The Wall

As the world of Gadria has a complicated history with the interactions of sentient species created through natural and artificial means, one of those species has a history that is simultaneously one of the most complicated of them all, yet easily predictable, given any foreknowledge of the people themselves. Golems have never had a diplomatically easy run of life, but to an individual they've never seemed to notice, likely owing to the easy run of life that they've had in every regard besides popularity. Unrelenting, untiring, and unable to feel pain, these men of magically indestructible clay have long been feared as an assumedly undefeatable army, but for the most part, the hard-working unassuming people have never shown any designs on parts of the Ikaran continent, other than their homeland of Krath. Aside from the times before golemkind gained their collective freedom, when the creatures were sculpted by priests and given a life of servitude that would continue until their bodies crumbled to dust, there are only two instances in recent memory of golems forming their own military. The second instance was 60,000 strong brigade of eight-foot bulking conquerors, known as the Grindstones, who accelerated the early days of the Nightmare War in their own smaller conflict, fondly remembered as the Golem Invasion. The first instance is, for it is still ongoing, a large perimeter of 12-foot hulks that surround the outside of the golem capital city of Akh Hemar, known simply as the Wall.   A City for a New People   The earliest of the Free Golems did not have any politicians, monarchs or any other title of administrative leaders, something that a human might insist is crucial for founding a nation. These golems had very recently emancipated themselves from a wide range of masters from all trades at all levels throughout the rest of the continent, but they didn't really have any idea how to use their newfound freedom to the fullest. What they did have were builders, carpenters, smiths and masons, and to an artificial people who have no use for farmers, hunters, tailors, tanners, or any other profession relating to consumption or comfort, that was all they needed. The First Council of Akh Hemar, the city name conjoined together from loose parts of the ancient golem language, was composed of the most skilled golem from each trade, and only consisted of four members in the days before golems found more to do with themselves than manual labor. The main topic of these first council meetings was the need for topics of discussion, as the four golems knew that their people would need to find new pursuits to devote their minds to, if they were to chase the lingering stupefying magic from their minds and prove to the outside world that they were more than just humanoid tools. The first motion passed by that council, the one unanimously voted upon as an absolute necessity for their survival, was of a need for a standing garrison of troops, preferably large ones, to stand vigilant around the outside of the city to defend from invaders. Volunteers were collected from the masses at first, many of the largest golems being eager, or at least the golem equivalent, to show that he can protect their smaller cousins. These individuals, forming a rudimentary city guard, began their existence with perimeter patrols, but eventually came to post inside the city proper. Soon after the recruitment of these Shomer, the First Council had also commissioned the construction of a new caste of golems to fill the role, after being built for it. The new generation were the first golems to be called the Wall, and many of them still remain, standing vigilant at their posts.   Unmoving (tests against humans, orcs and dwarves)   Golems are not a malicious group in any way, mostly preferring to stick to themselves, but that does not mean that the First Council were being hasty with the creation of this dedicated fighting force. There is a lasting cultural fear of golems, an uneasiness felt by most living things at such a lifelike being in such a clearly artificial body, that seems to attract all kinds of enemies before the clay men.    While the lives of humanity are short, their memories are long, kept alive through generations, meaning that the memory of mankind is often warping. So it was that King Harnicus the Hasty grew up hearing tales of the monstrous clay men, once the unthinking tools of his grandfather's kingdom, who had risen in bloody rebellion and stampeded through the city, killing thousands. In truth, the golems earned their freedom slowly over time, with the cooperation, if not the blessings, of their former masters. But as gaps in the workforce manifest, the ruling class will encourage the placement of blame on wherever is most convenient, and Harnicus believed that if he could net bring the golems back into servitude, then he was honor bound to destroy them. This was untrue, of course, but it did not stop King Harnicus from losing over 200,000 troops by attempting to overwhelm the much smaller regiment of golem defenders, eventually leading to Harnicus' overthrow and the end of the Farum Dynasty.    Many years following this conflict, after Akh Hemar had been built into a flowing metropolis, an exceptionally large army of conquering orcs led by Morvak the Wicked launched a terrible attack on the city to no avail. Morvak had spent much of his time and resources unraveling the riddle of how to push past the infamous Wall of Akh Hemar, and eventually discovered a tome off ancient magic, linked to the first people who'd ever created golems, which contained several spells specifically designed to destroy golems. Unfortunately, as the first heavy golem fist came crashing into the skull of the first warg rider, Morvak discovered that this ancient magic would have no effect of the modern golems. Akh Hemar was able to rebel the orc hordes, and sustained thankfully few casualties, as their next foes were not far behind.    A powerful cult of dwarven clerics, worshippers of Zygonna, who, unlike most dwarf deities, teaches that stone is dead and should remain so, attacked the golem city not one week following the failed orc siege. Obviously, a growing urban sprawl populated exclusively by living stone would attract the ire of such a goddess, so the cult was armed with the kind of magic that could have dealt a serious blow to the strength of the Wall, that being Consecrated Magic*. Golems were felled in unprecedented numbers, which would have been true if any golems at all had fallen in this battle. In this case, only four golems were lost before the Wall had crushed enough of the clerics to weaken their group spell casting, and ultimately end the battle. The four fallen golems were quickly resurrected and repaired, the cult was fought off until the last few clerics fled back south, and the First Council allowed themselves to breathe easily that their newest generation of golems seemed to be capable of great things.    Demon Incident   The golems of Krath were able to enjoy several decades of peace following the defeat of the cult of Zygonna, but unfortunately, it was from that very vein that their peace was ended. Zygonna was, presumably is, no true dwarven deity. in fact, she is a formless creature from one of the far away dimensions that give us most of the aberrations on the material plane, and one that seems to be of middling power, as extra dimensional gods go. At the defeat of her legions of dwarf clerics, defeat in a war that she had no knowledge of, enraged the ethereal monster, and she did not take long to begin spreading her influence to new consorts. Not wishing to waste her time with her usual servants, Zygonna created an army of fire breathing demons from the Plane of Chaos, a far more powerful host than the far more credulous dwarves. The army consisted of roughly 50,000 individuals, the smallest of the armies that had previously lain siege on golem strongholds, but any one of these powerful, four armed monsters could easily match the largest member of the Wall pound for pound, both in weight and in power. Zygonna has never been able to gain a physical presence, so instead, command of her army was given to a Cludius Pestle, the last surviving dwarf from the days of the Cult of Zygonna, who tested this infernal force on the many human cities and goblin bands in the wilds south of Krath.    When the First Council of Akh Hemar, the original First Council as golems do not age, found the intrigue of a new invasion coming to pale the previous in comparison, all stray golems around the world were summoned home to the great golem city. At this point in their society, roughly 800 years after first gaining their freedom, golems had taken to leading lives that might have been called 'ordinary' by humans, 'pointless wastes of time' by most other races. Some had become traders, taking caravans of golem-made goods to the human cities to the south and bringing other wares back to their hub cities. Some had become wandering adventurers, traveling from hovel to town, fighting bandits or protecting travelers in exchange for unnecessary coin. Many had even taken to creating golem arts and literature, a supremely difficult task for creatures with minds of mud. To an individual these golems came marching back home in solidarity with the golems who helped give them their freedom, and not a single golem was left unaccounted for when the fighting began. The 'civillian' golems were used to supplicate the ranks of the Wall and the veteran members of the defense force had their time filled with training those golems who had been born following the last golem war, as well as those who had never held any sort of martial position. When the hordes of demons came to Akh Hemar, waving four swords each and billowing flame from their mouths, they found an immovable wall of clay blocking their path. The demons broke their ranks to meet their foes in a chaotic frenzy, and the golems engaged them, moving forward as a single unit. The demons hacked wildly at the arms of golems, who wrapped the monsters tightly in crushing embraces, and smashed through demon chests with fists like battering rams.    Soon, with the battlefield littered with gore and rubble, the tides decisively in the golem's favor, Cludius Pestle unleashed his own private secret weapon. The necrotic old dwarf weaved a spell that would merge each of the remaining demons into one, single purposed creature with a power far beyond that of the army itself. Demon flesh was ripped from the bones of every living combatant, leaving the bones standing on their own. They did not stand long, as the ligaments holding the many deformed skeletons together were unraveled, and the bones rearranged themselves into the form of a large cone. The ligaments reknit at new joints and the magically suspended lumps of flesh came down to cover the skeletal monstrosity, leaving a large, half-alive, cone shaped creature, swords repurposed as teeth, and with most of it's muscle mass towards the point of the cone. The single purpose for which this abomination was shaped was to concentrate all of the fire breath of the former demons into one massive blast, and with Cludius Pestle left dead on his perch from the effort of the massive spell, it made no delays in bringing this purpose about. The blast was enough to instantly vaporize golems who had lost more than half of their original mass, as enchantments on objects are lessened when the object is broken, but most of the golems were in good enough repair that they were still able to withstand the blast. It is said that the heat wave caused entire forests to burst into flame, and caused lakes to boil away in mere minutes, but still, the Wall stood against it. On and on, the fire blast came, and after several sustained minutes of unrelenting power, the golems began to finally feel it's effects. The clay began to soften, not entirely at first, but little by little the outermost layers of the flesh of the golems began to take on the consistency of dense rubber. The golems, naturally inclined to the hive mind, began to converge on each other, some climbing onto the shoulders of other golems, others reaching down from the mass of individuals to pull another golem upwards. The Demon Mass hardly noticed this development, and likely would not have made any changes to it's actions if it had, for Cludius's spell had removed the need for any higher thought on the part of the individual demon's who'd made up this monster; all of the nervous tissue that had formerly been used for conscious thought or individual agency had been converted to create more power for the fire blast. The golems of the Wall reknit their newly malleable bodies into one massive golem, the clays of which were at just the right mass to find themselves being refired by the Demon Mass. The Golem shot an arm forward and closed rocky fingers the size of oak trees around the Demon Mass, and quickly crushed the life from it. The Wall had won the day, destroyed all enemies who had come to threaten their way of life, but so too had Zygonna won. The magics required to hold all of golemkind to one massive body could not have lasted any longer than a few minutes, just enough time to turn the tides of the battle and destroy any remaining enemies. This was the reason the First Council, who made up the clays of this golem's mind, decided to put all of the efforts of their people towards this one goal, knowing it would be the demise of their people. However, being what is essentially a hive mind, all golems present were also well aware of the dangers of this all-out offensive and chose to proceed anyway. It is not a question that we have a definite answer to, but most of the humans, goblins and dwarves living in this region today like to believe that the whole of golemkind chose to sacrifice all of their power to this one plan. Immediately after the fires died down, the giant golem began to dissimilate, first into individual, half-melted golems, then they too began to fall apart. The golems did not try to stagger back to their city in an effort to rebuild their broken bodies, but instead moved slowly into their original formation, a line blocking the advance of an enemy army to Akh Hemar, a wall, before allowing themselves to finally collapse into rubble.   Today   Golems can still be found occasionally among the thralls of powerful beings in the more remote parts of Gadria, but by and large they are considered to be extinct in any form of independence. There have been rumors of holes crushed into the hulls of Acredian ships washing ashore in the Kytaran Sea, holes with traces of magically infused clay dust once the sea water dries, but thus far this has not led to anything conclusive. The long abandoned Akh Hemar in Krath, as well as a few other, less impressive golem cities, stand as empty shrines, occasionally filled with long forgotten treasure, to the one race of people more in tuned with one another than any before, or since. The golems of the Wall remain steadfast at the site of their last great battle, though nowadays they more resemble their namesake. With the addition of most other golems in existence, the remains of what legend has dubbed the Great Golem cover more than 10 acres; a massive human shaped pile of clay rubble, beneath which is buried the remains of the Demon Mass.   The conquest of the Acredian Empire has always seemed to avoid these barren reaches, and those fleeing their subjugation have never been comfortable in the empty golem halls for more than a few hours. This volatile region of the northeastern Ikaran continent has remained relatively untouched in the years following the Nightmare War, though rumor has it that a band of orcs, further rumored to be descended from Morvak the Wicked, spent many months camped on the far side, the secluded side, of what they called the Fallen Wall. The soil has not been tainted with the blood of the demons, as one would think, and the halls have not been cursed by the golem Shamen. Rather, the reason that none wish to remain in this area is that the story of the Wall is so widespread. Krath never had friendly diplomatic relations with her neighbors. The many sapient races of Ikar never seemed to accept the idea that golems could govern themselves and treated the golems as if their lives were worth half of those who were born naturally for the entirety of their existence. This was no secret kept from the golems, the clay men were well aware of the regard with which the world held them. Still, they chose to fight the demon horde to the death, on behalf of those other races. The golems knew where the demons had come from, knew Zygonna had only sent the demons with the purpose of destroying Krath, and likely would have banished them to their plane once the job was done. In this knowledge, the golems accepted that, had they not fallen there and then, more demon hordes would be rallied for their destruction, and tested against less imposing targets. The golems chose to die themselves, to prevent any further bloodshed to the people who had spent so much effort enslaving or invading them. This memory is not a comfortable one for the people of the region. Even so, goblin scouts will pull down their fists in respect when they pass Akh Hemar. Humans will rest in the shade of the Fallen Wall, and all peoples who have ever passed through this dale of rock, earth and clay stop to remember the blight of the men of mud who gave their very beings for our survival.


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