Ways of the S'kra Mur (book)

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Isth'hhtaw 'hhs S'kra'in (The Ways of the S'kra Mur)

Mhhrikath Alazh'na

Preface .................................. Page ii
CHAPTER 1: S'Kra Origins ................. Page 1
CHAPTER 2: S'kra Civilization ............ Page 3
CHAPTER 3: Why We Are Hated .............. Page 6

I, Mhhrikath Alazh'na, am the hereditary chieftain and chosen Speaker of Sraan Mhhg, the Serpent Clan, most prosperous of all the Nine Clans. By this authority I write and publish this book, intended for the enlightenment of those unfamiliar with our ways, whether they be of another race or they be cousins from far lands with differing customs, so that they may better understand our ways.

It is not my intent to cover either the spoken S'kra or the written Eth'ral'khh, but I would like to note the most common source of confusion about our language. "HH" is a vowel in our tongue, roughly equivalent to an "uh" or "eh" sound in most other languages. Hhshal, the name of a notorious figure from our folklore, would be pronounced "ESH-all", not "huh-SHAL." My own name is a bit more difficult, approximately "MURR-ah-kaw." We generally forgive any other mangling of our language, but keeping this one rule in mind makes all the difference between sounding like an uneducated gutter-born cur and a person we can respect enough to deal with.

Chapter 1: S'kra Origins

Self-styled modern "scholars," having no better way to spend their time than attempting to disprove centuries of traditional wisdom, claim that we, the S'kra Mur, are merely the descendants of the Black Molloky'i of the badlands. But we resemble those knee-high dung-throwing motherless gremlins as the sun resembles a stone. And I who have borne four children myself can tell you that the S'kra most certainly do not lay eggs! My acquaintance, the Lorethew Dumezyl, says this ridiculous notion about our ancestry is "no more likely than the idea that apes are the ancestors of Humans."

Our own time-honored lore says that Ushnish made intelligent, deadly reptilians to harass and torment the Humans. Hav'roth looked at the creatures, and with his brilliant intuition he saw their unfulfilled potential. He gave them the gifts of the mind: language, creativity, and magical talent. Peri'el watched the cold, cruel acts these creatures committed against the humans and each other, and wept. She gave them honor, love, and pride: the gifts of the tail (or the "heart" as other races would have it).

So though we were created as monsters, by the wisdom of Hav'roth and the grace of Peri'el we became the sixth of the Seven Peoples.

Chapter 2: S'kra Civilization

The tales of the hero-king Sarkhhl Smo'neh (called Longtail) and his contemporaries, though now regarded as legendary, are our oldest histories. Our culture was based on agriculture with an aristocracy of warriors and mages, and the habit of raiding nearby clans for slaves and cattle. During this time the Nine Clans emerged, and many of our traditions were established.

At some point we came across the Gor'Togs, and enslaved them. We had little concern for their lives because they bred so rapidly, and no concern for their dignity for they were not counted as people, merely as intelligent trolls. We bred them for the qualities we found most useful, which we ourselves lack: strength, endurance, and physical hardiness. They were a stalwart race when we found them, but we made them stronger.

With these loyal, hard-working drudges, our culture transformed. We spent our energies learning and perfecting other arts, such as the graceful, languorous dancing style known as sarhhtha. We mastered the lore of herbs for healing, spices, poison, and other uses. We learned the Elven sport of fencing, then developed our own fencing style which confounded the greatest Elven swordsmen of the time. We created our own style of intricate, asymmetrical ornamentation, and applied it to fine jewelry and clothing which enjoyed brief popularity with the other races. Our economy expanded and shifted away from agriculture into crafts and trade.

But then came the Long Winter, which lasted three years and devastated our people. To conserve our stores of food, we turned the Gor'Togs out. Even so, our numbers were decimated by starvation and the unusually cold weather (our reptilian blood makes us especially susceptible).

When the Elves offered us rich rewards for joining their side in the Elven-Human War, not one of the Clans hesitated. But after six years of fighting, when the entire Wind Clan, Sraan Mehath, was lost in an avalanche, we bowed out. Some say it was a Human warrior-mage that triggered the avalanche; others (mostly Humans) say it was one of the omnipotent Guardians who intervened when the Elves and Elotheans drew too much magic for their attack spells. By tradition, Sraan Mehath is still counted as one of the Nine Clans. It is Sraan Mehath which all dead heroes join, and it is led by the legendary Sarkhhl himself.

As you know, the Humans were the nominal victors, and called a conclave of all the races which laid the groundwork for the Empire of the Seven-Pointed Star. It is not my intent to delve into Imperial history, except to say that our people did not fit well into its framework. Much trouble arose when a S'kra assassinated Emperor Riini, a Halfling who was unable to stay awake on the throne but was completely neutral on all matters and thus deemed a politically safe choice. The days of the Empire were prosperous, but few tears were shed by the S'kra Mur when it fell.

Chapter 3: Why We Are Hated

Upon our shoulders, the rest of the world places the burden of the reign of terror of the Dragon Priests. None of us living now are old enough to have been party to the atrocities of that age, but the Elves remember. The heinous acts of our grandfathers are not easy to forgive - and fair or not, we are still paying for those acts today.

Sh'kial, the first Dragon Priest, was a fanatical, charismatic, and utterly harmless dolt. His basic teachings are not so different from the teachings of the Ru'atin Peri'el: keep the World Dragon pacified. Unlike the Sisters, he focused entirely on that cause - and rather than singing peaceful songs to encourage the Dragon's slumber, he taught that symbolic offerings must be made to appease it. Misguided perhaps, but not evil.

His religion became twisted by others into one of fear, encompassing the unwilling sacrifice of Humans and other sentient species. Sh'kial himself was murdered when he spoke out against that practice.

It is the tailless hag Dzree, may the sun never warm the stones of her unmarked grave, who was responsible. Our own race was set back centuries. She even murdered S'zhella on the night before Sithsia prophesied her downfall.

The Gor'Togs have a more ancient grievance. When they were our slaves, our people were not kind to them. When the Empire came they were declared fully equal to the other races, and began to resent the time their ancestors spent toiling for the Nine Clans.

Many Humans seem to dislike us especially. Some say they have an instinctive fear of reptiles. They say our voices sound sinister, our faces baleful. Others say the story of our creation indicates that early in our existence, in the days before history, we were a threat to them.

Our customs and our unique code of honor seem twisted to those that do not understand it. A S'kra Mur gives his ru'at (circle of family, friends, and allies) complete trust and complete honesty, and expects the same from them. However, the privileges of trust and honesty are not conferred on q'alrin (those outside one's ru'at) unless they are earned; nor are such things expected from them. There is absolutely nothing dishonorable about lying to, stealing from, or cheating an outsider, assuming it profits the S'kra more than it harms the outsider.

Whether or not you are a q'alri or a ru'ati is determined by the situation. With a few words you can either ingratiate yourself with a S'kra or alienate him. This is a source of tension between the S'kra and those who cannot determine which side of the line they are standing on, and another reason we are hated and feared.

The fine old tradition of assassination is another example. Killing innocents, or without a specific and valid reason, is the one sure way to be declared smozh (tailless, utterly without honor). A fair and just person need not fear.

However, the hag Dzree, though no assassin could touch her, died of paranoia for she knew a thousand blades were pointed at her back.

Our justice is as swift and decisive as we are. Killing a single person in a position of power is a merciful way to prevent war or suffering. When done openly, it is an unquestionable political statement; it can also be an art form. The q'zhalata or "knife of bold deeds," forged with a specific target in mind and engraved with the arms of the person calling for the

(The rest of the pages have been torn out.)