The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty-Seven
End to the Hateful Wars
“You failed us. All this for nothing!” Hroth’s lieutenant moaned as he licked at his open wounds.
“Not for nothing, skitterfoot,” Hroth snarled. The grizzled warlord scratched at the hole in his head where his left ear had once been. Those half dozen that remained of his hobgoblins sat with him upon a mountain perch above the forlorn ruins of Grot Ugrat. As much as they desired to look again upon the altar of Maglubiyet, they dared not descend into the sacred valley.
“We just got our asses kicked. Again,” the lieutenant reminded the warlord.
“Shut your fanghole!” Hroth growled. “What do you know about survival, pissy pants? Strategy? Ever heard that word? We fought in the west so ten tribes could go east; slip into the lowlands; feed and breed. The day of vengeance will roll around.”
Flight to the Suss
On the other side of the mountains, the dragon’s share of the Lortmil tribes cascaded downsteepy like snowmelt flooding the gullies in the open-tide of spring. Elves of Celene and woodsman of Ulek fell back and fled before them all the way to the Mill of Altimira where they joined the advance posts of the Royal Army of Ulek and prepared to make a desperate stand. Fastaal Dothmar called up the reserves of Celene, for he supposed that goblins would next sack Courwood, cross the Jewel, and enter the Fey Kingdom. But Hroth deceived them all. Only a small feint of goblins and gnolls came to Courwood, and these fled before the elves and did not stand to fight. Rather they shrank away. So it was named “The Battle of Empty Blows.” Meantime, the rest of the great host turned south and crossed the Jewel near Treehome. The old Suss Forest seemed to swallow them whole, and they were seen no more.
All the month of Coldeven, stragglers continued to descend. They crept out of the Lortmils by secret and hidden paths. Unwalled villages fled before their trampling feet. The Royal Army raised forts to stop the flow, but the goblins skirted them. For most of a month they passed through Prinzfield, travelling under cover of darkness, tribe after tribe, clan after clan, family after family. They carried with them great packs, heavy sacks and bags, and many pulled wains behind them. Not a rampaging army of marauders, as might have been expected, but instead, long trains of refugees, males and females both, warriors, elders, younglings, and cubs. Scarcely daring delay to loot or pillage as they went, they hurried along their way, slipping beneath the boughs of the Suss.
The migrations continued through the summer. Skirmishes took place through all the mountains, and by the time snow fell in the north again, all the lowlands reported bands of goblinkind deserting their mountain homes. Rangers and hunters patrolled the western foothills, cutting down any that dared cross inhabited lands. On the southeast, however, near the cairns of Riechsvale, the allies could scarce stem the tide. The soldiers and militia men of those lands, wedged between the mountains and the Suss, contented themselves with defending their own towns and villages, for the monsters passed through quickly, hurtling themselves toward the protection of the forest and the borders of the Pomarj.
Gilvgola and the surviving warriors of Dorob Kilthduum returned to their home in the Kron Hills, but they received no hero’s welcome. Instead, they found their halls garrisoned by a strong band of orcs who in no wise intended to leave. This is how the matter came about. While Gilvgola and the axes of Kilthduum had been away in the west, fighting for Kristryd, the famine in the mountains became so severe that the sparse remaining orc tribes resorted to desperate measures. Most fell to raiding and were quickly cut down, but some of the gundyguts showed a clever treachery. One troop, emboldened by hunger, clad themselves in the garments and armor of slain dwarves and made their way down from the mountains. In this guise, they came to the head of the Clearwater River where stands Dorob Kilthduum. They came so attired that even the sentries atop the gatehouse thought them to be their own folk returning from Kristryd’s wars. The welcoming fanfare of trumpets hailed them as they approached, and the orcs found the gates opened before them. In mad frenzy, they swept through the halls and left nothing alive. Having taken that strong fortress, they summoned more of their kin. Many clans that yet remained in the northeast came with great joy and took up residence in the halls of Dorob Kilthduum. That once proud stronghold of ancient Balnorhak became a den of devils. From within its secure walls, raiding parties went out and harried all the lands about, slaying whole villages, raping and plundering without fear, slaking their thirst for blood. Then the bandits slunk back to the safety of the unassailable fortress.
Gilvgola and the returning axes made repeated attacks against their own strong walls, but they found that their fathers had constructed their defenses too formidably. Now on the outside, they could not take the walls nor break down the gates. Many died in the vain attempt, driven mad by the thought that they had abandoned their own wives and children to such a cruel fate. They appealed to the Celenese for help, but none came. They appealed to the Velunese for help, but none came. They appealed to the sons of Kristryd for help, but none came.
Gilvgola appealed to Berronar, but the goddess had fallen silent since the battle of Hoch Dunglorin. Such was the price for that victory. The joy of life bled out from Gilvgola’s heart, and the fire in her eyes burned low. The Sacred Heart of Berronar, ascended the cliffs above the entrance to Dorob Kilthduum and called down a terrible curse on the stronghold in the name of Moradin’s bride. Having no other sacrifice to offer, clutching the braid of Berronar in her hand, she threw her own heavy body down from the cliffs and smashed herself upon the rocks. The goddess heard Gilvgola’s blood cry out from the stones, and she inclined her ear. The face of the cliff from which the Sacred Heart leapt fell away, burying the entrance to Dorob Kilthduum beneath the fallen rock. The survivors of the once-great stronghold beheld these things before their eyes. They saw the clouds of dust come to settle, and they saw that the last remaining outpost of Old Balnorhak forever buried. They turned their backs upon it and scattered themselves across the Flaeness. For their misfortune, they blamed Kristryd Olinsdotter, Queen of the Lortmil Mountains, and they surnamed her Hasput, the goblin name by which she was already known, which is being translated as “Hated One.”
The stones of that place are called Gilvgola’s Cairn to this day. Many a team of adventurers have sought entrance to those buried ruins, but none have yet succeeded.
The Flight of Urgush
Urgush led all those yet loyal to him by winding ways overtop the Lorridges and into the plains of Veluna. They brought with them heavy wains and loaded wagons dragged along by slaves and trolls. The cargo included the great treasure hoard of gemstones looted from the treasuries of Dengar—a lovedrury for the Yatil Queen that she might burn them in her hallowed lamp. Has she not waged all this war only for the sake of Lortmil gemstones? Well, I will bring her these and earn her grate. He flattered himself, Why shouldn’t I sit beside her as a king?
The patrols of Bissel saw the trains descending from the hills by way of the Low Ridge Road. Urgush could not move faster than the wagons he pulled, and he was not willing to abandon the lovedrury. By the time he entered the gap and set his face toward the Yatils, the combined cavalry of Bissel and Veluna, joined by valiant Knights of the Watch, came out to block his way at Falsford. The battle bloodied the fords, blunting the host of Urgush and driving them back from the river. Then the warlord rose before his warriors, lifted high the writhing shield, rallied them and emboldened them and called upon them to die nobly. They struck the Velunese and Bisselite and sent them fleeing across the fords. Urgush and his troop crossed after them. They looted Falsford and burned it to the ground as they passed. Ahead of them loomed the high Yatil Peaks, the promised land, and the way to Iggwilv’s Horn.
Now so close to his goal, Urgush drove on without rest. By the time his host arrived under the shadow of Mount Tsojcanth, the peoples of that land had mustered against him. A stand of halfling, human, and elven forces came out to meet Urgush. Only recently freed from the witch’s tyranny, the good folk of that land would turn no blind eye to invading Lortmil orcs. They fell upon Urgush in the Vale of Falwar.
Urgush suffered great dismay and discomfit, for until then, he believed that the Yatil Queen waited to receive him—if only he could reach her dominion. The welcome he received from the folk of Perrenland was less warm. Urgush called out to her by all her names, but no answer came from her silent horn. The warlord turned south, fleeing into Bramblewood of Ket. Perhaps he set his hopes upon the Barrier Peaks.
The young lord of Polvar Province, Sandor the Headstrong, heard that the invaders brought with them cartloads of treasure and precious gemstones. He determined not to let that vast wealth pass through his lands. In a series of forced marches, punctuated by ferocious running battles among the thickets of the Bramblewood, he pressed his soldiers to pursue Urgush and his dwindling troop. Day after day they harried the orcs. More of Sandor’s soldiers fell from the pains of exhaustion than wounds of war, but still he pressed them on. They ran like hounds on the tail of a fox.
The running battle through the woods and the relentless pursuit continued from one Godsday to the next. Like a hunted animal, Urgush fled this way, then turned that way, for he knew not the lay of those lands. So it was he led his followers up an unknown valley in the foothills of the Barrier Peaks. The refugees found themselves in a strange terrain of hot springs, steaming geysers, cascades of bleached white stone, still pools of strangely tinted waters, and unoerthly blood-red lakes. The wains and heavy carts which they had already pulled for hundreds of miles through river fords, across muddy fields, over mountain roads, and through trackless forest, now bogged down in bubbling muds and steaming ground.
Sandor and his men drew ever closer. It seemed to Urgush that he must abandon the treasures or make his last stand. He called a halt, drew his host together, and dug in for the fight.
Then Rao remembered the twelve holy men impaled before the walls of Castle Hagthar. A powerful wind swept down from the mountains, tumbling goblins, orcs, and all that host onto their faces. The carts and wains which Urgush had pulled all the way from the heart of the Lortmil Mountains overturned and spilled their precious contents into the mud. Trees snapped at the base, and geysers erupted. A poisonous choking gas belched up from the blood-red lakes and filled the valley, stealing away the breath of orc and Ketite warrior alike. In this way, the hosts of the Red Medusa met their end—and so did the hunt of Sandor the Headstrong. Tales say the treasures of Urgush yet remain in that hidden valley, strewn among the bleached bones of the dead. Many adventurers, greedy for gain, have sought them out.
Jeff McKillop, “Verbobonc: The Viscounty,” Oerth Journal Vol. 1 Issue 9 (February, 1999): 4-10. James M. Ward, Greyhawk Adventures (TSR, 1988), “Csipros Erd—The Geysers of Death,” Greyhawk Adventures, 97. Creighton Broadhurst, “Raiders of the Chaos Fields,” (Wizards of the Coast: Living Greyhawk COR8-02).
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Artwork used with permission. Tulikura: Pyres and Great Labor