Karnus settled himself down, and began to talk...
Karnus on Hutaaka
During our trip to the Pyramid of Myskuramis in Western Alphatia, the Lord of the Tower who was himself a keen researcher of Thothian heritage invited Karnus to speak of the remnants of Hutaakan culture which had been unearthed in our party's home nation of Karameikos. So Karnus relayed many of the party's exploits, and his own, which had involved contact with hutaakan culture - the exploration of the Lost Valley of Hutaaka in northern Karameikos, the battle to defend the city of Kelvin against the undead horde led by the mummified priestess Baqaphix, and Karnus' own personal endeavours to unlock the mysteries of the Staff of Hutaaaka.
"I guess I'll start at the beginning, or as close to it as I know. A long time ago, in the area around the nation we call home, an immortal being called Pflarr sought to create a race in his image. The Hutaakans were the result of his experimentation - a race of scholars and priests, dedicated to the preservation of Pflarr's wisdom. The Hutaakans eventually made contact with a race of men known as the Traldar. Finding them a friendly folk, they educated these men in the ways of magic and other lore, and a firm friendship was established between the two peoples."
"Then came the Gnolls. As far as I have been able to establish, somebody grew jealous of Pflarr's creations, and desired to emulate his success - but these creatures were born of hatred and jealousy, lacking the civilized nature of the Hutaakans. Feral, powerful and prodigious, they destroyed their nameless creators, and swept across the old world like locusts."
"The Hutaakans tried in vain to stop the encroaching Gnoll menace, but their magic, both divine and arcane, failed to halt the invaders. Only through allying with the Traldar were both races able to resist. For decades the war raged, as the endless Gnoll armies raged throughout Traladara. Over the course of the war, the resolve of the Hutaakans faded, as more and more of their fragile brothers died in combat. Yet as the Hutaakans faltered, the Traldar took up the slack, and redoubled their efforts to repel the invaders. In the last days of the Hutaakan sedality, three mighty heroes came forth - Halav, great leader of men, and King of Traladara; Petra, his beloved, the wisest and most beautiful , and Zirchev, final apprentice of the Hutaakan Arch Wokan Xaphorteq, and greatest of all human spellcasters!"
"Together these three led the Traldar to destroy the Gnolls, repelling the beastmen and driving them into the hills and mountains where they dwell to this day. Their song is a great tale, and worth the telling, but it is of the Hutaakans that we speak today, and their part in this story was drawing to a close."
"As they watched their once great nation falter and fail before the Gnoll threat, the Hutaakans assembled their leaders in a great convocation. It was decided that the Traldar stood no chance agianst the Gnolls. The Hutaakans would retreat to the sanctuary provided them by Pflarr - the great Valley of Hutaaka - an impenetrable fortress wherein they would continue to survive and honour Pflarr. There were dissenters - Xaphorteq, the High Wokan, argued that the Traldar could yet prevail, that with Hutaakan support they could drive out the invaders. Baqaphix, High Priestess of the Lowlands, demanded that her brothers and sisters protect her lands. But the will of Pflarr prevailed. The First Priestess of Pflarr communed with the immortal for three days and three nights, and at the end, the decision was made - Hutaakan influence in the lowlands was at an end. To the Great Valley they would retreat."
"Baqaphix was enraged at the decision. She stormed out of the council, swearing her vengeance against the invaders. Xaphorteq humbly accepted the council's decision, but swore that he would remain behind in Kizraka, there to continue his researches and assist his apprentices. But the vast majority of the Hutaakans joined the great evacuation northwards, to their ancestral seat. The mighty gates of Hutaaka were closed behind them, and they passed from the Known World forever."
“Many millennia later, Lana and I found ourselves standing outside those very gates. The journey to that point had been fraught with danger, but the wonders that we had seen were ample reason to continue. Throughout our homeland, evidence of the Hutaakans lay scattered, mostly in the form of their constructed guardians, but principal among their remains was the great lost city of Xitaqa.” At this point Karnus reaches into his robes and pulls out the medallion with the Tower of Xitaqa printed upon it.
“It was here that my companions and I found the tapestry – an ancient map leading to the last refuge of the Hutaakans. As with other Hutaakan tapestry maps we have encountered, the true nature of the weave was not revealed until a certain magical needle and thread were touched to the fabric. We had unwittingly stumbled upon the way to Hutaaka itself, but we were not the only band of adventurers to seek the Lost Valley...”
“So we ventured into the northern ranges of Karameikos. On the way we were pursued by those self same Gnoll tribes that must have plagued the Hutaakans as they made their vast exodus northward. An Earth Elemental of my conjuring was, fortunately, instrumental in holding back the baying beastmen, and eventually we reached the Great Foamfire Waterfall. It was a vast, incredible feat of engineering, where the Hutaakans had bored a spiraling tunnel, miles long, through the living rock itself. And spanning the great waterfall at it’s crest, a massive bridge, crowned with the crumbling remains of the First Watchtower.”
“Though the defences were no longer manned by living Hutaakans, their construct progeny remained behind to defend Hutaaka. Here, as before, we encountered the living statues that guarded the secrets of the Children of Pflarr. This time, the constructs had the ability to absorb metal, and their blood ran as the molten rock!”
“For many days we journeyed along the great causeway, hugging the sides of the mountains, over chasms hundred, nay thousands of feet deep. Here and there stood the shattered remains of the once great defences, the massive bridges now humbled by time’s flame. In retrospect, I have often wondered at those who journeyed that road behind us – the last retreat from the outside world…”
“At last, we came to the great gate of Hutaaka. One hundred feet tall, with watchtowers and guard posts lining the immense structure as it stood before us, defiant in the face of the passing millennia. The great bridge that had once carried the road over the massive chasm had long since fallen, so we had to cross via magical means. Further magic was required to open the great door, and that task was not at all easy, but at last we prevailed, and the portal swung upon to reveal the Lost Valley of Hutaaka.”
“Stretched out before us was a vast, fertile plain. Here and there, forests grew and rivers flowed, and one could just make out the settlements that lay scattered all about. Yet as we journeyed through that land, not one creature of sentience did we see. Oh, there were creatures, you can be sure, but hellhounds and manticores were not a welcoming sight. All around, the statuary of the Hutaakans was defaced and beheaded, with a ferocity bordering on the savage. Before long, we met the perpetrators – it seems that when the Hutaakans retreated, they took with them some of the Traldar folk, who had subsequently risen up and rebelled. It was from them that we learned that that Hutaakans were still inhabiting the valley, though greatly reduced in number.”
“It soon became evident that, despite the state of war between the two peoples, there was another force at work in the valley, for by night the land was infested with skeletons and zombies, seemingly controlled by some unknown power. In combat, these undead were strangely powerful, and our Clerics could not rebuke the dread creatures.”
“Despite the claims of the Traldar, these undead were not animated by the Hutaakans, who we came to know and trust, but rather by some dark power unknown even to the Children of Pflarr. We assisted the High Priestess in performing an ancient ceremony to lay the dead to rest, and had thought our work done. We were preparing to leave Byxata to explore the rest of the valley, when a great evil struck down many Hutaakans in the night. The controlling force behind the undead was still at large, and it was angry. The ashen faced Hutaakans spoke its name in whispered tones… Kartoeba craved the blood of the living!”
“Kartoeba was a mystery to the Hutaakans – a timeless evil, rumours of its presence in the valley had existed since the great exodus. No one seemed to know from whence it came, but it’s evil was legendary, and it’s corrupting influence had been growing stronger in the valley since the Traldar uprising. Our dispatching of it’s undead foot soldiers had angered the creature no end, and we took it upon ourselves to expunge this great evil from the valley once and for all.”
“And so, we ventured into the great catacombs that riddled the valley – a vast network of twisting, intertwining tunnels, protected here and there by corrupted versions of Hutaakan Guardian statues, that exuded slimes and puddings to fell the unwary. Eventually we came upon a zone of darkness, and a final showdown with the remains of our rivals, the now insane Golthar.”
“Of course, our prey was smart, much smarter than we gave it credit for. While we attled the Mad Mage of the Iron Ring, Kartoeba struck from the darkness, his hideous, twisting tentacles lashing out, dragging our unfortunate Hutaakan companions screaming into the stygian blackness. Suddenly we were being attacked on both sides, caught between a vengeful wizard and timeless evil – things did not look good!”
“Lana bravely summoned a spell of flight and led Golthar away from the party, trading dreads magics with him so that we could engage with Kartoeba without distraction. We followed the dread creature into it’s lair, and beheld the true horror of the Kartoeba – a gelatinous body, large as a small dwelling, with a great gaping maw surrounded by four hideously agile tentacles.”
“The ensuing battle saw sacrifice and heroism both, as the hideous creature threw itself into combat. The tide of battle was turning against us when, suddenly, the body of Golthar came falling through the great opening in the ceiling, followed by Lana, wearied but still full of resolve.” Karnus turns to look at Lana. “It was her that delivered the final blow to the creature, finally banishing its dark soul to the nether hells it had first crawled from.”
“Shortly thereafter we found the lost riches of the Hutaakans, concealed beneath the great Temple of Pflarr. It was there that we found the staff.” Karnus looks to the staff of Hutaaka, “the ultimate creation of Xaphorteq, last High Wokan of Hutaaka, wielded in the Beastman wars by Zirchev himself.”
“Wearied beyond belief, and longing for the sanctuary of home, we decided that our time in the valley was at an end, though each of us swore to return for further exploration. You can be sure, however, that it was not the end of our involvement with the Hutaakans, or their legacy in the Known World…”
“Perhaps a brief interlude – I have spent a great deal of time translating and collating the various Hutaakan texts in my possession, and in combination with my own experiences, I have drawn up the following observations:”
"The Hutaakans themselves were powerful spellcasters, channelling both Arcane and Divine power with aptitude. Their divine works included a mastery over the preservation of the spirit and body beyond death, though such necromancy is frowned upon in our society. Nonetheless, their power in this matter has been demonstrated time and time again, and they were masters of the mummification of the living flesh… Indeed, it was only after our time in the Valley that we learned that the dread beast Kartoeba had actually been summoned by the Priests of Pflarr after the exodus – at a later juncture, Lana and I even got to see the summoning ceremony!”
“Their arcane specialism took two main forms. The first was the study and creation of constructs, principally Living Statues. I myself own a set of original Jade Statues, beautifully crafted and engineered, and functioning as perfectly now as they were when created. We have seen many examples of their aptitude in this field, from small silver statues with a nasty bite, to huge Bronze Golems in Hutaakan form. Collectively, they were known by the Hutaakans as Guardians – they are a powerful foe, but an even more valuable ally!"
"The other principal area of their arcane expertise was in the creation of intradimensional gates - transport spells similar to Teleportation, but which actually create portals for the user to step through. The remains of their portal network is still extant in the area around Karameikos, and I am fortunate enough to know of at least a few access methods. Most of my subsequent research into Hutaakan magic has been to quantify the methods by which these gates were established, and it is one of my principal areas of experimentation.”
“Of course, the Staff of Hutaaka stands as the greatest symbol of their magical power – a true work of art, it has command over the Portal Network, is imbued with a variety of powers and spells, and, of course, allows the bearer to read and speak Hutaakan. It also has the ability to track down and identify other Hutaakan artefacts and settlements.”
“But the most lasting legacy of Hutaakan magic is, in my opinion, it’s continued existence as the basis of most common spells in the known world to this day. Long before your people” nod to Myskuramis “ arrived here through the Great Portals, the fundamentals of Hutaakan magic had been integrated into the early magic systems employed by the people of Traladara, Thyatis, Darokin and Ylaruam. Magical learning in the old world has always been a melting pot of influences and cultures, but I believe the Hutaakan contribution to the pre-Alphatian magical learning must be ranked on a par with that of the Elven peoples, for the Hutaakans were much more open with their knowledge than the elves have ever been…”
“The next time I encountered the Legacy of the Hutaakans, I was pursuing the knowledge that would allow me to utilise the Staff of Hutaaka. You see, my Lord, the Staff had imprinted itself on me when I first touched it – it knows me, and I know it… but this symbiosis did not bestow upon me the words of command that would be required to unleash it’s power. So, through virtue of another Hutaakan tapestry map, and some help from the denizens of Faerie, I found to the site of Fabled Kizraaka, erstwhile home of Hutaakan magical learning.”
“The once great spires had crumbled to dust, leaving nothing but the shattered remains of once great structures, and my hopes lay in uncovering the entrance to a subterranean chamber of some form. After hours of searching, I was frustrated – there was no entrance, and years of wandering adventurers from nearby Threshold had undoubtedly stripped the ruins of any clues above ground. Yet, the Staff knew that it had returned to its birth place, when all seemed lost, the staff struck out with it’s power, reducing a fallen wall to nothingness, and revealing the entrance to the last vestiges of Kizraaka.”
“Amongst the various lowlife and undead creatures inhabiting the uncovered tunnels, we found a peaceful shrine to Pflarr, whereupon I placed a Star of Pflarr.” Karnus hokes around in his many pockets and withdraws the battered medallion. “Speaking Xaphorteq’s name aloud caused a trapdoor to swing aside, allowing me access to the lowest levels, and what turned out to be the tomb of the last High Wokan.”
“Unfortunately the remains of the great mage did not rest easily. He awoke, his body animated by the magic of undeath, his will subdued to the anger that his kind felt towards the living. There was no learning to be had from this creature, and it engaged my companions and I in combat. Fortunately, I had the sense to bring a cleric along, and he managed to cause the creature to flee deeper into the catacombs.”
“Following we saw yet another wonder of Hutaakan engineering – a great hall, lined with statues, each imbued with a softly glowing pair of red bejewelled eyes. Ahead of us, over the only other exit, was a huge jackal head, it’s eyes lit with dark, red malevolence. As we stepped into the chamber, the eyes of the head flashed with the brightest ruby energy, sending piercing beams of energy throughout the chamber that reflected off the statues lining the walls. Instantly the room became a death trap!”
“My companions dived and twisted to avoid the beams, but I, who had been in the lead, was left with nowhere to go, watching as the scarlet ray from the Jackal head crept towards me…. Only to be met by a pair of Sapphire beams, emanating from the Staff of Hutaaka. For what seemed like an age, the power of the staff struggled with the energy of the defences of Kizraaka, yet eventually, it prevailed, and blasted the jackal head into a thousand pieces!”
“In an interesting side, it turns out that Hutaakan Guardian statues can be commanded by the undead as well – aptly demonstrated to me by Xaphorteq’s possessed corpse. An epic battle ensued, but prevail we did, and eventually the Great Wokan’s soul was laid to rest.”
“The final chamber in the complex contained Xaphorteq’s journal’s and texts, as well as 3 more Guardians, but fortunately by that stage we had acquired the command ring for the statues and so they were no threat. Having acquired what I came for, I commanded the statues to carry the body of their creator to his sarcophagus, there to claim the eternal sleep deserved him. I commanded the statues to protect Xaphorteq and themselves until my return and turned to leave, only to feel the Staff of Hutaaka holding me back. As I turned, the Sapphire beams shot out once more, lifting the heavy lid of the sarcophagus and replacing it over Xaphorteq’s prone form.”
“It may be me, but as we left Kizraaka, I was sure that I saw a Hutaakan form watching me… The grateful spirit of Xaphorteq? Perhaps, but most likely a trick of the light…”
“Anyway, within the translated texts lay the words and phrases that I was looking for, unlocking the power of the Staff for me to use.” Karnus cradles the staff in his hands, and looks lovingly at it. “I can honestly say that the power of Hutaaka has protected myself and my companions many times throughout my career. I can only hope that Xaphorteq would have approved.”
“There is only one more tale of significance to tell, my Lord. Earlier, I mentioned that Baqaphix, High Priestess of the Lowlands had rebelled against the Council’s decision to abandon Traladara. From what I can tell of Xaphorteq’s journals, she was a proud ruler, and did not wish to relinquish her lands so easily. For years, Baqaphix fought the Gnolls, tasting ever more bitter defeat. She turned on her Traldar allies, accusing them of being weak and cowardly, a grave insult to the proud humans. It is said that Petra herself went to Baqaphix, begging her to reaffirm the ancient alliance between Hutaaka and the Traldar, but to no avail. With the other Hutaakans departed, and Xaphorteq diverted in the north, Baqaphix slowly retreated into her anger and insanity.”
“In her madness, she came to understand that the war could not be won – the Gnolls were too many, driven by their rapacious nature, and the Traldar were just as bad – enemies surrounded her on all sides, so she conceived a last, abhorrent plan for vengeance. A sacred place was constructed and anointed in the hills north of Lav. The remnants of her armies were summoned there, and the mad High Priestess hatched her final scheme.”
“The horrors in that complex were great indeed. Baqaphix had realised that if her vengeance was not to be now, it must be wrought in the future. The great doors were sealed shut. Her priests and priestesses knew their work well – striding through the assembled soldiers, selecting the strongest and most powerful, and then beginning their dread rituals. Imagine the horror of the poor soldiers when they realised the insane plan of their leader – that they should all be transformed into the undead – an eternity of torment and horror, all for the cause of vengeance.”
“Baqaphix herself was the first. The priests performed the ritual as she lay, alive, upon the embalming table. It is said that she lived through the procedure, right up to the point where they removed her heart and the red glow appeared in her undead eyes. The last vestiges of the good being that was Baqaphix were forever replaced by the vengeful scion of undeath. Then came the priests, loyally embalming one another and wrapping themselves in funerary robes. Next, the loyal bodyguard, silent and unwavering as the undead priests tore at their flesh. Finally, Baqaphix opened the doors of her inner sanctum and revealed herself to her troops.”
“There must have been panic; there was surely rebellion – many considered this an affront to Pflarr, but by the time they realised what was happening, the wights and mummies were walking among them, slaughtering those that would not obey, only to have the priests resurrect them as new pawns of Baqaphix’ will. It is said in one night her work was done, and the floor ran red with Hutaakan blood.”
“The silence of the grave hung over the chambers. The last of the living had fallen, and was now shambling towards the great funeral pit, there to lie with his fellows for an eternity. Baqaphix surveyed what she had wrought, as her servants crawled into their sarcophagi, and saw that it was good. Turning, she entered her own tomb, lay in her grand carved sarcophagus, and closed her eyes, there to sleep for millennia…”
“Which is where we come in,” Karnus nods to Lana. “A chaotic cleric of our acquaintance had, well, ‘convinced’ me that I should assist her in surveying a Hutaakan site she had uncovered. She met with a nasty end before we could get there, at the hands of my companions, but it turns out that she had uncovered the Tomb of Baqaphix, and awoken it’s occupants.”
“By the time we arrived there, the last of the undead were left behind – Baqaphix and most of her army had gone, stepping through a portal which would convey them to her vengeance. As my companions fought off the remaining undead, I stepped through the still active gate, and found myself on a hill near a settlement I knew as Kelvin, but which in earlier days had been known as Lav.”
“Baqaphix’ army assaulted the walls, vast waves of undead surging against the defenders of the town. But my attention was drawn to the riverside, where the High Priestess and her trusted advisers were performing a ritual of some sort. White sand had been used to mark out the holy symbol of Pflarr, and at each of the points knelt an undead priest, with the High Priestess in the centre. Their chanting filled the air, and I could make out one word that filled me with horror – ‘Kartoeba, Kartoeba, Kartoeba’…”
“Fortunately, at that point, my companions stepped through the gate, and we began to assault the exposed flank of the army. Lana and our dwarven friend Drewen, raced to stop the ceremony, but were too late. A set of hideous tentacles shot from the river, followed by the hideous glistening bulk – Kartoeba lived again! Fortunately, he did not live for very long. My colleagues and I were a great deal more powerful than during our first encounter with the creature, and thanks to a deadly combination of dread magics and Dwarven warhammers, the creature was soon banished to the nether hell from whence it had crawled.”
“Baqaphix was enraged! She set about her with her formidable clerical powers, unleashing a vast swarm of hornets into the defenders of Kelvin. As I set about undoing her enchantment, Lana and Drewen closed with the undead horror, and engaged her is desperate combat. Surrounded on all sides by the grasping claws of the undead, my companions battled bravely until at last they stood before the last remnants of the High Priestess. Swearing vengeance, the undead thing quickly dismantled the magical defences Lana had erected, and advanced on my friends with her ancient twisted claws raised to strike.”
“Only through the bravery and skill of Drewen was the beast eventually felled, one mighty blow of his war hammer crushing the undead light from her eyes. With the leader destroyed, the army quickly fell apart, and we were able to despatch the last undead with few problems.”
Karnus looks around the table, “That was my last encounter with the Hutaakan legacy, but I think it admirably demonstrates that, even though they departed our world aeons ago, they should not be underestimated.
That is an overview of my knowledge of the Hutaakan peoples – there is more to tell on their society, economics and politics, but these details are mostly beside the point. I hope you can see, my Lord Myskuramis, why we felt we must set down and speak with you, when we espied your sigil and the statues outside your home.”
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