Zenduali of the Manucode

Entrusted with protecting the oases from the threats of the East, Zenduali decided to lead a fast and agile force into the lands of the dead men, scout their numbers, assess the danger and find out as much as she can about the enemy and area both. Her wishes for speed, however, were soon put to the test.

Plagued by still and silent dreams that smelled of death, her people found the fervor of life abandon them with every waking morning. Following the advice of the representatives of the Cults with her force, she ensured her people spend every waking moment busy and occupied by hunting, tracking and battle training, finding out all they could about the land. Her efforts seemed to work until one scout was left alone on a patrol, despite her orders for everyone to work in pairs at all times.

Riding fiercely into the camp, Raptor Rider Akeena reported directly to Zenduali that previous reports were confirmed and that large tracks had been found in areas long thought lifeless. Excited by the prospect of wildlife even in these parts, Zenduali’s joy was quickly overshadowed by the notable absence of Akeena’s scouting pair, Oatti. Furious that her orders were not followed, she nevertheless allowed the scout to rest for a spell, before she rode with her to find Oatti.

The ride proved harder than any before. Haunted by the elements themselves, as a sudden sandstorm befell them, Zenduali was entranced by a whispering voice in the wind. Mystified and consumed by its lure, she listened to its words and despaired, as a cloudless rain mingled with the besieging sandstorm. With the very land and elements around her feeling lifeless and angry, Zenduali plunged into misery, with young Akeena trying desperately to pull her out of her own mind. She only succeeded when the storm died out and Oatti was found, her throat sliced and her bloodied dagger in her hands.

Influenced by her experience in the storm and consumed by paranoia, she declared the death a murder and started frantically to try and track the culprit. Eventually, defeated by her own exhaustion and Akeena’s desperate pleas, she accepted the death as suicide and returned with the body to the camp. There, the young scout was given a self-hands killer’s funeral. Struggling still with the ghost of the despair and futility she experienced in the storm, Zenduali ordered that all works would be done in groups of four.

Once she had established there was nothing to track and next to nothing to hunt, Zenduali realized how much time she had lost trying to battle the land of the dead itself, and just how little she had learned about her enemies. Pushing on against her own, haunted mind, she ordered multiple tracking groups of four and eight to scout deep into the Lost Lands and the lands of the dead, while she remained in camp to keep her force disciplined, as the rations were going dangerously low. Her patience was rewarded more than she wanted: not one but two forces of dead were spotted. One was engaged with her cousin, Yolmantok, who was forced to gather as many of the scouts as he could to confront them. The other was a larger force, settling and unearthing the ruins of an old city.

Sending word to the Oasis, Zenduali sent the main camp to meet with Yolmantok. Herself, however, gathered a small, agile force and went to observe the ruined city. There, she saw works of excavation being done. Moving stealthily, she observed numbers, watches and patterns but had no inkling as to their battle readiness and tactics. Having ensured that the oasis would be alerted first, she decided to follow the daring plan of one of her captains: a hit and run assault, aiming to gather as much information as possible about what the dead were digging for and how they responded to guerilla warfare.

The Battle of Divina Ruins proved to Zenduali that the dead would not be an easy enemy. While she was forced to retreat much sooner that she had hoped and before she managed to strike any significant blow, she did manage to observe that the dead seemed focused on uncovering tombs. She noted the speed and effectiveness with which they had responded to their surprise attack and the quiet coordination with which they moved. Equipped with some losses but armed with knowledge, Zenduali fled west, her mission only a partial success.