There are whispers, in the outlying settlements, of something that lingered after Al’Drenra. Of tiny eyes watching hungrily from the shadows, and of muddy footprints found all about the scenes of gruesome murders. Sometimes, they say, hunters who go into the woods do not come back, and sometimes neither do the ones who go out to find them. Though local authorities are said to be participating in a conspiracy to quickly burn the remains of those found “eaten alive”, and cemetery caretakers are said to be accepting bribes to rebury “what’s left of the dead”, rumors do get out, and sometimes by the very ones who are supposed to be keeping them secret. This is what they say…

During the chaos of Al’Drenra, all attention was bent towards survival, which often meant running for your life or long, forced marches at the behest of the Gods towards some unknown battlefield. Farms and fields had to be abandoned, and the forests were severely over-hunted, so within a few short years famine and disease killed more people than the wars. In desperation, many turned to cannibalizing their dead and, on rare occasions, the living. It is said that the Aintu were victims of this.

Originally a small, hairy-footed being similar to a Dwarf but dwelling in glens and hollows, the Aintu were a peaceful People. They were vegetarians, gaining all the nourishment they needed from their fields and the forests, and it is said they worshiped Jaryda, the god of Love. A hospitable People, they were known to find survivors of the war and bring them back to their homes to tend them and feed them, and on occasion slip out onto battlefields to administer a final kindness of water and comfort to those who had been left to die. On many occasions, they were the only ones brave enough to bury the bodies. They were fortunate, escaping the notice of the war for many years and able to continue their way of life unmolested. They were called “the Kindly Ones”, but the war could not ignore them forever, and their kindness may have been their undoing.

It is said that one day a band of starving soldiers followed an Aintu back to its home and murdered it for its food and shelter. It had been so long since they’d had fresh meat that they were unable to help themselves, and they cut up the little man and cooked him in his own pot on his own fire in his own home. And that is when they made the discovery.

“Why, this man tastes like chicken!” exclaimed one soldier, gnawing on a little leg.

“No, like pork!” cried another, eating the tender meat from the Aintu’s cheek.

“You’re both wrong, this is like beef!” insisted a grizzled veteran, sucking the marrow from a rib bone.

Whatever it tasted like, the soldiers were ravenous for more. They went back to their camp and told their friends of their discovery, and in the way of soldiers and wars, word soon spread of the delicacy that was hiding in the hills. The Aintu did not last the year.

Great ovens were built from clay in the middle of the woods, and passing troops would use these ovens to cook any Aintu they stumbled across, often alive and screaming and sometimes two or three at a time. It was not until the war was over and the gods put to sleep that the Peoples began to realize, with horror, what they had done.

The Aintu, you see, had never received the benefit of souls. They had all been eaten, and by the Peoples, before they were ever given a chance for rebirth. Not only was the blood of a People on the hands of all those who survived, but their very existence. The Aintu, both here and in the afterlife, were no more, and only their bones, scattered around blood stained ovens, told their story.

Shame drove the Peoples to forget, and to crush the bones and ovens down into the mud where the sight of them could plague their consciences no longer. They forgot the Aintu and what had been done to them, and they forgot their own wrongs. But the land did not forget, nor the wind and the rain that washed away the blood, the trees and the rocks which were stained with the carnage, the metals and fire used for cooking, the magics that had been used to silence their cries, nor the spirits of the cannibals. All remembered, and they conspired to give the Aintu their revenge.

Half-crazed survivors tell of demonic spirits that build bodies for themselves out of the ash and bone and mud where the ovens once stood, and how they use these bodies to go out among the Peoples and drag back victims for their feasts. They tell of the screams of those who are dragged through the woods, and of how the tiny, muddy things are gluttons for blood and for pain. They tell of the Aintu, and of their revenge.


Posted October 26, 2012 by Evoru

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