Within the swirling Mist (IC) > Biographies

Ruminations on the Conquest of Gundarak, and its Peoples' Future

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Smash the State:


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FOREWORD

~ O ~


Who am I is of no real consequence. You need only know that I am of Gundarakite blood and that, like many of you, I have labored under the yoke of the Devil and his handpicked taskmasters for many years now. Like many of you, I have been robbed of basic rights that those who know not our people's plight take for granted. Like many of you, I have been beaten and battered for the mere crime of my existence. Like many of you, I have paid an untold amount of taxes at rates that could only ever be described as punitive. Like many of you, I have borne witness to butchery and slaughter.

You may wonder to yourself what, if anything, can be done. Amalia Szathmari's rebellion a few years prior was ill-fated, as doomed as similar uprisings that had preceded it. It is easy to lose hope and think that our people's future involves a boot to be pressed against our faces, forever. It is easy to lose sight of the truth. It is easy for us to forget that only thirty-four years ago, Gundarak was its own country, wholly independent.. and many have forgotten. It is easier for them to buy into the delusion that their new masters, while far from benevolent, are at least better than Duke Nharov Gundar and his son, Medraut. This, to them, is acceptable. So many believe, incorrectly, that better things aren't possible.

I am here to remind them, and remind you, that they are. I have a vision of a Gundarak that is free of despots both foreign and domestic, of a Gundarak where a wise ruler governs with the peoples' blessing and love, rather than through their fear. I have a vision of a Gundarak neither defined by the wickedness of the past nor the injustices of the present. I have a vision of a Gundarak that never was, but certainly could be, and ought to be. Many would call me a starry-eyed idealist, a fool, or both, but know that there is nothing I would not sacrifice to make my vision made real.

It will be made real. By my hand. By our hands. Our conquerors, our masters -- they are quick to forget. By reducing us to nothing, by grinding us into less than dirt, we've nothing to lose but our chains. We will see the fetters sundered, our collars broken. It may not come today, next year, or even generations from now, but our freedom will come.


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Smash the State:


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ON DUKE NHAROV GUNDAR

~ O ~

As I had indicated earlier in this tract's foreword, Duke Nharov Gundar was never the just and wise ruler that Szerieza and the larger Gundarakite resistance movement often opines. In fact, looking back at the annals of our country's history, it quickly becomes clear that the late Duke was a despot as bad as or even worse than the Devil is now. The taxes inflicted upon the peasantry of Gundarak prior to 736 B.C. were punitive to the extreme; in the winter months, a heavy tax would be placed upon firewood. Hundreds would perish every year as the chill, an ever-silent killer, moved through the cities of Zeidenburg and Teufeldorf, oftentimes murdering the infirm and feeble in their slumber. Their deaths were the result of a single ruler's cruelty inflicted upon his own people -- largely pointless and wholly preventable.

Even more cruel was the tax placed upon families who gave birth to a girl instead of a boy. The stated reasoning for this tax offered by the Duke himself was that men were inherently more productive than women and could likewise be expected to perform more labor. I refer to a written anecdote transcribed by a historian named Vilmos Dienes, the account of one Katha Kerestes in the year 715 B.C. Already in dire financial straits, a pregnant Kerestes is put under tremendous pressure to give birth to a boy by her husband, who is desperate to keep their farmstead and not shoulder an even heavier burden in taxes. Unfortunately, Kerestes would give birth to a girl instead. Her husband responded by beating her viciously, and then drowning the newborn in the River Gundar. If this account horrifies you, it should... and it is not an isolated incident. There are dozens of accounts just like Kerestes' own that are a part of the historical record.

There are, in fact, many similarities between the late Duke Nharov Gundar and those who bear the name "Strahd". Those of the ancient Von Zarovich lineage have consolidated power in Barovia over the course of hundreds of years, stripping power away from influential nobles such as the Katskys, the Wagners, and now even now the Wachters. In Barovia, all political power, might, and prestige comes from the Devil and it can be taken away just as easily. It was just the same in Gundarak under the Duke's rulership, though like Barovia it wasn't always so. In fact, no less than three rebellions were organized by a once-strong and influential Gundarakite nobility. However, each time the nobility revolted, more of their rights were stripped away and finally, at the conclusion of the Third Unwise Rebellion in 501 B.C., Duke Boldizar Gundar had all who were of the nobility and weren't married to the Gundar family, executed, with their bodies hanging from the parapets of Castle Hunadora for years after.

As such, it is clear that Duke Nharov Gundar and his predecessors are not worthy of idolization... and yet we as a people bear his name in ours. Szerieza would prefer to have people forget how monstrous the Duke truly was, but it is my firm belief that forgetting the past will only lead to its repetition, should we one day be victorious in our goal for Gundarak's liberation. We should cut for ourselves a new path, one that is free of the tyrants who ruled in the past and rule in the present. We needn't make heroes from villains, but instead be the heroes our people need and lead them to our eventual manumission.



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Smash the State:


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ON ERLIN

~ O ~

The former Duke isn't the only thing that others have taken from our country's dark history and seen revised and re-purposed. There is a subset of so-called "freedom fighters" who have managed to revitalize and breathe new life into a faith of old, the religion that Duke Nharov Gundar supported and promoted when he still ruled Gundarak. I speak, of course, of Erlin.

He is known to go by many other names, among them "Nerull", "the Old God", "the Gloom King", "the Grand Trickster", "the Reaper", and still many more. His priests would serve the Duke as tax collectors and infrequently as enforcers of his will. They would also frequently demand compliance with various rituals or demand tribute -- those who refused them would be slaughtered in gruesome and violent displays of force against their fellow Gundarakites. Things have not changed overmuch, it seems. It was only a few years ago that a man believed to be the leader of a cult serving Erlin, one named Emanuel Maryszkas, terrorized the city of Vallaki with a mostly outlander flock. They murdered wantonly, performing profane rituals to stir the dead into their service and torturing others. It is said that not even children or newborns would be safe from Maryszkas and his minions during this time.

Nothing was sacred; nothing, save for Erlin and His hand-picked servants, chosen for their fanatic zeal.

Why would any sane man support, worship, or give succor to such a debased religion? It is a question worth asking, but as it turns out, very few in what was once Gundarak offered anything other than lip-service and what tithes were considered mandatory to the Old God. The people who lived in Gundarak largely wanted nothing to do with this faith and avoided His priests whenever they could. In the years prior to Gundarak's annexation by Barovia, there are innumerable accounts of Erlin's most devout faithful being rounded up and killed, their bodies hung for all to see. This faith was largely reviled and for good reason, and so why is it that we suddenly experience now its resurgence among a vocal minority of those claiming to be a part of the movement?

I would suggest we all consider who stands to benefit from the faith's rebirth. Is it the Gundarakite people? If you believe this, than I ask you how the murder of innocent men and women living in Vallaki, those who were not a part of the Devil's oppressive regime nor had any wish to oppose us before their butchery, advances our goals of a free homeland, liberated from Barovian rule. I would also ask for you to consider the facts: it has been made clear innumerable times the lengths to which the Devil will go to crush any dissent and protect his own power. When his most loyal vassal, a noble family that had served the Von Zarovich line for centuries, acted in a way this tyrant didn't approve of, he not only killed their patriarch, but killed one out of every ten soldiers serving them in their militia. If he chooses to rule with such brutality and malice, why would we dare to think duplicity would be beneath him? If he's willing to carry out such things against his own people, why would we believe, even for a second, he'd be less vicious against a conquered peoples, particularly one that is conducting a revolt he would wish to see suppressed.

Simply put, I do not believe Maryszkas is an ally to the cause. In fact, I believe the contrary. I am of the belief that he is, and has always been, an agent of the Count, working to delegitimatize the movement by encouraging senseless bloodshed among those belonging to it through the re-introduction of a faith that was never popular. Acts like those carried out by Maryszkas and his followers years ago both in Vallaki and elsewhere only push away Barovians and outlanders alike who might be sympathetic to our struggle, ensuring that those who fight the Devil and his tyranny in Zeidenburg remain isolated and without any friends. Our brothers and sisters must be turned away from this false faith to another or, better yet, made to dispense with the lie of organized faith altogether. It has only ever been a tool by our masters to keep us enslaved.
 


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Smash the State:
[This entry in the treatise is written with an uneven hand, an oily and inky residue that is not ink clinging to the page and giving the text a violet sheen.]



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ON PERSONAL FREEDOM

~ O ~

There is nothing more important than you, and in the fight for liberty, there is nothing more important than your own freedom. It is not only rational to think of yourself and your own needs first and foremost, it is in fact the right thing to do. The more freedom you have, the happier you will be. Once you are in a position to give to others, you can and will give what you are able. You can give to your friends in need, you can give to your family when they're on hard times, and you can give to either the cause or other matters near and dear to your heart.

The larger movement tends to take a dim view of the individual, believing that all who dream of a free and independent Gundarak ought to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for it. People believe that all who fight ought to be prepared to lay down their lives for what is more often than not short-term gain. This is what has been done for over thirty-four years, and what have we as a people gained in that time? Gundarak is no more free than it was then.

Work to make something of yourself. Actualize your own potential. The Barovians' conquest of our land and our people was carried out in only six months, and while we fought as hard as we could to remain free, we were but peasants, tradesmen, simple burghers, and shepherds. How is it that we were expected to defend our land from armed militias, trained soldiers, and Tyrant Mages from the east, and professional mercenaries from the west? How are we expected to take it back from them, if all we are is who we were before?

"I am of no real consequence". That is what I wrote in the foreword, when first I started penning this treatise. At the time, that was an accurate statement. I was no one, nobody. Circumstances have changed for me, however... and they can change for all of you. Discover your own pathway to power. Uncover your inner strength and use it to become more than you are now. Success will come your way, when you stop letting yourself be continuously beaten down. Make your oppressors fear you. Make sure they know you cannot be chained up, no matter how hard they try. In fact, should they try to fit you for a collar.. see it put on their necks, instead. Show them the same mercy and kindness they have shown you.



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Smash the State:
[This entry in the treatise is written with an even more unsteady head, the writing erratic...]



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ON YOU

~ O ~

To think that you were once a woman of principles. To think that you were once a woman who stood for something. For anything. To think that you gave a damn once for anyone other than yourself. Who is this woman looking at me in the mirror? Are they truly stronger or better than who they were months prior, or have they allowed the shadow that has slowly been building strength inside of them to wholly consume them? How much of the girl who wanted, more than anything, her late mother's affection and love, is left? What would she think if she saw her daughter now?

The things you've done, the things you've had a hand in... they've left a mark on you. As for the things you haven't had a hand in, well... the blood is on your hands as much as anyone else's, because you chose to do nothing. You're complicit. You always have been.

You know you're guilty. It's why you continue to try and do good turns where you can, in the hopes that some of the blood will wash away. It won't, though. You're among the damned now, and you know it. Desperate for a family, desperate to belong to something, desperate to no longer be the coward you've always been, you let the devil in and now that she's here? She isn't going anywhere.

You think you can ignore this? You think you can pretend as though you're not listening? Ignore my warnings to you at your own peril. This isn't about saving Gundarak anymore, you stupid bitch, this is about saving yourself...

... but it may be too late, now.



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