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Reaching the outskirts of Buysdorp, a small farming community can be spotted. A fence demarcated the various buildings from the dirt road that was no doubt created due to the numerous foot traffic. A half-elf stood guard by the outskirts with a strange stance. He seemed to be in much pain and perked up upon seeing the wagon group heading in. He began waddling over to the wagons. The half-elf took big strides, slowly shifting his left foot forward, before slowly shifting his right foot forward. He grimaced throughout his strides, and Jan was worried that the person might collapse suddenly.

He turned to Sjaak, who was deviously grinning at that man’s suffering. Which brought a question to his mind? They are the descendants of man and elf, how should he address them? Human? But that would disregard their elven traits. Elf? But that would disregard their human traits. So, what then? He decided to borrow over the term used from the old world, ‘coloured’ since it succinctly described them in a nutshell.

 

Sjaak got off his wagon and went up to the coloured. Laughing at that man’s suffering, he patted the coloured’s shoulder and wiped a tear from his eye. Grinning, he turned to see the perplexed gazes of the Boers that watched the strange scene unfold.

“Gentlemen, this is Mesuli Mankayi. He can trace his ancestry to the Xhosa. And he had recently undergone his initiation rite to adulthood.”

“Voetsek! You can come and do it as well! Once you do it, then maybe you won’t be laughing at me!”

Mesuli tried to slap Sjaak, but the pain from his groin hurt too much.

“My mother had to insist so that I can become a man! I should have listened to my father! Fok! It hurts! It fokken hurts! If she had a dick that she wouldn’t say something like that!”

 

A few men got it, but the rest could not comprehend the innuendo.

“So, the Xhosa ritual is circumcision, isn’t it?” Jan grimaced.

Sjaak snorted, “Yup. It’s called Ulwaluko. Sometimes, if the man is unlucky, the whole penis must be cut off. Consider it lucky we didn’t get a traditional Xhosa practitioner and got a local doctor to do it instead.”

“My mother wanted to bring one Xhosa from the East to conduct it. But I’m lucky my father persuaded her! Fok! She wanted me to lose my dick! That evil woman!”

Mesuli stumbled away, swearing at his fate.

 

“Have fun! Be at least happy that you don’t have to fast like the traditional Xhosa ritual! You could still eat or drink!” Sjaak chuckled. A middle finger was sent his way, but it was quickly put away as the pain in the groin became his main concern.

 

“Now then, where were we, gentlemen? Ahh, yes. So before taking up a Xhosa concubine or wife, be sure to think about the consequences of your actions. Are you ok with subjecting your descendants to be circumcised?”

The Boers looked towards one another and imagined what if they had to be circumcised. It was unthinkable, and they thanked God that they weren’t born Xhosa.

 

“So, what? Going to show us around Buysdorp?” Jan asked.

Sjaak shook his head.

“I’m sorry. But no foreigners are allowed. Camp outside, and I’ll make our preparations for a scouting expedition to the Zoutpansberg mountains. Originally, I was intending to have Mesuli bring you there, but due to his injured meatstick, I’m afraid I’ll have to get someone else to bring you up.”

 

The Boers grumbled about the coldness they had to deal with after trekking for a couple of days through lands filled with Tswana, but the thought that gold was close to them filled their minds.

A laager was formed, and a temporary camp was set right outside Buysdorp. From their laager, they could see coloured residents peeking through the windows, watching the newcomers camping outside.

 

A couple of minutes later, Sjaak came by himself.

“I got no volunteers willing to escort you. I apologise. Most of them distrust you Boers, especially due to prior experiences. So, I will bring you up instead. Now, I can’t bring you all, so get me around 5-6 men and we’ll look at Zoutpansberg.”

Naturally, all the men looked towards Commando Jan, who already picked the six.

He had to go to confirm the sight with his own eyes.

Veldkornets Pietje and Russell would have to be brought along, their appointed replacements shall manage the Boer camp in their stead.

The last three were tough. And he didn’t know who to pick with all the men leering at him. They all wanted a chance to see the gold with their own eyes. Looking at Sjaak scanning the Boer candidates, he decided to have their escort make the choice.

“Sjaak, you decide. What kind of men would be best to bring along?”

“You, for instance, would not be selected,” Sjaak slyly smirked. But he resumed his original expression, one of someone who is in deep analytical thought.

“But in all seriousness, I’ll pick you,” Sjaak pointed at a lanky-looking Boer, before pointing to a stout-looking Boer and finally to a Boer who was fit.

“You three look like good candidates. Won’t slow down our trek too much or seem to cause much trouble.”

“How do you evaluate one that seems to cause much trouble?” Jan asked.

“Depends on your facial expression. If I don’t like your face, I know you’ll be a troublemaker,” Sjaak shamelessly explained.

 

The group of seven trekked through a hiking trail. They brought along sacks full of provisions. Each man had a canister filled with drinking water as well as some cans of canned food. Their guns slung behind their backs, swaying with every footstep they made.

 

“Zoutpansberg means Salt Pan Mountain in Elfrikaans. In the West, a Salt Pan can be found, and there is salt all over the ground. The locals harvested the salt from time to time, giving rise to its name. We do take the salt there as well since we lack access to merchants willing to travel this far.”

Sjaak raised his hand, and the men stopped. He crouched down and urged the men to do the same. They shuffled to a ledge and peeked their heads over the ridge.

 

A Boer settlement could be seen.

Wooden huts were constructed at various parts of the river. Horses were tied to the huts. Most interesting of all was the fact that there was a distinct lack of women around. Everyone there was a man, and they held guns and watched each other movements closely. It is not as if females didn’t exist, but they weren’t human.

Elves, female elves, were servicing the Boers' every need. He watched as one of the elves entered a hut after a Boer command. The Boer watched the outside for a couple of seconds before slamming the door. They didn’t come out for quite a while.

Some of the elves were big-bellied. From their physique, one could tell it wasn’t due to overeating or anything. They could easily identify where their ribcages start and end.

By the river, stakes with rope were hammered onto the ground. By the end of the rope, was an elf, either male or female, panning gold on the Boer stead. They did not seem very happy labouring for their Boer masters.

 

With one glance, Jan looked at the men with him.

Russell, the upright man he was, stuck his tongue out in disgust.

Pietje was appalled by the conditions of the elves since he had spent some time interacting with and getting to know them as Veldkornet of the Boer district.

The other three newcomers watched the sight with glee. To them, it was likely something desirable. It seemed like the perfect lifestyle. Elf Harem and get gold without lifting a finger. Sounds like the dream of every man in his twenties looking to get Financial independence while retiring early, or FIRE for short.

 

Those rosy dreams were shattered when they heard gunshots. A firefight started breaking out between two groups of Boers, and what seemed to be a Victorian version of a gang fight started to play out.

It seemed it was not as rosy as the men envisioned. And their faces were filled with disappointment seeing the danger. Of course, as any investor will tell you, high risk, high reward. And well, why work for the gold, when you can take others? That is if you don’t end up dead first from your victim’s retaliation.

 

“As Potgieter said, a hellhole. While they seem divided, against a big threat, they will unify against them. And because they fight using guerrilla tactics, it’s difficult to wipe them out. They’ll flee using their horses, and when you least expect it and strike you down,” Sjaak clicked his tongue.

“Those elves. Are they Tswana?”

Sjaak rolled his eyes.

“Honestly, there are so many cultures that it’s hard to keep track of them. But I believe they are Venda elves. They are the founders of the great ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe which existed in the 9th century. Seeing their sorry state today, it must be hard to believe that. But is true, everything has a rise and fall. Such as the Boers. When the Boers rise, someone must fall. But the Boers won’t rise forever, they will fall,” Sjaak commented.

 

“So gentlemen, have a good look? Think they are easy to take over? We can work together and root them out.”

Jan shook his head in confusion.

“You told me that it was difficult to get rid of them. Now you say that you could easily do so on our behalf, why is that?”

“Why indeed? Because I know some people who want those Boers out of their lands. I’ll set up a meeting.”

 

This is a fantasy world. The presence of staple fantasy races was to be expected. But he didn’t expect to see them in a continent known as Elfrica. Just like the diverse wildlife of the continent couldn’t be succinctly described with a word, his emotions couldn’t be described when he saw the bread-and-butter race. The dwarf.

 

Sjaak led them to a cave of some sort, and there were short, stocky men.

“Greetings, let me introduce you to the Lobedu people. They make their living through mining. They were once miners of the great Kingdom of Mapungubwe. But with its collapse, they decided to eke out their living. These are the ones living in Zoutpansberg.”

 

A female-looking dwarf with the typical stocky dwarf stature paired with a headscarf obscuring her head was escorted to their little group.

“Rain Queen Maselekwane Modjadji, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Sjaak bowed.

Modjadji bowed back with her delegation. And looking towards the Boers.

She hissed upon studying them for quite some time.

“Why did you bring these troublemakers here? To see the suffering of those Vendu elves every day, do you make a mockery of my politeness?”

Sjaak raised his hands.

“Queen Modjadji, the bothersome men and the men you see before you are different. They are helpers I have brought over to help get rid of those men. After all, the best persons to get rid of those pests would be themselves.”

 

Jan frowned.

“Give me a lowdown of what has happened between all three of you.”

Modjadji sighed.

“Some time ago, a couple of humans came by. We engaged in trade. However, they were most interested in the gold artworks that our artisans have created. We told them that it could be panned from the waters. Next thing we knew, some of them stayed behind while the rest trekked on.”

“Things were peaceful. They panned gold, while we minded our own business.”

“Next we knew, some of them demanded our gold else they will start attacking us.”

“Attack us they did and stormed our tunnels seeking to obtain the gold. These men did not have a good end. We collapsed the tunnels and made sure to dig a small gap in the surface. The men could their brethren screaming for help for weeks until they… expired. It put an end to the conflict, but we are unable to leave our abode lest we are set upon by these white dogs. There are some secret entrances left, these are one of them. If the next attack comes from here, then Sjaak De Buys, you will also be considered an enemy,” Rain Queen Modjadji coldly explained, staring at the men, that looked like the white dogs she so described, right before her.

“They began using unorthodox tactics such as lighting fires in the tunnels. We had to go through the trouble of extinguishing them and digging another tunnel to allow the smoke to drift out. There’s one thing I’ll admit and that these men aren’t stupid, they’re trying all sorts of tactics to have us submit. But if you see the sights outside, then you should know it’s better to die than submit to them.”

 

Jan’s eyes narrowed.

“You’re the Rain Queen, right? So, are you able to make rain fall at a certain time? Or is the title a lie?”

Modjadji glared at him.

“Insult my name once more and I’ll ensure you can die as gloriously as your brethren outside. But this time, I’ll show you why I’m known as the rain queen. Have fun drowning.”

Her eyes flickered to Boer who wasn’t taking her seriously. Realizing that he was watched, he showed a serious expression to the dwarf.

 

“No offence. But a dwarf queen able to cause rain to fall is rather contradictory. Considering your closeness to the ground, this affinity to the sky makes little sense,” Jan complained.

“Most of our farming is done outside. Sunlight is hard to obtain in the underground, and we can only sustain ourselves through mushrooms. Mushrooms can be eaten by any dwarf, but they won’t be able to support a large population. The yield per square acre that can be obtained by crops will always outperform the mushroom, which requires the environment to be a certain way to obtain the perfect mushroom.”

“And to me, your kind’s hostility to us makes little sense. Your kind should have ended hostilities a long time ago. Because,” Modjadji bared her teeth, “you won’t win.”

 

Jan should feel relieved about the inclusion of the dwarfs. But, he only felt much more suspicious. And he questioned why did Buysdorp and the dwarfs need them? If their capabilities were to be taken at face value, the two could have easily mopped the Boers up. The Rain Queen could force a battle only on a rainy day, when the Boers’ guns are ineffective, and hand them a crushing defeat. It was highly unlikely Sjaak did not let the Rain Queen know of this fact before their partnership, so why was their group needed?

That is… unless they needed a convenient scapegoat to pin the blame on. After the previous incident between the trekkers and the dwarves, it was likely the dwarves would want to further isolate themselves. They wouldn’t want to take credit for the victory over the Zoutpansberg Boers. The De Buys in Buysdorp would also rather live in peace. But now that Jan’s group know of their presence, such a result was likely unobtainable.

That is unless they were planning to have Jan’s group claim credit for the victory over the Zoutpansberg Boers. And they’ll assume due to their greed, they will naturally settle down in Zoutpansberg. The two other factions won’t be able to live their peaceful life. What if Jan’s group suddenly disappeared? It could be easily explained away, such as the trekking away or some other reason. They likely won’t be missed. Then they can spin some tale about the curse of Zoutpansberg gold, like the rumours of gold spread amongst merchants.

 

If this was true, it was chilling, to say the least. The intentions of non-human allies were always confusing, and he would rather deal with humans with their familiar human qualities.

 

He turned to look at Sjaak who smiled in a friendly manner. Jan smiled back. The moment he looked away; his smile became a frown.

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Jaykingamez

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