Strife in Rothnog
By Ryan Torbert
For weeks, the storm brewed, as Lechig IV's devoted orcs-true orcs, as they called themselves-set their defenses and purged western Rothnog of any still loyal to the Dweller. Public executions of the most devoted of the Dweller's believers were held in the large, western stronghold of Turzerun.
Orcs denounced their beliefs as they were disemboweled or hanged, but to no avail. Lechig IV's orcs believed that their path was the true will of Vornoth and that their cause was righteous. Woe to the power of religious conviction, many said of the turbulent times.
Orcs loyal to the Dweller, meanwhile, gathered in Golloruk, the powerful eastern bastion of Rothnogian strength. For weeks, emissaries from the enemy were received and, in an unusual show of restraint, released after their messages had been delivered. Many thought that the Dweller in the Vale desired a unified orc nation of Rothnog and was loath to go to war with other orcs. It was also obvious, from the emissaries' messages, that Lechig IV would only allow a unified orc nation on his own terms.
The weeks grew into a month as the moon waxed and waned, unhindered by earthly disputes. Emissaries grew more and more bold with their messages and demands for surrender. In Golloruk, the darkness stirred, for this day a particular message was received.
"Get yer stinkin' cart outta' the way, goblin rat!"
The burly orc led a contingent of guards past, as he pushed the scrawny goblin's cart out of his way. The goblin, Babbesh, scurried away while bowing his grimy head to appease the orc guard.
"Yessum, big boss. Stupids cart! Stupids!"
Babbesh kicked the offending cart and then waggled a pudgy little finger at it in anger. The orc sergeant merely snorted at the little fellow's antics and turned to trail his soldiers out of the alleyway.
"Stinkin' high and mighty orcses! Dey tink dis rotten pit of a city is deres!"
The goblin shook his fist and cursed at the orc guards...after they'd already turned the corner and disappeared from sight, of course.
With a sneer, Babbesh righted his cart and began to push it out of the ally after the guards. Trinkets of all different types clanked together as they hung from wobbly wooden pegs on the cart. Some of the trinkets were merely teeth of the pale skins tied in a leather thong. Others were hammered tin coins or crude wooden carvings. Some were even stained with blood, an unfortunate risk of collecting wares for sale in the dirty streets of Golloruk.
The wheels of Babbesh's cart squeaked as he rounded the corner to face the great central courtyard of the orc city. The courtyard was dominated by a huge ziggurat that loomed over the commoners below. Hundreds of stone steps led up the great walkway to the ziggurat to end at a pair of tall oak doors, behind which the Dweller drove the might of Golloruk's war machine, issuing orders through its famous general, Karoxfang the vile.
The messenger would arrive early this day, and Babbesh aimed to position his cart near the base of the ziggurat where commoners of the city would gather to hear the will of their ruler. It was there that the little goblin would sell his wares to a crowd eager for blood and conquest, a crowd that would wait the day's news with eager anticipation.
The morning's sales left Babbesh grinning with greedy delight even as he whooped and hollered with the rest of the crowd. Rotten fruit, vegetables, and stale bread flew about the base of the ziggurat as a lightly armored orc took to the bottom steps. Several of the orcs, goblins, and others about the base moved to detain the orc, only to be halted by a booming voice from above.
"Let the messenger come!"
Atop the steps, a hulking figure stood, its massive wings resembling huge humps, as they lay tucked in to its body. The bestial visage of Karoxfang the general glared down with disdain at the common dark folk of Golloruk. He stood with his feet set in a wide stance and his arms were folded across his massive armored chest.
The orc in light armor sneered at the people of Golloruk and dashed up the stairs swiftly. As the lone figure trotted up the wide steps, his boots echoed off of the old stone of the ziggurat.
After agonizing moments of suspense in the crowd below, the orc reached the great, winged general high above. Karoxfang dwarfed the messenger but stood aside nonetheless, allowing the orc to pass into the inner sanctum of the Dweller itself. With a parting look to the crowd below, Karoxfang turned to follow.
Seconds turned to minutes as the gathered crowd watched expectantly the high peak of the structure that stood as a sign of their power and their devotion to the Dark Walker. Some griped and argued amongst themselves while others merely watched, unable to draw their gaze lest they miss something. Soldiers milled about the area, keeping the hate-filled mob from turning in upon itself.
Babbesh stood enthralled, his cart long forgotten.
After mere moments, the great figure of Karoxfang emerged once again atop the steps. With a densely muscled arm, the general lifted a large shadowy object. When the light hit the object, the crowd below rumbled with emotion, for the object was the upper torso of the messenger torn from its lower half. Still convulsing, the torso of the orc messenger spilled black blood onto the stone steps below. Its intestines hung from its body like hideous puppet-strings.
Karoxfang glared at the crowd below as if daring them to defy him.
"The Dweller in the Vale has spoken: there will be war!"
The roar of the dark folk of Golloruk was deafening as they cheered their general and the enigmatic Dweller in the Vale. Bloodlust took hold almost instantly, and many small skirmishes broke out at the base of the tower. The response from the soldiers about the area was immediate, however, and they began dividing those among the base into groups.
In what seemed like no time at all, Babbesh was swept away with those who chose or were forced to fight with the great army of the Dweller against the fellow dark folk who dared to defy the will of Vornoth. The little goblin was given a rusty short sword and a helmet three sizes too large. With his brethren, the goblin willingly lifted his sword in the air, shouting praises to the great will of the Dark Walker.
The vast armies of Rothnog's largest city poured forth from its sprawl within days of the Dweller's decision. The soldiers were nearly bursting with confidence and pride as they marched across the great expanse of the mountains west of Golloruk.
Like a pebble in a pond, the disruption in Rothnog formed ripples, and these ripples spread word of the strife to all races of Siriand, the continent later known as Farland.
The Elves, their hatred for the dark folk, well known and documented, considered attacking and laying both forces low, never to wreak havoc on goodly folk again. However, the elves thought to let fate play its hand before they were to embroil their people in another costly war. Thus the elves decided to let time, the greatest army of all, fight the war for them.
Humans of Siriand were far too uncivilized, varied, and disorganized to formulate an opinion in the battle or to take a side. They lacked any cities and any common leadership. They too remained in the security of their primitive homes, content to wait and see who emerged the victor.
The Gnomes, without the numbers or military might to take advantage of the civil war in Rothnog, also waited for the "ripples" to cease.
Thus, it fell to one race to involve themselves in the happenings of Rothnog: the Dwarves. The Dwarves of Wawmar shared the north with the orc nation, a fact routinely lamented by the Khazak. Thus, it was in their best interests to make certain that the orc nation never came out of the dark times in which it was embroiled.
When news of the Strife in Rothnog traveled east to Wawmar, many Dwarves cried for blood and determined to extinguish every orc still on the face of Núrion. One such dwarf was Damal Dunhearth, Lord Marshall of Wawmar.
"But, we can't let them reconcile, we've got to attack now!"
The fierce-looking dwarf slammed his fist into an open palm as if to further drive home the point that he was trying to make. His eyes, which were strangely light for a dwarf, bored into his King's, as if trying to further press his opinion into the dwarf's mind. Damal Dunhearth was King Fandain's principle advisor in times of war. The dwarf was known for his fierce devotion to his kind and for his peculiar appearance, which included fiery red hair tied up in a topknot and three long red braids of hair that trailed down his chin. The man seemed to exude a sense of exotic power; this fact made him respected by all and feared by many.
King Fandain turned his gray eyes to his advisor and sighed deeply. Fandain had taken power when the great King Walin III had fallen ill and died not long ago. The new King had seemingly aged decades in those few, short years, and he had the wrinkles and gray to prove it.
"Old friend, to lead an all-out assault on Rothnog is to invite certain doom. Their numbers are just too great. Why, we could fit the vast walls of great Wawmar inside one of their mid-sized cities."
Fandain grimaced at how the words came out, how they sounded too much like real fear. The king had always been a pragmatic one, never to let his emotions guide his actions. Such a way of thinking had always set Fandain apart from some of his military-minded brethren.
The King sighed again and leaned in closer to Marshall Dunhearth.
"No, my friend, now's the time to wait, consolidate our forces, and prepare. With any luck, the green-tusked bastards will kill themselves off, and we can remain here in our homes, safe and secure."
Marshall Dunhearth's scowl grew even deeper with every word from his king. As his leader made his decision known, the Lord Marshall stood from his seat with an angry grunt.
As the fierce dwarf turned and stomped away from his king and friend, Fandain was left to himself. Gazing after the powerful dwarf, he wondered if even strong and smart dwarves like Dunhearth could overcome numbers as vast as those that lay in wait in Rothnog. If he knew anything about the nature of his enemy, Fandain knew that the mysterious Dweller in the Vale would not let such dissention disrupt the will of Vornoth for long.