“There are always places for the lost and forgotten. How else would they become lost or forgotten without somewhere to hide themselves?”
Follies; Everard Hemp of Hammerhal.

~


“Of the many and varied locales I visited in my travels across the Known Realms, few were as difficult to reach as the Grey Marches, also known rather poetically as the ‘Thrice-tenth Kingdom’. Sadly few locales were as dreary or indeed pointless as this supposed Kingdom, rendering our efforts to reach it somewhat pointlessly arduous.

Nonetheless, my vocation as cartomancer for the Trygalle Guild would allow for no laxity in the mapping of all the pocket realms, kingdoms, lands and Known Realms or all the various hidden paths, shadow roads, gates and crossing points into said locations. Thus, burdened with glorious purpose and heavy responsibility, I applied my not inconsiderable talents to the mapping of this frozen wasteland that appeared to manifest somewhere in the extreme borderlands between Ghyran and Shyish. Some travellers may have shown some trepidation at the mention of the Amethyst Land, however seasoned souls such as myself hold the lands of the dead in no ill favour – their lord is cold and dread, but he is just and fair in his way. Regardless, our reason for visiting this forgotten corner of existence was the rumour of a hidden way, a gate which could be exploited for travel through to many other Realms. Our guide, the ancient Wanderer who named himself Envoy, also made us aware of the existence of several fascinating sounding isolated branches of sentient peoples of the Realms, claiming that men, duardin and even aelves somehow had made their homes here. He warned us too of other, more dangerous natives, such as the feral Jheckals, the mist-born Ban-sidhes and the fell inhabitants of the sprawling great dark forest itself.

Suitably warned, we set forth through the snow and began our important work…”


“…even with the legendary constitution and lackadaisical approach to comfort that the duardin are famous for, I was surprised to see these native duardin wearing little but leather loincloths and heavy stone helms, surely no protection against the frigid elements of this land. Envoy introduced them as the Ur-Hesht, a long-isolated and forgotten breed of duardin that had almost escaped notice. For duardin they were a primitive and tribal lot, almost chthonic in their beliefs and person. They paid no heed to the traditional duardin pantheon, nor even to the ur-gold that is the sole love of the Fyreslayer Fyrds, instead believing only in a primal proto-god named Hesht or Hasht, possibly even Velasht, after which they named themselves: Ur-Hesht, or the ‘Sons of Hesht’. From what Envoy could translate of their near-incomprehensible tongue, their god was a great horned stone beast that slept deep underground near the heat and fire, or was the heat and fire maybe and that one day they would find this Hesht and wake him and his fire. The difficulty of translating their primitive tongue, even for one skilled in languages, made it hard to ascertain whether these were simply debased duardin trapped here for long years, or a harsher, darker cousin of the duardin we were familiar with, or merely a backward and ancient early form of the duardin themselves.

Regardless of their lack of modern trappings, the Ur-Hesht proved themselves to be as skilled workers and craftsmen as their cousins, albeit in a far more primal form. Eschewing the use of metal (for no ore was to be found in these lands) and wood (superstitions abounded regarding the cursed nature of the forest itself), these duardin instead worked almost exclusively with obsidian and were able to craft the hard volcanic rock into creations of impressive skill and complexity. Each Ur-Hesht wore a fully enclosed helm of obsidian, including a stone beard, and all their weaponry and accoutrements were fashioned from the same dark glasslike rock. Their skill was truly a marvel, a combination of ordinary stonemasonry and some darker chthonic geomancy as Envoy explained.”

“Before leaving the Ur-Hesht, who while fascinating were also rendered sinister and off-putting by their stone visages as well as their disturbingly primal beliefs, our expedition imagist was allowed to take the accompanying lithographic etchings of one of the Ur-Hesht.”


“Giving his name as Khor Dazhborg (I was unable to clarify if Khor was a title or forename, or even if Dazhborg was a name or tribal role), this individual seemed to perform some sort of diplomatic or leader role within the tribe and was our main contact throughout our sojourn with the Ur-Hesht. The obsidian full helms, facemasks and weapons are much in evidence here with Khor Dazhborg explaining that he had shaped or formed them himself, as all his people do. As stout and hardy as all duardin, he bore great branded marks across his back and shoulders that doubtless held some significance within the tribe. Most disturbing was the articulated stone gauntlet he wore on his left arm – I did not want to pry too closely but it appeared as if the stone itself was becoming one with, or growing from the very flesh of Khor Dazhborg, something he merely referred to as ‘the cost of age’, which frankly made no sense at all and thus I believe Envoy’s translation to be flawed.

“Of course, as disturbing as the Ur-Hesht were, we would come to look back on their chthonic nature with great affection after future encounters with the other denizens of this gods-forsaken land….”

Excerpt from Travels Through The Realms, Unfinished. Dieter van Ganza of Anvilguard.