Locations of Stormfall.
Greehold, the shield of the north-east.
The seat of House Greer also known as the Stone Snout. Currently ruled by Lady Vanera, the latest descendant of Greer the First who was the king of several seperate barbarian tribes before being made into a lord by the Emperor of Stormfall. The banner is House Greer is that of a gray boar on a green field, indicating their boar rider heritage and their nature as being as ferocious and adaptable as a wild boar.
Greehold is located near the Farwol's ridge in the northeastern part of Darkshine and is one of the first outposts of the previous Stormfall Empire that faced Balur's Orc hordes when they crossed the ridge. Even now with the collapse of the Empire during the Age of War and the Rise of Balur, Lord Oberon can still count of northeren houses such as House Greer to hold the line against Balur's children.
Every summer, orc raids attack the villages or holds of Greehold and it is Greer blood that makes sure the orc threat does not spread further south.
The castle itself is built similarly like the other castles found further south. It has a long stone bridge that leads to a moat where a drawbridge would provide access into the large courtyard of Greehold. The castle itself has two defensive walls, one around the moat and one around the inner citadel of the castle. Around the walls there are several catapults that were built by the dwarven people of Karag Bolg, a dwarven kingdom close by.
Several boar statues, built by dwarven craftsmen and blessed by barbarian shaman, stand watch around the castle and according to some scribes they often wake at night to sniff out any assassins who would do anyone of the Greer family harm. Although several Lords and Ladies of Greer did fall to an assassins blade, those assassins were themselves of Greer blood.
The rooftops are painted green to showcase Greer's family colours. The people who live inside the walls of Greehold are a mix of Stormfall residents, barbarians from the northeren plains and dwarves.
According to legend, Greer the First led the barbarian clans towards what would become Greehold, drawn to it's fertile soils and defensible hills. As such the fields around Greehold are still farmed to this day and enjoy the protection of the nearby castle's armed forces. There are several smaller houses who serve as House Greer's bannermen but the true allies of Greehold remained wild and decided not to live behind walls.
Further north there are the plains where dozens of barbarian tribes have lineage to Greehold, the largest one being Clan Khengis of which Lady Vanera' sister, Lady Varwynia, claims heritage. Although the barbarians and their southern kin belitle each other in public, their relationship could be likened to that of older and younger siblings. In times of war both Greehold and any of those clans can call each other for aid. Every year around the winter solstice, many nomads arrive at Greehold to receive food from their southern cousins in exchange for fine horses or boars.
The dwarven community inside Greehold originally began as a workforce of dwarven craftsmen, miners and guards from Karag Bolg who helped build the walls of the castle before eventually making Greehold their official home. The children of Bran made their homes deep beneath the ground in a underground city, named Undertown, much akin to their former ancestral home of Karag Bolg.
The dwarves of Greehold still remember their oaths to hold back the evils of Anhr'even and so often many young dwarves or adventurous Greehold residents travel to Karag Bolg to join the unending battle against the orc clans beneath the mountains.
Because of House Greer's close ties with Clan Khengis and Karag Bolg, many of barbarian blood and dwarves either married into the Greer line or held important offices in the court.
Greehold had been besieged several times in it's day, at least a dozen times by orcs but also three times time by other enemy houses, including their own cadet branch shortly after the death of Greer the elder. As one of the houses close to the Eastern Marshes, most criminals are made to be exiled to the Marshes for the msot severe of crimes such as murder, rape or treason.
Although some rivals claim that due to the constant orc raids, House Greer has been corrupted by Balur and any year now the Greers would throw their lot in with Balur to sack the north-east of Darkshine. Those foolish enough to speak such words in taverns near Greehold are either beaten to an inch of their life or send to the Eastern Marshes for the people know House Greer and Greehold itself are the shield of the North-East and would hold back the tides of Balur's darkness until the last of their blood had been spent.
Creatures of Stormfall.
One eye, midnight given fangs.
It was my first day outside of the wall, fresh out of the barracks at Delthanis Keep. We were send out to retrieve a prisoner who was wrongly thrown into Exile. Some noblemen's daughter and her child who was caught up in some political blowdown, I'm not sure. It was me and four other men who were send out in a token attempt to find her, earn our keep.
Captain Ivalnir led our group, half-elf ranger who led a thousand excursions beforehand. Good man, hell of a tracker. Had family in Ravenwood, no idea why he ended up here at Farwol's ridge. The other two were Peter and Dieter, not brothers but close friends from the same village.
They ended up joining the watch because of some drunken bet, don't now the finer details. Last of the bunch was our arbalest Drong, bastard dwarf only had one eye and was drunk half the day but he could shoot the pecker of a insect from thirty steps away.
We set off from the gate and moved along the few paths that weren't rotten or broken down. We avoided the other exiles if we could help it, let the Captain sniff ours out. I'm not saying the captain, Eir rest his soul, was some kind of animal man but he sure did behave a lot like a dog with the sniffing and licking and such. Anyway it did bear fruit.
We did find her and the child, at least what was left of them. The trail led to this camp site where a larger group of these exiles tended to gather. We approached it cautiously, groups of exiles who make it past the wall and raid the lower lands are quite common. When we came closer we began smelling this awful stench, like a rotten abattoir. We found out way soon enough.
It was a massacre. Body pieces left and right, tents torn apart, the smell....it was awful. Something tore through those people, the whole fight must've only lasted five minutes. Least it was quick, for some anyway. Dieter found what was left of this poor woman.
We could only bring back the ring from her severed hand, the rest we just couldn't transport even if we wanted to. Didn't even find a scrap of the child, not even a finger.
I remember our captain feeling bad for those people, says they didn't deserve it. I don't think we did either.
I remember this howl. This bone chilling howl that raced through the camp, making my spine shiver. I remember all the wildlife falling silent as something huge moved through the woods. Something massive. We got ours pikes out despite the Captain's orders, we should've listened to him. I only saw a glimpse of the creature, but that demon's form is engraved in my mind.
It was a wolf but even saying it like that does a disservice to other wolves. There was something...wrong with this one. It was as tall as a house, matted black fur marred with hideous scars and a missing eye. That eye still haunts me. That eye seemed to have been made by Balur itself. When the creature looked at you, you saw this cold indifference. All it wanted was to eat you. Not because he needed to feed but because he wanted to.
It's undermaw was slightly crooked to the right, teeth as yellow as a bloated corpse. Strangest of all, it had a old saddle on it's back, a big one fit for an tall man or an orc or something.
It moved fast as well, like lightning. It bite Dieter's head off in a blink of an eye before it dragged Pieter into the forest. I tried to save him, stabbing my pike into that furry bastard but it didn't even leave a dent! It ran off with Pieter in his maw as he screamed for help.
Exiles nowadays call that place the Haunted Woods and that at nights you can still hear the poor bastard screaming in pure fear.
Me and the captain fled back towards the wall. Must've run a whole day's hike in an hour. For a moment I thought we lost him, but then that damn bastard howled again. The captain told me to run, tell the wall what happend. That One eye happend. He took up his bow and got ready to stand that monster down. Never saw a braver man than him.
I'm not afraid to admit I ran for my life that day, that I ran even faster when I heard the captain scream. A pack of wolves was chasing after me as well, nipping and biting at my heels. Drong managed to down four of them before they dragged him under. I thought I was gone for when another howl shook the forest. I don't know if I evaded the pack or that monster called them off but I ran when the sun began to set, when it became dark and even till the next sunrise. I must've ran all the way to the wall's gates and collapsed there because next thing I knew, I had an priestess of Mara leaning over me, tending to my wounds in the small hospital.
I don't know why the wolf didn't chase me down and killed me like the rest of my friends. I'd like to think he drove us off that piece of land because that was his pack's turf and I managed to run out of it in time. But some other part of me fears that it wanted me to make it out alive. To tell this story. To tell you never to go to the Haunted Forest. That One eye will get you and eat you alive.
-Sergeant Emilly Dranko, retired watchmen.
One eye. Midnight given fangs. The dark wind. These are but a few names given to the apex predator of the Eastern Marches. Even dragons and their Chimera kin avoid this creature and it's wolf pack.
No-one quite knows the story of this wolf other than hear-says, legends and even folklore.
The few testimonies of survivors, hunters or guardsmen who were fast or lucky enough to evade his jaws gave the following traits. Black fur, numerous scars, impaled with spears or arrows, a mangled jaw and of course having only one eye. There are fewer mentions of a saddle on the creature's back and even lesser details on what kind of saddle or make.
One eye looks like an enlarged wolf mount commonly used by orc wolf riders during raids. After their defeat on the Day of Eclipse, some bands of surviving Orcs fled into the mountains. There they met giant wolves - Wargs. Those the Orcs didn't kill or eat were made to serve as their mounts.
According to Citadel records, the largest wolf rider known to history belonged to the orcish Warlord, Grinfang. He had his shaman infuse the chaos of their god Balur into his wolf, Bloodfang, making it more fierce and powerful in battle. According to the scribes at the Citadel, the spell that was possibly used was a dark essence ritual in which for every bit of flesh or blood was consumed the beast will grow bigger and bigger. We still do not know the limits of that spell.
The beast was twice the size of a normal warg by the time Lord Oberon managed to field a defense against that raid. It was only fed human flesh so he craved it more on the battlefield. Many poor men, women and children were devoured by the beast or hunted for sport by Grinfang. According to orcish prisoners, their was a relationship of respect between the Warlord and his monster, going as far as the warg being named his main advisor during war councils. Only he was allowed to mount Bloodfang, anyone else who tried lost an arm or was devoured.
During the battle of the Citadel, Lord Oberon himself faced Grinfang and slew the monster in battle. He would've been bitten in half by Bloodfang himself were it not for Captain Amelie who threw a spear at it. The creature yelped in pain and ran off, never to be seen again.
We do not know for certain if this creature is the One eye we know now belonged to Grinfang but due to the size of the creature it is possible that at least this creature had been given a similar enchantment like Bloodfang.
Currently, One eye has run of the Haunted Woods and is known to attack exiles. Even in large fortified villages. He has a pack with him of smaller wolves who are just as vicious but seem utterly loyal to their Alpha.
Numerious hunters have gone after One eye but few have ever returned.
Avoid this animal at all costs.
Locations of Stormfall.
Karag Bolg, the Coal Hold. Home of King Dain and clan Dain.
The seat of the Dain dynasty, Karag Bolg, which translated to the Stormfall tongue, means Coal Hold. It currently ruled by King Dain VII, the latest descendant of the Dain dynasty who had settled the mountains that divided the Eastern Marches with the larger Stormfall realm.
The symbol of Karag Bolg is that of stone bearded dwarf man with the beard shaped like an axe and a pick on each end, indicating their roles as protectors and miners.
Karag Bolg is located on the most southern point of the Farwol's ridge in the northeastern part of Darkshine but has spawned several smaller holds along the ridge, both to expand their mining operations and to keep orcish or exiled warbands from trespassing into greater Stormfall. With the collapse of the Empire after the death of the Seven Kings of Stormfall, Karag Bolg stands strong as the sun darkens with every passing day, defiant and stubborn as the rock it was hewed out of.
Much like Caer Bran further east, Karag Bolg follows the same doctorine all dwarven architects have embedded into their being by their creator god Bran himself.
On the surface, Karag Bolg looks like a small castle with ornate stone twin guards guarding the gate entrance, all coloured black like the coal that give the hold it's name. A small human village has sprung outside it's walls, mostly shepards and farmers who can seek shelter should the hold come under attack.
Karag Bolg's large slope toward the gate is protected by several guard towers along the path, balista's trained on enemy invader foolish enough to try to fight their way through. Athough the gate itself might not present a problem to breach, much like a iceberg on the frozen seas what you can see is but a tip of the actual scale of the fortress below.
Even larger gates inside the castle lead towards the true vastness that is the Coal Hold. Over thirty rings lead downward into the earth, each ring more heavily protected by armed dwarven warriors and golems. Even the local populace is armed with a small axe or hammer, from the youngest child who barely has a hair on their chin to those whose white majestic snow white beards nearly touch the ground. Even the local merchants, farmers, washer women and miners returning from their shift are expected to join the local guard should the outer gate be breached.
Despite nearly every being armed, some to the teeth, Karag Bolg's people are a kind and friendly lot.
Many taverns dot along the rings, where ale and merry songs flows freely. Wooden lifts can be used to navigate the levels more quickly. There are also tunnels that lead outside towards hidden valleys inside Farwolf's ridge where the dwarves keep their crop and barley fields and their sheep can graze to their heart's content. Also here small taverns can be found for the non-dwarven visitors or inhabitants who had enough of being underground for a day. From here there are more roads that lead to the smaller holds that dot across the ridge, these are protected by dwarven rangers and bear riders.
However these holds are few and far between with many lying derelict. Although frequently patrolled, these holds are often held by exiles who managed to escape the Eastern Marches.
As a traveler travels ever downward the mountain, the more beautiful the hold looks. The darker stone gives way to marble and majestic pillars and statues of heroes of dwarfkind dot many locations. One might even find a few dedicated to dwarf friends such as King Greer, Lord Regent Oberon, Captain Amelie and several past Emperors of Stormfall.
On the lowest level there is the palace where the king resides. Before it stands a massive statue that towers the last two rings, made to resemble the god Bran.
Past it's gates you will find the massive throne room with large pillars inscribed with runes of protective wards and past deeds worth remembering. It's throne made of the purest gold and embroided by sapphires and other precious metals. Petitions to the king can only be made on every seventh day of the week, resulting in a small city set up outside the palace waiting in line to see the king.
But even on the lowest level it still goes further downward. Many tunnels lead to the mines below where not only, but mostly, coal is hauled but also many other precious minerals. The forges are also located here, making it easier for the fumes to all escape via a single duct that leads outside the mountain.
There to is a larger, dark underground tunnel. Black thick gates are bolted at all times. Access is strictly prohibited and may only be opened once per day. This dark road leads to Anhr'even, the evil underground realm that even Balur himself dislikes to visit. Only when the other dwarven holds call for a crusade or Karag Bolg's prisons need emptying are soldiers send to combat the evils that lurk there, willing or not. Were one to travel beyond that door, it would have to be with an armed escort. A further sixteen rings downward lay below or alongside the mines but lay abandoned and ruined, a dark shadow of the city above. According to the few old enough to remember it, 'Karag Mag', or the marble hold, was even more magnificant than it's parent hold before 'The Disaster'. 'The Disaster' was a massive earthquake that ruptured the kingdom. Half of it was lost to tunnel collapases, magma flows and the dark below. From the cracks in the wall came goblins and their kin, invading from Anhr'even. Although the dwarves of Karag Bolg managed to hold off the invaders, half the city was lost and deemed not salvage-able by King Dain III.
According to Karag Bolg's archivists, the hold first started as an outpost for the larger Caer Bran, the dwarven capitol in Stormfall. It's leader, a nephew to the king at the time, was Prince Dain. A brave, young dwarf who sought to make his mark upon the world. According to reports from Shade travellers, there was a lot of riches to be found inside the Farwol ridge. He and his expedition travelled across the land instead of beneath it to many of their kin's confusion.
"How can we see our enemies coming if we keep hiding our head beneath the dirt like rabbits?" He proclaimed. This way of travel took of course much longer and the expedition did take a few casulties from attacking orcs and goblins but also human raiders and the odd dragon attack. Remember this was in the time before the unification of the Empire and the roads were unsafe, even more so than the chaos today.
But this long path also made them a few friends.
Other dwarf clans heard of Prince Dain's courage and joined him as did several human tribes and halfling cooks joined their journey, sharing the same vision to make their fame in riches or to find a safe place.
When the expedition reached Farwol's ridge seven years after they left Caer Bran, it had doubled in size than the outset. Dain himself laid the first brick on what would become the surface castle and led the first mining arrays through the caves. Under his leadership, even the deft hands of dwarves truely outdid the normal speed of dwarven construction and engineering.
The surface castle and the first underground ring were build by the end of the third year and the second ring was halfway done. In the fifth Dain named the hold 'Karag Bolg', Coal Hold in dwarven, for the amount of coal found in the layers and the dark colour of stone they used to build their walls and roads.
As the years passed, the hold became ever larger as did Prince Dain's ambitions. Wishing a crown for himself and a dynasty, he petitioned his uncle in Caer Bran to be named king of Karag Bolg. His uncle accepted under the agreement Karag Bolg paid Caer Bran tribute and loyalty. At first this was an agreement Dain was all to happy with for he loved his uncle whom he saw more as a father than his own flesh and blood. By the twentieth year of the laying of the first brick of the surface castle, Prince Dain was crowned King Dain I at the Citadel.
Decades passed and King Dain passed away in his sleep. His son, Floki Dainson was renamed Dain II and continued the workings of Karag Bolg. Much like his father he had great ambitions but unlike him he did not share his loyalty to distant Caer Bran. Caer Bran demanded more tithe from the marble mines that came from Karag Mag which Dain II rejected for he wished to use the marble to make his hold the most prestigious of all dwarf holds. The High King Throm and King Dain II met in Caer Volk, near what would become the Citadel of Stormfall, to negotiate a fair trade. Although there was a lot of shouting, slowly but surely a fair agreement for both sides.
That deal fell through when Dain II had seduced the High King' sister, Princess Hella, and bedded her on the negotiation table when the High King Throm entered to sign the final agreement. The High King left the negotiations and declared war on Karag Bolg.
In turn in the One hundred and thirteenth year Karag Bolg declared itself independant from Caer Bran. Which led to the dwarven civil war, or 'The War beneath the ground' as scholars like to call it. The following year Dain II married Hella and named her Queen, but their marriage quickly grew cold when she was not able to produce an heir. It was not long before Hella walked into their bedchambers and found him bedding the halfling maid, the first of many transgressions.
For decades, dwarf fought dwarf beneath the ground, fighting for gold and other precious metals. Underneath Stormfall's lands the two sides collapsed tunnels, fielded massive assaults which led in many casulties and threw nearly all dwarven kingdoms into dissaray.
The fighting only stopped when Dain II's inner council including Queen Hella, who grew weary of the amount of coin the war was costing and Dain's infidelity respectively, had a shade assassin disguised as an elven whore kill the king in his bed.
The war ended soon after and Hella, after begging for Throm's forgiveness, was quickly returned home to Caer Bran. As if a deal was made beforehand. Dain II's brother Hralgar Dainson, now named Dain III, was crowned the next king and swore fealty to the High King. All seemed well untill the second year in his reign when 'The Disaster' happened.
Most of Karag Mag fell to darkness and the dwarves, still weakened from the civil war, could barely hold back the greenskinned foes. No sooner than they had fought back the goblins below, orcs and ogres attacked the castle from above. Karag Bolg found itself attacked on all sides and alone for the disaster also affected the other dwarven holds across all of Darkshine with some having already fallen.
Karag Bolg would've followed their fate were it not for a human barbarian king who united several barbarian clans. This man was Greer the first, the originator of House Greer and who would later settle what is now known as Greehold. Dain III assisted the human king with giving them dwarven steel and armour. Together the two armies fought back the orc invasion for the first time. The humans of the Greer clans were quite similar to Karag Bolg, sharing their love for ale and battle. It was not like before King Greer was named dwarf-friend.
An alliance between Greer and Karag Bolg was formalised when the dwarves assisted in the construction of Greehold and King Greer's second son married Dain's niece. This would not be the first time dwarven blood would be introduced into the Greer family line and vice versa.
Karag Bolg never truely recovered after 'The Disaster'. Even during the 'Darmor Pacification' they were only able to send a few legions of siege balista's and miners to assist Emperor Hulius in defeating the Darmor Empire. Prince Grim Dainson was given the honour to lead the dwarven auxiliaries for the invasion however and brought home a giant as a pet after the campaign had run it's course. The creature's skeleton can even now be seen in the city's museum. But that did little to dissuade would be invaders from the Eastern Marches to stay behind the wall.
Even now bold orcish bands and exiles manage to slip passed Karag Bolg's defences more frequently than before.
As it stands now, King Dain VII rules over a small kingdom, trying to hold back the evils from the Eastern Marches.
"I am like a child trying to plug holes in a leaking dam using only his fingers" he once said to Lord Oberon." Where one plug is sealed, another pops up and I've used nine of my fingers already."
His youngest brother now serves as commander of Greehold's forces after a family tragedy that occured when an expedition to Karag Mag went awry. His oldest brother went into self-exile when his son was caught eloping with a married human noble woman and they to were exiled. Although old and weary, King Dain remembers his oaths to Caer Bran, Stormfall and Greehold.
"We are the sons of the stone. We are born from the mountains. The mountain does not bow to the storm, it remains. So to must we remain."
Organisations of Stormfall.
The Elite Exiles.
Pinnacle Keep, home of House Ironfist (in exile), fortress of the Elite Exiles.
Pinnacle Keep is a fortress build on the foundations of a Darmor ruined palace and is currently home to the exile clan known as the Elite Exiles, formerly House Ironfist. Standing on a cliff’s edge with the Farwol’s Ridge behind itself with two defensive rings before the main citadel, Pinnacle Keep is one of the strongest fortresses found in the Eastern Marches. Numerous runestones are embedded across the battlements from the previous Darmor occupants. These weaken enemy magicks to such a degree that no magical creature, such as golems or undead, can come close to the walls and the strength of a fireball dissipates into nothingness.
To some it is a testimony of Stormfall need to colonise all that came before while to other’s it is the only true chance of safety in the harsh wilderness that is the Eastern Marches. The banners of a red crown on a blue field fly all across the battlements as well as being carried into battle by the fortress’s knights. Men-at-arms guard the walls as well as the village down below. Despite the constant attacks from rival clans, Balurspawn and the undead, Pinnacle Keep still stands showing both the fortitude of the fortress and its inhabitants. Because of this fierce determination, these inhabitants do considers themselves superior and thus more elite than those who dwell outside of their keep.
When a citizen of Stormfall is convicted or a serious crime, be it murder or theft or rape or treason, there are two outcomes. Either they are executed by the noose or the swift slash of the axe, all in all a very painless death. Or they are exiled passed the Farwol’s Ridge towards the cursed lands of the Eastern Marches where snow falls in random intervals, cursed creatures roam free and everyone else who was send there is just as or even more dangerous than the exile in question. Most elders agree the former sentence is the most merciful.
Although most exiles die in the first few weeks by either rabid animals or raiders, some survive the hardships and begin building their own civilizations. For strength comes in numbers.
No-one knows why House Ironfist was send into exile. Some say then Lord Darius was responsible for the assassination of one Emperor or another. Others claim he was duped for it, accused to be in league with orcs. Other’s say he was in league with the Darmor Empire during the Darmor pacification and thus committed treason to Stormfall. The records on Darius Ironfist and his household have been erased, his crimes unknown. All that is known however is that when Darius went into exile, he was not alone. His whole family, including his wife and four children, household, men-at-arms, knights and smallfolk all followed him into exile with a host of animals such as horses, cows and poultry. A score of three thousand souls marched through the tunnels underneath the Farwol’s Ridge, chins held up high and proud as they passed the gates into the Marches.The guard commander at the time was recorded to have said to the exiled Lord that he had her condolences for the Marches is death personified. But cruel for it gives a glimmer of hope before snatching it away in the jaws of a wild animal or rabid orc. But Lord Darius did not lose hope for he had a plan. As if led by the gods himself, Darius led his people to a ruined castle near a flowing river and fertile soil. In one year’s time they managed to claim the small plot of land from other raiders, building a home in the wilderness and making it defensible.
The exiled household faced its hardships, by the end of the year one fifth of the people lay dead either due to sickness or orc attacks or even desertion. Among the dead was one of Darius’s daughters and his wife. Their deaths did not weaken their husband and father however but made him even more determined to not have the Marches beat him. Cursed wolf dens were burned, orcs were impaled around their territory to prove a point and rival exile clans either swore fealty or were slain on the spot. Those Ironfists that remained became a hardened people, ready to stare Balur himself in the face and not even blink. To match their attitude, they have the gear to match. While most new exiles only are given some light leather armour and a spear to their name, if they’re lucky, the Ironfists have no such limitations. Plate armour, castle forged steel weapons, war horses, crossbows and even a small group of court magicians, an actual army. It was not long before the other exiles dubbed these newcomers as ‘the Elite Exiles’.
The years have passed, Lords and Ladies Ironfist have come and gone. Currently Lord Cregan Ironfist is the figurehead of the House and his people, leading them against enemies such as the savage dryad warlord Sylva, the orc warchief Gorvar the red, the Grey Hunger, the nomad warriors of the Far South and the mysterious followers of the Yellow King.
A stoic man, as if made of granite, whose grim determination to not only survive the Eastern Marches but also bend it to his will serves as a inspiration to his people. He is a veteran of countless battles against all those who threatened the Elite Exiles, wielding his ancestral two handed sword named ‘Gwenhier blade’. Unlike his knights he does not wear plate but prefers to fight in leather, saying “If the gods want me dead this day, I will be regardless of the armour I wear”. This philosophy comes from the Darmor gods, for his family had long forsaken the Stormfall gods. He personally worships the Morrigan and Kernnos, the goddess of war and the god of the woods respectively. He has several paramours who keep his bed warm at night but so far has sired no bastards, which makes his people afraid for there are no heirs should he fall in battle. Safe for his cousin.
Lady Isolde is Cregan’s court magician and the daughter of his uncle who had tried to have him killed. Although Isolde sided with her cousin during that family struggle, most do see the woman as her father’s daughter and a potential traitor. Isolde was trained by her father in the ways of magic and has shown an aptitude for it. Her training and style is different from those taught at the Citadel, edging more towards the hedge wizard ways which relies of self taught magicks and making deals with lesser demons. Although this does not help her image, her magic did save the Elite Exiles countless times in battle both before and after.
Forgemaster Trastina is the one legged blacksmith and mason of the Elite Exiles. She helps maintain the keep’s walls and produces strong steel for the warriors. An outsider who was exiled for reasons she does not wish to disclose other than she asked to be exiled for her perceived crime. Shortly after her arrival in the Eastern Marches, a wyvern attacked her and injured her leg. She would’ve died were it not for being found by Ser Palador and his patrols who slew the creature and carried her back to the keep. The healers were able to save her life but she lost her leg in the process and is in a constant state of dull ache due to the wyvern poison. To counter this Trastina is in a constant state of inebriation which thankfully does not influence her work for the most part.
Prince Grimlok of Caer Bran is a sapper and the only dwarf in service to the Elite Exiles. He was exiled for proving to be a coward in battle and having killed one of his own men to try and maintain control over his army. A lowly miner knocked the prince out and assumed control over the force and threw the enemy back. When the officials found out what happened Grimlok was exiled for cowardice and was rescued by Lord Ironfist from a rival clan who tried to cook him over a fire after they found out he was not a runesmith. A cowardly man who enjoys the pleasures of the flesh and ale more than combat. Despite his flaws, he is an expert chemist and can concoct explosives that can cut a boulder neatly in half or obliterate it or turn it into pebbles. His demolition skills and a nose for iron, which all dwarves have, have expanded the Elite Exiles mining works in the region threefold.
Rancher Vrilda of Tal Arand is a half-elf who tames and trains the horses for the Elite Exiles. Her father was a nomad who taught her the ways of horses, for his people treated horses more than just possession but as companions and a second half of their souls. She claims she was exiled when she slew her husband, who was the chieftain of a clan which had conquered Vrilda’s, when he broke his word that her people would be spared. On their wedding night when he bedded her, his people slew all the men and made the women and children their slaves. After she killed him for his betrayal, the clan elder had her exiled instead for treason needed to be punished over a long period of time rather than a quick death. Either way Vrilda found a home with the Elite Exiles and her horses have never failed their riders once. A quiet woman who prefers the company of animals over people, it is clear the only reason she works for House Ironfist is to work with the largest arrange of horses in the Eastern Marches.
The last of the household we will cover is Ser Palador, Lord Cregan’s enforcer and the leader of his knights. A former exile who was enlisted into the ranks of the Elite Exiles. He arrived at the keep’s walls one day, claiming to have sought the famous Elite Exiles for weeks and volunteered to join them. He was given the job of a pikemen but it was not long before he rose to a higher rank. A very ambitious and loyal man who kept working himself up the ladder. During a raid on Warlord Sylva’s camps, he saved Cregan by taking a arrow for him from an enemy archer. For his loyalty and valour, Palador was named a knight of House Ironfist. It was not long before Palador became his main enforcer and led his contingent of knights into battle, waving the Ironfist banner.
While Lord Cregan leads his people both from his throne made of dragons bones draped in bear fur and in battle, the day-to-day business of ruling a keep and village is done by his court.
Although their numbers and influence have increased over time, Lord Cregan has focused even more on expansion and has started recruiting new exiles en masse into his ranks. Ser Palador has been going to the few runesmiths known to the Marches and have asked for their services, one can expect the runestones in Pinnacle Keep are either running out or have run out.
For what purpose, it’s unknown. A peace treaty has been made between the Elite Exiles and Warlord Sylva and other rival clans. More free horses were tamed by the Elite Exiles while years before no Knight of Pinnacle Keep would’ve been seen on a horse that was not a pure Stormfall bred horse. The only reason that explains these actions is that House Ironfist is preparing for war. But if not against their rival clans, then who?
- a short report on House Ironfist aka the Elite Exiles by Ranger Captain Hannah Dranko.
Creatures of Stormfall.
Arachna, Beast-Queen of Eastern Marches, daughter of Balur.
Oh you humans! How can you comprehend? She is a goddess given form! Arachna! An aspect of Balur to follow. She was here before us and she will be here long after my bones and your have turned to dust. We will follow her across the Marches, killing and slaying all those who oppose her or she deems as food. She is eternal. She is Arachna. Perfection in eight legged form! She smites down those who oppose her with righteous and furious anger! Her webbing spans across whole forests, her children number the amount of grains of sand on all the beaches in Darkshine. When the time is right, she will scale your wall and no longer feast on your paltry exiles but on fat juicy nobles and kings. Perhaps even an emperor when you finally crowned one.
Her art is death. human. And she is about to paint her masterpiece.
- An excerpt from the interrogation of a Goblin Spider Cultist, caught during a ranging mission. Executed shortly after.
The Eastern Marches is home to a range of horrific beasts. After the fall of the Darmor Empire, the whole land has been cursed by the last king's spiteful breath. These effects can be seen in the local wildlife, such as cursed frogs and wolves...and spiders.
The cursed spiders have shown great adaption skills. During actual winter they've shown to grow fur and slightly decrease in size as to preserve warmth. While in spring they grow taller and become more impossing and aggresive. The spiders of the Marches is capable of spitting venom across a distance of four meters, poisoning their prey. They're shown to be patient, waiting for hours sometimes days to wait for their venom to set in before eating their prey. The spiders of the Eastern Marches could be considerd one of the deadliest creatures to not just the Marches but Darkshine as a whole.
Sadly to say the spiders are but a by-product of their originator. According to research across decades, it's been confirmed most of the spider colonies were in fact related to one prime source. Arachna, the spider queen.
Arachna is a kilometre tall arachnid and half one wide. Black, matted fur covers most of her body. She sports eight long legs, almost as tall as a tree. Her poison has been known to slay whole villages in less then ten minutes. Black orbs for eyes are filled with malice for all things living, save her own kin and the goblin races whom she tolerates as servants and bodyguards.
A single wooden throne is upon her back where a goblin shaman chants to her followers, interpreting her will. Some of the chosen are actually able to mount her largest children and ride them into battle. She is surrounded at all times by hordes of spiders and goblin worshippers, although it is very likely she can fend off most threats all by herself.
However this tolerance does not extend to other Balurspawn as Arachna and her horde have been known to attack orc camps and ogre caves just as likely as exile villages and strongholds.
Stories are scarce about Arachna's origins. She is called this by the goblins who in turn seem to be more of a off-shoot of their normal Balur or even Red Bird worshipping kin.
After much research there are two likely beginnings.
The first is the most likely. Arachna was a spider matriarch who absorbed the curse of the Marches to such a degree that she has grown to a monstrous size. It also expanded her lifespan, to what degree we do not know. But if this is true, Arachna is no more a god than a cursed frog and can die just the same.
The second possible origin is more horrifying and thus more elaborate.
According to a captured shaman after a attack on Pinaccle keep, which left many Elite Exiles dead before she grew bored and left, Arachna was once a orc warlock-queen who was around during the time of the fall of the Darmor empire.
Arachna, known as Aralda then, led her clan of Balurspawn against the Darmor in a private war.
She conducted human sacrifices to Balur, lead many raids to claim that many sacrifices, and ruled her own clan with a iron fist. She began as a novice warlock, slowly building her way up the clan to the upper echelons on a web of lies and death. She murdered, bartered and stole her way to the top but even that was not enough. By the time of the end of the Darmor Empire and the Stormfall invasion, she ruled over a dozen clans and even had a dragon on her side.
Her magic skills were impressive, being able to summon dark creatures to do her bidding and cast death spells similar to the Necromancers today. A magic so far unseen in that part of Darkshine at the time. She went through numerious mates but never sired any children. Some claim she sacrificed those to Balur to further enhance her dark powers.
After a battle with Prince Aaryavir and his allies, Arachna was captured however when then current mate, a Warchief with aspirations of kinghood, betrayed her halfway through a battle with Darmor. He and his men retreated, leaving Arachna to fend for herself. In the end her clan was destroyed and she was dragged to Queen Boudicia.
"You cannot kill me!" Aralda claimed." Balur has given me incredible powers! Slay me and your entire empire will die with me!"
"Very well." Boudicia decided." You shall be thrown in the tallest tower, chained to the wall where you can stay there for the rest of your miserable life."
There Aralda remained, a prisoner for many years. Cursing her orcish kin for abandoning her and crying out to Balur for release, one way or another. We do not know if he ever replied but she awaited her time patiently. Waiting for that one fly to arrive to free her.
That came ironicly in the form of Aaryavir.
Stormfall had invaded Darmor and was winning the war. Stomfall steel, magic and their elven an dwarven auxilaries proved to be to much of a match for the Darmor druids and warriors. Aaryavir's wife died in battle, as he and his sister would've done if not for a elven mage who had turned traitor. The elf mage taught those with a disposition magic spells but Aaryavir's need for vengeance drove him to a darker path.
He came to Aralda's tower. " Teach me your magic, show me the path of Balur and teach me how to take revenge on Stormfall."
Aralda cackled, her hair having grown long and wild." How the mighty have fallen, Prince Aaryavir. To come to me for help. Very well, I shall teach you....if you promise to free me. Swear to me on your life and your kingdom you will free me and I will take you down to the darkest paths you've never dreamed off. Claim the power of the most unholy and smite your enemies."
He agreed and so Prince Aaryavir became her apprentice.
The years went by and Aaryavir's skill as a dark sorcerer grew. Before long the Empire of Stormfall was driven back, he had become king and used his dark magicks to rule the land. He kept up his bargain and kept Aralda as his advisor, some even say as a lover. The castle staff worked for her like she were a member of the court and once more she was in a position of power.
However when King Aaryavir used necromancy to bring back his dead wife, Aralda grew angry with rage and spoke out against her former apprentice who ignored her protests.
She began to plot an assasination attempt on the king but was betrayed once more by her orcish kin.
She was dragged before the now dubbed King of Bones, a haggard and skeletal appearance of the once former virtuous prince.
"You are a creature of habbit, Aralda. You spin your web, waiting, plotting and then you strike. You think me a fool? In that case, I shall grant you your wish. A spider you shall be!"
He unleashed his most powerful spell upon Aralda, which left him greatly weakend, which turned the former orcish queen into a monster. Legs began to sprout from her form, her tooth grew tall and venomous. She was once more imprisoned in the tower, having become a half-orc, half spider. There she would;ve remained and died were it not for a goblin who heard her pleas.
According to the goblin cultists, the first goblin to hear her pleas across the wind was a shaman named Mythal. With his small warband he broke into the castle and freed Aralda from her imprisonment. They escaped shortly before the castle was destroyed in the final battle between the King of Bones and Stormfall.
Since then Aralda has continued to grow in power and size, having discarded her former name for a new one. Arachna, the spider queen.
Whatever her orgin, Arachna and her roaming horde are a threat to the exiles of the Marches. It is unknown if she has designs or even a sentience like a mortal being. She is deadly however and were she to break free into Stormfall proper, it would take many armies to bring her down.
(Authors note: A special thank you to Nicholas Day and Feller for the backstory of timeline for Stormfall and Darmor respectively. You guys rocks :D )
Armed conflicts of Stormfall.
The Darmor pacification, part one.
The Darmor pacification, also known as the Great War, was an armed conflict between the empires of Stormfall and Darmor that took place seven hundred years before the death of the seven kings and Lord Oberon’s attempt to reunify the Empire.
It resulted in the annexation of what would be known as the Eastern Marches, the collapse of the Darmor empire and how it became an unsupervised penal colony for Stormfall criminals.
The sources used for this paperwork are Lord Bernhard Karland's memoirs, Emperor Cyr II's scribes, the archives of Greehold, local folklore that was written down by scholars and intercepted Darmor messages and letters on loan from the Citadel.
As of this moment in writing, Lord Oberon attempts to unify Stormfall once more after the death of the Emperor and the seven kings. However, this is not the first time the Empire faced a potential civil war.
A thousand years ago, the age of peace ruled over the lands. Balur’ spawn remained in their chasms, the houses were amicable to one another and all the races created by the gods were kin.
There was political scheming of course, daggers hidden behind cloaks to affirm a seat in the council or become Emperor/Empress themselves.
After three hundred years, the slow tensions turned more and more violent. Grudges were formed, brothers were killed, crops stolen during winter and adultery committed.
On the coronation of Emperor Cyr II, the empire was on the verge of erupting into a violent civil war.
Cyr was a young man when he took the throne, about twenty and one, and was known to have quite the reputation with the ladies. Very ambitious, his good looks and a love for Stormfall was what made him so popular among his people. Often he went disguised towards the lower levels of the cities and interacted with the common folk. Hearing their fears of a civil war, he often wondered how to tackle the noble houses going to war with one another. Particularly the noble houses of the North such as the Ironfists, Greers, Karlands, Darrow, Seagarde and Willberg.
Shortly after his coronation he was married to a priestess who calmed him down and provided him with a family. He quickly calmed down in the matters of the flesh, but his unease over the state of his empire made him long for the glory days of Stormfall’s expansion. When the empire stood as one against the hordes of Balur’s evil.
He asked his wife for advice who claimed “Back in the day of Balur’s vengeance, all of Woer’s children stood united. For their enemy was the same. The orc and the heretic. Find one such enemy, have your people’s righteous hatred harnessed and aimed at that target of pure evil.”
As if the gods listened themselves, the very next day a messenger arrived from the north-eastern border.
Lady Johanna of House Irulvan had sent a plea for help.
Irulvan lands were under frequent raids from Darmor warbands during the harsh winter. In the last assault both her husband and son were slain, her crops taken along with some of her smallfolk. Lady Johanna was a woman of a later age, no longer able to bear children at the risk of her own health. There were no heirs to take after her and the death of her husband and only child erupted an anger from inside her. Facing the death of her house, she asked the Emperor for aid not to rebuild her land but for permission to stage an invasion to slay the Darmor interlopers.
The Emperor’s reply was not just his permission but also word that she would receive reinforcements.
Stormfall’s forces under Emperor Cyrus II.
Three months after the letter arrived, Emperor Cyr II arrived at House Irulvan’s home of Farwol’s claw with the First, Fifth and Seventh Legions along with the dwarven war machines of Caer Bran, a regiment of elven archers, druids and mages of Ravenwood. They were led by General Tulius, a experienced commander who had led several incursions into Balur’s chasm and had proven himself time and again. He was also the Emperor’s uncle and was asked by his sister to watch the young man on his first campaign.
Furthermore, the Emperor asked his northern houses to put aside their squabbles and unite for the greater good. House Greer was the first to reply. Lady Ivana and her dwarven husband Thorgr Dainson joined their own forces which consisted of five hundred light cavalry, three war elephants and one thousand human and dwarven warriors, the latter led by Throgr’s cousin Grim Dainson of the allied small dwarven kingdom of Karag Bolg who was eager for adventure. Both husband and wife were seasoned warriors and were rarely if ever apart, as seen by them having sired seven children. They made a fierce some couple on the battlefield, often found fighting on the piles of dead foes before proceeding to make love on top of them.
Their ancient rivals, the Karlands, send their youngest but capable son Bernhard along with four hundred hard hitting knights and some score of footmen. Bernhard had some experience fighting bandits but this was to be his trial by fire. Despite his hatred for the Greers, Bernhard did his best to keep his forces away from their rivals by sticking with the Emperor’s legions.
The last northern Lord of note who joined the war effort was Lord Darius Stormfist with his famous Ironfist guard, highly trained and heavily armoured infantry known to take down whole groups of ogres, dragons and worse. A hard man with a beard as long as a dwarf’s, unyielding and unrelenting.
Added with Irulvan’s battle hardened foresters and hunters, the invasion force was almost as impressive since the forces gathered for the Battle of Gweharvad centuries prior.
Lady Johanna was reported to have said “I’ve never been this glad since the birth of my son, may Eir grant his soul rest.”
These forces set sail towards the Scarred Coast where they would disembark and begin their invasion.
Darmor’s forces under Queen Boudicia.
Little is known about the Darmoreans or their people. Although they shared a common enemy with Balurspawn, even in times of peace Darmor nor Stormfall felt any inclination of brotherhood. Although there was some small trade between House Irulvar and Darmor decades before, that soon ended.
Darmor’s empire ranged from the Hills of Morn to the northeast to the Scarred coast in the west, from the Fetid Moors to the south and the Wild Lands to the east. It had a wide variety of locations such as moors, plains, mountains and rivers. The Darmoreans also constructed cities whose ruins can still be seen in the Eastern Marches to this day (if you were to brave the cursed creatures and exiles).
Instead of houses, Darmoreans had clans who had their own autonomy but ultimately answered to the Empire's ruling monarch and the council of elders.
Darmor’s army consisted of warriors with shields and swords, some were covered in blue war paint and were given special herbs that made them fearless in battle and immune to pain. They had longbowmen and some light cavalry, relying more of their infantry to carry the day. Druids were their only spellcasters, using the forces of nature to do their bidding. Furthermore, they befriended giants and a sentient species of dragons who sometimes joined forces of a horde of orcs was growing too large. Some legends speak of small men in bright green colours who live at the end of rainbows and hoard gold who served as messengers and spies for the Darmoreans due to their elusive nature. However, these are just legends and should be taken with a grain of salt.
At the time of the invasion, Queen Boudicia ruled the land in a era of peace. Despite the harsh winter, her subjects were happy for the most part and they were just victorious in a battle against a orc kingdom, having captured their queen and locked in a tower. There was much joy according to the few documents that was found, including a royal wedding of Prince Aaryavir and the arch druidess Adrienna.
Prince Aaryavir was a well loved prince, going across the land fighting monsters and helping people in matters great or small. His sister Bre, a fire headed warrior who had a red bird as her companion, the bard Amargeet, the druidess Adrienna and a giant named GagMogag were his trusty companions and were considered the guardians of Darmor. People opened their homes to them and considered them family.
However, the eastern clans, known as the Lords of Morn, had a more challenging time. The winter famine claimed many lives and the clans were to stubborn to ask for help. One of the Lords of Morn decided to call a raid on Stormfall, taking food and slaves. After its first success, the Morn clans continued to reave the Irulvars right until the Stormfall invasion.
The first Darmorean city fell in less than two days. And despite the best efforts of the other Lords of Morn, they stood no chance against superior Stormfall steel and magic. The Lord of Morn, whose name has been stricken from the record, was killed brutally by Lady Johanna since it was he who had ordered the raids. He was hung until near death before he was cut down. Johanna proceeded to nearly drown the man in a tub of water before having him gelded by hot irons. While he pleaded for death, it was only given to him by being having him drawn and quartered. But even that did not slake Lady Johanna’s thirst for blood. She was to slay the Lord’s widowed wife as well but General Tulius intervened and took her as his mistress. Idriena, the fire kissed beauty of the Morn, proved to be an invaluable ally as her intelligence gave the Stormfall armies the upper hand on the Lords of Morn.
When news came to the Queen, she called for the clans to gather and formed one of the largest armies known to Darmor history.
Prince Aaryavir would lead the army which consisted of nearly all the northern and eastern clans, a house of giants and even some dragons who owed a blood debt to the prince for having saved a clutch of their eggs from a goblin warband. One of the last Lords of Morn joined his meagre forces to the Prince’s, knowing if he were to fall his hold would be next.
Records are rough but according to the scribes of Emperor Cyrus, they outnumbered the Stormfall host two to one. Still, that did not save them.
At what would be called the First Battle of the Haunted Woods, it was a slaughter.
Darmorean berserkers were unable to break through the Stormfall lines, it’s Legionaries and dwarven warriors holding the lines as elven arrows and Stormfall spellcasters rained down death from above. Even the giants stood no chance against Stormfall spears and dwarven war machines.
Even Prince Aaeyavir’s pet giant was taken captive by General Grim Dainson, who proceeded to take him back to his private zoo back in Karag Bolg. Its skeleton can still be seen there in the museum.
The Darmorean dragons had air superiority but were shot down quickly enough by war machines, whose dwarves had experience with fiercer winged creatures. At best they were able to hold back the Stormfall army as the clans fled.
Darmorean druid magic was easily dispelled by the Stormfall sorcerers and were struck down by magic lightning.
Archdruidess Adrienna fell in the battle although it is conflicted as to how. Some reports say a dwarven arbalest shot her in the eye while a Karland man claims he speared her as she was run down. As a part of the royal family, she was mocked in death. She was stripped, paraded around and worse things happened to her which are to horrible to write down.
What is known that it was Lord Darius and his retinue brutally killed the offenders and buried her with due honours. Among his retinue was the elven sorcerer Meryl who will play an important part later. Guessing by the actions he was to commit later, he was disgusted by his peers to see them be degraded to wild animals. Even Lady Johanna was sickened by the slaughter and was known to have said “By the gods, what have I unleashed?”
Princess Bre, Queen Boudicia’s daughter and Aaryavir’ sister, was captured alive by Lady Johanna and General Dainson. She was to be held for ransom and a quicker end to the war. Prince Aaryavir escaped however and would be known to both sides as “The prince who bravely fled”.
Over three quarters of the Darmorean army fell that day, in the most horrible and painful ways. It is for this reason the locals believe the woods are haunted. Having seen enough bloodshed, the Emperor returned to the Citadel with his wife and left the command of the army to his uncle.
Under his command, the army of Stormfall would march across Darmor unopposed.
The tides change.
One year after the Haunted Woods, the Stormfall army suffered setbacks.
The Darmoreans turned to hit and run attacks, severing supply lines and some clans had begun reaving Stormfall lands again. It all reeked of desperation tactics, to slow the oncoming army.
There were some skirmishes but no larger forces like the Haunted Woods did not meet in combat.
During the year, Princess Bre managed to escape her imprisonment and the sorcerer Meryl and his apprentice went missing. Lord Bernhard became a seasoned veteran at the cost of his left eye. He had saved Lady Johanna from an ambush and took an arrow meant for her. This gesture earnt the young Karland the last of the Irulvans respect and admiration, seeing him as a surrogate son.
During that time Prince Aaryavir was mostly in seclusion, blaming himself not only for the loss of that many lives but also the love of his life. Spending most of his time in the prison tower where he often spoke with the orcish queen. It was only when his sister returned some joy came back to the prince. With her came a new hope as she found some allies who were eager to help the Darmor Empire.
Almost a year to the day of the Haunted Woods, Queen Boudicia and both her children called out to Stormfall. They were gathered at the Haunted Woods, calling Tulius to be brought to justice.
Sensing an end to the war, Tulius had his army turnaround from the march to the capitol and had it march back. According to sources later, it was Prince Aaryavir who suggested to his mother to have their counterattack begin from there. It would later be revealed as to why.
The second battle of the Haunted Woods was to be just as bloody as the last one.
When the battle began, it was clear Darmor had learnt.
Next to the druids were mages now who had learnt magic otherwise only known to the Citadel. Princess Bre and Prince Aaryavir to used magic in battle and struck the surprised enemy with no mercy. Among the spellcasters on the enemy side was Meryl who had not only set Bre free but taught her and other Darmoreans the ways of magic.
Where it once was a one-sided slaughter, this time it was a nearly evenly matched battle.
The battle lasted until the night where Prince Aaryavir showed the reason why he wanted battle to be done there.
When the moon was on his highest, Aaryavir called upon the darkest of magicks, unknown to his family, and for the first time in Darmorean history raised the dead.
Both those freshly slain on both sides and those who died the year before were raised and attacked the Stormfall army. The ranks were shattered as the dead crawled from beneath them as death spells slew whole regiments. Including General Tulius whose command tent was blasted by a dark wind who turned his skin and bone to dust.
In the chaos, most of the Greer forces were slain including Thorgr Dainson. For the first time in her life Lady Ivana was heartbroken and had to be dragged off the field of battle by none other than Bernhard Karland no less. Command fell to Grim Dainson who gave the command to sabotage the war machines before calling the retreat.
Lady Johanna and Lord Darius tried to organise a proper retreat back to the mountains of Morn.
It was around this time that the sky became permanently dark despite the fact the sun should’ve risen. A darkness ruled over the lands as the dead rose all over Darmor.
A common cry came from their skinless lips. “All hail the King of bones!”.
End of Part 1
Armed conflicts of Stormfall.
The Darmor pacification, part two.
What the united Stormfall armies took over a year to attain, they lost in mere weeks. Strongholds that took months to claim from Darmor were lost in hours. Every mile in retreat was covered in Stormfall dead. We have little information about this route save from Bernhard’s point of view so there might be some bias.
Three weeks after the battle of the Haunted Woods, the legions of Stormfall were in a mad and desperate retreat back to the hills of Morn. Of the commanding officers only Lord Karland, General Dain, Captain Tragicus of the remnants of the Seventh and Fifth legions, Lord Ironfist, Lady Irulvan and Chieftain Doruna of the Khengis clan remained.
Lady Ivana Greer, consumed with grief by the death of her husband, led a suicidal attack on the pursuing Darmoreans which left the command of the Greer forces to Doruna. When General Tulius was slain by Aaryavir’s magic along with most of the army’s hierarchy, command eventually fell to Captain Tragicus, a man from a small village in Ravenwood whose lineage is nothing remarkable but, on whose shoulders, would lie the fate of Stormfall.
The Ironfist and Irulvan forces were still composed enough to lead a semblance of an organised retreat, allowing the other factions of the Stormfall army to fall back with the Irulvan foresters serving as guides and the Ironfist forces as the metal shields to cover the rear. According to the memoirs kept by Bernhard Karland after the war, over two thirds of the army were either dead or had deserted by the time they returned to the hills of Morn.
According to Bernhard.” The men we had left in charge of Morn looked as if they had seen the return of an army of ghosts. We did not as much march but stumble through the gates, weary and nearly yearning for death. We did not have strength, not even for speech. I’m told Grim and Darius were the only ones among the commanding staff who managed to debrief on what happened. I do not remember myself. I only remember the long walk, the constant fear of the undead and the dull ache that hurt the soul. We were like death and it was chasing us.”
Were it not for General Grim Dainson and Lord Darius Ironfist, the hills of Morn would not have been prepared for the onslaught that was yet to come. Everyone who was able to carry one was given a sword or a bow and had to assist the defence of the hills of Morn. Former Darmorean citizens who were once occupied by Stormfall now fought side by side with their former enemies.
Legions of the dead and a core of Darmorean berserkers assaulted the gates a week later.
Thankfully the garrison of the hills of Morn had reinforced the defences which gave the besieged a better chance in keeping the dead away but even so the Darmoreans they faced now were unlike those they had faced the year before.
Skeleton armies besieged the walls with catapults and siege ladders made from the bones of giants and the skin of the dead. Their warriors were covered in ash and rushed for the Stormfall line with deadly abandon. Eager for death, eithers Stormfall’s or their own.
The spellcasters who were once druids or one of Meryl’s new mages were now necromancers who wielded the same death magics their prince was using.
A Seventh legion arcanist noted. “The enemy’s magicks feels similar to that of what I sensed in Balur’s Chasm when I accompanied my brother there for his Great Lord trials. That special kind of wrong that no mage should ever weave.”
These death magics caused the Eastern Marches to transform into the state we recognise it today. Erratic weather changes, the growth and corruption of the local wildlife and the stirring of the dead from their tombs.
A letter was send to the Emperor, asking for assistance as the campaign had turned from one of conquest to mere survival, eking out to the little bit of holds they had left in the Eastern Marches.
It was around this time Prince Aaryavir deposed his mother, his sister and Meryle as they attempted to stop his destructive ways and crowned himself as the King of Bones.
From his castle, the dead stirred and marched towards Stormfall. All those who opposed him, even if they were from Darmor, were quickly slain and raised to serve their cruel master. Evil and darkness ruled the land as Aaryavir, their once proud and noble prince had turned into a tyrant.
Darmorean refugees spoke of rumours that the orcish queen had become part of his royal council, with some darker rumours claiming they had become lovers. Again we have to take this with a grain of salt since most of the records came from second or thirdhand.
The second siege of the hills of Morn lasted for the rest of the war and was both a blessing and a curse. It kept Prince Aaryavir’s eyes fixed on them, although there are reports from several coastal towns in Stormfall there were several brutal Darmor raids, and kept the wider Stormfall safe from invasion.
The Second siege of the Hills of Morn.
The siege was catastrophic for both sides and casualties mounted into the thousands. The Darmorean dead were in their hundreds and more swelled their ranks for every man slain, no matter what side. Like the battle of the Haunted Woods, it was another massacre in which there was no true victor this time around. The siege went on ad nauseum in a waltz of death. Assault, defend, retreat. The few dwarven war machines that remained behind proved to be invaluable as were the Greer War Elephants. The few remaining regiments of Ironfist men held the line against the dead tide, their stubbornness only rivalled by their dwarven compatriots.
The arcanists among the Stormfall sorcerers began researching the Eastern Marches leylines to find a way to unbind the undead in between assaults. Lady Johanna led clandestine night raids on the Darmorean camps, slaying necromancers and sabotaging war machines. Lord Bernhard and Chief Doruna used their cavalry to reinforce the strongholds along the line, carrying messages or repelling enemies who managed to break through a gap in the defences.
It was during this time Bernhard grew closer to Idriena, General Tulius’ former mistress, and in a quiet ceremony were wed. The harshness of war brought both the best and worst out of both sides. Even the Darmor Empire had its limits on the barbarity.
The Guardian of Darmor.
This treatment of their own dead was what drove most of the remaining Darmorean houses away from their prince. One night, a brave thane named Thundra led a attack on the castle to free the Queen in a bid to restore her to the throne.
Sadly the king of Bones foresaw such an attempt and mostly everyone was slain in the attempt, including the Queen. But not everyone died.
Princess Bre managed to escape the castle with the help of the King’s bard, Amargeet. As she made her escape, Amargeet felt the king’s wrath and was cursed to a horrible fate.
Bre, aided by the people she had aided before back in the time when she and her brother were heroes of the land, made her way towards the hills of Morn and snuck inside the walls.
She snuck her way into Lady Johanna’s quarters as she slept. With a knife to her throat, she woke the lady who had called the wrath of an whole empire on her people.
“Do you wish to kill me?” Johanna had asked.” Can you kill what is already dead?”
“I hope so.” Bre replied.” Because I need you to help me kill my brother.”
End of part 2.