The Druids of the Bone March
The Bone March has a much longer history than most realize. The March's highlands were home to dwarves and gnomes before humans first explored the region and home to tribes of Flan dating back over 1,800 years ago. Unlike the Flan further to the south that established the kingdom of Ahlissa, the Flan that settled in what would become the Bone March preferred to pursue a semi-nomadic lifestyle intricately connected to the land.
These druids, while venerating gods such as Beory and Obad-hai, believed in the Old Religion, or the Green Way. In the religion of the Green Way, Beory and Obad-hai are as much a part of the cycle of life as are mortals. These druids that came to the Bone March formed a circle, the Circle of the March, and took it upon themselves to watch over the land and its peoples.
Within this culture, the druids acted as spiritual leaders and historians of their tribes. They used the potent ley lines that crossed the land, particularly a junction of two lines at a location called the Green Mouth, to weave potent druidic magics to aid their Flan brothers and sisters. The Green Mouth was a depression within the center of the highlands that was extraordinarily lush and overgrown. How and why this is the case in a moorland is unknown, but it is attributed to a connection to the lands of the Fey.
The Coming of the Oeridians
Around -190 CY, the Bone March saw the arrival of Oeridians settlers. Unlike the south of the Teesar Torrent, the Oeridians settled in the Bone March in large numbers. Those that trickled in before 100 CY were mostly families looking for a life outside the confines of the traditional Oeridian hierarchy. These Oeridians, while more aggressive than the native Flan, were welcomed, and the two cultures evolved over the next two hundred years into their own people.
The druids were at the forefront of welcoming the Oeridians, and the Oeridians appreciated the assistance of the Flan and druids that helped them become acclimated to the hills and Moorlands of the Bone March. Unfortunately, with the increase of settlers, so did the raiding by humanoids from the Rakers. This forced many to abandon the semi-nomadic lifestyle and erect more permanent and defensible settlements. At this time, we see the founding of what would eventually become the cities of Spinecastle, Johnsport, and Knurl.
The humanoids aware of these newcomers south of the Tessar Torrent began crossing the Bone March to plunder these lands. This would force the Great Kingdom to station troops in the Bone March. Moving in erecting forts, the Great Kingdom began making plans to turn the Bone March into a new province, or an extension of the Northern Province.
The druids of the Circle of the March, led by the venerable Kalamath, who had been a part of the circle since -701 CY, and leader of it as the Grand Druid since -542 CY, were not initially concerned by this. Those who had come to the Bone March in the past settled peacefully among those who already lived there. They were looking to help protect the people from the humanoids, a mission that all agreed was beneficial. While the druids and Kalamath were not fond of this new trend of the inhabitants giving up their more nomadic lifestyle, they realized it was necessary. The druids even helped in the construction of the early fortifications at the site that would become Spinecastle.
War comes to the Bone March
By 100 CY, the Great Kingdom had established several forts in the Bone March to help prevent humanoid raiders and the seasonal raiding parties of Suel barbarians. Kalamath was not fond of these developments but did not interfere. Openly the Grand Druid said his primary concern was for the people of the Bone March, but there was some mistrust brewing between him and other druids of the circle. It became apparent that Kalamath was more concerned with protecting the sacred sites of the March, like the Green Mouth, which some of the circle disheartening.
By 108 CY, whole armies were sent by Overking Manshen to stem the latest incursion of Barbarian raiders. The humanoids had been beaten back in several pitched battles between 40 to 65 CY giving the barbarians easier access to the Bone March. The Druids' response was almost nonexistent as Kalamath preferred to let the soldiers of the Great Kingdom do the work for them.
The Erosion of Authority and Importance
By 300 CY, the culture within the Bone March had changed drastically. The influence the druids had once enjoyed was eroded to the point that their importance only mattered to the few inhabitants of the March that remained living in small villages scattered throughout the March. The bulk of the Marches population now lived in and around the three major cities of Spinecastle, Johnsport, and Knurl.
Despite their diminished importance within the March's political structure, the druids were still highly respected and thought of almost as mythical remnants of the past. This mythical reputation had allowed Kalamath, who, despite his advanced age, still led the Circle, retain a level of respect. The number of druids within the March had also dwindled to the point that there were only the Seven druids of the circle left.
Starting around -542 CY, Kalamath would disappear for long periods of time. At first for a year, then two, but by 560 CY, these departures could last as long as ten years at a time. This would throw the circle into chaos as the old druid reappear and disrupt whatever order had been established in his absence. When asked where he had been, the only response that was ever given was that he had been sleeping.
Thus was the state of the Circle of the March when the next and most significant threat to the Bone March would rear its ugly head, the Cursed Invasion.
The Cursed Invasion and the Rescuing of a People.
Starting in 560 CY, the raiding of the humanoids increased in volume to such a degree that everyone was becoming concerned. The Marquises of the Bone March had grown more independent over the past two hundred years as the Great Kingdom's attention became more focused on internal matters. No Aerdi troops had come to the March since 443 when remnants of the Knights protectors sought refuge. Before that, the last soldiers assigned to this borderland arrived in 299 CY. The druids knew that the humanoids were gathering in the hills, but they didn't realize that another horde was gathering further up in the mountains. They alerted the Marquis, who took their warning under advisement. Whether due to arrogance or mishandling of the information, the warning went largely ignored.
At this time, most of the March was under the rule of counts appointed by the Marquises. While they had men-at-arms serving them, these were small personal armies and most of them mercenaries or ill-trained locals. The Counts at the best of times paid little attention to the druids, whom they regarded as little more than relics of a bygone age. But the people in the smaller villages, especially the more remote ones, still had strong ties to the druids, and they began warning and preparing them to move when the orcs invaded.
In 561 CY, the largescale raiding turned into an all-out invasion as not just one, but two hordes of orcs and their allies invaded the March. The druids, who had already been preparing, quickly gathered up those villagers that they had warned and took them to secret locations in hopes of riding out the invasion.
After taking those they could to places safety, the druids met and decided to go to Spinecastle to aid the Marquis. They were shocked to find the city had already been sacked, and the castle was under siege. A few druids made their way into the fortress at Spinecastle, where they stayed to help defend it and the Marquis. The rest hurried to help the army in the field. Those druids that stayed with Marquis Clement would die there when the fortress fell.
The druids fought with Sir Stermorn and helped him elude his pursuers when the remnants of his army escaped into Ratik. With no apparent army left to help the people of the March, the druids hurried to help in any way that they could. Stermorn wanted them to stay and help with the reorganizing of those that had escaped, but the druids declined. This was seen as a betrayal by Stermorn and his men. To this day, the remnants of the Knight Protectors and soldiers that survived, and eventually settled in Ratik, curse the Circle of the March.
In the end, the Druids saved thousands of civilians from slaughter and eventually turned those refugees into the nomad tribes that still wander the March. The Cursed Invasion also spelled the end of the Circle of the March. The rest of the Circle focused on taking care of the refugees and put all their time and effort into turning them into a proper nomadic people. Kalamath has yet to come back to the March, and many wonder if he ever will. Some Rumors say the Grand Druid is lying in a magical stupor and will return with the mythical Flan hero Stormano to free the March. Others believe that he was assassinated before the invasion started. Many still wonder what will happen if he does return. Chief among them is General Nar, Breka's hand-picked Successor of the Vile Rune orc tribe, and Gorsh, the leader of the Death Moon orc tribe.
Bone March by the end of 563 CY.
By the end of 563 CY, the whole of the Bone March had settled into a new normal, one of humanoid dominance. All the human settlements had been conquered except for the County of Knurl, which was loosely allied with Breka and the Vile Rune Orcs. Those that could escape had already done so streaming into Ratik, Nyrond, and the Northern Province. Knurl itself saw its population more than double, with a sizable number of those feeling there being men at arms that Countess Salvie quickly Recruited into the county's army.
The speed and ferocity of the Cursed Invasion caught all the March's neighbors by surprise. Ratik eventually tried to take advantage of later orcish infighting but wasn't mobilized to lend immediate assistance. The North Province of the Great Kingdom, under the leadership of Herzog Grenell, had higher ambitions and had no desire to assist. It's even been said that Grenell and Breka had worked out an understanding before the invasion. Nyrond had the troop strength to intervene and make a difference, but if they had done so, it would have given the Great Kingdom an excuse to start another war with them. Because of this, Nyrond's troops were never rallied to help, and the March was left to deal with the invasion on their own.
While the invasion was quick, it was initially centered around two major hubs for the March, Spinecastle, and Johnsport. The bulk of the invading humanoids were in the area for over a month as they defeated the Bone March's standing army in the field and then besieged the cities. This time spent attacking these two cities was vital in allowing so many people to escape the fate that befell the citizens of those Spinecastle and Johnsport. Small groups were able to make it to the Great Kingdom, Ratik, and Nyrond, but the bulk of the refugees settled in Knurl or were rounded up by the druids of the Circle of the March. Those refugees collected by the druids were turned into roving nomads trying to stay one step ahead of the orcs and other humanoids. The druids would revert these refugees to a way of living common in the past as hunter-gatherers.
As the year 563 CY drew to a close, the Bone March was divided into 6 distinct and separate power groups. Despite the invasion of the Bone March having been led by an army of combined orcish tribes. Despite the dominance of the humanoids, two human-based groups still exist. The first is Knurl. Knurl's long history of working with the orc hill tribes helped them avoid the fate of Spinecatle and Johnsport as the forces led by Breka opted to ally themselves with them.
The Next group of humans is actually five separate groups of human refugees that were forged into nomadic clans by the druids of the Circle of the March. The druids shepherded them and kept them on the move away from the forces of humanoids, which was made much easier once the orcs began infighting. These groups are located in the western half of the Bone March, where the orcish presence is not as strong.
The Bone March has never been a bastion for demi-humans excluding the dwarves, who were primarily in the Raker Mountains, but did have small settlements for trade in the March. But the gnomes still live and dominate the Blemu Hills. Their contact with others outside of their honeycombed network of tunnels and underground halls is almost non-existent. A few attempts to find and conquer the gnomes were launched by smaller orc tribes, but they were easily confused by the gnomish illusions as soon abandoned.
The fourth and fifth power groups are the orcish tribes of Breka and the Vile Rune tribe, and Gorsh, and the Death Moon tribe of orcs. Their alliance was one of mutual convenience, and both intended to betray the other eventually. Their war would have started sooner than it did if it wasn't for the sixth and final power group in the Bone March, Degtra with her ogres and gnolls turning against Gorsh.
Things Fall Apart
As Gorsh and Gergash started their conquest of Knurl, the ogre mage Degtra along with her gnolls and ogres attacked Johnsport. Some say this was in retaliation for Gergahs abandoning her to face the forces of Spinecastles standing army early in the invasion, but most believe that this was the ogre mages plan all along.
Gorsh and Gergash skirmished with Degtra outside of Johnsport. Who then fell back into the Loftwood, hoping that the orcs would follow to their home territory where Degtra already had ambushes and traps waiting for them. They would inevitably have followed if Gorsh hadn't stopped them.
With the conquest of the Bone March complete and the only possible enemy to fight were the Death Moon orcs and Gorsh, who were fighting Degtra, Breka made some radical changes. First, he began open talks with Herzog Grenell of the North Province of the Great Kingdom. Breka knew that the orc hill tribes within his horde would not sit idly waiting for combat and loot, so he began sending them across the Tessar Torrent to Grenell to aid the Herzog's plans for independence.
While Breka sent his orcs away, he was actively replenishing them with bandits and evil warriors from Knurl, who now had an overabundance. Eventually, many others answered Breka's call for warriors coming from the Great Kingdom, Nyrond, and even barbarians from the north. Breka retained the services of Kekvar and his hobgoblins, making them an intricate part of the defense of Spinecastle. Slowly Breka's horde was changing into a regular army. Chief among his recruitment remained half-orcs. His Iron Fangs continue to grow in number and, outside of his Council of Spinecastle, have become the city's leaders.
Gorsh has found himself caught in a tight position. The Shaman of Gruumsh desires to win the favor of Herzog Grenell to help him aid him in conquering the rest of the Bone March, but he can't spare the troops, he wants. With Degtra in the Loftwood, which his orcs are constantly skirmishing against, he can't mount a large enough force to dislodge Breka. So, Gorsh is forced to sit and watch as the half-orc grows in power. Taking another lead from Breka, Gorsh has begun beating the drum of orcish superiority to rally his troops around.
As a last resort, Gorsh has taken to experimenting on the orcs of the Death Moon tribe with his magics. The results of these experiments being terribly savage orcish monstrosities. Gergash, through Gorsh's guidance, has also become an Eye of Gruumsh, giving the orcs another reason for blind loyalty. Gergash has taken to singing the praises of orcish purity and denouncing all half-orcs as rotten fruit and executing them. Gorsh knows that a battle will be joined soon that will determine who will become the sole ruler of the Bone March.
This concludes the final chapters of the Cursed Invasion from the perspective of the humanoid invaders. Where the story goes from here is up to you and your gaming group.
The Invasion Begins
In 561 CY, the mountain orcs came down from the Rakers in force led by Gergash and the Death Moon tribe. Gergash led his horde north of Spinecastle, skirting the Loft Hills, where he was joined by Degtra, an ogre mage leading her clan of ogres and gnolls. In 558 CY Degtra had wrestled away the Loftwood Gnolls rule from their Pack-master and allied herself with Gorsh. With their new allies in tow, they headed straight to Johnsport to lay siege to the city. Gregash made sure the defenders of Spinecastle knew of his sizable force moving through the area to lure away troops from there, as per Gorsh's instructions. The trick worked, and a day later, Marquis Clement had mobilized Spinecastles heavy infantry and cavalry and sent them in pursuit of Gergash's horde. In addition to the regular military, nearly all of the Knight Protectors who survived the persecutions of Ivid I and fled to the Bone March back in 443 CY accompanied them. The army was under the Command of a Knight Protector named Arnald Stermorn.
Two days after Sir Stermorn had departed Spinecastle, Breka, with his Vile Rune orcs and allies descended out of the Rakers. Breka sent several smaller orc tribes into the March to disrupt any rallying of forces from the March's other counties in response to Clement's call to arms. Then Breka left the siege of Spinecastle to his trusted ally, Warlord Kekvar, and his hobgoblins. At the same time, he took the Vile Rune tribe in pursuit of Sir Stermorn's forces.
With Sir Stermorn in pursuit, Gergash, left a complement of orcs behind with Degtra's ogres and gnolls at the bridge over the Weldren river. Degtra was not pleased by this turn of events. The plan was for Gergash to stop and engage the pursuing forces allowing for Breka's horde to catch up and pin the Bone March forces between them. This left Degtra with an army of roughly equal in size to that of Sir Stermorn's, but the ogre mage had no illusions that her forces were not enough to engage Stermorn's army of highly trained and disciplined soldiers and knights in open combat. Calling upon her magical powers, Degtra summoned thick fog to slow Stermorn's forces enough so that Breka's horde could catch up in time to join the fray. Eventually, the handful of mage's accompanying Stermorn's army was able to clear the fog, but by then, they realized that they were caught in a trap.
Outnumbered five to one Stermorn, attempted to break free, heading north to cross one of the smaller tributaries of the Weldren river. Still, his heavy infantry moved far slower than the humanoid hordes, and Breka was able to get large numbers of goblins ahead of them. The cavalry easily forded the tributary and fought their way through the goblins but with heavy casualties. The infantry, along with the bulk of the Knight Protectors, formed ranks and attempted to fend off the horde of humanoids but were slaughtered to a man.
Now across the river with a much smaller force, Stermorn attempted to make his way back to Spinecastle, but encountered the first of many surprises. Breka had a ragtag collection of notorious mercenaries who had been hired away from the Counts of the Bone March guarding the eastern approaches through the Loft hills and the Kalmar Pass. The mercenaries were fewer in number than Stermorn's remaining command, but they delayed them enough for the gnolls and goblins to close the gap. Stermorn's cavalry was fighting in the Loft Hills' rocky terrain which was ill-suited to cavalry, and with many wounded. Attempting to push through to Spinecastle could spell disaster, so he retreated into the Kalmar Pass, and made for Ratik. Stermorn's hope was to regroup there and petition Ratik for assistance.
The Sacking of Johnsport
While Breka and Degtra dealt with the army of the March, Gergash closed in on Johnsport. By the time he arrived, the gates were sealed and the garrison on full alert. While vastly outnumbered, Johnsport had sturdy walls, and the defenders expected relief from Spinecastle, relief that would never come. So, when Gergash's horde bivouacked around the city and began to construct crude siege engines, the city's morale was still high. The first few forays of orcs sent against the walls were easily repulsed, but these were merely probing attacks meant to determine the weakest point of the defenses. Still, the siege might have lasted for a prolonged time if Gorsh had not arrived to personally take up command.
Gorsh's first course of action was to raid the docks. Sending in small groups in canoes, they set ablaze several ships and a portion of the docks. And then using several screened catapults, he began bombarding the city with diseased corpses and ritually sacrificing prisoners that had been captured from the surrounding countryside. In response, minor riots broke out as the populace tried to escape on the few remaining ships that were making ready to set sail from the city. Then widespread panic erupted when news of the defeat of the Spinecastle army made its way to the city through the few ships that layed anchor there.
With the hysteria at a fever pitch, Gorsh summoned some earth elementals to weaken the walls and then sent in the horde. The defenders held on desperately, but as soon as the orcs had breached the walls, the slaughter began. More than half of the population was slaughtered, and the remainder enslaved.
The fall of Spinecastle
With the defeat of Spinecastle's standing army in the field, and without any leadership to organize the levies from the counties, Spinecastle was alone. Kekvar's hobgoblins had seized the city, taking many captives, but the garrison had fallen back to the castle at the mouth of the pass overlooking the city. Well provisioned and with a garrison of experienced soldiers hardened from fighting, not just the humanoids but also against the seasonal barbarian raids, Marquis Clement was confident that some relief would come from the Great Kingdom. He knew that Sir Stermorn had retreated to Ratik and was marshaling aid there as well. Even when Breka's horde arrived joining the Hobgoblins, Clement felt comfortable in defending the castle against them. However, watching the wanton sacking of the city below them was disheartening. All the defenders in the castle had loved ones or friends that were not able to make it into the castle before the gates were sealed.
Unlike Gorsh, Breka had no high-level casters amongst his horde. Still, it didn't matter, because Breka had something even better, the plans to the network of secret passages that honeycombed the bluff upon which Spinecastle sat. During Breka's time spent in Spinecastle as a mercenary, he had become friends with several disenfranchised members of the city elite. Many families in Spinecastle still supported the Bone March's total annexation by the then Northern Province, and they despised the rumblings of independence that was common at that time. Through his association with these Aerdy patriots, Breka gained the necessary information he would need to topple the fortress and ensure its downfall.
After reinforcing the castle's hobgoblin siege, Breka gathered his Iron Fangs along with his most competent orc tribesmen and using secret tunnels infiltrate the castle. In the hour before the dawn, Breka and his Iron Fangs boiled forth into the castle, totally surprising them as Iron Fangs and orcish tribesmen emerged from secret passages. The main objective was to open the gates, which they did, allowing the rest of the horde and hobgoblins into the castle. What followed was the complete annihilation of all the defenders, Marquis Clement, among them.
The Rest of the Bone March Falls
With the fall of Spinecastle and Johnsport, the only resistance to the orcs was the handful of small armies of the Counts and lesser nobles dotting the countryside. These small armies had they even been able to combine their total strength was only a fraction of the numbers. In addition to these small personal armies were the druids of the Circle of the March. Most significant of these small armies belonged to Count Standun, ruler of Blemu County, who attempted to organize the forces of the remaining counties into a cohesive force. He was joined by only a handful of the lesser nobility before being forced to flee. This ragtag army was caught by Orcs of the Death Moon tribe while attempting to cross the Tessar Torrent and smashed.
With Spinecastle in the hands of the Vile Rune tribe and Johnsport in the hands of the Death Moon tribe, both factions hurriedly rush to claim the rest of the March before the other could. Breka's horde spilled out of Spinecastle in the northwest of the Bone March, enslaving and capturing any settlement they encountered. Likewise, Gergash and the Death Moon tribe moved southwest from Johnsport following the Tessar Torrent capturing and enslaving. This left only the County of Knurl in the southwest of the Bone March unconquered. Knurl at the time was known as a wicked place where bandits and shady mercenaries operated out of, and had ties to many orc tribes, in particular, Breka and the Vile Rune tribe. Breka intended to turn Knurl into a vassal and left them alone as he chased down the elusive refugees that were being collected by members of the Circle of the March druids. Gergash and Gorsh had other plans for Knurl and assaulted the county. Fortunately for the new Countess of Knurl, Countess Salvie, Degtra, and her knolls began fighting with the orcs left behind in Johnsport to control the city. Gergash and Gorsh abandoned the assault and hurried back to deal with this new problem never to return that far west into the Bone March again.
Part 3 of the Cursed Invasion coming soon.
The beginnings of what would become the Cursed Invasion of the Bone March started with a series of interconnected events. The first event was the rise of not one, but two orcs, Nar a hill tribe chieftain, and Gorsh, a mountain tribe shaman. Raised in the harsh environment of orcish clan life, both would eventually set their sights on the same goal, the establishment of an orcish empire. Their paths were destined to be intertwined, and the joining of these two ambitions would spell the doom for the Bone March.
To understand the humanoids of the Rakers Mountains is to know that humanoids existed there in tribes of varying sizes for ages. These tribes, at the largest, usually numbered only a few hundred. The constant war between these tribes made it easy for the dwarves of the Anvil Clan, the main dwarven tribe of the western arm of the Raker Mountains, to keep them under control.
The chief distinction between these tribes is the division between the tribes of the lover hills, called hill tribes, and the tribes that lived in the valleys and high mountain plateaus called mountain tribes. Mountain tribes are smaller in numbers, but more savage and aggressive. The mountain tribes are also of pure orc stock having little contact with the humans in the lowlands. The main targets for mountain tribe raids are the dwarves of the Anvil Clan, or after the dwarven civil war, the Brokenstone, and Blackanvil clans. As the dwarves wared amongst themselves and eventually withdrew into their mountain fortresses, the mountain tribe orcs had fewer targets upon which to raid. So the mountain tribes began moving into the lower foothills looking for loot and plunder, which brought them into contact with the hill tribes.
The hill tribe orcs are more numerous in their numbers and have a fair amount of half-orcs that live amongst them due to raiding humans in the high moors and rolling hills of the Bone March. Their main targets in ages past were the Flan and then the Oeridians that settled these lands. Like their mountain cousins, the hill tribes never grew in numbers beyond a few hundred before internal strife would cause conflict, and the tribes would split or have a mass purge of opposing factions within the ranks. What the hill tribes lacked in brute ferocity, they made up for with superior arms and armor pillaged from humans.
The Mountain Tribes
In 554 CY, the first of the two orcs that would change history in the region came to prominence, Gorsh, a shaman of Gruumsh. A powerful shaman originally of the Blood Nails tribe, Gorsh, imbued the orcs with the power to ignore pain by taking a concoction called Red Paste. The herbal brew was so potent that these orcs became utterly fearless, and could sustain mortal wounds but continue to fight for several minutes. While hyped up on Red Paste, a Red Nails warrior was witnessed fighting even after half its head was sheared off. With the aid of this herbal concoction, Gorsh led his tribe to conquer several other mountain tribes. Gorsh used the Red Nails as his shock troops until they had all been wiped out, but not before several tribes had been gathered into a new horde. The last of the mountain tribes to fall to Gorsh was the Death Moon orc tribe. The Death Moon had been the largest and strongest of the tribes, and Gorsh enlisted them without bloodshed by magically dominating their chief Gergash.
Gorsh never used the Red Paste on the Death Moon tribe or any of the other tribes after the Red Nails tribe as the paste made them uneasy to control. Gorsh now installed Gergash as the figurehead of the horde, a command structure the orcs were comfortable with. With a new figurehead in place, Gorsh orchestrated the consolidation of the remaining mountain tribes into the horde or pushed those unwilling to conform out of the mountains.
Gorsh had intended to attack the divided dwarven kingdom with his new horde, but news of this hill tribe horde gave him pause. He heard tales of its witty half-orc chieftain named, Breka, and his successful raids into the Bone March. So, with plans of dominating Breka like he had Gergash, Gorsh went to meet with this hill tribe chieftain. What he found was not some ignorant chieftain scared by his magics but instead a mighty warrior wise in the ways of magic. Instead of trying to kill this chieftain Gorsh allied himself with him, and the groundwork was laid for a massive horde of orcs to assault the unsuspecting Bone March.
The Hill Tribes
While the shaman Gorsh gathered the mountain tribe orcs, so was Breka among the hill tribes. Born into and raised in the Vile Rune tribe of orcs, Breka ran away from his orc brethren to Spinecastle as a young boy. While half-orcs are not uncommon among the hill tribes, they were still treated poorly. Orcs treat half-orcs as second-class citizens out of fear of them when they grow older. They know that half-orcs are on average more intelligent than regular orcs, and this intelligence and their brawn make older half-orcs a dangerous rival. Because of this mistreatment, Breka fled to try and live among the humans believing that they would be more understanding. Unfortunately for young Breka, he learned that some humans looked upon him with even more disdain than the orcs. Despite the continued mistreatment, Breka decided to stay among the humans to learn their ways, which he did rapidly.
Breka was welcomed into a street gang, which he eventually took over and ran until he was fourteen, then he used his growing bulk to better by becoming mercenary. Over the next few years, he learned of the ways of war among humans and, most importantly, magic. While Breka was never able to master the arcane techniques, he did learn the tactics that his fellow mercenaries used to fight them. Eventually, the mistrust among humans led Breka to travel back to his roots. He rejoined the Vile Rune tribe of orcs, but not as a follower. Shortly after returning, Breka deposed the chief and set himself as the new Chieftain of the Vile Rune tribe.
Like Gorsh had done with the mountain tribes, Breka led his tribe in a campaign of conquering and consolidating other hill tribes. As he gathered more tribes to his banner, Breka began sending them raiding into the Bone March.
As Breka gathered orc tribes, he also began collecting half-orcs like himself. If there were half-orcs in a tribe that was absorbed into his new horde, they were brought to the Vile Rune Clan and trained to be part of his Iron Fangs, an elite troop of warriors that served as his bodyguard. These recruits were the first subjects to be indoctrinated into his plans of turning the Bone March into a kingdom ruled by half-orcs. He did not declare this news to his followers in general, but only a select few of his inner half-orc circle.
During this time, Gorsh came to visit and see for himself who this half-orc was. The gnarly shaman grudgingly admired the half-breed but sought to use him as a tool for his conquests. Breka also came to a similar conclusion towards Gorsh, and an alliance was struck between them.
Other Monsters of the Raker Mountains
While the orc tribes dominate the Raker Mountain humanoids, they are not the only humanoids that live there. Ogres, giants, trolls, goblins, and hobgoblins all can be found there as well. These other monsters and humanoids are usually as much a threat to one another as humans, dwarves, and gnomes. On rare occasions, these monsters and humanoids might rally together to fight a mutual enemy, but these alliances always end badly. However, when Gorsh and Breka came to power, both Grosh and Breka, sought to enlist these monsters and humanoids with a promise of loot and pillage.
Gorsh was successful with recruiting some hill giant and ogre tribes, while Breka made alliances with the weaker, but far more numerous, goblins and hobgoblins. Besides the extra power, these alliances added to his horde, it ensured that the tribal lands of the hill tribes would not be raided by them when the orcs marched to war.
Surprisingly, these alliances have lasted to this day. After accompanying the orcs out of the Raker Mountains into the Bone March, these allies found the plunder worth staying. Currently, goblins make up the bulk of the raiding parties that cross the Harp River into the Flinty Hills and Nyrond. Breka found the Hobgoblins especially useful, and after the conquests of the Bone March, Warlord Kekvar, became one of the leading members of the ruling council formed in Spinecastle.
Part 2 of the article coming soon.
I figured since I'm posting up these alternate histories I might as well say a little something about my decisions on what I included and what I excluded. This history is told from the point of view of the humanoid invaders. We have information about this time period, but what we do have all comes from the point of view of everyone but those that did the invasion. What I've presented draws heavily from the early Gygax writing from Dragon magazine on the state of affairs in Greyhawk. Also, I distinctly excluded any reference to the Scarlet Brotherhood and their involvement as written about in roughly only 2 paragraphs in the Scarlet Brotherhood supplement by Sean Reynolds. While I enjoy most of Mr. Reynolds work I hate the tendency for most writers to chalk up all the achievements of humanoids to some one else, mostly evil human wizards and priests. In my opinion it discredits the humanoids making them seem incapable of make their own decisions and plans, something I totally disagree with. An orc tribe doesn't need some overbearing wizard to tell them to raid the puny humans. They have their own chieftains and priests of Gruumsh to do that for them.
A Brief History
Gnomes had lived in the Blemu Hills for generations before the first humans moved into the region. In those early years, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills were indistinguishable from those of the Flinty Hills. The Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills even swore fealty to the king of the Flinty Hills. Despite this bond, the gnomes of the Blemu were slightly more militant, and solitary due to the humanoids roaming the Bone March. These bands of humanoids were infrequent, but as the Flan moved in, the humanoids began increasing their raids to take advantage of these new opportunities. By -1000 CY the raids were commonplace in the spring and summertime. These raids forced all in the Bone March to be more on guard, including the gnomes of the Blemu.
By – 270 CY, Oeridians begin settling in the Bone March and even in the Blemu Hills, something that the Flan had not done respecting it as the domain of the gnomes. These humans were more warlike than the Flan. However, unlike most of their cousins further south across the Tessar Torrent, these Oeridians were inclined to meld into the existing social structure. Unfortunately, like before, when the Flan entered into the region, the Rakers' humanoids sensing new and easier opportunities for plunder began raiding into the Bone March in even greater numbers.
BY the year -60 CY, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills had not paid homage to the Gnomish King in the Flinty Hills for several centuries and had become even more militant due to the influx of humans, and the corresponding raids of humanoids. Not as stoic as dwarves, the gnomes still traded with their neighbors. Some fifty years earlier, they had turned the three major gnomish cities of the Blemu Hills into a fortified underground network known as Gnomegarde. During the construction of this network, with its hidden entrances, traps, and illusionary magic, lead to it being selected as a hiding place for the hand and eye of Vecna. Besides Bildri Grommet, the then Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills, who else made this decision is still a mystery?
These artifacts of evil would only remain in the care Bildri until 43 CY, when they were passed on to the paladin-King, Miro, a small kingdom in what would eventually become the Theocracy of the Pale. The reason for their being moved out of gnomish care is uncertain, but the polluting effects they had on the community is suspected. To this day, ill tidings for the Blemu gnomes are blamed on the fact the vile items had been housed there.
The Great Kingdom
The Bone March had always been a desired territory by the Herzog of Northern Province, of the Great Kingdom, and those plans were well underway by the year 108 CY. The border struggles between the growing settlers from Aerdy in the Bone March and the Barbarians from the north had finally erupted into a full-blown war. The Great Kingdom never tried to make an alliance with the Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills as they did not respect the gnomes sovereignty over the region. The Herzog did not seek permission to send thousands of his troops marching across gnomish lands angering many. Adding insult to this injury, the Herzog ordered a small trading post on gnomish soil named Knurl to expand into a city.
Many of the gnomes wanted to take up arms against these transgressions, but Gnomelord Bildri knew this was not a war his people would win. Despite their overwhelming numbers, humans have a knack for the arcane arts that is only surpassed by the elves Bildri knew. Instead of fighting, the gnomes withdrew into Gnomegarde completely and watched as the wars of the humans were waged around them for the next five hundred years.
In short order, Knurl evolved into a city of wickedness, placing a hostile nation on the Blemu gnome's traditional homeland. Early in the cities history, it was the gateway into the Bone March for Aerdy troops, but after House Kargus took it over, things worsened quickly. The humans that lived there became worse than the humanoids that used to frequent the region. Fortunately, because of the strong illusionary magics, only a handful of incidents transpired between the gnomes and Knurl.
The Cursed Invasion
By the time of the Cursed Invasion, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills had little contact with anyone outside of their underground complex, Gnomegarde. Always distrustful of the Flan druids, they had only a passing relationship with them. A few of the Flan that still lived by the old ways lived in their hills. Still, they had no contact with Knurl or any other human settlements like the County of Blemu, Spinecastle, or Johnsport. So, when the Cursed Invasion of humanoids smashed the March's human inhabitants, none sought out the gnomes for help, and the gnomes did not offer any.
They gnomes hoped that the humanoids would ignore them, but they were not so lucky. After gorging themselves on plunder for some time, they turned their attention to the gnomes. The humanoids remembered the tales of the old days and the gnomes of the Blemu Hills. These stories had blossomed into great stories of the gnomish wealth squirreled away under their hills, and the humanoids intended to have it.
Fortunately, the gnomes had been perfected their defenses over a millennium of preparation, so when the humanoids began their assault, they were ready. No humanoid even found any of the true entrances to Gnomegarde. The humanoids instead assaulted Greenrock, a very visible gnomish castle built into the side of a rugged hill. Greenrock does not lead to Gnomegrade but is instead a false front to throw off those that would seek the real Gnomegrade.
The battle there raged for several months, and the one hundred defenders that were cut off with no chance of escape died to a man. Once the castle fell, the coffers within the castle were looted, but it was just a pittance left to satisfy whoever attacked the castle. The ruse worked, fortunately, and after the sacking of Greenrock, and not seeing anything else to conquer, the humanoids left.
The gnomes of the Blemu spend more time bellow ground than most other gnomes because of the large number of enemies that roam the Bone March. The burrows of the Blemu gnomes are hidden affairs blending into nature. These entrances are also hidden by strong illusionary magic and traps. The outer passages leading to the heart of Gnomegarde are only four feet tall to hamper larger races that might invade. The passages closer to the heart of Gnomegarde grow to heights as high as ten feet.
Initially, what would become Gnomegarde were just three separate gnome towns that existed mostly above ground. Each had a minor tunnel system to hide in during times of danger. As time passed and more humans and humanoids came to the March, each of these towns began expanding their tunnel networks. Eventually, tunnels were dug connecting the three towns to aid each other in times of need.
With the great kingdom's armies' incursions, the towns above-ground were demolished and rebuilt underground. It was also at this time the Greenrock Castle was built. The connecting tunnels were expanded into underground roads capable of accommodating two gnomish carts at a time. The gnomes did not just dig out small homes and tunnels, but also large caverns where the towns that had existed on the surface were rebuilt. The entire complex soon became known as Gnomegarde. The original towns became known as the north, south, and western branches.
Modern Gnomegarde practices a strict isolation policy and has nearly no contact with anyone in the Bone March. The recent events in the city of Knurl have drawn their attention, however. They have been watching intently what this new Count Dunstan Kargus intends to do with his new won kingdom. To date, the emissaries of Count Kargus have met three times with Gnomelord Kelfex, the grandson of Gnomelord Baldri. Count Kargus wishes to cement an alliance with the gnomes, but Gnomelord Kelfex remains cautious.
The gnomes have no standing military besides the fifty gnomish knights of the Order of the Glittering Shield, Kelfex's personal guard. They do have a militia made up of all able-bodied gnomes that can fight and number around 1,500 in time of war. All the Glittering Shield knights are paladins that follow Garl Glittergold and are equipped with platemail, shield, shortswords, or pickaxe.
In addition to the Knights of the Glittering Shield, Gnomegarde raises giant badgers to help with work and as mounts. The Knights of the Glittering Shield use them when riding into battle. These badgers are fiercely loyal to their gnomish masters. During a battle, the badgers are outfitted with a studded leather barding.
The Gods Worshipped by the Gnomes
While Garl Glittergold is revered as the head of the gnomish gods, the gnomes of Gnomegarde more often call upon, Flandal Steelskin, and Gelf Darkhearth. These gods of smithing, combat, and mining better suiting their daily needs. Temples to all three of them can be found in each of the branches of Gnomegarde.
Gnomelord Kelfex Grommet:
The latest in a long line of Gnomelords of the Blemu Hills, Kelfex is a wise and cautious ruler. He knows all to well the precarious position his kingdom is in and that it is surrounded by possible enemies. He also realizes that he has no allies, not even being able to rely on the Flinty Hills' gnomes or those of the Loftwood for assistance.
Kelfex is very interested in seeing what becomes of this new Knurl. He likes what Count Kargus has done to this point but also knows that human lifespans are short. Kelfex is curious if a lasting kingdom of good will take hold, or if after Dunstan passes will Knurl slide back into their wicked ways.
The Gnome Champion Kaden Glagullen:
The Chief Knight of the Order of the Glittering Shield, Kaden, like all of the gnomes of the Blemu, is a simple hard-working gnome. Unlike most gnomes, though, Kaden has a knack for fighting. The son of a gem cutter, Kaden, still makes jewelry in his spare time, and his plate armor is adorned in semi-precious stones.
The High Illusionist Minzarla Nock:
Minzarla is an older gnome full of good cheer and is a mother and grandmother to a large family. A number of her children are also illusionists and have followed in her footsteps working for the Gnomelords. Minzarla and her children play a big part in defense of Gnomegarde, allowing the gnomes to take on humanoid bands and hordes much larger than themselves because of their illusionary magic.
Her Son Kruckabod is the second leading illusionist in Gnomegarde and does much of the fieldwork now that Minzarla is getting older. Minzarla maintains many standing illusions around the Gnomegarde, making periodic trips through the hills to revitalizes them.
Minzarla and Kelfex have a bit of a relationship brewing since both of their significant others have passed. Both have been far too busy to finalize anything, and both are a little scared to do so for fear it might be bad luck.
Like most gnomes, Minzarla is kindhearted and hardworking and would love to permanently expel the humanoids from the Bone March.
The Dwarves of the Rakers
Dwarves had lived in the Rakers Mountains for generations before humans even walked the Flanaess. Originally the dwarves were of one clan, the Anvil Clan, but a bitter civil war split them into two. Since then, the Brokenstone Clan has held sway in the southwest of the range, and the Blackanvil Clan in the northeast have been bitter rivals. The Brokenstone Clan was once much larger than it is now and had fortresses, mines, and outposts throughout the region. They traded with elves and gnomes and then the Flan. The Blackanvil Clan was much smaller and traded only some with merchants along the Ratik coast, and even then only in the past century.
The Sundering of the Clan
The exact date in which the great Anvil clan moved into the Rakers is unclear, but they were already well established when the Invoked Destruction (Rain of Colorless Fire) brought about the destruction of the last overking of the dwarves in the West of the Flanaess. Not long after, around CY -400, Lorthun Blackanvil was crowned the first king of the Anvil Clan. He quickly begins strengthening his realm and even reached out to the Flan living in the lands now known as the Bone March, to establish relations.
CY-367 The first real test of the new dwarven kingdom came when the ancient white dragon Shaunoroth began attacking their towns and mines. Unlike most dragons of his kind, Shaunoroth was a highly intelligent white dragon and well versed in the arcane. The arrival of Shaunoroth was preceded by an army of giants and humanoids assaulted the capital of the Anvil Clan, Garnholm. The dwarves were able to resist the giant and humanoid assault, but as they licked their wounds from that battle, Shaunoroth arrived. In the ensuing fight for Garnhom, King Lorthun was killed, and the walls of the great city destroyed. Driven from their capital, the dwarves rally and halt any further conquest by Shaunoroth's army, but were unsuccessful in reclaiming Garnholm in its hidden mountain valley.
CY -174 The humanoid tribes of the Rakers begin gathering into larger bands and putting pressure on the dwarven once again. However, these humanoid tribes are not lead by Shaunoroth but are a myriad of different allied tribes. The current dwarven King Arglus, and his daughter Balkurn, a warrior prophet of Clangeddin, are drawn into an ambush and slain with no apparent heir to the throne. In fighting erupts between the followers of the Brokenstone and the Blackanvils subclans as rumors once again surface of Abbathor worshipers arranging the king's ambush. Both sides are accusing the other of being in league with Abbathor and his followers.
Factions within the cities and strongholds of the Rakers erupt into open civil war as the lesser sub-clans choose sides. While the dwarves fight amongst themselves, the humanoids assault many above-ground holdings. By the year -149 CY, after much loss of dwarven lives, the Great Anvil Clan is no more. In its place are now two new dwarven kingdoms, the Western Rakers Kingdom of the Brokenstone Clan and the Eastern Rakers Kingdom of the Blackanvil Clan.
With the once great Anvil Clan dived, all hope of winning back the capital from Shaunoroth was abandoned. As the dwarves brooded and planned, a new race of humans began entering into the Bone March drawing their attention, the Oeridians. Fortunately, these new arrivals were uninterested in the Rakers.
In 109 CY, the generals of the Great Kingdom demanded the use of secret passes through the mountains in and around Spinecastle. The dwarves of the Blackanvil Clan refused, much like they had refused to allow the Frost Barbarians access to them. This soured what little relationship there was between the two.
After the battle of Shamblefield, rumors of Abbathor worship among the dwarven nobility surface in both clans the Brokenstone and the Blackanvil Clans once more. These rumors further deepening the mistrust between the two dwarven nations. Little do either of the clan leaders realize that the rumors are being spread by real Abbathor worshipers within both clans to keep the two great clans divided. Over the next 450 years, the dwarves of the Blackanvil clan withdraw further into their mountain strongholds, having almost no contact with the outside world. Ratik is the only nation that they have any real contact with, and even that is limited.
The Brokenstone Clan likewise withdraws into their mountains. Still, unlike the Blackanvil Clan they stay in contact with the gnomes of the Blemu and Flinty Hills and some humans from Nyrond. The Brokenstone Dwarves in recent years have been interested in the emerging power of Knurl under Count Dunstan Kargus' rule and will eventually become allies with him.
The Abbathor Scourge
The worship of Abbathor has long been associated with the dwarves of the Rakers and the Anvil Clan. Not considered to be more than a nuisance during the early history of the Raker dwarves, the Abbathor worshippers' greed evolved into the dwarves' worst enemy, far worse than Shaunoroth himself. The first, and best known of the Abbathor devotees of the Anvil Clan was Karzoc, the younger brother of Lorthun Blackanvil. Karzoc was jealous of his older brother and wanted to title of King of the Raker DWarves for himself. His greed and jealousy lead him to worship Abbathor, where he sought to find the power to usurp his brother.
Karzoc busily spread the worship of Abbathor by erecting many small temples to the god of greed erected while actively converting all those he thought could be swayed. At this time, he had learned of Shaunoroth, an ancient White Dragon that had moved into the Rakers. The Drake had come from the Corusk Mountains seeking a better home from which to amass his horde.
Karzoc and several other loyal Abbathor worshipers made their way to the drake's new home in a cave atop a high peak. The journey was hard and difficult. All of Karzoc's companions perished, save for one sole survivor, Kaergor Klawhammer. Shaunoroth was impressed by the two dwarves and listened to Karzoc's proposal. He sought to have his brother removed as the King of the Rakers with Shaunoroth's help, and in return, he offered Shaunoroth Garnholm.
In -367 CY Shaunoroth accepted the deal with Karzoc and led his army against his brother and the forces of Garnholm. Unfortunately, when Karzoc opened the secret passages to Shaunoroth's minions, he was discovered and slain. Following Karzoc's death, Kaergor Klawhammer took up the head of the church of Abbathor. Eventually, the Klawhammer Clan would become synonymous with the god of greed and the hated foe of both the Blackanvil and Brokenstone Clans.
Few were able to escape the destruction of Garnholm. Still, those who did took the knowledge that Korzac had betrayed them. Karzoc and his worship of Abbathor had tainted his family. Still, Lorthun's youngest son, Arglus, took the throne, and an uneasy peace settled over the Anvil Clan.
The fires of suspicion, however, were not allowed to be extinguished. The Klawhammer Clan, a well-respected clan, known for their sage advice, continued to sow the seeds of suspicion. They often would play up the threat that unknown Abbathor worshippers could be around any corner and even be your most trusted friends. Of course, the Klawhammer Clan was the primary source of the worship of the god of greed and kept suspicion off themselves with these false witch-hunts.
In -174 CY, with another invasion of giants and humanoids on their hands, the Klawhammers began placing false evidence of Abbathor worship in the homes of those they wished to get rid of. These were the dwarves that they felt could not be bribed or blackmailed and stood in the way of the Klawhammers gaining complete control of all the Raker dwarves. This began fracturing the trust between clans. Then, with tensions high, they arranged for the ambush and murder of Arglus and his daughter Balkurn, ending the Anvil Clan lineage. Leaderless, and on edge, it was easy for them to fan the fires of mistrust into a dwarven civil war.
In -175 CY, The Klawhammer Clan's intention was to marry into both the royal lines of the Blackanvil and the Brokenstone clans and then work behind the scenes to put one of their own on the throne. Achieving this goal was much harder than they had anticipated. The Cursed Invasion of the Bone March, which also included the Rakers, Shifted all focus to fighting an invasion of humanoids. The Klawhammers also suffered some significant losses during these times as their clan was on the frontlines as well. Then, as the war in the Rakers settled down, Emmer Klawhammer was outed as a worshipper of Abbathor. In response, Axeholm, the ancestral home of the Klawhammer Clan was laid siege to and all the inhabitants put to the axe except for the youngest children who were split up and put into foster care amongst the other dwarven clans.
In 595 CY the dwarves of the Rakers have not fully recovered from the wars and civil war, and yet the Blackanvil and Brokenstone CLans still refuse to try and settle their differences. One of the reasons for their remaining divided, beyond dwarven stubbornness, is that the Klawhammers still sow seeds of dissension. With the sacking of Axeholm, those Klawhammers that still remained Fled the Rakers into the surrounding lands, or to hidden fortresses in the mountains. The clan has become feverishly devoted to usurping the thrones of both the Blackanvil and Brokenstone Clans. Their new clan, Chieftain, Kriega, has headway into infiltrating the Brokenstone Clan as that clan seeks to end their centuries of self-imposed solitude. To help his clan in this endeavor he has sought the aid of an old ally of his clan, Shaunoroth.
Rulers of the Dwarven Clans of the Rakers
High Chief Klagundor Brokenstone: Klagundor has not seen the threats to his kingdom dwindle but increase as the centuries have passed since the dwarven civil war. As current Chieftan of the Brokenstone Clan he has decided that an isolationist way is not the best for his kingdom. Allies need to be found, and in this day and age, that means allying with humans. Klagundor has sent emissaries to Nyrond, and to Knurl to see such allegiances are possible. These emissaries are doing so secretly as many of the Brokenstone Clan still feel that being locked away in their mountain fortress is the best course of action.
Klagundor is a sturdy dwarf and a mighty fighter. He is blunt to those he does not know but jovial to his friends and family. His closest advisor is the high priestess of Moradin, Mora.
Mora High Priest of Moradin: The high Priestess of Moradin, Mora, is a strong-willed woman that hates giants and goblins with a passion. She sees them as the main threat to her people but is still mindful that the great wyrm Saunoroth still defiles the halls of the Garnholm. Mora does not trust the humans and is one of the few among her clan that feels they should make amends with the Blackanvil Clan.
High Chief Omrig Blackanvil: Omrig is an old dwarf who still remembers the dwarven civil war, and is convinced that the Brokenstone clan is full of Abbathor worshipers. Sadly his most trusted advisor, Darghor Bonesmith, is secretly a Klawhammer. Darghor has been feeding Omrig lies for a century and a half and has the old chief paranoid of nearly everyone that is not of the Blackanvil clan.
Omrig is crotchety in his old age and is more worried about preparing his daughter, Zenora, to become the next clan chief once he passes. Chief among Omrig's worries is seeing her married to a propper husband to carry on the Blackanvil heritage. Darghor is trying hard to find a dwarf that he can be sure to manipulate, but Zenora has rejected all of the ones he has suggested so far.
Battlemaiden Zenora Blackanvil: If ever there was a dwarf that embodied the tales of dwarven champions of old, it is Zenora. A deadly combatant and ardent follower of Clangeddin, Zenora sneaks out of the Blackanvil fortress with her band of trusted companions to find adventure and slay her clan's enemies. Her father does not know of this, as she hides the fact that she does so from her father.
While strong-willed and stubborn, she is also generous and jovial to all, including non-dwarves. While she sees nothing wrong with humans, she does not think that they should help her clan as it would be a sign of weakness.
The location of what would become the city of Knurl, like most other locations in the Bone March and locations throughout the old Great Kingdom, began as a Flan settlement. The actual founding of the first settlement is unknown, but those few scholars that have researched the ancient history of the Bone March place it around -1,000 CY. Originally the settlement that sprung up was a trading post where the Flan of the March would bring goods to trade with other Flan, most notably those merchants from the ancient city of Ahlissa. The original name of the settlement is lost to history, but the Flan tribe that lived in the area was called the Two Rivers tribe, which also influenced the name of the Clan of Refugees that took up a similar nomadic lifestyle there after the Cursed Invasion.
This settlement was also one of the first locations where the dwarves of the Rakers Mountains regularly interacted with the outside their mountainous home. The Dwarves brought precious stones, metals, and ore for trade. The influence these dwarves had on the prehistoric inhabitants of the settlement is still evident today in some of the oldest buildings in the city itself are repurposed dwarven buildings from that time. Only a handful of these buildings stand, but foundation walls and long-buried ruins are still unearthed today as the city grows.
The settlement waned as the Kingdom of Ahlissa in the south did, and the number of merchants traveling to what would become Knurl dried up as well. Eventually, by -400 CY, the settlement had shrunk to a fraction of its original size, with only a small clan of Two River tribesmen remaining. And thus, the settlement remained until -229 CY as the first of the Oeridians began to wander northwards. Unlike in the south, where Oeridians often violently conquered the lands of the Flan, in the Bone March, the Oeridians would not come in mass until later. This steady, albeit small, number of Oeridians to move into the land and begin mixing with the population. In 46 CY when the Oeridians finally began moving into the Bone March in large numbers, the peoples of the Bone March had been intermingling and were no longer a pure Flan stronghold.
46 CY marks the year that the Great Kingdom officially began encouraging and organizing the settlement of the region. in preparation for the total annexation of the land into the Northern Province. 46 CY is also the year that the once trading settlement of Two Rivers officially became a Settlement supported by the Kingdom of Aerdy.
In 46 CY Selwyn Knurl, a frontierswoman of renown was tasked with setting up a town that could act as a staging ground for settlers moving into the region. Having been to the Bone March several times Selwyn knew of Two Rivers and picked it as the location for this town. This marked the beginning of Aerdian full commitment of claiming the highland region then simply known as the March.
By 51 CY what had been Two Rivers was now Knurl's Town, named after Selwyn Knurl. Selwyn herself had by then died fighting giants in the Rakers, but her influence on the town's first formidable years was still felt. Selwyn had laid down strict laws for Knurl, making it a safe place for all of the peoples of the region could come and trade. In those early years, this also included many barbarians from the north, barbarians that would soon become a hated foe of the Bone March. Still, in those days, they were simply traders from the north.
The famed Warden's of the March also find their origins at this time. As smaller settlements were popping up across the Bone March and those older towns like Spinepass, which would become Spinecastle, needed protection. Selwyn Knurl sought permission to form an order of wandering wardens from the Herzog of the Northern Province, that had jurisdiction over the expansion into the March, and it was granted. The headquarters of the Wardens of the March was built and remained in Knurl for several centuries afterward.
The Coming of House Kargus
The coming of hostilities with the northern barbarians in 108 CY brought a large influx of soldiers int the land, and accompanying them were the members of house Kargus. A minor royal house from Edgefield, the Kagus family, was looking to grow their family's wealth and prestige and set their sights on the growth prospects in the March. With powerful friends back in North Province the Kargus family quickly took control of Knurl. This made the Herzog happy, as he knew how to deal with a royal family, even if it was just a minor one, better than the independently spirited natives of the March.
Knurl changed drastically over the next ten years and swelled in size. More permanent structures were created, such as Knurl keep and the stone walls that replaced the old wooden palisade. Knurl was transformed into a smaller version of life in the larger cities to the south. Taxes became common, and industry regulated, all of which was skimmed by the Kargus family before being sent south to their lord the Herzog.
Knurl blossomed in those years despite the tightening of regulations. Those seeking their fortunes flooded into the city, most of which stayed and never ventured far out into the March. Even those who did eventually moved back to find more predictable work within a city. At its height, Knurl had just over four thousand inhabitants.
As the grip of House Kargus' control tightened, Overking Erhart bequeathed Knurl and a large part of land to House Kargus, creating the County of Knurl. The move was a counter to help keep the Herzog from the Northern Province from claiming all the land of the March for himself. This, of course, soured relations between Knurl and the Herzog's of the Northern Province.
For the next four centuries, Knurl's counts and countesses became known as loyal supporters of the throne and as greedy and downright vile rulers. Regular trade through Knurl slowed with peace in the region to a fraction of what it had been, so they regularly recruited, outfitted and trained raiders and bandits. At one time, two-thirds of all the bandits and raiders, human and humanoid, in Bone March were in league with Knurl's rulers. This infuriated many, but the Overking cared little as Knurl never missed a tax shipment, and all of the county's taxes were always paid in full.
The City Post 563 CY
The city of Knurl survived the cursed invasion because of one simple thing; it was already a wicked and evil place. Fortunately, the rulers of Knurl had a history of working with humanoids, and this reputation served them well. They were able to bribe away some invaders preventing them from being overrun. Because of this, the City of Knurl was never sacked, and little of its heartland saw prolonged engagements.
Being under the rule of wicked rulers for such a long time, the ordinary people of the county tend to keep to themselves, preferring not to draw attention. However, after Dunstan assumed the throne, large numbers of Tenha refugees, that had been living in Nyrond since the loss of their own kingdom, were welcomed into the county. This influx of people has been changing the traditional dower mood that had existed into a more positive and friendly one.
Despite this renaissance of positive attitude and morals, Knurl still has a large portion of worshipers of Hexter, a holdover from Meldrick and Countess Salvie. Dunstan does not forbid his subjects from worshiping any gods. Still, there is currently no organized temple of Hexter in Knurl. The Temple of Hexter still remains empty since meldrick fled to Spinecastle after Dunstan claimed the throne.
Knurl currently has open and good relations with Nyrond, Ratik, and the Theocracy of the Pale. However, the latter is more of a nonaggression pact. Knurl has no official position towards The North Kingdom, but it is well known that neither side cares for one another.
Locations within the Walled City
1. The Keep: The Keep is a stout fortress, and built atop an old dwarven foundation. While not as impressive as the fortifications of Spinecastle, or Johnstown, the Keep of Knurl is incredibly sturdy and defendable. With freshwater pipped in from the Harp river, the Keep itself could withstand an incredibly long siege. The walls of the Keep are also enchanted to help withstand magical assaults, at least that is the explanation of the slight magical aura that comes from the stones and mortar used in its construction.
2. City Guard Garrison: The Garrison fort was built after the count's keep and was meant to house the count initially, but after several deadly accidents during its construction, many believed it was cursed, and the count never moved in. Because of this, the Garrison Fort is larger than the counts keep and more grandiose.
About half of Knurl's two hundred standing militia, the Guardsmen, also acts as the city guard. About half are stationed here with the remainder living the city.
3. Temple of Trithereon: The first temple erected in Knurl was dedicated to Trithereon. Dunstan worships Trithereon, and his friend Feyas is a paladin of Trithereon and currently acts as the temples head priest. Dunstan is presently searching for a priest to take over the church to free up Feyas for other duties more suiting to her martial skills.
4. Temple of Pelor: After taking the throne, Dunstan moved the head priest of Zilchus to a much smaller building and leveled the temple to erected a new temple to Pelor. The god has a strong following in the north, and the decision to build the temple was as much for political reasons as it was to appease those worshipers of the god in the north. With the addition of Dirwyn, a priest of Pelor and his acolytes, the temple has become a shining beacon for Pelor in the north.
5. Knight's of the March Hall: Feyas, a paladin of Trithereon, also heads up this knightly order founded by Dunstan after securing the county. Generally, half of the order is here at any one time, and those not present can be found in one of the county's four other towns or in one of the numerous villages dispensing the count's justice. There are currently two dozen knights of the order, and they are stationed in one of the larger Towers of the fortified section of the walled city.
6. Wardens of the March Hall: The tradition of Wardens of the March had been wiped out during the cursed invasion. The stories of their great deeds persisted, however, and one of Dunstan's first acts as the new Count was to reopen the Warden's Hall and reinstate the order. Many descendants of the once great organization still could be found in the March, and Dunstan's friend Harga was one such man. Their hall is simple but sturdy, and much like the Knights of the March, there is at least half a dozen to a dozen Warden's found in the Hall at any one time. Warden's tend not to stay long, and they come and go frequently. Harga himself is rarely in Knurl.
7. Morgan's Blacksmith: One of Dunstan's prized possession is Morgan, a female dwarf blacksmith of legendary skill. Morgan is not her real name, of which she never gives out. Where she is from and how she ended up here is a mystery as well, but it is widely assumed she an outcast from the Brokenstone clan. She has let it be known that she comes from a long line of smiths that forged weapons for dwarven and human kings alike. Despite her secrets, Morgan is jovial and cheerful to all, unless they criticize her craftsmanship, or are a dwarf. Morgan will be polite to dwarves but never engages in a personal conversation with them.
8. Quinn's Fletcher: One of the few Halflings in Knurl is Quinn and his family. A master craftsman Quinn and his family make excellent bows. Their short bows and light crossbows are of such exceptional quality they can give a non-magical +1 to the weapon, for 5X the standard cost. Their longbows are of such excellent quality that even some elves admire the craftsmanship, but they have no unique properties. Quinn makes no secret that he is a Brae but has no love of his extended family and moved to Knurl to distance himself from that reputation.
9. Miners Guild: Tarbold Hammerstone is a Brokenstone dwarf and proud of it. Tarbold was recruited to run and organize the miners that are the lifeblood of Knurl's economy and doubles as the Brokenstone emissary to Knurl. Tarbold hires adventures on the regular to head up into the Rackers to take care of problems and to escort ore shipments to and from the Harodford. Tarbold knows who Morgan is but will not say and refuses to be in the same room with her or speak with her. Tarbold however, will not talk of it regardless of what is promised to him.
10. Greymist Weaponsmith / Armorers: Lloyd and Liza Greymist are half-elf entrepreneurs, ex-adventurers, and weapons dealers. They are famous among many circles, not all of which are good. The Greymists came to Knurl to put some distance between themselves and their enemies and the protection that Dunstan, a long time customer, promised them.
11. Zandrel's Alchemy: Zandrel, an artificer and alchemist by trade, is another run away from the North Kingdom that ventured to Knurl to escape the fascist state there. Zandrel is a worshiper of Pelor, and when he heard of the temple opening there and of Dunstan's reforming of the county, he hurried to the town. Once there, he opened his shop and has been a pillar of the community ever since. Zandrel is not an imposing man but has strong morals and convictions.
12. Hobbson's Leathers: Knurl is one of the few places in the Flanaess where half-orcs are treated like regular citizens, which takes many newcomers by surprise. Due to the Cursed Invasion, there is a sizeable half-orc population. This is even reflected in some of the nomad tribes. Hobbson and his family (His wife Tilly is human) are descendants having lived in Knurl for generations.
13. The Rose and the Thorn Brothel: Madam Bliss is another one of Dunstan's friends from his adventuring days. Countess Deora, Dunstan's wife, is not fond of her for obvious reasons. Dunstan brought Bliss to Knurl to open and run what he knew would keep many of the mercenaries he would need to employ happy, a brothel and gambling house. The place is well run, clean, and well-guarded by Knurl's own guardsmen. A cut of the profit is collected for the county's coffers.
14. Harvin's Potter: Harvin himself is not a potter, but instead a former mercenary with one arm and a bunch of kids. Bea, his wife, has raised 15 children, 10 of which work at the Pottery, the youngest being only nine years old. Four of his sons and daughters serve in the town's militia, the Guardsmen, and one, Kara is a Warden. Harvin and Bea are worshipers of the old faith and are mostly Flan.
15. Stanton's Tailor: Stanton is an older gentleman and has lived in Knurl his whole life and remembers Countess Salvie. He is a wicked man at heart but plays the part of sniveling toady well. If he thought that he could bring back Salvie and the old ways when he was better respected (At least in his mind), He would. Stanton often talks about the old days with reverence, but he never talks poorly of Dunstan. Stanton is a spy for Kesic and his band of mercenary bandits.
16. City Warehouse: The City warehouse is a big vaulted building guarded by city Guardsmen around the clock. Sergeant Brag, a half-orc, oversees the detail here and takes it very seriously. Brag is not the brightest, but he is fiercely loyal to Dunstan. This is where the ore is stored before being shipped out, usually to Nyrond through the flinty hills.
17. City Market: The Market place is open year-round, and the local farmers bring in their produce to sell every week. Once every three months, the market is host to a large fair that brings in citizens from farther afield to sell and trade. It is not uncommon to see members of nomad clans from the March in Knurl for these festivals.
18. City Square: Once ringed by statues of the former counts and countess of Knurl, the empty pedestals now circle it. The Square is where all important public functions are conducted. Full of benches and small garden islands, it also acts as a park.
19. The Hawk and the Dove Tavern: The Hawk and Dove has become a favorite place for the mercenaries and adventurers that make their way to Knurl to relax and unwind. The Hawk and Dove is also the favorite place for rural peoples that come to the market or are in the town for business. The largest of the Inns and Taverns in Knurl, the H&D, is three stories. Owned by Flower Emberstrike, granddaughter of Elvean Emberstrike, a renowned bandit that used to be a thorn in the side of counts and countesses of Knurl. Elvean is a local folk hero, much like Robin Hood.
20. The Emerald Tavern: The Emerald tavern is the closest thing that Knurl has in real luxury. Tabitha Quarten is the Daughter of the original owner and prides herself on obtaining the best that she can and has regular shipments delivered via the Ore caravan's luxury items. Dignitaries and Merchants that want the best that Knurl has to offer stay here.
21. The Willow Inn: The Willow in is run by Hans Bertram and his family. Their patrons are made up of the working class of Knurl. It is a simple affair with a few rooms for rent. Hans is an honest man, as is his family, and are natives and loyal to the new count.
22. The Last Inn of the March: The oldest Inn in the town and has seen ten different counts come and go over that time. The Last Inn of the March is currently owned and operated by Karlin Gall. Karlin is a shady fellow that keeps the Inn open by offering the cheapest beer and food in town, and it shows in the quality. Karlin Bought the Inn off the last owner that was getting on in years and has turned it into the place where shady deals can be made. Being that it is on the City Square, the Guardsmen keep a close eye on it. Karlin is a survivalist and willing to do whatever he needs to ensure it.
23. The Docks: Sitting on the Harp river banks, Knurl has a fair amount of boat traffic, but mostly in the form of ships docking to drop off goods. The docks can handle about ten average-sized merchant riverboats to be moored there at any one time. A small shack with a detachment of four Guardsmen are on duty here round the clock.
24. Fishmongers: While it is true that the Fishmongers do sell fish, it is also an open-air flea market where those who wish to sell goods can do so. Every morning one of the City Attendants opens the market at five in the morning and collects coins from everyone wishing a table. They pay one silver and are then are assigned a table. The queue for the table begins forming around four in the morning for those who wish to ensure that they get one.
The Early Years of the County
The County of Knurl in the southwestern corner of the Bone March has long been ruled by House Kargus, a minor family from the city of Edgefield, in the Principality of Edgefield, in the North Province of the Great Kingdom. A minor Family in Edgefield, they ventured into the Bone March in search of riches and to build a reputation for themselves. In 108 CY they followed the Aerdi army as it marched into what was then a frontier town called Knurl and set up shop as a merchant helping to supply the army. The ruthlessness at which House Kargus took over Knurl was appalling, but Aerdy looked the other way as they quickly became a necessary cog in the supplying of their troops.
As the Bone March became an official territory of the Great Kingdom, Knurl was the first to be recognized as an official county, and the head of House Kargus was awarded the title of count for their loyal services. Over the following centuries, the county grew as did the once frontier town into a small city. The Counts of Knurl were faithful servants of the crown, but at the same time, they had organized and paid a small army of smugglers to ferry goods out of the March without paying taxes. In addition to their smuggling operations, the counts and countesses of Knurl had retained the contract for overseeing the transfer of supplies from Depots in Edgefield to Knurl and then to all of the Aerdi armed forces in the March. Most of these supplies made it to their destinations, but the Knurlite foremen in charge of the distribution ensured that ten percent of all goods sent north found their way to the count's smugglers.
The reputation of the county became well known for its wickedness and indulgence. However, the Knight Protectors in the Bone March could do nothing about it as the county operated under the jurisdiction of the Great Kingdom. Their loyalty to the crown was unwavering in matters concerning the Bone March. The Count's and Countesses also raised a sizable mercenary force, which was then commissioned by the Great Kingdom to aid in defense of the March.
The Cursed Invasion and Countess Salvie
In 560 CY the winds of change were evident in the March and the current Count, Count Thayer Kargus, new what it was. Because of many of the county's shady practices, he was in touch with many of the same humanoid tribes that would eventually invade the March. Thayer, of course, had no idea of the size of the invasion that was coming. He thought it would only be some large scale raiding. In response, he recalled any of Knurl's mercenary forces from their posts in places such as Johnsport, and Spinecastle back to Knurl. Thayer justified the termination of the mercenary contracts was to strengthen the county's defenses, which was the truth. However, he didn't mention anything about the impending humanoid invasion. He thought that he could make more money leasing out his mercenaries after the local troops had defeated the humanoids and depleted their ranks.
In 563 CY, as the Cursed Invasion of the Bone March was in full swing, Count Thayer was assassinated by his then 19-year-old sister, Salvie, who became the new Countess of Knurl. Salvie did not just kill her older brother, but she also murdered her elderly mother and her older sister Lovisa in a family purge. The children of both Thayer and Lovisa were not spared either, save for Dunstan, the young son of Lovisa, who was spirited away by a loyal servant to Nyrond.
Fortunately, The Mercenary army of Knurl was quite strong and performed exceptionally well. Still, Salvie feared for the future of her small kingdom and reached out once again to those orc tribes that had taken bribes from the county in the past. She offered to pay them not to attack the county and even began recruiting them to fight for her. In the end, the county was able to survive the years of invasion, but at a cost. The County had shrunk considerably, losing most of its northern lands along the Harp River. The county was now condensing it into just the southwest corner of the Bone March.
The Arrival of the Hextorians
During the eventual lull following the invasion and occupation of the Bone March, Countess Salvie looked to strengthen her position. She knew that an attack on Knurl was inevitable once the orcs had consumed all their spoils of war. The county's coffers were nearly depleted, and the orcs she had hired to bolster the county's defenses were getting restless. Needing friends and allies, Salvie sent a letter to the church of Hextor in the Northern Province and pleaded for them to come forth with force sufficient to save her lands from destruction. At that time, priests and clerics of Hextor found themselves split over Herzog Grenell's current behavior. Grenell was recruiting large numbers of orcs and gnolls from amongst the tribes that had conquered the Bone March and deploying them along with the regular army. Chief among the opposition to this was, Meldrick Tervil, a cleric of high rank and station within the church. Seeing Countess Salvie's offer as a chance to organize those loyal to him and who opposed Grenell, Meldrick gathered his followers and set out for Knurl.
Soon Knurl found itself flooded with fresh warriors backed by the magics of the Hextorian priests. First, they expelled or slaughtered the humanoids that Countess Salvie had hired. Next, Meldrick fortified the county, personally overseeing the construction of a series of forts. The County of Knurl was now far more secure thanks to the Hextorians, but the countess began to worry if she had replaced one problem with another. However, Meldrick and his followers were easily controlled so long as there was a battle to distract them.
The Return of Dunstan
In 563 CY, when Salvie's paid assassins marched through the royal estates killing her relatives, Jisell Maltares, a servant, scooped up Dunstan and fled the castle. Unknown to Salvie, and everyone else at the castle, Jisell was a spy planted in Knurl by the then King Archbold. Dunstan's name was changed to Dunghal Maltares, and raised by Jisell and her family, for future use as a possible pawn to control Knurl.
Dunghal, as he was called, showed skill with weapons and soon found himself in the Nyrondese army and fought for Nyrond against the Great Kingdom, but as soon the hostilities were over he headed off adventuring with a band of friends. The band was a mix of friends he had grown up with in Rel Mord and during his time in the military. This was quite a surprise to everyone and happened so quickly that no one could persuade him not to. Even Jisell, whom he still believed was his mother, could not dissuade him.
Over the next couple of years, Dunghal and his friends traveled widely throughout the Flanaess amassing a small fortune and becoming known as the Gallants of Rel Mord, or just the Gallants for short. After years of adventuring, he returned home to visit his family in Rel Mord. That's when the new King of Nyrond, Lynwerd, ordered Jisell to reveal to Dunghal his real name and heritage. This revelation was a shock to Dunghal, but what was even more of a shock was King Lynwerd's promise to support him in the claiming of his birthright, the County of Knurl. After some thought on the subject, he accepted the offer. The adventurer named Dunghal Maltares had returned to Rel Mord, but left at the head of a small army as Count Dunstan Kargus.
The help that Lynwerd supplied Dunstan was not much. He was given only one hundred men, most of which were drawn from the crowds of Tenha refugees now living in Nyrond. He was given a pitifully small war chest and sent on his way. Lynwerd's true intentions behind this course of action are unknown. Still, most agree that he simply hoped to sow discord within the county and slow the raids from out of the county into Nyrond. Despite the minimal assistance from King Lynwerd, Dunstan had potent allies; indeed, Dunstan was the leader of the Gallants of Rel Mord.
Dunstan and his group entered the county under the guise of a Mercenary troop calling themselves the Sons of the Red Company. Surprisingly Dunstan found that their story was not questioned at all, and instead, they were offered employment almost immediately. Over the next few months, Dunstan and the Gallants, saw action fighting against bands of humanoids while they planned their coup.
The end of Countess Salvie
With all the pieces in place, Dunstan sprang his trap. The primary targets were Meldrick and the other Hextorian priests. An intense battle was fought at the Temple of Hextor in Knurl. At the same time, a second group, led by Dunstan himself, infiltrated the castle and confronted Countess Salvie. The Countess herself was an accomplished wizard, but in the end, the Gallants and their 100 Tenha mercenaries proved more than either her or Meldrick could stand against. The bulk of Knurl's regular troops were unavailable as they had been drugged through their nightly meal and blissfully slept through the battle. The other mercenary companies employed by the Countess had been bribed and promised more coin from the county coffers if they did not interfere. Within an hour, both Countess Salvie, along with most of her followers, was dead. Meldrick, narrowly escaping, had fled to Spinecatle and joined fellow priests of Hextor in the service of General Nar, the ruler of that city and fortress.
The next few months were tenuous as the new Count weeded out those who were still loyal to the old regime. There were a number of minor uprisings that needed to be squashed, but Dunstan was able to hold onto Knurl until a company of Nyrond soldiers and allies from the gnomes of the Flinty and the Blemu hills arrived to help. Over the next year, Count Dunstan continued to strengthen his position by settling more of the Tenha refugees from Nyrond and refugees fleeing the increasingly unstable new Northern Kingdom. Nyrond, the County of Knurl's closest ally, has only been able to provide some weapons in assistance, but the Church of Tritherion has taken an interest in Knurl's success, and several priests have come to the county.
The Future of Knurl
While the moral and spirit of the Knurlites are strong, Count Dunstan's activities have not gone unnoticed. There have been positive responses as with the dwarves of the Raker Mountains. They have come down out of their fortresses into the March for the first time in nearly a hundred years to make contact with the new nation. The Gnomes of both the Flinty and Blemu hills quickly allied with them, and the ties with them are strong, but not all that have noted Count Dunstan rise to power wish the county well.
Two separate invasions of sizable amounts have been launched against Knurl since Dunstan took power. The first was a probe from the Forces of General Nar of Spinecastle and his Vile Rune tribe orcs. A force of a thousand orcs attacked Knurl from the north but was repulsed by the combined forces of Knurl and the gnomes of the Blemu Hills. The attack was not intended to succeed but to gauge the new count's abilities. The response was enough to give General Nar concern and mark the county for a future invasion, but not until the Orcs of Johnsport and the Gnolls of the Loftwood have been dealt with.
The second attack launched against Knurl was led by none other than the Eye of Gruumsh, Breka, himself. The puppet of a high priest of Gruumsh Gorsh commanded Breka to attack with members from his Bloody tusk and Death Moon tribes of orcs. They sailed down the Teesar Torrent intent on surprising the defenders by beaching their ships just outside the city and overwhelming it. Fortunately, Thistlehand, druid of the Two Rivers Clan, learned of this and informed the count before Breka's arrival. When they landed on the banks of the river outside of Knurl, the castle was prepared, and the inhabitants of the city were all safely within the walls.
Breka laid siege to the castle, but it only lasted a month before Breka was forced to head back to put down a rebellion in Johnsport. Since then, there have been no further attempts from Breka and Gorsh to launch an attack that far west into the March.
Since these two invasion attempts, the county has expanded by reclaiming all the land along the banks of the Harp river up to Harodford. Dunstan has also expanded eastward along the Tessar Torent to within 60 miles from Red Falls. There he founded the fortified town of Walton Fort. In addition to Walton Fort, and reestablishing Harodford, Dunstan has overseen the creation of two more towns, Nivlek, and Nlul. Nivlek lies in the lands between the Harp River and the northwestern reaches of the Ardi Forest. At the same time, Nlul is another fortified town on the banks of the Tessar Torrent, just northeast of the confluence of the Harp and Tessar Torrent rivers.
While trade with the Northern Kingdom has opened, Dunstan is fully aware that Overking Grenell still covets his lands. And despite his initial victories, Count Dunstan knows that whichever wins between the warring orcs in the east, they will eventually turn their attention toward Knurl again. Because of this, Dunstan has been welcoming settlers to his lands and recruiting adventures to help him tame the wildlands of his kingdom.
The lands north of the Northern Province of the Great Kingdom would become known as the Bone March, but had been home to the Flan for over a thousand years before the Oeridians moved into the region around -400CY. The Flan tribes that lived the March were fiercely independent, and while they had contact with the great Flan kingdom of Ahlissa to the south, they never organized into settlements larger than villages. The Flan here, like many in the Flanaess, had strong connections to the old religion, in particular the Old Faith or the Green Religion. Devoted to the worship of nature itself but not tied to any one deity. To believers in the Old Faith, even the gods themselves are aspects of nature.
As the Oeridians moved into the March, many of them were also drawn to the rugged beauty they found there. These Oeridians, too, shunned the more organized kingdoms of their kin to the south, who eventually formed the Great Kingdom. The Flan they encountered were welcoming of these Oeridians as they were akin to themselves, and the two quickly melded into a single people. In addition to the Flan and Oeridians, Suel culture was introduced to the region through trading and raids with northen barbarians.
Central to the makeup of the March throughout these times was the Druidic Circle of the March. The highly centralized areas of natural magic and powerful leylines had drawn these druids to the March long before the Flan had settled there. These very same druids would be the saviors of the Marchlanders in the wake of the Cursed Invasion of 563. The Druids of the March seldom interfered in the affairs of other nations. Even when the Great Kingdom made headway into the region to turn it into a new province, they did not interfere. Aerdy was battling against their enemies, the northern barbarians, and then the humanoids. But with the defeat of the Aerdy army in the March, powerful tribes of humanoids flooded in intent on enslaving all they found.
The druids fearing for the common folk interceded by gathering up refugees from Spinecastle, Johnsport, and the small towns and villages scattered throughout the March. A hardy people Marchlanders still clung to a belief in the old faith. So, when the druids arrived to help shepherd them and keep them safe, the adaption to a nomadic way of life was quick and mostly successful.
The druids kept the people on the move, but they were barred from fleeing across the Teesar Torrent into the North Province by North Province military. Fleeing too far west was not an option as the Countess of Knurl was a well-known evil force that would also enslave them. Fortunately, the bulk of the humanoids were concentrated in the east around Spinecastle and Johnsport. This left a large portion of the southwest from Lurglen to the Blemu Hills, and all along the banks of the Harp river open to them. The humanoids did wander these lands as well but in far fewer numbers, making them easier to avoid. Eventually, the druids formed these refugees into five distinct tribes that soon centralized in different areas of the March.
These five tribes soon took on traits influenced by the druids that led them, warriors even took up the old custom of painting their faces with markings to signify which tribe they belonged to. Unique customs and traditions evolved until each of the tribes was significantly different from one another. Today many of the members have grown up knowing nothing else besides the nomadic lifestyle. Those with memories of living in towns and cities are dwindling fast as they grow old and pass on. Unfortunately for these new clans, there has never been any hope of unifying into a new nation. The stubborn personalities of the very druids that saved them, and their petty rivalries, being the chief reason why.
The Druids, Archdruids, and Great Druids had been leaderless since the disappearance of Kalamath, the Grand Druid of the Circle of the March. At the onset of the Cursed Invasion, Kalamath had mysteriously disappeared, leaving the circle without direction. The remaining members of the circle were far too busy saving the people of the land to undertake the ceremony to select a new Grand Druid. The circle has remained fractured since then, waiting for one of their order to send out a call for them to gather at the Mound of Spirits in the center of the March.
1. The Standing Stone Clan: The Standing Stone Clan is the smallest of the nomadic clans numbering just over a hundred members. They have stayed close to the great standing stones around the Mound of Spirits relying on the guardians of that place to help protect them from the humanoids. While the clan lives close to the Mound of Spirits, the tribe is careful to not wander too far into its sacred grove surrounded by massive stone monoliths. The protective spirits of the place only allow the members of the circle to pass within unmolested.
The clan was originally formed by Mossbeard, one of the Archdruids of the Circle of the March, but who has since passed. Taking Mossbeard's place as leader of the clan was Elmspur, Mossbeards handpicked successor.
2. The Two Moon Clan: The most hated and considered no better than the humanoids that infest the land are the Two Moon clan's nomads. Addercap, the druid that formed this clan, saw the Bone March invasion as an opportunity to settle old scores and had visions of returning the lands of the March to its Flan roots. Addercap's stance brought him into direct confrontation with his fellow druids of the circle and resulted in his expulsion.
Addercap recruited as many able-bodied warriors as he could. Addercap cared little if they were bandits or mercenaries; he simply wanted the numbers and would worry about converting them into loyal followers later. Because of this, the Two Moon Clan is the largest with well over a thousand members. To this day, they raid other clans taking captives, forcing them to swear allegiance to the Two Moon Clan. Those who refuse to are sacrificed or sold into slavery. Addercap's only requirement to swear allegiance to the Two Moon Clan is that they have some Flan blood. Addercap has even taken to selective breeding those with the most robust Flan bloodlines within the tribe through arranged marriages.
While Addercap is still alive and quite robust for a human of his advanced years, he rarely takes to the field when his clan raids. In his place, Addercap relies on his two lieutenants, a warlord named Kardal, and a druid named Oaktalon.
3. The Great Cat Clan: The druid named Roak, who founded the Great Cat Clan, still leads it to this day and looks only slightly older than a man in his mid-thirties. Roak is fond of taking the shape of a large mountain lion and living like a wild beast, taking his human form only when interacting with his tribe and for ceremonies. The clan currently lives on the Harp river western bank, even traveling west across the river as the Flinty Hills before returning to the lands around the Harpo river.
Another small clan they number just over two hundred members, but they are very deadly. Roak has trained everyone, even children starting at age 8, how to kill. Despite this fierceness, Roak realizes they need allies and has begun talks with the new Count of Knurl, Count Kargus. Roak believes the new Count has shown himself to be far different and more trustworthy than ruler than his predecessors. Roak cares little for the old Circle of the March but does not wish his contemporary's ill, excluding those of the Two Moon Clan, which they will attack on sight.
4. The Serpent Clan: The serpent clan is the second-largest clan of nomads with nearly a thousand members and has been a thorn in the side of the humanoids that conquered the Bone March since 563. Lead by a druid named Thorntrunk, who looks more like a wild barbarian instead of a druid. Thorntrunk did not organize the clan in 563, that honor belongs to Sharpstone, who died fifteen years after the clan's formation fighting orcs. When Sharpstone organized the Serpent Clan, he did so not to keep the people safe and build a community, but instead to continue the battle against the invaders. But as the ranks of Sharpstone's rebels grew many warriors came to him with the added baggage of families in tow. Knowing that if he wanted to keep the warriors, he would have to keep the families, and Sharpstone made them into the Serpent Clan.
The Serpent Clan became masters at ambush and stealth, and despite having much larger numbers of civilians with them, the whole tribe moves quickly and with purpose. The Serpents have traditionally been closest to the epicenter of the humanoids control in the Bone March, ranging mostly out of the Blemu Uplands and even passing through the outskirts of the Lands of the Dread Lord Monduiz Dephaar.
Thorntrunk is on good terms with Count Kargus of Knurl, whereas before, Sharpstone despised the Counts and Countess of Knurl for their wickedness. Thorntrunk recognizes that Kargus is not like his ancestors and admires his stance of changing his land for the better. There has been much talk of an alliance between them, but nothing has taken hold yet. If Thorntrunk would slow down her constant guerilla war against the humanoids, maybe a deal could be worked out.
5. The Two Rivers Clan: The Two Rivers Clan ranges the Blemu Hills and the lands around the confluence of the Harp and Teesar Torrent rivers. Besides moving into one of the most defendable areas in the March, the Two Rivers Clan also has a reputation for being the most accommodating of the clans. The clan numbers around nine hundred members but was once much larger. Still, over the years, many have moved to other lands, especially the County of Knurl since Count Kargus took control of the land.
Two Rivers Clan is led by the most powerful of the druids from the Circle of the March, Thistlehand. Thistlehand has a powerful connection to the land and has an uncanny way of knowing when danger to the clan is near. Many think it is through her countless animal spies, but many believe he has an unnatural ability to hear through the earth itself.
With Count Kargus taking control of the County of Knurl, things have changed much in the region. Thistlehand is aware of this but has not decided to ally herself openly with the new Count despite receiving emissaries from him in the hopes of strengthening their relationship.