A Slightly Unscheduled Interview with Baron Hochstib

Originally a transcript for the Elanthian Times, Volume III, 5098

Unscheduled is a good word for this interview, in my estimation. I was exploring in Stone Valley, not far from the eastern border of mapped Elanthia, when a score of armed soldiers melted out of the forest in front of me. The markings on the soldiers’ uniforms were obviously Jantalaran, and I began to prepare for a battle. However, the leader of the group stepped forward and very respectfully informed me that his leader, Baron Hochstib, wished to speak with me. I was not compelled to come, but I would have to be blindfolded for the journey. I considered quickly and decided that whatever intelligence I could gather from the Baron himself would be much more valuable than the carcasses of a few soldiers. I let them blindfold me and lead me away. It was a long journey.

Upon arriving at whatever destination the soldiers had in mind, I was led into a building and my blindfold removed. The soldiers remained, and I was provided a comfortable chair in which to sit. I was informed that the audience would occur soon, but I had to give my word I would not take any aggressive action toward the Baron or he would not appear. I agreed to this stipulation also.

In short order the door opened and in strode a person who looked quite fit for what I would estimate to be late 60’s. He had short-cropped, light brown hair, brown eyes and fair skin. It was not difficult to ascertain from his confident bearing that this was, in fact, Baron Hochstib. His clothing helped solidify this impression. He wore a sable cloak lined with red silk and bearing the red gold triskelion of Jantalar on its left breast, highly polished black cavalier’s boots, pale grey leather trousers with a gold stripe up the side, a split-sleeved leather doublet with green silk beneath, and a black leather belt studded with small rubies and emeralds. However, the most interesting aspect of this person, and perhaps the most unexpected, was his race: he was a half-elf.

The Baron clasped his hands behind his back and paced as he spoke, almost speaking more to himself than to anyone in particular. I relate to you here what he told me and what information I was allowed to learn. Hochstib: I am the Baron of Jantalar, Warden of the Northwest March of the Empire, and Overlord of the baronies of Talador and Mestanir. Upon approval from the Empress, this rather long string of titles will be condensed into "The King of Northmarch."

I fully support the Empress' doctrines and her reign, but she is not familiar with the reality of life this far from the center of her empire. She believes that the time of Human Ascendancy is at hand. The age of the Elves is past. And she is correct, but she does not know how they have chosen to concentrate here along the borders and to plot against her...to plot against the rightful age of Humankind.

The Elves are a jealous and grasping race, and they long for the glory what was once theirs. So I fight a greater battle here than she knows. I face odds she does not see. I am assailed and countered by strategies she never hears of. And, in the end, I face the reality of how the other races work against Humankind and against its rightful time in history.

It is a bitter conflict, but one I am proud to stand in and fight as a champion for Humankind. Few pure Humans are confronted with the contempt that the Elvenkind dish out to those not of pure Elven lineage. But those of us born of mixed blood see the ugliness that Elven kind dish out to those they sneer down their noses at. And because they despise us, they do not take care to hide their plans, their machinations, their treasonous plotting against the race whose time has come.

And the other races...they are lesser, but no more honorable than the Elves. The Dwarves gut the earth and know no real appreciation of nature. The Giantkin are almost mindless brutes. The Dark Elves are an abomination. The Halflings are children in aged bodies. And so Humankind stands alone against the Elven lusting after past glory and against the lesser races that the Elves dupe continually.

So what is to be done, but to strive to give Humankind its chance to shine? In this part of the Empire, in this far corner away from all that is civilized and fair, there is a job to be done, and I will not shirk from it. But for your outpost town's harbor, I would not give it a glance. Were it not for the Baron of Vornavis' fight to keep the Elven plotting alive, and for your town's use by him, I would not care who lived there or what they did. But his is a plot that must fail, and if your town is unwise enough to stand with him, then you shall fall before him.

I harbor no ill will against those that choose to live or seek their happiness in your small town, but I will not allow anyone to prolong Vornavis' struggle to deny the Empress' doctrine and to keep the Elven clutching after past ages alive. The world is not the pleasant place I believed it to be when I was a child, but there is work to be done and a just cause that must be pursued. And if the rest of my life must be spent fighting for it, then so be it.

I believe that is the core of the situation. If you have any questions you wish to ask I will do my best to answer them.

Hyoko: There is an Order in Wehnimer's Landing, the Silver Gryphons, led by one Sir Maldon. This Order is sworn to oppose you. Do you think the Landing will just let you walk in?

Hochstib: No, but I doubt that any force it can muster will stand long against those I shall bring to bear. As for Maldon, he knows he has sworn an oath to me, and when the time comes I will remind him of his place, and he will obey. In the meantime, his heart is no longer in the work I need done, so schooling neophyte knightlings who may one day serve me well is a good way for him to occupy himself.

Hyoko: We have heard tales of something called a Mandis Crystal. What is it, and do you really command this power?

Hochstib: The Crystals. Of course you've heard of them. Everyone has. Most of what is told is lies, but they are a power it is true. They are useful when the power of individuals must be denied so that the betterment of all can be pursued. Magical power in the hand of unguided individuals is and always has been a dangerous element. The Crystals simply nullify that power so that these individuals cannot force their will upon those around them.

Hyoko: Do you have plans for IceMule Trace, River's Rest and Teras Isle? I am sure you know that Teras Isle is populated by a large number of rather accomplished and powerful adventurers.

Hochstib: I have no plans or concerns about these places. As I said, my only reason for caring about your town is because of its usefulness to Vornavis. As long as these other settlements do not aid Malwind and his kind, I will raise no force against them.

Hyoko: It is difficult to subjugate a port without a navy. Jantalar is landlocked. How do you plan to overcome this lack of a navy?

Hochstib: I already have to a degree. As you must have heard by now, I have hired freebooters who sail under my orders. Ultimately, I will take Vornavis and Solhaven, and Jantalar will be landlocked no longer.

Hyoko: From what you said earlier, am I to understand that all Wehnimer's need do is stop trading with Vornavis, and you will leave us alone?

Hochstib: If that had been a decision made some months ago I would agree with you, but my sources tell me that the trade route from Vornavis to your town is finished. It is too late for your town to be left alone. Hyoko: We are not convinced that you are as powerful as you claim to be. We expected you in the spring, yet you did not come. You have been having difficulties, yes?

Hochstib: If warfare were a simple game, if I controlled all around me, then a failure to meet earlier planned dates might be taken as a sign of weakness. As it is, whether you are convinced or not means nothing to me. I shall come when I am ready.

Hyoko: I do not seem to have any more questions. You wish me to convey all I have heard to the people of Wehnimer's Landing?

Hochstib: Yes. I think they have been given a distorted version of what motivates me. They have been fed half-truths and outright lies. I am no monster and I do not thrive on hatred. I have a mission and a plan. Your town is simply on the wrong side of it or we would be allies.

Baron Hochstib immediately turned and exited. I was blindfolded and returned to Stone Valley. The soldiers again treated more as an honored guest than as a prisoner. I did not deem it wise to try to follow them as they slipped back into the forest, but instead returned to the Landing and contacted the Elanthian Times. Fortunately, the fourth issue of the Times was about to go to press.