- by Guy Jobbins
I am Uljar Breaknose,
I bear the standard of this legion. I stand at the right side of
the warleader in the shieldwall, and I am the honour and tradition
of our company. It is to me you make your initiation vows, through
me you enter our Wyter, with me you make oaths of obedience and
This story that
I tell you is the most important one I know. Only those who have
grasped the profound mysteries of Our Lord are ready to receive
it, and it is not for profane ears. Now you have committed yourself
more deeply to the God you are ready to hear its wisdom. This story
starts with a question that we have all meditated upon What
is it to say that Humakti are honourable warriors, and that Humakt
is a honourable god?
Why do we say
Humakt is honourable? If you ask a farmer, he will say Humakt is
honourable because he never takes more than his due. If you ask
a Lawspeaker, he will tell you the God is honourable because he
is impartial and fair in his judgment. A king will say his honour
comes from loyalty and faithfulness. A priest will say it is because
he wields Death wisely and cautiously. A weaponthane will say that
honour is the path of the true warrior, for on its path a terrible
power can serve the good of the community.
say that Humakt is honourable because when Eurmal took Death and
spread it in the world, Humakt tracked it down and tamed it. Then
he severed his kinship, so that he would never be able to wield
this power with partiality. In this way he took responsibility for
his actions, for Humakt unleashed Death and he recognised that he
should take up its burden. Later Orlanth recognised the same thing,
and that is when he went on the Lightbringer Quest.
In many ways
this is true, but it is not the whole truth.
Do you think
Humakt was always this way? Do you thank the gods it was Humakt
who found Death, rather than Vadrus or Gargath, or even Urox? Listen.
was a youth he had one interest. Fighting. He was wild and intemperate,
and would raid with his brothers, squabble over trifles and feast
lustily long into the night. Like others of the Storm Kin, he desired
recognition, followers and power. We all know these things mean
that no one can make you do anything. Whilst the Bright Emperor
ruled all the Storm Kin longed for freedom, but what would happen
after none knew. Like others of the Storm Kin, Humakt thought that
perhaps he could be king.
He was not as
strong as Urox, as cunning as Orlanth, as wild as Gargath, or as
fierce as Vadrus, but he was determined. In order to best them he
practised his swordplay constantly, for skill gave him advantage
over the enthusiasm of others. In that way he was different, but
he was still vicious and selfish.
Lie-smith came with his story of a hidden secret. He taunted Humakt
until the brash young god swore to seek it out. Eurmal told Humakt
because he was scared to take it for himself, and Humakt agreed
to find it because he was proud and wanted power.
We know what
happened next. Eurmal showed Humakt where the secret was kept, and
the God took it. Then he tried it out on Grandfather Mortal and
discovered that the secret was Death. Eurmal the Thief stole Death
and gave it to Orlanth who killed the Emperor, and then stole it
again and gave it to everyone in the world.
Humakt was beyond
angry his secret, his power had been stolen from him. Worse,
his own brother had taken it, and theft between kin is forbidden.
Humakt felt betrayed by Orlanth, with whom he had always had rivalry.
He wanted revenge, but knew that if theft amongst kin were evil,
then killing would be worse. He used his secret to cut the ties
that bound him to his kin, so determined was he to revenge himself
on his brother.
But while Orlanth
too wielded Death, Humakt was not certain of victory. Certainly
he was the better fighter, but Orlanth was cunning and lucky in
war, and had skills of his own. Humakt decided to gather together
all the pieces of Death he could find, so that when he finally faced
Orlanth his Death would be stronger.
He set off on
his quest immediately. It was longer and harder than he expected,
because for the first time he had to do everything by himself. He
had no kin to call on for support, and he faced many problems he
did not know how to solve, like when seven stars spoke to him in
a dream he couldn't interpret. He realised for the first time that
whilst violence was always an option, it didn't always help. Yet
he always used his skill to best advantage in collecting Death together.
First he found
Grandfather Mortal and said to him, "yours was the first Death,
so you belong to me." The soul couldn't resist, but as Humakt
carried him the God felt Grandfather Mortal's horror and sadness
at what had happened to him. Humakt was grim after that.
He went to the
Dwarves, who had trapped Death in ensorcelled machines, and demanded
it back. They refused. So he challenged them to a contest with his
personality and Death as the prizes. The dwarves tried to cheat,
of course, and when Humakt won the contest fair and square they
refused to part with Death. The god had beaten them so thoroughly,
though, that he just took it as his rightful prize. Yet after that
Humakt was somehow less than he had been before more single-minded.
He went to the
Aldryami, who had started to grow Death in plants. They too were
loath to surrender the power because it helped them in their wars
with the Uz, but Death did not seem to grow very well and made plants
sicken. Aldrya herself spoke with Humakt, and arranged a compromise.
Humakt gave up his fertility to her, and agreed to protect the Death
of the Aldryami. That is why the God is known amongst them to this
day, and was how Humakt found out that Death can pollute Life and
vice-versa. He was more powerful after that.
He went to the
Uz, where Zorak Zoran delighted in his new toy. He would use it
on people and then make them walk around afterwards like puppets
by using magic. He thought this was very funny. Humakt challenged
him too, for it was clear he wouldn't give it up. They fought long
and hard, and although both survived it was a near thing. Humakt
took Death back from the Slaughterer, but afterwards his hair and
eyes and armour had turned black, and were so ever after. The loss
of his toy made the Uz god so angry that he uses his foul magics
to raise undead just to spite Humakt. They have been bitter enemies
to many other places and struggled with many other gods. Mostly
he had to fight, but sometimes he recovered Death by other means.
Humakt has many secret connections from this time. He was always
successful, but each victory had cost him something.
had only one piece left to find before he would go to challenge
Orlanth. The river gods had taken Death and used it to drown their
enemies, and their mother, the mighty dark Styx, wielded the power.
Weary from his
quest, Humakt stood before the deepest river and spoke Her name.
He was no longer the same as he had been. Dressed in black, his
fertility, his humour, and his kin were no more. Everything had
been sacrificed to his goal, until nothing but Death remained. The
River Mother regarded him silently, and even she, Queen Styx, feared
Mother, Darkest Styx, I have come for what is mine."
not seem a burden that fits you well, my Lord," she replied.
"For you are much changed since last I saw you." She said
this for Humakt had already defeated her when he took Death in the
company of Eurmal, for the Styx had been one of Death's guardians.
heavier than I realised," he admitted. "But it is still
mine. Will you give it up to me, or shall we fight again?"
for a while before replying. "Last time we fought, Death was
an unnamed secret I had sworn to protect. Now it has been loosed
in the world by my weakness, Vivamort's faithlessness, Eurmal's
mischief and your pride. It cannot be unlearned, for that is the
way of secrets that which looses the purity of Darkness can
never be made whole again."
would be better to have it as whole as it may be, so long as its
guardian were strong and noble. You have shown your strength. If
you can show me your nobility, then I will help you. In that way
perhaps I can make amends for not stopping you before."
in the silent darkness, the Goddess flowing around his feet. He
thought of the world he had seen on his quest, and of the Deaths
he had collected. Dimly he remembered his thirst for vengeance,
and more dimly still his reasons for following Eurmal.
and proud, I was," said the God, finally. "This thing
has let a great evil into the world. Better I had not listened to
Eurmal, for people see this thing as a Power, not as the Mystery
it truly is. Their petty ambitions, foolish, weak lusts corrupt
its purity and lead to Chaos they do not comprehend it. Now
these Deaths lie on my shoulders like the weight of the world, and
I am weary of it. Yet if I do not support it, what may happen? If
Chaos overcomes, may not even Death die? I swear this on your own
waters, I must hold this thing so long as I am able."
rippled outwards, creating an island. "Three gifts I shall
give you, Humakt; Death, a hall, and friendship."
Thus it was
that Humakt built his hall in a place bounded by the Styx, who thereby
enacted her old vow to protect Death. As he built his hall it was
filled by the Deaths he had collected, and ever after the dead have
made their way there.
In filling the
hall enough of the burden was lifted from Humakt's shoulders that
he felt strong enough to continue. Now, however, he quested not
for vengeance, but from duty. He returned to the surface world and
tracked down his brother. How they confronted one another, and how
Humakt sent Orlanth to Hell to take responsibility for his actions
is well known, but is not the point of this story.
This story is
called Humakt's Oath, and it tells how Humakt became himself, and
how he learned from Styx that Severance and Binding are two faces
of the same mystery."