Entry #1 in the third DotQ writing challenge.
A Royal Missive
A ROYAL MISSIVE FOR THE EYES AND CONSIDERATION OF HER IMPERIAL MAJESTY, MAY HER GLORIOUS DOMAIN SPREAD TO THE ETERNAL SHORES AND BEYOND, AND HER MOST WISE AND AUGUST COUNCIL. TO BE DELIVERED TO THE ROYAL CHAMBER OF DELIBERATION WITH THE UTMOST HASTE.
In my previous correspondence, as you no doubt recall, I explained that I had spent a sufficient amount of time moving unseen amongst the objects of our attention, and that the time had come to begin hiding in plain sight, so to speak. With a minimal effort, I have infiltrated their ranks, posing as one of their own, under the guise that I am a young traveler from afar. While I initially believed that this explanation would be met with criticism, and indeed I was adequately prepared to provide proof of my alibi, this proved entirely unnecessary, as I will explain below.
The first and most important thing to consider when it comes to human civilization is that there is hardly such a thing. While certainly each individual grouping within a certain geographical context has a shared culture, my growing understanding of the situation is that the customs, practices, and even the gods of each group of humans varies wildly, depending on where you go. These are no dwarves, who in all places ring their forge hammers in praise of their Moradin. One may attribute this lack of unifying culture to their short animal lifespans; they live a full century at best! I believe, however, that there is more to it than simply a dearth of ancestors to hold them accountable. Rather, humans have a strong independent streak, not just from population to population, but even within their settlements. Many seem to outright reject any notion that the fate of their neighbors may be their own.
More than anything else, I believe this is their greatest weakness, and one that must be exploited to its full extent. I shall elaborate, and please forgive my disregard for custom in writing of what I am about to write. When, centuries ago, our people made war on the dwarves, our mistake in doing so was failing to gather sufficient information. Namely, we had little idea that there were other populations of dwarves, let alone that many do not even live along the shores. When this became clear, what happened next was obvious; the dwarves from further inland banded with their cousins on the cliffs and repelled our every attack. We were unprepared for numbers such as these, and were forced to retreat and cut our losses. From this loss, however, we learned much of the other races, and of the surface world in general, but allow me to get to the core of my argument: humans are, again, not dwarves. The are highly unusual in that they lack any sort of unity in their kind. There are human populations who ally with elves over their own kind, and even groups who happily make war amongst themselves. It is of course necessary to bury the volcanic vents of rebellion, but these are groups in whom no prior unity existed.
Since each human population could very well be considered entirely on their own, it is important that we adjust our strategy as such. When attacking on settlement, we must ensure that no nearby settlements have reason to fear us or come to the aid of the other humans. After expanding, it would perhaps even be prudent to make peace with nearby land dwellers and use wealth to control them instead of coercion. Though it would take decades instead of moons, this would prevent losses on both ends, ensuring no orphans among our kind and plenty of slaves to choose from. So long as they see us as merely wealthy and ruthless but ultimately fair, rather than their masters, too few will ever oppose us to make a difference.
Like their myriad of cultures, languages too differ by region. While deciphering the most common tongue among them was easy enough, I have also encountered a number of more distinct languages. I have reason to believe that as many as a dozen may exist among the humans of the world, but it will take time to study this further.
Now, on the subject of their anatomy, as you had previously requested, I have gathered but a few subjects to test our theories on, but I believe I have learned much from them. As you had already surmised, humans are indeed unable to survive long periods of time in the water. I have tested subjects of both sexes (like us, they are of two distinct genders, though with a greater differentiation in height than our own people between the males and the females) and of varying ages, and none lasted more than a minute or two beneath the water. This of course means that slaves taken into our own cities must be so enchanted as to survive, but this of course provides yet another measure of control. They may not even require enchantments to stay complacent, as their fear of dying from a lack of their air will be more than sufficient. They are also easily injured, weak, slow, and inflexible, though they recover rather quickly. I believe that those who remain in our surface colonies can be controlled through the pain response. The young in particular are easily motivated by injury. On a related note, they are not savory creatures, and while they would no doubt serve as adequate sacrifices to Our Lords Below, I would not recommend dining on them yourselves.
Human features vary by their location. While the ones I have studied the most seem to be largely of brown coloration, I have encountered some who are notably paler or darker, and with different colorations and textures of hair. The eyes too vary widely, even within specific groups.
Though I think it is nothing more than an aberration, I did encounter one specimen who was not so easily coerced. He refused to participate in my examinations, and was completely unresponsive to both the threat and infliction of injury. He was also notably stronger than my other subjects. While I am reasonably certain that he would also have survived longer without air, I was unable to to test this hypothesis, as I was forced to destroy him before he could cause me any problems. As I said before, however, he was no doubt an anomaly among their race. None of the others resisted with nearly as much intensity. No doubt an freak and outcast whom will not be missed.
On the topic of the human’s knowledge of the arcane sciences, and I know this was one of particular concern, I am pleased to note that they do not seem to practice them. While they are no doubt aware of its existence and usefulness, I have yet to encounter even a single practitioner. As the settlement I am currently investigating is a rather sizable one, with a population well over two hundred plus many more working and feed animals, it seems quite reasonable to assume that humans have simply never learned the arcane sciences for themselves. Perhaps there are a few who have been taught by rogue elves or the like, but I doubt they are of any real potency. After all, they only live a century. I am without a doubt the most powerful arcanist in this region, which, as a mere servant of Her Imperial Majesty, fills me with a small measure of mirth.
I mentioned before that the different regions of humans each participate in their own religious beliefs, complete with differing gods. While I have not researched this phenomenon as thoroughly as other human behaviors, my initial findings show that these gods of theirs are unlikely to exist, and are nothing more than idols created by clever craftsmen, or dim memories of notable humans of the past. If any humans do worship any true gods, I have seen no evidence of it. Like the existence of human arcanists, I think it would be premature to dismiss their existence without further research, but I doubt there are any in significant numbers. When we conquer the humans, what few gods they do have will quickly be devoured by Our Lords Below.
In summary, my experiences with the humans have proven most fortuitous. They are numerous, weak, easily controlled, and even more easy to fool. It has been an absolute pleasure to serve Her Imperial Majesty in researching these creatures, and I am most gracious for the opportunity. I am no councilor, but while the humans of course merit further research, I would not think it particularly unwise to move forward with the next stage of the plan. Research assistance would be most desirable, but they may be ultimately unnecessary, for it will be all too easy to overthrow the leader of this place and establish it as a staging area for further conquests. Though I do not wish to sound arrogant, a mere handful of warriors would be enough assistance for me to lay claim to this settlement in the name of Her Imperial Majesty.
I eagerly await your response,
Apprentice-Arcanist Nayos val Salduth