Careful calculations in the amount of energy used, combined with specially designed 'retro-thrusters' allowed the ship to slow down to controllable speeds once it arrived at it's set location.
"Work immediately began on developing a larger Linear Accelerator, one suitable for firing a colony ship the massive distances into other systems. Finally completed in 2108, the first ship to be launched made the successful journey to the nearest habitable star system, Capri Munda, in an astounding four months.
"Encouraged by this success, and cheered as the new colony flourished and began using the hull of the colony ship to create a small space station, the humans supplied Capri Munda with parts needed for their own Linear Accelerator via colony ship sized transports. Though they would not be able to return until the Capri accelerator was completed, the transports were also able to carry quite a large population in addition to their cargo, allowing for the more rapid expansion of the Capri Munda system. Finally the accelerator was finished in 2139 and trade immediately boomed between the two systems. Terraforming ships made the journey to the Capri Munda system and began modifying the less habitable worlds, until by 2167 humanity populated more then a dozen worlds combined across the two systems.
"With the massive amount of resources that controlling so many planets offered, the humans were able to colonise several further systems, until finally, by 2307, the Terran Empire controlled more then a score of systems and well over a hundred planets. During this period they had given no thought to developing warships, not seeing the use without anyone to use them against. This attitude was to prove almost their undoing when an alien race called the Kahvar laid waste to one of the outlying systems, Nepar.
"The Terran population panicked. They had by this point begun to assume that they were alone in the universe, and seeing reports of the sleek, shark-like shapes of the Kahvar drifting into view above Nepar's only world shocked them to the core. Immediately the Terran military began rushing through the design process of their own warship. It would be ten years before the prototype ship would drift free of the Mars Orbital Spaceyards and by this point five more systems had fallen.
"In only ten years, humanity had lost a quarter of it's populated systems and the population was in a frenzy. Fortunately the by now massive construction capabilities of Capri Munda had begun building several of the new warships, the so called 'Resolute' class of cruiser. A six strong squadron of these ships was boosted out-system at the first sign of Kahvar ships approaching the industrial system of Erebus.
"Though successful in driving off the Kahvar, only one Resolute survived, the CMS Dauntless. It was determined that the majority of their losses was due to an inability to keep up with the much more agile Kahvar ships. For though the Terran cruisers had more fire-power in the form of torpedos, mass-drivers and ion cannons, they had found it difficult to actually bring those weapons to bear.
"As such, designs were created for smaller, more agile vessels, utilising just one type of weaponry, be it ion cannon wielding Blade class, the Angel class torpedo or the mass-driver armed Shadow class. Though much weaker then cruisers, they were able to move much more quickly, had a lower build cost and time and could turn on almost a dime.
"The next encounter with the Kahvar involved the Resolute cruisers and these new frigates. Operating in mixed groups, with at least one squadron of frigates guarding each cruiser, they performed admirably and with minimal casualties. Until the largest Kahvar ship yet seen emerged from deep space.
"Kahvar ships sail the solar winds, using large, foldable sails incorporated into their ship design, allowing them to accelerate to near light-speed between stars. This allows them to tack, much as a sailboat on water does. Not only that but when combined with conventional thruster drives, their ships, though not capable of full speed within system, can still outrun even the fastest of Terran escorts, the Angel class.
"This single massive ship, covered in weaponry to match at least three cruisers, simply punched into the middle of the Terran lines and ripped the cruiser wall apart. The weaker weapons of the frigates were unable to penetrate it's shields and the ship was just too fast for the Resolute's to bring enough firepower to bear.
"Though the battleship was eventually driven off, it became clear that the Terran's had no answer for it. It would be another five years, and the loss of another system, before the Guardian class heavy cruisers would began rolling off the Capri Munda construction lanes and another ten after that before, finally, the massive Obliterator class Battleship emerged from Mars orbit.
"Finally the war, the war that had never even been declared, began to turn in the Terran's favour. The outlying systems were recaptured, and several key Kahvar colonies were destroyed, unable to withstand the long range rail-gun batteries of the new ships. Finally the last Kahvar ship vanished from known space. This occurred in the year 2457, a hundred and fifty years after the first Kahvar attack.
"Humanity began colonising more systems and producing more warships in ca . . . ."
Here the transcript ended, but there were others like it within the ship. Not enough to educate the Southar, not enough to give them the knowledge they needed to build High Technology, but enough to let them know what they used to be, what they were and what they could be.
The knowledge of it burns like a fire in the veins of the Southar even now. The colony ship has become holy ground to them and it's location a fiercely guarded secret. But when the Northar first started utilising limited High Technology, it inspired the Southar, filled them with a desire to possess it and to take it. Now the Southar are even more determined that they will claim the High Technology in Larlia. And should they get their hands on it then, using the knowledge from their colony ship, they might even be able to replicate it. And that, combined with Corrupt Magic, the Beast Herds and Torma packs, could lead to the destruction of the Northar as we know them.
And now, the Southar have heard a rumour, a word whispered on the wind, unknown in it's origin. Somewhere, far to the east, lies an island drowned in the blood of millions. And deep in this island is the city named Primus. And there the Southar will be able to find another colony ship. And enough High Technology to allow them to conquer the planet.
"Cry and beg and scream, Northar whore, for when I am done with you, you'll wish I'd let the Beasts have you.
Southar Shaman to a female Northar slave.
"Listen to me, Krakkh. You go left. We go right. We meet. We kill Northar in middle? Yes? Then get to it you stupid creature!"
Southar Hunt Leader to the leader of the Beast contingent of the Hunt.
© Joshua Binks (Paladin), Christopher Riley (Carnage) and Vanessa Vaughan (Andanin) 2002 -